Ben leaned in his car and shut off the engine; then he hovered a hand at the small of her back as they started up the drive. The night was still a spilled-ink mess of dark sky and endless shadows. The rain was lashing now, pelting at her face under the hood; Ben would be soaked by the time they reached the house. But Jade was calm, his presence a shield against the terrors that lay hidden along their path. Safe. It was one of the things, back when, that had cut above all the unsettling aspects of the man: he made her feel safer than she had at any point in her life. With no small amount of surprise, she realized that she could have called Jeremy – he wasn’t a helpless damsel when it came to this dark-of-night stuff – but instead she’d called Ben. Without thinking, on instinct, she’d reached for him when she was frightened. What did that say about her? So much for moving on.
At the door, he hung back on the mat, rain pelting him as she stepped into the kitchen and stripped off her jacket. “Don’t just stand there and get wet,” she admonished as she hung her jacket on its peg and shucked her boots.
Ben put a hand on the doorjamb and made a face. “I should probably…”
She didn’t want him to go. That was a stupid sentiment, most like, but she didn’t care at the moment. “Did you have dinner yet?”
The face twisted into something more comical. “I was gonna grab something – ”
“I dragged you over here,” Jade said, and put her back to him, going to the fridge in the hopes that playing it casual would work better than the doe-eyes routine. “I can at least feed you.” She flipped a quick glance over her shoulder, hand on the fridge door. “I’ve got leftover Alfredo bake. With chicken and broccoli. It’s good stuff.”
One boot stepped over the threshold. His cheek twitched like he couldn’t decide.
“Either way, shut the door because there’s rain coming in everywhere.”
He came in, and something gave a happy flutter in her chest.
His eyes wanted to follow her. Humans, each their own animal, had patterns of movement, unique muscle memories. Women were an odd combination of light and firm, self-assured in their own dainty ways. He’d always liked watching women, and not in a lecherous way. There was something comfortable about it. Jade was as beautiful spooning up leftovers as she was in the old photo he kept in his nightstand, the mostly-naked one she’d howled at him not to take. She was in black leggings and an obnoxiously big sweater with gaping sleeves she’d pushed up to her elbows. Slender, long-fingered hands pressed microwave buttons and her lashes flickered down against her cream cheeks as she worked: efficient, relaxed, homey. She wasn’t nervous about him at her table, dripping rainwater all over everything. She looked to have recovered completely from her ghostly white perch up in the hayloft.
Damn, he’d been raging. The quivering whisper of her voice over the phone, the thought that she might be in some kind of danger…His reaction had knocked the breath out of him. He hadn’t breathed deeply again until he’d seen her face – wide, startled blue eyes – staring down at him above the stalls. On the drive to her house – sliding through puddles and hydroplaning and damn near killing himself – he’d known that getting to her, seeing that she was alright for himself, was all that would calm his roaring pulse. He was spinning through theories like crazy: someone seeing her at the precinct and following her home, someone thinking of moving on from children to pretty brunettes.
~From Whatever Remains. Be on the lookout for the release date, coming soon!