Reckless Kiss: Episode 17
Reckless Kiss: Episode 17
(Click here to go to Episode 1)
Riding back to my house was an exercise in creative foreplay. My hands up her skirt, her hands over my pants, my fingers dancing along the sensitive skin behind her ear, her fingers stroking the stubble on my cheek.
I was so blind with need when I pulled into my driveway that I didn’t notice the car on the curb.
“Stop fogging up the windows!” Jeffry yelled as he knocked on Esme’s window, causing her to jump and yelp at the same time.
The blood drained right out of her face as she mouthed his name.
“Back off!” I yelled. Then to Esme, “Looks like plans have changed.”
“At least this should provide plenty of entertainment for my four followers.”
I grimaced as I stepped out of the car and walked around to let Esme out, but not before glaring at Jeffry. He was dressed as usual in an ironic shirt about the Periodic Table, worn jeans, and rumpled hair. “This better be good.”
So of course he smirked. “Hope’s been gone three days. I’m fucking lonely.”
Esme stepped out, glancing between us warily. I kissed her cheek hoping it would help settle her nerves. “Why are you lonely, Jeffry? Where are John and the gang?”
I liked to pretend that Esme never dated Jeffry but it was times like this that I had to face facts. They dated. She knew Jeffry’s friends. They had a relationship that didn’t involve me.
“They’re at a conference in Boca. Can you believe it? Everyone left me at once. Well, except for you guys.” He shrugged.
I did not like the expectant look in his eyes. “Cock blocker,” I muttered, grabbing Esme’s hand as I fished out my keys. “You can stay for an hour.”
“Why? You two got plans? Something fun to do later?”
I let everyone in and Jeffry immediately went to my refrigerator. Two minutes later he’d assembled a sandwich and helped himself to a beer, all while Esme stood in the doorway.
“This is weird,” she finally said. “It’s weird right? Can we just say it and get it out in the open? This is weird.”
Jeffry stopped mid-chew and looked at me. “Me?”
“No Jeffry,” I groaned. “She means you and her and me. As in, you two dated and now we’re dating. It’s weird.” I probably still harbored feelings of guilt for the way I lusted after Esme while they were dating. That was the only logical explanation for my odd feelings.
“It’s not weird,” he repeated as he swallowed and took a swig. “Certainly not any weirder than the fact that Leo was with Hope.”
I groaned again. This night was . . . not going well.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Esme put her hands up and screwed her eyes shut. “Let me get this straight. We dated,” she waved between her and Jeffry. “Now we’re dating. But first you had sex with Hope, and now Jeffry and Hope are together?” She waved her hand around the kitchen. “This isn’t weird. It’s beyond weird.”
“Only if you decide to feel weird. I don’t feel weird,” Jeffry said.
“Can everyone stop saying weird? It doesn’t even sound like a word anymore.” And Jeffry was right. I didn’t want to feel this way and feelings were at least partially a decision. “We’re all adults here. Adults who’ve made choices, been respectful, and can continue to do so. Hope and I were a one time thing. No feelings were involved and I think of her as a friend or a sister. I’m pleased that she and Jeffry have chemistry and compatibility that is rare and special. Likewise,” I turned my attention back to my very beautiful girlfriend, “you and Jeffry went on several dates. You discovered that despite some initial attraction there was nothing more, unless I’m missing something?”
They both visibly stiffened, looked at each other like the very idea of sex was repulsive, and shivered. “No,” Esme said firmly.
Jeffry shrugged. “I’d be insulted by that response if the feeling weren’t mutual. In fact, I’m going to echo Leo’s sentiments and say that I care about you Esme, but in a platonic, brotherly way.”
“I care about you too.” She smiled at him warmly. “I’m glad you found someone who doesn’t make you nervous. I felt so bad . . . ”
I took her hand and wrapped her arm around my waist. “You don’t need to feel that bad. Jeffry’s a big boy.” One who apparently can’t be left alone unsupervised for more than twenty-four hours.
“Where is Hope anyway?”
“Something for work. All she’d tell me is that it was an investigative report and the less I knew the better. But,” he held up a finger as if he were Sherlock Holmes about to explain a mystery, “I know she flew to Nashville first and now she’s in St. Louis and plans to head to Boston on Friday. Then she’s coming home.”
Esme tensed against me. “Investigative report?”
“She’s a producer,” Jeffry explained. “You know, news?”
“Ah.” Then she kissed my cheek. “I’m going to drop my bag in your room and take off my shoes.”
Before she could pull away I grabbed her hips and pulled her against me. “Our room, love.”
She hesitated then nodded. I watched her walk away, enjoying the sway until she was out of sight. Jeffry punched me in the arm. “I knew you two would be perfect for each other.”
Perfect. I felt like a part of me left the room every time she did and the ache wouldn’t stop until she returned. I rubbed my chest as I reached into the fridge for a beer. I waved for him to join me in the living room.
But his statement kept rattling around in my brain because he was right. Esme was perfect for me. I was content with my life and enjoyed the role I played. Taking the stigma away from sex was something I prided myself on. Helping another beautiful woman see the beauty in herself gave me pleasure. My entire existence felt built completely around that model because even at work my job was to help shepherd athletes in their careers, see their potential and ask for it to be valued. I saw this as my purpose in life and hadn’t really considered the idea that there was more for me.
Not until Esme threw everything I thought I knew into a tailspin. Now I no longer wished to merely guide, now I needed to participate, to be greedy, even to my own detriment. My brain had been completely bypassed by my heart—and to be perfectly honest, my dick—I gave no thought to consequences. She could ruin my life and break my heart as long as she gave me some of her time.
I knew that was reckless. I understood that it was dangerous. I also didn’t care because instinct dictated that I throw myself into the eye of Hurricane Esme and take my chances. Instead of a generic mission to do good in the world I now had a very specific mission to bring good into the life of one person. A woman who needed to be loved more than anyone I’d ever known.
“You’re really broody,” Jeffry grumped.
He nodded. “Staring off into space with a frown. I kind of feel like you’re looking for a fight.”
A fight? Maybe. Part of me wanted to march out to the cars outside watching for Esme and pick a fight. I didn’t think anyone had ever stood up for her, drawn a line and demanded it not be crossed. She’d never had a champion. Instead she was her only support system. It wasn’t right. Someone with so much to offer shouldn’t be used. She should be celebrated. Worshipped.
“I was just thinking.” Thinking I’d never felt so needed. As if everything I’d done in my life was nothing compared to the journey ahead of me. “About Esme.”
Jeffry got one of those ridiculous grins. “She’s fantastic. I’m really happy that she makes you happy.”
I knew he meant that too. Even if I confessed the full extent of my relationship to Jeffry he wouldn’t hold a grudge. He was too practical. “I hope I make her happy, too.”
His smile faltered. “Leo, I’ve worked in the same building with her for a while, plus those dates, and never once have I seen her as relaxed as she is now. I don’t know if it’s the sex or just you, but you are definitely making her happy too.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “The sex?”
“Like you two haven’t had sex. You’re the master. I don’t have any data, but I’m assuming all those hours in bed have been put to good use. Therefore I’ve made the assumption you are very skilled in the art of sexual pleasure. Which, I’m sure, would put just about any woman in a good mood.”
“It’s more than the sex,” Esme said as she breezed past Jeffry and tucked into my side, her heels and jewelry gone. Then she nuzzled behind my ear. “Leo makes me feel safe.”
There were several beats of silence where my heart pounded in my chest and Jeffry was too stunned to make one of his trademark quips. It gave me time to absorb the enormity of her confession, feel the warmth of her body pressed against mine, the tremble of her hand on my thigh.
I cupped her face and whispered. “I’ll always keep you safe.” Then I brushed a kiss across her lips.
Jeffry cleared his throat loudly. “Not in front of the kids!”
Esme smiled and gazed up at me lovingly. It made me feel ten feet tall.
“I can kick him out.”
She shook her head. “I’m not going anywhere.”
And she sounded like she meant it, which made me feel even taller. “All right then. Let’s talk about something else.”
“Tell me about your breakthrough this week!” Jeffry sounded like a kid asking for candy. “Team Roughneck was all crazy from what I hear.”
It took me a moment to realize the question was directed at Esme, not me, despite the use of the word “team.”
She laughed and relaxed into my side again. “Oh, they were. The DNA recovered from the burial site was unexpected.”
“This is the noble burials in Germany?” he asked, leaning forward on his knees.
“That’s the one.” She glanced up at me to explain. “My lab is sent DNA samples from all kinds of archeological sites. In this case it was the burial of five nobles dating back five thousand years. Genetically only two of the nobles were of the same ethnic background.”
“Whoa . . . ” Jeffry whistled. “Big news for you guys.”
“It definitely fits the models we’ve built.”
And . . . I was lost. I normally didn’t mind. I let Jeffry and his friends babble like background music, but with Esme I wanted to understand. “Give me the middle school social studies version so I can follow along.”
“You really want to know?” She bit her lower lip as she waited for my answer.
“Very, very much.” As much as I wanted to know if she tasted different today and how she’d moan later once Jeffry left.
She seemed to read those thoughts in my eyes because she let out a breathy sigh. “Well, you saw a lot of it at the fundraiser. My research is building a map of human history. Before the Celts and the Aborigines, and the Tlingit, they came from somewhere else, brought their knowledge and bred with the people they encountered, they conquered and were conquered, they became the tribes and nations we know today. My job is to reach back in history, farther and farther, until we can trace the movements of everyone, everywhere, throughout time. It’s the way we’ll finally understand us. It’s the story of humankind.”
I kissed her because her passion was sexy as fuck.
“What was that for?” she breathed, blushing profusely.
“For being you. For turning me on. How did you wind up with this research anyway?” She might be building a map of history but I was building a map of Esme. I wanted to do the exact same thing, trace her journey through time, understand how she became the woman in my arms.
“Ancient genetics is like a puzzle.” Her eyes were so bright, so alive. The exact opposite of the dead fear that seemed to haunt her any other time. “It’s like the world’s biggest, most complicated puzzle. Like having a million upside down pieces and knowing you’re missing a million more, but trying to see the whole picture and piecing it together anyway.”
Her excitement was infectious. “And you enjoy putting this puzzle together?”
“Pffft,” Jeffry made a noise. “I need to interject here since you don’t understand all this genetic mumbo jumbo. I am brilliant, as is everyone on my team, but Esme is something different. She does what none of us can do.”
Her cheeks turned red, so I gave her a nudge. “And what is that?” I tried to make my voice soft and full of the affection I felt towards her.
“She sees the bigger picture,” Jeffry continued. “Those of us in the lab, we get bogged down in the minutia, the details, it’s Esme’s job to do the opposite, to take the data we cobble together and feed it into the history of humanity. The puzzle she’s assembling isn’t the two-dimensional kind you put on table, it’s three-dimensional and extends back in time and across the face of the globe. Her depth of knowledge of languages, cultures, migration patterns is incredible. She’s going to change our understanding of history.”
No wonder Jeffry was attracted to her. Knowledge was porn to him, and, I was beginning to realize, me as well. The power she held in her mind was incredible, a resource for good, except when it was being used by her father.
Then she was simply being used.
I touched her cheek, brought her gaze up to mine, and whispered, “Your brilliance is beautiful and I won’t allow anyone to use you ever again.”
Her eyes flared with panic. “You won’t allow it?”
I realized my words sounded paternalistic, maybe even domineering. “You misunderstand me. I get that this is your life to live, your battles to fight, Esme.” I waited for her to digest my quiet words spoken only to her. Jeffry faded into the background. “But you’re no longer fighting them alone. I’m here to back you up, stand beside you, or clear the way, you just tell me what to do and I’ll do it. You don’t have to accept any fate you don’t choose because I’m right here.” I took her hand and placed it over my thundering heart. “Your days of being alone are over.”
She looked up at me with a combination of fear and adoration. Her dark eyes brimmed with unshed tears. “Leo, you can’t promise that. You barely know me.”
“I don’t care.” I cut off the rest of her protest. I didn’t want to hear it. That brain of hers, while brilliant, could obviously make anything seem reasonable. “I want all of you Esme, I have from the moment we met. You made my world spin. I want your brain and your body and your heart. I don’t have a choice in this. I never have. I just want. And that want is quickly turning to need. I need you Esme. I don’t know why and I don’t care. It just is. So like it or not, I’m here and I need you so much and because of that I’ve gone a little mad.”
She blinked at me, her hands shaking as she skimmed my arm and shoulder. “At least we’re going crazy together.”
I kissed her swiftly. Took her mouth and made it mine. I massaged her tongue and tasted her lips with a growl. Somewhere in the background Jeffry made an uncomfortable noise and said something about letting himself out. I knew I needed to follow Jeffry and lock the door behind him, otherwise I wouldn’t feel safe with those agents and investigators waiting outside, but first I had to feel her. My hands roamed and her body responded. Her breath grew ragged and I grew hard.
“Wait, Esme. Just . . . thirty seconds.”
It hurt to pull back. It hurt even more to see her swollen lips and rucked-up skirt and know I was walking away on purpose. But once the door was locked and the security system was armed she would be in my bed.
And tonight wouldn’t just be sex. It wouldn’t even be making love.
Tonight was a promise.
One I intended to burn into her very soul.
If you haven’t read:
EPISODE ONE| EPISODE TWO | EPISODE THREE | Episode Four | Episode Five | Episode Six | Episode Seven | Episode Eight | Episode Nine | Episode Ten | Episode Eleven | Episode Twelve | Episode Thirteen | Episode Fourteen | Episode 15 | Episode 16 | Episode 17 | Episode 18
Thank you for reading episode 17 of Reckless Kiss! New episodes will release in my newsletter every Tuesday. If you enjoy this story please check out my free book Tease. It has a very similar style, level of heat, and types of characters and I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Some characters from my previous books will be appearing in this serial. If you haven’t already, check out When Lighting Strikes, to read Marie Bancroft Hamilton’s story, Summer Heat, Night Games, and Last Fall to meet more of the Bancroft Sports gang. (But you absolutely do not need to in order to enjoy Reckless Kiss. This book is 100% it’s own story!)