*Hunter's Perspective* - Two Weeks Later
Jessie's wordless sobs break the silence as we pull up to the condo after Kelly's funeral. It's been almost two weeks since the accident, and yet it feels like it happened just yesterday. Maria, Kelly's mom, had insisted we wait as long as possible before having the funeral. She had hoped Rex would wake up from his coma in time to give Kelly a final good-bye. But he hadn't.
I let my car idle for a minute and hold Jessie's hand while endless tears stream down her face. I ache for her. I know what it's like to lose a loved one. When my mom died, despite what kind of an influence she had been my whole life, it broke my heart.
The second Jessie stepped through those ER doors, I knew what she was going to tell me. The look of loss is one that's unforgettable. Tears of my own for Kelly well up inside my throat and I force myself to swallow them down. Jessie ran to me and me alone in that emergency room. I was the one whose arms she cried into every night until she fell asleep. I was the one she kept by her side during Kelly's wake and funeral.
She's looking for me to be her support right now.
I have to stay strong.
Jessie reaches for the car door handle, but I put a gentle hand on her thigh to stop her. She looks up at me with her wide, teary eyes. I grab for her hand and give it a reassuring squeeze.
"Stay here, alright?" I ask in a steady voice. "I'll be back in five minutes."
Jessie doesn't even question me. She just nods and turns her head to gaze out the window. I keep the car running and jog to the front of the condo. I unlock the door and as soon as I take a step inside, an eerie feeling rocks through my body. The condo has never felt so empty before. It's as if it too is mourning the loss of its resident.
Taking two stairs at a time, I make my way to my room. I pull down my worn-out backpack and throw some clothes inside. Then I go to Jessie's side and do the same. I grab her deodorant, toothbrush, and contacts out of the bathroom and shove them all in her bag as well.
With a backpack in each arm, I leave our bedroom and hustle back to the car. Jessie hasn't moved from when I left her, but when she sees the two backpacks in my arms, she frowns. I open the door and throw them both in the backseat.
I slide into the car and reverse out of the driveway.
"Uhm…Hunter?" Jessie asks quietly.
I hold out my hand to her again and she instantly takes it, intertwining her tiny fingers with mine.
"You're not staying at the condo tonight," I say under my breath.
"No. I'm taking you to a beach resort just up the street from my bar. It's a ritzy five-star hotel, and I know that's the last thing you care about right now… but you deserve to get away for a night - from everything."
I can see Jessie biting her lip out of the corner of my eye. I know she has work tomorrow, but she doesn't start until late afternoon.
"You're coming too," Jessie ventures quietly. "Right?"
I smile and squeeze her hand.
I book Jessie and myself a night at the Hilton Beach Resort, but just as I'm handing the receptionist my credit card, I decide to splurge for a suite. Jessie deserves it. I swing both of our backpacks on my shoulder and my other hand naturally curves around the small of her back as I guide her to the elevator.
Even though the past few weeks have gone by in a blur, every second I wasn't at work I was with Jessie. I didn't think anything of it at first - just that I was being a good friend to her. But as my fingers press against the warm skin of her lower back, I know my feelings for her run much deeper than that.
And when Elliot comes home in a week or so, I know it's going to hurt like hell. Because the only girl I have ever cared about is going to leave me for my brother. But I've come to terms with it. I just have to try and detach my emotions when Jessie phsycially needs me. Granted, she hasn't pushed for anything sexual. But even holding her against my chest at night gets my heart pumping with raw emotions.
"Oh Hunter," Jessie says and the awe in her voice has me smiling for the first time in days. "It's beautiful."
Our room has a breathtaking view of the ocean and Jessie runs over to the patio doors. She slides them open and steps out, her flawless body leaning against the patio railing. I set our backpacks down on the silver carpet and survey the modernly decorated room before joining her. I have to admit, for almost four hundred dollars a night, the suite is pretty magnificent.
The ocean breeze surrounds my senses and I drink in the sight of the setting sun. I watch Jessie out of the corner of my eye. Her black dress hugs her curves loosely and her golden hair is tied up into an intricate bun. Her make-up is washed clean from her tears but I don't care. She looks prettiest when all that crap is off her face anyway.
Jessie sighs and hugs her arms to her chest. "I miss her, Hunter."
I nod. "I know, Jess. She misses you too."
Jessie sighs and then moves a step closer to me. Her tan arms move to her hair and ever so slowly, the bun atop her head is loosened. Golden tendrils cascade down her neck and shoulders. The ocean breeze mixes with her strawberry scented hair, and I close my eyes in an attempt to stifle the need to touch her.
"So what's the plan for tonight?" Jessie asks me.
"Whatever you want."
Jessie smacks her hands down on the railing and a determined look crosses her face.
"I can't stay in and cry all night, Hunter. I just can't. If Kelly were here, she'd be kicking my ass all over town for moping the way I've been doing. She'd want me to go have fun…"
She bites her lip and turns her gaze to me, slipping her arms around my waist and inching closer to me. A deep hunger resonates in the pit of my stomach at her touch. This is exactly what I didn't want to happen between us. But how could I keep my distance, especially when her best friend had just died? She needed me and her 'boyfriend' was miles away.
"Then let me take you out," I say trying to keep my voice casual. "We'll go to dinner, take a walk along the beach and then get a few drinks before we come back up to the room."
Jessie gives me a genuine smile. She pulls away from me and stretches her arms out above her head. In the depths of her eyes, I can once again see the spark of life that had fizzled out over the past two weeks.
"Alright, Hunter," Jessie says. "Let's do it."
I can't explain or understand why it's so easy with Jessie. It just is. When she talks to me, it's like I've known her for years. And yet the excitement I feel by her mere presence is stronger than ever before. I buy her another drink at the bar and take it out to the patio.
Jessie looks up at me, her blue eyes sparkling with warmth. She's already had two drinks and based off her flushed cheeks, I think this should be her last. I set it in front of her and she thanks me before slurping it down noisily. The couple at the table next to us glares at her with annoyance. My fists clench as I stare them down, hoping they see the rage behind my eyes.
Keep glaring at her and see what happens.
"Hunter?" Jessie says with an audible slur.
"I had f-fun tonight. But I wanna go back to the hotel now. Please."
I don't waste time finishing my beer. I help Jessie up from her chair, and we walk the short distance from the bar to our hotel room. Jessie leans against me as I open our hotel suite. I gesture for her to go in first, and she thanks me before skirting inside. She begins humming a song under her breath as she flops onto the bed and kicks off her shoes. Her humming gets louder and then she breaks out in a full song.
"…so break my step, and relent. You forgave and I won't forget…" she sings and the sound of her voice is soft and angelic.
"What song is that?" I ask, trying to place the familiar melody.
Jessie's eyes begin to tear up as she continues to sing. Wanting to comfort her, I go and sit next to her, sliding my hand into hers while she continues her song.
"….But I will wait, I will wait for you. I will waaaaaait for you," she says and tears begin to stream down her face.
I bring my hand up to wipe away her tears with the pads of my fingertips.
"Kelly never admitted it to anyone else, but that was her f-favorite song ya know," Jessie chokes out. " 'I will Wait' - that's what it's called."
"I think I've heard it before - by Mumford and Sons right?"
Jessie just sniffles and nods. "God, I miss her so much, Hunter."
She turns toward me, wrapping her arms around my waist and burrowing her head into my chest. Maybe drinks tonight wasn't such a good idea. I should know by now that alcohol is a depressant and brings a person down if they're already struggling with sad emotions. I close my arms around Jessie and stroke her back in the most soothing way I can manage.
"I'm so sorry, Jessie," I whisper against her ear.
I glance at the clock on the nightstand and see that it's already going on one in the morning. Jessie needs to get to bed. I can't have her staying up late and being emotionally exhausted for work tomorrow. I pull away from her hold and lightly kiss her forehead.
"I'm going to grab a pillow and head to the couch, Jess. You need your sleep."
Jessie frowns but her hold on me doesn't get any looser. "Why....c-can't you hold me until I fall asleep? Like you've been doing?"
I sigh and shake my head. "Jess, I'm sorry. But I - I can't. I just….Listen. Elliot is coming home soon. And I'm fine with being your friend and being there for you. But I can't keep doing it like this. You're Elliot's girl. He knows it, you know it and I know it. And that's fine. It's just becoming too hard…."
My voice tapers off when I see the hungry look in Jessie's eyes as she gazes back at me. Her eyes slide down my face and come to land on my lips. I freeze as I watch her beautiful face come closer to mine. I have to stop this - I know I do. She's drunk, vulnerable and not mine to kiss.
But when her soft lips press against mine, that sexual hunger in the pit of my stomach takes over. I lean into her kiss, sliding my tongue in her mouth and grasping at her body until she's pressed up against me. Her strawberry scented hair tickles my face and I push it away with my hand. My fingers trail down to the bottom of Jessie's shirt and I slide my hand up, pressing my palm against her soft stomach.
Her tongue pushes further in my mouth and a soft groan emits from her throat. My hand travels up her stomach until the lacy texture of her bra touches my fingertips. My heart slams against my chest. I have never wanted someone more in my entire life.
As if reading my thoughts, Jessie pushes me away slightly. She seductively pulls her shirt off and tosses it to the floor. She then wiggles out of her tiny skirt. My breath hitches in my throat when she unclasps her bra and gently sets it to the side.
She looks at me expectantly. I slowly peel off my shirt and strip out of my pants. Her eyes travel down to my pulsing erection and she wiggles her finger at me, silently asking me to get on top of her. I follow her enticing command and when my naked body presses up against hers, I know there's no going back.
My fingers latch onto her lacy underwear and I slip them off. I tug down my boxers and press my hips against hers. The warmth between her legs makes my thoughts hazy.
Oh God help me.
I lick my lips, but just before entering her, a gnawing question begins to eat away at the back of my mind.
"Have you slept with Elliot?" I manage to ask in a low voice.
I hold my breath as I wait for her answer. I don't know that it would make a difference. I'd still sleep with her anyway. But for some reason, the answer matters to me….emotionally.
Jessie gives me a lopsided grin and pulls my body against hers.
"No I haven't," she whispers in my ear. "You're my first, Hunter."
Oh Jesus….she IS a virgin.
"I want you to be my first, Hunter," Jessie says wiggling her hips against me. "From the second I first saw you…I wanted you."
"Ok baby," I whisper against Jessie's lips.
My fingers clasp around her hips and I force my eyes closed to keep from driving into her hard and fast. This is her first time. I know I should just get off of her and leave. I shouldn't be her first.
But for some reason, I want to be. I need to be. But I have to make it special for her. I want her to look back on her first time and smile. I want it to be perfect….
…as perfect as she is.