Beautiful [Beautiful Series]

Chapter 9

Pippa

Jensen opened the door to our room, wordlessly gesturing for me to lead us inside. The door closed behind him with a heavy click.

Whoa, the moment was loaded.

The entire walk up the stairs, neither of us had said a word. Down the hall—still silent. With nearly every step, I wanted to turn to him and do a tiny dance and say, This doesn’t have to happen. We could just tell scary stories and clean out the minibar snacks and pretend it’s a slumber party.

But sometimes, I felt with Jensen, saying it out loud nearly made it more awkward.

We’d hardly spent any time in here since we’d brought our bags up earlier, and at that time, the rush of the marriage game and the knowledge that we had the entire evening before we had to face this moment had made the bed somehow seem so much bigger.

But no. It was minuscule.

Was there a size in the US between a twin and a full?

He was the first to break the silence as we both stared at it. “I can absolutely sleep on the floor.”

I didn’t want that, though. In truth, I wanted his long frame around me, arms holding me tight with my back to his front. I wanted to hear his sleeping breaths and feel the heat of him all night long.

It wasn’t just that I liked sex—which I did—or enjoyed cuddling—absolutely. It was that I felt safe with him. I felt important, especially today, when I’d been able to do something to help him and it seemed that tiny favor opened up so much of him to me.

But here we were, with his shutters back in place.

“Don’t be silly.” I turned to my suitcase, pulling out my pajamas. “I’m just going to go change . . .”

He coughed down at his own suitcase, open on a chair in the corner of the room. “Of course.”

I changed, washed my face, put my hair up, pulled my hair back down, put it up again. Moisturized. I brushed my teeth, used the loo, washed my hands, moisturized again. Brushed my teeth again. I stalled. And then, stepping out, I let him past me to do the same routine, realizing as he walked into the loo that he had only a pair of shorts in his hand.

He slept shirtless.

Fuck me sideways.

However, when he finally came out of the restroom, Jensen was still wearing his T-shirt, to my enormous dismay.

“I thought you slept shirtless.”

What.

What did I just say?

He looked up at me in surprise. “I mean, I usually do, but . . .”

I swear my heart was beating so hard I could barely take in a steady breath. “I think I was hoping you would.” I licked my lips, begging him not to move his eyes away from mine. “I’m sorry. My filter seems to have broken.”

A tiny smile pulled at his lips. “You say that like it’s happened only now.”

Somehow this joke—and the forgiveness embedded in his voice—let the rest of my thoughts tumble free: “I realize that we were just playing a game today. But the past few days, I’ve been open to something happening between us. It’s loaded now, and there’s absolutely no way to change that, but I didn’t want you to think that I would dislike sharing a bed.” I paused and then opened my mouth to continue, but stopped myself, giving him a chance to reply.

He didn’t seem to expect my silence after such a short ramble, apparently, because he stood there, staring at me expectantly for a few breaths.

“Go ahead,” I whispered, sitting down on the bed and scooting toward the headboard. “I’m done. For now.”

Jensen came toward me slowly, sitting down at the corner of the mattress, just at the edge. “I was thinking about this before Becky showed up, too.”

“You were?”

He nodded. “Of course I was. You’re beautiful, and only half as irritating as I initially thought.”

A laugh burst out of me. “You think I’m pretty?”

“I think you’re stunning.”

I chewed my lip, watching him.

A slow grin took over his face and he finally asked, “Do you think I’m pretty?”

Reaching behind me, I pulled a pillow free and lobbed it at him. “I think you’re stunning,” I echoed, and the rest of it tumbled out of me: “I like you.”

He laughed, eyes shining. “I like you, too.”

And the famous Pippa Cox mouth was off and running: “Before this trip, I’d never been to a proper winery. My friend Lucy had a party a few years back. It was meant to be a classy evening—wine, cheese—but what’s the saying? ‘You can’t put lipstick on a pig’ . . . ? We just aren’t those people. The night is still a bit of a blur: wine stains on the carpet and people snogging in corners—it wasn’t a big enough party for covert snogging, so it was rather awkward, really. Johnny Tripton ended up on the patio naked, waving the Brazilian flag. Lucy passed out on the kitchen floor and people sort of just . . . stepped around her to refill their glasses. I woke up with blue hair—I often dye my hair red, sometimes even pink, but never blue—and I swore off wine for eternity. Or at least until the next weekend.” I smiled up at him. “My point is, this trip is a bit classier than my last wine tour, and today has been about a million times more fun than I could have ever expected.”

The cartoon version of Jensen in this moment would be a man stepping out of a convertible, his hair askew and eyes widely stunned. “You are honestly unlike anyone I’ve ever known.”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”

He laughed. “Good, I think.”

“You think?”

“I think.”

I swallowed down a flutter of nerves before asking, “Are you going to sleep in the bed with me?”

Jensen shrugged. “I hadn’t really gotten that far. If we share a bed . . .”

His meaning was clear. “You think if we share a bed, we might have sex.”

He nodded, studying me. “We might.”

I could barely move, I was shaking so intensely.

“Do you want sex?” I laughed at myself immediately. “I mean, not that we—it’s just, tonight when you kissed me, it felt like you weren’t just playing.”

“I fucking love sex,” he said in a quiet growl. “Of course I want it. But tonight was complicated, and I don’t just have sex with someone on impulse.”

“God.” I let my head fall back against the headboard. “That’s incredibly hot, and I don’t even know why.”

“Pippa.”

I grinned up at him. “Jensen.”

My heart beat a savage rhythm in my chest as he reached forward, lifting a hand and touching my bottom lip with the tip of his index finger. “Do you like sex?” he whispered.

Oh, fuck me.

“Yes.”

Jensen waved a casual hand. “Well, that’s good to know.” He sat up, blinking away as if we were done, and I caught the devious smile as he began to stand.

“You wanker,” I said, laughing and leaning forward to smack his shoulder. He caught my hand with his, pressing it just over where his heart hammered beneath his breastbone.

His expression shifted away from that playful smile; he suddenly seemed so unguarded. “Take it easy on me,” he said quietly.

“I will.”

He continued to stare, his meaning growing clearer the longer our eyes held.

“Do you want to put on a movie?” I asked. “I’m suddenly sympathetic to any prostitute ever who isn’t sure how to get the ball rolling.”

He stared at me, bewildered, before shaking his head and laughing. “I doubt I’d ever be able to predict what comes out of that mouth next.”

“I mean, I don’t care what we do. I want you to come over here and relax.” I really just wanted him beside me, warm and strong, curled up nearby. We had a week and a half left together on the trip. I could work up to sex.

And with Jensen, it was about more than that, as terrifying as that truth felt.

He leaned for the remote, turned on the TV, and began scrolling through the channels.

Our frank conversation had eased the tension somewhat, but it was still there, especially when Jensen selected Goodfellas and turned back to survey where I was sitting cross-legged on the bed.

“Okay?” he asked.

“There wasn’t much else on,” I said, nodding. “And I love this movie.”

With a small nod, he put the remote down on his bedside table, seemed to hesitate for a few breaths, and then reached behind his neck, pulling his shirt off.

“Bloody hell,” I whispered. In only a tiny flash, I’d memorized the entire shape of his upper body, and believe me—there was plenty to take in.

He held the shirt to his chest. “Is this okay? I get really hot and there’s not a fan in here. I’m used to sleeping with a fan.”

“It’s fine,” I said, waving at him without looking. His chest was a map of muscle, with the perfect amount of hair to make me feel the presence of a motherfucking man in the room with me.

He pulled back the covers and we both scooted under them, arranging our limbs carefully so as to not touch. It was an exercise in insanity for me: Jensen, in nothing but a pair of shorts, beside me in bed.

But then his leg pressed against mine under the covers—warm, the soft slide of his leg hair against my thigh—and with a tiny laugh he reached around me, pulling me so that I was resting my head on his chest.

“We don’t have to be weird,” he whispered.

I nodded, sliding my hand up over his stomach, feeling it tighten under my touch. “Okay.”

“Thank you again for what you did today.”

I could hear his heart beating against my ear, could feel his chest rise and fall with each inhale. “You’re welcome.” Hesitating, I added quietly, “I guess that’s what I was trying to say earlier. It was fun. It was easy.”

He laughed, and the sound was a rumbling echo against me. “It was.”

Jensen’s palm slid up and down my arm, from shoulder to elbow, and we watched the film together. Somehow I knew neither of us was paying much attention.

I liked the smell of his deodorant, the smell of his soap, but I liked even more the faint smell of his sweat beneath it all. His warmth was unreal: limbs long and solid, skin so soft and firm. I closed my eyes, pressing my face into his neck. Carefully, I slid one leg over his, scooting closer and cuddling into him. It meant that the heat between my legs was pressed against his thigh.

He held his breath—somehow making the room fall into a heavy, anticipatory silence—while maintaining the rhythm of his palm up and down my arm.

He finally let out a long, controlled exhale.

Was he hard? Was that it? Was it that my leg was so close to his cock, and my breasts were pressed to his ribs, and my mouth was only an inch from the tanned skin of his chest?

I was so keyed up, so desperate for relief and contact and him that I closed my eyes and just focused on breathing. Breathing in, breathing out. But each breath pulled more of him into my head, and the gentle sweep of his hand over me just told me how much care he would put into loving me, and it became nearly too much; I had to filter out everything but the feel of air coming into my lungs and being expelled.

I welcomed that drowsy relief, the knowledge that my body was unwinding, turning off. A tiny part of me had worried that I would be awake all night, continually aware of the fit, sexual man beside me. But it faded away to the rhythm of his hand up and down my arm.

I woke up aroused, flushed with the memory of a mouth working its way down my neck, warm hands sliding beneath the cotton of my camisole. I ached between my legs in a way I hadn’t in an eternity, needing relief.

But it wasn’t a memory.

Jensen was there, curled on his side and pressed against me from behind, his mouth moving from my ear down my neck.

I made a quiet noise of surprise, pressing back into him and feeling his cock—hard and ready against my backside. At the contact, he groaned, grinding against me in a slow, pressing rhythm.

“Hey,” I whispered.

He scraped his teeth along the side of my neck and I nearly cried out at the sensation. “Hey.”

It was dark in the room. The television was off, the lights extinguished. On instinct I looked over to the clock. It was nearly three in the morning.

I reached a hand back, sliding my fingers into his hair to hold his face against where he was pulling the strap of my shirt aside to nibble at my shoulder.

“I woke you,” he said, and then sucked at my neck. “I’m sorry.”

Then he paused. “No. I’m not sorry.”

Turning in his arms, I thought I knew what his kiss would feel like—he’d kissed me earlier, after all—but I could not have predicted the hunger of it, the demand of his mouth, his hands sliding up my top, the way he rolled over onto me. His mouth pulled at mine, lips teasing until I opened for him, letting him inside. I’d never been so aware of the feel of someone’s tongue against mine, the tiny flicks, the nibbling of his teeth on my lips, the way his moans would vibrate against my kiss. My arms went around his shoulders, hands slid into his hair, and he was there, rocking between my legs, finding that spot where he would be inside me if it weren’t for these ruddy clothes. I could feel him, hard and urgent, could feel the tip of him sliding across the point between my legs that set me on fire, the place where I was warmest, wanting him.

Jensen bent, sliding my shirt up over my breasts and ducking so that he could lick them, fill his hands with them, before returning to me with renewed energy but no words. He wasn’t a talker, but there was something about the tiny grunts in his breaths, the sharp inhales and shaking exhales, that had me listening acutely, clawing at him, begging him silently to undress me fully and slide inside.

But I didn’t need that. I was swollen and desperate for it, feeling my body respond to the rhythm he set, the hard press of him just where I wanted it, and when I arched into him, rocking, working my body in tandem with his, he let out a hissed “Yes. Fuck. Yes.”

My shirt was off—and it was hot in here, wasn’t it? Because there was a fine sheen of sweat to my skin, and to his, and it sent him gliding over me, in that pressing delicious slide that feels so good it nearly hurts. Each point of contact between us carried an electric current, a delicious stab of warmth, and I wanted nothing more than to be bare—everywhere.

But again—I didn’t need it. My body, hijacked by that building ache inside, reminded me I needed only what Jensen was already doing, and more, and more of it, with his mouth on mine and his little sounds resonating inside my head like a hammer on a drum.

He knew exactly how to move against me, focused on where he had to press rhythmically. God, the truth of that made me nearly cry out: the simple reality of him. Even the idea of him with other women—lost to the demands of his body, figuring it out—thrilled me. So focused, too greedy for pleasure.

How did I get here? How did I earn his attention, his desire? It boggled, it really did.

He sped up, breathlessly close, and the reality that he’d been as amped up as I had, that he was ready to go off like a bomb, pushed me past that point of a mind split in two by sensation and realization to one that could process only the feel of my orgasm approaching. I grew a bit wild, gripping his backside, pulling him harder against me, warning him in a whisper—

I’m close

I’m going to come—

With renewed focus he ground into me, his own breath coming out fast and hot on my neck until I felt like I was twisting away from the pleasure of it, nearly overwhelmed with the force of my orgasm as it splintered through me, flushed and frantic.

He followed with a relieved shout, his pleasure spilling, wet on my navel, his mouth pressed to my neck, teeth bared.

Oh God, and in the moment that followed it was so quiet in the room but for the gasping of our inhales, the forceful push of our exhales. Jensen stilled, braced over me, and then slowly rose onto his elbows.

In the dark, my eyes had adjusted somewhat, and although it was nearly black outside, there was the slight bleed of light from the alarm clock and spilling in from the hall through the crack beneath the door. I could tell he was staring down at me, gauging. But that was the extent of it. What I didn’t know was whether he was frowning or serene in relief.

His hand came up to the side of my face, sweeping away a damp strand of hair. “I meant to take it slower.”

I shrugged beneath him, relieved immeasurably by the sweetness in his voice. “At least we didn’t get naked.”

“More of a technicality,” he whispered, bending to kiss me. “I’m covered in you. You’re covered in me.”

I’m covered in you.

I closed my eyes, sliding my hands around his hips and forward, between our bodies, to feel the warm spill of his orgasm on my stomach, and then lower, to where he pressed—still half hard—between my legs.

“We’re a mess,” I said.

He laughed, a bit growly. “Want to shower?”

“Then we’ll really be naked.” I mean, not that it really mattered anymore. But . . . maybe it did, even just a little. To hold something back here meant that there was something more to come between us, something we wanted to save that for, and the thought gave me a tiny, heady burst of happiness. “You first. Then me.”

“Or we could sleep like this,” he said into my neck, laughing. “Because I’m really fucking tired now.”

“Yes. Or we could sleep.” I turned my head to him and he turned his face to mine, kissing me slow and warm, tongue lazily stroking.

“This’ll make it easier to pretend tomorrow.”

As soon as he said it, he stiffened. I couldn’t deny that the timing was a little off—referencing the ex-wife just moments after we dry fucked our way to orgasm. But I knew what he meant, too. It was still a comment about us, just more real somehow. The truth was, I was British, he was American. I lived in London, he lived in Boston. And his ex-wife was two doors down the hall. Given how fascinated she’d been with Jensen tonight, and how hard it had been for her to tear her guilt-stained eyes from his face, I wondered, too, whether she was up, listening for evidence of what we’d just done.

In the darkness it was somehow easier to ask him about it. “How was it for you today? Really?”

He rolled off me but pulled me with him, turning me onto my side so we faced each other and curling a palm around my hip. Jensen: the gentle, cuddling lover. “It wasn’t actually that bad,” he said, and then leaned forward, kissing me. “Which was unexpected. I think having you there helped. I think having Ziggs and Will be angry on my behalf helped.”

I nodded. “Yeah. I agree.”

“And I think it helped that she’s married to a guy who seems sort of boring,” he whispered, as if he was a bit ashamed to admit it so baldly. “I shoulder some of the blame for our breakup, of course. But it makes me wonder if . . . maybe I wasn’t the problem after all.”

“So we’ll keep up the facade?” I asked.

Jensen coughed quietly and shrugged against me. “I don’t really see any point in telling her either way. I haven’t seen her since the day we signed the divorce papers. We no longer have any friends in common. At this point, telling her it was a joke would probably only hurt her feelings.”

“I love that you don’t want to hurt her feelings, after everything.”

He went quiet for a few even breaths. “She ended things so terribly, with such appalling immaturity. But she wasn’t trying to be awful.”

“She just is,” I said, repressing a little laugh.

“She was young,” he said by way of explanation. “Though I don’t remember her being quite so . . .”

“Dull?” I asked.

He coughed out an incredulous sound that I’d put it so plainly at last. “Well . . . yeah.”

“No one is interesting at nineteen.”

“Some people are,” he argued.

“I wasn’t. I was obsessed with lip gloss and sex. There wasn’t a lot more going on upstairs.”

He shook his head, hand sliding up from my hip to my waist. “You studied math.”

“Anyone can study math,” I told him. “It’s just something to do. Having an aptitude for math doesn’t make you inherently more interesting. It just makes you good with numbers, which, in my experience, often translates to bad with people.”

“You aren’t bad with people.”

I let this sentence hang between us, wondering if it would strike him as funny, or surprising, or wonderful, given our start on the plane.

After a beat, he grinned at me in the darkness. “Well, unless you’re slamming champagne and belching on planes.”