You drive home with your body on autopilot and your mind swimming.. Hunter's kiss still tingling on your lips.. And you feel like you're making the same foolish mistakes all over again..
When will you learn that sleeping with your boss is a terrible fucking idea?!
First you had been seduced by Elijah and his lies.. You're biggest mistake..
Then you fall into bed with Ford and his mysterious appeal.. Who, wasn't a mistake.. At least you don't want him to be..
And now you're kissing Hunter Paxton.. Who, well you have no idea what he is..
But you can't deny you are curious about the guy..
After all.. He seems more open to a relationship.. Maybe something could develop there..
Or maybe he just wants something..
One thing, mainly..
You make your way up the path towards your apartment, tiny puffs of fog rising in the frosty night air with each breath you take.. Your keys jingle as you bounce them in your hand, lost in thought.. So lost in thought, that you don't notice Ford leaning against the front door untill he speaks.. "Hey.."
You startle, wobbling in your heels and tripping up the bottom step, keeling headfirst towards the ground..
Jackson lunges forward, catching you in his thick muscular arms, your chest colliding with his, all the breath leaving your lungs on impact.. "Shit, sorry sunshine.. I didn't mean to scare you.."
Of course he didn't, and he probably thinks you're going insane because you've been so on edge and acting so jumpy lately.. Not because of him.. Sure he pissed you off a little.. But mostly it's because of your own bullshit..
You take in the sight of him, dark tousled locks, perfectly fitted dark denim jeans and a plain white t-shirt.. A red and grey sports coat covers his broad sculpted shoulders.. "No, no it's okay.. I was just.. Distracted.."
You straighten up, taking a step to the side trying to put some distance between you, you cant think properly with him standing so close, looking so good, with his hands wrapped around your waist.. "It's been a long day, you know?"
He gives you a sweet, sympathetic half smile.. His deep brown eyes filled with apprehension.. In fact, its now you notice that everything about the way he's standing, the way he's looking at you is open and honest..
You pause.. "Jax? Is everything alright?..You look--" He reaches out and takes your hand, making you suddenly aware of the fact that your nervous engegy had you jingling your keys again..
A silence falls over the stoop..
The street is quiet and deserted around you..
"I know you told me not to come back.." His eyes fall to the oversized jacket you're wearing.. Paxton's jacket.. If he is jealous, he doesn't show it, instead his eyes move right back to yours, sweet and sincere.. "You were right to do that.."
You don't feel like that's true at all.. You had been hurt, and acted impulsively, something you had been trying to work on since the whole mess at you're last job.. You thought you had it under control..
Well, untill Jackson came along at least..
You step forward, shaking your head.. "Jax, No.."
He squeezes your hand, stilling and silencing you.. He speaks with such intent you can tell he has something he wants to say.. So you let him say what he needs.. "Yeah, you were.. I was being a total asshole.." He licks his lips nervously and your eyes are immediately drawn to his full pouty mouth.. "I was wrong to leave, Ellerie.. Its just.. There's something wrong with me.."
You look back up into his eyes, eyes that have clouded with sadness.. Your chest aches.. "What do you mean, something wrong?" You don't understand..
You know that he is still suffering the grief of his fiancé's loss.. But, that was never a deal breaker for you.. You know that everybody processes pain differently and you only wish there was more you could do to help..
"Ever since I got out of the Marines.. I, Ah.. I don't sleep.. Not properly anyway.. And when I do, its like I'm back there.."
Your heart aches for him.. He's so strong, so stoic.. Keeping everything locked away, punishing himself for things beyond his control.. You never truely stopped to think about the things that made him that way..
And the ongoing torment that so many soilders face after returning from war.. You knew about Daliha because.. Well, everybody at Specter knows..And Iris had told you an abridged version of the story when your first started there..
You also know that he too, nearly died on that tour.. You've seen the silver star shaped scars on his chest, only an inch from his heart, where the bullets pierced his flesh.. His survival is nothing short of a miracle and you can't imagine the pain he must have experienced.. "Oh.. Jackson.. That's okay.. You don't have to stay here.. I just thought--"
He pulls you closer.. "No, sunshine.. You don't understand, baby.. I want to.." He blows out a breath, the fog rises and dissapates as fast as it appears l, his eyes searching yours.. Your own breath is frozen in your chest.. "Shit.. You have no idea how badly I want to.. I just don't know if I can trust myself.. Ellerie, if I hurt you.."
You lean into him, wrapping your arms around his waist, fingers splaying across his well toned back.. You press your cheek against his granite-like chest while he drops a soft kiss on the top of your head.. "You won't hurt me, Soilder.. I know you won't.."
You lean back to look up at him with a smile..
He gazes down at you with admiration.. When he speaks, his voice is strained, as he struggles to find the right words to express himself.. "Ellerie, that thing I said.. You know, after we.." He shakds his head in shame..
You immediately know the 'thing' to which he's referring.. When he told you he couldn't love you after you first slept together..
And you had pretended that it was fine..
Like an idiot..
Even then, he was at least trying to be honest..
"You mean, when you said you could never love me?" He has the good sense to look guilty even though he half smiles at your directness..
"I don't believe that's true any more.." His eyes never leave yours as the beat of your heart accelerates rapidly..
You lean into him, inhaling his intoxicating blackberry fragrance.. "So.. Do you want to come inside?"
He nods earnestly with adoring eyes.. "If you'll have me, sunshine.."
You turn back to the door, fitting the key into the lock with a joyful boyancey rising in your chest.. Everything he's saying is what you've been dying to hear.. So you ignore the niggling voice in the back of your head thats screaming at you to tell him about Paxton and the kiss..
"I'll allow it.." You joke as you push through the door, your laughter quickly extinguished by the sight of your overturned, ransacked apartment..
"Oh my god.." The living room looks as though a hurricane had passed through it, you gasp in shock at the broken pieces of furniture and shattered picture frames..
Jackson steps through the door behind you, pulling a black pistol from his side, his focused gaze sweeping the scene.. "You got your glock?"
You shake your head as you shrug out of Paxton's jacket, letting it fall to the floor and reading yourself for a fight if necessary..
You don't generally make a habit of carring a weapon unless you absolutely need to, since your hand to hand combat skills had always outshone your marksmanship skills..
Apparently you're going to have to rethink that policy..
He pulls out a second, smaller side piece and hands it to you.. You take it, flicking the safety off and nodding him the signal that you're ready to search the apartment..
He makes a two fingered motion, directing you to check the kitchen while he heads up the hallway checking the rooms.. You nod and make your way through the dark apartment quietly, slipping into the kitchen..
The kitchen draws have been pulled from their tracks, their contents spilled across the floor.. Broken dishes and glasses lay all around, the fridge has been emptied onto the tiles and the door left hanging open, the faint glow of its light pooling on the floor..
But there is nobody here..
"Clear!" You shout out to Jackson, pushing the refrigerator door closed before making your way out to the living room..
He calls back.. "Clear!" You lower the pistol as he emerges from the hallway, holstering his weapon, concern etched into his chiseled features.. "You alright?"
You flick the safety on and tuck the pistol into your waistband.. Looking around at the mess, you scratch you're head.. The shock setting in a little now that the adreneline has passed.. You're eyes glaze over, as the room tilts.. Your home, your beautiful apartment.. Trashed.."Uhm.. Yeah.. Yeah, I think so.."
He crosses the room briskly, placing a large, warm hand on your shoulder.. "Ellerie.. Look at me.. I know about Elijah.. And the photos.."
You jerk out of the haze and slowly turn to look up at him.. "H-how?.."
"You've been acting so.. Not yourself, and.. You're too important to me.. I just.. I needed to make sure you weren't in any danger.. I'm sorry.. But, you can't stay here anymore, baby.. Please.. Its not safe.."
You don't even have it in you to be mad that he has obviously been keeping tabs on you somehow, because you can't get past the fact that he just admitted you were important to him..
And, yeah.. He's definitely right.. You don't want to stay here!
The photos had been one thing.. But this.. This is somebody trying to make a point.. And you fear you know who..
You nod, as you begin to pace across the floor your mind racing, broken glass crunching beneath your heels.. "Yeah, you're right.. I could.. Maybe call Yevie.. She probably would mind if I--"
He steps forward.. "Or.. You could stay with me.."
You freeze.. "Stay with you?"
You turn back to face him as he takes another step towards you..
"I get that you can take care of yourself and don't need to me to rescue you.. But please baby, let me help you..." Just his words are enough to calm your racing pulse..
Knowing he cares and that he has paid so much attention to the things that are important to you melts away any of the residual anger you might have had towards him.. You nod slowly.. "Okay.."