ENGAGING JAYDEN

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JAYDEN


“Thanks for meeting me for a late lunch.” Lily smiled as she hugged me.

“I can’t turn down a good hamburger.” I pulled away and took my seat across from her. Lily pointed to my Mercedes as it backed out of the parking lot.

“Gage.” I said. “He took me to my therapy appointment. He has some errands to run so he’ll pick me up after.” It was a complete lie on Gage’s behalf. And I knew it. He nor Spencer or Knox would allow me to drive alone anywhere. Especially since we were twenty minutes from the north side of town. Not with Him watching my every move.

Lily eyed me like she didn’t believe me. Thankfully she didn’t bring it up.

My mouth nearly watered as we placed our orders. My stomach growled. I was starving. Which surprised me since Gage made me drink a large protein shake along with my oatmeal bowl for breakfast. He said my rib cages were beginning to show in the front and back and that I was ‘Too damn skinny’. His words.

“So...How are things progressing with Gage?” Lily’s smile couldn’t be any wider. She wiggled in her seat like an eager child on Christmas morning.

I had to laugh. “Things are good. We are together. Dating.”

Lily squealed. She actually squealed. She clapped her hands and leaned across the table. “I knew it. Ah, Jayden— I’m so happy for you. You, my friend, have the sexiest boyfriend on the planet.”

“Thank you, Lily.” I smiled and took a sip of my lemon water.

“Have you guys had sex yet?”

From my peripheral I saw our waiter raise her brows at our table. In some way I felt like I was being scolded since she was old enough to be my mother. Quietly, I replied, “Yes.”

“Ah— Is he good? I bet he’s good. He’d have to be. One can’t be after sleeping with a gazillion girls like that.”

We have had sex three times in less than twenty-four hours. Each time was equally as good as the last. The first two times we had made love. Third, neither of us had it in us to go slow. We ripped each others clothes off and I prayed that no one in the house heard us in the shower. Gage kept his mouth sealed over mine to absorb my screams. Having the flashback I felt a blush creeping up my cheeks

“Oh my gosh!”

“What.” I pressed.

“You’re falling for him. Have fallen for him.” Lily gasped.

I didn’t deny it. There was no need to. No point. Because I had. Gage and I both had fallen for each other. Which surprised the hell out of us both.

“Has he?”

I tried to bite back my smile and I failed miserably. “Yes.”

Lily covered her mouth with her hands. “I’m so excited.”

Our waiter then approached the table. “Here’s your Royal burger.” She said as she placed it in front of me. She placed Lily’s club sandwich down. “Enjoy your lunch.”

I flattened the paper napkin across my lap. “I love this place.” This was our ultimate meeting place. It was a family owned restaurant that had been passed down by two generations. The outer finish was that of a log cabin. Inside, it looked like a fishing depot. Pictures of locals holding their fish were plastered about the board as you first walked in. From mouth to fin, Carp, Bass and Trout, was used as their ceiling border. Instead of tables and chairs, picnic tables and benches lined both sides of the walls. The floors however, were newly finished with gray speckled linoleum. It wasn’t by far the fanciest place Jayden had ever gone to, but their food couldn’t be beat. Even Longhorn had nothing on their home made recipe of BBQ sauce.

“How’s therapy going?”

“It’s going ok. I’ve gone in a few times in the last couple months but for the most part I’ve been doing it over the phone.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” My smile was off set. ”I haven’t wanted to go in.”

Noticing the wet ring left atop the counter from her glass, Lily pushed her silverware off the napkin beside her, wiped it away and set her glass atop the dampened paper. “I have something to tell you.”

I raised a brow in question as I sank my teeth in my juicy burger. I was glad she changed the subject. I didn’t want to talk about my therapy or Him. I was surrounded by twenty— four— seven and needed to detox my brain.

“Eagan and I went and saw Dr. Gibbs this morning.” She announced, her voice soft.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to see him, Lily?”

“You’ve had enough on your own plate lately. You didn’t need my burden either.”

If only Lily did know how much I had on my plate. She had no idea that ‘Him’ was back.

“Lily, you have never been a burden, never could be even if you tried. And I don’t care what I’m going through, you can always come to me, you know that.”

“I know and I always do.”

“Spill your news.”

“Alright. I went in because my cycle was acting all haywire again, and we found out that... I’m pregnant.”

Jayden reached out and gripped Lily’s hand in hers. “Nuhaa.”

Lily nodded, her eyes welled.

“I’m an auntie?”

“You’re an auntie.”

“Oh my God Lily...Oh my God. This is wonderful, fantastic. How far along are you?”

“Eight weeks.”

“Eight weeks? That’s great.”

“So it turns out that the shots worked after all.” She placed both hands on her not yet protruding belly.

“Lily, I’m so happy for you both.”

“He checked everything and…he said I’ve never looked so good. I’m happy, but, to be honest Jay, what if I lose...”

“Lily…”

“I can’t keep going through this, Jay. Neither of us can.”

“It’s not going to happen this time. You are going to deliver a beautiful baby and it’s going to be as healthy as it possibly can be.”

Lily laughed.

“You’ll see. I promise you. How is Eagan?”

“Beyond excited, scared, nervous. He wants me to quit working so I can take it easy throughout the pregnancy.”

“I know you’re going to be irritated with me, but, I have to say that I agree with him.”

“You’re right, that’s not exactly what I wanted to hear. But...I’ve thought about what he’s said, and even considered it. It’s just that money will be a little tight.”

“Knox and Spencer will give him a raise. It’ll be fine.”

“I know they would.”

“Will.” Jayden corrected.

“I just hate to leave your uncle Thad high and dry.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I whispered.

“Okay.” Lily pursed her lips and nodded.

“Do you guys want to go out tonight? We could go to The Tavern. You know, celebrate the twins and Eagan’s new raise.”

“I’d like that. I’ll have to get used to drinking virgin margaritas.” Lily laughed happily. She quickly sobered. “Do you think you’re up for going again though? I know it was hard for you last time.”

“Yeah.” I nodded. “I need to keep going there if I’m ever going to move forward.” Though that may be true, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop looking over my shoulder.

Not with ‘Him’ lurking in the shadows.

Being that it was Saturday the bar was packed. Knox unsurprisingly managed to get us a pool table. Alex and Deion had a rivalry going on with darts that was funnier than hell to watch.

Gage drank the rest of his bottled water and tossed it into the garage behind him. “I’m going to grab another one. I’ll be right back.”

“Here, I’ll get it.” I said slipping off the stool. “I have to pee anyway.”

“Thank’s.” He kissed me on my scar and I headed for the bathroom. I flushed the toilet, opened the door to the stall and stopped short.

“What are you doing here?”

He took a step forward. “I need to talk to you.”

“We have nothing to talk about.” I pushed by him and washed my hands. “We broke up and we’ve both moved on. End of story.”

“I haven’t moved on.” Brock grabbed my bicep from behind.

“Don’t touch me.” I ripped my arm away. I reached up and rubbed where his hand had gripped me. My stomach turned. I never did understand why I felt nauseous when he touched me after my attack. “Please, don’t touch me.” My voice shook. Those were the famous four words I said to him.

Anger crossed his face as he held his hands up. “I need to talk to you. I need to explain.”

“We’ve already said all there is to say to one another. You need to go, Brock.”

“Damn it, Jayden— I married Kiera...But I didn’t have a fucking choice.”

I raised a brow.

Was he serious?

“You may think I had all this planned but I didn’t. It wasn’t until after you left...”

“Save it Brock. I don’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to hear it then and I sure as hell don’t want to hear it now. We are through. There is no you and me, and there won’t be ever again. I’ve moved on with my life, and in a very sad way so have you.” Did I sound as tired as I felt?

“Jayden we have been together off and on so many times,” he looked away. Taking a deep breath, he looked straight into my eyes, seethed, “we are meant to be together, Jayden, and you know it.”

Brock took a step towards me and I stepped back, my butt hit the skink. I needed to keep my distance from him. I wrapped my arms around my waist. “Please go.”

“Honey, I’m not going anywhere until you listen—”

“Don’t call me that.” I raised my voice. I looked to the door that was behind Brock. If I went for it he’d only block my path and grab me and the thought of his hands on me made me want to puke.

“Damn it, Jayden...You’re so stubur—”

The door to the bathroom opened and Gage stepped in. He looked right at Brock but addressed me when he asked, “There a problem?”

“Gage,” I motioned to Brock, “this is my ex. And he was just leaving.”

Brock’s eye’s pierced mine. “I’m not leaving until you hear me out, Jayden.” He reached for my arm and before he could Gage pushed him and he bounced off the stall.

Gage reached out to me and I went to him. His warm muscular arm wrapped around me and I was pushed back. I now stood behind him. The hand that pushed me back was now gripping my hip, keeping me close. I placed my hand on his bicep.

Gaining his balance, Brock didn’t make an attempt to move as he peered around Gage’s shoulder pointing at him, asking me, “Who the fuck is this?”

“Gage. Her boyfriend.” I could hear his broad smile.

“No— Fucking no way, Jayden.” Brock shook his head. “You’re telling me you moved on that fast? I don’t fucking believe it. You wouldn’t even let me touch you and here you have a new boyfriend? No— Fucking no way.”

As Brock reached for me again Gage shoved me further behind him so I now stood facing the center of his back.

“You reach for her again and I’ll break your fuckin’ hand.” Keeping a rigid stance, I knew Gage was more than ready to fulfill his promise.

I held my breath. He was capable of that and much more. I peered around Gage’s shoulder. By the way Brock’s face fell he must have taken Gage’s warning seriously.

“You let him fucking touch you?” He looked like he wanted to cry. “You’ll let him but wouldn’t let—”

“I’m only going to say this once— Get the fuck out.”

Brock dropped his eyes to the ground and clenched his jaw. “Alright.” Gage lightly pushed me further behind him and turned as to not give Brock his back while Brock left.

“You alright?” Gage turned to me and cupped my face.

“I’m fine.” I went on my tip toes and kissed him. I let my lips linger on his. I pulled back when I heard commotion outside the door.

“Oh, no.” I said. “He ran into Knox.”

Gage opened the door and I followed him out.

“You got a lot of fucking nerve to show up here.” Knox stopped his advancement when Spencer stepped in front of him, placing a solid hand on his chest.

“I already knocked him a good one, Knox.”

“But I haven’t.” Knox tried to step forward, but Spencer held him back.

“I’m not here to start shit. I just needed to talk to Jayden. That’s it.” Brock shoved his hands into his pockets.

“You stay the fuck away from my sister.” Knox warned.

Spencer chimed in with, “You either go or I’m letting this one lose.” He notched his head at Knox who barely was being contained by Spencer. “And he’s really itchin’ to get his hands on you man.”

“Fine.” Brock pointed to Gage. “But you...You best be watching your back.”

Gage simply laughed before he turned to me. He put his finger beneath my chin making me look at him. He gave a heavy sigh. He said nothing. Just looked at me.

“God, Gage. I’m so,” My words were cut off when his lips pressed firmly to mine. I couldn’t help but mold into him.

Brock must have seen it because I heard him yell from the door, “That’s just fucking great!”

Gage pulled back but only far enough that we stood nose to nose, his hand was now on the back of my neck. “Stop apologizing.” His voice was thick and challenging.

Keeping my eyes locked with his, I searched them. The yielding that had purely possessed them earlier was now overridden by carnal tenure. He wanted me; craved me. Yet, hidden in the mist of its blackened craving, was an adrenaline running through him that looked like he wanted to tear Brock apart.

I was surprised that he hadn’t. I was surprised to see that he had kept his cool.

“From now on I’m going to kiss you every time you apologize.”

He made it sound as if that was punishment. Saying sorry was never so tempting.

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