The last person I thought I’d see here was Jasper. At first, I thought I was hallucinating. Maybe this man wasn’t Jasper but someone else and I’d imagined it to be him—my knight in shining armor. He’d been on my mind since the last two weeks. He was nice enough to give me his number but never made an effort to contact me after that day he’d paid my house a visit. I assumed Jasper didn’t want to be a friend anymore, and yet here he was again, glowering down at me. He moved with a confident swagger; like that of a cat. He was dressed in a long trench coat. His t-shirt hugged his toned body, and the jeans fit him to perfection. The coat had his initials embroidered on it:‘JL’. The outfit matched his black boots. He looked like a dark fallen angel created to lure innocent women into committing grave sins.
“Care to explain what the hell was going on there?” He growled, his eyes watching me like a hawk. I didn’t miss the way his eyes dropped down to my heels and slowly moved up my body.
I flinched from the tone of his voice. “I was just working here as an exotic dancer.”
Jasper’s eyes widened in surprise. “Exotic dancer? So you were going to take off your remaining clothes and slow dance naked on the pole in front of a bunch of my friends?!”
“I didn’t know you were with them!” I said in my defense as if that explained anything at all.
Jasper gave out a bitter laugh. “You think if it weren’t me or my friends, it makes dancing naked on the pole any better? Is that what you’re telling me?”
My lower lip trembled. Why was he acting like such an asshole?
“Answer me, Kiara.” He urged me to go on.
“I...I didn’t have a choice!” I replied.
“What happened to the waitress job?” he asked me, almost too calmly, but I could read his expressions. He was beyond irate.
“I’d only considered stripping as part-time, and it wasn’t like I was really planning on going naked.”
He motioned his hand towards my barely-there clothing. “You’re practically already naked. There’s nothing left to the imagination to be very honest. For fuck’s sake, cover yourself, Kiara!” Jasper said through gritted teeth. He took off his coat and pushed it into my arms forcefully. “Wear this right now,” he commanded.
The way Jasper said it, I was forced to slip my arms inside his coat. I stood there, both of us staring at each other. I could smell his musky perfume on me now. Tears teetered my vision. Jasper didn’t have any right to say any of this. He wasn’t my boyfriend or my father! How could he be so harsh?
“Why do you even care?” I asked before I could even stop myself.
“I do. I care if you’re going to be working in a strip club baring your ass out for other men to see. Do you understand me?”
“I’m not even your girlfriend,” I whispered to myself.
“What did you say?”
“I don’t know why you’re angry or acting like a damn alpha, because the last time I checked, you never texted me or came to visit the restaurant in two weeks. And now you barge into the club, watch me getting undressed for your friends, and demand answers. How’s that fair?”
He got hold of my chin and forced me to make eye contact. “I was trying to stay away from you for your own good.”
I didn’t know what he meant by that. His fingers grazed my cheek, “You don’t understand, Jasper. I need the money. I had no other choice.”
“You could have asked me. I told you to call me if you needed help.”
“I can’t take your money!”
“Yes, you can and you will. Damn your pride. That’s what friends do; they help each other,” Jasper said. “Text me your bank account details, and I’ll have some money transferred.”
I shrugged. “But I can’t repay the money soon. I need time.”
Jasper sighed. “I don’t need you to repay me at all.”
“I can’t do that!”
But Jasper wasn’t listening to another word; he’d ignored every word I’d said. “Now, you will tell Ronnie that there’s a problem and that you won’t be able to work here anymore. Okay?”
“What excuse do I give him?”
“Tell him your boyfriend doesn’t like it.”
I laughed. “But you’re not my boyfriend, Jasper.”
A small wicked smile played on his lips. He leaned into my ear, and in a silky voice he said, “We could change that if you want.”
Jasper was just so unpredictable. I’d never met a man like him before. He could be soft and gentle at times, flirty and attractive the next, and then you wouldn’t even notice that he was showing you his dark side. He was the type that sent a chill down my spine; so very possessive and intimidating that you’d start to wonder if he was even the same person. Jasper buttoned the trench coat all the way up. It was ironic because now, not even a bit of my skin was exposed. If I’d left the coat open, I might have ended up looking like a posh hooker. The coat went past my knees.
I recited the same excuse Jasper insisted I should to Ronnie, and he insisted that he wanted to see my boyfriend. He obviously thought I was making excuses for bailing on my job tonight. I led him out of the club, and true to his word, Jasper stood by the club entrance waiting for us. A cab was parked near the curb on standby.
I saw Ronnie’s expressions change when he saw Jasper. It seemed like they knew each other. Jasper opened the passenger side of the cab and told me to sit inside while he had a chat with Ronnie. I did as I was told because I’d realized that arguing with Jasper didn’t get me anywhere, especially when he was not in a good mood.
I slid the window down, but I wasn’t within earshot. I tried to listen to bits of the conversation, but all I could see was Ronnie trying to avoid eye contact and Jasper towering over him while speaking. I managed to hear the last part.
“If you call her again, Ron, and if you try to push her into stripping for you again, I swear to you, I’ll burn down this entire place. That’s a promise. You already know I make good on my promises.”
I watched Ronnie nod his head and apologize. Jasper said something to him again, and then Ronnie stormed back inside the club. Jasper walked back to the taxi and settled in beside me.
“Your friends are inside the club,” I reminded him.
“I didn’t really care about coming here in the first place, but I’m glad I decided to tag along today.”
I took his hand in mine and squeezed it. “You keep helping me every time, Jasper. I don’t even know how to thank you.”
“Don’t, Kiara.” Jasper turned to face me, taking both my hands in his. “I’m not really a good guy.”
I shook my head. “You’re the first person who’s ever cared to look out for me, and it means more than I can tell.”
Jasper wasn’t listening. His attention was somewhere else. He touched the button of the trench coat I was wearing and unbuttoned the top one, followed by the few below that. He opened the coat all the way down to my bare stomach but made no attempt at removing the coat off my shoulders. He continued to stare at me, his eyes heavy with what I assumed was desire. I felt my cheeks warm, and my stomach began flipping.
Even with him being as bold as unbuttoning the coat and staring at me, I didn’t feel uncomfortable; just the contrary. I squeezed my thighs together as I felt heat pool between my legs.
“Forgive me for interrupting you, Kiara,” he said in a low husky voice. “I want to confess to you what I’ve been thinking since I saw you on that stage today.”
“What were you thinking?”
“That you look like a goddess out of a mythical book,” he said, flicking his gaze towards the front of the taxi where the driver was. Jasper pulled down the partition screen for privacy. “That lingerie looks perfect on you.”
“Thanks.” I was becoming giddy. I wanted him to kiss me and put his hands all over me; just do anything to help free me of this need that was building inside me.
He traced his finger on my bottom lip. “Do you know why I was so angry earlier?”
“Why?” I felt like I was losing myself in those smoldering blue eyes.
“It wasn’t because of you. I loved what I saw, but I hated that those other men were looking at you too. It just made me so fucking mad,” he explained, now caressing my jaw. His fingers dipped further down towards my collarbone.
“I...I understand,” I managed to say.
“No, you don’t, precious. You don’t understand a damn thing,” he said, smiling, and I loved how he called me precious. “I’m saying I wanted to climb up there on the stage, tear your clothes off, and fuck you right in front of all those men who were looking at you to show them that you were mine.”
I was rendered speechless by his boldness. He continued. “And I’m sorry for having these thoughts, but I can’t control what I think, and I didn’t mean to be rude to you earlier.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
Jasper slid his arm around my waist and pulled me closer until I was sitting partly in his lap. He leaned in and drew my mouth to his almost too urgently like he’d been waiting patiently for this moment. He kissed me slowly at first, his tongue seeking entrance into my mouth. I opened up just a bit, and we kissed deeply; his tongue coiled around mine deliciously, and his fingers slid beneath the cami and traced the skin just below the swell of my breasts. His fingers traced my nipples over the dress. My skin was burning with urgency. I moaned, raking my fingers through his soft curly locks. Jasper palmed my breast and squeezed it gently.
“Jasper!” I whispered. I sneaked a glance at the driver. “He’ll see us.”
Jasper shook his head. “He can’t. I put the screen up, sweetheart.” He claimed my lips again, this time with a fiercer passion, pulling me closer to his chest. I could feel his manhood pressing against me, but suddenly, his fingers stopped the caress, leaving me wanting more.
Why did he stop?
He pressed a chaste kiss on my lips and placed me back on the seat beside him; both of us panting from the passionate kiss. “Your house is here,” he whispered, “I’ll text you, okay?”
I nodded, although there was a heaviness in my heart that I couldn’t describe. I didn’t want to leave him. He was literally a woman’s wet dream.
Jasper looked at me, his eyes mysterious beneath those long lashes as the shadow of the moonlight lingered on his handsome face. “Can you promise me something, Kiara?”
“What is it?”
“Don’t ever go to that club again, baby. I don’t like it. You’re not like those other women; you’re special,” he said, taking my hand in his as he kissed my knuckles softly like a true gentleman. “And if you need help with anything at all, I’m always here for you. Okay?”
“Thanks. I feel better just knowing you’d do that for me,” I said sincerely as I reached for my purse to pay the taxi fare, but Jasper waved my hand away. I wouldn’t listen to a word because he’d already done enough for me; so much that I was almost ashamed that I was so helpless. This time I didn’t let him pay no matter how much he tried to convince me to let it go.
He chuckled and muttered at how stubborn I was. “Goodnight, Kiara.”
I stepped out of the cab and then stopped, remembering something. “Your coat?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I have your blazer jacket with me from the other day, and now I’m taking your coat. Looks like I’m going to have to make a new wardrobe for your jackets.”
Jasper chuckled. “You can keep it, sweetheart. Make a collection out of it. I don’t mind.”
* * *
Mom was already peeking out the window when I entered the house. It was past midnight, and I didn’t think she would be even up at this hour. I was pretty sure she’d witnessed the little conversation outside without having any idea what we were talking about.
And she proved me right by saying, “I don’t trust that boy, Kiara.”
She hadn’t asked me what I had been doing out so late or why I was wearing an excessive amount of makeup or why I was dressed like I’d just spent a few hours in a rich guy’s penthouse because it didn’t matter as long as I brought home money. I knew she cared about me, but it didn’t matter where money was concerned.
“Why would you say that?”
“There seems to be something off about him, some type of darkness that I can’t explain. He is....” She trailed off. “He just doesn’t seem normal.”
“You asked me how I met him. Two weeks ago, I was closing the restaurant when I went out the back door to throw the trash, and a man tried to assault me. Jasper saved me from something awful happening, Mom. He’s a good man, and I don’t doubt that,” I said. I could feel my entire body twisting with the memory of that day and how I’d have been ruined if he hadn’t been there on time.
“I just want you to be careful, honey,” she said calmly. “He seemed nice that day when he visited our home, but as soon as we asked him a few questions, he was evasive.”
“Maybe he doesn’t like to discuss his personal life. Maybe he’s just too shy or doesn’t easily open up to strangers. That doesn’t explain anything.”
I settled down on the couch as Mom handed me a cup of hot cocoa. Her eyes watched me curiously. “Do you like him?”
“I like him a lot, Mom,” I confessed. “More than I should, and I want to find out where this relationship is going exactly. I never felt this way for another man before. Is it weird that I’ve started to like him in such a short time?”
Mom shook her head. “It’s not weird, darling. It’s natural to like someone who looks out for you, who cares for you. And you know what’s strange? I used to feel the same way about your father,” she admitted, staring into the distance. I knew where she was going with this. “He was so nice back then. I was totally in love, and then I got pregnant, and we got married. My little illusion of a happy life was shattered.”
Mom looked sad, and I knew the story after that. Mom had made the wrong decision. She’d married a snake; an abusive, alcoholic cheater.
The silence in the room continued. We were both comfortable with it, leaving ourselves to our thoughts. She was the first to speak. “Whatever you decide, just think with your brain, because sometimes, the heart makes the wrong decisions.”
I nodded. She’d always given me that advice.
“Jasper seems like he’s from a very influential family,” she continued. “And it’s really strange he’s interested in you.”
“So you’re saying I should be rich for Jasper to actually like me? That social status matters in these cases?”
“There’s always one thing that men want, and most of the time, they treat women as a goal. As soon as Jasper gets what he wants, maybe he wouldn’t want you anymore. He would get away with it, honey, because he is from a wealthy family, and you’d have to spend the rest of your life dedicated to a baby that you hadn’t planned for. And then one day, he’d fight in court for the baby’s custody while he marries a woman of the same social status. Do you understand what I’m saying, Kiara? You’ll only be reduced to a keep.”
My vision was blurred with tears. How could my mother be so harsh? Didn’t she think she was crushing my feelings?
“I don’t want to upset you, darling. I’m just telling the truth. Look at the way he dresses, I can smell the scent of his expensive perfume from a mile away, and those shoes? I don’t know much about fashion, but it seems like he had them custom-made and shipped from foreign countries,” she explained, “I don’t see why he would be interested in anyone who lives in this trash neighborhood.”
“That’s enough, Mom! I get your point,” I snapped angrily and didn’t wait for her to say anything as I climbed up the stairs to my bedroom.
I heard her call me, but I closed the bedroom door behind me. I didn’t want to listen anymore to her advice. I peeled the coat off my body and checked the name tag.
I threw the coat on the floor angrily and climbed into bed. I hated feeling like this so much, and I hated that my mom could be right. I mean, who was I kidding? Jasper surely had a ton of money. I knew that the day I’d met him. The type of cars he drove was a dead giveaway, and yet I’d foolishly checked the name tag of his coat.
I tried to not think of it that way because it hurt to think Jasper would be like one of those guys who were nice at first and once they got what they wanted, they just let the girl put the pieces back together. This wasn’t high school anymore, and Jasper was a responsible adult. Mom was being ridiculous. We were just friends.
But friends don’t kiss like that.
I thought about our kiss in the car and how passionate it had been. He kissed me like his life had depended on it. Just thinking about it made me feel happy. And I couldn’t deny how I felt for him too. Whenever I was in Jasper’s presence, I had butterflies take flight in my stomach, and I’d never felt that way before. I decided to ignore Mom’s words and face the situation as it came at me.
My phone vibrated beside me. I glanced at the screen, and a smile tugged at my lips knowing who it was.
Jasper was texting me.