I absolutely love this book. I just finished it the other day. She does have a way with words!! LOL!!!!
I smiled nervously back then watched him move with causal ease toward the kitchen. Never saw such a white man before. Not around here. I stared at the deep dimples on his lower back near his waist band. Heat pooled in my stomach and I real-ized I should follow him. Halfway there, I stopped. “You mind if I take my shoes off? Kinda sounds like I’m calling possums or somethin’.”
Before I could regret the stupid comment, his deep laughter strummed through me.
“You call possums?” He shot a glance at me with that sexy half grin.
Heat flooded my face. “Nah, not really.” I slid off my sneakers and scooted them to the side with a foot then entered the shoebox-sized kitchen, shaped like a U.
“I mean, no, of course not.” I waved a hand, coming to stand at the island for two in the center.
“It would totally be okay with me.” He set two red mugs on the island’s butcher block top and hit me with those eyes.
“Totally?” I managed to tease back. “Where you from anyway? You’re obviously not from around these parts.”
“Eh,” he shrugged, “here and there.”
I tore my eyes from his broad glowing chest and ran into his direct gaze. I quick-ly looked around the small kitchen. “Can’t believe what you’ve done to this place. Re-ally nice.”
He turned to the sink and my eyes swerved back to his body. I watched the beautiful phenomena of rippling muscles in his arms and back as he got the pot ready for fresh coffee. I forced my attention to the pot. “I love those aluminum drip pots.” I managed to keep my voice between high and low but I couldn’t manage keeping my eyes off his body.
He glanced over his shoulder and my cheeks burned at being caught gawking. Again.
Good grief. I scratched my cheek and stared at the copper pots hanging above the tiny island. “You got yourself some nice cookware there.” I nodded at them. “Do they actually work?”
He set the pot on the stove, turned on a low flame then headed toward me with that smile that could possibly mean he thought I was a fantastic idiot. But at least a fun one. My body gradually tensed as he drew closer, already resisting that gravitational pull he had about him. Lord, standing there like he didn’t affect me one bit was like holding up a mountain.
“I should get a shirt on.”
I choked out a gasp, horrified. Horrified that it was quite obvious to him how much he affected me. “Oh, pffft, not at all, you’re fine,” I said, making it clear that it was utterly unnecessary.
He grinned. “Well thank you.”
“I meant, I’m fine, as in, not bothered, it doesn’t bother me, I see men all the time like that around here, everybody goes around in the summer time without shirts.” I capped the lie with an overly exuberant laugh.
I met his teasing gaze and half grin. “You know what I mean.” My voice dropped to its usual low tenor, aka my strong voice.
“I’m Johnny.” He reached a hand out to me.
I tore my eyes from his and stared at his hand. I was suddenly very concerned over what touching this man would do to me. “Jewel.” I placed my hand in his.
My heart raced as he lifted it and pressed my knuckles to his soft, full lips. “Per-fect name.”
His hot breath and lips on my fingers went straight to all those womanly places that I’d barred every man from. I gripped his fingers, needing something to hold on to.
He eyed me with wonder.
I forced a disconnection, trying to appear unburned by his touch. But I failed miserably as I pulled back my hand with a series of embarrassing jerky hesitations. My lord, I’d said more without words than I could or wanted to explain, and yet felt the need to.
“Johnny, huh?” It came on a squeaky whisper.
“Yeah.” He lowered his head, and I glanced at him, trying to read his mind. He looked troubled, but about what and why, lord I wanted to know.
“Do you have a middle name, Jewel?”
He spot-lighted me with liquid sapphire and my mouth opened without speech. “Uh, well, yeah, everybody has a middle name.” I stroked my ponytail several times and tried to smile. “Pearl is mine. Jewel Pearl Harbor.” I gave a light laugh. “Momma and daddy never lacked a sense of humor.” I realized I cared way too much about what he thought about my stupid name. Of course his face would grow so darn serious again. And mysterious. “It’s uh, a family joke.” I took a deep breath, feeling the need to level this playing field. “What about you? What’s your middle name?”
He turned from the island and answered me with his delicious backside. “No middle name. Just Johnny Blue.”
I averted my gaze as he turned with the coffee pot, barely managing to not get caught lusting. I watched the coppery liquid pour into the red ceramic. “Johnny Blue? Well I think that’s a very nice name. Is that why your favorite color is blue?”
He only gave a soft smile, keeping his attention on the cups. “How do you know that?”
I tossed a glance at the art studio. “Well it’s pretty obvious in those pictures over there, I think. I love them—the colors I mean. And the pictures too, of course.”
He assaulted me with one of those electrical smiles while I’d bumbled out the words, turning up the voltage as each word passed my lips. Whether he liked what I said, or thought I was hilarious, I wasn’t sure, but more inclined to believe the worst.
He slowly slid my cup of coffee to me then went to the counter behind him and returned with a tray. I smiled at the two white glass canisters with tiny green dragons painted on them. Adorable. He set them on the island between us. “Cream and sugar?”
“I uh- yeah, why not.” I pulled the tray carefully toward me.
“Are you trying to quit?” His soft tone held humor.
I glanced from him to the canisters, picking up the tiny silver spoon that went with it. “Nah, I just…” I removed the lid to the sugar and scooped two in my cup, try-ing to think. “I normally drink it black, but, with dishes like this, I can’t resist.” I cleared my throat and picked up the creamer then promptly over-flowed my cup with it. “Oh lordy,” I whispered.
I looked around for a cloth and Johnny tossed me a napkin. I wiped it up, feeling like this whole thing was a long and painful audition that I was ruining. I gave a light laugh, bringing the mug of coffee to my lips. “I’ve always been a goofball.” And to prove my point, I dribbled coffee down my chin.
Johnny was just a watchin’ the whole damn show and tossed me another napkin.
I forced out more light laughter. “Might as well give me the whole stack, I’m likely to need it.”
He slid the wrought iron napkin holder closer and I shot a glance at him. “Just as you’re likely to not get many visitors like me, I’m likely to burn the place down.” Like-ly, likely, don’t you know any other words? I dabbed coffee off my chin and white t-shirt, then wiped the counter for extra measure all the while feeling the burn of those blue orbs on me.
“It ain’t nice to stare at the company, Johnny B.” I took another sip of coffee, be-ing extra careful while avoiding his gaze.
“You’re nice to stare at.”
The compliment undid the little composure I pretended to have and coffee sloshed out of my cup when I set it down too fast. “Might as well dump the whole cup on the counter and get it over with,” I mumbled, grabbing another napkin and shaking my head.
“Can I paint you?”
“Ohhhh my lord,” I breathed, fanning my face a little. “Paint me? Like with paint?” For some reason I thought he meant on my body, then it dawned on me he meant paint a picture of me. “Oh, I—I’ve never done anything like that.”
I looked at him, surprised.
“Well, I mean…” he looked down. “I haven’t’ in a very long time.”
That pressed my puzzle button. “Well why start now?”
His brows drew together briefly. “Yeah, you’re probably right, stupid idea.”
I immediately regretted my words. “Well, I mean, I wouldn’t call it stupid, I just ain’t never had nobody want to paint me, it’s kinda… I don’t know, embarrassing, I guess.” I stirred the little spoon in my cup loudly.
“Embarrassing?” Like he’d thought it was something else and had never considered that.
“Well yeah, I’m not used to people…you know…” I tapped the spoon rapidly on the edge of my cup then returned it to the tray, “staring at me.”
I lifted my cup and took a sip in the fat silence.
I was pretty sure that was relief I heard in that velvety voice of his. The idea that he might have his own inhibitions made me want to encourage him. “I ain’t never had nobody ask to paint me. But… if I was to be painted, I think you’d be a… I mean, you’re very nice and… it’s just a picture for crying out loud.” I laughed a little. “I’d love it if you painted me, why not. Only if you still want to, though.”
I worked up the nerve to look at him after several seconds of silence. Made no sense that I suddenly wanted to beg him to. But I did. Cause it felt like he’d offered me a ride and I’d turned it down, not realizing he was offering a ride to the moon.
He suddenly walked toward me and as the distance closed between us, my heart sped up. He stood at my left shoulder and all I could do was keep my palms firmly on the counter, waiting, holding my breath, wondering what on earth he might say or do.
My body tingled when he slid a finger along my face. Then spoke words that went further into my bones than words had a right to go. “I do want to paint you. You’re different.”
There was a raw need in his voice that lit a flame in me. A flame I had no idea how to control, didn’t want to. I couldn’t turn to him cause I could feel it. The insane urge to consume his lips right where he stood. Lord. How did this happen?
“Can I start tomorrow?” His voice was so damn calm! It was unfair.
My heart hammered my chest. Start? How long did it take? I nodded, only able to glance toward him, surely not at him. What must he be thinking? What a prude to be so undone over something so silly. It’s not like I was stripping naked.
My stomach jolted as naked bodies flashed in my mind, making lava leak from that volcano in my center. “I’d… I’d really like that.” And there it was, years of unmet need right there in my quiet answer. But all regret was erased when he whispered that thank you, next to my ear. I’d never heard such emotions mixed in a tone. Joy—mystery—passion—it was enough to make me swoon.
I suddenly knew right then and there. I would let that man paint me however he wanted or needed. Clothed, nude, standing on my head, it didn’t matter, the only thing that mattered was answering that need I’d heard in “I do want to paint you.” Because really, to my ears, it sounded like, I do need to paint you.
I followed his beautiful form as he went to the sink, turned, and placed both palms on the counter behind him. “What time would you like to come?”
I tucked hair behind my ear wondering why the word come suddenly took on an erotic meaning. “I get off work after supper time—eight o-clock. If you don’t mind workin’ evenin’s then…that works for me.”
He stirred his coffee then put his spoon in the sink next to him. “I love painting in the evening.”
I swallowed as every letter in his soft words slid through me and tickled places that had never been touched. Not like that.
“So it’s a date.” He gave me a sexy half smile before sipping his coffee, all while masturbating my soul with those clear blue eyes.
I focused on sipping my own coffee, wanting to vomit with excitement. “Yes, it sure is.”