He says it over his shoulder and I stumble out of them quickly before he can turn around and watch me, tossing them into a little pile at the head of the tub where he can’t see the huge wet splotch. I shouldn’t be embarrassed at the signs of how turned on I am. But he’s barely done anything that could be seen as overtly sexual; so, yeah, I feel a little self-conscious at how gushy I am over a little spanking and some strutting lessons.
He turns to look at me and the blood rises to my face, I clasp my hands behind my back, in an attempt to appear confident. He takes his sweet time letting his eyes run all over my body. His eyes rest on the dark patch of curly hair. He seems to be considering, his eyes narrowing and his lips pursing. Finally, his eyes meet mine again and he holds out a hand to me. “In the tub.”
I take his hand and step into the water, sinking to sit with my chest against my knees. He grabs a galvanized pitcher and dunks it in the water, and it suddenly feels like liquid sunshine is trickling down my back. He puts light pressure against the back of my head and I let my head melt forward, resting on my knees. Warm water is poured on the crown of my head, running down my back, the sides of my face. There’s something cold on the top of my head and then his fingers are in my hair, massaging my scalp.
I feel tears coming.
It suddenly hits me that it’s been years since my body has been nurtured, loved, pampered. Don’t cry. Don’t ruin the moment. Nothing would be more unattractive than resurfacing with red eyes and a snotty nose. I hold my breath, trying to push this unexpected emotion down. I hold my breath as he rinses, conditions, rinses again. Then his hand is on my back. Just resting there, radiating warmth, care, and I can’t keep these damn tears in anymore.
Just breathe them out, breathe them out.
I draw a shaky breath and he says softly, “Lie back.”
I try to compose my face, but when I lean my back into the curve of the tub I can tell by his surprised expression that my splotchy face has given me away. I’m the queen of splotchy face.
“What is it?” He leans forward, arms over the tub rim, stroking the hair back from my temples. “Tell me.”
“It just...been...so long…” And then I have to hold my breath to keep from disintegrating.
There’s the tiniest bit of a smile on his face. His fingers continue their methodical strokes.
“So long since I felt so...cared for.” Quit blubbering! I take a breath and sink down, head under water. I hold, hold, hold until I can’t hold anymore, and then resurface and rub vigorously at my face, finding my stoicism again.
“I don’t mind tears,” Jake says quietly. He’s settled back on his haunches, hands clasped on the rim of the tub.
“Well, I do,” I sniff, arrogant.
He shakes his head. “You’ll learn.”
I look at him quizzically.
“This is part of surrender. Letting me take you apart, unravel you, and then piece you back together. You’ll get used to tears, trust me.”
“I’m not a crier. Really. Dry as West Texas.”
“Nice try.” He flicks his eyebrows up, amused. “I like a challenge.”
“It’s not a challenge,” I sniff. “Just a fact.”
“We’ll see.” He reaches over to a small butcher block that serves as a vanity and snatches a brush. Wide, wooden paddle brush. He flips it easily, casually and just as I realize that I may have him given him an invitation to try to make me cry, he instructs me to lay my head back and he starts brushing my hair with long even strokes.
I’m drifting to some place between bliss and semi-consciousness, eyes closed, when he stops and kisses my forehead. I open my eyes and he is leaning over me, smiling. “Still with me?”
I straighten and he grabs a fluffy towel from a hook on the wall, holding it wide for me while I step out of the tub. He wraps me, rubs me dry and then look around for my panties. He spies them nestled next to the tub and holds them up, looking over the dark spot. “I’m guessing you don’t want to put these back on.”
He raises an eyebrow.
He tosses them into a wicker hamper and leads me back into the workshop, where he picks up my clothes from their pile. He grimaces and says under his breath. “Messy.” He helps me back into my bra, my skirt, my top. “Hold still,” he mumbles as he works the small buttons. The concentration on his face: it’s adorable and I can’t suppress my smile.
Finishing the final button he takes me in and finds me grinning. He puts on a stern expression which I find even more irresistible. “Something funny?” He growls.
I shake my head quickly and grasp my wrists behind my waist. “No, sir.”
“Good.” He chucks me under the chin. “That’s it for today.” He hands me my purse, and opens the door for me. I step out and make my way to my car. He follows me out and turns to lock the door. I’m fumbling for my car keys when he comes up behind me. “What happened to all that work we just did?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re back to your cowboy walk.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve got places to go and people to see. I don’t have time to pussyfoot around out here,” I tease as I swing in behind the wheel.
He leans down, face all serious but delighted eyes giving him away. “Back talking, too?” He clicks out the side of his mouth. “Be careful. Don’t get into any bad habits. You try being a smart-ass in there, it will be awhile before you’re sitting comfortably.”
I salute. “No smart-assery. Yes, sir.”
He breaks, chuckles, then looks back at me. “Consider that your friendly warning.” He straightens. “Same time next week.”
I nod and he closes my door, watching me as I pull around and head out the driveway. My smart answers are a cover, passive-aggressive revenge against his nerve in getting me all revved up and then sending me off with a smirk and no way to let off the steam. I knew that sex wasn’t a given and it surprises me how let down I feel by being held off. Maybe it’s all part of his method. Maybe he’s inciting me to dare him, or maybe he was waiting for me to beg. Either way, as I pull out onto the main road, I feel like someone set a mocha mousse cake in front of me, making my mouth water, and then handed me a fork - but whisked the cake away before I could get a single bite.