Skin of the Night

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Chapter 56: Bulletproof

During the entire trip home, I was hyperaware of my soreness. Nevertheless, the dense crowd of people on the tube had no idea of the fuck-marathon I’d been subjected to last night, and it made me smirk to myself. I wondered how many sinful secrets the man next to me must be veiling, and then the woman beside him again. It was odd to think of how innocent people looked at a first glance, when truly, they could be suppressing a lethal serial killer for all I knew. How deceiving appearances were. They revealed so much, and yet so little at the same time.

By the time I walked down the familiar pavement toward my flat, I was confident that I resembled an awkward penguin in my walk. My entire body ached after William’s merciless treatment of it last night. I was rubbing my poor vagina in with lotion first thing. After that, I would settle on the sofa and hopefully cuddle a hungover Jason.

When I entered the flat, I was surprised by how quiet it was. Was Jason still asleep, or did he have plans he hadn’t informed me of? It wasn’t like him to be absent without notice. Frowning to myself, I dropped my purse in the hall and sauntered through the living area toward his bedroom. Since the door was closed, I reckoned he was still asleep.

After paying the door two knocks, I turned the handle and peeked inside. My heart plummeted upon the sight. I’d seen Jason hungover quite a few times before, and because of it, I was certain that this wasn’t it.

Lying on his torso, his long legs were spread slightly apart while he was dressed into nothing but his grey Calvin Klein boxers. With his hands tucked under the pillow that supported his head, he stared blankly out the windows of his private balcony doors.

He was morose.

“Jason?” I called concerned and stepped inside to climb into the bed. He didn’t reply until I rested flat across his muscular back and hugged him against me. From the clean scent of him, I gathered he must have showered before I arrived.

“Hey,” he quietly mumbled and glanced at me from the corner of his eye when I poked my head to the side to catch another look at him.

“What’s wrong?” I quietly queried while a grave pout took to my face. He sank beneath me with his long sigh.

“Rough night.”

“What happened?”

He was quiet for quite a long while, and it left me anxious.

“Jason, I don’t like seeing you like this.”

He closed his eyes and frowned to himself. “I did something stupid.”

“Everybody does something stupid from time to time when they’re drunk.”

“No, Cara, it’s not that kind of stupid.”

“What did you do, then?”

He swallowed a lump in his throat. “Please don’t get angry with me.”

I blinked in dread. “Angry with you? I could never be angry with you when you’re obviously seriously upset about something.”

His eyes were still closed when I saw his lips twitch as he struggled to phrase himself. After huffing loudly, he finally brought himself to say, “I asked Livy out on a date last night, and she said no.”

Shocked, I froze completely. I hadn’t foreseen that for the life of me. Why on earth had he asked Olivia out on a date? “Wait, what? You fancy Livy?”

He grimaced. “I’ve fancied Livy for two years now, more or less. I haven’t told you because I didn’t want to place you in that spot, torn between loyalties. Since you’ve always hated Colin, I worried you might try and whisper in her ear that she should consider me instead. I didn’t want that. So I just kept it to myself. I did mean to tell you, but I just... It never seemed appropriate, so I didn’t.”

“Jason,” I breathed astounded. “I had no idea.”

“Please don’t be angry with me. This was what I feared – that I would make things awkward for you, seeing as she’s also your best mate. I just... I reckoned you ought to know, now that she’s rejected me. So if she acts weird if I’m around you both, or if ever I’m mentioned, you’ll know why.”

“Jason.” I rolled onto my side so that we lay nose to nose. Upset, I watched him open his eyes to gaze into mine. “I’m so sorry,” I said. “You don’t deserve to have your heart broken like that. She’s obviously a blind idiot. You know as well as I do that she’s got rubbish taste in men.”

“Yeah, well, she and I have got that in common. I’m always chasing the unattainable,” he murmured annoyed with himself.

I stared at him, still trying to comprehend the truth of things. He’d fancied her for two bloody years? “For two years?” I question amazed.

He sighed and draped his arm over my waist to bring me closer. “Yeah.”

“That’s such a long time. What did she say? How did you...?”

“I’d had a couple of beers. Was reasonably tipsy when another lad started chatting her up, and since she didn’t approve of the attention, I pretended to be her boyfriend to chase him away. At a certain point she thanked me for it, and I said that if she wanted, I could bring her on an actual date and maybe be her real boyfriend some day.” He shuddered. “You should have seen her face. It was awful. Took her a good minute before she started the whole speech about how she’s always regarded me as a brother, and that even though she thinks I’m fit and sweet and whatever, she doesn’t think she can grow those sort of feelings for me.”

My heart ached in sympathy. I wanted to slap Olivia for being so incurably blind. She had terrible taste in men. If she didn’t want to have her heart broken, she ought to reconsider her targets. Unlike Colin, Jason would have treated her well. But then again, if Olivia wasn’t interested, they simply weren’t meant to be. It was as William had said, we couldn’t choose whom we fell in love with. Olivia couldn’t force herself to fall in love with him even if she wanted to.

“She’ll probably ring you about it,” he murmured and closed his eyes before he frowned to himself again.

“Jason, I’m so sorry. Truly, I am. I hate to see you like this. And I know you don’t want to hear it, but she’s clearly not worth your attention. If she doesn’t realise your value, that’s honestly her loss,” I replied upset and cupped his cheek in my hand to stroke it with my thumb.

“Yeah, I know. It still blows though. But I’ll get over it soon enough. On the bright side, it feels good to have a clear answer. I’ve been torturing myself with ‘what if-s’ for the past two years, and it’s nice to know I don’t have to wonder anymore. It was actually Will who convinced me to do something about it. While I wish this wasn’t the outcome, I’m glad I listened to him. I’d hate to waste more time on her.”

My eyebrows climbed up my forehead. “Will knew?”

“Yeah. He’s known for years.”

Whoa. I had to give it to him – William was surely trustworthy. He hadn’t spilled as much as a clue. “He’s good at keeping secrets that brother of yours.”

I saw a ghost of a smile on his mouth. “He is. I love that about him. And his advice is always great as well.”

“Though,” I murmured, suddenly reminded of the bipolar Sarah, “he did tell me about your Sarah last night.”

He cringed. “Ah, fuck, did he?”

“Yeah. I get why you haven’t told me, but Christ, Jason. You’re not particularly lucky when it comes to women, are you?”

“Not at all.”

My pout intensified. “I wish I could give you the world. You deserve it.”

The first genuine smile since I’d come in claimed his mouth. “I love you, Cara.”

“I love you, too, Jason. I’m here for you if you want to talk about anything at all. And I’ll never be angry with you for keeping things from me. You know I like to respect privacy.”

He squeezed me against him and planted a kiss to the top of my head. “I honestly don’t know what I’d do without you, love. You’re the best mate I could have wished for. I’m very relieved you’re not cross with me for placing you in such an awkward spot regarding Livy and I.”

Against my will, I smiled amused. “Well, it would hardly be fair if I got upset with you for that after everything with Will.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, suppose I earned myself a few karma points there.”

“Oh, for sure. You handled it with grace. I wouldn’t have held it against you had you disowned me.”

He scoffed. “I’d never. How are things going between you, though? Is he still alive after your stunt?”

Deadpanned, I stared back at him. “Um, you were right. He retaliated. If anyone were close to dying last night, it was I. He made me come ten times, Jason. Ten! It was vicious!”

He gaped at me. “Ten?” he whispered astonished.

“Bloody ten!” I confirmed.

“That man’s a legend.”

“No, don’t you ever do that to anyone. It was torture. I have banned handcuffs from the bedroom after last night.”

He giggled. “That’s hilarious. We can always trust Will to turn the tables toward his favour, can’t we?”

“Unfortunately,” I muttered and rolled onto my back to stare up at the ceiling. After a deep breath for courage, I blurted out, “Other than that, I’m in love with him.”

There. I finally confessed it aloud. God, it felt alien. But so good. Liberating, in fact. I could hardly believe I’d said it. Out loud. Me. I hadn’t thought I’d declare something like that for at least another ten years.

Since he fell completely silent, I was forced to turn my head to gauge his reaction. Gobsmacked, he stared wide-eyed back at me. I blushed the colour of a rose and nodded repeatedly.

“Yep. I said it.” A face-splitting grin tugged on my lips while I snickered. “I am so in love with your brother, Jason, you have no idea. He’s everything I could have wished for, and more. And I just love the fact that he can handle me. I fire so many shots, but he’s bulletproof! What makes it even better is that he fires right back at me! And he just gets me, you know? It’s like he knows exactly what to say, and I just love our banter. He teases me better than anyone else, without end, and I just adore it.

“And I love his sense of humour and his flair for sarcasm. And his intellect, his wisdom. Not to forget his reliability, and his loyalty, and his... everything. I even love his quirky social antennas, and how bloody blunt he is. Well, his flaws are a bit bothersome, because he is insanely jealous and territorial, but I manage. Besides, odd as it is, I almost like those traits, too, because they’re part of him. And the fact that he takes such good care of his mates, and you, is seriously endearing. Do I sound like an idiot? Oh, my God, I sound like a clown. I’ll shut up now.”

He whistled through his teeth. “Wow. You’re actually fangirling over my brother. This is revolutionary.”

“I know. I’m so smitten. He’s all I can think about, Jason. What’s worse, I saw him just a few hours ago, and yet I already miss him! It’s pathetic!”

“It’s beautiful, is what it is. Have you told him?”

I shook my head. “No. I’m waiting for the right moment. I feel it’s a bit too soon. I need to be absolutely certain before I confess it. In the end, he’s prone to do things that really put my feelings for him to the test.

“Last night, for instance, he insisted that I can’t even be mates with Robby if I want to keep seeing him. He doesn’t trust me at all when it comes to Robby, and while I get where he’s coming from, it honestly hurts my feelings a wee bit. It blows that I have to sacrifice one of my best mates just because William doesn’t trust me. I find it upsetting, because I wouldn’t dream to do anything with Robby again – not like that. But he made it crystal clear that it’s useless to try and tell him that, because he doesn’t believe me – not after how I behaved in the beginning.

“But see, I also find that very unfair, because I only behaved like that because I honestly didn’t think that it was appropriate for me to be with him when he’s my bloody boss and your brother. More than that, I wasn’t looking for anything serious, which William obviously was and still is. That’s why I was so difficult about things, and also why I behaved the way I did. But he doesn’t seem to get that.”

He sighed and rolled onto his back beside me. After shoving his hands under his head, he joined my fascination with the ceiling. “William can be a bit uncompromising. I’m truly sorry to hear that he’s unwilling to bend when it comes to Robby. Personally, I know you’d never do anything with him now that you’re with Will. But you have to try and see it from his perspective; he feels threatened by Robby and how close you are.

“And you have to bear in mind that William doesn’t know you like I do. He hasn’t seen how you and Robby were together for the past three years the way that I have. I can try and speak some sense to him if you want, but I doubt it’s going to have any effect. He’s very ‘my way or the highway’ sometimes.”

I rubbed my eyes. “Yeah, you can try and tell him if you want, but I have no expectations. Besides, I gather I’ll just worry about that bridge when I get there. For now, Robby hasn’t shown any interest in wanting to reach out to me again, so I’m not going to worry about it unnecessarily. If he does reach out, I’ll bring it up with Will again. If he doesn’t, then there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Sounds like a decent plan,” he conceded.

“Mm. But do you know what’s weird?”

“What is?”

I looked to his comely profile. He had such a perfect nose. “That I’m not scared of telling him that I love him because I fear he won’t reciprocate. All I’m scared of is telling him too soon, because once I do, I have to really mean it. I can’t take it back. Isn’t that odd? I mean... don’t people tend to be scared of dropping the L-bomb because they worry it might not be requited?”

He scratched his cheek while he reflected over what I’d said. “It is a little odd, actually. Suppose he’s done well with reassuring you about his interest.”

“He really has,” I confirmed besotted. “I’m not sure if he loves me back yet, but the way he treats me has made it clear that even if I tell him, it isn’t going to scare him off.”

He wrapped his arm and leg over me to smother me against his chest. Repeatedly, he traded kisses with my hair. “I’m really happy for you, Cara. I had a feeling you and Will were compatible when I was forced to realise that you’d already shagged behind my back.”

“Well, since you and I weren’t meant to be, I’m glad I could secure at least one man of the Night genes.”

His chest shook against me. “Sounds like you wish you could have loved me romantically.”

“Oh, there was certainly a time when I did,” I revealed without a trace of shame, and hoped it would lift his spirits somewhat. “You have no idea how perfect you are, Jason. One day, some woman is going to realise that, and even if it isn’t Livy, that woman will make you forget all about her.”

“I hope so. Anyway, have you got plans before dinner?”

“Nope.”

“Then should we cuddle and watch TV together?” he proposed.

“Absolutely.”

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