“Shh, it’s me.”
Roxie immediately relaxed when she recognized Jake’s voice. What was he doing here? Why was he scaring her half to death? He loosened his fingers on her biceps and she spun around to face him.
“What are you doing?” she asked. The spa had closed a while ago and it was getting late. How long had he been out here? Had the man lost his mind?
He flashed her that charming smile she had grown to love. “Relax, I knew that you had to see Celeste after your client.” He shrugged. “I thought that you might want to talk about it.”
Of course. Jake was always thoughtful like that. She relaxed her shoulders. “I’d rather not right now.” She turned to go. “Good night, Jake. See you tomorrow.”
He put his hand on her arm, stopping her. “Wait a minute. What happened?”
“I told you—I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Something’s obviously troubling you. What is it?”
“Come on, Roxie, you can tell me.”
She sighed. Maybe he was right. With something as painful as a break-up, it was better to just get everything out in the open and be done with it. Kind of like ripping a band-aid. It would hurt like hell at first, but then the sting would ease with time. She hoped.
“Celeste knows that we’re having sex in between clients.”
He raised his brows. “But we aren’t exclusive.”
“It doesn’t matter. She feels we might want to become exclusive at some point, and she thinks that it is already affecting my work.”
“That’s ridiculous. There’s no way we’d do something so stupid.”
Roxie pushed back the pain his words inflicted. Why did they hurt so much? She knew what they were, knew they couldn’t have anything more than a friends-who-fuck type of relationship.
“I know,” she said, averting her gaze.
“Hey,” He hooked his finger under her chin and lifted her head. “We’ll just be more careful from here on in, that’s all.”
She pulled her head from his grasp and shook her head. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“You’re not suggesting…” He lowered his hand.
She took a step back. “I don’t think it’s wise for us to see each other anymore.”
He stared at her for a long moment, confusion etching across his features. “Don’t say that. We’re good for each other.”
“I can’t lose this job, Jake. I need the money to pay my bills.”
He locked his jaw. “Don’t do this, Roxie.”
“I have no choice.”
“I’m not going to let you throw away what we have together.”
“And what exactly is that, Jake? What do we have together?”
He stiffened his jaw. He stared at her for a long moment before responding. “I don’t think I can go back to being just friends.”
Tears stung her eyes as she looked at him. Jake seemed just as hurt as she felt. “There’s no other way. Celeste is particularly sensitive to people quitting on her. She already lost Seth and Lily.”
“I know. Seth and Lily saw a chance to do something more with their lives and took it. I admire their strength.” Jake inched forward, closing the distance between them.
“Are you suggesting that I’m not strong?” Roxie asked.
“I’m suggesting that there’s more to this situation than Celeste throwing her weight around.” He pressed his lips together for a moment in thought. “I think you’re scared.”
“Damn straight. Celeste—”
He shook his head. “Not of Celeste, but of what we could have together.”
“No, you’re wrong. I need this job. Celeste said—”
“Fuck Celeste.” He grabbed her arms and spun her around until her back was flush against the side of the building. “I need you, Roxie, and I’m not going to let some old French woman come between us.”
“Jake.” Tears stung her eyes as she reached out to brush a stray lock of hair from his temple. “Please.”
“No. I need you, and you need me, admit it.”
She opened her mouth to rebuke him, but couldn’t find the words. He was right, she did need him. That was what was making everything so difficult.
He leaned in close, until only a whisper of air separated them. He dragged his gaze down to her mouth. “Don’t send me away, Roxie. Not because some old woman is jealous of what we have.”
He brushed his lips against hers. The kiss was soft and gentle, and Roxie felt all of his emotion pour out through his body and into hers. She didn’t want to stop their relationship. She needed him. Jake was the one bright light in her otherwise dreary world. He made her laugh and forget her financial troubles. He helped her deal with Celeste’s demands and take things in stride. She’d be a big ball of stress if it wasn’t for him. Roxie didn’t want to give up the fun they had together. It would feel like giving up a part of herself.
She relaxed against him and slid her arms up around his neck.
Jake tilted his head and ran his tongue along the seam of her mouth, coaxing her to open to him. She did, and was rewarded as his masculine taste filled her mouth. Her mind fogged and her heartbeat quickened as she tightened her grip around his neck. In his arms, she felt safe and needed. She felt beautiful. How could she ever give that up?
He slid his hands down her arms and then her chest. He cupped her breasts, pressing and kneading them with his large palms. Roxie shivered as her skin heated and she fell deeper under his spell. She lifted her leg and hooked it around his hip.
He tore his gaze away from her mouth. “Help me.”
He kissed her jaw and neck. “Grab the condom out of my pocket.”
“You want to have sex here? Jake we can’t.” They were hidden by the hedges, but it was still out in the open. Anyone could hear them and if they parted the hedges, they’d be able to watch as well.
“Shh, just humor me on this one. I need to be inside you, babe.” He cupped her breast and ran the pad of his thumb over her nipple. “I know you want it, too.”
Roxie gasped as a spark of pain flashed over her skin. It quickly subsided, and pleasure tingled through her body. “But…”
“Don’t think, just feel.” He lifted his head back up and captured her mouth once more. The kiss was rough and possessive and Roxie grew dizzy as he pressed her against the wall…