Pause (Book 1)

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Chapter 45: When With Jay...

“Jay when we left your place, the Anti-Jayeela club, it was already ten. Then you took me racing until eleven and then shooting until twelve. It’s now past midnight. As much as I love spending time with you, I’m tired.” I say, letting out a tiresome yawn to back up my words. It’s then that I realize my slip up, my eyes widening at what I’d just blurted out on impulse.

Jay grins in response at my confession as he steps put of the car, our next destination on his list, me following suit in his actions, “As much as I love hearing about you loving spending time with me, stop whining.”

I leave it be and walk beside the persistent ‘Grumpy Pants’, stopping at the foot of his all too famous and oh so familiar cliff.

I frown at the sight as I cross my arms over my chest and stand my ground, “Explain to me why we’re back at your cliff. If you think I’m going cliff jumping with you again then you must be out of your damn mind-“

“No cliff jumping.” Jay chips in. When I glower at him, unsure if he’s telling the truth, he has the audacity to wink at me playfully, “I promise.” He tries to reassure me, but I don’t trust him, not on this anyway. He’s unpredictable. When Jay sees my hesitation, he reaches for my hand and begins to drag me after him, “Just come.” He demands as he pulls me forcefully down the back route leading to the river, as well as the very bottom of the cliff.

What am I? His pack mule.

“Unhand me!” I exclaim just as we reach the bottom of the cliff coming off off the back route that Jay created himself.

He ignores me and my stubbornness as he leads me to a gigantic willow tree. He releases my hand before going under the tree.

I pause, taking in the appearance of the tall dark tree overhanging above the black eerie river.

I shiver and it’s not the cold evening air that has me shaking ever so slightly. Willow tress creep me out. It’s not that I don’t trust Jay with my life, because I sure as hell do, but this all feels too much like a horror movie. All I see when I look at a willow tree beside a river at midnight, is a perfect place to bury a body.

Jay turns back to see that I’d stopped moving. He must see my fear because he’s out from under the tree and right before me in a heartbeat. “Hey, you okay?” He asks even though he knows the answer to that question. His gaze sets down to my hands. I furrow my eyebrows in confusion before glancing down at my hands to find them trembling. But that doesn’t last very long because soon Jay’s warm hands are covering my own as his eyes roam over my face in concern, “I would never take you to a place where I know it’s not safe. I’ve been here countless times and no one’s ever around. If you’re with me, you will be just fine Aqueela.” Jay tells me, earnest in his words that it’s difficult to find room to protest or argue.

I sigh reluctantly before joining him under the willow tree. It’s then that I see why he’d come here. “Where did that come from?” I ask, pointing to the magnificent wooden raft before me. It’s made from bamboo sticks along with the wooden oar atop it.

“I built it.” Jay answers nonchalantly as if it isn’t a big deal at all, when a raft like his can be sold for a quite a hefty amount. It’s structured well and even has small wooden railings along the side. It’s rather beautiful.

“Of course you built it yourself. Why do I bother asking?” I state aloud, more to myself, accompanied by a longing sigh, “Why can’t you ever be bad in something?” I groan, annoyed. He just has to be brilliant in absolutely everything. How am I suppose to resist him when he’s the very definition of perfection? Sure, he has his flaws - his temper being one of them - yet still I find him to be just perfect the way he is.

“I’ve had a few courses in wood work.” Jay explains, still unfazed that he can do pretty much anything he sets his mind to.

Of course he has…

“Have you perhaps had courses in perfection too?” I tease without really thinking my words and their implications through.

Jay chuckles, feigning as if he hadn’t heard me, “What?” He asks, cupping a hand to his ear, wanting me to repeat myself.

“Nothing. Forget about it.” I quickly snap at him despite knowing that he’d definitely heard my compliment.

Jay shrugs, choosing to let it slide as he pushes the raft into the dark water lapping at the edge of the muddy bay. Once the raft is in the water, he straightens up before coming right back to the subject at hand. “I’m only good at racing, science, shooting, wood work and fixing cars. I’m terrible at anything cultural like singing, art and all that jazz. So be reassured that I’m far from ever being perfect.”

Yup, he’d definitely heard me.

So modest, so humble.” I reply back teasingly and add a bow for emphasis, shooting him a fleeting smile.

He ignores me and instead motions with an outstretched hand to the raft as if to tell me to get on whilst he holds it steady in the water.

I obey and hop on with ease, deciding not to question him any more. I’ll just comply to his every demand seeing as he’s being so sweet. He joins me soon after and steers us clear from the bank with the oar he’d also made by hand.

I notice that we’re standing close to each other, probably because space is limited on the raft. I can tell it was designed and specifically made for only two people at a time.

“He rows too?” I mock, my shoulder just brushing his torso as we stand by the raft’s low railings and overlook the dark river. This time I’m genuinely just joking. I watch, impressed, as he steers us into the river’s current - the very flow of the enormous river.

“Shut up.” He mutters, trying to hide the smile creeping in on his lips.

“Why can’t we go up the river instead?” I ask as I flop down on the raft, sick of standing. I look thoughtfully through the railings into the water splashing up gently against the raft every now and then as we float on by.

The night is silent, the only noise to be heard is the flowing of the river. I’m overcome by a strong sense of peace at being one with nature.

Jay takes a seat close beside me, putting his oar down and allowing the river itself to lead us on further. “Because we’re going down it. We’re following the current, not fighting against it. We go with the river and it’s flow, you stupid. Besides, if we go up, we just land right back up in the lake at the bottom off the cliff that you have grown to hate so much.”

I don’t hate the cliff. I just don’t like jumping off it like a mad man. In actual fact, I love that cliff. It was the first time that Jay and I actually shared a heart-to-heart moment. That cliff is special not only to Jay, but to me too.

Soon the river branches off into a small quiet stream, the cold air nipping at my skin. Yet, somehow I couldn’t be bothered that I’m tired and freezing. Jay’s beside me and maybe that’s all that has ever really mattered.

Feeling lazy, I turn and shift position before lying down on my back and looking up to the sky, the raft bobbing up and down as we slowly drift down stream. My eyes find the blanket of stars above. The stars have always intrigued me. Constantly burning, dying, yet so stunning and alluring as they light up the dark sky.

However, it’s the full moon that seeks my attention most, my gaze drawing off the stars and settling on the silver moon instead. It’s at it’s peak and the view is exquisite.

“Do you now understand why I brought you here?”

I almost jump up in fright at his voice. I’d forgotten about his presence entirely. It’s then I notice that he’s too lying down on his back, right beside me, staring up at the sky.

A wave of tranquility washes over me at the comfort of knowing that he’s here with me to see this amazing sight.

A smile overtakes my features as I nod, turning sideways to meet his gaze when he takes his eyes off the moon to look at me, “It’s really something.” I admit, agreeing with him. I now see why he comes out here so late.

“It is.” He says calmly in a whisper, keeping his cobalt blue gaze locked firmly on me, a small smile gracing his lips.

With those two words spilling out of his mouth so softly and the atmosphere so serene, I’m tempted to just shift closer to him.

So I do.

He studies my actions carefully as if cautious of me. I hear his breathing hitch for a second or two as he visibly swallows and averts his eyes back to the sky above. I bite back a smile at this. It’s good to know that I can get under his skin sometimes too.

I make yet another bold move and reach for his hand. I don’t hesitate to lace my fingers through his. Immediately Jay tenses, clearly uncomfortable, yet still he doesn’t pull away from me like I’d been expecting him to. I give it a few seconds and eventually his hand relaxes into mine. I smile all too happily, overjoyed to be here with him.

My happiest days are the days where Jay features.

I pay no attention to his anxious state and take another chance as I rest my head on his toned chest. His heart is racing so fast and it’s almost as if I can hear it thumping loudly. I grin to myself as I snuggle up even further into him, finally satisfied.

But he isn’t quite at ease as me. I feel him stiffen from beneath me just as I’m about to close my eyes in content. “Aqueela…” He trails off, faltering mid-sentence as if trying catch his breath and compose himself, “Wh-What are you doing?” He stammers off in a soft tone of voice.

“You’re so comfortable.” I murmur to him, half asleep.

It’s difficult not to doze off beneath the stars on a raft swaying gently from side to side, down a quiet stream, with a cool breeze blowing us along to keep us afloat.

Jay must recognize my sleepy voice from many a time before because it’s then he shoots up like a lighting bolt, “No no no no no no no!” He says quickly, all in a rapid breath, “You cannot fall asleep on me again.” He says as he readjusts his position to a upright seated one, taking me with him.

I pout up at him, not taking note that I’m practically on his lap now seeing as he’d shifted the both of us. “Why not?” I ask in question, dazed, before my head falls against his shoulder on it’s own accord. I can barely keep my eyes open. It’s now an effort to stay awake. I’m dead beat.

“Because I have to say something.” Jay says nervously as he pushes me back upright onto his lap only for me to automatically flop back down against him.

“You can say it in the morning.” I mumble into his chest, my eyes fluttering back closed.

One cannot fight the force of exhaustion.

“No! I need to say it now or I’ll never say it.” He persists, shaking me gently by my shoulders in order to get me wide awake again. I don’t bother responding. “Aqueela…” He begs as if desperate, “Please.”

That last word, that single word, somehow gets to me.

His desperation touches me.

I hear his plea and decide to comply. I force my eyes open and push myself off of him in a weak attempt to wake myself up to hear whatever it is he has to say.

“I’m listening.” I say softly as I rub at my eyes in fatigue. However, now when I’m listening intently and giving Jay my full attention, does he fall silent. I gaze up at Jay in bewilderment, confused. “I’m listening.” I repeat, now genuinely curious as to what is holding him back from speaking his mind.

“Right right.” He murmurs, “Where to start?”

“The end.” I answer. “The ending is always the best.”

I hate beginnings. They’re too slow for my liking.

Jay nods, understanding that I prefer bluntness. I hate it when people beat around the bush for several minutes. I like it when people get straight to the point.

Jay’s intense gaze locks on solely me as he sucks in a deep breath before coming out with it, “I want to…”

I raise an eyebrow at him, growing impatient, “You want to what?” I encourage him to go on.

It’s not like Jay to hesitate every few seconds. It’s really out of character for him.

He clears his throat before summoning some courage and determination, “I want to start a proper relationship with you and go steady.”

“We have one. It’s called friendship, or if you prefer, archnemesisship.” I joke, trying to ease some of his tension and lighten the mood because his anxiety is just killing me. He’s making me nervous. I don’t enjoy being nervous.

“I want you to go out with me.” He blurts out just as it starts to drizzle gentle rain droplets from above, but I don’t care to look up. I keep my gaze on Jay, stunned by his request. “Go out with me.” He repeats, this time more confidently as if demanding me to go out with him.

I’m speechless.

I blink up at him, totally puzzled on how to respond, “I uh - I - wow,” is all I manage to say.

Did he finally ask me out? Out out?

I study him in that moment, unable to find any words, my focus only on him despite the light drizzling turning into thunderous rain pelts. Within seconds, we both become soaked under the cool rain, but hell I don’t care. Not now. Not after what Jay had just asked me.

His usual styled up hair quickly flattens under the rain (as does mine), leaving him with a messy wet hairdo that made him all the more attractive, his eyes turning to reflective piercing blue as he too studies me in the moment, a frown on his face as he waits patiently for me to say something else other than what I’d already said.

I don’t.

He reaches up and scratches the back of his neck awkwardly, “Well I’ll admit, that wasn’t the response I was hoping for.” I have so much to say, but for the life of me I can’t say anything at all. Jay takes my silence as his answer, “Forget I said anything. It’s starting to storm out here, might as well get back home in any case.”

My eyes widen at this as dread and panic crawls into my veins. “Wait!”

Jay furrow his eyebrows in confusion as he repeats what I’d just said, “Wait? Wait what?”

I’m so stupid. Who responds with ’wait’ upon just being asked out?

I draw in a deep breath before explaining myself clearly, “I’d love to go out with you.” I finally confess, a blush coating my cheeks at my raw honesty. He had just been blatantly open with me, now it’s my turn. If I am going to be honest with him, now’s the best time. “I mean - I would love nothing more than to go out with you. I’d rather the world end before saying ‘no’ to you. I want to be with you more than anything. I-“

I don’t get the chance to finish my sentence. As impatient Jay would have it, he cuts me off from rambling with a tender, and definitely unexpected, kiss on my lips - right in the middle of thunder storm.

I freeze for a split second before melting into him completely. I begin to move my lips softly against his warm ones with the slightest amount of friction. I respond to him all too eagerly, my eyes fluttering shut on instinct as my heart begins to race.

I’m surprised that Jay initiated yet another kiss between us, but I’m even more surprised that he’s finally reciprocating my feelings for him. But none of that matters, not now, not when he’s kissing me so gently yet passionately all at the same time as if I’d slip through his fingers at any instant.

Automatically, I reach up and thread my hands through his wet hair, eliciting a soft noise from him that has me smiling giddily against him. Jay reacts by taking the initiative to pull me closer, so close that all space between us quickly diminishes; the heat now seeping and rising between us despite the rain shower soaking us as his hands finally come to rest on my waist.

His lips are smooth and soft against mine, his pace slow and so sweet as if cautious not to cross any boundaries. I can’t help but get lost in the moment, giving into the emotions that he made me feel so deeply - intensely. Even the loud thunder roaring in the background fails to capture my attention. My heart, mind and thoughts is solely on him alone.

It feels as if a fire has been lit in my chest - warming my heart - as I continue to slowly move my lips in sync with his, unable to pull away. No one can make me feel the way he makes me feel. His mere touch stirs tingling sensations from the very pits of my stomach, like a ripple effect, spreading throughout my body.

Absentmindedly, my hand slips from his hair and runs down his torso, stilling over his chest and right above his heart only to feel his own pulse racing. He must feel the powerful pull - stronger than a magnet or current - between us too. It feels like an electrical current running through my veins whenever I’m near to him, especially when he’s kissing me so gently.

Eventually, I feel Jay reluctantly pull back from me. I pout, my eyes still closed as disappointment sinks in. I hear a chuckle resonate from Jay’s lips just as I open my eyes to face him with a frown. His expression is undetectable and his gaze unreadable as we both try to catch our breaths, making me long to know what he’s thinking in this exact moment.

I tear my gaze off of his dark glazed eyes when I see a beautiful flash of lighting streak across the black sky, the rain still pelting heavily down from above. We need to seriously leave soon.

Jay sees the questioning glimmer to my eyes as he goes onto reason, “I don’t want to jump into things too quickly with you or take things too fast.” He breathes with ease against my lips, “I want to take it slow with you because with you…” He pauses as if contemplating his thoughts, “I feel something different - something I’ve never felt before - whenever I’m with you. I don’t want to lose that by rushing into things.”

“Then you shouldn’t have just kissed me you…you…” I falter, unable to insult him when my heart is doing flips inside of my chest. I don’t have it within me to insult him right now.

Jay, being perceptive, notices my slip up and laughs aloud at this, so much so that I can feel his chest vibrating from beneath me as I shoot him a glower from beneath my eyelashes. In turn, he stops laughing and shoots me his famous smirk, a mischievous fleck of silver embedded in his blue eyes, “We’re officially dating now which means I can kiss you whenever the hell I want, wherever the hell I want and however the hell I want.” He winks at me suggestively for emphasis. “So deal with it.”

“So cocky.” I hum to myself, just loud enough for him to hear as I hold his blue gaze for a second longer. “Does this mean I can tell people that your my boyfriend now without you whining about it like a little girl?”

Jay shrugs as he suppresses a smile, “I’ve never really been into labels.”

I swat him against his chest as I finally move off of his lap, “You’re the one who asked me out. Let’s just get that fact straight before this goes any further.” I remind him before he turns this on me. “Which, by default, means that you want me to be your girlfriend.”

It’s when I look up again that I see the devious grin settled on Jay’s lips and come to realize that he’s just messing with me. I let out a breath of relief and hit him on his arm just for the sake of it. “You’re evil.”

A soft chuckle spills from his lips as he tugs me to his side yet again, “You can call me whatever you want Lawson, as long as you know that I’m the only guy that gets to…” He stops mid-sentence, leans down - his head dipping to my level - before he gently plants one last lingering kiss on my lips. Again, my heart does flips and my stomach does somersaults at his simple movement. Just as I’m about to lean up into him to draw out the kiss, he pulls away slowly with a beautiful fleeting smile intact as he finishes his sentence in strong conviction, “Do that to you.”

I ponder on what he’d just said, shaking off the thought of his soft lips on mine, “So what you’re saying is, is that you don’t see me as your girlfriend?” I purposely ask as I begin to shiver from the cold wind, the icy rain and my soaked dress.

Jay immediately glares at me for saying that. “No. I was kidding about not being into labels. You are now my girlfriend and only mine.” Jay looks at me expectantly, “Where’s your phone?”

“Not here. Why?” I ask, puzzled.

“I want you to give Mason the ‘heads up’ that you’re now taken.” Jay teases, but I can tell he’s dead serious.

The possessive boyfriend side to him just came alive.

I roll my eyes at him playfully, “Don’t even start.”

Jay shrugs and gives me a knowing smile as if innocent, “What? The guy needs to know when to back off.”

I see through him though. He’s genuinely afraid of losing me to Mason seeing as in the past, Mason unintentionally took everything that belonged to him first.

I reach up and cup his face in both my hands as I turn his head to face me so that I can see his electric blue eyes, “I’ve never wanted to be with anyone but you. It’s always been you, Jay. It always will be.” I reassure Jay through telling him the truth to how I feel about him, how I’ve always felt about him since meeting him.

I plant a quick kiss on his lips as if to prove it. I can’t help the smile that creeps onto my lips when Jay purposely puckers his lips to me with his eyes closed as if asking for more than just a peck. I would have given in to him if I hadn’t been freezing cold. “We should go.” I say rather reluctantly, hesitantly. This night has been more than magical and I’d love to revisit the memory someday, but for the meantime, it’s time to go. The night has to come to an end.

Jay lets out a disappointed groan, but agrees nevertheless as he stands up, immediately offering me his hand as to help me up too.

I raise a perplexed eyebrow ta him before erupting into giggles at his sudden manners. He’d never have done that for me in the past.

I think I’m going to grow to enjoy this relationship more and more by each passing day.

When with Jay, I’m truly happy.

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