Updated: Jan 19
Stay With Me
by Jennifer L Armentrout
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks
Book 3 in the Wait For You Series
At 21, Calla hasn’t done a lot of things.
She’s never been kissed, never seen the ocean, never gone to an amusement park. But growing up, she witnessed some things no child ever should. She still carries the physical and emotional scars of living with a strung-out mother, Mona—secrets she keeps from everyone, including her close circle of college friends.
But the safe cocoon Calla has carefully built is shattered when she discovers her mom has stolen her college money and run up a huge credit card debt in her name. Now, Calla has to go back to the small town she thought she'd left behind and clean up her mom’s mess again. Of course, when she arrives at her mother’s bar, Mona is nowhere to be found. Instead, six feet of hotness named Jackson James is pouring drinks and keeping the place humming.
Sexy and intense, Jax is in Calla’s business from the moment they meet, giving her a job and helping her search for Mona. And the way he looks at her makes it clear he wants to get horizontal . . . and maybe something more. Before Calla can let him get close, though, she’s got to deal with the pain of the past—and some very bad guys out to mess her up if she doesn’t give them her mom.
RATED: 18+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Steamy #NewAdult Happy Ending
Trigger Warning: This book deals with the many impacts that drug use can have on both the user, and those who are around them. There is also violence.
Stay With Me by Jennifer L Armentrout is the third book in her Wait For You series, that follows a group of young adults, all with their own personal struggles, falling in love. Stay With Me centers around Calla, a twenty-one year old nursing student who finds herself suddenly broke and unable to cover tuition for her next semester of school, when her mother, Mona, drains her bank account, and ruining her credit by taking out credit cards in her name. Wanting to confront her mother, and get her money back, and no where else to go, Calla heads to her small home town. She doesn't find her mother, who she finds out is in hiding from some dangerous men, but she finds Jackson (Jax), the new to her bartender at her mothers bar. Jax quickly makes his intentions clear with Calla, but she tries to keep him at a distance, while dealing with the physical and emotional scars from a tragic past that she keeps hidden from everyone, and trying to find her mom, before those dangerous men go after her.
I was a little worried starting Stay With Me. All of a sudden, we were leaving the college that we have been with the last two book (three if you have read Trust in Me, the first book in Cam's perspective), and leaving behind characters we have read about for a whole new town and cast. The idea of not having those moments with Cam and Avery, and Jase and Tess, bummed me out. As per usual when it comes to worrying about anything Jennifer Armentrout writes, I was wrong to doubt. Stay With Me breathes life into a series that would have gotten quickly dull if it had stayed on campus, and introduces us to some quirky new characters, as well as sexy new potential in future books. Calla's story is just as raw and difficult as the past two books protagonists, and gives us an idea of what drugs can do to not just the user, but to the users family and friends. How they can destroy your life. Calla's personal struggles make Stay With Me a very unique experience, that will keep you hooked to the very end.
I wasn't sure if I was going to like Calla. We don't get a WHOLE lot of her in Tess's story, and it turns out, the little we do learn about her, is a lie. Calla's whole life is built on lies, right down to the thick make-up that hides the worst of the scar on her face. As we learn more about her, you can't help but like her. The fact that she grew up how she did, going through what she went through that left her scarred in more ways than one, and yet she manages to escape her small town, her mother and her problems, and go to school? She is strong, and has a good head on her shoulders. I get Jax's attraction, even though Calla is naive about men in general. And Jax ... Jennifer is great at two things: Writing strong, likable female characters, and writing swoonworthy, dream men. Jax is one of those guys. A truly nice, stable, loyal man who see's beauty within as well as out, and is able to look at something Calla finds horrifying, seeing the beauty and truth of it. He doesn't ignore it.
And we can't forget about the other characters introduced in this book. There is broody Nick and short and quirky Roxy, Mona's bartenders along with Jax. There is Katie, the reformed quiet girl Calla went to school with, who is now a loud, and proud stripper, who has no problem being as blunt as she needs to be, and may or may not have psychic powers from a head injury she got after she fell off a greased up stripper pole. There is Uncle who isn't really her uncle, but is more of a parent than her actual parents, who is all kinds of sweet. Then there is Reese, the police officer/retired marine, who was in the desert with Jax, and remains good friends with him.
If we stuck around at the college, I think the story would have gotten quickly bland. And we did still get our two original couples when they visit Calla. Stay With Me brings a touch more of danger to the story, highlights another big issue that, unfortunately, many people struggle with (drug use), and feels overall more adult. We get new characters, more potential for future stories, while still enjoying our established characters. I highly recommend.
Where to Buy
Cam sighed as he leaned around Avery
Cam: "What in the hell are you doing with Raphael?"
Ollie: "Correction. This is Michelangelo, and I think it's pretty fucked-up you don't even know which one is yours anymore. You've probably sent Raphael into a depression."
Jax: "You pinky sweat and listen to old-school music? I like you."
Calla: "Let me remind you of something. I don't know you. Like at all."
Jax: "And I'm not asking you to get naked and give me a private show."
Pausing, his gaze seemed to drift down my body again.
Jax: "Although, that is way interesting. A bad idea, but way interesting."
Jax: "What are you doing in here, Calla?"
At the sound of my name, I snapped out of it. Placing the spreadsheet and receipts on the desk, I narrowed my eyes at him.
Calla: "Well, considering this bar is my mom's, I have every right to be in the office."
Jax: "That's some dumb rationale considering I've been at this bar for about two years and last night was the first time I'd seen your sweet ass."
Calla: "Can you stop referring to me ass as sweet?"
Jax: "Would you prefer I refer to it as hot?"
I inhaled through my nose.
Jax: "How about heart shaped and thick?"
Calla: "How about not at all?"
Jax: "God, you're going to be a pain in my ass."
Jax: "Work here? Honey, this is not your kind of place."
I spared him a look
Calla: "It doesn't look like it's your kind of place, either."
Jax: "Why is that?"
Calla: "Look at you. You don't look like you should be working in a dive bar."
An eyebrow rose.
Jax: "I like to think it's one step up from a dive bar."
Calla: "A little step."
One side of his lips kicked up
Jax: "Where do you think I should be working at?"
Calla: "I don't know. Maybe at Hot Guys R Us."
Calla: "What's interesting?"
I tried to step back, but the hands on my shoulders tightened.
Calla: "I'm not interesting at all."
Jax: "I know that's untrue."
Calla: "It's not. I'm the most boring person to ever live. I haven't even been to a beach or to New York City. Never taken a plane ride or even been to an amusement park. I don't do anything when I'm at school and I ... Anyway, I'm boring."
One brow arched up
Jax: "Okay. But we're going to have to agree to disagree on that, too."
Mack: "What did you expect, man? Not my fault she's Mona's daughter. Ain't like you can't notice her face -"
Jax: "Finish that sentence and I'll fuck your face up so badly you'll be seeing double for the rest of your life, ass hat."
Calla: "You kissed me."
Jax: "Yeah. I did."
I forced my eyes open. He leaned in, his arm against the wall taking his weight as he dropped his hand from my chin.
Jax: "I don't kiss girls that I don't find hot as hell or beautiful. So, you get my point?"
Calla: "You kissed me to prove a point?"
A ghost of a smile appeared.
Jax: "Felt like it was the quickest way to prove the point."
Jax: "What are you wearing?"
Calla: "What? What's wrong with what I'm wearing?"
Jax: "Nothing. Like the socks. It's cute. You're cute."
Jax: "Are you always so argumentative?"
I squinted at him.
Calla: "Are you always so bossy?"
He cast a grin in my direction.
Jax: "Honey, you haven't seen bossy yet."
Calla: "I need an adult."
Jax: "By the way ... Those shorts and those legs? Fucking perfection."
Jax: "Went to Mona's one night, ended up with a job, finally got my own place, and here I am, lying in bed with Mona's pretty daughter. Life is fucking strange like that."
Calla: "You're ... you say nice things."
Jax: "I speak the truth."
Jax pressed against my back, and the next breath I took got stuck in my throat.
Calla: "What are you doing?"
Jax: "Getting comfortable."
He dropped an arm over my waist, and my entire body jerked against his.
Jax: "It's time to sleep I think."
Calla: "But -"
Jax: "You can't sleep when you talk."
Calla: "You don't need to be all up on me."
His answering chuckle stirred the hair along the back of my neck.
Jax: "Honey, I'm not all up on you."
Jax's head was tilted back against the pillow, exposing his long, tan neck, and the tips of straight white teeth bit down on his full lower lip. The look on his face, like he was stopping himself from doing something very naughty and very fun, confused me.
And then I realized why.
I'd planted my hand on his lower stomach, like way lower stomach, and my thigh was now pressing in between his legs.
Calla: "Oh God."
I jerked back my hand.
Jax moved lightening quick, capturing my wrist in his hand.
Jax: "You probably should've just gone back to sleep."
He rolled suddenly, and before I could take my next breath, I was flat on my back and he was hovering above me, one hand still curled around my wrist and the other planted in the bed beside my head, his lower arm curved into the mattress.
Calla: "What are you doing?"
His warm brown gaze traveled over my face - my face - before fixing on my mouth.
Jax: "You know what they say about guys in the morning?"
One side of his lip kicked up, and then I got it and then my face was really burning. A deep, husky chuckle shook him.
Jax: "I'm kind of glad you didn't go back to sleep. This is by far more interesting."
My brain emptied.
The hand around my wrist slid down my arm, stopping at my elbow
Jax: "You know what else I find really interesting?"
His head lowered until I felt his nose brush mine, and I tensed.
Jax: "It's interesting how much I liked waking up with my hand on your ass and my leg between yours."
Calla: "You were awake!"
Using my other arm, I pushed my hand against his chest.
Calla: "Get off."
Jax: "Would love to."
Calla: "Yeah, that's not what I'm talking about, jackass."
Jax: "I like you."
Jax: "I like you."
Calla: "You don't know me."
Jax: "What I know of you I like."
Calla: "But -"
Jax: "Don't overthink it, honey. Life's too short for that shit."
His lips grazed my skin. Every muscle tightened in the most delicious way, and his thumb, it was still swirling, still dragging out an array of sensations.
Jax: "I like you. That's all."
Calla: "But you can't."
His lips stilled against my cheek and then he lifted his head. Our gazes collided, and I wanted to look away, but couldn't.
Jax: "I can."
Then Jax lowered himself, and all the air in the world was sucked out of that room. His weight ... I'd never felt anything like it before. He was heavy, but it was good, and his hips were cradled between my legs, and ...
Holy mother lode, there was no mistaking what I felt pressed against me.
Jax: "Get it. I like you, Calla. Yeah, I've only known you a couple of days. But you've made me laugh. I can also tell you're nice and sweet when you wanna be. I think you're cute as hell and you make me hard."
Whoa. Did he seriously just say that?
Jax: "You've made me hard a couple of time in the last seventy-some-odd hours and I gotta say that's not a bad thing. I want to fuck you, and all I need to want to do that with you is to like you. It's really not that hard to get from point A to point C on that, honey."
Katie: "You see, I got the gift."
Calla: "Um. What kind of gift?"
Katie tapped a long, French manicured finger off her temple.
Katie: "The gift. Sight. Psychic. Whatever they're calling it nowadays. I get feelings about things and I just know things."
Calla: "So, um .. did you have this gift in high school?"
Katie: "No. I had an accident. Woke up the next days with the gift."
Calla: "What ... what kind of accident?"
Roxy: "Oh Lordy Lord."
Katie: "Fell off the damn pole."
Katie reached over and grabbed my shot.
Katie: "Snooze, you lose."
She downed it and then cracked the glass off the bar top.
Katie: "Yeah, I just said that. And yeah, I got to go and make some mon-nay! See you later, bitches!"
I watched Katie spin like a ballerina on her heels and head for the door just as it opened and two other girls walked in. One of them, a busty redhead, curled her lip in Katie's direction and then whispered something to her friend, causing the other lady to giggle.
Eyes narrowing, I realized I didn't like that.
Katie stopped, looked the redhead straight in the eyes
Katie: "I'll cut a bitch."
Roxy's mouth dropped open.
The redhead pales and the other woman flushed.
Katie: "And those bitches back there won't serve you, so you can go hang out at Apple-Back down the street."
Katie glanced over her shoulder at us
Katie: "Be gone, bitches."
Katie all but ushered them back out the door, pausing to throw us what looked like a gang sign.
Katie: "Peace out, home skillets!"
Roxy and I were quiet for a good minute and then I looked at her.
Calla: "Katie's always been a wee bit different, but I've always liked her."
Mack: "I told you once and I'll tell you twice, you don't know who you're fucking with."
Jax: "I know exactly who I'm fucking with. Nobody."
Calla: "Tequila is like a long-lost, not so annoying friend."
I squeezed the bottle in my arms, pressing it against my chest.
Calla: "I really like tequila."
Jax: "We'll see how you feel in the morning. Why don't you hand over the bottle?"
Calla: "But I like it. You can't take that from me."
Jax: "I'm not going to hurt the bottle, Calla."
Calla: "Maybe I want another shot."
Jax: "I don't think that's a good idea."
I lifted the photo again, practically shoving it in his face.
Calla: "I used to be really pretty. See? I used -"
Jax: "There is no 'used' to be."
He snatched the frame out of my hand, and my mouth dropped open as he tossed it.
Jax: "You're really fucking pretty now."
Tequila was the wild juice of the devil and I'd never partake in it again.
Jax: "Let's get going."
Jax: "Taking you to Waffle House."
Calla: "You don't have to carry me!"
He grinned down at me
Jax: "And you don't have to shout."
Calla: "Put me down!"
Ignoring me, he headed for the door and then stopped, backtracking to the kitchen.
Jax: "Grab your keys and sunglasses. You're going to need both."
I glared at him and he grinned at me
Calla: "Jax, come on."
He lowered his head
Jax: "Honey, you can argue and shout all you want but I'm still going to carry your ass out to that truck, put you in it, and we're going to Waffle House, and you will eat friend eggs, bacon, and a goddamn waffle."
My eyes narrowed. God, he was freaking high-handed. There was a sparkle to his deep brown eyes
Jax: "And maybe even a slice of apple pie, if you're a good girl and you stop arguing with me."
Roxy: "So, Jax took your cherry?"
The margarita glass almost slipped out of my hand as I turned to where Roxy stood. Behind her, Nick was staring at us.
Katie: "Oh my God, this is such a perfect conversation."
My cheeks were warm as I glanced back to where Katie was sitting.
Calla: "This is not the perfect conversation."
Katie: "Were you a virgin? Like in past tense?"
Calla: "Roxy is talking about being drunk. I'd never been drunk before. Last night was my first time. Jax took my -"
Jax: "I took what?"
Katie: "You took Calla's cherry?"
Jax: "I took ... what?"
He blinked and then looked at me, head tilted to the side.
Jax: "Is there something about last night I don't remember? Because honey, I'm going to be seriously disappointed if that happened, and I don't recall it. Like really fucking -"
Calla: "No! She's talking about never drinking. Not me .... you know ..."
Oh God ...
Katie: "Oh. Well, hell, never mind. Back to the pole for me."
Jax: "But it wasn't her only cherry I took."
Oh double God.
Roxy's head whipped toward him
Roxy: "Do tell?"
Jax: "No. She never had apple pie. I changed that this morning."
Calla: "Why do you even want to go out with me?"
Jax: "Because I like you."
Calla: "You can't like me."
Jax: "I've already told you that I want to fuck you. You can't forget that."
Calla: "I kind of blocked that out."
He laughed deeply, clearly amused.
Jax: "You can't be surprised that I like you."
Calla: "Fucking and liking are two different things."
Jax: "Yes. And no."
Jax: "Remember what I told you? I figured you haven't spent the night at many guys' houses before."
My nose wrinkled. Was it that obvious? Ack.
Jax: "I like that about you. It's cute. I told you that you were safe with me.That hasn't changed, Calla."
Jax: "What was something you liked doing as a kid that didn't involve the beauty queen shit?"
Calla: "Playing basketball."
Calla: "Yeah, what about you?"
Jax: "Pretending like my little sister got on my every damn nerve when in reality I loved when she followed me around, because with her, we were always getting into something."
He touched my hair, or I thought he had. It was so light and so brief, I wasn't sure.
Jax: "You have to be very brave, too."
Jax: "You know what's going on here. Please tell me you understand what's going down here."
Calla: "Yes. No."
Jax: "Yes and no? Care to explain?"
Those lips skated along the side of my throat.
Jax: "Why what?"
Calla: "Why is this going down?"
Jax: 'Because I want to."
His thumb glided again.
Calla: "But why?"
Jax: "I've already told you."
He pressed his lips against my pulse, causing me to gasp, and then he lifted his head, resting his weight on the arm next to my side. He stared down at me, his look intense.
Jax: "It's the same reason behind why I'm taking you out to dinner tomorrow night."
My eyes were locked on his and my heart was pounding like it was stuck in a steel drum.
Jackson: "I like you, Calla."
Calla: "I'm a realist, okay? I have been for a long time. I need to be, and you like me - wanting to take me out on a date and do -"
Jax: "Relly fun and interesting things to you."
Calla: "Yeah, that.'
Jax: "Naughty things that are going to make you feel so good. That's what I want to do to you."
Calla: "Okay. I get that."
Jax: "I like that sound. Fuck. I love that sound."
My eyes stayed closed as my lips tingled.
Calla: "I ... I didn't know you could be kissed like that."
Calla: "Oh God."
I gasped against his mouth.
I felt his lips curve into a smile, and the kiss turned wilder as my hips moved again his hand.
Jax: "That's it. Let me see you get sweeter."
Jax: "You still alive?"
Calla: "I'm not sure. I can't feel my legs."
Jax: "Just think. That's really nothing compared to what it'll be like when I'm in you."
Calla: "Wait. What about you?"
Jax: "What about me?"
Calla: "You know ... I, well, I came and you ..."
The grin was spreading.
Calla: "Yeah. That."
He tipped his head back and laughed.
My lips slipped down at the corners.
Calla: "What's so funny?"
Jax: "You are. You're funny. You're cute."
He came forward and he was right in front of me.
Jax: "And you're sweet as hell when you're coming."
Jax: "I know I didn't come, but honey, you never had anyone but your own hands down between those pretty legs before. That's the first time you've had that and it needed to be about you. Not me."
I gaped at him as he turned, starting for the bathroom. Then he stopped and twisted toward me, lips curved in a mischievous sort of way.
Jax: "I'll take care of myself in the shower."
My jaw was on the floor.
Jax sucked his bottom lip in between straight, white teeth.
Jax: "And I'll be thinking of you when I do it."
Jax: "You want to shower before we head out?"
A half grin appeared
Jax: "A shower? Do you want to shower?"
I was an imbecile.
I grabbed my clothes off the dresser.
Calla: "A shower is a great idea. You're so smart."
Jax twisted sideways as I passed him and smacked my behind.
I jumped and emitted another squeal out of shock, and he chuckled. Looking over my shoulder to shoot him a glare, I then realized he hadn't smacked me with his hand.
It was the towel that had been around his hips.
And I was not only staring at his muscled back, which, wow, was a nice back, but also his muscled ass.
Calla: "Oh my God! You're naked!"
That chuckle turned into a laugh.
Jax: "We're not taking separate cars when I just had my hand between your legs and you came while calling my name."
I opened my mouth, but really, what do you say in response to that?
Jax: "We're going to leave here together, eat some greasy goodness, and then we're going to go check out this place for your mom. And when we're done, if we have time before our shifts start, we're going to indulge in a nap."
Calla: "A nap?"
Calla: "A nap together?"
Jax: "Yeah, and if we have time, I might make you come calling my name again."
Jax: "I don't notice it."
My heart tumbled over and I went with pretending to be dumb.
Calla: "Notice what?"
Jax: "Call, babe, you know what I'm talking about. This."
Then his head slanted and I felt his lips at the corner of my left eye, just below it.
His lips followed that scar all the way down my cheek, right to the corner of my left lip, and then he kissed me. It was soft and sweet and it lingered. My hands went to his chest and I leaned into him.
Jax: "I don't care about it, Calla. I don't even think about it. I don't even see it."
Jax: "That's my girl."
Calla: "This is grits?"
Jax: "Try it."
Calla: "It looks like something out of a horror movie. I'm afraid it's going to launch itself off the plate and cover my face."
Calla: "It's not funny. I'll end up birthing an alien grit baby or something. And then what are we going to do?"
Jax: "Just try it."
Calla: "What does it taste like?"
I lowered my fork, looking at him blandly.
Jax: "One cannot simply describe grits. One must simply enjoy them."
My eyes rolled. but I scooped up a small taste, made sure i had cheese in it, and gingerly tasted them.
Calla: "I don't know. I haven't decided yet. I think they taste food, but they're called grits; therefore I'm not sure I can freely admit to liking something called grits. I have to really think about this."
Katie: 'Awesome sauce. Seriously. If you two stay together and end up getting married and having a kid, I think you should name your baby Katie."
Warmth crept into my cheeks.
Katie: "I mean, you could name a boy baby Katie, but they would probably get made fun of in school, and I don't think you two would want that. Oh - is that grits? You need more cheese on them. One morning you need to come over to my house. I can make some mean-ass grits."
Jax: "That sounds good. And we'll take the name thing into consideration."
I turned my 'what the fuck' stare on him.
Katie: "Awesome. Well, I need to get home with my muffins and waffles. See you guys later."
Calla: "Did you know she fell off a pole, hit her head, and is not psychic?"
Jax: "That's what I hear."
I bit down on my lower lip
Calla: "Roxy says she's been pretty on point before."
Jax: "Katie. I wouldn't be opposed to naming a baby girl Katie."
Calla: 'Oh my God."
Jax tipped his head back and laughed that deep, sexy laugh.
Roxy: "I don't know. Virgin twenty-one-year-olds are kind of like Big Foot."
My shoulders slumped
Calla: "Gee. Thanks."
Jax: "Fuck, I love that sound you make. I want to hear it again."
Calla: "I want you."
Jax: "I know."
Teresa: "He says the place looks pretty classy. Do you like him, Calla?"
I closed my eyes and nodded.
Calla: "Yeah, I like him. I really do."
Teresa: "Good. I can't wait to meet him. And to see you. But I really want to meet him. I'm happy for you. Seriously."
Calla: "I'm happy, too."
I got off the phone after making a promise to give her the details, and it was when I tucked my hair back behind my ear, I felt it - the awareness of not being alone.
Biting down on my lower lip, I twisted around and saw Jax standing at the bottom of the stairwell, already dressed for our date. Dark denim jeans and a white button-down. He looked damn good.
He was also grinning a smug little grin.
Jax: "So you like me? You really do?"
I groaned, cheeks heating.
Calla: "'Shut up."
Jax tipped back his head and laughed. He was lucky he had such a great laugh.
Calla: "I'm ready. To go to dinner and eat."
Yep. It was official. I was an uberdork.
Jax: "You look beautiful."
Calla: "Thank you. You look beautiful, too."
A dark eyebrow rose.
Calla: "You look manly beautiful. Okay. That was dumb. You look hot."
He chuckled as he moved in, brushing his lips over the curve of my cheekbone.
Jax: "I'm hot and you like me. It's my lucky day."
Calla: "Shut up."
Calla: "Are you two related?"
Reece: "I'm the handsome one."
Detective Anders tilted his head toward what was now obviously his younger brother.
Detective Anders: "Most definitely not the smart one."
Cop brothers. Hot.
I needed my head checked.
Calla: "I don't wan to think."
Jax: "You're not going to think. Not for one fucking second."
Jax: "I love the sounds you made, honey. Better yet, when you said my name like you did ...? Yeah, I really loved that."
Calla: "That ... that was amazing."
Jax: "You're amazing."
Then I was standing in front of him, in the kitchen, the bright light, in nothing more than my heels, and dear God, I was scared. Fucking terrified out of my mind, and my skin felt numb when I realized that it wasn't because I was practically naked for the first time in my life in front of anyone, but because I was in love with him.
I was in love with Jax.
Jax: "You sure? Tell me you are, honey."
Calla: "I am."
He closed his eyes briefly before staring down at me.
Jax: "Thank fucking God. I want you so bad I'm coming out of my fucking skin."
Jax: "God, Calla, I love the way you feel. I can feel you tightening. Fucking beautiful."
Jax: "You okay?"
Calla: "Yeah. That was ..."
Jax: 'That was ... fucking perfect."
Calla: "It was. I didn't ..."
Calla: "I didn't know it would be like that."
Katie: "Girl, you look good today. Despite the fact you got dead bodies dropping on your head."
Oh. My. God.
Katie: "Actually, you look like someone who got recently laid. Yeah, you do. You so do."
Calla: "You on break, Katie?"
Katie: "Nope. Heading into work. Thought I'd pop over and make sure you weren't rocking in a corner somewhere, whispering to yourself out of trauma or some shit."
Aimee: "He's so hot, isn't he? Jax, that is."
Rolling his eyes, Nick turned away from her and moved to the bottles at the back of the bar.
I opened my mouth, but Katie beat me to it.
Katie: "Bitch, are you on crack? Because I'm pretty sure that hot boy named Jax was just all winking at Calla over here and didn't even see you sitting there. Just FYI."
I pressed my lips together so hard I thought they'd split as Aimee's face reddened. She stared at Katie for a moment and then whirled around, flouncing off in the direction of where Jax was grabbing empty glasses and baskets off the table.
Katie: "I'm gonna yippie-ki-yay that bitch out of this bar one of these days. Mark my words, hand to God, and all that jazz."
Then she flounced off in the opposite direction, toward the door.
My gaze drifted to where the young couple sat, their eyes wide and their mouths slightly agape. They looked at me in unison.
Calla: "Welcome to Mona's."
Teresa: "Who's that?"
Jase: "Who's that? I don't think I can be with you anymore."
Her eyes rolled as she smacked his arm.
Katie: "Totes-me-goats, you have gorgeous hair! I tried to do red hair once and I ended up looking like a carrot. And in my line of work, looking like a carrot doesn't get the bills paid."
Katie went on as she stopped playing Avery's hair, turning to Teresa.
Katie: "And OM Gee, you are stunning. Like I might be conssidering switching sides."
Teresa: "I'll take that as a compliment."
Katie: "You'd make a lot of money dancing."
Teresa: "Oh. I used to dance, actually. So did Avery."
Teresa: "I busted my knee. But I danced for years."
Katie: "I doubt you did the kind of dancing I do. Either of you. I work across the street."
Avery's brows pinched, and I knew she was mentally seeing the outside again, and the moment understanding seeped in, her eyes widened.
Avery: "You ..."
Katie: "Take my clothes off? I flashed my goods from time to time, but it's more classy than your average shoving your vajaja in unsuspecting faces."
I couldn't help it. A laugh burst out of me, but Teresa kept a straight face.
Teresa: "You got to hate it when that happens."
Katie: "Or when it's a penis."
Jax: "You're so sensitive. Makes getting you turned on and ready so easy."
Jax: "Only you would apologize for that."
Calla: "No way. I want you. Now."
One eyebrow rose
Jax: "Patience pays off, babe."
Calla: "Screw patience."
Jax: "I think you're hungry for me."
Jax: "It's never been like this. Not with anyone else. Only you. Never like this."
Jax: "You still with me?"
Calla: "I'm still with you."
Jax: "You have a sweet ass. I mean, really. Your ass is fucking sweet, babe. You are one of those women just born with a nice ass. No amount of workouts can create this ass."
Calla: "That's correct. I think it was Big Macs and tacos that created this ass."
Jax's deep laugh pulled at the corners of my lips and then I felt his leg moved over mine, followed by his hot and hard length pressed into said sweet ass.
Jax: "Then don't ever stop eating those Big Macs and tacos."
Calla: "I don't like this."
His expression tightened.
Jax: "Why, baby?"
Calla: "It's ugly."
Jax: "Do you know what I see when I see your back?"
Calla: "That it kind of looks like the Appalachian Mountains on a map?"
Jax: "No, honey. I'm going to be honest, okay? I'm not going to sit here and tell you that what I see right now is easy to look at."
Oh God. My heart dropped and I thought I might hurl.
Jax: "But it's not the reasons you think."
Then I felt it, his hand over the worst part of my back, and my entire body seemed to have a reflexive curl, but I couldn't go anywhere, because he was practically lying on me.
Jax: "When I see your back, what I think about is the pain you have to have experienced. I don't personally know what it feels like, but I had hot shrapnel rip through my skin, and I'm sure that wasn't even a ball's hair worth of what you felt. But when the bomb went off in the desert, I saw soldiers - my friends - catch on fire."
I squeezed my eyes shut, but his words smarted images I didn't want to see but needed to.
Jax: "And I know that there is no amount of pain meds that really dulls these kinds of burns and you lived through that. That's what I think about when I see the,. And I also think about how these fucking scars shaped your life. How they've beaten you down when you still are one of the most beautiful girls I've ever seen and these scars don't even touch that. They aren't anything compared to your smile or your pretty blue eyes or that sweet ass."
Oh my God.
He wasn't done.
Jax: "You know what else I see? A physical reminder of how fucking strong you are, Call, how fucking brave you are. That's what I see when I look at your back. A map of how brave you are, your strength and your courage. And that shit isn't ugly."
Calla: "Jax ..."
Jax: "That shit is beautiful in its own way, but still fucking beautiful."
Calla: "Go. Okay. I'll be at the bar and you'll come get me before we close. I'll be fine."
Jax: "But what if I want to take a girl home with me?"
Calla: "I don't know about that. The way Katie talks, those girls oil themselves up. You might have a hard time holding on to one of them."
Jax tipped his head back and laughed.
Calla: "I think you like me, Jackson James."
He raised a brow
Jax: "Wow. Are you finally getting it?"
I pushed my hand at his chest, and he chuckled.
Calla: "No. I think you really like me."
Jax: "Like I said, you're finally just getting it?"
He kissed the corner of my lip
Jax: "It's a good thing you have such a sweet ass."
I smacked his pec for that, but then he caught my wrist and lifted my hand to his mouth. He kissed the center of my palm.
Jax: "Yeah, babe, I really like you."
My eyes locked on his.
Calla: "I really like you, too."
Jax: "I know."
Jax: "I planned on coming back to the bar to get you before closing. I didn't think you were going to leave early, but I was coming for you. I just never made it. I was getting ready to leave. I had my keys in my fucking hand, Calla. I was almost out the door. I was thinking about texting you and my phone rang. It was Colton. I almost didn't answer, because I knew they still could be partying and I wasn't in the mood for the shit, but I did answer. And he told me that he'd just been called by one of the deputies, that there had been a shooting at the bar and someone was injured. That was all he knew, and fuck, babe, my heart ... it did what it did when I got the call from my parents. It was a sick as fuck feeling, like i wasn't standing, but I was. I tried calling you and when you didn't answer, I knew - I just knew, because if there had been a shooting at the bar, you would've answered the phone if you could."
Calla: "I'm okay."
Jax: "When I got to the bar I saw your car shot the fuck up and you weren't there. Neither was Roxy ..."
He seemed to gather himself as his hand shook against my cheek.
Jax: "It was Nick who told me it was you. He'd been outside. Got to me before the police did. All he knew was that you'd been shot and that you hadn't been awake when the paramedics arrived. Calla, I ... I can't even put into words what I felt in that moment or what I felt getting my ass to this hospital. All I knew was that I fucked up yesterday." I could've lost you. Fuck, I could've really lost you. And if I didn't get this chance to be talking to you right now and if you were taken from me and I lost the opportunity to spend yesterday with you, being with you, loving you, I'd never forgive myself for that. So you know what, Calla, I'm going to forgo any bullshit right now. And I hope you're with me on this, but even if you aren't, I gotta get it out there and I'm not going to regret saying this to you."
I started to breathe heavy, not in a taxing way, but I knew something was coming, and my throat was burning and not because it was dry. So were my eyes.
Jax: "I gotta tell you that I love you, Calla. No bullshit. I do. I love the way you think, even if it's annoying as fuck at times and even then it's still cute. I love that there's a shit ton of things you've never gotten to experience and that you're going to get to experience them with me. That I have that honor. I love your strength and everything you've survived. I love your courage and I love that you make shit drinks, but no one cares, because you're so damn nice."
A soft surprised laugh burst from me and my words were wobbly when I spoke.
Calla: "I do make some shit drinks."
Jax: "You do. It's true. I'm pretty sure your Long Island iced teas could kill people, but that's okay. I love your sense of humor and the fact you never ate grits before. There's so much I love about you that I know I'm in love with you. So, honey, you can have all my shirts you want."
Calla: "I'm in love with you."
Jax: "Each time I saw you, I felt like ... I felt like I knew you a little bit better. I never talked to you but seeing you always smiling or laughing ... or being peaceful ... There's something about that ... it drew me in, Calla. Fuck. I fell for you before you even knew my name."
Jax: "I love you, Calla. Me owning the bar doesn't change that. If it did, then I don't want a fucking part of it. All I want is you."
Avery: "Oh God. He fell for you before you even knew his name?"
Teresa: "Calla ..."
I still couldn't breathe, couldn't think of anything to say. I was a statue.
Jase: "If I liked guys - you know, swung that way, I'd get naked after that."
I blinked. Um.
Cam: "And I'd put a ring on that."
I blinked again. Uh.
Teresa: "I'm in a happy, love-of-my-life relationship, so Jase, take no offense to what I'm about to say, but I'm about to do all those things. My God, girl, that was beautiful. That was real. And that hurt to hear and you just let him walk right out of here."
Calla: "I love you. Keep Mona's. It's yours. And yeah, you should've told me, but I still love you. I do."
He drew back so I could see his shadowed face. When he didn't say anything, I started rambling.
Calla: "I'm dumb. Okay? I have this history of doing dumb things, so I just stood there. But in my defense, a lot of crazy shit has happened lately and you just admitted to seeing me way before I even knew you existed. That alone is a lot to process. And you said that you fell for me before you even met me, and now things kind of make sense to me, because I just couldn't figure out how you could be so accepting of me when you just met me, but you -"
He cut off my stream of works with his mouth and there was nothing gentle about this kiss. It was rich and deep, all-consuming, and i wasn't a slow seduction. The kiss seared me, claimed me, and as his tongue swept over mine, I moaned into his mouth.
When he did break the kiss, his lips brushed mine as he spoke.
Jax: "All you needed to say when that you loved me. That was all."
Jax: "I love you, but if you're going to stay with me, you got to be all in. You got to be with me, Calla. When something happens, you don't shut down. You come to me. We talk about it. Okay?"
Calla: "I'm all in."
Jax: "That's -"
Calla: "But that doesn't mean I'm not going to do dumb stuff. That I'm always going to know how to react or that I won't need time to digest stuff. And I do a lot of dumb stuff on a regular basis. Like all the -"
Jax: "Hon. I get that."
Jax: "I'll be careful."
Calla: "I don't want you to be careful."
Jax: "That's one of those dumb things."
Calla: "Shut up."
Jax: "You're a dork."
Calla: "Yeah. I am, but you love me."
Jax: "I do."
Jax: "It's time to get up, sleepy head."
Curling into a ball, I mumbled something about needing more sleep, but he was relentless, tugging gently on my hair.
Jax: "We got plans today."
I pried one eye open.
Calla: "Why are you already in clothes?"
Jax: 'Because if I didn't get something on me, I'd even up saying fuck being responsible and get inside you with nothing between us."
Calla: "I need to get on the pill."
Jax laughed loudly
Jax: "I think I can totally get behind that, but you need to get your sweet ass up."
Jax: "We got plans, hon, and we got to check out, get home, shower, and if you gete up now, we'll have enough time to fuck each other's brains out."
Jax: "You still with me?"
Calla: "I'm still with you."
Jax: "That's my girl."
Check out the rest of the Wait for You series by Jennifer L Armentrout below