Tessa blinked and took a shaky step to the next group of children. “They can…” She glanced back at him to make sure she wasn’t going crazy. Sure enough, Jon Bon Jovi sat with his two kids, his piercing blue gaze never wavered as she spoke. She cleared her throat. “They can be the most fearsome pirates on the waters.”
She forced herself to get back into character. This was for the children not her. “Just what do you think will happen when Captain Firebeard gets a load of Molly our Pirate Girl…” She bowed and leered her way around the circle of kids until she reached the equally dressed Jayne Connelly making her entrance.
Unable to stay on her feet any longer she slowly sat in the rocking chair that took up the baby corner of the children’s section. Absently she picked up plush toddler books that were fanned around her boots.
She couldn’t stop herself from looking back to the alcove where two little boys sat half on and half off of Jon Bon Jovi’s lap. His eyes were trained on hers.
Jayne was holding up the book and reading with a deep gravelly voice to portray the main character in the story that Molly would have to overcome. But Tessa couldn’t have cared less. Once they locked eyes, he smiled at her. His lips were easy with humor and the quick flash of those famous teeth left her a little light headed.
He couldn’t have been looking at her. No, Tessa do not look over your shoulder to make sure he’s looking at you. Somehow she managed to smile back, hoping she didn’t look like a freak.
Jon’s arm loosened on Romeo, distracted by the proprietor dressed like a sinful pirate. He couldn’t get over how the outfit and hell, he knew his weaknesses—the boots—had him impatient to get the story over with. As if his youngest was just waiting for him to relax his hold, he bolted across the room.
He had to hand it to the reader, she didn’t bat an eye, just circled Romeo and moved onto another section of children. As if used to playing goalie, the pirate scooped up his son. Jakey stood up. “Dad!” he whispered loudly.
Jon stood and gathered their belongings, clutching Jakes hand before swiftly moving to the other corner where she stood. He plucked Romeo out of her arms, his fingers brushing silk and curves he didn’t want to think about with a roomful of children. “I’m sorry about that.”
“That’s okay, sir. Happens all the time,” she said, hoping she sounded normal.
Jon held his hand out, speaking in a hushed tone, “I’m Jon.” He swung Romeo onto his hip. Her fingers were warm and soft in his.
“Uh-“ she blinked, unable to think as his hand surrounded hers. She blew out a breath. “Sorry, I’m normally a lot more articulate,” she laughed. “I’m Tessa, pleased to meet you Mr. –“
“Just Jon,” he interrupted tipping his baseball cap.
The smile was easier this time. She felt it creep along her lips until she was sure she looked like a demented nutcracker.
“Dad, be quiet, I can’t hear the lady.”
Jon laughed and ducked down to take his place on the floor again. Romeo reached for Tessa’s sword and she eased him away. She crouched down. “Sorry sweetheart, it’s a little too sharp for baby fingers.”
“Can you sit?” Jon asked, patting the floor next to him as he hauled Romeo back on his lap. He fussed a bit, more than done with sitting through the story.
Tessa pulled off a few of her jangling bracelets and found a large wooden cuff and handed it to Romeo. He grasped it in his chubby fingers, instantly entranced by the carvings along the outside edge.
Tessa flipped her scabbard around her back and sat down on the floor, her knee bumping his. The listened quietly as Jayne acted out the book and the entire time Tessa felt as if her skin was burning where they touched.
She was fairly positive she was going to have a bloody heart attack by the time Jayne shut the book. The room roared in applause and the chattering of too many kids in one area left her without a chance to talk to him right away.
They stood and Romeo yawned hugely making both of them laugh. She tapped on his shoe. “Would you like a juice box?”
Romeo ducked against Jon’s shoulder suddenly shy. “You want a juice, buddy?” He nodded and buried his face in Jon’s neck. Jon looked down at Jakey. “How about you?”
Jakey snaked an arm around Jon’s thigh. “Yes, please,” he said politely.
Tessa smiled. “Can they have chocolate chip cookies too?”
Jon laughed. “Only kids want cookies with juice,” he wrinkled his nose. “Gotta have milk, but sure they can.”
Tessa nodded, “I’m with you. Especially when they’re fresh from the oven and still gooey and warm inside,” she said and met his eyes.
Her eyes drifted down to his neck and then back to his mouth as she watched him swallow then lick his lips. She met his gaze and blinked again. “I’m just going to go get those um—“ She huffed out a breath. “I’ll be right back.”
Jon watched her walk away. The skin tight pants hugged her in all the right spots and the heels were going to be the death of him. Jakey tugged on Jon’s sweater. “Hey Dad, can I go look at the books with those kids? I know them from school.”
Jon nodded and watched his son, making sure an adult was in the vicinity. He waved at one of the parents he saw at preschool when he dropped Jakey off and shifted Romeo in his arms.
“How you doin’ buddy?”
Romeo wrapped his arms around his neck. “I want Mr. Rex.” Jon bumped noses with him. “Why don’t we let Jakey play with his friends for a little bit and we’ll go home and you can see Mr. Rex?”
He glanced over at the table of food, amazed when his gut tightened as Tessa shimmied her way through the crowd with two apple juice boxes in one hand and a napkin full of cookies in the other. She nodded and said hello to various people, quickly moving through the crowd.
Well shit. The first kick of lust had been a surprise, but not unusual. He’d been attracted to women before, but the second punch had caught him unaware.
“Hi,” she said almost shyly. “Hey, little guy—“
“Romeo,” Jon offered.
“Well, hello Romeo.” With a deft flick of her fingers she unwrapped the straw and pierced the little hole in the box and held it out to his son. “Take a drink honey, so it won’t get all over Daddy when you squeeze the box.”
He smiled down at her, the final blow came through when she stepped closer and her scent wrapped around him. She smelled of…pears? The clean scent and the tart edge to it made his mouth water for more than cookies. His smile faded when her arm brushed his chest.
She quickly pulled back and handed the Mott’s yellow box to him. “I’m sorry.” She murmured.
Romeo squeezed the box and got too much in his mouth and a wracking cough sputtered half the contents on Jon and the other half on her. She jumped back and immediately he shifted the toddler to his other arm.
“Oh shit! I’m sorry.” He stepped forward and the helpless look on his face eased her jittering stomach.
“It’s okay, I’m stain proofed,” she said with a laugh.
Nichole must have spotted the entire scene because she came over with a stack of napkins and a few baby wipes. “Happens all the time,” Nic said with a smile. “Nice to see you again Mr.—“
“Just Jon,” he interrupted.
Nichole blushed, “Jon. Did your boys enjoy the read?”
Jon started mopping up the juice on Romeo’s shirt and murmured a thanks when the baby wipes were offered to finish off the sticky residue on his and Romeo’s hands. “Yes, I think they did. I know I liked the pirate,” he said and met Tessa’s eyes.
Tessa felt her stomach pitch again. God, was he flirting with her? She tried her best smile back at him then pressed her lips together and wanted to scream when the town busybody came over to say hello.
“Miss Tessa you did a marvelous job as always. It’s always so…” She looked down at Tessa’s costume with bland amusement, “interesting to see what you’ll do at the next one of these things.”
She swallowed back a sigh, “Thank you, Mrs. Rothchild.”
“I wanted to talk to you about a few things.”
“It’s a little crazy right now, could we talk about it tomorrow?”
The older woman tsked. “I wish I could, but I’m going out of town tomorrow and this really can’t wait.”
She turned to Jon and lost her tongue when she saw him set Romeo down and tug off his sweater. His T-shirt rode high on his stomach, showing a dip in his stomach where the muscles bunched. He righted his shirt and balled up the sweater, dropping it on the windowsill as he fussed over his son.
”What? I’m sorry. It’s been so frantic in here.”
“Maybe we could go into your office to talk. Unless you don’t want the business?” she asked in the superior tone that Tessa hated.
Tessa had learned that Carol Rothchild had connections that every business person in the district wanted a piece of. Too bad Carol knew it as well. She sighed and turned away when she saw Jon packing up his children to head out.
She turned at the sound of his voice. The look on his face was apologetic as he rubbed on Romeo’s back. “I’m sorry, I have to go.”
She nodded, letting the regret tug at her for a moment before she let it go. “It was really nice to meet you, Jon.”
He smiled that crooked smile that she knew so well from pictures and media. It was no less potent here in her little bookstore. “I’ll see ya.”
“Tessa, are you coming?”
“Yes, Mrs. Rothchild.” She signaled to Nichole who rolled her eyes and waved her off. She gave one more glance to Jon and sighed again. Dammit, of all the luck.