Home > Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)(17)

Tangled Like Us (Like Us #4)(17)
Author: Krista Ritchie, Becca Ritchie

I walk through the archway, mentally listing out what I need: oil, a matchbook, small bowl, a shot glass—unholy fucking shit.

I halt to a dead stop, towel hung low on my waist.

Jane is in my kitchen.

As in Jane Eleanor Cobalt, as in my client, as in the girl I just fantasized fucking not even thirty minutes ago.

I’m going to hell.

She’s immobile, her eyes widening on me. She rarely comes into security’s townhouse; it’s more likely I’d be in hers.

“I, um…” She struggles for words. Fridge is open, a half-gallon of milk in her hand. “I was just…” Intrigue drops her gaze to my unshaved chest and carved muscles, the ridges of my eight-pack, and she mutters a breathy, “Oh my God.”

This isn’t fucking good.

I’m trying not to run my eyes over any part of her body. I’m trying not to place a single adjective against her name. She’s just Jane.

Just my client. Unique in every wa—unfuck this before you fuck it.

“Jane.” My strict voice tenses the air more. It’s my normal tone. “How are you doing?”

“I’m…” She shakes cobwebs out of her head. “I’ve been well, just next door—which you already know…because you’re off-duty.” She stares unblinkingly at me, cheeks beet-red.

I keep holding her gaze, the temperature cranking up. Fuck.

Being off-duty shifts our dynamic into gray territory.

I’m twenty-eight. Not in a co-ed dorm, but this awkward, tension-filled run-in feels made for college. And I need to keep this professional.

I’m in a fucking towel.

Yeah, I’ve also been in a jockstrap in front of her before, but that was different. That was on the tour bus with SFO. Boundaries weren’t this personal. This is just me and her. In a small as fuck kitchen.

I open my mouth to speak, but Jane beats me to it.

“If I would’ve known you were here like this…I wouldn’t have…” She’s tongue-tied. “I’m so, so sorry.”

I step forward.

She startles herself at my movement, and milk slips out of her grasp.

The plastic jug crashes at her feet, and milk spills all over the floorboards, the cap coming loose.

“Merde,” she curses.

We both move into action.

Jane searches drawers for a mapeen , and I set my radio on a counter. Holding the knot of my towel—because I’m not about to flash my client—I crouch and pick up the gallon with my other hand.

She glances quickly towards the spill, then away. “Do you…have, um…?” She shakes her head again and looks back at me.

I catch her gaze.

And we’re caging breath like the air is toxic. Laced with pheromones that try to lure her and me together. To never come up for oxygen again.

With flexed muscles, I point at the cupboard below the sink. “A mapeen is in there.”

She clears her throat. “Right.” Fixing cat-eye sunglasses on her wavy hair, she squats to the cupboard with curiosity twinkling her gaze. “What exactly is a mapeen?”

Now I’m shaking the fucking cobwebs out of my head. “A…” What’s a mapeen in English called? It’s not hitting me fast. I take another beat. “…dish…towel, dish rag.”

Her lips lift. “It’s Italian?” She seems genuinely excited to learn this.

I screw on the cap to the half-gallon. “The only kind I know.” I watch Jane open the cupboard.

Tell her more.

I stand up and add, “You can’t learn it in college. Can’t really write it, can’t read it. It’s just how we’re raised to talk.” I explain how I didn’t even know mapeen wasn’t English until the eighth grade.

“Is it more like a dialect?” She pushes past dish soap to find a blue mapeen.

I place the half-gallon on the counter. “Like a broken dialect, mixed with incomplete Italian, and then passed on from Italian immigrants to their children and then their children. It’s a clusterfuck of a language, but it’s our clusterfuck.”

Jane returns to the spill. Smiling bright. “That’s beautiful.” Sincerity floods her voice and those words. Speaking with so much heart—there’s never any question how much she means what she says.

I rake my hand through my damp hair, and then I reach out to take the mapeen from Jane.

“I have this covered. It’s my mess to clean.” She rolls up the purple frilly sleeves of her 50s-style blouse. “We’re out of milk next door. But I already gathered all my cats for a treat and I felt like I played a horrible trick on them with empty bowls. So I thought I’d borrow a cup here.”

“You can take the rest. There’s still some left.”

Jane squats down in a mint-green tutu, leopard-print leggings underneath, and she mops up the spill. “That’s really sweet of you, but I meant to only take a little and now I’ve left SFO with none—” Her cat-eye sunglasses suddenly fall off her head. Splashing in milk.

I crouch down and pick up her sunglasses.

Our eyes meet for a hot beat before I stand and move to the sink. Washing them off for her under the faucet.

She stares at me, entranced. Like my silent authority is a slow-burning fuck.

My blood heats, muscles on fucking fire.

Cut the tension, Thatcher.

Don’t cut a thing.

My brain is splitting in two directions, and it’s killing me. I hate indecision.

“Take it.” I nod to the half-gallon. “I can get more later.” It’s either going to her six cats or a cereal bowl, and her cats are more important than one of the guys eating Frosted Flakes.

She smiles softly up at me. “Merci.” While I dry her sunglasses on the bath towel I’m wearing, she rises to her feet.

I hold the glasses out to Jane.

Our fingers brush as she reclaims them, and breath knots in my chest. I take the milk-soaked mapeen from her hand, washing and wringing it out in the sink. Constantly glancing back at Jane.

Meeting her gaze is where I want to be, but also where I shouldn’t be. Not while I’m off-duty.

She places the sunglasses back on her head and grabs the half-gallon. But she hesitates to leave. Questions sparkle her eyes.

I check the oven clock.

I haven’t forgotten my brother. Couldn’t forget Banks if my life depended on erasing him from existence. I’ve been here for a few minutes tops, but it feels longer. Each second stretched taut.

I rub my hands dry on my bath towel, and her attention follows the movement and drifts on its own course to my crotch.

I’m trying not to imagine a lot , and as soon as she notices that I just noticed she stared at my cock—she sends me an apologetic look.

“You’re fine,” I confirm. She shouldn’t feel bad for that. I’ve pictured her in more carnal positions, and I must wear some of my guilt.

“You’re fine too,” Jane says quickly.

“Good,” I nod.

“Bien,” she agrees.

We’re not exhaling like we should. But I loosen my joints and open a top cabinet, seizing a shot glass. “You want to ask me something?”

“You’re missing your necklace,” she says in a single breath.

I didn’t expect that.

My brows furrow, and I look back at Jane. I’m not sure what emotion crosses my features. But she stumbles over her next words.

“Not that I stare at your chest…all the time. Because I don’t…” She pauses. “Though, it’s inevitable to look at your chest. Because, you see, your chest is connected to your neck which is connected to your face…” She touches her forehead like she’s burning up. “And it’s in my line of sight.”

I’m so close to a smile, it fucking alarms me.

Usually only Banks makes me smile.

I put the shot glass on the counter. “I gave the necklace to Banks to wear for today.” I find a matchbook in the junk drawer.

She’s not going to ask why. Or pry further. Because she’s respectful of how far she digs, but I want to say more. I need to fucking say more.

Jane deserves the full hundred yards from me.

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