Chapter Twelve

Alexis left her bedroom and crossed the apartment, gathering necessities for the evening. Inez, seated at the kitchen table, looked up from a textbook as she stomped around.

"It's tonight?" asked her roommate concernedly.

Alexis nodded, grumbling,"Who has a joint bachelor-bachelorette party anyway?"

Inez shrugged, "It's not all that uncommon, I don't think." At Alexis' glare, she said quickly, "You look amazing, by the way."

Dressed in a skintight, red-satin dress, her blond hair styled, she looked every inch a 1950s icon. Black stilettos and red lipstick completed the siren-image.

She smiled tightly. "It's like armor, you know."

Inez cocked her head thoughtfully. "Or a weapon."

Annoyed by her perceptiveness, Alexis rolled her eyes. "I'm only going for Riana and Tim. Hopefully I'll be home early."

"Try to have some fun, at least."

An obnoxious honking sounded outside the building. Almost simultaneously, her phone began buzzing inside her purse. "That would be my ride," she said. "So long, lady!"

Inez waved and went back to her book.

Downstairs, Alexis left the building, expecting to see Nicolas' car parked in the loading zone. When she realized it wasn't Nicolas—not by a long shot—she froze.

The passenger window of the red, vintage Cadillac rolled down. "Just get in," said Jeff irritably.

I'm going to kill Irish, Alexis swore, then remembered how to breathe and walk at the same time. She slid onto the creamy leather seat and buckled herself in, trying to ignore the man in the car beside her.

She hadn't seen him in two weeks, since that horrible day at Irish's apartment. Since then, she'd done her best to not think about him. Most days, she succeeded, throwing herself into work. It also helped that Riana was in pre-wedding insanity mode.

When she wasn't at work, Alexis was either on the phone or running errands with Irish, trying to get everything into place for Riana's big day. Flowers, food, the Dress, venue, seating arrangements, decorations… It was such a nightmare that Alexis made Irish swear that when she got married, she would hire a wedding planner.

Though her days were full, the nights were another story. Especially the moments right before she went to sleep. Then, there was no buffer between her head and her heart. At night, the longing was almost overwhelming.

"So, how are you?" she asked finally.

Jeff kept his eyes on the road. "Fine."

Pain squeezed her chest. "Good," she said, turning her head to stare out the window as they crossed the city.

It was impossible not to glance at him repeatedly from the corner of her eye. He looked so good, like ice water on a hot day. Slim, dark jeans contoured his long, lean legs. A black button-down, sleeves rolled up on his forearms, exposed muscled, tattooed forearms.

It was also impossible not to feel the warmth of just being near him again. The attraction she'd always felt had been magnified a thousand fold by the embrace in his apartment. It was as though a dam had broken, one that she hadn't even known existed. The memories rose now, warming her skin and making her twitch in her seat. His strength, the confidence in his hands, his electrifying kiss. The feel of him long and hard against her stomach.

Alexis shifted again in her seat, rolling down the window enough to feel the night air on her face.

"I've never seen that dress before," he said abruptly.

Her stomach turned over at the grudging appreciation in his voice. She cleared her throat. "Bought it for tonight."

He made a noncommittal noise.

"I miss you," she whispered.

His hands tightened on the steering wheel. "Don't," he said in a warning tone. "The only reason I'm here is because Nicolas got wrapped up with something at work and Irish called in a favor."

She stiffened. "If it were up to you, you'd never see me again? Years of friendship, gone, just like that?"

Angry green eyes slanted at her. "You've got a lot of nerve, Lex."

"Why?" she snapped. "Because I dared to bring up the elephant in the room and you happened to overhear me? I care about you a lot. I asked you on a fucking date, if you remember. I was just voicing some of my fears. Everything I said should have been stuff you thought about, too! "

"I did," he growled.

Exasperated, she threw up her hands. "So why are you so damned mad at me?"

He was silent for a long time. Finally, he murmured, "I don't know."

She blinked. "You…eh…what?"

He sighed, dragging a hand back through his hair. "It's not easy, Alexis, being the one whose feelings are on the table up front and not having a fucking clue if those feelings are reciprocated. I don't know what I expected from you." He chuckled self-deprecatingly. "Actually, I think I wanted you to realized you were in love with me, too."

"Fuck! Maybe I am!" she cried, eliciting a surprised grunt from Jeff. "Maybe I don't know what being in love feels like."

He scoffed. "That's ridiculous."

She laughed shrilly. "You of all people know what kind of relationships I've been in. They've never lasted more than a year, and invariably end when I'm cheated on. Did it ever occur to you that I might be afraid?"

Jeff navigated the car into a small, reserved parking lot and parked. Through the windshield, Alexis could see Irish and Vertice outside the trendy restaurant, shut down for the private party. Being a rockstar definitely had its perks. Like free downtown parking on a Friday night.

Jeff unbuckled his seat beat and turned to face her. Alexis shivered under the intensity in his gaze. She hadn't meant to blurt that shit out, and hoped his rejection would be brief so she could flee.

"I would never cheat on you," he said.

"That's not what I meant," she said helplessly. "I mean, I know you wouldn't, Jeff."

"So what's the problem?" he demanded. "Look at me, Alexis!"

Against her better judgment, she did, and instantly drank in the sight of him. His messy hair, his arresting green eyes with their ridiculous abundance of black lashes. His golden skin, the masculine indent at the base of his throat, his strong jaw and his lips…

"Lex," he said hoarsely. "When you look at me like that, I don't have any doubts how you feel about me."

Her eyes flew to his. Feeling her defenses scattering, she mustered, "Maybe I just want to jump your bones." Her tone was off, though, and he wasn't fooled.

His warm fingertips trailed along her jaw, moving through her hair to finally cup her neck. "You want more than that," he said confidently. "You want me making you breakfast in the morning, you want me holding you at night. You want to argue with me, make love to me, laugh at my bad jokes."

"I already do the last bit," she breathed.

"We're best friends, Lex," he said, inching forward until his lips hovered over hers. "I won't hurt you. Don't run away from me anymore."

"You ran away last time," she whispered.

He smiled. "See? You love arguing with me."

"Just kiss me."

He did, softly and sweetly, until pounding on the hood broke them apart.

Irish and Vertice stood in front of the car, grinning at them.

Six hours later, exhausted, her feet throbbing from too many hours in heels, Alexis waved goodbye to Irish and trudged up the stairs to her apartment.

After their conversation in the car, she and Jeff had barely had a moment alone the entire night. As a bridesmaid, she'd been plastered to a swooningly happy Riana all night. Jeff, as one of Tim's groomsmen, had been likewise occupied. Hoping to finagle a ride home from him, at least, she'd been disappointed when Irish informed her that Jeff was committed to bar hopping with Tim, Vertice, and Jack.

Letting herself into her dark apartment, she belatedly remembered that Inez was out. Her roommate had been seeing the same doctor for a month now, and would probably be spending the night. Thinking about the ice cream in her freezer, she groped for the light switch and finally found it.

Jeff stood in the center of her small living room, a single red rose in his hands.

Her purse fell from suddenly nerveless fingers.

"Hi," he said, grinning.

"Irish," she snarled.

Jeff chuckled and walked toward her, then reached behind her to close and lock the door. He offered her the rose, which she took and brought to her nose. Inhaling deeply, she looked up at him from beneath her lashes.

His eyes darkened. He snatched the flower away and tossed it to the floor, then grabbed her, dragging her up and into his arms. She sealed her lips to his and he began a stumbling, backward shuffle toward her bedroom.

He knocked into a doorframe, tripped a little on her rug, but neither of them noticed. They tumbled to the bed, hands grabbing, pulling off clothes. Her shoes thumped to the floor. Her dress ripped as he tried to pull it off. A button on his shirt popped in her haste.

When, finally, nothing was between them, they paused, each of them floored by the intimate sensation of skin against skin.

There was just enough glow from the street outside for Alexis to see his eyes, which were focused on hers. "Jeff?" she whispered shakily. "Is this okay?"

He shifted his hips, showing her exactly how okay it was. "I wanted…I always imagined our first time being slow."

She smiled and hooked her legs behind his knees. "Next time, maybe."

He shook his head, then bent to drop kisses over her chest. The warmth of him left her briefly as he crouched, kissing a moist line down her stomach. She wriggled; he clamped a hand on her hip to keep her still.

When his mouth found her center, she cried out and bucked. Her climax hit like a freight train, stealing her breath and shooting stars through her vision.

His lips found hers again. "You taste so good," he murmured.

She grabbed his hips, pulling him close, then reached between their bodies. "I need you inside me, now," she panted.

Jeff groaned at her hand found him, guided him. He sunk into her. They stilled again, feeling the depth of the joining. Alexis felt a stinging in her eyes. Her heart felt like it was going to explode.

He was watching her, smiling softly, and leaned forward to kiss away the first tear that dropped.

"I love you, Jeff," she whispered, torn between sobbing and laughing. "God, I love you so much."

His arms moved under her back to hold her close. When he rolled his hips, they gasped together. "Again," she whispered.

He laughed and complied, and then he wasn't laughing any more. With every rocking motion, the pressure between them built. There were no more words exchanged save in the language of bodies and love.

They came apart together, shuddering with the force of their release.

"Holy shit," Jeff whispered.

Alexis kissed his damp shoulder, licked a line up to his ear. "Again?" she asked playfully.

To her shock, she felt him immediately begin to swell inside her. He grinned wickedly. "I've waited a long time for this," he said, and his lips found hers, nipping and sucking until her own desire quickened.

"I love you," she sighed.

"I love you too, Lex," he whispered.

"Don't ever let me go."

"Never," he swore.

the end.