“Only because you helped.” I was in a self-deprecating mood, so I didn’t mind giving credit where credit was due as long as it wasn’t to myself.
“Getting help isn’t always a bad thing.” She shoved her hands in the pocket of her jean shorts. They were a darker color, different from the ones she usual wore.
“You went shopping.”
She smiled. “You noticed.”
“You seem to always get my attention.”
“Does that mean I can come?” She gazed right into my eyes, and I wanted to turn away because it felt like she could see straight into my soul. It freaked me out, yet excited me at the same time. I was losing it completely.
“Why do you want to?” She had no reason to help me. She’d more than repaid any thank you for saving Casey.
“What else am I going to do now?” She emphasized now, and I knew exactly what she meant.
“Yeah, I guess Casey’s all right on her own.”
“She’s not on her own. We both know that.”
“No.” I smiled for the second time. Casey and Toby worked, and he made her happy. At least someone had managed to fix the mess I’d made there.“You can come if you want. Who am I to stop you?”
“It’s not like it would be hard to stop me. You can just fly away at any time.”
“Flying only makes sense when I have a destination. Without one, I’d rather walk.”
“I may have said something that wasn’t true back on the plane.”
“Oh?” I wondered where she was headed.
“You aren’t a seven kisser, you’re an eight.”
I smiled. “Only an eight?”
“I’m thinking that I should probably try again, just to be sure.”
“You mean you want to use me?”
“I figure if we’re going to be spending more time together it’s probably going to happen—and other things might too.”
“I told you I don’t want to sleep with you.”
“And I told you I didn’t want to sleep with you. Can’t we just stop lying? It’s getting old.” Her eyes brightened. She was even more beautiful when she was in a playful mood.
“You’re good at saying exactly what’s on your mind.”
“It works better than beating around the bush. People get hurt less that way.”
“I’m tired of people getting hurt.”
“Trust me, I am too.”
“Come here.” I put a hand on her hip.
“Because I don’t step down from challenges.” I used my other hand to push her body against mine.
“I don’t either.” Her lips were on mine before I could blink, but I refused to let her take control for long. I sucked her bottom lip into my mouth. She moaned, and I released her lip, using her distraction to slip my tongue into her mouth. She tasted tart, a flavor I wasn’t used to, but wanted more of. One of her hands moved into my hair, she tugged on it slightly as though she wanted us even closer, but there was no more space between us to close. The only other thing to get rid of were our clothes.
I slipped a hand under her tank top, greedily running my fingers over her smooth skin. She was so warm, so soft, and so damn irresistible. I wanted more and more.
She broke the kiss and stepped back. “Go get packed.”
“Are you going to come help?” I wanted her to say yes, to follow me back to my place so we could finish what we’d started, but another part of me wanted her to say no. For once I didn’t want to screw up a good thing.
“I need to say goodbye to my sister first. Meet me down at the hotel.”
“Sounds good. I won’t be long.”
She smiled. “Good, and Jared?”
“Would you mind if we made one quick stop before we focus on finding your mom?”
“Where is it?” It’s not like I even knew where to start yet, so I wouldn’t have said no to any suggestion.
“You think you’re ready to meet my dad?” She grinned.
She laughed. “I should have been more specific. I’m talking about my birth dad, the one I haven’t seen since I was a few years old. My mom’s there too, and it’s probably time to see her. And who knows, maybe she’ll send us in the right direction? From what Casey said, my mom met yours.”
“All right. I don’t have any other ideas anyway.”
“I liked you better when you were cocky. This whole ‘woe is me’ act doesn’t work. Do me a favor and get rid of it before we meet up?”
I smiled. “I’ll do my best.”
“No.” She put a hand on my arm. “You’ll do it. It’s not about trying, it’s about doing.”
“What, are you a motivational speaker now?”
“No. I’d find much better ways to motivate you than speech.”
“Now that sounds enticing.”
“And that sounds like Jared.” She patted my arm before stepping away. “Get ready. You don’t want to see me when I’m impatient.”
“Actually, I think I’d like to see you in every way.”
“And you will, but only if you get packed.”
“I’m on my way.” I turned my back and headed home.
I’d have never imagined I’d leave New Orleans or my position working for Levi, but sometimes doing the right thing means leaving. Hopefully one day I’d be back in my favorite city, and when that day came I’d make sure I was a better man, the kind of man who deserved to stay.