Mercedes straightened up her work area and signaled for her next client to take a seat in the chair. While looking up, she noticed an attractive woman standing at the reception desk. Candy was on break, so she went to help the woman.
“May I help you?”
“Yes. I was responding to the sign for a nail technician.”The woman pointed to the door where a HELP WANTED sign was posted.
“Are you licensed?”
“I wouldn't be here if I wasn't,” she said, and smiled sweetly. Resting her arms on the counter palms down, she wiggled her fingers. “I even do my own nails.”
Mercedes examined a pair of professional-looking hands and said, “Them are nice. Well, you need to speak wit' Honey, but she's out.”
“That's fine. I can wait.” She moved to take a seat.
“Then you'll be waitin' a long time, 'cause she's sick and won't be in today.”
The woman stopped, and her grim expression indicatedannoyance.
“If you'd like to go ahead and fill out an application, I canâ”
“No. I'll come back.” Then the woman turned and walked away.
It wasn't until she moved through the doorway that Mercedes noticed the woman was pregnant.
Her eyelids fluttered and opened, and Honey awakenedto find the room dark. She rolled over to look at the clock and saw that it was well past seven. Had she really slept that long?
Swinging slender legs out of the bed, she rose. The movement caused her head to spin a little, and she stopped to lean against the door before trying again. After an initial wave of dizziness passed, Honey found she was able to stand unassisted. She retreated to the bathroom, needing to quickly empty her bladder, but stopped when she took a deep, rattling breath followed by a seriesof painful coughs. She was definitely sick.
Looking in the mirror, she found dried-up drool on the side of her mouth and eye boogers in the corners of both eyes.
Bitch, you gonna scare his fine ass away.
She stayed in the bathroom long enough to wash her face and brush her teeth. She attempted to run a comb through her hair and tied it back with a blue hair tie, then padded back to her room and took a seat on the end of her bed to catch her breath. The short walk had worn her ass out, stripping her of what little strength she had. She was tempted to climb back under the coverswhere it was warm, but then she remembered Jay was somewhere in her house. As quickly as she could manage, she slipped on her house shoes and reached for her flannel robe draped across a chair in the corner. Music led her to the family room, where a fire was roaring in the fireplace. The sounds of Luther Vandross came from her stereo at the same moment an aroma reached her nose, and she moved to find out what smelled so delicious.
She entered the kitchen just as Jay was removing a bowl from the microwave. Honey planted her hands on her waist and couldn't resist a smile.
“You look good doin' domestic duties.”
Jay frowned when he saw her. As soon as he'd heard the toilet flush, he rose to warm her food with plans to carry her to the family room so she could lie in front of the fireplace. “What are you doin' up?” he scolded.
“I got hungry.” She moved in closer and found that the delicious smell was beef vegetable soup. Her mouth watered.
“Take your sick behind on in there and have a seat in front of the fire. I'll be in shortly with your food.”
Honey obeyed his command and curled up on her couch, staring at the cozy fire until Jay appeared. He came in carrying a TV tray, and placed it in front of her.
“Thanks.” She gave him an appreciative smile.
Jay placed a hand on her forehead, and his brow furrowed.“You're still too warm.” He reached for a throw cover on the end of the couch. Suddenly he became aware of her minty breath. Nothing tasted better than kissing a fresh mouth. He cleared his throat, trying to dissipate the desire brewing inside, and tucked the blanket around her feet. “Keep this on.”
Honey smiled up at him and nodded in compliance. Her heart warmed having him here with her. So many nights she'd lain awake, with her vibrator between her legs, remembering moments like this. Jay's kindness and consideration mesmerized her. He was a wonderfulman. She didn't need anyone to tell her that.
“While you were sleeping, your mother called.”
“My mother?” Jay saw the confusion in her eyes. “I didn't hear the phone ring.”
“That's 'cause I unplugged it,” he said matter-of-factly.
She scowled at him. “You had no business doing that.”
“Yes, I did. You needed your rest.”
She stirred her soup for several seconds before asking,“What did my mother want?”
“To see how you were doin'. I reassured her that you were in good hands.”
I just bet you did,
she said silently.
“Does it bother you that I'm here?” Jay asked, thinkingmaybe he was stepping over his boundaries.
Honey raised her head to meet his eyes and shook her head. “No. I'm glad you're here.” She smiled. “Thanks, Jay.”
“What are friends for?” He returned to the kitchen, leaving her to eat her food in silence.
That's what they were. At least that was what she wanted to believe. But until she could let go of the past, she couldn't expect someone else to. She sighed and asked herself again,
The more time she spent with Jay, the harder it was for her to keep her emotions in check. Her nipples were hard and her coochie moist, but she couldn't do shit about it.
Jay returned carrying a beer, and took a seat on the rug in front of the fire. “This is one thing I hate about my condo. No fireplace.” He brought the can to his lips, but paused. “I've been thinking about buying a house of my own.”
Surprise touched her pale face. “You, Mr. Playa-Playa,ready to take on the responsibility of your own home?”
Jay stared into the roaring flames. “Yeah,” he answered.He knew part of it was his unborn child. The child would need room to grow.
She took a sip of the soup, then said, “Mmm, this is good. Where'd you get this?”
“I picked it up at the St. Louis Bread Factory.”
She nodded. “They're one of my favorites.”
Fixing her with a dazzling smile, he answered, “I know.”
It grew quiet in the room, the only sound the cracklingof the fire while they listened to another of Luther's ballads. She loved to hear the brother hum. Honey swallowed the last bite and leaned back on the couch with a sigh. “I'm stuffed.”
Jay tapped the spot next to him on the floor. “Come sit by the fire. Bring your blanket with you.”
Honey's heart began to race. If she got too close, she just might jump his bones. “I don't think so. I'm just fine lying up here.”
They stared at each other for a long time before he said, “I insist.” Jay set his beer down and pushed himselfup from the floor. When he reached the couch, he scooped Honey up into his arms and set her down in front of the fire. He returned for the blanket and draped it around her shoulders.
The feel of his arms sent a thrill through her spine. Honey found herself speechless, unable to argue with him.
“Now, doesn't that feel better?”
Hell yeah, it felt better, but she didn't answer. When he carried her, her breasts had pressed against his body, and his male essence left her nipples tingling and her head spinning from the contact. Afraid to break the spell, she sat close to the flames with her knees drawn up before her.
Jay stared at the fire. He had to resist the impulse to kiss her. That was what had gotten him into trouble the last time. But it was no easy task. His emotions were screaming, out of control. Honey turned him on like no other woman had been able to. Her breath had been warm against his skin, and he had felt her breasts beneath her robe. It took all his willpower not to reach inside and fondle her nipples until they were as erect as his dick.
They both gazed into the depths of the crackling flames for a long while without talking before Jay spoke again.
“I'm thinkin' about stepping down from the investigativeside of my business for a while and concentratingsolely on security.”
She turned to him, surprised. “Why? I thought you loved goin' undercover.”
Staring into the fire, he answered, “I do. It wasn't until a bullet whizzed by my fuckin' head that I decidedto take a closer look at my life. Now I find myself askin', what do I have to show for all the years I poured into the field? And my answer always comes up, not a damn thing.”
“Now, you know that ain't true!”
He pressed his lips together thoughtfully. It was the perfect opportunity to tell her about Kendra and the baby, yet he still wasn't ready to talk about that shit. So instead, he turned to her and said, “Yeah, it is. I've been livin' life one day at a time for years, never thinkin' about tomorrow, only living for the moment. But all that's about to change. There are so many things I haven't done yet. And as long as I continue to live on the edge, I may never have a chance to do them.”
Honey nodded in understanding. “I feel like that at times. There are a lot of things that I still want to do, like mountain climbin', hang glidin', maybe even jump out of a plane wearing a parachute.”
Gazing at her beautiful face in the firelight, he gave her a sheepish grin. “That's not the shit I had in mind, but those are interesting ideas.”
“Then tell me what you
referring to,” she said, and smirked.
His words knocked the wind out of her lungs. With a frown, she turned and stared into the fire again.
Jay didn't miss the sudden change in her demeanor. Family and marriage bothered her. But why? He sighed. What did he have to do to get her ass to trust him?
Pulling away from his puzzling thoughts, he noticed that several strands of her hair had worked loose from her ponytail, perspiration beaded her forehead again, and color heated her cheeks. Jay rose, taking Honey's hands, then swung her weightlessly into his arms again. “Maybe sittin' in front of the fire wasn't such a good idea. You look flushed.”
Honey clung to his shoulder and stared up into his handsome face as he lowered her onto the couch.
“While you were asleep, I rented a DVD for us to watch.”
Coochie clenching, she swallowed for control. “Which one?”
She smiled; he'd remembered it was her favorite western.
“Yeah, I remembered,” he said, and when the passionflared in the depths of Jay's eyes, Honey trembled and cast her eyes away. She didn't dare look up again, afraid that he might see she had an itch that needed to be scratched. And she wasn't thinking about her back.
He helped her settle back on the couch and turned off the stereo. After putting the DVD on, he took a seat next to her and instructed her to lean against him. She pressed her back against his chest and stretched her legs across the couch. Jay took a deep breath, trying to keep his dick from moving. Drawing her closer to him, he wrapped his arms around her.
“How do you feel?” he asked in a gentle voice.
How the fuck you think I feel?
While he mopped her forehead, Honey found herselfrelaxing against his shoulder, feeling his warmth and strength. It was almost like old times.
For the rest of the evening they were quiet as they both pretended to be engrossed in the movie when in fact they were thinking about each other.
She'd fallen asleep long before he had. Jay couldn't bear to wake her, or part from her embrace. Sometime during the movie, Honey had drifted, and was now lying curled against him, her head resting against his chest and an arm draped around him as if it were the most natural thing in the world. She was sweating through the fever; her body heat curled around him like an electric blanket.
A sigh escaped his lips as he listened to her steady breath and felt the gentle rise and fall of her chest. Jay closed his eyes, trying to fight back the image of her itty-bitty breasts and her chocolate nipples. One fit perfectlyin the palm of his hand. He remembered they had been on this very couch. He was rubbing, licking, and sucking, only minutes away from fucking when Honey froze up and stopped him. Damn, his dick grew hard just thinking about it. If she would just give him a chance, she damn sho wouldn't be disappointed.
Dropping an arm to her shoulder, Jay eased her head, which had fallen slightly, back onto his chest.
He wanted to make her his woman, his wife. He wanted to protect her. To make her feel safe. To reassureher that he'd never do anything to harm her like he was certain some other mothafucka had done.