Carnival Lights: Chapter Seven

Jason’s lips were cool. Gasping in surprise, Christina barely knew what was happening before her body was responding, her mouth opening under the hard persuasion of his ministrations. His tongue swept across the inside of her lips, tangling with her own. Her stomach clenched, flipped.

Her hands pressed up against his chest. Falling back against the insistent pressure of his touch, her back sank against the plush cushions of the couch. His left hand was propped up beside her head as he leveraged his body closer to her own; his right hand, however, was cupped against the underside of her jaw, his thumb stoking the edges of her bottom lip.

When his tongue slid against the silky moisture of her upper lip, an instinctive groan escaped from Christina’s lips. Her fingers curled against the fine material of his pullover shirt. Reacting without thought, she caught his lower lip between her teeth, tugging at it gently. Then it was his turn to growl low in his throat. And still he penetrated her mouth—swirling, touching slipping in and out, around and around.

Christina’s heart beat hard against her chest, her senses dizzy as she tasted him…

When she felt his lips slowly break away from hers, at first Christina’s body followed after him. Opening her eyes, she breathed up into his face from underneath a fringe of wet lashes. “Jason…” Her voice came from faraway, dazed with the suddenness of what was happening between them.

He half-smiled down at her in the stillness of the dimly lit room. “And here I always thought you hated me.”

At the words, Christina blanched. Reality crashing against her consciousness, she had just enough time to remember what he’d said just seconds before his lips had captured hers: that he was testing out a theory. Swallowing back a whispered scream, for the second time in as many seconds, Christina’s body moved on impulse.

A strangled sort of scream fall from her lips. Scrambling frantically out from behind him, Christina clambered for her feet. Jason only barely avoided being bulldozed in her mad rush.

Bringing a hand up to her mouth, Christina bit down hard. The sensations of minutes ago now lay cold in her stomach. What the hell had she done—what had she allowed him to do? Scurrying for the doorway, her eyes pinned themselves to the threshold, her body hurling forward.

She only knew she had to escape. To breath. To…oh God!

Her legs shook with the force of her feelings, but she refused to slow down. The hard, humiliating edge of reality pressed against her chest. Something had happened. Something—

“Actually, that’s not quite true,” Jason murmured as she reached the outer edge of the room. His voice sounded oddly lazy in the aftermath of what had just transpired. “Not after the employee Christmas party last year.”

Stopping like a shot at the entryway to the room, Christina’s body stilled at the forbidden words. They swirled loudly in the echo of an otherwise silent room. Her right hand gripped the side of the wall for support at that damning statement. He didn’t need to elaborate on it. They both knew what he meant. Her eyes closed as unbidden, pictures of that night transposed themselves before her eyes.

She saw herself that night, outside her apartment door, large brown eyes staring invitingly up at his. And then….

No. She shook her head of the thought. She promised herself she’d never go back. And until now, she hadn’t. At least, not so she’d admit to even herself.

Throwing her shoulders back straight, she fought for some semblance of pride. Her back to him, at least she was spared the gleam she could only assume shone from his eyes in vindication. She heard her voice speaking as though through an eerie fog. “I had too much to drink that night.”

“Yeah, maybe so,” Jason conceded from too close behind her. And then she felt his hands on her waist, slowly, deliberately turning her back around. She hadn’t heard him approach. “But not tonight,” he reminded her. “You didn’t even touch that glass of whiskey.”

And there it was.

“Ahh,” she murmured harshly. “So that was the reason behind your little science experiment then?” His fingers were still pressed against either side of her waist. She could feel the imprint like a live thing, but she refused to give him the satisfaction of shucking out of his reach.

His eyes widened momentarily at her words.

She laughed, nodding toward the couch. “And this was what, a controlled environment for testing out your theory?” The question was sharp and hard as she threw his words back at him.

But if she’d wanted a reaction, he didn’t give her the kind she desired. Instead, he smiled in an off-kilter sort of way. He even shrugged. “I wouldn’t call what just happened controlled.”

She felt her stomach pinch. “Oh no?”

He grinned wider. “But timing is everything.”

“And you were bored and needed someone to amuse you.”

He chocked his head to one side, as though in serious thought. “I would hardly say I was amused back there.”

She lifted one eyebrow. “Flattered then?”

He shrugged. His very casualness set her teeth on edge. By a woman as beautiful as you? Who wouldn’t be?”

Christina rolled her eyes, but a half laugh escaped out of her mouth all the same. It was just like Jason to do that: make her laugh when it was the last thing she expected to do.

He pulled a face. “Though it still doesn’t explain…”

When he didn’t finish, she felt her eyes narrow. “Explain what?”

“Why you’ve pretended to hate me all these years.”

She jutted up her chin. For some reason, though she shouldn’t have been, she found herself almost enjoying the conversation. “Who said I was pretending?”

He sighed. “Not that old ruse again.” With a charm she really could hate sometimes, he took a threatening step nearer. “Don’t make a liar of yourself twice in one night.”

A quick thread of excitement she couldn’t contain leapt into Christina’s body at the words. Too late, her eyes traveled down to his lips.

He stilled. “Unless?” The word was suggestive, meaningful as he lowered his body closer to hers. When she didn’t side-step out his way, he smiled in a predatory fashion. She was already breathing too quickly, her legs trembling, when his mouth slowly started its descent.

Only, at the last second, she saved herself. Ducking out of reach, she brought a hand up between them, pushing at his chest half-heartedly. “No.”

“Christina?”

“No.” Her voice was firmer now. “This is a bad idea.”

“What?” Frustration lined every letter that word.

“This,” Christina insisted, gesturing between them. Slipping free of his proximity, she forced her feet to step into the hallway, her body moving carefully as she navigated backward toward the staircase.  “It’s a bad idea.”

“Why?”

She scowled, her eyes shifting expressively up the stairs. “You know why.”

He followed her gaze. “Because of my father?”

Her hand cut aggressively through the air. “Of course because of your father!” Christina returned hotly. “He’s my boss.”

“I’m aware.”

“Don’t joke.”

“Then don’t say stupid things.”

Christina made a sound low in her throat. “You wanted to test out your hypothesis?”

“Theory,” he corrected quietly.

“Well, there you go. You figured it out. I’m a fraud,” she informed him. Twin spots of colored dotted her cheeks but she refused to break eye contact.

He was the one to do that. “Hey. That’s not—”

“In fact, I was attracted to you from the very first moment I met you,” she continued him shamefully, tossing the shreds of her pride at his feet mercilessly. She pointed toward the front door. “Right there. I saw you and everything went black.”

He had the grace to look ashamed, his eyes clouding over uncomfortably. “Christina…”

“But your father is my boss.”

“And you think he wouldn’t, what, approve?” Jason asked. “He’s not a snob, Chrissy.”

Her fingers curled into impotent fists. “Don’t call me that!”

He held up his hands. “Sorry. Hey, I’m sorry.”

She shook her head. “And anyway, it’s not really about your father.”

He scowled. “But you just said—”

“It’s me. I have this thing. Oh, you know,” she said, flicking her wrist artlessly. “For forbidden men. Simply because I shouldn’t have them, I want them. It’s always the same, but it’s not real. You know?” She rambled. “And really, dating the boss’s son? That couldn’t be more clichéd.” She managed one cruel laugh. “So I kept myself to myself. Or, at least I tried to.”

“Jesus.”

She shrugged, one of her hands reaching back the grab tight to the stair rail. She gave him a pointed look. “So There. Now you know the truth. Does that answer all of your questions?” She yawned protractedly. “Because I’m tired and I’d rather like to go to bed now, if you don’t mind.”

His face contorted. “Don’t let me keep you then.”

With a curt nod, she turned on her heel, her knees buckling as she carefully traveled the stairs. Halfway up, however, she stopped and turned to look back at him. He hadn’t moved, his eyes watching her progression speculatively, as though she were a fascinating specimen under his microscope.

“Do me one favor?”

He inclined his head.

She forced the words out stiff lips. “Forget about tonight.”

His response was slow in coming. “Oh, I very much doubt I can oblige you on that.”

He thinly plucked eyebrows rose to meet over the bridge of her nose. “Jason.” His name was a warning.

He shrugged. “The best I can do is promise not to bring it up.”

She stared at him for a moment. The she nodded again.

“And I’ll probably break that promise, anyway,” he added when she would have continued her incline.

Her hands tightened on the balustrade. “Don’t.”

He held up his hands. “Forewarned is forearmed.”

 

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