Kiss Me Like You Mean It
One gigantic mistake threatens to bring Carlie Steven’s world crumbling down. Everywhere she turns she’s faced with reminders of the drunken moment leaving her friendless, expelled from her Ivy League College. With Jackson out of the country singing for the troops, his empty home will give her the breathing room she needs while coming up with a game plan to fix her situation.
Playing guitar used to be enough for Jackson Laurant. For years he’s played the part of not giving a fuck. Too many one night stands in the bag leave him wanting what his two friends have found. With only a handful of shows left on the tour, his mind wanders to the off limits Carlie Stevens. For years, he’s denied the brewing attraction. When he finds she’s taken up residence in his home. He may have the in he’s wanted for too many years to count.
“Here comes the skank.”
Carlie cringed from the crushing words her frenemies hurled at her as she passed them on her way to the main office. She slung her backpack over her shoulder and squeezed past the football jocks taking up all the space on the steps. The males leered at her making her feel even dirtier than she already did.
Two weeks ago she led a normal life. Two weeks ago no one avoided her like she had a contagious disease. Jenny and Lisa brushed into her, nearly knocking her down. After she righted herself, the scathing looks sent her way caused her stomach to roll. The same Kappa sorority sisters who were with her the entire spring break trip in Mexico left her to fend for herself.
“Could my life suck any worse?” In low spirits, she trudged up the stairs, ignoring the whispers and stares along the way. Her footsteps echoed in the near empty hall as she began the walk of shame into the dean’s office. She opened the door and was immediately greeted by the secretary, Mrs. Robard.
“Ms. Stevens, Dean Wallace will be with you shortly. Please take a seat.”
While Mrs. Robard didn’t openly state her displeasure, the curt tone of her dismissive voice spoke volumes. Right then she wished she could call Carrie and ask for advice. Shame prevented her from reaching out for what she desperately needed, her sister. So she sat in utter misery waiting to find out what the outcome of her actions would cost her. Tears of frustration welled up. To forestall the panic rising within her, she swallowed past the lump in her throat, closed her eyes to center herself and regulated her breathing.
“Ms. Stevens…Ms. Stevens.”
“Huh? I mean yes, Dean Wallace.”
“Please follow me into my office and have a seat.” The dean held the door open for her to slip through. Carlie settled into the chair in front of his massive desk as he shuffled behind to sit down. Closer to her age group than the last dean, she hoped he’d look past her error in judgment. She was one of his star pupils and had never strayed from her educational goals. As V.P. of her sorority, she held fast to their code of conduct rules. As such, she enforced them herself with the new pledges and her current sisters.
“Sir, I know I made a huge mistake on spring break. I have never acted in that manner before and I promise you it’ll never happen again. I’m really sorry for the disturbance and negative publicity the school has received from the media.”
“Carlie.” The dean sighed and steepled his fingers.
Frustration radiated from him as he struggled to pick the right words. His unease made her shift uncomfortably under his curt appraisal.
“I know all about peer pressure and being young. I am sorely disappointed in your choice of behavior, not only because now when people see you they will not see the bright girl who has a promising future, but the girl who broke rules and protocol, who posed nude in a cheap rag magazine.”
“I know this—”
“I’m not finished. You posed in a wet sorority shirt bought here in our campus store.”
“In my defense I was really drunk. We all were. Jenny and Lisa were with me. I don’t understand why I’m taking all the heat.”
“Did Jenny or Lisa pose?”
“No, but…” She wanted to tell him about the mud wrestling tournament the three of them won during that trip. They were videotaped receiving their prizes and got pictures taken as well.
“Did Jenny or Lisa sign a contract giving legal permission to use them?”
“No, but there has to be a way to protect me, make that magazine accountable for shady tactics. I’d never have made the choices I made that day sober. They took advantage of me.”
“Ms. Stevens. No one forced alcohol down your throat or made you continue to drink. You are still responsible for your actions. We take our code of conduct serious here. You’ve not only opened yourself up for expulsion, but also ridicule from your peers. I’ve heard the slurs on campus already, the pictures posted in the common areas. You cannot run from this, I’m afraid and we cannot afford or tolerate the media explosion your actions have brought about.”
“What exactly are you saying? Am I expelled?” Her voice cracked and she forced a straight face needing to have some sort of control, although it was a false sense of security.
“At this time the only recourse is for you to leave this school. We are willing to allow you to set up online courses to finish out this semester so you don’t draw incompletes. I will also write you a letter of recommendation to another school of your choice.”
Dean Wallace dropped a bomb. Her mind struggled to comprehend his words. She’d dreamed of graduating from this school, like her mother had. As a Darthmore legacy, she had a place in the upper hierarchy in the alumni once she graduated. She worked hard to maintain her perfect grade point average. “I will do anything you ask of me but please do not kick me out. I don’t know how I’m going to explain this to my mom and dad. I don’t know where to go.”
The smell of ocean welcomed him. He stepped out of his service car, hoisted his backpack and clicked the handle on his suitcase. Why carry something that had rollers. The house was dark in the early afternoon, making him wonder if he still had a houseguest.
He entered and placed his things in the foyer. Emotions long forgotten tugged at him. Every time he stepped foot in his childhood house, he expected to see his mother come down the stairs to greet him with a warm smile on her face, smelling like an afternoon spent baking. And, as always, reality cruelly crashed down, reminding him of fate’s viciousness. With a sigh, he looked toward the staircase. Carlie. Carlie. Carlie.
Jackson walked up the stairs, toward his bedroom, noting how everything looked to be in in place, as if Carlie didn’t dare disturb anything. He passed by his mom’s bedroom, now a guest room. He ruminated on things, what to say, what would her reaction be to seeing him?
What he loved most about flying was sleeping, but thanks to one overprotective brother he barely rested at all, with his mind obsessing over the sweet woman in his bed.
A foul odor hit his nose upon opening the door to his bedroom. He ignored the stink and approached his bed covered in chocolate wrappers, empty bags of fast food and the girl sleeping on top of the covers in the same clothes he saw her in online while he was in Afghanistan.
Garrick always boasted of his ‘sleep like the dead’ sisters. He decided to test out the theory. He tapped her and got nothing. He picked her up. Her head lolled over, a halo of hair fanning out. A loud snore popped out of her mouth. He tried to smooth her tangled hair out of the way and carried her into his bathroom. With one hand, he turned on the shower and stepped into the cold water fully dressed, holding her.
Carlie screamed. Her beautiful eyes popped opened as she came to and began thrashing in his arms.
“Sorry, princess. You need a shower, you stink.” Jackson whipped her soaking wet shirt over her head and unsnapped her bra with one hand while she shivered and glared daggers at him. He bent down and whisked off her leggings and thong, and then threw all the pieces out of the shower.
“What are you doing?” Carlie hissed the words thorough chattering teeth. She gave up attempting to cover her nudity with her hands and wiped her plastered hair away from her eyes.
“Right now I’m standing in my shower under freezing water with a smelly girl.” He reached up and adjusted the blasts to give them warm water. Jackson stepped out to get a clean cloth and returned to her. Her skin flushed with the steam pouring through the glass enclosed shower.
“I mean what are you doing home?”
He chuckled. “I didn’t know I needed permission to come to my house.” He grabbed his body wash and lathered up the cloth.
“I swear I’m going to kill you for tossing me in a cold shower.” Anger blazed in her flushed face as she stared him down.
“That’s good then, means you’re no longer cowering in your stupid self-pity party.”
“What, are you going to do with that?” She eyed him nervously, ignoring his words.
“Well, I figured your hands must be broken or something so I’d wash you, since you can’t do so yourself.”
“Uh-uh, no way. Give me that.” She tugged at the sudsy cloth in his hand, his gaze dropping to her lush breasts.
“Nice.” He winked at the way they bounced with her efforts to take the wash rag. He let her have the wet cloth and watched the recoil, suds covering her chin, dripping down her neck, between the valley of her tits, and the path downward. Damn she was in great shape.
“Get. Out.” She pointed to the door, her face flushing a deep red.
“I don’t mind helping, not at all.” The sheer stubbornness in her glare told to him to surrender. With a sigh, he stepped out of the stall. “Get clean. We’ll talk after you’re done.”
“Fine. Privacy would be nice. Please close the door behind you.”
“See you soon.” He stripped off his clothes on the other side, knowing she had a direct view of him. His dick jerked in the cool air. At her gasp, he noticed her riveted gaze stayed on his Prince Albert and beads. He quirked a brow at her, ready to answer any questions she might have. “Done staring at my dick?” The crass words caused her head to jerk and her gaze to land on his.
“Could you be more of an asshole?”
He smirked in response, snagged a towel and walked into his bedroom. Carlie’s continued rant echoed in his bathroom, the sound carrying into his master bedroom.
“Perfect princess, you know this is who I am and you still wanted to jump my bones.”
“I hate that nickname. Whatever. I don’t want to jump anything on you.”
While she screamed expletives at him from the other side of the door in a righteous fit of temper, he dried off and put on a fresh pair of jeans and a T-shirt, impressed that she knew such a dirty range of swear words, and used them. Ten minutes later, Carlie emerged with a huge fluffy towel around her lithe body.
“Let’s get one thing straight. I’m not a new notch for your bedpost, don’t ever strip me naked again. I made a stupid drunken comment months ago that will not happen in this lifetime. Got it? Better yet maybe you should move to the other room while you’re here.”
“Don’t hole yourself in my bedroom like a hoarder,” he snapped back, grabbed his trashcan from the bedside and began tossing wrappers and leftover crap inside. He stopped to gift her with a glare. “This is my room. You don’t dictate where I will or won’t sleep in my fucking house, princess. Got it?” He resumed his task and counted backward from twenty to cool his temper. The heady scent of innocence dripped from her delectable body, driving him mad. He needed his hands occupied to prevent him from lashing out at her in sexual frustration.