The Keys to Jericho

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Chapter 13

Monday morning, I show up to the construction with the Nissan. I immediately scan the yard for Kat, already missing the look of intent concentration on her face when she didn’t know I was staring. Straight-up torture. Instead of watching how she hugged the curb, I watched how her pink tank top hugged her tits. When I should’ve been paying attention to her steering or backing out of a parking space, the fringe on her jean shorts clinging to her thighs had me dangerously preoccupied. Putting my hand on hers to shift gears came close to me moving her hand to my dick. I had to keep moving around in my seat so she wouldn’t see the boner I had for her.

I don’t kiss females. They kiss me, but when I don’t return the gesture, they give up, often complaining. Kat is different. I want to kiss her, yet I don’t.

Not only do I imagine tasting her mouth, but I also fantasize about tasting her pussy—something I haven’t done to anyone before, never having that inclination to do it. Yet, I crave hers. I’m more fucked-up than I thought.

Walking over to Tony’s van, where Dash is leaning against it, he grins. “What’s up, Jericho?”

Frowning, I stop a few feet in front of him. “You’re really talking to me? That’s ballsy.” I cross my arms, glaring at Dash as I do. “And by the way, next time you steal my damn car, don’t touch my fucking stereo. I hate Sesame Street music.”

He rolls his eyes with a smirk. “It was R&B.”

“Does that stand for repulsive and bothersome?”

“To each his own.” Dash points with his chin to the street. “What’s with the ride? Your dad ground you and take away your Charger?”

“Yeah, just like when you used to be grounded, you had to polish your mom’s stripper pole for a week.”

“Nope. Muhammad, that one-eyed guy with the patch and the misspelled Jane Austen quote tattooed on his forearm, did it after closing. How could you forget him?”

I shake my head as I peer around the yard. “It was a Steve Austin tattoo, dumbass.”

“Oh, yeah. Steve.” He laughs, and as I continue searching around, he asks, “You looking for a stray Kat?”

I give him another debatable look. “Where is she? I’m taking her to get her learner’s permit this morning.”

Dash nods, grinning, which only makes his face light up more. “She told me you offered to help her. I couldn’t even believe it. That’s… That’s rather nice of you.”

I frown at his gratified smile. “I’m not some kind of evil tyrant.”

“Yeah, but you weren’t exactly happy to run into her.” Lange catches my attention, waving, so I wave back and pull at my cap’s bill. Dash snaps his fingers. “Oh. I’ll have the key to the beach house Thursday. Rio will meet us there later in the afternoon since he has to work, but Liberty won’t be able to make it until Friday.”

“What a shame.”

He switches to a sunny frown if that’s possible. “Be nice to her like you are to Kat. I don’t want you and Rio fighting the whole time. Or you and Liberty. Let’s have fun.”

Crossing my arms again, I shrug. “I probably should just stay home.”

Dash steps closer, pounding his fist into his hand. “No! We’ll fish to catch nothing. We’ll start lame bonfires. We’ll roast shitty marshmallows. We’ll watch damn fireworks. We’re going to have a motherfucking good time, whether you like it or not!”

Even though I frown, I want to laugh at his fuming face because it reminds me of an angry kitten. “Jesus. What’s wrong with you?”

“You’re not ruining our trip by staying here and pouting. We might not get to do this next year!”

I can’t keep from laughing anymore. “Not true, Calder. I’ll come back to shove you into the ocean. I live for it.”

Appearing to be somewhat pacified, Dash suggests, “Why don’t you bring Kat?”

My scowl returns, turning up five notches. “What the fuck for?” There are so many reasons Kat can’t be there, most of them involving hugging her tits myself, and that can’t happen. Even if I’ve had meaningless sex all my life, Kat is different, and that intimidates me. As much as I desperately want to fuck her, finally squelching that long-burning fire, I don’t want more than a one-time thing. Ultimately, it’s just another opportunity to open myself up to more humiliation.

“You know there are plenty of rooms… or she can share yours.” He grins. Asshole.

“I swear if you invite her, after I run you over with my car, I’ll throw you off the goddamn Chesapeake Bridge.”

He puts up his hands, laughing, always pushing my boundaries. “Okay. Okay. I promise I won’t invite her. Get a grip, Jericho. I’m picking you up, so if I have her with me, that would be obvious and idiotic.”

“Unless you want your nuts used as a floatation device.”

He flinches, and seeing Kat walking out of the construction, I walk over with Dash trailing behind. He’s a tenacious bastard, that’s for sure.

She smiles. “Good morning, Dash. Jared.” She listened to me. With her now-brown eyes shining at me, I gape at her. Those are the eyes on my mind every fucking day since my last day of school.

Dash puts his arm over her shoulders. “Good morning, Merrick. Jericho was just saying how he’s schooling you on how to shift his gears. Way to go.”

Giggling, Kat nudges Dash as I give him a dirty look. Turning to her, I ask, “Ready?” She nods, and I notice Dash squeezing her shoulder. We walk to the car, leaving me somewhat unsettled by his unspoken words to her. Hasn’t he heard a fucking thing I’ve said about not getting involved with her? Is he trying to fill the void of my sister leaving? Either way, that kind of treachery would be the end of it for me.

I clear my throat. “Did you bring all the paperwork they’ll need?”

“Here in my purse. I even studied the rules and road signs you gave me until 2:00 a.m.”

I open the passenger door for her and force a smirk. “Good because I’ll quiz you on the way there.” That earns me a pout.

Keeping my promise, I shoot questions to Kat, which she answers all but two correctly. Not wanting her to be discouraged, I explain why she got them wrong and then ask another round, rewording the questions she answered wrong, and she gets them all correct. Satisfaction fills me.

However, once we get to the MVA, all of our good optimism falls flat.

“You mean I can’t get a full-fledged driver’s license until I take a driver’s ed. course? But I took a driver’s ed. class in high school!”

The gray-haired clerk’s beady eyes fly up and down Kat’s face, and then to her paperwork. “Not recently.”

“So, I have to retake it?”

“Yes. A minimum of thirty hours of classroom instruction and six hours behind-the-wheel instruction training are required before you can graduate to a provisional license, which is a probationary license.”

“I thought… I have to spend my time in a classroom for a month?” She looks at me with massive disappointment, and there’s nothing I can do.

“It’s just an hour a day, and it’ll be more than a month since the schools only meet certain days of the week, Monday through Friday, minus holidays.” He slides sheets of paper to her, tapping on them. “You’ll also need to complete a practice skills log, listing a minimum of sixty hours of supervised behind-the-wheel driving—ten of those needing to occur after sunset, but before sunrise. After those are all completed, then you can take the driving test to obtain your provisional license, holding that for eighteen months before an official driver’s license can be issued.”

Shit. I royally fucked this up. When the clerk walks to the counter behind him to get another form, I whisper, “I’m sorry, Kat.” She woodenly stares at the papers spread out in front of her.

After she took her permit test and didn’t smile for her picture, she doesn’t say much as we leave the building.

Before getting in the car, I rattle the keys over the roof. “Wanna drive?”

Her eyes wide, she disappears into the car. I sigh up to the sky and then get in, hoping she’s not giving up. Not on my watch.

Leaving the parking lot, I ask, “What do we do now? Go back to your mom’s?” She shrugs. “Come on, Kit Kat. I’m still going to help you.”

“Why bother? I have to complete sixty hours of driving before I’m eligible to get my damn probationary license. My real license is over a year and a half away.”

“So?”

When I look at her, she’s tracing her fingers on the door. “You won’t even be here.” I don’t even know how I feel about leaving yet. It’s still a while away.

“You can always take a picture of you holding each one and send them to me.”

“You might forget about me again.”

“No, I won’t. I’ve never forgotten about you.” She has no fucking idea.

Kat stares out the window, not attempting to reply. When the silence reaches two blocks, I reach over, brushing my fingers down her arm, feeling her soft skin. She suddenly whips her head to me. Did she just get as turned on as I did? With the air from the open window blowing her brown and purple hair into her face and onto her mouth, I have to fight the urge to move it away, just so I can touch her lips.

I look back to the road, then to her, and that’s when I see her brown eyes glistening, but she only keeps them on me for a second before she looks to the seat. Touching her arm again, I say, “I have nowhere else to be for over a month, and neither do you. You’ll drive every day for a couple of hours. It’ll be okay. We have time.”

“Yesterday, you said we don’t have much time.”

“I was just kidding.”

“Well, this just proves you were right again. Now, I have to take the fucking class all over! I’ll need a ride there, which is again, putting you out of your way.”

“It’s not.” I smile, hoping it makes her smile, but she doesn’t. “It won’t be so bad.”

She appears to contemplate that when she abruptly giggles. “Maybe I’ll meet a really hot classmate, or maybe the instructor will rev my engine.”

“Huh?” Stopping at a red light, I tear my eyes from the road.

She eagerly nods, tilting her head. “This situation could work to my advantage, don’t you think? This sounds better and better, so thank you for being right again.”

Gawking at her for all the wrong reasons, the actuality of that possible development sets in. Oh, hell, no.

“Let’s get one thing straight. I won’t be your mobile dating service or your chauffeur for your… dates.” I practically growl the last word. “If that’s your hope, then forget about me helping you. Ask one of those fuckers to drive you around.”

Kat stares at me, her mouth gaping in surprise? Horror?

She then erupts with laughter, clapping her hands together and hiding her mouth behind them.

The light turns green and utterly confused about her reaction, I ask, “What?”

She says a muffled, “I thought your head would pop off.”

I scowl. “Well, I’m serious.”

“I know you are,” she says, her smile overflowing from behind her joined hands.

“Okay…”

Seemingly content for some reason, she sits back, still smiling. “I’m hungry. Let’s have lunch. My treat.” When I don’t answer, she mockingly asks, “What’s wrong? Do you have somewhere else to be? Like a date?”

I spontaneously laugh. “You’re mouthy.”

“And you’re not?”

“I’m sweeter than sugar-coated bee crack.”

“Sugar what? Honey?”

“Did you just call me honey?”

“Uh, no. I did not use a comma.”

I grin, not knowing why, but it seems to liven my mood. “You just called me honey.”

“You’re dreaming, Jericho. There. I used a comma that time.”

I still laugh as I pull into the deli Dash and I frequent. When we’re seated, and we order our drinks, I ask, “What’s up with the purple hair?”

“I wanted something different, and I just said fuck it.”

“That’s quite a bold fuck it.”

She twists a strand near her ear, mesmerizing me with the insignificant action. “It’s just a summer thing. I’ll get rid of the purple before school starts. I don’t want to start some kind of revolution with my third-graders. They’ll look like Rainbow Brite dolls.”

“Oh, yeah. Hadley had those. Ugly damn things. I threw the fluffy red one she had into a toilet. Unfortunately, I had to be the one to fish it out.”

Kat laughs, which makes me laugh at the memory.

“That wasn’t very nice of you.”

“It’s probably not one I’d submit for an award.”

Laughing again, Kat asks, “So, are you excited about your new job?”

I feign a put-on frown. “You didn’t call me honey.”

She smiles back. “Are you excited about your new job, honey?”

A huge grin returns to my face as I crumple up my napkin and bat it between my hands. “Not really. It’s a job. I’m more excited about getting you back on the road.”

She looks down at her menu. “That’s dumb.”

“Why? It’s true.”

“You shouldn’t be excited about teaching me to drive. You have better things you could do.”

“Like?”

“Sleeping in. Spending time with your dad. Fishing with Dash. Visiting Rio. Dating.”

“I can still do all those things, except sleeping in, but I’ve been going to bed earlier, so I don’t need to sleep in.”

She peers up from her menu. “You haven’t been fishing with Dash.”

“But I did with Finn. Dash has been busy, too, so it’s not a big deal.” Untangling tassels takes forever.

“You don’t see Rio all that much.”

“Rio is always with Liberty. Hell, they even work together, and they’re still together on the weekends.”

“So?”

“Doesn’t he need air?”

“Maybe he’s happy.”

“With her?”

“Liberty’s nice and really funny. She thinks you hate her.”

“She’s not one of my favorite people.”

“Who would be on that list?” Kat bites her lip to hide her twitching smile.

I don’t fight mine. “It’s top secret.”

She puts her bottom lip out, which makes me want to take it into my mouth. “I’m good with secrets.” Her brown-eyed gaze pierces me, and I almost want to confess to crimes I never committed.

I lean over my menu, which causes Kat to drift over hers, and I whisper, “So am I.”

Rolling her eyes, she sits back in a huff. “Aren’t you dating anyone?”

I squeeze the balled napkin in my hand. “No. Why?”

She folds her arms together on the table. “I’m just asking, as a friend would.”

“I don’t really date, so no. Are you dating anyone and just aren’t talking about him?” Fuck. Please, say no.

She pauses when the waitress stops to deliver our drinks and to take our orders. When she leaves, Kat finally answers, “I haven’t dated anyone since Jed. We were married for two years, and it ended two years ago.”

You haven’t dated anyone since?” Reaching for my drink, I lick my dry lips and ask the question I’m afraid, yet eager to ask. “Why?” I take a long sip of my tea, so I don’t look like a fucking lizard in a desert.

She shrugs, and her eyes smile before her lips do. “I guess I’m waiting for Mr. Right.”

Trying not to look too absorbed in her answer, I say, “Maybe you should’ve mentioned that yesterday when I was right all damn day.”

“You’re probably right. A day late and a dollar short, as usual.”

I shift again, needing the throbbing to subside, but it doesn’t. Fuck me. Every conversation and touch I have with her get me torqued.

What just happened?

I swing our conversation back to the rules of the road. It seems to be safer.

After lunch, I take her to the vacant lot, where she practices getting more at ease with the accelerator and shifting gears on her own. This time, I succeed in staying focused. Almost. I didn’t stare at her body as much since our conversation at lunch was on my mind.

As I pull out of the lot, I ask, “Where to?”

Kat looks at her watch. “If you could drop me at my apartment, that’d be good. I’m having dinner with Dash tonight. Why don’t you join us?”

“Oh. No, thanks.” That jackass had better watch it.

“Are you sure? He’d want you there.”

“I think I’ve had my fill of him for the time being, but thanks. I’ll see what my dad is up to tonight.” Another mind-numbing dinner on deck for me. Fuck Calder.

“Maybe after driving, you and I could grab some dinner tomorrow night if you don’t have plans?”

Surprised and trying not to show it, I nod. “My schedule’s wide open.” She smiles, and I’m drawn to her lips. I hope she doesn’t notice how much I fucking stare at them.

“Cool. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.”

We sit in silence, looking at each other, waiting for the other to fill the space between us, but I don’t know what to say.

“You never did say anything about my eyes.”

I uneasily laugh, looking at the floor. “I… They’re… They’re just as I remember them.” They’re the fucking most beautiful sight.

She whispers, “Is that a good thing?”

Unthinkingly, I look into them and confess, “Very.”

She giggles, raptly looking into mine. “That’s… good. Thank you… Again.”

“Stop thanking me.”

“Okay. Night, Sonic.”

“Night, Kit Kat. You didn’t even call me honey.”

Laughing as she opens the door, Kat looks at me before leaving. “Goodnight, honey.”

Damn.

Shutting the door, she walks around the car to her porch steps, smiling at me and waving before disappearing next to her one-car garage.

I don’t know whether to press on or pull away.

Only if my fucking life came with a handbook.

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