Numb Like Her

Chapter 19

Jack was alone when he awoke in Talia's bed, the soft white sheets covering him. He turned his head, feeling the tightness in his neck, and looked around the room. It was a gray foggy morning, the room bright from the sun's rays, desperate to shine through. When he rose to go to the window, the streets below were shrouded and he saw dark gray figures moving in and out of the fog.

He rubbed the back of his neck and looked down, noticing that he was still naked. His muscles ached and the memories—the images—of last night came back to him in a rush. He closed his eyes tightly and rubbed his face.

He couldn't believe it. Even though he remembered every detail, every touch…he still couldn't believe it.

His clothes were in the next room, on the floor. He went to open the bedroom door and hoped Talia would be the only person on the other side.

He peaked around the door and saw her, standing in the kitchen wearing a long silk robe Medda had given her; it dusted the floor as she moved. After checking to make sure they were alone, he crept to the corner where his clothes lay in a pile, where he and Talia had been hours ago.

"I must say…" she said huskily from the kitchen.

Jack stood up straight and looked over his shoulder, seeing her smirking lips.

"The Newsies were right…you are an ass, cowboy."

He huffed as he pulled on his shorts, "First my accent, now my ass."

She grinned at him, her eyes glinting slyly, "I never said I disliked either…"

He lunged across the room and she ran from him, laughing as he chased her around the couches and back into the kitchen where he cornered her. He was smiling down at her, entertained as she tried to escape.

But he trapped her within his arms, his muscles aching as he tightened them around her.

"Jus' rememba," he said over her laughter. "If ya start makin' fun of my clothes, we're gonna have a problem."

She laughed at him and he couldn't help but chuckle.

She had made a breakfast of sorts; she only had bread, cheese and milk. When Jack went to get glasses, he opened the one cabinet she had completely forgotten about.

"What 'r these?" He asked as white rose petals fell into his palm.

Talia face went pale and she met his eyes for only a moment before ripping the flowers down from the cabinet.

"They're from Medda," she mumbled quickly. She disappeared into her room, threw the flowers into her bathroom and returned to the kitchen to cut two more slices of bread, her expression stone-like.

Jack watched her carefully and he looked back to the cabinet, "Why were they-"

"She…" Talia's thoughts were bouncing around in her head but she appeared to be nonchalant about it. But only because she had a faint idea of how Jack would react if he knew who had really left them for her.

"She wanted to surprise me," She turned to Jack who was watching her carefully. "You know how she can be…doing things out of the ordinary."

Jack read her eyes for a moment and then noticed her fingers shaking slightly. He let it go; he didn't want to ruin the morning. Because as he watched her, her smile slowly came back; whether it was there to distract him from the flowers or if she really was laughing at his jokes, she was actually smiling, glowing.

He thought about her from last night…she had been so surreal, like a dream. And now she was roaming around the small kitchen, making him breakfast. It was like two people in the same body, the tiger and – as stupid as he felt for just thinking it—an angel. Because there was no other way to describe her; she was stuck here, somewhere she didn't belong. She wasn't real. And he couldn't believe she had let him in, like so many men before him. But it was different, he knew it, he felt it.

After last night, he was seeing her for the first time again, like the way he had looked at her after she had danced on stage for the first time. Even the tiniest movements, like the way she licked the jam off her finger, or when she was quiet, her eyes moving sporadically as she thought, caught his attention and he was captured.

Last night, he had been with her in a way he had never imagined before…sure, he had thought about it, but it didn't compare. Something was between them now, something that hadn't been there before; it was a string tied to her restless fingers, tugging at him, refusing to let him be still. He was reacting to her, more than before. He didn't know how to feel about it; he had always been a separate body from everything else, never having to think before acting or caring about the consequences. And now, she made him think twice, to be careful. And there was nothing that could be done to change it.

He leaned on his elbow on the table, watching her, his eyes roaming over the skin of her collarbone. He wanted to be with her again, to feel her skin on his, to feel his body shiver that way... He had to look away.

Did every man feel this way after being with her? Like a puppet on her strings? No; it was different with him.

After breakfast, Jack knew he had to get back to the Lodging House. He sat on the windowsill for several minutes, obviously at war with himself: part of him—a big part of him—wanted to stay while the other wanted to check in with the guys…

She stared at him, just three feet away, her arms crossed and her fingers playing at the corner of her lips, the invisible string tugging at him…

Okay, he didn't want to check in with the guys; he knew they'd interrogate him for the greater part of the day. He wanted to stay with her.

It was the look in her eyes that made his brain click.

"Ta hell with it," he said as he pushed away from the window. His body crashed into hers and he kissed her lips hungrily.

Beneath his lips, he felt her smile.

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