Designs on Jake
by Dorien Kelly
It wasn’t midnight, but as she and Jake finished the last of their after-dinner coffees, Rowan began to feel a definite connection with Cinderella. In just a little while now she’d have to rush home, hang up her hot red dress, and get back to everyday life.
She wanted a little more time with her prince of a welder. And if Rowan was learning one thing, it was that you can’t have something unless you ask for it. "Would you like to take a walk around town? It’s warm enough that I’ll bet some of the street musicians are still out."
"Can’t think of anything I’d rather do," he said. Then Jake gave her a slow and sexy smile that had Rowan imagining a thing or two that she’d like to do with this guy. A thing or two that she hadn’t done in so long, she was shocked when the image blazed through her mind.
Rowan pushed back from the table. "Then let’s go," she said in a quavery voice. She stood and hung her art deco beaded bag over her shoulder. Maybe outside under the streetlights her blush wouldn’t show so much, she thought. Then again, she might just glow in the dark.
As they walked down Main Street with its row of cafes and restaurants, Rowan pretended that her heart wasn’t pumping a million miles an hour, all over the feel of Jake’s large hand wrapped around hers. They chatted about the wares displayed in the art galleries and about the wild mix of hairstyles on the teenagers who hung out on the corners.
When he led her around the corner and down a side street toward a grassy area where several people stood listening to a trio playing slow, jazzy music, Rowan smiled. "You must live around here," she said. "Not many people know where to find these guys."
"I live in the area," he answered as they stood at the back of the group.
Rowan liked that thought, knowing he was close by. "Me, too. Right upstairs from the antique shop."
Jake nodded absently. "Convenient," he said, then led her away from the small crowd and out onto the grass. "Dance with me."
"Here?" she stammered, wincing at the absurdity of her question.
"Here," he replied in a low, firm voice. Drawing her into his arms, Jake gave her no time to consider whether she was really the sort of woman who’d dance on a patch of grass, no other couples to camouflage her nervousness. It was a blessing, because Rowan feared she really wasn’t the sort. But she wanted to be.
He was a good dancer, and it felt natural to move with him in time to the slow sway of the music. One song slipped into the next and Rowan scarcely noticed when other couples joined them on the makeshift dance floor. Only Jake mattered.
She looked up at him. In the dim light, he looked even more dangerous to her than usual, and definitely delicious. His eyes shone dark and hot as he returned her gaze. Rowan thought she heard him mutter a soft curse, but then didn’t think at all as his mouth came down over hers.
She froze. Simply froze. Eyes wide open, heart suspended somewhere between beats. When was the last time a man had kissed her? She couldn’t recall. What was she supposed to do? She couldn’t recall that, either. At first.
Then as his lips moved firm, insistent and persuasive over hers, it all came back to Rowan--everything she knew and a few moves she was pretty sure she hadn’t known before.
Her eyes slipped closed. She pulled nearer and felt her heart start a mad waltz as one broad hand swept up and down her back. She opened her mouth wider and at the first sure sweep of his tongue--tasting her, tasting of coffee and sweet liqueur--Rowan felt her knees give way and clutched even closer to his strong, hard body.
She would never know how long they stood there, both hearts pounding, both of them unwilling to be the first to end this wonderful madness.
Long enough for the music to stop.
Long enough for a smattering of applause to draw them back to reality.
Long enough to end the kiss, turn and realize that the applause was for them!
She ducked her crimson face against Jake’s chest. His low laughter vibrated pleasantly against her burning cheek. "I feel like I’ve just awakened Sleeping Beauty," he murmured, and then gave her a brief, reassuring hug.
Wrong fairy tale, she wanted to say. I’m one scared Cinderella and the clock’s about to chime.
"I think it’s time I get home," she said instead. "Melanie’s probably been back with the kids for ages." It bothered Rowan, using the twins as a way to cover the shock that held her, but it beat announcing the truth.
Melanie had been right. Jake Miller was no boy. And Rowan Lindsay had no idea how to hold her heart safe from this man.
* * * * *
Jake stood with Rowan outside her apartment door. She had already unlocked the door and stood poised to flee, one hand on the knob. He wanted to kiss her again. Actually, he wanted to start kissing her and never stop, not when the sun came up, not when he was ninety years old and would need a walker to keep standing.
Better not to start at all, especially when she looked so vulnerable, her eyes wide, face pale and mouth blossomed rosy from their earlier kiss. Kiss, hell! That had been some sort of hot, wild, hammered-over-the-head miracle, not a mere kiss.
"I need to see you again," he said. "Tomorrow."
She blinked, shook her head as if she were coming out of a dream. "The twins--" she began.
"Lunch, then," he said. "You mentioned at dinner that they’re in the full day kindergarten program."
"I have to work."
He was pushing her too far, too fast for both of them, and he couldn’t help himself. He needed to see her. He’d figure out this whole Miller/Albreight two-guys-in-one mess later. After he’d seen her again. "I’ll bring the food to you."
"Don’t say no. Just lunch. No pressure," he wheedled.
Her answering smile was a little lopsided. "If this is your idea of ‘no pressure,’ I’d hate to see what you’re like when you’re being intense."
"Have lunch with me and you’ll never have to know."
"Just lunch, then."
Jake never thought he could feel so stupidly joyous over a lunch date. "Great."
"Well, I’ll see you tomorrow, then. I need to get some sleep." With that Rowan slipped inside her apartment.
Jake automatically turned and pulled out the keys to his own place. He was about to unlock his own door and hit the sack when two very obvious problems smacked him. First, sound carried through the old building with incredible ease. To have him open his squeaky apartment door, then rattle around inside mere seconds after he’d dropped off Rowan was a dumb play.
The second problem was sleep. Even if he tiptoed, he’d still hear Rowan on her side of the wall. It had taken only a night or two to figure out that her bed was one thin bit of wood and plaster away from his. He’d already spent enough time imagining her on that bed. Tonight’s kiss had filled in a few more blanks in the picture.
No, sleep wasn’t in the cards for hours to come. Not until he was too wiped out to remember that lush mouth, the feel of her under his hands, that little sound she made when he touched his tongue against hers for the first time. That, Jake admitted, might take forever.
With a sigh, he trudged down the stairs and made his way back to Main Street. A little music at Sonny’s Bar sounded just right because, baby, Jake Albreight--Miller--whoever the heck he was--wanted to sing the Found the Right Girl and Screwed It All Up Blues.
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