Read Fairytale Not Required Online

Authors: Stephanie Rowe

Tags: #Ever After#2

Fairytale Not Required (7 page)

BOOK: Fairytale Not Required
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

"Kindred spirits, my angel. We're kindred spirits." Then he shifted his hips, sliding his knee between her legs, and she knew he was going to make love to her. Right then. In the grass, beneath the setting sun, on the shore of the lake that had saved her spirit so many times.

"Look at me," Jason whispered as he slid his arms beneath her shoulders, bracing himself on his elbows so he wasn't crushing her, but so his weight was heavy and protective. "I need to see into your eyes."

Astrid met his gaze, and her heart tore at the depth of pain she saw in Jason's eyes. "Yes," she whispered.

"Yes," he agreed, his words still hovering in the air as he slid inside her, an effortless entry that was so perfect, so amazing, so
Jason swore under his breath as he began to move. "God, Astrid," he said. "How is it that this can feel so right?"

"I don't know," she gasped. Ripples of desire spread through her belly, cascading along her limbs as he thrust again. "But please don't stop."

He laughed, a deep, throaty sound that brought a surprised smile to her face. "Hell, no, woman. No chance of that." And then he thrust again, and again, moving faster and faster until she couldn't think of anything but Jason, of how he was everything she'd needed for so long. Until her body was screaming with need, and still she wanted more.

He kissed her again, so deeply it felt as if he were trying to bind them together forever. Astrid held onto him fiercely, losing herself in all that he was, in how he made her feel, in the desire and need racing through her. In the depth of the connection to this man in her arms, in the gift of this moment that he'd given her.

Then he thrust again, and the orgasm exploded through her, seizing her in a relentless spiral so intense she screamed.

"God, Astrid." Jason lurched on top of her, his body going rigid as he came with her, joining her as the orgasm consumed them both, tearing them from the shadows that haunted them and catapulting them both over a precipice into a place of safety, of connection, of life.

* * *

Trapped in Jason's arms, cradled against his chest, buried in the strength of his body, Astrid was afraid to move. She was terrified that she would never feel this way again.

Never had she felt safe in a man's arms. Content, yes. Sated, sure. But never safe.

But as they lay together, their hearts slowly easing back to their normal rhythms, the sounds of nightfall beginning to come alive in the woods around them, Astrid felt like the world couldn't hurt her anymore. She felt like she didn't need to pretend to be strong or funny when all she wanted to do was cry. Jason had somehow sensed her pain, and that had brought them together.

But at the same time, she'd seen the appreciation in his eyes when she'd first appeared in his store armed with her outrageous scarf and flippant attitude. He'd seen all the facets of who she was, and he'd still craved her so badly that she'd felt his need all the way in her soul.

Jason Sarantos made her feel safe. For the first time in her life, she knew what it felt like to
trust a man all the way down to his soul, and it was unbelievable. She tightened her arms around him and pressed her face against his shoulder. "Thank you," she whispered. "That was beautiful."

"Astrid." Jason propped himself up on his elbow, his dark hair tousled as he peered down at her. His face was shadowed now, the sun almost set completely behind the mountains on the other side of the lake.

She smiled and smoothed his hair, the intimate gesture coming naturally before she had time to question whether she had the right to do it.

He leaned his head into her touch, as if he wanted it as much as she did. "Come inside," he said. "Let me make you dinner. Stay the night."

She blinked, startled by the offer. "What?"

"Stay with me tonight." His gaze searched hers, and she saw such yearning in his eyes that her heart tightened.

She realized she wanted to say yes. She wanted to pretend that this was forever, that she'd found her way to this beautiful life and this perfect man...

"I want to get to know every inch of you." He touched her cheek. "I want to know the secrets hiding in your eyes. I want to hold you until dawn—" Then he grinned slightly sheepishly. "Or maybe until just before dawn. Noah wakes up at seven, so it's probably best if I'm done ravishing you by then."

"Noah?" Astrid said blankly, coldness creeping over her limbs as reality began to intrude.

"My son." He raised his brows. "He's a good kid, Astrid. You'd like him."

"Your son." Anguish suddenly coursed through her, the pain of memories she'd tried to forget. She pressed her hand to her eyes, fighting off the surge of tears, the sudden onslaught of grief so intense that it seemed to wrest her breath right from her lungs, her heart from her chest. The surge of emotions was so sudden and unexpected that she had no time to brace herself against it, to head it off before it consumed her, sucking her down into the abyss.

"Astrid?" Jason caught her wrist, his fingers closing around her arm. "What's wrong? What did I say?"

"Nothing. God, nothing." She struggled out from under him, suddenly feeling so raw and exposed. How had she fallen into the trap of deluding herself that this was more than a dream, even for a moment? It wasn't. His son.
His son.
Tears blinded her as she lunged for her clothes, yanking them back on frantically, desperate to get away from Jason and his son, and the dreams that he'd reawakened inside her.

"Astrid!" He leapt to his feet and grabbed her arm, concern etched on his face. "Talk to me. What's going on? What upset you? Did I do something?"

"No, it's not you. It's—" She looked up at the house looming behind Jason, and suddenly the truth seemed to hit her in the face. The Mercedes. The beautiful house. His son. This wasn't her world. This wasn't her man. Of course he didn't love her, not on any level, and the magnitude of their incompatibility would become all too vivid if they tried to pretend that there was something more between them.

He'd needed her in that moment, as she'd needed him. To take it further would be to strip the moment of meaning, to tarnish it before it had even settled. She needed what he'd given her, and she had to pull herself together before the costs of their moment crushed the respite it had given her. "I can't do this."

"Do what?" His fingers tightened on her arms almost desperately. "You can't stay with me tonight? See me in the morning? Is it my son? Is that the problem? That I have a kid?"

She stared at him, so much emotion welling in her throat that she couldn't risk speaking, or she would snap. All she could do was shake her head. "I can't," she managed to say, her voice cracking with the strain.

"You can't." Slowly, Jason released her arm, and his face became shuttered. Gone was the warmth, the openness of his pain, the genuineness of who he was. In its place was cool reserve, that same distant expression she remembered so well from her ex-fiancé when he'd walked into her hospital room while she was fighting for her life and told her that since their son had been still-born, there was no reason for him to marry her.

The utter lack of emotion on Jason's face was exactly the same as Paul's expression when he'd told her that since he didn't have a son to protect, there was no way he would burden his family with the ignominy of who Astrid was and the legacy she brought with her. He'd turned and walked out, and his expensive cologne had been the last she'd ever seen of the first and only man she'd ever managed to trust.

And suddenly, here, with Jason, the shields protecting her heart were cracking, and it was too much. She had to survive, and feeling this kind of pain would never let that happen. "I can't do this."

Jason's face hardened. "I can see that."

"I—" Guilt coursed through her for causing him distress, and she touched his arm. "It was beautiful, Jason. Truly beautiful." She stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his whiskered cheek. "I wish I was the woman who could have that forever," she whispered.

His eyes narrowed, and suddenly the coldness was gone, replaced by a thoughtfulness that sent trepidation through her. "Why aren't you?"

"I—" She hesitated, hating the yearning pulsing inside her, the wish to fall into his arms and forget the world. She pushed him away. "Damn you, Jason. I can't do this."

"But you want to."

She glanced up at him, saw satisfied conviction on his face, and realized that he wasn't going to let her go. He didn't want the moment to end, and he was prepared to make her stay. Fear rippled through her, and she took a step back. She lifted her chin and gave him a defiant glare. "No, I don't," she said, managing to keep her voice steady. "If you ask around town, you'll find out I'm not that kind of girl. I'm not the kind of woman for a man with a son."

For a long moment, he simply studied her, and then finally, he nodded. "Okay."

Regret coursed through her at his easy acceptance, but she also felt a relief so vast that her body began to tremble. "Okay, then." She managed a smile and hurried back to her car, suddenly desperate to get away from him and everything that had happened. She had just slid into her seat and was closing the door when Jason grabbed the window frame. Astrid caught her breath in anticipation. "What?"

He held out his hand, his dark eyes unreadable in the dim light. "The key to my storage shed."

"Oh, right." She let out a breath, fighting off the disappointment, and grabbed the key from the console. She dropped it into his hand so she didn't have to touch him. "Here. Harlan will be back in a couple days. Call him if you need anything."

"Thanks." Jason stepped back as she started the car. "Just so you know, Astrid..."

She hesitated at his serious tone. "What?"

"When I said 'okay,' I didn't mean that I accepted your claim that you weren't the kind of woman for a man with a kid."

She swallowed, her skin suddenly hot. "You didn't? What did you mean?"

He grinned. "I meant, okay, I'll ask around town and find out exactly what kind of girl you are, and then, I'm going to make my own damn decision." He slammed the door before she could argue, turned and walked back into the house, abandoning her in his own driveway.

She should be terrified at the thought of what the rumor mill might say about her, but instead, she felt laughter bubbling up in her throat.

Jason Sarantos was trouble, and trouble was her kind of world.

But that didn't mean she was going to sleep with him again. She couldn't afford it.

Because it was the God's honest truth that she wasn't the kind of woman for a man with a child. Her ex-fiancé may have been a bastard, but he had been absolutely right about her when he'd referenced the ignominy of her past and her background.

As horrible as it had been to lose her son, she knew that it had been the world's greatest gift to her son that he had been spared having her as his mother.

Chapter Six

It was time for her power outfit.

Astrid was wearing her most cheerful scarf, half-woven into a thick French braid, as she trotted up the steps of Wright's the next morning for her daily coffee ritual with Emma and Clare. Clare was off in Portland with Griffin, but at least Emma would be there.

Astrid had selected her favorite pair of jeans, a hot pink tank top with sparkles, and four different earrings from her inspirational collection adorned her earlobes: love, peace, hope and "girls kick ass," which was her personal favorite at the moment.

She'd put on enough makeup to hide the fact she'd spent the night alternating between failing to create a new design and looking up apartment rentals on the internet. She'd failed at both of them, and was now so tired she could barely even think.

Good. If she was too tired to think, maybe she'd be able to get Jason out of her mind. Jason and his unbelievable lovemaking. Jason and her dream house. Jason and his shadows.

Jason and his son.

Argh! Why couldn't she control her mind? She needed to be a creative, problem-solving genius, not some pathetic female sobbing over dreams and fantasies that were not her life. She was not a dreamer. She was a practical girl, and she knew how to survive.

Jason simply needed to get out of her mind, and now. Seriously.

Shoulders back, chin up, Astrid threw open the door to Wright's and strode into the store. She tossed her hair, shooting her trademark grin at the patrons who were strolling about with their morning coffee, pancakes and Ophelia's famous muffins, getting their morning dose of gossip before heading out for the day. She was rewarded with a few smiles and a couple of shout-outs about her new scarves, the welcome easing some of the tension in her chest.

Determined to feel better, Astrid gave Ophelia a cheerful greeting as she picked up the coffee that Ophelia had waiting for her. "Morning, Ophelia."

"Wait." Wearing a red plaid shirt and a pair of jeans that had seen years of washings, Ophelia slapped a tray of scrambled eggs, bacon and a spinach quiche on the counter. "Here's your breakfast."

Astrid's stomach turned at the sight of all that food. "You know I don't eat breakfast."

"And you know I don't care. Eat it." Ophelia held up her hand to stop her. "Wait." She pulled out a box of Clare's cupcakes and set a double chocolate fudge with M&Ms on the tray. "You need one of these today. I can tell."

"Chocolate?" Well, that was different. She always had room for chocolate. She would have asked how Ophelia had known today was a chocolate day, but there was no point. Ophelia always knew, and that was the way it was. "Okay, thanks." Astrid picked up the tray and headed across the store toward the corner table, where Emma was already sitting.

She slid down across from Emma, who was hunched over the table, busily sketching on a small pad with colored pencils. "Hi."

Emma looked up from her sketchbook. "Hi—" Her eyes widened as she looked at Astrid, and then her eyebrows shot up. "What happened to you?"

BOOK: Fairytale Not Required
10.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan
Ice Dreams Part 1 by Melissa Johns
Midnight Sacrifice by Melinda Leigh
Warrior's Embrace by Peggy Webb
A Wishing Moon by Sable Hunter
Little Girl Blue by Randy L. Schmidt