12/14/2009

A Special Christmas Present

A special Christmas Short Story...is up as a present for all you guys that have been so loyal to Jon and Tessa.

Of course you know me and the definition of SHORT. LOL

Start here...



Home for the Holidays

6/18/2009

Epilogue



November 2008

Jon rounded the corner, the uneven cobblestones of Broad Street bled into Grant. Both the US and a Christmas Flag fluttered above the aging brick of her store front. It was lovingly restored with the help of a good power washer. He knew that because Tessa’s picture after her battle with said power washer was still the wallpaper on his Mac.

The name, Ever After, was in copper, fused with a rich black iron in scrolling letters. The twisting curly cue of the E came into full view as he got closer. A festive wreath donned in pretty white lights butted up against the E, adding tradition to the decidedly eclectic street. More lights twisted and curled around the lettering, finally dripping from the smaller sign that read: books, live music and art.

She’d commissioned a local artist to do the smaller sign and a metal worker for the store moniker. The window displayed a new local artist this week. Rich oils layered over old newspapers stacked over an inch high. That was one way to go green, he thought. Sometimes it was books, sometimes it was art—you never knew what would be in her window.

Ever resourceful and a constant surprise, that was his Tessa.

The rustle of a tree caught his attention over the quiet street. Shops tended to close up early on Sundays, even in SoHo. He looked up, instead of a tree it was another wreath making all the noise. It seemed to float in the air, and then settled to bookend Ever After. The evergreen mirrored its mate down to the amount of lights coiled in and around its bow. A small hand attached to an arm flashed from the corner and he finally noticed the corner of the ladder sticking out.

Déjà vu hit hard. The long, curve of her legs and spectacular ass was on better display than the first time he’d seen her. He couldn’t stop the stupid grin when she tucked the long ribbon of copper hair behind her ear. It was as if those two and a half years hadn’t passed at all.

It was the first day all over again. The punch of attraction, curiosity and that traffic stopping face was about as full circle as he could get. He stepped forward. The only change this time was that he didn’t have to go home alone.

“Hey lady!”

She made a grunt of greeting. “Yeah?”

“The door’s locked.”

“We’re closed, sir.”

He could hear the thinly veiled sarcasm in her voice. It only made him want more of a reaction out of her. “What if I want to buy something?”

She didn’t look down at him. “I’ll be open tomorrow at ten o’clock sharp.”

Brisk efficiency. God, he loved her. “But I want to buy something now.”

“Ten o’clock will have to do.”

“If I told you I was a famous rockstar would you open up for me?”

“Definitely not.”

He saw her lips twitch and sucked back a laugh of his own. “Even if I bought everything in your store, right now?”

“Nope.”

“Even if I told everyone I know what a rude proprietress you are?”

“No one would believe you.”

He tugged on the pleat of her skirt just above her calf. Leather and pears twirled on the wind as she came down a step. “What if I asked really nice?”

He couldn’t see her eyes, but he could see her lips. The way she nibbled on her bottom lip when was a dead giveaway to her teasing. “But, sir, you are not nice.”

He swallowed down the lump of laughter. “I can be.”

Her laugh almost broke free with that answer. “Nope.”

“You won’t open up, even for your husband?”

She stepped down another stair, hooking her arm around his neck. Her mouth hovered just above his. “Especially not my husband. You won’t tell him, will you?”

He slid his fingers into her hair. “Nope.”

“Good.” There was barely a breath between them, and the green of her eyes sparkled just like her favorite season. “I think he might get jealous.”

“Oh really?”

She shrugged. “He’s Italian.”

This time he did laugh and when their mouths met it was just like home.

She was home.

6/17/2009

Chapter 169

January 2008

Tessa peeked into her office—no, not her office. Not as of today. Half of the office space had been transformed into a cotton candy pink oasis of little girl things. The Rock Star Baby stroller, thanks to Tico, was stowed in the corner, pink and cream baby blankets dripped off every spare surface, and a ridiculously high end diaper bag hung off the office chair thanks to Richie. Only he would think to get Nic a hand tooled leather bag with Caroline’s name stitched into it. Nic, of course, showed it off to every person who stood still long enough.

The quick in drawn breath, followed by a perfect baby gurgle filled the silence. The baby monitor flashed. David had built the thing to hear even the slightest coo. “I’ve got her,” she said to the little mic, knowing it would go directly to Nic’s headset. She wanted a minute with her niece.

Caroline’s baby blue eyes opened, eerily sharp even with just a few seconds of wakefulness. She was the perfect baby. Not just because she was her niece, but because it was quite simply the truth. She scooped her up, letting her warm little body snuggle in. She immediately turned her face into Tessa’s hair.

“Oh no you don’t.” She flipped her hair behind her shoulder. “I’m not a chew toy.”

Caroline simply giggled.

“You definitely didn’t take after me,” she said and nuzzled her cheek. Caroline woke in a good mood, hell—er, heck. No swearing, Aunt Tessa. Heck, the kid was even tempered through her first tooth for God’s sake. “Mommy lucked out in the baby lottery.” She lifted her up over her head. “Yes she did.”

The delighted laughter caused a trill of her own, even when a line of drool slipped under her collar. “Teething again, huh? Aunt Tessa doesn’t have a single shirt without your drool on it.” Her belt rang. Making a quick change of arm, hand and baby, she tucked the phone to her ear. “Yeah?”

“Hey, can you watch Caroline for a few minutes? I’ve got a bit of a situation out here.”

“Do you need help?”

Distracted, Nic yelled over to her assistant manager, Mike, then realized she was still on the phone with her. “Nah, I got it.”

“Right.” The phone clicked in her ear. She dropped in the chair “Mommy’s store now,” she reminded herself out loud and tucked Caroline close into her, snagging a rattle off the desk. Her curious little fingers grasped and pulled the little bit of plastic straight to her mouth.

It hadn’t even taken a weekend to convince Nichole to take over Chapters. Of course with Caroline’s arrival and the Christmas season coming directly after that, it had been a bit hairy. Somewhere in the middle of it all, they’d used Jon’s lawyer to draw up papers that worked for both them.

She’d officially sold her baby to her best friend on January 2nd but today was her last day at the store. She looked around the room. Baby explosion aside, it really had become Nic’s space. Binders in an array of crayola shades lined the top shelves for easy navigation. It was pretty much the only shelf with any sort of order. The rest of the bookshelves included artfully arranged pictures of Adam and Caroline, ARC’s, construction paper drawings, and the latest picture of Nic’s family for Christmas.

Lifting the heavy silver frame, she smiled back at the picture. How could she not? She and Jon, Nic’s entire family, even Richie and Ava were mugging for the camera.

Christmas Eve had been their first event as a couple at the new apartment with Jon’s kids and Jon’s parents—oy, she didn’t want to repeat that again until next year. John Sr. was lovely, his shrew of a wife on the other hand…well, she just hoped the next time she had to spend time with Carol, she could bring the laser beam stare down a few notches below kill.

They dropped the kids and his parents off at Dorothea’s for Christmas Day. Things with Dorothea were still a little tense so she and Jon, with Richie and Ava in tow, had traveled out to the Bouchet’s colonial house for the holiday.

Mary had taken Richie under her wing, erasing the pain that had been lurking in his eyes for the last few months. Two days of celebrating, exalting the new baby, food and laughter had gone a long way to rounding out the crazy year on a high note.

She set the frame back on the shelf. It didn’t take long for the restlessness to return. Once the holidaze were over and the store settled back into its normal routine, the days leading up to the exchange of hands went by in a blur. Unsure if it was the idea of losing Chapters…no, that wasn’t right.

She wasn’t losing anything. She was looking forward to starting a new life with Jon in a new space. New memories in their house and—chubby little fingers grasped the wide, square cut diamond ring on her left hand, dragging her out of her thoughts. “Pretty isn’t it?” She said into Caroline’s cheek, nuzzling in the aroma of baby and Johnsons & Johnsons.

It still caught her by surprise to see it there on her finger. Not that she’d had much time to get used to it. Jon had slipped it on her finger just the night before. Nothing would please her more than to have that man as her husband, but the changes had tumbled so fast.

Selling the store—check.

Moving to SoHo—check.

Agreeing to go on tour for a month with him—check.

Marrying Jon—check.

She set Caroline in the center of her crib, tucking a wide, colorful puzzle ball between her legs. She slapped at the side, twisting her little fingers into the holes with a shrieking laugh. Centering the diamond on her finger, she watched it flash in the light.

It wasn’t like it had been a surprise. He’d been threatening to marry her for months now. In fact, she’d nearly forgotten about that little forward thinking reality in the midst of selling her house and adjusting the sheer size and grandeur of living in a luxury condo. They already lived together, they were committed in every way…she supposed it was the next normal step in a life that had been far from normal.

Maybe that was what had her all itchy in her own skin—balancing the normal with Jon’s abnormal life. The store kept her busy while Jon was on tour. She’d been grateful for the distraction and the time to think about what she wanted to do now. Selling Chapters to Nic ended up being a no-brainer. She was well suited to taking over as head of the store. Mike had been eager to take Nic’s spot, developing into her second in command as seamlessly as Nichole had once done with her.

They were a good team…no, a great team. Nic had already changed the layout of the store, adding a small café with a local bakery’s cakes and pastries.

All the things that Nic had dreamed about doing over the years were becoming a reality for her friend. A family, Adam’s permanent placement as a teacher at the community college, and the store had finally given Nichole everything she’d ever wanted.

She was even still a little hung over from the New Year’s/New HBIC celebration last weekend. Even Jon had made it in for the party to toast to the New Head Bitch In Charge, as Nic liked to call herself.

The restlessness had magnified with each day since the sale. She knew she was going to start a new project, but she didn’t want to rush into anything. She liked the idea of traveling with Jon for a bit.

Talking about time apart with the tour was different than the actuality of it. She’d gotten very used to him sleeping beside her. She had to settle for the sound of his voice instead of a touch, the big, empty, silent space when he was gone instead of his chirping phone and endless troupe of friends and get togethers.

The first part of the tour had been easy. Ten nights in New Jersey’s new Prudential Center was right in their back yard. The only tricky thing had been dealing with her friends in the Bon Jovi fanclub circle. She’d sort of fallen off the map in that regard. Rumors and her all access lanyard had certainly made for a few exciting moments. When you were in a fanclub, you really didn’t go into last names.

When you were dating Jon Bon Jovi and tour time came around people made connections. She and Jon had spent one night laughing and deleting posts on Backstage when the fan and girlfriend connection had been made. She could only imagine the bedlam when their engagement made the rags. BON JOVI FRONTMAN MARRIES FAN. She gave a disgusted laugh and sat in her seat, one last time.

The months he’d been away made her realize that she did need something more than the store. She needed a challenge, something new and just hers. She loved sharing her life with Jon, but he had his career. She needed to find something that drove her as passionately as the music and philanthropy drove Jon.

Reaching over, she flicked on her iPod, letting the music seep into her and even out the rough spots. She knew she was doing the right thing. Since she’d been back, Chapters seemed less and less like home and more like something she dragged out of her closet that didn’t quite fit anymore. She knew books would always be a part of her life, but she didn’t know if she just wanted to start a new store to keep her busy or if it was really what she wanted.

Her hip rang again. “Hey, Tessa, could you come out here? I have someone who wants to see you.”

“Sure,” she sighed. The entire neighborhood had been in to say goodbye in the last few days. Unclipping the phone, she put the phone on Nic’s desk with the holster. Letting her fingers drift over the sleek wood, the battered blotter with its endless cycle of appointments and scribbles in each square, the drawer pulls she’d chosen so carefully. This desk, this office had been the first thing she’d ever built for herself.

She sniffed. She would miss this place, this first start. She tucked her iPod into her bag and threw it over her shoulder.

“Well little mama, you ready to go out and see the people?”

Caroline cooed and reached up for her. Swinging her up onto her hip, she bopped with the baby through the door making her laugh. The quick jolt of laughter and hum of voices made her realize just how soundproofed the office was. The sound of a guitar strumming and screeching feedback echoed down the hallway quickening her step. Caroline’s eyes widened, her smile told her that she recognized the sounds. “Think Uncle Richie’s here?” she asked the little girl.

Tables were cleared and tucked into corners, shelves stacked back and the Kids Reading corner had been transformed into a small stage with wide, black amplifiers and a pair of guitar stands. A man stood with his back to her, flipping dark hair shot every which way from his head and a silver nose ring caught the overhead lights.

People milled around the store and sat Indian style and on every available surface. Café chairs were lined up and filled with chattering people from every age group, both female and male. She frowned, scanning the room for Nic. Since when did they have live music? A twinge of an idea pulled at her, but she filed it away for later.

“Where’s your mommy?” She asked Caroline and navigated down the main aisle that was also littered with people.

Nic stood at the cashwrap with her arms folded, a smug smile on her face. “Like you thought we wouldn’t do something special for your last day at the store.”

Tessa laughed. “I was expecting a night of drunken debauchery tonight actually.”

Caroline reached out for her mom, and Nic took her gladly. “Hi baby girl, were you good for Aunt Tessa?”

“Yup, as always,” Tessa answered and scanned the room again. “What are you doing?”

“Surprise.”

She grinned. “Is Jon coming in to play in my—uh, the store? You know there will be a riot.”

“Nope.”

“No?” She looked over her shoulder and laughed outright as she recognized the man leaning on the amp. Battered jeans with a crazy white belt and layered t-shirt over long sleeve thermal reinforced her guess and the smile wouldn’t quit. “You didn’t.”

“Well, I wish I could take credit.”

“Excuse me everybody!”

Tessa’s eyes swung to the mic. Somehow between the time she’d walked to the front of the store and transferred baby to momma, Jon had gotten behind the mic. The clapping was thunderous as well as choruses of, “Sing! Sing! Sing!”

“No, it’s my day off.” Jon’s now dark hair was nearly as spiky as their guest’s.

“It’s mine too, actually.” The man said.

Jon laughed, clapping him on the shoulder. She slowly walked back to the children’s area until he spotted her. “Today’s my Tessa’s day. C’mon up here, babe.”

Tessa shook her head, wrinkling her nose at him. “Hell no, I don’t do microphones!” she called back to him. God, her heart was going to just burst out of her chest. He’d gotten Matt Nathanson to play on her last day. She’d been enamored with his music ever since New Year’s Eve.

“Don’t make me come out there and get you!”

Matt leaned into the mic. “He’ll do it. You have no idea what he did to get me here.” He grinned at Jon. “I totally want to have a Jovi Jet just like yours, man.”

The crowd of people laughed and she melted back a few steps as Jon jumped off the small stage. “Oh no,” she shook her head.

He grasped her hand and tugged. “C’mon. You know you want to meet, Matt.”

“I’ll meet him after,” she wiggled her hand free and he caught it again.

“Don’t make me throw you over my shoulder.”

Her jaw dropped. “Just try it—“ she broke off as he pulled her closer, bending down. “No!” Jesus, she couldn’t stop laughing. It would never be a dull moment with this man. “Okay, okay! I give.”

She let him pull her up the one stair. Matt, stood there, his guitar hanging off his back with a wide goofy grin. She couldn’t help but smile back at him. The familiar silver nose ring and utterly kind eyes crinkled at the corners when he leaned down to kiss her cheek. “I hear you’re a fan.”

“I’m going to kill him,” she muttered and nodded. “We’re big fans. We saw you last year at Elton’s bash for New Year’s. You just haven’t been around here for us to try and sneak into a show.”

“Jon Bon Jovi’s girlfriend wants to come to my show with her boyfriend.” He slung his arm around her shoulders. “I am now your biggest fan!”

“His fiancé,” Jon said into the mic. The entire room gasped and clapped, murmurs flooded through the room.

“Sweet baby Jesus,” Tessa’s mouth dropped open. “Well that’s one way to tell people,” she said away from the mic.

Matt laughed. “I didn’t know I was playing at an engagement party and a going away party!” He turned to Jon, kissed each cheek and did the same to her. “Congrats you crazy kids.”

Jon laughed into the mic. “Today’s Tessa’s official last day with Chapters. The ever lovely Nichole Wexler is your new proprietress.”

Nic blushed, waving with Adam at her side and Caroline in his arms.

“Make sure you treat her right, people. She’s practically my sister-in-law.” Again, the crowd of people laughed and a battalion of phones came out of pockets.

“Jon, you do know that the news will be clear across the continent in about five seconds.”

Jon looked down at her, sliding his hand around her waist. “Tessa just has to get used to a little spotlight,” he grinned at Matt then kissed her cross eyed. She leaned against him. God, she had to be eight shades of red. He tucked the mic back into the stand. “Enough of us, enjoy the show. Matt was kind enough to come out and play for us on his day off.”

“Hey, you want to send a jet for me, I’ll play anytime.” He shrugged, his grin infectious. “I’m not proud, people!”

Tessa laced her fingers with Jon’s drawing her down the step. The chattering only increased as she and Jon found a corner. Matt scanned the crowd until he found them, nodding to her.

“Hot damn, people, let’s party!” Matt swung his guitar forward and his voice rang out with a quick strumming accompaniment.

Jon swung around behind her, his hands loose at her waist, his nose in her hair. His fingers tapped at her hips as Car Crash’s lyrics filled the store.






“He’s quite good,” Jon murmured in her ear.

She looked up at him, her brain whirling. The fact that he’d done this for her. That he’d known how perfect this kind of gift was for her, the songs that she loved, that spoke of their relationship. Here in a voice that was as passionate as Jon’s could be, in a moment as perfect as she could have envisioned, she found the little bit of peace she’d been lacking.

“I love you madly.”

“I love you crazy right back,” he said rubbing his chin over her shoulder.

She turned her cheek into his, her smooth against his scruff. Excitement for the future, for Jon, for the moment—it all threatened to buzz her right out of her boots. “I know what I want to be when I grow up,” she said and looked back at the little stage.

He nuzzled her neck, his lips at her ear. “And what will that be?”

“I’ll tell you all about it tonight, after I get you naked.”

Jon’s laugh rumbled through her, around her as their song came on. As Matt teased the crowd about making the romance to. He enthralled the crowd with his humor, catching Jon drag his mouth down her neck.

“You guys look like you’re plotting amongst yourself.”

She blushed and Matt kicked up the humor again until the crowd forgot about them.






Jon’s husky voice in her ear again. “It’s working for me.” He circled his hips against her back. “I can’t wait to pull you down hard and drown inside of you.”

Tessa laughed, turned on and tuned up as Matt moved into another song. He played to the crowd, amusing and full of fun. It seemed to spur Jon into a sexy mood as well. Whispering all the things he was going to do to her on the plane. What he’d show her in Japan and Australia when she traveled with him.

By the time Matt finished his set she was squirming to go home. She turned in his arms, pushing him against the C’s through D’s in the corner of Children’s Fiction and kissed him for all to see. Jon held onto her, sunk into her just as she melted around him. God, this man brought her every happiness and through every sadness.

And here without even knowing it he’d brought her future into check as well. As she pulled away and the small crowd of people roared, she heard the song and laughed against Jon’s mouth. Irreverent and with his tongue firmly in his cheek, Matt brought the house down with Livin’ on a Prayer.





Everyone sang, the entire room laughed and the applause was thunderous. She laughed and held onto him. “Take me home and let me tell you about our future.”

6/14/2009

Chapter 168





Tessa felt the rough line of his jaw, the quick rasp of his tongue at her ear. The way he tugged at it, scraping his teeth down the lobe then started in on her neck. God, he always knew just where to touch her. She lifted her fingers into his hair. The soft curls at the nape of his neck tangled around her as she dragged his mouth to hers.

The kiss was soft. Nothing hurried, the brush of lips and the whisper of tongues just enjoying without the rush of heat. He finally pulled back, and she held his taste. “Road trip over?”

“We’re here.”

She opened her eyes. She didn’t remember falling asleep. She frowned at the narrow street, the aging buildings and the…cobblestone? “Where are we?”

He shut off the car. “You’ll see.”

She opened her own door before he could come around. Large posters lined the windows along the street. She looked up. The cream colored building they were parked outside of was tall, yet narrow. Well, compared to the rest of the buildings it was actually twice the size of most of them. She looked down the street. “We’re in the city, right?”

He rounded the car. “Yup. SoHo, to be exact.”

She whipped her eyes up to his. “The New York City house you bought?” Her eyes zeroed in on the words on the window—The Museum Building. The smile was quick as she crashed into him, hugging his middle. “You’re showing me your city house?”

“Our city house.”

She headed for the door, her feet cementing to the battered sidewalk. “I’m sorry, what?”

He herded her inside, smiling at the security guard that had to be on the wrong side of sixty. Flashing a set of keys and an ID card, he scooted her inside the elevator.

“Why the hurry?”

He pushed a key into a slot and the button for the fourth floor. “Caught a paparazzi guy down near Ken’s shop.”

“Ken’s shop?” Tessa looked up at him. “Ken…” when he nodded she leaned against the padded walls. “I didn’t know Kenneth Cole had a shop here.”

“Oh yeah, he’s had his SoHo headquarters for awhile. He works out of there most of the time actually. His showroom and store is in Manhattan, but he likes it over here. It’s quieter.”

Her head was spinning. She’d been out of Jon’s celebrity life for so long, it was hard to put her head back into that mindset again. The doors opened and a wide space came into view. The windows were slightly tinted for privacy, but let in tons of light. Bags of plaster, cement blocks, and buckets littered the floor. Against the wall, a shiny wood floor plank peeked from its plastic casing. Beams lay naked, awaiting sheetrock and industrial sized fans churned quietly from the steel rafters.

It was luxury even in its bones.

Jon clasped her hand and dragged her to the back of the…well, she supposed it was an apartment, even though it was nearly double the size of her own floor plan and that was a house.

“When we were first together I mentioned this place.”

She turned back to him, his bronze hair falling into his eyes, the sun backlighting him until she couldn’t really read his face. He stepped forward, his hands jammed into his jeans pockets. He looked hesitant—something she rarely associated with him. “I remember.”

“I’m signing the papers this week.”

“Oh, I thought the deal was done.”

He shook his head, coming in closer to her. “Bids, paperwork, red-tape…you name it, this place has had it.”

“I missed a bit of fun while I was gone, huh?”

“Mmm-hm.” Taking her hand, he drew her up mahogany open slatted stairs. It had a loft feel with a narrow opening that delineated the downstairs from the up. The industrial skeleton was slowly taking shape with warmer touches of wood and buckets of earthy paint to soften the sterile look. But it was the view that clawed at her, sucking her breath and her nerves out the ungodly huge windows.

The city seemed so close and so far away at the same time. He pulled her deeper into the room. The industrial feel echoed again in the towering copper fireplace tinted in blue plastic to protect it from the workmen. More steel girders crisscrossed along the ceiling warming into wood slats that mimicked the stairs.

He walked along like it was nothing, like the vast space wasn’t impressive and over the top in ways she couldn’t even fathom. She tried to catch her breath, giving up when the panoramic view of the whole of New York City yawned before her. “My God,” she whispered and tripped after him.

At the back of the apartment, he opened a door to one of the only semi-finished rooms in the entire place. Grey-blue walls painted in some sort of suede texture seemed to bounce the blue tone of the city around the room. A king sized bed took up barely a quarter of the wall with its cream sheets and pinstriped piping that matched the walls. The floor was a warm cork that pulled an orange tone out to pop against the blues.

Complimentary colors, she thought distantly. The loveliness and the open floor plan was as impressive as the cityscape backdrop. The smoky grey of the buildings in the distance was breathtaking. He came up behind her, looping his arms around her waist. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s gorgeous.”

“Gorgeous enough to think about living here part time?”

She turned in his arms. “Living in it, like you and me, living in it?”

He tangled his fingers in the back of her hair, his eyes earnest as he took a deep breath. “I know it’s sudden and it might not work, but I want you to think about it. It’s completely up to you. I was originally going to buy one of the smaller apartments in here, but then I saw this. I saw this and thought of you. Of starting over,” he pressed his forehead to hers, “together.”

She slid away from him and looked out the window. The view was so amazing, so full of promise and ideas. The terrace outside was perfect for parties and for family cook outs. The area lent itself to art and to history. SoHo was as much an artist’s colony as it was a trendy place for the rich and famous.

The restlessness she’d been feeling seemed to calm inside her. Could she start over here? Could she rebuild her dream yet again?

“I know you have your business, and I’d never take you away from that. But we could live here at least part time. The commute’s not that bad. We can stay at your house—“

“I want to sell my house.”

He went silent, she turned around and smiled at his shocked face. “After all that’s happened between us, I haven’t felt like I fit anywhere.” She walked back to him, laying her palm on his chest. “I know I belong with you, but if you notice, I don’t even drag you to my house anymore. The store doesn’t quite feel like me anymore.”

“You just have to get back into the swing of things, that’s all. You dreamt of that store for years, Tessa.”

“And the dream came true. It’s even a success.” She hooked her hands around the back of his neck. She loved that he got her. That he understood that she just couldn’t be the follow along wife or girlfriend...or whatever happened between them. “You know what it feels like to want something new and challenging.”

He nodded down at her, his hands locked at her hips. “I do, but I also would never ask you to leave what you love. Chapters is as much a part of you as Nic is.”

She rose on her toes and kissed him lightly. “Let me talk to Nic. Let me do a little thinking.” She curled her fingers into his hair, grasping the crown of his head to pull him down to her mouth. Here in this very masculine and feminine room, in the moment where he’d laid himself bare and given her everything she could ever want, without knowing he was always what she needed. Here in this moment, she couldn’t have loved him more.

The rumble of his moan in her mouth drove her fingers deeper into his hair, she dug her fingers into his scalp just as he loved. Kneading his shoulders she hung on, reaching up on her toes she pressed herself into him. “I love this place, this space,” she drew out the kiss, tasting hope and the lingering edges of Jon at his most generous. “I love you.”

He gripped her closer as the kiss spun out and the heat flared between them. The flat of his hand rose up to the open back of her tanktop. She’d left her shirt in the car in her excitement. Fingers grasped at the thick, rapidly growing hair that hung down past her shoulders now. He tugged it, exposing her. She laughed as he scraped his teeth down her neck.

“Loving you is always a surprise,” he mumbled against her collar bone. “I figured I’d have to convince you for weeks.”

She met his eyes. “Can’t you feel the vibes in here? The excitement in the fact that it’s never been anyone else’s? That this will be one hundred percent ours, from start to finish?”

“Ours,” he echoed and lifted her up until her legs wrapped around his hips. Instead of swinging her around to the bed, he leaned against the wide pane of glass. In her head, she knew the windows were protected, but right then she felt nothing but exposed to the whole of the world.

She tugged t his t-shirt, desperate to feel his skin. She needed to feel his warmth, even as the sun shot through the room. She needed to make love to him in the sunlight—in the center of their future.

He rolled the tight shirt up, hissing as the tank only boasted a small shelf instead of a bra. Instead of tugging it off her, he slowly dragged the rim of elastic along her nipple. She scissored her legs until she was up just that much higher so he could taste her. Her chin and neck were buried in the stretchy cotton when his hand flattened on the window. The muscles in his arm flexed and bulged to hold her steady. His gaze stayed on hers, she slid down a little and the elastic snapped in the center of her nipple, zinging through her like electricity.

His eyes blazed, caught in the quick flare of pleasure and pain that must have shown on her face. His other hand gripped her waist, lifting her higher. Fingertips bumped along her ribs as he ran his tongue along the generous underside of her breast. Her nipple was so hard it felt like it was something separate from herself, throbbing like the center of her. Breathing on the tight tip, he tasted everywhere but that little pink bit of flesh.

“Fuck,” she panted. Her head fell back on the window with a thunk. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from him when he nuzzled her gently, watching her as his teeth scraped and sucked at the heaviest part of her breast, but oh no, not the nipple. Not where she wanted him most. Fucking tease.

“Help me,” he said with a voice like gravel. She wiggled, groaned, hissed until she could get the damn thing over her head. Her fingers grasped above her for purchase—anything to steady herself, but found nothing but smooth glass.

He’d struggled out of his own shirt, it was tangled on the floor with her smaller white one. Gilded in the waning evening sun, he took his time to taste every inch of her shoulder and neck. She clasped him tighter, flexing until her body urged her to touch more, rub against everything. But Jon had other plans.

He held her still, the hand beside her head was now above, clasping her hands together, trapping her against the window—completely at his mercy. Her breath backed up in her lungs as the crisp hair of his chest rubbed along her impossibly sensitive nipples. Still he hadn’t tasted her there, but the endless friction between them, neck to hip, roared in her head.

She tried to kiss anything she could, over the edge with the way he consumed her. Here, in this place where they were on even ground, where the only memories they would have were together.

“I want you to scream my name in this big, empty apartment,” he said against her nipple, flicking over it once.

Everything inside of her clenched tight and shuddered when he blew across her nipple. He lowered her until she was tight to the bulge trying to break through his jeans. He crushed her into the glass, his thighs holding her immobile as he rolled his hips once, taking advantage of her mouth dropping open, to fill her there. The kiss was wild and stormy as the color of the walls.

She scraped her teeth over his bottom lip, nipping when he just laughed at her. “Scream,” he said and finally sucked her nipple into his mouth hard.

“Jesus,” she muttered and freed one hand to grip his shoulders. He was silk covered steel where his muscles shifted under her fingers. His mouth moved from one nipple to the other, tonguing, circling the tip, then covering her. His lips and mouth, branded her, the ever rolling hips drove her straight into the mouth of madness.

There was too much between them. She wanted skin and Jon. Not even air at this point. She needed him deep inside her, part of her in this ginormous place that would be theirs.

She was going to throw her cargo shorts across the room as soon as possible. She was also going to throw him down on that big bed at the nearest possible moment and hope to God the steel slats could withstand the screams.

His teeth and lips made their way up, dug into the flesh where shoulder and neck met, kissing and nuzzling just the way that would make her nuts. He knew her body, loved to manipulate her until retribution faded into the ripping orgasms only he could give her. When his thumb slid into the leg of her shorts and teased the line of her panties she let out an involuntary yelp.

“Dammit,” she said gasped, holding on. She felt like she was free-floating, only her knees gripping his hips kept her upright. He opened her wide, his free hand bracketed her thigh sliding his thumb under the elastic.

His mouth rose to her ear, his voice low and barely above a whisper. “You’re so wet for me. Do you realize how crazy that makes me?”

He bit down on her ear, his chin nuzzling her neck just before he dipped inside of her. His name came out on a harsh plea. She wasn’t above begging, too bad she couldn’t form words right now. With a thumb tucked up inside her, he went to work on the opposite side of her throat. She tried to free her other hand, needing to feel all of him. Finally he let her go and she curled her fingers into his hair, dragging his mouth to hers. He hovered over her, tilting her for better access.

“I want to hear you scream my name,” he reminded her.

Teeth clicked with the panting screams that threatened to rip out of her throat. She slammed her hand against his shoulder. “Evil man.”

He nipped her collar bone and slid his two middle fingers inside of her, circling her clit with his thumb.

The position was awkward, but she screamed his name as the orgasm tore through her. She bowed up, riding the storm, cursing her clothes and his as she went alone. Slumping down against him, he gathered her close, swinging around for the bed.

The sateen duvet flowed over her skin like water. The bed was wide and perfect, thick and indulgent, drawing her down until there was nothing but Jon. He shifted to give her space, but she clasped her legs around his hips. “No, stay,” she whispered. “I love the weight of you.”

He braced his arm over her head, lacing their fingers once more. He looked down at her—the touch of his lips was sweet, nearly hesitant. She tried to study him through the veil of her lashes, but found only midnight blue eyes full of intensity.

Her fingers gripped the warm muscles of his skin, molding her way down to the indent at his hips, the flare of his ass, and finally bypassing the heavy leather of his belt. She tried to free her other hand, itching to get rid of his buckle, but he held tight, drawing it further up on the bed. She sucked in a gasp as he slid up and down over her, his chest hair setting her own chest and belly on fire.

Fingernails twisted into his beltloops until he growled and undid his belt. The sharp snap of denim against leather had her eyes flashing open. His hips had her pressed into the sumptuous bed, but the rest of him was golden perfection. The sun blended with the bronze and silver hair of his chest as it arrowed down where the hair was rougher and silkier at the same time.

Needing to see him, all of him…done with the power play, she rolled him, fingers flipping so she was the dominant. His belt thunked to the floor, her fingers grasped the soft denim fly and she cupped him until he groaned for her.

“Your turn,” she said a millimeter from his mouth. Reaching inside, the slow ticking of each tooth echoed in the massive room until she drew him out. Her fingers circled the base of him, pumping slowly until his breath came out half hiss, half groan. “Now,” she grinned, nipping his scruffy chin, “you’re at my mercy.”

“Right,” he groaned, “mercy.” He arched into her hand. “Tighter.”

She grasped him tighter until she could feel the pulse of him in her hands. She sipped from his neck, scraping her teeth over the rasping hairs covering his Adam’s apple. Then to his shoulder and the streak of freckles that dotted his steer tattoo. Following the faint line of his scar there, she veered to the right, finding his nipple in the whorls of hair that covered his chest. Punctuating each lick with a pump of her fist, she finally moved lower, cupping him where he was most sensitive.

She sucked and cupped, moving lower with each twist of her hand. Following each ridge of muscle, the flare of his hip bone against the tanned skin and the indent that arrowed to the coarse gathering of hair and scent, she gloried in each harsh groan. She tugged down the faded jeans, flicking her tongue under the sensitive tip of his cock.

His hips rose, his eyes dark as the night creeping in on them as he watched her. The power of it, of him, of them and this moment coalesced into a moment she’d always remember. As she opened and took him inside her mouth, drew in his heat and sucked until his fingers twisted into the sheets. She looked up at him, her hair trailed over his hips, the fire of the last fingers of sun on her back as he bumped the soft tissues at the back of her throat.

Relaxing, she took him deeper and his chin tipped back in ecstasy. Holding herself up with a hand to each side of him she rode his pleasure, letting it hum through her and build. Every muscle in his body tensed.

He tugged at her, his fingers almost bruising. “No, first time here. Inside, not—“ his voice was stilted, but she understood.

She twisted out of her shorts, freed him from the remainder of his own clothes until there was nothing but sateen and skin. Crawling up, she smiled down at him with his veins bulging both under the achingly hard length of him and at his neck. Lowering herself slowly, sweat pooled between them—her softness to his hard, silk to rough hewn man.

She took him all.

Loved all of him.

He sat up, his mouth at her neck, her chin, anything to get closer and when he lifted they were connected completely. She clasped him knee to hip, feeling every beat of their racing hearts to the elemental joining. Surprise chased pleasure when the punch of release blindsided her. No warning, just as Jon had come into her life, she accepted it and the blinding pleasure that they created together.



* * *




Her next moment of awareness was of a star filled sky. No, she thought as she propped herself up on her elbow, a city light filled sky. The view from their bed was as perfect as a brochure for the city. Buildings spiraled toward the sky, a grey mist bled in from the water and twined around the crowded life that was New York City. All of it in her backyard.

His fingers twisted in her hair, tugging her back to him. Their legs tangled, under the sheets this time. She met his mouth, the kiss soft and welcoming. Absent was the overwhelming roar of lust, in its place was a calmness she’d been searching for her entire life.

How she’d found it with a man that didn’t know the meaning of calm and relaxing, she’d never know. Content, she curled into him, her gaze back out the window. “I didn’t know there could be anything so beautiful.”

His fingers threaded through her hair, rubbing into her scalp at the base of her skull. “I came here to look around. I’d been feeling itchy for a long time. New Jersey is my heart, but it doesn’t make me burn like it used to. I wanted somewhere else to find that spark again. Too bad, I didn’t realize it was in New Jersey all along.”

She pressed a kiss to his chest. “Sweet talker.”

“Not normally,” he confessed.

“I know it.” She shifted until she could see his features in the silvery light that bounced off metal and wood. Solar lights stood sentinel along the flower boxes and benches outside their window. “Probably one of the things I love most about you.”

His lips quirked, a flash of his teeth made her smile back down at him. “You are going to be a mystery ‘til the day I die, I swear.”

She kissed his smile, nipping at the curl in his lip. “A woman lives to be a mystery to her man.”

He nipped her back, his teeth scraping down her lower lip. Mission accomplished.”

“How about one more surprise?”

“No coronaries for this old man, please.”

She tugged a few hairs on his chest, laughing at his quick shout. “I want to start something new. I want to see if Nic wants to buy Chapters.”

He grabbed her hand, kissed her palm then her wrist. “I’d never ask you to do that.”

“I know. Another reason why I love you.” She snuggled into him, her cheek pressed to the warmth and fur of his chest. “I don’t know what I want yet, so you’ll have a basketcase on your hands, but I think there’s a kindred spirit between us, Jon. I need new projects as much as you do, it seems.”

“Whatever you want, you can have.”

She propped herself above him. “I don’t want you to buy it for me. I’ll do it alone or with backers that I find, but it will be mine.”

“Relax and retract the claws there kitty.” He kissed her neck, toppling her down on him. “That’s one of the things I love most about you. You don’t need me for anything—”

“I do!” She climbed on top of him, straddling his thighs.

He sat up, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, hauling her in tight. “Geeze, let me finish.” He kissed her temple, the crest of her cheek and finally her lips. “You just need me, not my money.”

“Oh.” She hugged him tight. “Such a smart guy.”

“I went chasing after your ass, you bet I am.”

She sighed. “Never going to let me live that down, huh?”

“Nope.”

She gasped as he slid inside of her again. He twisted underneath her and the position left her panting. “You are an evil man.”

“Yep.” And he rolled her under him.

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