Happiness had been absent from my emotions for a long time. On the surface, I wore a smile and never showed the struggles I dealt with on the inside. The fact of the matter was, I’d been hurt. I was damaged goods, and I hadn’t believed I was the kind of girl worthy of love—of being saved. But I was beginning to see that everyone is worth saving. It was strangely appropriate that the man I’d let break me, was the one to put me back together.
I didn’t know what tomorrow, or next week, or even the following month might hold for us, and I wasn’t going to let myself overthink it. I was going to live in the moment.
Jude lay on his back, staring up at the clear blue sky. “Tatum?”
“Yeah,” I replied when he didn’t continue immediately.
“Can I hold your hand, or are you going to hit me for that?”
I turned my head and laughed at his serious expression. “I think that would be alright, and I really am sorry about that. It was an automatic reaction.”
“So…” He started, a slow grin appearing on his face. “Your first response to a guy kissing you, is to slap him? Interesting.”
He was never going to let me live this down. I really hadn’t meant to hit him. He knew that, but he also enjoyed my pain. Douche.
“Only one guy.”
“I’m the only guy to ever kiss you?” He brightened.
“No!” I immediately shut him down. “I’ve kissed other guys, but you’re the only one that I…you know…”
“Slapped?” He supplied. “Should I be honored that you like to hit me?” He winked.
“You make me sound like I’m abusive,” I pouted, feeling ashamed of myself and my behavior.
“Nah,” he propped his head up on his hand and stared down at me. “You’re just a tough girl.”
“Tough?” I wrinkled my nose. “That doesn’t sound very appealing.”
“Oh, trust me,” his brown eyes sparkled, “it is. It’s hot as hell actually. But you want to know a secret, Tate?”
I nodded and he lowered his head so his mouth was pressed against my ear. My body shuddered at the close proximity and the heavenly feel of his breath ghosting against my skin. “Even tough girls need saving.”
“Is that what you’re going to do Jude?” I quirked my head and squinted from the sun shining in my eyes. “Are you going to save me?”
“No,” he shook his head, his dark hair brushing my forehead. “You’re going to save yourself.”
He said the words with such surety that I couldn’t help but believe him. When I didn’t say anything he rolled onto his back and finally entwined our hands together. Peace flooded my body and I didn’t understand it. How could the man that had filled me with such torment not long ago, calm my body with a simple touch? It was mindboggling.
I rolled my head slightly to the side, studying his profile—the elegant slope of his nose and the slant of his lips. I couldn’t believe I was thinking this, and he’d probably kill me if I said it out loud, but he was beautiful—inside and out. It was a shame that I was just now noticing it. I think a lot of people never saw what a magnificent person he was. He hid his true self behind cocky smiles and flirtatious come-ons.
“You’re staring at me.”
“I’m not,” I hastily turned my head away.
“I felt your eyes,” he continued. “You were totally staring. It’s okay, look all you want. I know I’m quite the feast for your eyes.”
With my free hand I smacked his stomach. My God he had abs of steel. I think I hurt my hand more than I did any damage to him. Not that I was really trying to hurt him. Although, I thought he needed a nice blow to his ego.
I squealed as he rolled on top of me and I found my arms pinned above me, pushed into the sand. His tongue slowly snaked out between his plump lips to moisten their surface. I thought he was going to kiss me, but he didn’t. I was learning that Jude rarely did what I expected of him. In many ways he was a mystery.
His dark eyes grew serious as he stared down at me and I found myself squirming as his hips dug into mine. I felt my body responding to the position—muscles tightening, pulse racing, and an overwhelming ache building inside me.
“Are you sure about this?” He breathed softly. There was a vulnerability in his eyes that I’d only ever seen when he was around his grandpa. “About us? Or am I going to wake up in the morning and find that you’re gone?”
“You really think I’d run away?” I replied, wiggling my hips, which caused him to hiss sharply between his teeth.
“Honestly? It wouldn’t surprise me. You’re afraid of your own feelings,” he lowered his head, brushing his nose against my neck. My eyes closed and a pleased hum resounded in my throat. There was still a voice in my head telling me to push him away, but I was done listening to it. “It’s okay to be scared, Tate,” he nipped my earlobe, the heat of his body wrapping around mine like a blanket. “I’m scared too.”
“You are?” I breathed, my voice so soft the wind nearly carried it away.
I felt him nod, his hair tickling my neck. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone, but you,” he confessed. “It’s always been you.”