Igniting Blaze

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Chapter 4

He was waiting at four. He stood at the door, watching the men file out and he nodded his head to each as they passed him, she would have thought him polite if she didn’t see his jaw set in a firm line and notice that he was standing at his full height with his shoulders set broad. It had been the same at when he’d arrived with lunch. He’d been cool towards them but not rude. The only indication of his true feelings were the clenched teeth and those hard, dark eyes.

She watched him from the small reception area. It was her job to lock the door once everyone was gone for the day. That was when she started her second job. Leaning against the counter she ignored the grunted salutations and instead focused on the man who was waiting for her. Despite everything her head was telling her, it still gave her butterflies every time she saw him and knew that he was here for her. It wasn’t logical, but it wasn’t something she could stop either.

“Hey,” he breathed the word as he stepped through the door and closed it behind him.

It was impossible not to smile back as all his face relaxed, his lips curled into a small grin, those dimples of his dug in, and his eyes sparkled at her. He went from bad-ass to hot-ass in five seconds flat. The butterflies did a little dance.

His expression disarmed her every time. She’d felt the same four hours ago when he’d arrived with that sandwich. She’d planned on being all cold and calm but then his eyes had done that twinkly thing and her legs had gone to jelly. It was pitiful. She was embarrassed by how she’d kissed him, and she’d spent all morning hyping herself up to resist him. But he’d let it drop. He didn’t say anything when he’d sat with her over lunch and he hadn’t attempted to kiss her again. She was grateful. Maybe he regretted it too.

“I told you that you don’t need to be here,” she said the words, but she couldn’t keep the relief ringing in her tone, “I do this every weeknight. I don’t need a babysitter and it’s going to be boring for you.”

“I want to be here,” his grin got broader, “And you’re here, so it’s not going to be boring.”

“We’ll see if you still believe that in two hours,” she rolled her eyes, “Take a seat Pretty Boy, if you didn’t bring a book there are some magazines for the customers.”

“Where are you going?” he lifted an eyebrow.

“To work,” she shook her head, “This is my second job, remember.”

“I know that,” he stepped up so that he was standing directly in front of her and making her lift her head to look him in the face, “But you’ve forgotten this.”

He dipped his head as his hands landed on her hips. His lips touched hers and caressed with gentle pressure. She couldn’t help the soft moan escaping as her body sagged against his and her hands came up and found themselves in his clothing. Her brain was screaming something at her, but the words weren’t registering. It was as if she was speaking to herself in an unknown foreign language.

“That’s better,” he whispered as his lips slowly separated themselves from hers, he held her, his face still close to hers, “I’ve been looking forward to that all day.”

“What?” she shook her head as she desperately tried to clear away the fog he created in her mind, “What are you doing?”

“Jen?” he didn’t hold her as she shoved her hands against his chest and pushed him away.

She couldn’t do this again. She’d reprimanded herself all day and yet she’d still fell prey to his touch. She was pathetic. The anger built up inside her. How could she be so stupid?

“Stop that. I didn’t give you permission to do that. You can’t be doing that,” she stood there breathing heavily as she spat the words at him, “What sort of woman do you take me for?”

“I don’t understand,” he frowned, “What’s wrong? Why are you saying that?”

“Because you shouldn’t do that,” she gritted her teeth, “And because I shouldn’t do that.”

“Why not? I like you Jen,” his dark eyes bore holes into her, “I want this.”

“Well, I don’t,” she growled.

“Are you sure about that?” a small grin teased his lips and dimpled one cheek.

“I’m not the sort of woman who does this,” she found herself clarifying.

“Does what?” he tilted his head, “Kisses? Dates? Falls in love?”

“No, cheats, I’m not the sort of woman who has affairs,” she closed her eyes and braced herself to say it, “I shouldn’t do any of this. It’s a mistake.”

“Cheats? An affair?” his eyebrows shot up, “You’re not. We’re not.”

“Yes, I am,” she looked away as she fought the urge to cry, “You’re dating Veronica Towns, and this is all on-the-side for you.”

“What,” his whole body reacted, “Veronica? You think that I’m still dating Veronica?”

“Yes, I do,” she looked away, “Because that’s the truth.”

“Jen,” he laughed as he caught her as she tried to walk away. He drew her into his chest and wrapped his long arms around her, “Don’t fight me. I broke up with Veronica. I don’t cheat, and I would never have an affair.”

“You broke up?” she stopped struggling as she spoke into his shirt.

“Yes, before I even meet you,” there was a smile in his words.

“So, this is a rebound?” the words left her mouth before she could stop them.

“I’m not going to dignify that with an answer,” he laughed as he pulled her from his body and looked her in the eyes, “As you get to know me, you’ll answer that yourself. But, can you promise not to trust what you read in the media. Ask me, before you believe what the press. The words that they write about me and the pictures they print, are often manipulated into a good story.”

“I didn’t, I wouldn’t,” she blushed realising that she’d been caught researching him.

“I’m not seeing anyone but you,” he looked around the workshop, “And I want to see more of you, which means getting you home. If you tell me what you need done, I can help with the cleaning.”

“No,” she stepped backwards and out of his grip, her hands raised with palms facing him, “I don’t need help. Just sit. There, over there. Read the magazines. There’s a radio. I could put some music on?”

“I’m good,” he smiled at her flustering, “But you will let me know if you need any help, anything heavy lifted, and if you’re using any harsh chemicals, I’d rather you stayed away from them too.”

“Sure, fine, that’s no problem,” she backed away from him and scrunched her face into a grimace as she turned and hastily disappeared into the workshop.

Could she be any more obvious? She threw herself into her chores to distract herself from how stupid she’d been. She hated to think what he thought of her. She was no better than a fan-girl. He was probably thinking up reasons why he needed to leave early.

She wasn’t sure what it was about Drew that had her acting like an idiot. She’d never had a problem rejecting guys in the past. Now, however, she couldn’t seem to form proper sentences or find the words to convince him. She wasn’t interested in men, she closed her eyes as she reminded herself about her one and only romantic encounter, which had been enough to put her off dating for six years.

Up until the point that Drew had arrived on her doorstep asking for Belinda, she thought she was destined for a life of solitude. But one look at his tall muscular build and that face, and she’d forgotten about Troy and the humiliation he’d caused her. She’d become a school girl again and she was lining herself up for the same treatment that had burnt her last time.

She’d meet Troy Wright in the last year of school. His car had broken down and she’d stopped and fixed it, which was the start of a whirlwind romance, or at least she thought it was a romance. He was popular and had made her feel like she was someone. It ended after that party.

She’d never been to a party before and when he invited her as his date, she was so excited that she went all out. She’d brought a cute dress, had her hair done, got a friend to help with the makeup, and had been ecstatic when his eyes ate her up. When they got to the party, he changed. He handed her drinks but ignored her. She didn’t know anyone, and no one spoke to her, which left her following him or standing alone. Confused by his behaviour and thinking she’d done something to upset him, she took every drink he gave her and silently drank it. It didn’t take long for her to become unsteady on her feet.

It was then that he turned his smile towards her. But this Troy wasn’t the sweet boy she’d been seeing over the last couple of weeks. He took her into one of the bedrooms and had kissed her, caressed her and touched her in places that made her flush. She was too intoxicated to see that he was using her and instead believed that he loved her. She willingly gave him everything that he wanted.

The next day at school, everyone knew. He’d bragged about it to anyone who’d listen, and she was now a number on his ‘V-card’, some sort of virgin score card that she didn’t know existed. The few friends she had disappeared, her grades dropped, and she vanished into herself. It wasn’t that she thought herself a victim, she’d just been naïve and had paid the price. The anger that she felt had been directed at herself not the idiot she’d trusted, and she wasn’t going to make that mistake again. The only person she could trust was her father.

It was him and the trucks he worked on that she turned to. She didn’t want to look under the hood of another car, but trucks were different. They were workhorses and the drivers needed them for their livelihood. When she put a truck back on the road, she felt like she had a purpose. That, and their drivers weren’t boys. The men who handed their keys over were only interested in how long before it would be fixed not in asking her out.

While her father was alive, she had loved her job. They worked seamlessly together. Her father was a great man and had the respect of everyone. It was only after he was gone that her workplace changed. She was shocked when the first guy asked her out. She turned him down flat before he’d even finished his question. She could still remember how confident she was that she wasn’t going to go through that again. She turned them all down, feeling nothing but relief every time she said ‘no’. She didn’t want them and didn’t need the distraction.

Her life revolved around working to pay off the debt. When her father had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, they had found an alternative treatment that wasn’t covered by the insurance. Ian had loaned them the money. She’d worked hard to pay back that debt. It meant that she had no free time and every spare dollar was banked. She didn’t need a boyfriend, she needed a holiday and a full night sleep, and both would come when she finished paying Ian.

Which begged the question, why wasn’t she rejecting him? What had he done that had melted her defences? All it took was that first meeting. He’d hardly looked at her. He’d been focused on his friend who was trying to confess to her flatmate. It wasn’t a good scene. Drew had practically carried him out after Belinda rejected the guy. There was no reason for Drew to remember her, and no justification for the way she’d felt since. After that she’d been unable to get him out of her dreams. But that didn’t matter because he wasn’t interested in her. Despite what he said, all he wanted was the sex and she’d end up hurt all over again. She was a diesel mechanic from Trenton and he was celebrity with a long resume of success. They weren’t compatible.

She took a long breath. Counted to ten and concentrated on her breathing. When she’d calmed herself, she forced herself to formulate a plan. All she needed to do was control the kissing, resist the need to jump him, and be herself. He’d soon see how boring her life was, how unglamorous it was, how poor she was, and how her many jobs dictated her routine and he would run for the hills, disappear into the city, and reunite himself with all those exciting women who flirted with him there. It wouldn’t take long for him to see that she wasn’t the woman for him.

With that clear, she finished cleaning and started turning off the lights. She’d done this job for long enough that she didn’t need to think as she cleaned so, even though her mind was occupied with him, it didn’t slow her progress. He put the magazine down as she headed in his direction. His eyes lifted to her and she felt her heart stir again, stupid thing.

He must have been deep in thought too as he didn’t say much. They rode the motorbike back to the apartment and she was off the bike as soon as they arrived. She’d undone the clasps and yanked the helmet off her head before he’d turned off the engine.

“It’s late, you don’t need to come in,” she stood with the helmet in her hands, “You’ve got a long drive back into the city.”

He didn’t answer her as he ignored the helmet and her suggestion. Turning off the engine, he pushed the heavy bike up the path until it was edged in next to the stairs and off the street. He then took off his helmet, stored both, secured and covered the bike, and then he turned to her. He extended his hand indicating that it was time to go inside. She sneered at him, and stomped her way up the stairs, but didn’t argue.

He unlocked the door with her keys. It was then that she remembered that she’d given them to him last night but not asked for their return. She stuck her hand out and plucked them from his fingers as she walked into the room. Any other day she would have pulled her boots from her feet and reached for the takeout menu but today she stood frozen.

“What did you do?” the words fell from her.

“I told you what I was going to do,” he shrugged and walked past her into the now overflowing kitchen, “I told you I’d cook dinner.”

“Yes, but,” she looked at the bench covered with various ingredients and the numerous shopping bags next to the fridge.

“I had to shop first,” he smiled at her expression, “The place was empty. I’m guessing you don’t cook?”

“No,” she breathed in the smell. “What is that?”

“Nothing too exciting, I’m afraid,” he shrugged, “The timing meant I was limited as to what I could make. It’s just slow cooked pulled pork.”

“You?” she stared at him. “You can cook that?”

“It’s ready when ever you are,” he smiled at her surprise, “Take your boots off, have a shower, relax. It’s just dinner, Jen.”

She did as she was told, and faster than she would have normally, she was hungry, and it smelt amazing. She ran through the shower, threw on some tracksuit pants, a loose knitted jumper and some warm socks. The flat was warmer than usual, that must be due to the cooking heat, but she still dressed warmly. After yesterday, she didn’t want to be cold again and she didn’t need to give him a reason to warm her up.

They ate in silence. The food was amazing but that wasn’t the reason for the lack of conversation. Every time she looked at him, she found him staring back at her. His eyes didn’t seem to leave her. She flushed and forgot what she was going to say. It was probably for the best. The more she talked to him the more she’d miss him when he left.

“Thank you,” she mumbled as he cleared away the plates, “That was really good.”

“Can I ask you a question,” he rinsed the plates as he spoke, then turned to focus his eyes on her, “Is that why you left? Did you run out of my apartment because you thought I was still with Veronica?”

She opened her mouth to lie to him but found that no words came out. She closed her mouth and turned to look out the window. Whatever she said, it felt like a confession. Either she’d stalked him before, found out about his dating history, and slept with him anyway, or she was admitting that there was another reason for her leaving.

“I see,” his eyes seemed to drill into her extracting the truth, “I won’t lie to you Jen. Ask me next time. Whatever you want to know, I’ll tell you.”

“Drey Anders,” the name slipped out of her mouth.

“You know about him?” he reacted to the name as if she’d hit him with the words.

“I’m sorry,” she grimaced at her lack of tact. She’d read enough about him to know that this was a subject that he never answered questions about. She shouldn’t have spoken that name.

“What do you want to know?” he asked as he leaned against the benchtop with his head hung and his eyes hidden.

She blinked. He was going to answer her questions? Drey Anders had been a rock god. He had been the lead vocals, guitar and songwriter for ‘Drink, Drank, Drowning’ or 3D as they became were nicknamed. When she was still at school 3D were on the top of every chart for their heavy guitar and infectious lyrics. They were huge. Then one day, for no apparent reason, Drey Anders quit and disappeared. There were rumours that he’d gone into rehab, was on-the-run for tax evasion, even that he’d died. The internet was alive with stories, but the truth never surfaced. The band tried replacing him, but no one could compete with Drey’s onstage presence or his talent. The broke up less than a year after his disappearance.

“Why?” she asked, “You had it all. Why did you leave?”

There was a long silence, before he lifted his head but still didn’t look at her.

“Answering questions like that requires me to trust you completely,” he breathed out and turned to her, “I’d like to tell you everything, but I don’t think I’m ready yet.”

“Oh,” that was the last thing she expected him to say.

It wasn’t hard for people to link the alias Drew Miller back to Drey Anders. He was the same man. But why he’d gone from an internationally acclaimed musician at the peak of success, to an erotic dancer, was something no one could explain. He’d flatly refused to talk about why he’d turned his back on music and it had become a widely speculated topic. The most popular theory revolved around his fiancé at the time Kay Dee. When he’d left, he not just abandoned the band, he deserted her too. There was much gossip about who did what, to whom.

“It was a long time ago,” he glanced at her, “But it’s a sensitive subject.”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, “I shouldn’t have asked.”

“No, I want you to ask,” his jaw flinched just once and then he turned to her, “I’ll tell you the whole sordid tale when I know that you won’t ditch me, when you acknowledge how hot for me you are, when we trust each other with everything, and when you tell me about Troy Wright.”

“So, never, that’s what you’re saying?”

“Hopefully not never,” he laughed, “Although I suspect that Troy should be hoping that I never know what he did to you. I’ve got the feeling that he deserves my fist in his face for something.”

“Forget I said anything,” she glared at him, “Especially forget that name.”

“What I will tell you,” he smiled, “Is that I’m happier now than I was before. I still have a long way to go to heal completely but I’m getting there.”

“Oh,” she watched his smile turn sad and guessed his meaning, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Since you’re offering,” he smirked, “There is a therapy that you can help me with.”

“Let me guess,” she rolled her eyes at him, “This ‘therapy’ involves us being naked and in bed?”

“Bed? That’s one location for it, but it’s not the only place we can employ the technique I’m suggesting.”

“Is everything about sex with you?”

“Sex?” he pretended to be surprised, “Who said anything about sex? But now that you mention it, yes, that would help.”

“You are unbelievable,” she huffed.

“You’ve already told me that,” he smirked, “But thanks, any time.”

“That wasn’t a compliment,” she glared at him.

“And yet,” he laughed as he pushed himself off the bench and went to sit on the small sofa, “I will take it as one. Come sit with me. I want to hear about why this job is so important to you.”

“I’m fine here,” she swivelled the chair to face him. Given he occupied most of the sofa with his broad shoulders and long limbs, there was no way to join him on it without touching him.

“Chicken,” he’s sparkling eyes taunted her.

“Shouldn’t you be leaving,” she countered, “It’s a long drive back.”

“I surrender,” he laughed holding his hands up, “Now tell me why it’s worth enduring those jerks to work there? I’m really curious to know why you put up with that.”

She probably should have insisted that he left but it was nice having someone to talk to. It had been a long time since she’d had company. Belinda was a great flatmate and, when she first moved in, they had been close. But then she’d been promoted, and work became her life. After that she wasn’t home much, worked from home when she was here, and all her conversation revolved around her job.

Jen hated to admit it, but she was lonely, so it didn’t take much prodding for her to answer all of Drew’s questions. She told him about her father, his illness, the loan, and the satisfaction she got from working. It felt good just talking to him.

“Jen,” he interrupted when she was telling him about the how truck engines had evolved with the introduction of computerised components, “I do want to hear about this and I am interested, but I’m going to sleep. I’m sorry. I didn’t sleep much last night because you were sick, and I hate sleeping in clothing, and the night before that, well we both know why sleep wasn’t high on the agenda. I’m shattered, and I don’t want to fall asleep while you’re talking so I’m going to have to stop you.”

“Oh,” She blushed embarrassed that she’d bored him, “Are you alright to drive like that?”

“No, I’m going to have to sleep here,” his eyes were very heavy, “Does this sofa have a fold out bed?”

“No,” she looked at his long legs and knew that there was no possibility of him sleeping on the sofa. She took a deep breath, “You can sleep in my bed.”

“Thanks,” he struggled to his feet, “Don’t worry, I’m too tired to do anything to you. I’m just going to sleep.”

“Yes, that’s right,” she nodded, “I’ll sleep on the sofa.”

“Jen, that’s not necessary,” he frowned.

“That might be true,” she grimaced as she stopped herself from adding ‘for you’. He might be too exhausted to take advantage of her, but she wasn’t tired. “But I’m still going to sleep out here. Go. I’ll be fine on the sofa. I’m short. I’ve slept on it before.”

It didn’t take too long to convince him that this was the only way this was going to work. She took a pillow, spare blanket, and her soft pyjamas from the room as he started to undress. She didn’t linger. She was out of the room with the door closed by the time he’d unbuttoned his jeans and was about to drop them to the floor. She didn’t need any more reminders on how much she was regretting this. The sofa was not comfortable, even her five-foot-two body felt squashed curled into the two-seater. It was going to be a long night made more difficult by the knowledge that his six-foot-four naked body was warming her sheets.

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