Jana was done.
Just fucking done.
She slammed the door of her tiny studio apartment and let her purse slide off her shoulder. It fell with a thud to the cheap, laminate floor. Her boots were covered with mud thanks to a speeding cab hitting the wrong puddle at just the right time, she was soaked from the torrential rain, and she was pretty positive she had a snag in her last pair of tights. Now all she wanted in life was a glass of bourbon the size of Texas and a long soak in a steaming hot bath.
She threw her keys down on the bar at the end of her hallway and shucked her coat off. Snatching up a bottle of Jefferson’s, she marched straight into the kitchen, threw some ice cubes in the glass, and poured.
The sweet burn of the bourbon hit the back of her throat, and her tense shoulders dropped an inch. Not much in the grand scheme of things, but it was a start.
Glass in hand, she wrestled her way out of her boots. It was more than likely that the churned up grease, dirt, and mystery gunk that accumulated on every Manhattan road would fuse with the leather, ruining the shoes. The next logical step would be to grab a kitchen towel and clean them, but it was Friday night and she was in a foul mood.
Reaching around her back, she pulled on the zipper on her dress to free herself. It was halfway down when the harsh sound of the door buzzer cut through the silent apartment, making her jump. She frowned at her intercom. She wasn’t expecting anyone.
The ice cubes in her glass rattled as she padded over in her ruined stockings and hit the “Talk” button. “Who is it?”
“Me.” The crackle of street noise obscured his voice, but she’d have known Wes Murphy’s voice anywhere. After all, she’d been in love with him for nine years.
She leaned hard on the button, willing him away even as she asked, “What are you doing here?”
“You told me to stop by and pick that book up.”
She dipped her head so her forehead bumped the edge of the intercom. She’d totally forgotten they’d emailed from their respective desks earlier that day. She’d teased him about not having plans on a Friday night. He’d asked what could be better than digging into a new book—added bonus that he got to see her. The no doubt careless words had melted her just a little. Now with her back up and her temper flaring, they just pissed her off.
Still, she pressed the “Door” button long enough to make sure he cleared the double door of her building’s lobby.
Knowing she looked a hot mess and caring not even the littlest bit about it, Jana went to hold the front door open. She liked listening with anticipation as his feet fell heavy on the two flights of stairs to her walk-up apartment. The top of his head would bob up first, giving her a glimpse of the thick curls he wore cropped close to his head. Then she’d see that grin as he spotted her. The grin that made something twist inside of her.
It was no different this time, except that she was sopping wet with her arms crossed over her chest.
Wes’ smile faltered just a little at the sight of her, but then came back at full force. “You’re wet.”
“Bad end to the week,” she muttered.
“So am I.” She stepped back to let him into the apartment.
Once inside, Wes peered around at the carnage. “What happened to your shoes?”
“Boots,” she corrected. “I had a run in with a cab.”
She shot him a look and turned retrieve his book from the living room.
“Your dress is unzipped.” He said it as though it was half question, half revelation—like he had only just realized that Jana got undressed like every other woman.
“And?” she challenged him, hands on her hips.
Wes approached her slowly, looking for signs of an attack all the way. She thought he might be angling for a hug or some other show of friendly camaraderie for her rotten day, but instead he put a hand on her shoulder and spun her around. She could feel the weight of his fingers on the zipper tab that hung between her shoulders.
He pulled carefully, stretching the moment out. The intimacy of it cut through her. She nearly gasped as the zipper went lower. Lower.
Keep it together.
She might have stood a chance and been able to move away to safety, but then Wes touched her. A finger traced the line of the zipper down her spine until it stopped at the small of her back. When he stepped back, she was shaking.
With a hard swallow, Jana looked over her shoulder. His gaze fixed on the skin he’d just exposed. His tongue flicked out over his lips.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked.
And wasn’t that just like Wes. Hold her in a hug just a little too long. Tuck her hair behind her ear. Work her shoulders over with his hands to ease the tension of the day away. He kept doing these things before hiding behind the barrier of their friendship. She was tired of this bullshit.
“Wes, kiss me or get out of this apartment. That’s all I can handle tonight.”
He was on her in a flash, his lips crushing hers with nine years of pent up need. She pushed up into him, pouring every once of anger at the day, desire for him, and annoyance at herself that she hadn’t commanded him to kiss her sooner. When his hands plunged into her hair and pulled a little, she gasped, giving him the chance he needed to rough her lower lip with his teeth.
“Jana,” he groaned as his hands dipped into the gaping back of her dress.
She pressed her body against the hard length of his before shoving his leather jacket off and tugging the hem of his worn in t-shirt over his head. Her hands ran down his arms, chest, stomach, wanting nothing more than to explore the man who knew her best and was still a mystery.
Her dress fell to the floor. All that covered her was a thin silk slip. He ran his fingers under the straps. “I’ve never seen a girl wear one of these,” he said, breaking the hot, frantic pace to reveal something sweeter underneath.
She looked up at him. “Now you’ve seen me.”
“Is that okay with you?”
Rather than answer, she lifted her hands to the thin straps and pushed them off her shoulders. The silk pooled at her feet.
He followed suit, undoing his belt and pushing his jeans off.
Standing there in the middle of her apartment—nearly naked—they simply stared. She’d never imagined their relationship would come to this. Ho could she when he’d never done anything?
I never did anything either.
“I’m glad you finally kissed me,” she breathed.
He reached out and stroked from her elbow to her wrist before lacing their fingers together. “I’m glad you finally told me to.”
“I’ve been telling you for years, you just haven’t been listening.”
A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. “Then I’m glad I finally paid attention.”
He pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her so that all she could do was rest her cheek against his chest. That was just fine with her.
“We’re going to bed.” His voice reverberated low through his chest. “Then tomorrow, if you haven’t kicked me out of your apartment yet, we’ll take it from there.”
“And what if tomorrow works?”
“Then we see about the next day. I’ve waited nine years to get up the courage to kiss you. You think I’m letting go now?”
It was her turn to smile. “As though I’d let you.”
“I’m still going to want that book.”
She cast her head back and laughed. “Earn it.”
With a grin, he boosted her up so her legs wrapped around his waist and walked her across the living room to her bed. When her toes hit the edge of her bed, he murmured against her lips, “I will. Promise.”
Thanks for reading! This is part of the First Undressing blog tour. The full schedule is posted on Audra North's website and please check out today's other posters Amber Belldene and A.L. Parks!
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