I don’t know how long I stood like this, but when I looked around, Ethan was sitting on the log a few feet away, watching me with the tiniest smile on his lips. Did he understand what I was feeling? And for a flitting moment, I believed that we actually gazed into each other’s souls.
He slowly stood up, his eyes locked with mine. Taking a few slow steps, he came very close to me. There was something predatory in his stride, but that didn’t frighten me. Instead, it made me long for his touch. I didn’t move. Ethan’s hands gently ran over my arms. His smile disappeared, and his handsome, masculine features rearranged into an intense, possessive look.
This alone—his expression and his caress—left me breathless, my heart pumping. I froze in anticipation. My lips parted. His right hand came to the back of my neck. His fingers wrapped in my hair, gently tugging my head back until my face upturned toward his. His other hand pressed on the small of my back, bringing our bodies dangerously close.
He kissed me, and I truly welcomed that kiss. No, I actually embraced it.
At first, it was tender, as if he wasn’t sure how I would respond. When I didn’t pull back, his lips skillfully explored mine. His tongue darted from between them, teasing me, testing my reaction. I parted my lips and let him in. He took my mouth with such hunger as if he wanted to kiss me forever.
His sharp intake of breath sent a wave of hot desire through me. I’ve never been kissed like this—so tenderly but intensely and adeptly at the same time. He tasted of mint toothpaste and smelled of a delicious mixture of soap, something musky, and something very male.
I moaned into his mouth. He inhaled again, and his tongue licked deep inside my mouth, sliding over mine, possessing me. This was the sweetest torment I’ve ever experienced. I was lost in this kiss; I was lost in this moment. The feel of serenity and peace I felt just seconds earlier was quickly replaced by sexual tension; by pure, shameless desire.
Ethan pulled away, panting slightly, his expression laced with longing and pain. It sobered me in an instant, and I stepped away from him. I hung my head, taking deep, calming breaths. This wasn’t the way. This shouldn’t have happened.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I should’ve never done that. It won’t happen again.”
I looked at him. “It’s not entirely your fault. I wasn’t exactly fighting you off.”
He clenched his jaw and walked away. I touched my lips, swollen from his amazingly devouring mouth. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted him, and that he wanted me too.
Oh, that immediately complicated my situation… our situation. Why did I let myself get lost in him? How could I forget the reason I was here with Ethan? Stupid, stupid, stupid me. I was mortified and mad with myself. Now what? Staying with Ethan in the cabin was going to be, mildly speaking, awkward.
“Shhh. Go and stand on the stairs right below the landing.”
Without protest, she did exactly as she was told. Positioned to the left of the door, I waited, for more than one minute, keeping my body motionless but ready to spring, if necessary. I sensed Willow’s uneasiness. She had no idea what was going on or what to expect, based on my weird reaction. That must’ve been very confusing for her, but I couldn’t explain now.
And then it happened as I predicted—the apartment door opened just a notch. My core muscles hardened and I kept as far to my left of the door as the adjacent wall allowed. That way, whoever was on the other side would see the area to my right—and their left—first, which gave me a couple of seconds’ advantage before they could notice me.
With my left arm in front of me for protection and my right arm bent, drawn back for more impact and my fist ready, I was in the most optimal position to attack if necessary. But I couldn’t make any move before I knew for sure that the person on the other side of the door wasn’t Rita.
The door creaked a little and opened wider, revealing a stocky, middle-aged guy in a dark hoodie. I stepped in front of him and, in one practiced motion, drew my right arm back farther, clenched my fist, and delivered a powerful upper cut. That should’ve caught him square in the jaw, but he was fast and blocked me with his forearm then countered with a precise punch toward my torso.
Willow screamed. I blocked the punch, twisting at the hips to avoid most of the impact. That in turn drew my assailant forward, throwing him off balance. I took advantage of his momentary unsteadiness and rammed into him with my shoulder, using my body weight to its full advantage. I had at least thirty pounds on him, despite his stocky build, since he stood no more than five foot six.
My shoulder connected with his ear, and I heard him grunt in pain. While he staggered backward, I had a chance to regain my own balance and adjust my stance. He moved with good speed, and by the time I was hurling another punch, he delivered a roundhouse kick, which I managed to avoid by mere inches.
The guy was trained in martial arts, but that didn’t deter me. I spent most of my life learning and practicing various martial art techniques and I was just getting warmed up here.
Another kick, this time a vicious front one, was flying my way, but I was ready. While I bent my knees and tightened my core muscles, I let his foot pass me then grabbed it and yanked forward. The last thing I noticed before he went down was the sheer surprise in his eyes. He clearly hadn’t expected such a dirty move.
As soon as he hit the ground, I was on him, throwing a heavy punch to his jaw. His head snapped to the right, and he was out cold. Blood trickled from a cut on his lip and the spot where I hit him last was quickly turning red.
My knuckles hurt like a son of a bitch. Hitting someone in the jaw was only painless in the movies. I shook my hand, wincing. Willow was right beside me. “Jack, are you okay? Who is this guy?”
I looked at her, grimacing more from uncertainty than from pain. The last thing I needed was for her to see me fight again. That was exactly what broke us apart six years ago. “I’ll live,” I mumbled, worried what her next words might be.
“You’d better.” Her eyes danced all over my face as if checking for injuries. She took my throbbing hand and gently enclosed it inside both of hers. “Let’s put some ice on this. It hurts, doesn’t it?” There was so much gentleness and concern in her voice that I forgot all about the pain and gaped at her in disbelief.
“I called the cops already. Requested the same officers as before. I’ll look for Rita.” She got up and went inside the apartment. She turned the lights on and I heard her call out, “Rita, it’s me. Willow. Are you in here?”
I was still stunned by her unexpected reaction, when the guy on the floor stirred. He was coming around. I rolled him onto his stomach and swiftly pulled his arms back. He groaned and started to thrash, attempting to throw me off. I grabbed him by the hair and slammed his forehead on the floor, twice—hard. He lay motionless, probably unconscious.
I needed something to secure his wrists and ankles together. “Willow! Did you find Rita? I need you here!”
She rushed out of the apartment. “She’s in there, tied up and gagged… and really pissed off,” Willow said breathlessly. “I need to get a knife to cut through that rope.”
“Wait,” I stopped her. “Help me here first.” I pointed to the man. “Take off his boots.”
“What?” she asked in disbelief.
“Just do it.”
“But … what do you want his boots for?”
“Shoe laces. Pull them out, quick.”
Comprehension replaced the look of incredulity on her face. A moment later she was tying both laces into one long piece, using a double fisherman’s knot. I stared in awe at her rapidly-moving fingers. “Where the hell did you learn that?”
She rock-climbed? That was freakin’ impressive. Willow offered the perfectly-joined laces to me. I coiled it around the man’s wrists and secured the ends in a knot that probably wasn’t as perfect as Willow’s, but would definitely do the job.
“Okay, I’ll help with those ropes in a moment. Go check on Rita and find me something to tie his ankles. I don’t want to take any chances of him kicking one of us.” I stood up and dragged the guy inside. When his legs cleared the threshold, I closed and locked the door.
A moment later, Willow returned with a solid-looking leather belt and a box cutter. “Will this work?” She gave me the belt.
I examined it. The leather was thick and the buckle was well-made. I nodded. “Looks solid enough. Thanks.” I wrapped it twice around the man’s ankles and then secured the buckle.
He came around and started to squirm. “What are you doing, asshole? Let me go,” he hissed.
I ignored him. Willow stood silently, frowning.
“In your dreams. Lie still.”
I stood up and motioned for Willow to come with me. The guy lifted his face off the floor and looked at her. “Ah, so you’re that little bitch who put Seth in jail. Whores like you should be beaten to death. That’s what you deserve, you fucking thief.”
“Interesting,” I said, “So this is some kind of revenge for that snotface Seth?”
I made a move toward him to shut him up, but Willow grabbed my arm. “Not this time, Jack. Seth’s friends deserve a proper welcome.”
Before I even had a chance to ask what she meant Willow took a vase with a bouquet of wilted flowers from the small hallway table and dumped the decaying plants and dirty water over the guy’s head. She put the vase down and stood with her fists firmly planted on her hips, admiring her handiwork.
The guy sputtered, gasping for air. Dark, slimy pieces of leaves and stems clung onto his face and hair. Baring his teeth, he unleashed an impressive spate of profanities and threats toward Willow, myself, and whoever else he could think of at that moment.
Willow flashed a really nasty grin and, cocking her head said, her tone mocking, “Next time you want to come for a visit, let me know in advance so I can serve something fresher. This was all I had available. I hope you enjoyed it, nevertheless.”
I gaped at her in disbelief. She was actually enjoying herself and didn’t appear at least frightened or ashamed by the man’s nasty comments.
“Now, if you’ll please excuse us.” Willow turned on her heel and pulled me with her toward Rita’s bedroom.
We ignored his shrieks and his feet and head banging furiously on the floor. He kept yelling about his bail money, and how he was going to make Willow pay him back.
“That was classy.” I chuckled, referring to her putrid flower arrangement stunt.
She winked at me. “Glad you liked it.”
“Remind me not to ever piss you off.”
“I’ll make a note of it.”
Smart ass. I liked this new Willow more and more.
We found Rita on the floor, tied to her bed with a thick rope. Willow had already pulled the gag out of her mouth. “Jack! Help me out, would ya? I need to break that fuckface’s legs and arms.”
“You’re not breaking anybody’s limbs, Rita. Now, tell me what exactly happened.” I said and then asked Willow, “Where is that box cutter?”
Willow produced the blade and offered it to me.
Rita yelled obscenities at the guy again. He lay on the floor right outside the bedroom, while shouting equally colorful atrocities back at Rita.
“Be still, so I can cut that rope.” I kneeled down and began to slice through her bonds.
“Son of a bitch! I’m gonna fucking kill ya!” Rita screamed, struggling against her restraints. “Fucking asshole, who’s laughing now?”
“Rita, stop. Tell me what happened. Are you okay? Did he hurt you?” Willow helped Rita sit up, while I continued cutting the rope.
“That prick over there attacked me when I was leaving the Black Pelican. With all the commotion … wait, do you know about the drive-by shooting?”
“Yes, we saw it on the news and immediately drove there to get you, but we couldn’t find you, and nobody knew where you were. I called and called but you didn’t answer,” Willow said in a rush.
Her Bestselling romantic suspense novel Resist Me has been listed as #1 in several Amazon categories and on Bestseller lists, including the Movers & Shakers.
Books in her NA contemporary romantic comedy series Almost Bad Boys were also listed as Bestsellers on Amazon and were nominated by the Indie Romance Convention 2014 for four different categories, including The Best Indie Upcoming Series, while Angela was nominated as Best Indie Author of the Year 2014 http://indieromancecon.com/nominations/.
Almost Matched was voted as #36 among “The 50 Best Self-Published Books Worth Reading 2014” http://www.indieauthorland.com/50-self-published-books-worth-reading-201314-40-31/
Angela lives in the Seattle area with her family and a chronically curious cat Cinnamon.
You can often spot her in one of the countless Seattle Starbucks locations, feverishly typing on her computer and sipping coffee with cream—or rather cream with some coffee in it. Don’t be surprised when a paperback you ordered from her arrives “decorated” with coffee and chocolate stains (kidding!)