I started to argue with him and assure him everything would be just fine, but his gaze left mine and landed on something behind me.
I turned and saw Jax Stone coming toward us from inside the gazebo. I hadn’t even seen him go inside it.
“I agree with you on her riding home in the dark with groceries. I’ll supply her a ride home. You may leave now. She’ll be safe.”
Marcus stared at me with concern. I smiled at him as if to reassure him I liked this arrangement.
“Uh, um, yeah, sure, Mr. Stone, thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow, Sadie,” he said with a wrinkle between his eyebrows. I could tell he was unsure about this.
“See you tomorrow,” I replied and watched him reluctantly turn and walk away. Not because I wanted to stare at him longer, but because I needed to compose myself before I faced Jax. Somehow, I’d become as pathetic as the rest of the teenage world. I’d seen glimpses of Jax outside the past two days, and every time he glanced my way, he smiled at me. My traitorous heart did a little flip. Before I knew it, I would have a stupid poster of Jax on my wall.
“Thank you,” I managed to say without tripping over my tongue.
He gave me one of those grins meant to melt girl’s hearts everywhere. “If I’d known you were riding a bike to get to and from work I would have done something about it a long time ago. I’m glad I have such thoughtful employees. But then again, he is your friend, isn’t he.”
I smiled at him. “Marcus is a nice guy.”
Jax leaned in and said quietly, “And what about me...am I a nice guy?”
I wasn’t sure what to say to this, so I decided to just be honest. “I don’t know you, really, but I do know you sign my paycheck, so I'm not exactly sure how to answer this.”
Jax threw back his head and laughed. I caught myself smiling. He seemed almost touchable when he laughed. He offered his arm and held it out to me to hook my hand through.
“Well then, Sadie White, why don’t you do me the honor of a stroll down by the beach so we can talk. Then maybe you can decide for yourself if I’m a nice guy or not.”
I frowned and eyed Mr. Greg. “I don’t know if I can, you see, Mr. Greg has arthritis, and he needs me for the weeding whether he wants to admit it or not. Getting down on his knees is not easy for him and very painful.”
“Really?” he asked with concern on his face, and he turned and went over to where Mr. Greg stood pretending to work, though I knew he’d been watching Jax and me.
I couldn’t hear what Jax said, but Mr. Greg seemed to like what he heard and nodded, shook Jax's hand, and appeared to be putting away his things. Jax walked back over to where I stood. “Mr. Greg has decided to take the afternoon off and rest up his bad knees. He also wanted me to tell you he could wait until tomorrow for your chess game.”
I grinned at the older man whom I’d come to care about. He winked, and I shook my head at him. Jax once again offered his arm, and I hesitated before I slipped my hand inside his bent elbow.
“Okay.” I wasn’t sure what to say and I wondered if he could hear my heart racing in my chest.
“Let’s see, you not only worry over old men’s knees, but you also play chess with them in the evenings.”
I stiffened and stopped walking. Being teased about my relationship with Mr. Greg bothered me.
“Easy there, tiger.” He patted my hand. “I wasn’t making fun of you. I’m actually impressed. I haven’t met a girl with compassion before, and I am intrigued.”
I relaxed. “I would imagine in your world, girls are much different than here in the real world. I’m sure if you spent some time with the everyday girl, you would find I am not unique.”
He grinned at me. “The everyday girl is who writes me fan mail and buys out my concerts. They are the girls who yell my name and run after me like crazed animals. You’ve not even tried to sneak into my room and squirt your perfume on my pillow.”
I hesitated, my jaw dropping in shock. “Please tell me those things haven’t happened before and you made them up.”
Jax shrugged and shook his head. “I am afraid they have. They are only a few examples. I left out the ones not suitable for a young girl’s ears. You don’t even want to know the extent girls go to get my attention. It is one of the reasons I need this summer getaway. If I didn’t have this, I would have gotten out of the business a long time ago.”
We reached the shoreline and stopped.
He waved a hand over the white sand at our feet. “Care to sit down?”
I sank down into an Indian-style position. He sat down in such a smooth way it made me feel clumsy. Why did I care? I never thought about the way I sat down before. I didn’t need to start thinking of him as more than anything other than a guy. A guy who signed my paycheck.
“So, tell me about Sadie White.” He leaned back on his hands and stretched his long legs out in front of him.
I shrugged, not sure what to say. “What do you want to know? I am not very interesting.”
He chuckled. “I disagree, but we won’t argue. Tell me about your family.”
Blood rushed to my cheeks at his request, but I forced myself to talk instead of blushing like an idiot. “Well, I live with my mom, and it has always been just me and her. However, she is pregnant right now, so our two will soon be three. We just moved here a few months ago from Tennessee. I love the ocean much more than the mountains, so the move has been a good one.”