That Night is a short prequel to This Time Forever, Book 3 of the Finding Forever series. I wrote these scenes some years ago, when I was first developing the story that would become This Time Forever. I hope you enjoy this sneak peak at how Kelly and Jake first met.
“Come with me tonight. You never know, you might meet someone.”
Kelly Rawlins looked up from her textbook with a frown. “I think you’re channelling my mother.”
Trina’s mouth fell open as her pen landed on the table with a clatter. “That was unnecessary. I’m too young to be anyone’s mother.”
“Not technically,” Kelly murmured, returning to her work. She managed to ignore her friend for a solid two minutes before glancing in her direction once more. Trina was staring at her with narrowed eyes, her arms folded over her chest. “I’m not going.”
“But I don’t want to go alone. And it’s just a party.” Now that she finally had Kelly’s attention, Trina launched straight back into pleading. “Drink, dance, meet guys.”
Kelly’s heart lurched at the idea. She and guys didn’t get along. Their very presence often left her unable to speak in full sentences. “I don’t want to meet guys.”
“Oh please,” Trina scoffed. “I’ve seen you reading those trashy romance novels. You’re so desperate to be swept off your feet you can hardly stand it.”
“That’s not true.” Kelly glanced around the room as her enthusiastic denial echoed off the library walls. Thankfully, at this time of the afternoon, it was all but empty. “Look Trina,” she managed to keep her voice to a reasonable level this time, “I’m not good with guys. When they come near me I tend to… well… run away.”
“That’s because you haven’t had enough practice. Prince Charming is not going to stumble across you in the library, you know.” Trina jerked upright a moment later, and Kelly could have sworn she saw the flash of a lightbulb coming on over her head. “I’ve got it. I should invite my cousin, Jake, to come with us. He’s gorgeous and single. You can practice your flirting skills on him. I’m sure he won’t mind one little bit.”
“You want me to practice my flirting with your cousin?” Kelly cringed at the thought. She pictured Trina hanging a learner’s plate around her neck before unleashing her on a string of unsuspecting relatives. “That’s just humiliating.”
“Don’t be silly,” Trina waved away her objections. “Jake won’t know that’s why he’s there. You’re going to get along great. I promise.” She held her arms out in question. “So, will you come?”
Kelly groaned at what she saw as her impending doom. “If I agree to go to the party with you, will you leave me alone to finish my assignment?”
Grinning, Trina held out her hand. “It’s a deal.”
I’m going to regret this, Kelly thought as she shook on it. “Deal.”
* * * * *
At about ten o’clock that Friday night, Kelly’s anxiety was officially overtaken by boredom. The tall brunette by her side had been talking non-stop for the last ten minutes. Each topic had been punctuated with lame jokes that she’d dutifully laughed at. Honestly, if this was what she’d been missing out on by avoiding parties, maybe she should have stuck with the library.
She tried to keep her sighing to a minimum as she glanced around the room in what she hoped was an inconspicuous manner. Through a break in the crowd, she could see Trina on the far side of the room. Her friend was talking animatedly with a small group of people, laughing at a story that was apparently much funnier than anything Kelly had been subjected too. Yes, the grass definitely looked greener on that side of the room.
“Hello?” A hand waved in front of her face. “Are you still there?”
Looking up, she saw Mr Talkative frowning at her. He must have taken a breath at some point and realised she was no longer paying attention. “I’m sorry… umm…” Gary…Glen…Graham…damn! What was his name?
“Greg.” The word sounded more like a growl as he glared at her.
“Right, Greg.” Kelly gave him a wide smile, hoping to soothe his hurt feelings. “I think my friend is trying to get my attention. Could you excuse me?”
“Whatever.” Shaking his head, he stormed away without a backward glance.
Well done, Kelly. You’ve got men falling at your feet. She toasted herself with the last of the vodka and lemonade she’d been carrying around for the past hour before heading in Trina’s direction.
Her friend greeted her a lopsided grin, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Kelly, I was looking for you. Are you having a good time?”
“Absolutely.” She gave an enthusiastic nod, not wanting to look like a party-pooper. “I’m all with the fun having.”
“Yay.” Trina swayed on her feet as she started to gesture to the people she’d been talking to. “Guys I want you to meet my best friend in the world. Kelly this is Daniel and his girlfriend Anne. And this,” she indicated the man standing to her right, “is my cousin, Jake Caine. He may be two hours late, but he’s here.”
Smiling, Kelly shook hands with Daniel and Anne, then turned to greet the man she’d heard about from Trina, but never met. Her first thought was that he had the bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Deep, cool, crystal clear. Her vision widened to take in the full lips, now lifted in an amused grin. Oh God, I’m staring. Stop staring!
Jerking out of her daze, she reached out to take his proffered hand. It was large, warm and slightly rough. Tingles ran up her arm and her breath caught. This man was supposed to act as an unwitting guinea pig for her amateur flirting? Was Trina crazy?
“Hi.” His voice was deep, but tinged with laughter, and she realised she was staring again. Tugging her hand out of his lingering grip, she smiled pleasantly.
“It’s very nice to meet you.” Good, Kelly, steady voice, non-stumbly words. Excellent.
Unfortunately, her now coolly polite greeting didn’t do anything to reduce the smirk on his face. Nor did it stop his gaze from travelling the length of her body with unabashed self-confidence. Her heart thudded in her chest and she turned her attention to what Trina was saying about how the two of them had met, determined to ignore him and the shivery feeling running through her.
Yep, I’m completely ignoring him. She grinned happily at her small victory. Wouldn’t even notice if he walked away. Hazarding a glance in his direction, she found him still watching her. Quietly. Like a freaking lion eying off a gazelle. Eek! Muttering something to Trina about getting another drink, she turned and bolted for the kitchen.
Three deep breaths later, she searched the fridge for something alcoholic and fizzy. There was only beer. Yuck. Straightening, she spied a bottle of tequila sitting on a bench and eyed it warily.
“Tequila can get a bit messy,” a voice sounded behind her. “But from the way you’re staring down that bottle, I’m thinking you’ll be more than a match.”
Jake. In an uncharacteristic move, Kelly reached for the bottle and turned to where he leaned casually against the doorframe. She raised an eyebrow at him. “Want to join me?”
He smiled, curling his tongue up behind his teeth. Her insides melted into sticky goo. “I’d love to, but I drove here so,” he held up the beer bottle he held in one hand, “I’ll be sticking to this tonight.”
“Such a shame.” With a shake of the head, Kelly found a plastic cup and poured in a small draft of the clear liquid before turning back to him. “Shall we toast?”
“Sure.” Entering the kitchen, he held up his bottle so she could touch her cup to it. “I think we should toast Trina.” She raised her eyebrows in question. “For her fantastic taste in friends,” he added. Then, he lifted his bottle and drank.
Smiling at his compliment, Kelly looked down into her own drink and mused over how strange it was that something that smelled so disgusting looked as innocent as water. Oh well, bottoms up. Taking a deep breathe, she lifted the plastic cup to her mouth and drank the contents.
She barely managed to swallow before the coughing fit started. It felt like she’d swallowed fire. Tears sprang to her eyes and she clutched at the table in front of her as she gulped down fresh air.
After a few moments the burning dulled down and Kelly looked up to find Jake refilling her cup with water. “I take it that was your first tequila shot?” he said with a quiet chuckle as he handed it to her.
She took a long swallow and sighed in relief. “That obvious, huh?”
“Little bit.” He held up two, barely parted, fingers before laughing again.
“Oh, no.” She cringed in embarrassment.
“Don’t worry about it. There’s a first time for everything.” Reaching out, he trailed his fingertips down the sensitive skin of her forearm before capturing her hand in his. “Come with me.”
He gave her arm a gentle tug and she followed him back into the living room. They managed to find a vacant spot in the corner where a pile of floor cushions had been scattered around as extra seating.
“How do you know Trina?” he asked once they were seated.
Oh good, an easy question. “We met on the first day of uni and we’ve been friends ever since,” she said with a casual shrug. “Then about six months ago her old flatmate left and she asked me to move in with her. So, now we live together too.”
“Huh.” He tilted his head, as if surprised. “I haven’t seen Trina that much in the last few years,” he clarified. “But I’m surprised she never mention you.”
Kelly shrugged. “There’s not much to mention.”
He grinned, leaning a little closer as he looked into her eyes. “Hell, yes, there is.”
A rush of warmth heated her face and Kelly dropped her gaze to her lap, though she couldn’t hide her smile. “Are you studying as well?” she asked, eager to change the topic.
“Yeah.” He nodded. “I’m doing a degree in architecture.”
“No kidding,” she cried, putting one hand on his shoulder in her excitement. “You’re going to be an architect. I’m going to be an interior designer. We’re a perfect match.”
“Seems like it.” He moved slightly and she could feel hard muscle moving under her hand. Stop fondling the hot man. It was good advice, and yet when she moved her hand it slid further around his neck instead of back to her lap where it belonged.
Her gaze raised to meet his and she realised how close they were, sitting there side by side at the edge of the crowded room. Kelly’s heart started to pound and her lips felt dry. She licked them, then gasped when Jake looked at her mouth. Thanking the tequila for her newfound boldness, Kelly gave him sly smile. “I would be honoured to work with you one day. In a professional capacity, of course.”
Jake reached out to tuck a stray lock of hair behind her ear, lingering to trace one finger along her cheek. “I’ll work with you, all right,” he told her in a low, husky voice. “In any capacity you desire.”
Her lips parted in anticipation and his quiet groan set her stomach to fluttering. She knew he was going to kiss her and she hadn’t been kissed nearly enough in her eighteen years. She wanted this. She really, really wanted…
“Kelly.” She jerked back at the sound of her name being called. Turning her head, she saw Trina drop to the floor beside them in an undignified heap. “I’m so sorry. I need you.”
“What’s wrong?” Coming up onto her knees, she pushed Trina’s hair out of her face.
“I felt sick. So I went and threw up in the toilet. Now I feel better,” she declared with a wave of her hands. “But I think I need to go home.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Kelly agreed. “I’ll call us a cab.”
“No need.” Standing, Jake took Trina’s raised hands and helped her to her feet. “I’ll drive you home.”
Kelly smiled. “Thanks. That would be great.”
“Anything for family.” His smiled dimmed for a moment, then brightened again as he turned to her. “I must say, Kelly, I wasn’t expecting you to take me home with you tonight.”
She laughed, even as the memory of their almost-kiss made her body hum. “Neither did I. So, don’t go getting any ideas.”
“I’d never dream of it,” he said with a smile.
“Can you please save your foreplay for after I’m asleep in my own bed?” Trina moaned.
Kelly’s eyes widened, but Jake just chuckled. “Yeah, yeah,” he wrapped an arm around Trina’s shoulders and steered her toward the door. “Let’s get you home.”
* * * * *
The moment they entered the apartment, Trina gave Jake a grateful hug and muttered a goodnight before she disappeared into her bedroom. The door slammed shut behind her.
Unsure what to do now, Kelly turned to smile at Jake. “Thank you for giving us a lift.”
He nodded, his hands jammed into his pockets as he stood in the doorway. “No problem.”
“Coffee?” she asked, shrugging one shoulder.
The grin that spread across his face made her want to swoon. “That would be great.”
Following her to the kitchen, Jake propped himself on a stool. She could feel his gaze on her, watching her as she put on the kettle and took mugs out of the cupboard.
When he saw her put a teabag into her cup he tilted his head. “You’re not having coffee?”
“No,” she replied. “If I drank coffee at this time of night I’d be up till all hours.”
“Isn’t that what weekends are for?”
Smiling, she looked up at him. “Maybe you’re right.” Feeling reckless, she tossed her teabag back into its canister and scooped a big teaspoon of instant coffee powder into her cup. A giggle bubbled up her throat. “I’m such a rebel.”
Jake threw his head back and laughed.
* * * * *
An hour later, Kelly’s behaviour belied her prediction and she started to yawn.
“I should go,” Jake said with a reluctant sigh. “Let you get some sleep.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to yawn.” She stretched her arms over her head in an attempt to put off the inevitable. The time they’d spent here, just sitting on the couch talking about everything and nothing, was the most fun she’d had in a long time. She didn’t want the evening to end.
When she looked up again, Jake was staring at her with those intense blue eyes. They seemed… hungry. For me? The thought was too surreal and she found herself staring back. The moment hung between them, thick and heavy with promise.
“I have to go.” Jake stood and headed for the door.
Pushing herself up off the cushions, Kelly hurried to follow. “Thank you again, for bringing us home.”
Jake turned back around just before he reached the front door. Right behind him, Kelly didn’t have time to stop before bumping into his chest. His hands gripped her arms to steady her. Then, before she had a chance to apologise for her clumsiness, he was urging her backward until her back touched the wall beside the door.
“I shouldn’t be doing this,” he whispered, even as his fingers trailed across her cheek in a whisper-soft caress.
Her eyes drifted closed and she tilted her head up slightly in invitation. She could hear her heart thundering in her chest and absently wondered if she would faint before he even kissed her.
Then his lips were on hers and the whole world stopped. Every fibre of her body zeroed in on that one point that connected them. And it was everything she’d dreamed it would be and more.
The world seemed to tilt on its axis and she grasped his shoulders to keep from falling down. He wrapped one arm around her waist, holding her up, while the other slid into her hair. Cupping the nape of her neck, he tilted his head to deepen the kiss. When his tongue slipped between her teeth, she whimpered. Then, just as suddenly as it began, he was gone.
Breathing heavily, Kelly opened her eyes. Jake’s gaze was heavy with lust as he watched her. He licked his lips, made a humming sound, as if he could still taste her there. “You may well be the sweetest thing I’ve ever tasted.” It was the most erotic thing anyone had ever said to her and her legs started to buckle.
“Good night, Kelly.” Taking a step back, he pulled the door open. “How about I come back in the morning? I’ll cook breakfast for you and Trina. Help soothe her hangover.”
She smiled, her body vibrating with excitement that he wanted to see her again so soon. “That would be wonderful.”
He nodded. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He pulled the door closed behind him as he left.
For a while, Kelly stood there alone in the darkness. Her fingers tentatively touched her lips. She could still feel Jake’s kiss there, could feel the heat of him along the length of her body. And this could potentially be the first of many nights to come.
It was a long time before she fell asleep that night. And yet her body came alive in an instant the next morning, when she heard Jake Caine knocking on the front door.
If you enjoyed this bonus content, please consider purchasing a copy of This Time Forever, the story of Kelly and Jake.