Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 44: To Step Forward?

I push his head far away from me with the palm of my hand before playfully flicking his forehead, “Tut tut Jay-Jay.” I wave my finger in his face teasingly as a disappointed frown takes over his expression. I have to hold back a laugh at this. “Oh don’t look so gloom. Didn’t you say that you have other places to show me in any case?” I remind him seeing as he seems to be getting distracted a lot lately.

And that’s how we land up at our next random destination.

A laugh escapes me as I glance Jay’s way, “You’re taking me to a shooting range on our first date? Should I take that as a sign to run for the hills?”

Jay flashes me a grin as he hands me ear plugs and shooting glasses, “Only if you’re running over the hills to get to me.”

I cross my arms over my chest and raise a surprised eyebrow at him, “Since when were you so smooth and suave with your comebacks?”

On any normal occasion, Jay would’ve just resorted to insulting me. Now he’s doing everything in his power to avoid that. Instead, he’s flirting with all these witty comebacks as if to impress me.

“Since when has he ever cared to impress me?”

“Since always.” Jay answers nonchalantly, making me realize that I had asked that question aloud.

He brushes the matter off before taking his pistol and shooting at the target in front of him effortlessly. He keeps shooting at the target’s heart area until his bullets finish up. He doesn’t miss once which should probably scare me. He takes of his glasses and ear plugs before mockingly blowing on his gun as if a true western bad ass.

“I can see where you’ve been spending all your time.” I mumble as Jay moves out the way to allow me my turn at shooting, something I’ve never done before (just like racing). It’s almost as if Jay enjoys seeing me fail at things, that, or he wants to teach me to succeed in the things I keep failing at.

Jay hears my mumbling as he playfully cups a hand to his ear, “What’s that you’re rambling about huh?” He jokes. I know he heard exactly what I said. His blank expression fades over with his true smile, “What can I say Aqueela? I come here to blow off steam, get rid of negative energy.”

“So why bring me here?” I frown, cocking my head to the side, puzzled.

Jay adverts his eyes at the question before he scratches the back of his neck as if uncomfortable with me asking, “I uh - I see how you struggle with what your father did. He abandoned you. What he did, what he is still doing, is illegal.” Jay pauses mid-sentence before bringing his eyes back to mine to see my reaction. When I don’t say anything, he takes it as a sign to keep going, “You love acting like you’re fine all the time and I get that. Showing weakness isn’t my favourite thing to do either. But I can still always tell when you’re having a hard time coping with your father’s neglect, for instance, the other day when you came home drunk and told me that I smell good.” Jay grins a little at the last part as he remembers back to that night which I have no memory of what so ever.

I said that he smelt good?! Uh oh…

“That was…” I trail off unable to defend myself on behalf of drunk me.

Jay ignores my faltering and continues, “You said that you wanted to enjoy something that I enjoy -something that I do - so that we can both do it together. Maybe this is it.”

I open my mouth to reply but close it again, taken aback by his genuine sincerity – by his thoughtfulness. Instead, I opt for a different response entirely to let him know that I’m pleased with his suggestion.

I grab the gun from him before putting on the appropriate gear and trying out my first shot. I completely miss the target and end up hurting my shoulder in the process by the backward impact of the gun.

“I thought shooting is suppose to hurt the person being shot at, not the shooter.” I complain as I rub at my shoulder where the gun had jolted.

A chuckle spills from his lips as he shakes his head at me in amusement as if predicting how this would go. I narrow my eyes at him in a sharp glare which very quickly halts his taunting laughter. He’s lucky he heeded the warnings I gave him through my annoyed glower or I’d have reacted.

“Sorry.” He quickly murmurs, softly, as if ashamed. “It’s just – you’re doing it all wrong.” He informs me.

I scowl at him as I cross my arms over my chest in a defiant manner, “Then show me.” I demand fiercely.

He tilts his head a little to the side, a daring expression crossing his boyish features as he gives me a puzzled look, “You want me to actually show you?” He questions, unsure of my intentions. “You usually hate asking for assistance in anything – “ He pauses upon realizing his mistake. He’s on a role with his insults tonight. He starts slowly, cautiously this time round, “I’ll stop talking now.” He concludes sheepishly as he comes to stand behind me in order to teach me how it’s done.

I take my shooting stance as Jay’s hand winds around my waist before enclosing over my right hand that is holding the gun. I block out his warmth and try clear my head so that I can focus, or this time I will literally kill us, shoot us both.

“Rule number one, treat every gun as if loaded. Secondly, don’t ever get trigger happy.” Jay laughs at me before he gently guides my index finger off the trigger to outside the trigger guard. “Only press down on the trigger when you’ve made the conscious decision to shoot.” Jay instructs before moving my finger back onto the trigger, “Now press, don’t pull. Press until you start feeling resistance.”

I do as he says and press back until I start feeling resistance. “I feel it!” I exclaim excitedly as he releases my hand and takes a step back.

“Good. Move the gun away from your shoulder this time and use both hands to steady it.” He nods when I do what he says, “Now release the trigger.” I obey yet again and watch the bullet fly past the target, another miss.

Jay sees my disappointment, “That’s okay. I wanted you to miss. I just wanted to show you the basics first. We’ll work on your aim.” I nod at him as he continues to explain, “Now you know how to use the trigger, but not the gun itself.”

Jay closes the distance between us yet again as I feel his presence right behind me, his defined chest just touching my back as he leans into me. I try to ignore that small fact as he goes on explaining as if unaffected, “Your dominant hand, in your case, your right hand, should grip the gun high on the back strap.” Jay takes my right hand and places it on the back strap of the gun.

“Why?” I question shyly, inquisitive, because I want to achieve this correctly.

“It gives you more leverage against the recoil of the gun when you fire, thus you not injuring your shoulder as a result.” Jay answers knowledgeably before leading my left hand to exposed portion of the gun not covered by my dominant hand. “Now you place your support hand over the dominant hand. Again, it’s just for support and control against the recoil.” Jay elaborates, his cool breath fanning the back of my neck that I just so happen to let out an involuntary, subconscious shiver. Jay, usually perceptive, is too focused to even notice my reaction to him being so close. “Now assume the extended shooting position.” He orders from behind, still towering over my stature with his own.

“What’s that?” I manage to get out, unable to think straight all of a sudden.

Jay answers by sliding his foot between my legs and then nudging my legs apart with his own. “Stand with your hips and feet shoulder width apart.” Jay replies, aligning my hips with his hands all the while he speaks. He doesn’t even realize that he’s causing an immense distraction by his movements. How am I suppose to concentrate when he’s holding me and touching me all over with that steady yet gentle grip of his?! I can literally feel the heat from his hands on my hips seeping through the fabric of my clothing and it’s driving me insane. “Bend you knees slightly.” He adds in a soft whisper, his lips just grazing my ear.

I swallow, gulping back the small shocks and waves of attraction now floating freely in the air between us as I try to ignore the affect he has on me. “Got it.” I heave out, completely flustered by him.

Jay still doesn’t seem to notice as he goes on with his explanations, “Use your dominant eye and adjust your sight to set directly on the target only.” Jay says before releasing his hold on me and taking several steps back to allow me to do it on my own. “Aim at your target and align the front sight of your gun so that it lines up with the top of the rear sight of the gun. Set your sight picture and when ready, let go.”

I glance sideways at him, lost, “Let go? Just like that?”

He nods, confirming what he’d said, “Once you have a sharp, clear view – your sight picture set – release the trigger. Let go Aqueela. Just let go.”

I shrug and summit to his command as I release the trigger, watching eagerly just as the bullet hits the target. I didn’t make a bulls-eye like Jay had done – effortlessly – several times in a row, but at least I actually hit the target this time.

A satisfied smile crosses my lips as I turn in pure excitement to Jay for his approval, “I hit him!” I cheer all too happily for myself as I point at the target. I made the target a ‘he’.

“I knew you could.” Jay flashes me a beautiful smile filled with such pride that it kind of takes my breath away. It’s a flawless sight to look upon and it has me itching to see it more often.

“If only I can make a bulls-eyes like you.” I sigh wistfully at just the thought about it.

Jay offers me a cunning grin, “If only.” He teases. “But you see it’s not that easy-”

I cut him off when I attempt another shot, this time making a clean-cut – precise – bulls-eye in the very centre of the target.

I feel so alive in the moment and it’s all because of one shot. That one shot feels as if it just took all my burdens and worries and tossed it onto my target. The feeling is addictive. All my anger just vanished. This must what Jay meant by getting rid of negative energy. It definitely works. I can say that with experience now.

Jay’s jaw falls agape at my shot as I turn to him with a boastful grin, “It is that easy Jay.” I disagree with his earlier statement rather confidently.

He doesn’t respond, his blue eyes merely roaming over my face with wonder and awe. I stifle my laughter at this. Never seen him speechless before. He always has something to say. Cat’s got his tongue for once.

I take Jay’s silence as an opportunity to finish my share of the bullets as I keep shooting successful bulls-eyes much to my own astonishment. When my bullets finish I can’t help the feel of disappointment creeping in. I pout and lower the gun before dropping it on the table besides me. I remove the gear as well, silently planning to come back here very soon. It’s refreshing to get rid of the anger set deep inside of me.

I spin back and face Jay to see if he has got his voice back yet.

“You are a hell of a shot.” Jay finally manages a single sentence, “I’ll admit, I’m feeling a little intimidated right now.” He jokes, teasing me lightly. “It took me months to make make my first bulls eye.” Jay confesses, “You’re a natural with shooting and that should seriously ring warning bells in my head. However, I can’t help but find it incredibly attractive.”

I blush at the last part of his comment before giving my own input as to distract him from taking note of my blushing, “The trick is to envision the target as someone you hate.”

Jay’s smile curves into a frown before he asks, “Your father?”

I nod.

It’s not like I’d actually want my father dead, it’s just to loosen up and get rid of my hatred for him for abandoning me. Like Jay put it earlier, it’s to blow off steam.

“You?” I ask Jay.

“Mason.”

I bite back a giggle, “Figures. I should have seen that one coming.”

Jay grins in response as he grabs hold of my hand and intertwines his fingers with mine absentmindedly, pulling me along out the exit of the shooting range.

I, on the other hand, tense in his grip, aware of just how intimate his actions actually are. He’s holding my hand in the way a boyfriend would hold his girlfriend’s hand. It’s not his usual forceful tug on my wrist or fingers that he often did to get me to do what he wanted. No. This time round it’s gentle and sweet.

Jay’s putting his affection for me right on display for the public to see and I don’t quite know what to make of it. I’m not use to this.

But it’s definitely a step forward, I’d say.

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