Chapter 63

Tessa woke with her nose pressed into a muscled bicep and a tangle of legs holding her firmly attached from the thighs down. They’d rolled sometime in the night and he was curled around her from the back with one arm under her head and the other resting around her waist.

She glanced at her clock and relaxed into him. They had hours yet before she needed to get to work. Always with the need to touch him, she gently raked her nails through the hair of his forearm and was rewarded when he nuzzled her ear and curled his arm around her tighter.

“Jon? Are you awake?”

“I could be, with the right incentive.”

Smiling into the semi-dark she turned in his arms and after a bit of adjusting they were nose to nose. Her small lamp had been left on across the room so she could see shadowy features on his scruffy face. Slitted eyes soft with sleep, the slash of lips full and relaxed and a nose that was more prominent than you would think on the first perusal of his face. She pressed her lips to his and lingered for a moment.

She brought her fingertips to his jaw, tracing the dent in his chin then letting her thumb follow the fullness of his lower lip and up to the slashing V of his upper. When he opened his mouth and lightly scraped his teeth over the pad of her thumb she couldn’t quite stop the soft moan that escaped. He flicked the tip of his tongue over the scored flesh and she replaced her mouth with her fingers.

The kiss was slow and thorough. Easy with the cover of night and the silence of the late hour, he deepened the kiss until she responded in kind. A lazy, slide of tongue drew her into the kind of kiss that could turn hot and greedy. Part of her wanted to push away the emotions and not deal with them, to drown in the waves of sensation that he could bring her. Easing the heat back, she finally broke away.

“We need to talk a bit, I think,” she said when she got her breath back.

He kept his eyes closed for a moment, then opened one when she didn’t say anything more. “Yeah, I guess we do,” he said on a sigh.

She traced her knuckle over the fine whorl of hair at the center of his chest. “I don’t know if I can be a dirty little secret, pardon the pun.”

He didn’t laugh. “And I don’t want you to be,” he said and brought his fingers up to cup her face. “I just have to figure a few things out before we can do the whole public thing.”

“How long is that going to be?”

“I don’t know how long. There’s a world of difference between seeing someone and seeing me, Tessa.” Slipping away he sat up, resting his forearm on a bended knee. He pushed his fingers through his hair.

Feeling the frustration coming off him in waves, she sat up and pressed a kiss to his shoulder, tracing the faded steer with a fingertip. “I know,” she said and moved behind him hugging him with her knees then her arms. She let her fingers thread through the hair of his chest slowly, easing instead of firing his blood.

The first rays of dawn peeked through her sheer curtains as the shadows of his back took form. Pressing a few kisses over the smattering of freckles along his shoulder blades she rested her chin on his shoulder.

He turned his head and she met his gaze. The distance she was expecting to find wasn’t there. Instead she found a resigned sadness she wasn’t prepared for. Curling her leg up to scoot next to him again she stood and grabbed her robe off a chair in the corner.

Taking her cue he stepped into his jeans that had made it to the floor sometime in the night. She rounded the bed and pulled him back to sit again. “I won’t push right now and it’s not like I need to go on Oprah to tell everyone in the world I love you.” When that didn’t crack a smile she sighed. “I can understand protecting your family but I’m not the type of woman that can just love you behind closed doors. Whether it’s the bedroom or any other door,” she said and clasped his hand.

“Nor do you deserve that,” he said and stood.

She held onto his hand and stood as well. She smoothed her hand down his sculpted back and brought their joined hands around his waist, lacing their fingers she crowded in on him. Now she could feel the distance creeping in.

“I’ll decide what I deserve, Jon.” She circled him and kept their fingers joined. Standing before him, she met his wary blue eyes. “I’m not going anywhere; I just need to know where we stand for public things, like the bookstore or seeing you on the street or in front of friends.”

He started to move around her and she pressed a palm to his belly. “Don’t do that.”

His eyes shuttered. “Do what?”

“Do that glacial thing. I’m not one of those people you can brush off if you’re not ready to talk about something. Tell me if you don’t know, it’s better than shutting me out.”

“I’m not shutting you out.”


His eyes went from cool to fiery. “I don’t know, Tessa. I don’t know what to do or how to explain to people that I’m with someone other than Dorothea. I don’t know how to tell my kids I love someone other than their mother. It’s all they’ve ever known.”

“So you’re going to live the rest of your life like a monk? Or have secret weekenders when you’re out of town?”

“I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

“Well, you’re going to have to eventually. Even if it’s not me,” she swallowed down the ache in her gut even saying it, “Someday, someone will matter enough that you would need to let them inside that inner sanctum of a family.”

His hands gripped her arms, “You matter enough,” he said with enough conviction to stop her jittering stomach. “I just don’t know how to do it yet.”

She closed her eyes against the swirling confusion in his eyes. Complications were going to be a part of her life now and she was just going to have to learn to live with it. She slid her arms around his waist and sighed when he pulled her into him. “I’ll wait,” she said quietly and raised her eyes to his.

With not quite steady hands he pushed her hair back and lowered his mouth to hers. The kiss wasn’t easy and it wasn’t gentle. A bit of desperation fueled their passion now. The easy pleasure of their morning burned away as he pushed her robe open and palmed her breast with mounting need.

Dragging in a deep breath she shrugged out of the silk and reached for the snap of his jeans. She curled her fingers inside and felt the hot silk and groaned when he hardened. “Show me,” she said.

He jerked off his jeans and pushed her back on the bed. His mouth latched onto her nipple, drawing deeply from her. His other hand tugged on the left one and she cried out. He knew each part of her that was sensitive and what would drive her mad.

With expert manipulation he turned her inside out with a few touches. His teeth scraped down her neck and down to her breast again suckling her with his hot mouth. She arched beneath him and her hands fisted into his hair.

He pulled her hands away and held them high over her head, braceleting them with one strong hand he used the other touch, to squeeze and to bring her off. She screamed when the orgasm punched into her. Instead of letting up, he only pushed her harder growling against her breast when he pushed two fingers into her in a punishing thrust.

She rode the next release with eyes open and blazing into his. “Show me,” she said again and hooked her thigh around his waist. “Inside me, now.”

He covered her, driving deep with measured strokes. Sweat dripped from his hair and his nose as he kept each thrust achingly slow. His teeth tugging on her ear as he said her name. Wrapping her thighs around his waist she arched against him and took it all. “Tell me,” she said on a gasp.

“I love you,” he said in her ear. Again and again he said it as he drove into her as if he could drive the point home with each trust. “I love you.”

She broke the stranglehold he had on her wrists and wrapped herself entirely around him. Hiccupping through sobs she felt the warm rush of his seed inside of her and felt herself go over again.

With shuddering breaths he slumped on top of her. His mouth still buried against her neck as he said it again. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” she said and held on as he dropped into an exhausted sleep. As much to calm herself as him, she ran feather light fingertips up and down his back. She wasn’t sure how long she laid there, with his heart beating against her chest, his warm body heavy on hers. Turning her head, she winced when the numbers read seven thirty.

With regret, she gently eased her way out from under him. Feeling him slide from within her left an ache she didn’t want to name. He curled into her pillows and kept on sleeping. She took a little comfort in the fact that he seemed to reach for her. She slid a pillow beside him to keep him in slumber and closed herself in the bathroom.

Adjusting the temperature of the water she eased into the corner glassed in shower and turned her face into the spray. Taking care with the muscles that sang with both the evening and the morning…well, intensities, she swallowed back a groan. Shampooing and conditioning first she reached for the body wash.

His smell still lingered on her skin as she took care to wash him away. She made a mental note to see her doctor for birth control. She was still in a safe time of the month, but she wasn’t a fool. The uncertainties alone forced her to be realistic.

Unable to linger any longer she quickly finished her shower and tucked a towel around her breasts. She ducked out to see him still sleeping and snagged her robe off the floor. Thankful that she used another room to dress and ready herself she eased out the door, shutting it gently behind her.

Fifteen minutes later she had dress pants and a sweater on with minimal make-up. Her day would be filled with running and glamour had no part of in the Christmas craze. She opened the door to her room again and smiled when she saw him spread out in her sheets.

He looked good in the crisp white and navy blue of her bed. Rounding the bed she pressed a kiss to his cheek. His hand snagged out to catch hers before she drew away. “Where are you going?”

“Shh…work, you stay there and sleep. Just lock up before you leave.”

His eyes opened to slits. “Come back to bed,” he said and tucked the covers around his neck.

“I would if I could, darlin’, but his girl’s gotta work. The bookstore doesn’t run without me.” She brushed a lock of hair back from his eyes.

He stretched and immediately curled back into the sheets, closing his eyes. “Will I see you tonight?”

“I’ll call you later.”

“Okay,” he said and drifted back to sleep.

She just shook her head and stood up. She left the door open, but turned back and decided she liked him in her bed. Very much.


Chapter 62

Leaning on her car, he watched her cross the street waving to the last of the crew that was breaking down the festival for the night. He had to admit, one of his favorite things about Tessa was the way she moved. So sure of herself, with an unconscious sensuality that was difficult in a woman of her size.

Even just watching her work a crowd had been enough to make his jeans a little tight. Especially when all he wanted to do was drag her off to the nearest corner and kiss her until he heard that breathy little moan that drove him crazy.

He grinned when she dug into her bag and pulled out her phone. His grin widened when his hip buzzed. He dug out his phone and flipped it open, “Hello.”

“Hey, where’d you disappear to?”

“I had some business to take care of.”

“Nothing I should worry about, I hope.”

“Oh, I think you should worry.”

Her voice lowered. “As long as it ends in me being naked, I don’t have a care in the world.”

He couldn’t stop himself, “I have a quick trip to take, but I should be able to see you later tonight.”

Fighting a snicker he saw her stop in her tracks. “What? But why?”

“These things happen, baby.” He could hear her trying to suck back the disappointment. “I promise it won’t take long.”

“I-“ she started walking again. “Well, I guess I could take a bath and wait for you.”

Memories of her and his oversized tub had him fighting a groan this time. “Make sure you drive safely and I’ll see you in a bit.”

He was impressed when he only heard a trace of a whine in her voice, “Okay.” She snapped her cell shut and dropped it in her purse. The loose walk turned to a clipped click of heels on blacktop. Stuffing his phone back in his hip pocket he folded his arms and waited for her to see him.

Her attention was on her bag again, looking for what had to be her keys. She finally looked up and stopped for a moment before her walk became a run. “You suck,” she said and launched herself into his arms.

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he said and dragged her closer. She tipped her head up and he caught her mouth in a hungry kiss. The half intimacy of the swings, then the public teasing had him so wound he could have taken her against the car. He poured the need into the kiss, opening her mouth with an insistent tongue. The taste of her only kicked up the want until he couldn’t think of anything but her.

Her hands buried themselves into his coat and he felt her nails slip under the layers of clothing. His own fingers gripped her hair and pulled her head back so he could get to her neck. “We really need to get to a house.”

“Mine,” she said with a groan as her touch coasted up his back and made a return trip to his waist only to lower to grip his butt.

“Your house? Or my butt belongs to you?”

She laughed and groaned at the same time, “Both.” She stood on her tip toes and caught his mouth again. “Hurry, follow me before I strip you right here in the parking lot.”

The kiss flashed hot and he couldn’t stop himself from grinding his hard cock against her skirt. His fingertips curled under the ends of the skirt and started to pull it up but she pulled away. “Go, now before we do something stupid.”

He stepped back and took a deep breath. “I don’t know what it is about you that makes me turn into a groping teenager again.” He was always in control and the fact that she made him think like a fourteen year old again both horrified and amazed him.

“Well, join the club. Eventually it’ll pass right?”

“God, I hope not.”

She laughed and swiped her hand through her hair. “Follow me,” she said and dug for her keys.

“You got it.” Climbing into his car, he waited for Tessa to get inside and start her engine. They both pulled out of the semi-dark parking lot with a little more speed than was wise. Shifting gears he smoothly tailed her nearly bumper to bumper.

Parking behind her in the driveway he got out and jogged to her car and pulled her out. Taking her keys he bent and tossed her over his shoulder. “Nope, can’t wait.”

“Jon!” she gripped his jacket. “Oh my God, I’m going to flash the neighbors.”

He patted her ass and unlocked her door with ease. “No one cares.”

Reaching down she smacked him back, but the effect was lost with the bulk of his coat. “Thanks a lot, you shit.”

Laughing he headed up the stairs. “Which room?”



“Right inside the door.”

Hitting the switch before he dropped her on the bed, he quickly shrugged out of his jacket. “Hey nice big bed,” he said as he yanked his shirt, sweater and denim off in one swipe.

“Thanks,” she said and tossed her purse and gloves aside to unzip her boots and kneel on the bed.

Once she had the bulky sweater free, she crawled to the edge and reached for him. Her fingers arrowed down his chest, scraping through the hair until she reached his stomach. Her touch lightened, teasing on the way to his belt. With a groan he flipped her on her back and they rolled with lips fused.

Making quick work of the t-shirt his mouth found skin and his fingers unhooked the clip to her bra. Groaning at the perfect breasts that spilled free he cupped one and rolled the nipple of the other into his mouth. She arched off the bed, her fingers gripping his hair in response to his touch. His teeth scraped over her ribs as he found the buttons to her skirt and rolled both the skirt and her hose down in one shot.

Promising himself he’d take time later to show her the gentleness she deserved he headed back up with a nip here and a kiss there, his hands impatient to get her under him. She opened her legs for him and the rasp of denim over her soft thighs had him fumbling for his zipper.

He laughed as she rolled them to straddle his thighs. Propping herself on his chest she went for his belt. “You have far too many clothes on.” She nipped at his side and tugged until the notches tightened then loosened as the buckle slid free. Peeling away the well-worn denim she flicked her tongue over the sensitive flesh above the rough line of hair at his cock.

She palmed him and he growled when the soft skin of her breast brushed his shaft. “Oh, well you like that then?” she said and did it again. He arched his hips to get the jeans free and he nearly shouted when her mouth took him deep.

His brain screamed, “Too close.” And he fisted his hands into her hair to pull her away. “It’ll be over in a second if you do that.”

”I don’t care,” she said and curled her tongue around the base of his cock until he was sure the blood would completely leave his skull. Digging into his pocket he found what he needed and pulled her up to him. Catching her mouth in a distracting kiss he protected them both and rolled her over.

Their eyes locked as he opened her thighs and pushed inside. Fighting not to come right way he braced his arms above her. Her arms came up to his shoulders and her fingers tunneled into his hair. She hugged him tight with a clasp of thigh and ankle until he couldn’t keep it together. All the tension and the teasing, the misunderstandings and the hurt rolled into a furious coupling that burned hot.

The slap of flesh and the river of sweat that ran from them drove them closer to the edge. His control snapped and he couldn’t stop the quick hard thrusts inside her welcoming body. Praying that she was just as lost as he was he pulled her thigh higher on his hip and slammed into her until his head tipped back and he shouted his release.

Distantly he heard an answering moan as his body quaked above her before he collapsed. When the blood managed to make its way back to the correct parts of his brain he pressed his nose into her neck. “Tell me you at least came.”

Tessa dragged in a deep breath. “Christ, yes,” she said thick with recovery.

“Okay good, I can die now,” he said and rolled onto his back, dragging her with him. Her knee settled between his legs, as she pressed her calf to his. The heat of her body hugged along his side and her cheek rested on his chest. And he told himself that life just didn’t get any sweeter.

Pushing her sweaty hair back off her face and neck he gently traced his fingertips along her back. He heard her breathing even and let himself follow her into dreams.


Chapter 61

Jon made a circuit through the crowd, making small talk when he couldn’t avoid it. This was his home and he’d been in the area long enough that a lot of people knew him in varying degrees.

As the night came to a close, couples started to populate the stage as the music went from upbeat to the slow and sexy. Keeping to the outskirts he slowly made his way around the stage, watching Tessa work the stragglers like a pro. She was a natural born schmoozer and the ease in which she smiled and offered a touch, a handshake or a hug was ingrained.

He could tell she was looking for him and it made his blood warm. It was nice to feel wanted again. Toward the end of his marriage he’d felt like an outsider in his home, like he was the uncle that came to visit every few months. Dot had carved out such a singular existence that she’d just sort of outgrown him. And with each passing album, tour and project they spent less and less time together. And when they had been alone things had become awkward and he couldn’t quite pin-point just how or when it had happened.

The only thing he knew right now was that he didn’t want to let that kind of life happen again. He wanted to be important enough that it mattered when he wasn’t around, not just worked in when it was convenient. Tessa made him want to make the effort.

Finally alone, he shifted through the crowd until he was directly behind her. She swayed to the music, unconsciously rolling her hips with the beat. Unable to stop himself he moved in on her and crowded in, linking his fingers with hers and turning her toward him.

When her surprised eyes went a dark and glittering green he smiled and pulled her onto the dance floor. “Dance with me,” he said gathering her into him.

“But people will see, I don’t want to-.”

“People see what they want to see, all they will notice is me,” he interrupted.

Humor shimmered with the sweet punch of lust. “And you, the very important Rock Star is going to dance with the little shopkeeper out of the kindness of your heart?”

Pulling her closer he growled, “When in reality I’ll be hiding my hard on and copping a cheap feel under their noses.”

She laughed and rested her hand on his shoulder and clasped his other hand close in between their bodies. The song slid into a soft and slumberous song that did well to get them closer.

The woman’s voice was thick with longing and soft with ache.

Don’t know how you do it

Like there’s nothing to it

You just look my way

You come a little closer

I lose my composure

Don’t know what to say

I’m overwhelmed, you smile, I melt

And somewhere inside oh baby, I

Shiver, tremble, I never

No I never once felt so much

It shakes me how you take me

Deeper then I’ve ever been

It’s to the core, under my skin I


With little thought and all emotion she moved into him and their bodies fit like they always did. The words left her raw with want. So close to how she felt about him. The way he made her feel a little lost, and so very found in his arms. Her hand slid up his shoulder to the tease the ends of her hair and brushing his neck with just the tips of her fingers. She could feel his heat and smell the crisp, light scent of him that never seemed to be far from her memory.

His knee slid between hers as they did a slow, lazy circle. His hand eased down to her hip and his fingers slipped under the sweater to her waist and found a sliver of flesh where her undershirt had come untucked. His touch was barely there, just a tease…a whisper of fingertips that left her barely able to breathe.

I love the way your whisper

Slowly, softly lingers

In my ear

You move a little lower

The world starts spinning slower

Then it disappears

Your lips so close, we kiss almost

Just barely touch, but that’s enough

To make me

Shiver, tremble, I never

No I never once felt so much

It shakes me how you take me

Deeper then I’ve ever been

It’s to the core, under my skin I


Looking up at him she automatically lifted her mouth to find his and stopped just a whisper away, the words drifting over them, pushing her to touch and to act on the ache it brought. Instead she turned at the last moment safely brushing his cheek once before righting herself.

She felt his touch go from butterfly soft to gripping as the pulse of longing locked them tight. The heat of him surrounded her and he bent to her ear.

“I always want you, it never stops.”

Their joined hands pulled in closer and he traced his pinkie over the curve of her breast. Even through the thick cable knit she felt the burn and prayed she wouldn’t go mad with it.

The song crested and he turned her, stepping closer until he brought them into a full thigh to thigh press for a split second before he pulled away. As the slumberous voice drifted away so did the spell. Blinking up at him she saw the tick of his jaw and the heat in his bright blue eyes. She let her hands drop away, knuckles and fingers bumping for a moment before he stepped back.

“Thanks for the dance, Miss Donovan.”

“Anytime, Mr-“ and at his look she sighed, “Jon.”

“Tessa, if you’re done enjoying yourself we can wrap things up.”

The voice of her waking nightmares jarred her out of the soft haze he’d managed to lull her into. Crossing her eyes at Jon briefly she stuck out her tongue until he laughed. “Thanks for coming Jon, we appreciate the support”

“Anything for the Association, Miss Donovan,” he said with eyes full of humor and a mouth slashed in a wry grin.

She turned to Carol and smiled thinly, struggling not to flinch when he flicked a nail along her palm before walking away. With her body still humming she listened to Carol drone about the incompetent help and the late hour. Too pleased with herself and the evening ahead she ignored the harping and helped close the fair down for the night.

Thirty minutes later she was heading to her car, digging her cell phone out to find Jon.

Song: Shiver


Chapter 60

Jon headed back to the game booths and spotted his daughter holding her little brother’s hand in a death grip while trying to talk to her friends. He would have smiled if he wasn’t so ticked off. He knew what a chore it was to get stuck with the little brother. It had happened to him more times than he could count growing up.

Putting a hand on his daughter’s shoulder she looked up at him with faint irritation and relief. “Thank God, he’s being so annoying!” She hauled Jakey forward and pushed him toward Jon. “I need to go.”

Jon just shook his head and took a hold of Jakey’s hand, well aware of his penchant for disappearing in crowds. He just wasn’t in the mood to lose a few years off his life tonight. “Thanks, Stef. I’ll see you around ten okay?”

“Can’t I stay out longer?”

“Nope, ten is late enough.”

”But Devon’s mom said I could stay overnight and she won’t be picking her up until eleven!”

“I told your mom I’d have you guys ready for ten so she could swing by and pick you up. You don’t want to get me in trouble do you?”

Her lips firmed. “Mom would let me stay out.”

His jaw clicked and he prayed for strength. Don’t kill your daughter, it’s not worth the jail time, he told himself. “Look, call your Mom and if it’s okay with her, then it’s okay with me.”

Her eyes went from surly to bright. “Excellent!” she said and dug out her ice pink Razor that she’d talked him into last month.

He waited as she spoke to Dot and he couldn’t help but be impressed on how she effectively backed her mother into a yes. “Let me talk to her,” he said and took the phone away from Stef. “Hey, you know you can say no to her.”

“And so can you,” she said with a trace of impatience.

“I’m more than happy to be the bad guy, Dot.” He turned to his daughter and watched her face go stony. Damn if she didn’t get that from him. Trying desperately not to laugh he spoke again, “I can have her ready at ten just like we discussed.”

Dorthea’s sigh was huge. “No, then I’ll have a pouty teenager to live with. Just let her go, I’ll check with Devon’s mom when she picks them up.”

“You’re the boss,” he said and handed Stef back her phone. “Sounds good, just don’t…” he sighed when the smug smile came out. “Give me the smug smile,” he finished. “Just remember I’ve done everything you can think of and then some. I’m still smarter than you.”

Stef reached up and kissed his cheek. “Yes, Daddy.”

Jakey tugged at his hand and Stef already blended back into the crowd. “Alright, have fun but stay at the fair,” he said lamely to his daughter’s back. Following his son’s litany of, “C’mon Dad, C’mon Dad,” he let himself be dragged back to the rides.

Depositing his four year old on the train ride he sat on the bench and watched, giving him a distracted smile each time he made a circuit and waved. With a moment to himself he let the anger stew. He’d truly fucked up where Tessa was concerned and he wasn’t sure how to fix it.

He hadn’t been prepared to deal with his kids and Tessa at the same time. Hadn’t even thought about it when he’d told her he was bringing them. How was he supposed to tell them about her when he wasn’t even sure about what they were yet?

He loved her, he knew it as surely as he knew his own name, but his kids were…well, they’d had enough upheaval in the last year to deal with. He wasn’t sure how to tell them he had a new woman in his life. Hell, he hadn’t even discussed it with Dot yet.

But the way she’d gotten so angry and then walked away from him. He gritted his teeth and took a deep breath. He couldn’t blame her for being hurt, but the pot shot behind the stage hadn’t been called for. He didn’t treat her like his mistress. He didn’t intentionally hide their relationship, but he wasn’t ready to show it off in front of the kids.

Jakey got off the ride and headed for him with a smile. “Dad! Did you see me?”

Jon smiled down at his son, “I sure did. Did you have fun?”

Jake nodded and climbed up on the bench beside him. “I got to ring the bell and everything.” He crawled onto his lap and plopped himself down. “I’m hungry.”

He just laughed, poking him in the stomach. “Where do you put it?”

Laughing he pushed his hand away. “I’m a growing boy.”

“Sounds like the company line.”

“That’s what Mama tells me.”

He set him on the ground and took his hand once more. “Mama knows best. What’ll it be this time?”

“Ice cream!”

Jon groaned. “Okay, ice cream it is.”

An hour later he had a very sticky, very grumpy four year old in his arms who was well past his bedtime, even with a nap. He made his way to the sidewalk just beyond the stage and gave a relieved sigh when he saw his older son waiting for him. “Hey Jesse.”

He just tugged down his hat. “Ten o’clock curfew blows.”

“Don’t I know it, but them’s the rules, bud.”

“Where’s Stef?”

He winced. “She’s with staying with Devon, then going home with her.”

“She gets to stay? That’s not fair!”

“When you’re thirteen then we’ll discuss it, but until then it’s a ten o’clock curfew.”

Dorthea’s BMW pulled up and Jesse got in and slammed the door. Walking around to deposit a nearly asleep Jake into the carseat he fastened him in and dropped a kiss on his forehead before shutting the door. Dorthea’s window slid down. “Everything okay?”

He gave her a tired smile. “Jesse just found out that Stef doesn’t have to leave.”

She tucked a lock of hair away from her face and glanced at Jesse. “Got a problem with that Jess?”

“No,” he said sullenly.

“I didn’t think so.”

Jon just knew his son didn’t want his computer privileges taken away. Dot was sneaky that way. “Jake’s dead to the world and should be dunked in the morning. He’s managed to get most of the fair food on one part or another of himself.”

“Will do,” she smiled and pushed her glasses up. “We’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

She started to raise the window and he held up a hand. “I’d like to talk about Christmas and some other things tomorrow.”

“Jon, we’ve discussed-“

“I don’t want to get into it now,” he said and they shared a look. “I’ll call you in the morning, okay?”

She just nodded and sighed. “Okay, tomorrow.”

“Talk to you tomorrow, Jesse.” When he didn’t get an answer, he just stepped back and waved as she drove away.

Pushing his fingers into his hair he went back to the festival. The band had been replaced with a DJ and the equipment had been cleared away for a dance floor. A few people danced to the slow beat of Sam Cook’s, ‘When A Man Loves A Woman.’

He scanned the faces in the crowd and finally spotted her standing with her friend Nichole and what had to be her husband. They were seated around a picnic table. As he moved closer, the girls were sharing what looked like a banana split, while the husband had one for himself.

Taking the opportunity to come up behind her, he placed a hand on each of Tessa’s shoulders. “Think I could steal her away for a minute?”

He felt the tension and smoothed the palm of his hands over the thick, nubby wool of her sweater. He looked at Nichole and kept his eyes even on her unimpressed brown.

She didn’t crack a smile. “That depends on her.”

Tessa swallowed the last of her ice cream with a bit more concentration than it warranted and carefully laid her spoon next to the tray. “It’s okay, we need to talk.” She swung her legs from the bench seat and looked up at him. His eyes were still unreadable, but the coolness was gone.

He held out his hand and she closed her eyes for a moment before clasping it. She grabbed her gloves with the other and followed him across the field. They didn’t say a word as he led them back toward the swings. He sat her down on a swing and paced for a moment without saying a word.


“No, let me start first.”

Without knowing what else to do with herself, she tucked her fingers back into her gloves and wound her fingers around the chain to wait him out.

“I know I didn’t handle things right, but you gotta understand those kids are the single most important part of my life. Making sure they are safe and secure is the only thing I can think of right now. But that being said, it wasn’t right to talk to you like that in front of Jakey.”

Crouching in front of her he put a hand on each of her knees. “There’s been so much going on with the divorce and the media backlash that I just don’t want to give them one more thing to be confused about right now.”

Faced with that kind of sense she felt even more ashamed of her behavior. He’d obviously been thinking about it for most of the evening. “I-“

“I’m not done yet,” he said and rubbed his thumbs over the tights in a soothing circle. “I haven’t figured us out yet, at least not the details but-“

She cut him off by leaning forward and fitting her mouth over his. Widening his footing he took a deep breath and kissed her back. She poured all the frustrations of the day out into the kiss and hoped it would be enough to make him understand. Before pulling back, she bumped noses with him and lingered with gentle brushes of lips and breath. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I totally over reacted and if you make any more excuses I’m going to die of guilt.”

“I don’t blame you for being angry.”

“Yeah, but you should blame me for acting like a fourteen year old girl and stomping off instead of talking earlier.”

“Yeah well, I’m used to fourteen year old girls.”

“You reduce IQ points and evidently years off my life and that’s just so wrong.”

“I’m too old to be crouched like this,” he said and started to get up.

“We’ll take it a day at a time,” she said and followed him as he stood, curled his arms around her waist and pulled her in.

Laying his cheek against her hair he dragged in her scent. “I just wish one part of my life could be uncomplicated,” he said on a groan.

She pulled back and looked up at him. “Sure there is,” she kissed his scruffy chin. “How much you love your kids.”

On a half laugh he lowered his mouth to hers again for a quick kiss. “Is it okay if I say I don’t want to think about my kids right now? I just want to enjoy you?”

“Works for me,” and she leaned into him to resume the kiss. The sweetness of it made her sigh, but it was the heat she was looking for. And when his mouth slanted over hers and his tongue slid inside all thoughts of sweet fled.

Struggling out of her gloves she let them fall to the ground, wanting to get her hands into his hair. The coarse strands curled around her fingers and she bent him down closer and dragged her mouth to his ear. “I have to stay until midnight but then I want you naked in my bed. Think you can arrange that for me?”

Jon’s hands slid under her sweater to grip her waist, then the curve of her bottom, dragging her into the hardness at the fly of his jeans. “I can definitely get behind that statement.”

She tugged on his earlobe. “I like it from behind.”

He groaned and tucked his fingers into the waistband of her skirt and into the tights to feel her skin. “I don’t care if you’re in front, under or on top. I just want to be inside you.”

For the first time all night she cursed her tights. It was just near to impossible to get him where she needed him and there were far too many people roaming around. She met his hungry mouth for another kiss and slipped her hand into his jeans.

He jumped as her fingers circled his throbbing head, the flick of her nail drove him deeper into the kiss, forcing his tongue into her mouth in long strokes that he’d prefer to do with his cock. When he couldn’t stand it any longer he pulled a hand from under her sweater to catch her wrist. “I’m going to have a problem if you don’t stop that,” he said against her mouth.

Nipping his chin she firmed her hand along his shaft. The wicked edge of lust stealing her sense, “I could drag you into a dark corner and take care of things.”

Just the thought of her mouth around him had him fighting for control. And because every part of him wanted to take her like a rutting animal, he stopped himself. “You have no idea what it’s doing to me,” he said and eased her hand from his pants, “To say no to you.”

Tracing her knuckle along the silky hair at his belt she cruised her way up his jaw to his ear again. “Then why are you saying no?”

“Because that’s not going to be enough,” he said and caught her lower lip between his teeth and tugged. “The only thing that I want is to be inside that slick,” he hiked her skirt and pushed his fingers along the seam of her stockings. “Wet pussy that I missed way too much last night,” he finished and tugged her skirt back down. “And I don’t want any interruptions.”

Tessa’s fingers gripped the lapels of his coat and fought to stay upright. Her thighs trembled at his words, pair that with the rough and thrilling touch and she was ready to drag him across the street and try out her desk. Vibrating she buried her nose into the rich cashmere of his sweater and breathed deep, gripping his belt to stop the shaking.

Hooking his arms around her shoulders he let her hair sift through his fingers and groaned when his watched beeped. “Shit,” he said and pulled back. “I have to go make sure Stef leaves with her girlfriend.”

“What time is it?”


“Crap!” Tessa crouched down and gathered up her gloves. “Carol is going to shoot me. I was supposed to meet her five minutes ago.”

“I’ll find you,” he said and dropped a quick kiss on her lips.

Just as he pulled away she grabbed the ends of his scarf and dragged him back for more. When she heard the moan mix with her groan she let him go. “You better.”

She watched him walk toward the bright lights of the fair to the blazing street lights just across from her store. A group of young girls were laughing and welcomed him with a familiarity that could only be his daughter and her friends. Smiling to herself, she headed toward the stage. Digging her compact out of her bag, she managed to repair her lipstick just before hitting the stairs leading to the dance floor.

Carol Rothchild lifted the microphone and began her closing speech. Letting everyone know the times for the fair tomorrow and what to expect, she thanked the sponsors and the volunteers. Tessa smiled at her as she turned back to encompass the small committee that had put the Winter Festival together.

She droned on and it was all Tessa could do, not to goose her when she saw the yawns start their rounds in the crowd. Finally the woman shut up and the music started up again. Inundated with well wishers and the small talk of the tired and commiserating, she finally found a second to breathe. Scanning the crowd she caught Jon’s eye and smiled.

“Tessa, I can’t believe you made it work. You are amazing.”

She broke their gaze and concentrated on the fellow shop owner before her. “Thanks, Kelly. Good thing you warned me about Carol or I would have killed her for sure.”

“I want every single tip, so I can deal with her in the spring.”

Laughing, she exchanged a hug as Kelly said her good nights. Trying not to be obvious she turned back to where he’d been a moment ago and frowned. Where the heck had he gone?

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