Chapter TWENTY TWO
My afternoon training session runs long, with Ellerie there it's so much easier to give the cadets the chance to see the techniques in action and I'll admit, watching her do her thing in her tight neon yoga pants ain't half bad either..
Shes a bright vivacious star and of course the students take a liking to her shining personality immediately.. I'm pleased with the days progress even though it's six-fourty-five by the time the gym is cleared and it isn't untill I glance at my watch that I realise I'm running late on a promise to a friend..
Ellerie and Paxton are talking with Lacey over on the mats while I cross to where my towel hangs over the back of a chair, my phone tucked underneath.. Pulling it out I dial her number hoping she isn't too pissed off with me.. "Jay? Where are you sweetie?" Honey West answers the phone in a haughty yet teasing tone..
I try my best to sound apologetic, though I'll admit I'm more agited by the sight of Ellerie and Hunter together, than I am remorseful right now.. "Sorry Hon, training sessions ran overtime.. I'm still a half hour away, that okay?"
She laughs and the sound eases my guilt just a little... I would consider Honey as good a friend as West, and the idea of letting her down doesn't entirely sit right with me.. "Yeah, I figured with little-miss-sunshine joining us today you'd be extra distracted.."
I groan, not her too.. I really don't need more lectures about my dating life, especially since her husband had already beaten her to it..
I'm already trying to do better.. To be better.. And part of being better would probably include being supportive of her in her decisions, whatever they may be.. Even when I don't necessarily agree..
"Its no problem, though Alex can't wait to see her favourite uncle, just get here when you can, Jay.." As if she senses my mood she shifts the topic seamlessly..
"I'll be there soon.." I disconnect the call, my attention drawn to the commotion now kicking off across the gym.. Heated words between the remaining trio, my eyes follow Lacey's frustrated movements as she throws her hands up, shaking a finger at her brother before storming out of the gym..
I cross over to where he and Ellerie stand, stunned.. "Uh, what's going on guys?"
Paxton's eyes darken and Ellerie just shakes her head.. Neither of them speaks.. I look between the two of them.. Pressing on for an answer.. "What happened to Lacey?"
Paxton whirls around to glare at me, his tone biting.. "None of your god-damned business, Ford.."
Ellerie attempts to diffuse the tension, trying to step in between us but I hold up a hand to stop her.. If he has a problem with me, he can say it now, better to have it all out in the open, rather than pretending that we aren't all in some weird as fuck dynamic..
I fold my arms across my chest, responding calmly keeping my voice low and steady.. Loosing my cool wouldn't most definitely be a mistake right now.. Even if I would like to sock him right in the jaw.. "Axe.. This is my class, and Lacey is my student.." His shoulders square as his nostrils flare.. I have no idea what has him so worked up, but I do know that Lacey has shown huge improvements, progressing in leaps and bounds over the last few weeks, and not once in all that time have I seen her behave the way she did just now..
"She shouldn't even fucking be here.." Paxton scoffs..
I turn to Ellerie, confused.. I have no idea what has caused this reaction from Hunter, but clearly a nerve has been struck..
Ellerie makes her own attempt to calm him down.. "Axe.. I think she needs this.."
His fists clench and unclench at his sides before he turns his back on us both, wheeling around with a frustrated grunt, striding off towards the locker room..
Ellerie watches him leave a little shocked before she turns back to me.. I hold up my hands.. I was trying my best with the guy... Its not my fault he's a dickhead..
At the same time, I kinda feel bad for the guy, just trying to look out for his sister..
"Lacey is a good student.. I don't get it, why shouldn't she be here?"
Ellerie chews her lip nervously..
Fuck, she's cute..
It's hard to stay focused on the conversation when she's making that pouty face..
"I don't think it's just about Lacey, Jax.. Not entirely.." She sighs..
I reach out and take her hand, giving it a supportive squeeze and tossing her a knowing look.. "No shit, Sunshine.."
She groans , sounding a little frustrated with herself.. "I've fucked this all up..
I shake my head.. As far as I'm concerned, she hasn't anything wrong.. As shitty and jealous as Paxton makes me, she seems to see some redeeming qualities in the guy.. I have not idea what they are.. But, I don't want to be the one to stand in the way of her finding out what she really wants..
Maybe I've already done that long enough..
Still, I want her to know I'm not going anywhere.. I've already waited this long, and I sure as shit won't be scared off by the likes of Paxton.. "Nah, sunshine.. You'll figure it out.."
I just hope when she does figure it out, that the answer is me..
Now that we're alone in the gym, a silence falls over the huge empty space and she leans into my chest, wrapping her arms tightly around my waist, her cheek resting against my heartbeat.. I can smell the delicious sweet and salty mixture of her sweat and perfume as I trace my fingers down her spine.. "I'm so confused, Jax.."
I lean back to look down at her, her sparking emerald eyes stare back into mine, lost.. "I know baby.."
She lifts up on her tip toes to press a soft, warm kiss against my lips.. A low hum escaping her throat.. "Mmm.."
She drops back down, looking up at me, apologetic.. "I--um--told Hunter I'd have dinner with him tonight.. But now.. Well, I don't know.." Her words are like a dagger in my chest, but I keep my expression as neutral as possible..
I have to be better than that.. I won't guilt or pressure her into choosing me.. She casts a glance over to the locker room.. "Maybe I should check on him?"
I grit my teeth, nodding, even though it goes against every instinct I have... "Sure.. If you think it'll help.. I gotta head out anyway, I got a date with the cutest babe!"
She frowns, clearly assuming the worst and I laugh.. Teasing her is fun, ill have to remember just how easy it is to wind her up.. "Baby Alex.. Honey demanded West take her on a date, so I've been relegated to role of babysitter for the evening.." I explain and her expression softens..
"Oh, okay now that's adorable!"