The clock read two thirty three as the image of Rhys’ shout opened her eyes. The image of Rhys charging toward Chris was confusing Jae immensely.
‘I don’t trust your friend; her intentions of her motive break my company.’
Then Marianna’s ashamed face interrupted her train of thought.
‘He has the wrong Jae Robbins in his mind.’
Jae’s mind drifted to the airport hangar in her sluggish state, the suitcase containing information Hugh and the mansion. There was a picture of her and Hugh on the mansion steps. In the report about the mansion it listed staff members and an adopted daughter Jae Harlow. Jae slowly sat up and pulled her weight gently off of Rhys.
Everyone knew Hugh had adopted his deceased employee’s daughter. There weren’t many pictures of herself and him together due to his business and her work. She sat at her computer and searched for her name. There were over a millions sites found but only a few with pressing information. There was the same picture of Hugh and herself on the stairs and another one of Hugh and herself holding hands and walking away from the camera the mansion in the background. However the website was vague. She went through eight or nine websites before she found a direct link to herself and Hugh.
Her eyes races through words, “In three years, Hugh Robbins adopted his employee’s orphan child after the father, Mervin Antonin Harlow, loses his life in a freak accident. The death of mother, Stephenie Carrie Russell-Harlow, was due to pancreatic cancer leaves Jaelyn Willow Harlow orphaned at the age of nine.”
It was a news article of some sort.
She shut her eyes to the past, the death of her parents and the cover up involving Hugh.
“Jae?” a sleepy voice sounded from her bedroom.
She jumped up and pulled the power cord, turning her computer screen black. Her breathing was labored, as if she ran somewhere fast.
“Jae, where are you?”
She stood quickly and ran through the dark hallway, crashing into him steps away from the bedroom.
“What were you doing?” his voice croaked from sleep.
“Huh, I was just taking a walk on my treadmill, needed to stretch my legs.
He nodded. “Come back to bed, I think you need a couple more hours of sleep. You’re not coherent.”
They got comfortable on bed and pulled the blanket over their bodies. She turned her back to him, not to hurt him but to think without him knowing. He curled his chest to her back and bent his knees to hers. She grabbed his hand that crept over her hip. In seconds his breathing became heavy as she laid thinking about what was on the internet. There may be other information Chris could have known about her; maybe the real her, the other her, and her real job. Sleep slowly crept into her wondering mind and she succumbed to it.
She woke up to the bed slightly dipped as his body pressed the mattress down. She rolled around to look at his shocked face which brought a round of laughter to her morning side. The wide-eyed and shocked expression was complete as he was clothed in his boxer-briefs with a knee in bed, a hand clutching the blanket.
“Sorry, my dearest, I didn’t mean to wake you.” He called to her.
“No need to apologize, it’s perfectly fine.”
“I need to apologize for my immature brother.” He sighed as he pressed into Jae.
They sat up wrapping the blanket around their bodies, warming each other up.
“I just called Marianna. She said he was still in his ‘distant’ mood.” He made a disgusted noise. “He’s just jealous.”
“Again with the jealousy?” she asked curious.
“My parents liked you, before they met you. Did you know it took Marianna about five years until my parents began to give her a chance? They were high school sweethearts and my parents didn’t trust her.” Before she could ask he continued. “I don’t know why, they didn’t tell us either way.
“He’s just jealous that I’m happy. I’ve always been the single one and he doesn’t want to see me happy.”
“That’s not fair. Older sibling should be happy if their younger siblings find someone they liked.” She injected.
He chuckled, “That’s funny, and you understood it before he did. Not to mention you were the hottest girl there last night.”
“You’re a bit bias; it wasn’t much of a competition. It was between your mother and your sister-in-law.”
He shrugged and leaned in. He rested a head next to her, and on her hair. Her scent was driving him crazy. It was in everywhere around her, on her skin and definitely in the hair beneath him.
“What time do you work today?” she asked, rolling to the side to better see his face.
He removed the strand of hair from her face and curled it around her ear. “I have good news for you. I switched shifts with a co-worker and I get the whole weekend with you. We’re going to the beach today, we should be getting ready.”
She laughed excitedly as he pulled her to her feet and dragged her to her closet.
He parked the car and unloaded a beach umbrella as Jae rolled a cooler and a large beach tote through the warm sand. They played in the water all morning. When the sun started to beam down hotter they retreated to their shade. She smiled at him from her side of the beach towel.
“Rhys I hate bringing this up but when will we be vising your parents or your brother?” she said innocently. “I don’t mind seeing them; I just don’t want to be surprised or shouted at again.” She said with a little laugh, making her statement light and not as harsh.
“Not anytime soon, my brother’s just being thick. He’ll come around.” He glanced in her direction and smiled.
She nodded at him and rolled over onto her stomach, laying her head in his direction.
“So…” he started. “When do I get to meet your dad?”
“My father died when I was nine, you know that. We can visit him and my mother’s graves whenever you like, just give me a heads up.”
He rolled his eyes and scoffed at her remark. “I should rephrase, when will I see Hugh?”
“Never.” She said absolutely. “It’s not that important for him to meet you.”
“Oh.” He said taken aback.
There was a short silence.
“So I’m not important enough to meet him?” he said accusatory, as if Hugh was too important to meet Rhys.
“No Rhys, it’s not like that.”
“Then what is it like? You saw my parents and my messed up brother.”
She waited for his anger to subside. She kept her gaze relaxed and on his face.
“I don’t consider Hugh important enough to meet you. Rhys, I don’t consider Hugh as my father. He’s just a boss, someone who gives me money for my work. He’s the enemy. I don’t want the enemy to see the only person who makes me happy. I don’t want him to know I love you. If he knew about you he would force me back into the mansion and force us to break up. I know you don’t want that. I certainly don’t want that.”
“So I don’t have to see him?” He clarified.
“I don’t want you to see him.” She said crawling to him for comfort.
“Well, I guess that’s good. I’m glad.” He said sighing happily.
“I’m happy that you’re happy.” She said kissing his shoulder.
He inched closer and her lips met his.
“Are you thirsty?” He asked, pulling away and grabbing a bottle of water from the cooler.
She watched as his toned arms reached for his soda. “How many tattoos do you have?” she sat against him and her fingers trailed over his inked arms.
“I don’t know, I lost count after fifty.”
“You have more than fifty tattoos?” she said amazed at the high number.
“After a while spotted tattoos look weird. So there are filler tattoos, like this one,” he said pointing to the blue. “These are filler tattoos. They match all my other tattoos but they don’t mean anything to me.”
“So all of these mean something?” she said tracing a dragon that turned into blue filler that was attached to a flower.
“Yes most of my tattoos mean something. I don’t just get them for fun.” He chuckles and downed his drink.
She traced color after color. She marveled at the ink that were on his arm, across his shoulder, and spotted across his chest. She turned back to his right arm and went from shoulder to elbow to wrist. There was so many different things to look at, so many little images to distinguish between the main tattoos. From the right arm she went to the left. She could tell which meaningless filler tattoos were and which ones had significance.
“Do you remember your first tattoo?” she asked, her fingers tracing the inside of his forearm.
His attention was to his left wrist. After a second he pointed to a small guitar. “This one, a guitar. Wait no.” he looked over his right shoulder and pointed to a circular symbol.
She leaned in. “What is it?”
“It’s supposed to be a spade, like a card suit, spade, club, heart, diamond.” He trailed off.
“Well it’s not very good.”
“What did you expect? I was fifteen and it was with an amateur tattoo kit. I was at my friend’s house when he first decided to become a tattoo artist. He was sixteen and I was his first subject. It was free and it hurt like hell. I never went back to him until after he got his license.”
She chuckled, “I spy a heart.”
Rhys looked over his arm. A red heart was inked above his right elbow. “That one was easy. I got it for an ex-girlfriend. She got one next to her right hip.”
“How long ago was this?” she asked.
“I think it was the summer before ninth grade.”
“Humph.” She said, looking over his tattoos.
“Will you get a tattoo for me?” He asked his eyebrow rose, cocking his head to the side.
“Yes, sure, I’d get one that says, ‘I love my boyfriend’ and I would want it here.” She said, drawing a line across his neck. “So whenever I see it, I’ll remember, ‘yeah, I do love him’.” She joked.
A smile played across her face as her hands slid down his throat to his chest, and then resting it on his stomach. The vibration in his throat was practically a growl.
“You’re bad, and in public too. We can get arrested.” He said the same smile playing on his face.
“Who said I was going to do anything except maybe tease you.” She pushed him to the towel and pressed her lips to his.
After they soaked as much sun as they possibly could, they packed up their belongings, and decided to walk the pier. They visited each and every shop. She giggled at a gigantic sun hat as he placed it on his head. He watched her laugh a storm as he tried on overlarge glasses. She bought Rhys a ridiculous hat with seashell and seaweed hot glues to a bucket hat. He bought her a plastic coconut bra and a grass skirt ensemble.
After shopping they rode a Ferris wheel where he ended up rocking the seat, making her dizzy. He teased her about her motion sickness and she threatened to vomit in his lap. He stopped rocking their seat. They ate at a nice sea food restaurant where they had surf and turf and plenty of appetizers. He held her close as they watched the sunset beneath the ocean.
“A perfect ending to a perfect day, right?” he hummed in her ear.
She leaned against him, taking in his warmth as the wind started blowing cold air in their faces.
“How was your first experience at the beach?” He mumbled to her ear.
“Magical.” She said smiling at him and kissing his cheek.
“I’m glad to hear that.”
They waited on the pier as the sky turned from orange to a beautiful purple. The purple dulled into a dark blue and the wind whipped her hair around her making her shiver slightly in his secure arms. They wound their way through crowds and tourists. They strides were slow. She wanted this moment to last forever. She froze as something bright caught her eyes. Towards the side of a souvenir shop there was a photo booth painted bright yellow to catch people’s attention. A smirk crossed her face as she pulled Rhys gently in that direction.
“Rhys,” she said, pulling him to a stop and pointing a finger at the yellow.
“No, Jae, I hate taking pictures.”
He tried to pull her away but she dragged him. “Please, I want to remember this day. Please, for me?” she gave him a sad pout, trying to guilt him into talking pictures.
He let out an angry noise that turn some people’s head. “Fine.” He snarled grudgingly.
She skipped happily as they walked to the booth. She pulled out three ones and fed it into the machine. He pulled the curtain shut and waited. She pulled away and got into position.
“Rhys, get ready.” She said bubbling. “Smile.”
There was a white flash and their faces were captured.
She turned to see his smile spread wider across his face.
“I knew it,” she said sliding her arm in his. “Funny picture.”
She puckered her lips and winked at the camera, giving the camera a flirty smile rather than a funny one. He didn’t like pictures so instead of making a face, he turned to look at her funny face.
There was a second white flash and their faces were captured.
She glanced in his direction and was shocked. His expression was so gentle, so loving. His large hand rested on her neck, pulling her close until their foreheads touched.
She blushed at his tenderness, her smile pulling the corner of her lips.
She barely noticed the red flash in her shut eyes.
His lips were teasing as it reached to hers. She sighed, feeling his to lips part and his hands roam. Their lips met again and again as her hands did some roaming as well.
There was a loud throat clearing outside the booth.
“Oh,” She said pulling apart and turning bright red. She pulled her limps to herself as he pulled the curtain open, chucking at her.
A family stared as Jae and Rhys slid between them. The mother’s eyes were bulging as the father was shaking his head disapproving. She turned her red face away from the family and hid it in Rhys’ shoulder.
“I can’t believe you.” She mouthed.
“What?” he mouthed back.
She rolled her eyes and stared pointedly at the other direction.
As soon as the photo dropped in the catch, Jae reached for them and practically ran away from the gawking family. She looked at the first two pictures and gave an ‘awe’ noise. The third picture was so intimate she had to look away to see if it was real. He was steering her through the crowd as she looked at the pictures. It wasn’t there in his face but there was proof in the picture. She shrugged off that thought and looked at the last one.
“Oh gosh,” she gasped. “I look so ugly.”
Rhys peeked over at the last photo and laughed.
“Is this what I look like when I kiss you? I’m hideous. I’m like a serpent tasting the air for rodents or small prey.” She made a disgusted noise.
“You’re a bit over reacting.” He said, pulling her in front of himself so people could pass by. “Personally I think you look sexy in that picture, hot and fucking kissable.”
She turned to stare at him. “I am a lady, watch your language.”
“So you’re only allowed to say that word?” he contradicted.
“I don’t swear.” She said tilting her head a bit.
“You were screaming that a couple nights ago.” He whispered in her ear.
She pushed him away blushing deeper. “That’s different.”
“How is that different?” he asked.
“I’m not in control of my words when it comes to bed.” She rushed down the sidewalk avoiding people’s knowing gaze.
“So if we’re in bed, I can say, ‘fuck, I love fucking your tight…’”
“Shut your mouth.” She said, covering his mouth with her hand. She turned redder then before. They were away from the pier and walking to their car but there were people still around and he wasn’t keeping his voice low.
She glanced in his direction and there was a smug expression on his face.
“I should say the same to you.” He countered to her angry glance. “I wonder how loud you were in the photo booth.”
She stopped mid step. “I was not loud.”
He let out a loud laugh.
“I might have,” she tried to concentrate on the few seconds when his lips were on hers. “I don’t remember being vocal.”
“All I know was that you were enjoying it as much as I was.” He said with another round of laughter.
She felt humiliated and embarrassed. There were two girls and a boy listening to her. Their parents were as well as the people passing by the booth who could’ve heard them. She hid her face in her hands as he caught up to her, pulling her in his chest.
“It’s alright,” He said, trying to sooth her. “I love the noises you make.”
Over the next week they spent most days and more nights together. They went to the mall to buy lingerie for her and necessary clothes for him. He spent more days at her apartment and the essentials were needed after two days he stayed over. They watched four more movies and ate out almost every other day. Every night she would hold a fashion show with the clothes she bought or the ones in her closet. Following the fashion show their clothes lay discarded on the floor and their bodies tangled on her bed.
When she was alone Jae would call Geoff and explained what she did; shopping, watched movies, eating out, and spent a day at the beach. Every day Geoff sounded a little off or annoyed.
“What is it Geoff? Don’t make me go other and beat your butt! What’s wrong?”
“Huh? Oh nothing’s wrong. I’m just feeling lazy and bored today.” He said disgruntled.
“Do you want me to come over?”
“That’s alright. I think I’ll head to bed now.”
“But it’s only nine twenty.” She injected glancing at her watch.
“It’s a big day tomorrow, you’re off on vacation and the last semi-annual assignment is coming in. I think you’ll like it. It’s pretty intense.”
“So do you think I’ll get it?” she said sitting deeper into the sofa.
“Sure why not?”
“Oh really? Thanks; I have to go I’m cooking right now.” She said seeing Rhys’s car pull up to her apartment building.
“Alright bye.” He said abruptly.
“Good night Geoff.” She hung up the phone and waited for Rhys to come to her apartment. When she heard Rhys knock on the door she nearly ran to the front door, excited.
“Thanks babe.” She kissed him and shut the door behind him.
Rhys organized the vegetables in a bowl and Jae was chopping bell peppers for one of their stay in dinner. The weather was warm tonight. He wore drawstring pants and no top. She wore a lace camisole and shorts. She looked at his tattoos, they were still mesmerizing, still captivating. No matter how many hours or days she spent looking at them she couldn’t get enough.
“I think this is my favorite tattoo.” She said pointing at the heart permanently inked to his chest.
“Why?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” She said, thinking. “I guess I’ve grown accustomed to staring at it, from underneath you, over you, or laying on you.”
She giggled and he joined in, chuckling deeply.
“I’m just glad you don’t have a tacky tattoo of a naked woman.”
“What if I do; and you can’t see it?”
She took her knife and held it up. “Well I’ll just have to remove it from your skin.” She said.
The blade touched his fore arm. He pushed it away, playfully. But her hand was quicker. She moved the blade so fast he didn’t see where it went until he felt the steel on his neck.
“Alright, I don’t have one.” He gasped.
Her eyebrows rose questioningly.
“I don’t have a naked woman tattoo on my body.”
She flicked the blade so close; his facial hair might have been trimmed.
“Be sure to remember that.”
The blade started the chop-chop of the bell peppers as he started to unfreeze.
Her smile widened. She loved threatening him. She didn’t do it often but when she did if felt empowered. She knew she can still take on him if it came to it. With one look at Rhys, her smile faltered.
“Rhys?” her fingers were slightly shaky as she reached to touch his arm. “Babe, are you alright? You know I was just joking.”
His smile was late coming. “I know, just… just thinking.”
“Thinking about what?” she asked cautious.
“Nothing important.” He said turning to give her a timid grin. He turned his back and started cooking the pasta. The conversation turned into something more enjoyable but his mind would continue thinking whenever he was alone.
“So you’re starting work tomorrow,” he said from the stove. “I’m going to miss seeing you every day.”
“You will still see me.” She said leaning against the counter.
“But not like this.”
“You can always move in with me.”
“What?” He said turning to read her face, to see if she was joking or really serious.
“You can move in.” she explained. “You know, move out of your apartment and move into your girlfriend’s awesome and spacious apartment.”
He blinked at her twice, trying to comprehend what she said.
At that moment a pot holding their soup started to boil over, causing a sizzling noise from the stove.
“Shoot!” he raced to the stove and lowered the flames to its lowest flame. He paused for a moment before turning back to face his girlfriend. “Are you serious?”
“Yes I’m serious. If you don’t want to then you don’t have to. I asked you when I first got this apartment, remember? I said I was looking for a roommate. I asked of you knew anyone. Do you remember?”
Rhys just chuckled and looked at her again.
“Look, I’m not pressuring you into moving in. I’m not even waiting for your answer. I just wanted you to think about it.” She grabbed some plates and bowls and started to set the dinner on the island.
He turned his attention to the hot soup, stirring it occasionally. A pleased smile crossed his face.