Authors: Micalea Smeltzer
His lips found mine in the dark and he tilted my head back with one hand. His tongue pressed against my lips and my mouth opened for him.
Our hearts thumped in sync.
He lowered me once more as I fumbled with his belt and then the button of his pants. He kicked them off and then we were both left with only a single garment separating us.
I couldn’t seem to catch my breath and neither could Jude.
We hadn’t even gotten to the good part yet.
My body tensed with excitement. My legs wrapped around his waist and I pulled him down against me. We both let out a moan.
Something told me this was going to be even better than the last two times.
I rubbed my hands against his back and reveled in the feel of his muscles tensing and flexing as he restrained himself.
pulled down my shorts and underwear and I lowered my legs so he could slip them off and then returned to my previous position.
His fingers rubbed against me, and my back arched as I let out a loud gasp that echoed through the night.
“Fuck, Tate,” he gasped, lightly biting my shoulder, “I don’t know if I can wait.”
I swallowed and forced my breathing to slow so I could speak. “Then don’t.”
I reached for his boxers and he growled low in his throat. His eyes drifted closed and his too long lashes fanned against his cheeks. It filled me with pleasure to know that I put that look on his face. I knew I was relatively inexperienced and I’d worried I wouldn’t be good enough for him, but that clearly wasn’t the case.
He fixed the blanket on top of us, but with the heat we generated we didn’t need it to protect us from the cold. My skin was already feverish and dampened with a light sheen of sweat.
“Jude,” I found my voice once more, “please, I need you. Now.” I panted like a wild animal, but I couldn’t make myself care. My desire to have him was far too great to worry about such silly things.
He growled and nipped at my chin before capturing my lips. I wrapped my arms around his neck and played with the short strands of his hair that reached his neck. He reached down, guiding himself inside me the barest inch. My body tensed at first, still not used to it.
“Relax, Tate,” he murmured against my lips and kissed me again, and again, until my body melted and relaxed enough to let him slip inside.
When he was all the way in, he stopped. He grabbed my hips between his fingers, his hold nearly bruising. His head fell back and his mouth parted slightly. He shuddered all over and then looked at me.
“No one has ever felt as good as you. No one,” he reiterated. His mouth found my breast and he took a nipple into his mouth. “It was always meant to be you.” He said the words so quietly that I wouldn’t have believed he said anything if I hadn’t seen his lips move with the words.
I nodded my head in agreement.
Jude Brooks was the last person on earth I’d ever wanted, but there are some things you just can’t fight. We were meant to be. I saw that now. Fighting on my end had been futile.
He slid in and out slowly, taking his time. My hips rose to meet his. There was nothing hurried about our movements. We both knew we had all the time in the world.
He sucked on my bottom lip, drawing it into his mouth and letting it go with an audible pop.
He cupped my breasts in his hands as if testing their fullness. Then, one of his hands headed lower and rubbed against me. My hips bucked and I clawed at his back. I couldn’t even begin to describe the feelings he generated inside me. It was like he knew exactly what to do to make my body sing. I wrapped my arms tightly around his neck, my fingers slipping against his damp skin, but I needed something to hold onto, because I was pretty sure I was about to fly away.
His fingers rubbed harder and my body tightened before relaxing. I gasped his name in his ear as I came down from my high.
He murmured something in my ear, but my brain couldn’t process his words.
He moved in and out of me torturously slow.
“More, harder, please,” I begged wantonly.
“No,” he growled. “This is making love, Tate,” he panted, “I’m not going to fuck you this time. We’ll save that for later.” There was a promising tone to his voice and my body shook.
His tongue laved against my neck, leaving a wet streak, and then he lightly bit the same spot as if he was marking me. I didn’t mind the territorial display.
He rubbed his thumbs over my nipples in a circular motion and my body arched back, giving him better access. He knew exactly what to do to make me crazy. He owned me, body and soul.
His mouth took my breast once more and my body clenched around him from the sensations he created. I’d never known I could experience such pleasure.
His jaw clenched and his eyes closed. I rubbed his cheek soothingly with a stroke of my fingers. “Jude,” I pleaded, my words a breathy gasp, “look at me.
.” I didn’t care if it sounded like I was begging. I
to look in his eyes. I had to know if he was as affected by this as I was. I didn’t know if I could survive if he didn’t feel the same.
His eyes blinked open slowly, like it took a lot of effort.
My gut clenched at the look in his eyes. Oh yeah, he felt it too.
At the same time, and staring
into each other’s eyes, we fell apart together as the stars twinkled above us.
I thought so.
Chapter Twenty Three
I walked nervously
through the back entrance of the cupcake shop. I’d been so consumed by school for so many years that I’d never had a real job. Just the random babysitting gig now and then.
“Tatum!” Lucinda smiled, breezing over to me.
“Hi.” My voice shook with nerves.
She seemed to sense it and patted my cheek. “Don’t be worried dear. This job is easy peasy. Come on, let’s get you a shirt and hat.” She led me over to a closet and opened it up. Inside were several different styles of shirts and a hat like Bryce had been wearing the other day when
I came to see about a job.
Lucinda looked me up and down and pulled out a shirt. She’d grabbed the right size. She handed me a hat and pointed to a door. “That’s a bathroom. You can change in there and then we’ll go over everything.”
Inside the bathroom, I locked the door just in case Bryce was here and tried to pull a prank on me. He struck me as the type to try something—not to be mean, but to have a laugh.
I removed my shirt and put it in my purse before shrugging into the Lucinda’s shirt. It was black with pink writing on it.
I pulled my hair back into a ponytail and secured it with an elastic. I put the hat on and pulled my long hair through the opening in the back. I sighed, looking at my reflection. Here I was, about to graduate, and working at a cupcake shop. It wasn’t the glamorous journalism career path I wanted for myself, but you had to start somewhere, and I needed the money. When I told Jude about my new job, he hadn’t been thrilled about all the time it would tie up, but after experiencing my dad firsthand he knew this was what I had to do.
I opened the door and found Lucinda standing at one of the counters, dropping ingredients into the bowl.
Upon seeing me, she wiped her hands on a dishrag and blew her hair out of her face with a breath.
“I thought we’d start you on the register for a while, and
work your way up to baking. Making cupcakes is an exact science, and until you know how to make them right, it can turn into a disaster.” I laughed, nodding my head in agreement. “Alright, come on sweetie.” She put a hand on my shoulder and guided me to the front.
busy boxing cupcakes for a customer.
Lucinda decided to use this as the perfect opportunity to teach me how to work the register. When the customer was gone she pointed a finger at Bryce. “You. Back. Now.” She tossed her thumb over her shoulder.
Bryce bowed his head. “You’re so mean to me.”
“Well,” she called to his retreating form, “if you didn’t do stupid stuff all the time, I wouldn’t have to worry.” Lucinda sighed with her hands on her hips. “I swear, if he wasn’t family I would’ve killed him by now. He’s a pain in my—”
“I can hear you!” Bryce yelled from the back and it sounded like a bowl dropped.
Lucinda shook her head, her gray hair falling forward to frame her face.
She took a breath and sobered, going back to my training. She was really nice and took her time explaining everything so that there was no chance that I would forget it.
Soon, she left me on my own. For the first few customers I dealt with on my own, I was insanely nervous
and my fingers were clumsy, but I quickly calmed down. Most people seemed to be regulars and took the time to stop and chat with me since I was new.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted. My bed was calling my name, but I still needed to shower and work on my paper. It was due Friday, so there was no time to spare. Thankfully, I knew it was close to completion.
I drove home slowly, a part of me wanting to drive right by and go to Jude’s or even Rowan’s. I knew with every fiber of my being that I didn’t want to set foot in that house. But I did, because it was what I had to do.
My mom was in the living room when I walked inside. Just sitting there, staring off into space.
My dad didn’t seem to be home, unless he was in his office and I wasn’t going to go in there to check. No way was I going to risk that with the way his temper had been lately.
But not just lately, I had to remind myself. I had to remember that he
been like this before. I just hadn’t been the one dealing with the brunt of his temper.
helped my mom up and sat her down at the kitchen table with a bowl of soup I warmed on the stove. I knew she’d eat eventually if I left her alone long enough. It was pretty sad that I couldn’t even remember the last time my mom spoke. I knew she wasn’t completely out of it, because she could still get around on her own if she wanted, and sometimes I’d find things moved when I knew she was the only one home. But whenever I was around, she just…
. It was like it was too much effort for her to function around me.
I went upstairs and showered, changing into a pair of sweats and a tank top.
By the time I checked on her again, she’d eaten. I helped her into bed and turned off the light in her room.
I closed and locked the door to my room when I stepped inside. After what happened with my dad I wasn’t goin
g to chance leaving it unlocked again. Lesson learned.
I sat down on my bed with my laptop. I pulled up the word document, read over the last thing I’d written, and began to type. The words flowed easily now and I even found myself smiling as I typed.
After a good hour, exhaustion overcame me. I saved my paper and put my laptop in my backpack.
It took me a little while to fall asleep. I missed Jude’s warmth surrounding me.
I fell into a pattern that week.
Finals were killing me and I wanted to curse myself for getting a job now, instead of waiting till after graduation. At least I’d have almost a month’s worth of pay saved up, so that was better than nothing
, but it left little time for anything else. I barely saw Jude, which meant I hadn’t seen his grandpa in a while and that made me immensely sad.
Luckily, all seniors were in the same boat. Jude was just as busy as me, cramming in as much study time as possible in-between tests.
Jude, Rowan, and I sat in the school’s library at one of the tables with papers, books, and computers scattered around us. All of us had dark circles under our eyes and Jude looked like he hadn’t shaved since last week. At this point my brain was so dead that I couldn’t even remember when I showered last.
I’d gotten my paper done for
Professor Taylor and I had two more to finish by next week, on top of tests.
I was pretty sure that when I took my last test I’d immediately fall over asleep…or dead. One of the two, because I also couldn’t remember the last time I ate. And I really needed a coffee. Someone! Get me an IV of caffeine, stat!
As if he heard my thoughts, Jude’s head rose and he rubbed his tired eyes. “I’m going to Griffin’s. Y’all want anything?”
“I’m coming with you!” I jumped up, stuffing
everything into my backpack.
“I’m going home,” Rowan yawned, standing up and packing her things away as well. “I’m so tired that I keep reading the same sentence over again. This isn’t benefitting me. I just need some sleep at this point. See y’all later,” she waved, heading away without a backwards glance.
Jude and I headed out to the parking lot, neither of us talking. We were both too tired to form sentences it seemed.
When I turned to head towards my car, he cried, “Whoa,” and grabbed my hand.
“What?” I asked.
“You’re riding with me,” he stated, entwining our fingers together and leading me to his truck.
“I should really take my car,” I told him, trying to get him to let go of my hand. “It’ll be easier.”
He stopped in the middle of the parking lot and looked down at me. “I’ve seen you barely any this week. Even if we don’t talk, I just want to spend some time with you.”
How could I resist that?
“Okay,” I smiled. I understood where he was coming from.
I felt the same way. Being in his presence was enough to make me happy. We didn’t have to talk or do anything else. I thought that might be how you knew you’d found the one. It wasn’t one single thing that attracted you to them. It was everything.
“Did you finish your paper?” Jude asked as he pulled out of the library parking lot. “The one you shadowed me for?”
“Yeah,” I smiled, tucking my hair behind my ear. “I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
His gaze flicked to me. “Do you think you might let me read it?”
I shrugged. “Sure.” My cheeks started to heat. “I hope you like it.”
“If you wrote it, I’ll love it. I always love what you write,” he grinned crookedly.
“How do you know what I write?” I asked curiously.
Jude chuckled, scratching his jaw. “I happen to find reading the school paper highly entertaining.”
“Really?” I asked, my eyes widening.
“No,” he shook his head, and dark strands
of hair fell into his eyes, “I only ever read the articles you write.”
“You’re messing with me,” I stated, crossing my arms over my chest.
“No, I’m definitely not,” he laughed.
“Name an article I wrote,” I countered. I still didn’t believe him and wanted him to prove it. I didn’t care if he read them or not, but since he claimed to I was dying to know.
“Hmm,” he thought, watching the road ahead of us, “last month you wrote an article about the merits of the plea bargain. Interesting topic choice, O’Connor.” His grin was wide when he glanced at me.
“I can’t believe you read my articles,” I shook my head in disbelief.
“Hey, I might have a pretty face,” he rubbed his jaw, “but I’m not stupid.”
“Definitely not,” I agreed, not being the least bit sarcastic.
We arrived at Griffin’s a few minutes later. “Want to study here for a while?” Jude asked.
“Sure, why not,” I shrugged, grabbing my bag. If I didn’t study here, I’d study at home since I didn’t work today, and I really didn’t want to go home. My dad had come home the past few nights, and while he hadn’t said anything to me, his glances were chilling.
Jude and I ordered coffee and snacks. I found a quiet table in the back and sat down.
I pulled my computer and notes out, getting ready
to study once more.
Study, study, study. That’s all I seemed to do lately. Graduation couldn’t come fast enough.
Jude appeared a few minutes later with our coffee and food. His grin was nearly infectious as he held the steaming cup of coffee out to me.
I grabbed my coffee from him and took a large gulp—not caring that I probably scalded my throat in the process. I need the
caffeine too bad to care.
He chuckled and handed me a cupcake. I’d ordered a sandwich, so he’d added this.
I took the cupcake and devoured it like I’d never eat one again.
Caffeine and sugar? I was a happy camper…until I looked at my computer and
realized I was nowhere near done with my papers or studying. It never ended. At this rate I’d be thirty before these papers were done and I only had five more days to finish them.
Jude leaned back in his chair, sipping slowly at his coffee. He appeared relaxed. I knew I should probably take a short break too, before delving in once more, but I didn’t feel like I had time for that.
Before I had time to start typing, Jude asked, “So…can I read your paper now?”
“Now?” I blanched. “As in
Where I have to watch you read it? Uh…” I’d thought maybe I could email it to him later. I wasn’t sure I could stomach watching him read the paper I’d so lovingly worked on. I was terrified that he’d think I hadn’t done the medical field justice and he’d hate it.
“Come on, Tater Tot,” his grin was boyish, “it’s not like I’m going to rip it apart and tell you it’s horrible. After a month of helping you, I’d like to see where all that note
taking on your part went.”
, knowing no argument on my part would deter him, and brought up the correct word document on my computer. I turned my computer around to face him and slid it across the table.
My heart raced with nerves as his eyes scanned the screen. No one else had laid eyes on my paper yet, and since he was the one responsible, and the reason it took on a new direction, I thought I might pass out as he read it.
It was the longest five minutes of my life.
“Tate?” He slid my computer back across the table to me and a wrinkle marred his brow. My heart stopped and I bit down on my lip to the point that I tasted blood. He hated it. I knew it. “You know how you told me that you wanted to make a difference with something you wrote?” I nodded my head at his words. “I think you’ve done that with this,” he tapped the open lid of my computer. “Your essay is absolutely beautifu
l,” his brown eyes were warm. “Thank you for letting me be a part of this.”
Relief flooded my veins.