Our girl Bridget has accidentally gotten tipsy on Princess Punch and wandered off into the party without Jake since he’s made it clear he’s not the guy for her…but that kiss. That kiss is still on her list, so….
I motioned for him to lean toward me and shouted to him, “Do you think you could kiss me?”
He looked surprised, so I think he heard me right, but he mouthed back, “What?”
“Kiss me,” I shouted. I pointed at him then at myself to make sure he knew who I was talking about. This was far more complicated than I’d expected. Of course, maybe it was always this complicated, and other people just managed to make it look easy. I mean, I’d only kissed Tanner, and that was only because he’d asked me out. “Do you think you could kiss me?”
Mike looked at me for a long moment, then took my hand and pulled me off the dance floor toward the wall at the edge of the room. He eased me back against the wood paneling. I waited, afraid to breathe, afraid to learn I’d been kissing wrong this whole time and that was why Tanner had dumped me.
He grinned down at me. “You’re direct.”
“I have a list.”
“I think I’d like this list.”
I laughed. He was funny. I liked funny. I was glad to see I’d grabbed a guy with sense of humor. Maybe he could laugh off the bad kissing if I really did stink at it.
His hand slid around my side and rested against my lower back, which just made me laugh again.
“What else is on this list?”
“I just added something.”
“Can I see it?”
I thought about showing him the list, then remembered where I’d stashed it. It might be funny to pull it out of my built-into-the-dress bra that was obviously doing more work than it was supposed to tonight.
Thank goodness I wasn’t chesty.
I mean, it wasn’t like I’d be showing him anything. It would be like pulling the bra out from under the dress without flashing a thing.
“Maybe.” I giggled.
I’m pretty sure it was a giggle. I wasn’t really the giggling type, but this seemed very funny and I remembered that Leah giggled with guys all the time. That was probably one of the things she did to steal my boyfriend. Darn giggling.
He glanced down at my dress and then back up.
“Where exactly are you keeping this list?”
I glanced straight down to where I could see a bit of the napkin sticking out of the front of my dress.
“Really?” He grinned. “That’s much better than a regular old pocket.”
His hand slid to my butt and pulled me closer to him. I thought he really was going to kiss me. This was perfect. I hated the idea that the last—make that the only—boy to kiss me was Tanner. This was very slate-cleaning.
“What else are you keeping in that extra pocket?”
Did he mean was I wearing a bra? What was this obsession with bras? Of course, I had that dress-bra thing, and Jake said that counted.
I inner-glared at myself at the inner-mention of Jake.
Go away, Jake.
He was grinning again. “I don’t think that’s nothing.”
His slid up my side as he leaned in and I realized that, yes! He was going to kiss me.
“Don’t even think about it.”
The guy took his hands off me and stepped away just enough to let me see Jake standing there glaring at him. What was he doing? He was going to break my list.
Why was he interrupting? Maybe he just needed to know who this guy was. I could get that with me coming here with him he might feel a little responsible for me. That wouldn’t be a surprise, with how he’d come to my rescue at the beginning of the night.
“Jake! Hey! This is…” I stopped, wondering how I’d forgotten the cute guy’s name.
“Mike,” Jake filled in, not even looking my way.
“Yes! Mike. How do you know Mike?”
Jake wrapped a hand around my arm, and yanked me away from Mike.
“I know Mike because he’s the guy whose ass I’m going to kick later.”
Mike raised both hands and took a step back. “Sorry, man. She said she was here on her own.”
Without even saying goodbye, Mike disappeared back into the crowd without looking back.
I frowned. That didn’t seem polite. “He didn’t even say goodbye.”
“Why are you so ticked off at him?” Jake leaned against the wall next to me, his hand still locked around my arm.
I thought there had to be a really good reason that he was glaring. I mean, he typically wasn’t a glarer. I was sure of this after… I glanced around for a clock. After four and a half hours. But all he’d done since we’d gotten to the party—the party he had made me come to—was glare at me.
“You’re glaring at me.”
“Yes. I am.”
“I think you should stop.” I wasn’t liking this glaring thing. It was worse than the grin-drawl-eyebrow-lifting thing.
“Um, yes.” I laid my hand over the one he had wrapped around my arm. I hadn’t noticed how large his hands were, but his fingers went all the way around my bicep and overlapped underneath.
Very big hands.
“Bridget, you can’t go around letting guys—”
“What?” I wasn’t sure where this was going.
“His hand was on your ass.”
I think that was right. I remember thinking no one had ever touched my butt before, but I’d thought that was a good sign, a sign that he was going to kiss me, and then I could’ve checked that off the list.
The glaring was still going on.
And now, the list was broken.
“But it’s on the list.”
If human beings could spontaneously explode, Jake looked like he was testing the limits of it. I pictured smoke rising off the top of his dark hair and giggled.
His glare got deeper if that was possible.
“What?” I asked. “Mish had her hand on your rear.”
This double standard thing really wasn’t fair.
Jake swore under his breath then pulled me from the room, dragging me down a long hall that ended next to a bathroom. Once I was in the corner, the music and noise and people faded, Jake leaned in.
“You do not let other guys touch your ass…or any other part of you. You don’t know what happens to girls at these parties who get drunk and let guys get control of things.”
“Oh, yes, I do.” I could feel the shaking start with my hands, the heat rushing up the back of my neck. My stomach turning over in a nausea-sweep I hadn’t felt in years as his anger pushed everything else away.
“I don’t think so.” His hand was wrapped so tightly around my arm I could feel his thumb cutting into me.
“I do—they either get dragged down hallways to be yelled at, or they get…or they get…” I felt the first tear hit my cheek before I knew what was happening. I sucked in a breath, trying to get it under control, but before I knew it, I was sobbing. The embarrassing kind that makes you not able to breathe.
“Hey. Hey, Bridget. Stop. Stop.” Jake’s hand let go and his arm wrapped around my shoulders, pulling me to him. “I’m sorry. Stop.”
I wrapped my arms around him, settling myself against him as he stroked my back.
“You’re freaking me out, Bridget. You know I’d never let anything happen to you, right? You’re safe. I swear it.”
I could hear the panic in his voice. I recognized it from another time in my life, and I knew where that panic came from.
Closing my eyes, I drew in his scent, letting his strong arms and the warmth of him ground me with my long, deep breaths.
I pulled back, but not away. I didn’t want to get away. He stroked my face, caressing the tears, my hair, my cheek. His fingertips ran softly across my eyelids.
“Are you okay?”
I was. I didn’t know how I was, but I was.
I nodded, embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”
“No, I’m sorry. I lost my temper.”
“I shouldn’t have cried.”
“I shouldn’t have yelled.”
“You shouldn’t have threatened…um…” What was the cute guy’s name?
“You shouldn’t have been kissing Mike.”
“I wasn’t.” I pulled back, my eyes even with his throat. He was too tall. Too…I don’t know. Everything had narrowed to him. I had no idea what was going on. This seemed more than safe. But this? Now? I’d thought only boyfriends got jealous. Was that what this was? Was this jealousy? “You’re breaking the list.”
“I’m not breaking the list.”
I leaned into him, curious what would happen if I kissed his throat right at that spot right… there. I laid my head on his shoulder because it seemed easier than trying to stay even on my toes, my nose brushing that spot I wanted to kiss.
“Nothing was going to happen with Mike. Just a kiss.”
His other arm went around me. “I don’t think you know. I don’t think you understand just a kiss.”
I hummed under my breath. I wasn’t sure what he meant. I wanted that kiss, that one kiss that meant nothing beyond the fact that someone wanted me right then. Not hello. Not goodbye. Not any of those other little moments that give you a reason to kiss. Just a kiss. Just because someone wanted you.
“I know.” I was tired suddenly of Jake treating me like a charity case—or a kid sister.
His hand brushed over my hair, the shorter strands falling through his fingers before he used it to pull my head back with a light tug.
“Bridget, the only guy you’re going to be kissing who isn’t your boyfriend is me.”
Through the fog of all the punch and wobbly-headedness, I still knew what he was saying. I heard his ticked off tone and felt the tight muscles of his shoulders under my fingertips. I wondered why. Why was he so annoyed, and why did he want to kiss me? At the same time, I heard the message loud and clear—the not your boyfriend message.
But mostly I didn’t care. I just wanted to skip the figuring-this-stuff-out and get to the sweet part.
Jake’s mouth came down on mine like he needed it to breathe. I pushed up on my toes, trying to get closer, trying to burrow into him. It was like every moment—even before we’d met—had led up to this one.
He pushed me against the wall, one hand sliding down my waist to my butt to pull me up closer. Closer.
His hand ran along the edge of my panties, and I didn’t bother to wonder how it had slipped under my skirt. All I knew was that if I didn’t get closer to him, I might die. Right there in the hall. Life might slip out of me and leave me limp and nothing on the floor.
I wanted to climb him to get closer to his mouth. I let one leg wrap around the back of his calf, bringing me up higher. Pulling us together, fusing us. There was nothing beyond Jake. Not that hallway, not that party, not that messed up, rebellious night of list breaking.
And, in that moment, I thought that for him there might be nothing else, either.
“Damn, Moore. Why don’t you get a room?” Jake pulled back and behind him I could see Dave. “Oh, I forgot. You already did.”
He slapped Jake on the back and disappeared into the bathroom.
Jake stared at the door and then back at me.
“That’s it.” He wrapped his hand around my wrist, dragging me back up the hall after him. “We’re getting out of here.”
I was just thinking that alone with Jake was exactly where I wanted to be when he added, “You don’t belong here, kindergarten teacher,” and pulled me up the stairs, through the crowds trying to get out of his way, and out the back door.
I had no idea what he was so angry about. Was it about me kissing him like that? I’d never kissed someone like that before…like I’d do anything to not to ever have to stop. Certainly not Tanner. Of course, Tanner had never kissed me like that, either. Compared to this, Tanner’s kisses had felt…respectful.
All I knew was that Jake had stopped kissing me, and if what he’d said before was true, there weren’t going to be any more kisses.
Just a kiss. I’d finally traded in boring and safe for drunk and stupid, and all I’d gotten was one Moore kiss.
I’m not sure if that was a win or not.
Interested in being notified when this is released? Sign up for the New Release Newsletter. I never spam or share your email: Subscribe to my newsletter