I thought better of it and cleared my throat, pushing down my emotions. Instead, I repeated myself.
Jaxon's gaze refused to leave mine, the shadows so strong that they almost reached out and grabbed me. My throat closed in on itself, my lungs screaming for me to breathe. I didn't want to, though. I wanted Jaxon. I wanted him to respond, to elaborate on why I needed to distance myself. Cut ties.
I needed for him to explain to me how he was so much worse than my father. My dad was a man who cared more about money than his own daughter. How could Jaxon be anything like him?
Jaxon suddenly came to, shaking his head and looking away. “Nothing. Sorry. I was saying, you need to cut ties with everything. Get out of this house, get a good job. Be happy."
The tension was released so abruptly that my air escaped on a huff that ended in a laugh. “The job I want isn't hiring high school flunkies."
This had Jaxon looking at me again, distaste on his face as he spat out, “You had to quit going to school in order to work and take care of yourself and your family. That's not your fault, Sara."
“That doesn't mean that they'll see it that way at any publishing house. They will only see that I have a GED and not even a high school diploma, let alone a college degree. I have experience, but none of it works in tandem with publishing. How am I going to get a job like that without experience, a degree, or even a diploma?"
It was a constant loop of a system where I was never going to win or break free. I was stuck living this chaos-infused life.
“If you let me help you...."
This wasn't the first time he had offered. Hell, he did so almost every time he came over. He had the money to throw in my direction, but I always refused. I'd never be able to look him in the eye again if I took any money from him. Even though I knew Jaxon didn't mind that I would owe him, I couldn't take it. Hell, he had offered as much money as I needed to get on my feet no-strings-attached so many times before, I couldn't even count.
I couldn't take any money from him, though, because then I would think of the debt I owed him every time I looked at him. Each and every time we interacted.
“You know I won't do that." I ran a hand through my hair and shook my head slowly.
Jaxon sighed and rubbed his jaw before he moved to the table and pulled out one of the chairs so that he could slump down in it. “I know. As much as I hate it."
The frustration that was clear as day in his tensed muscles pulled a smile from within me. I wasn't able to hide it as I found his comment endearing. He was protective over me, for some odd reason that he still had yet to reveal, but he wasn't forceful. Not in the slightest, which was the opposite from the aura that he gave off. “Thank you for not forcing me."
“How can I, when you're simply trying to do your best while keeping your independence? I have no right to force you." Jaxon shrugged and he scratched the nape of his neck before he leaned back in the chair.
“Thank you for coming over. I enjoy your visits." I wished I could tell him just how much I enjoyed them, but I was thinking more clearly now than I had been before.
That wouldn't be a good idea.
I moved across the room and sat down in the chair across from him. The table was so small, our proximity was only separated by a few inches.
Jaxon paused, his gaze darkening for a moment before he said, “I enjoy seeing you, too, Sara." Yet, his voice was thick with an emotion I couldn't detect. It was there and gone before I had any time to catch it. “You deserve someone to watch over you, unlike what your father has been doing. All he does is take from you and never gives you anything in return. You need someone that is here for you."
I want to make a joke, one about how he wants to step in for my father, but the idea is too uncomfortable and doesn't feel right. Jaxon didn't act like my dad does. He didn't act like any father I know. He was more of a friend. He was like a close, caring friend whom I had dirty, not-so-innocent thoughts about. Even as he sat across the table from me, his body tense and awkward in the cheap chair, the thoughts filled my mind, and I felt myself reacting to him physically, my core tightening, my breath staggering.
“You think that should be you? That you should be the one to watch over me?" The words left my mouth before I could stop them. I pressed my lips together and waited impatiently for his response.
His eyes locked onto mine, and for a split second I wondered if he was going to get up.
“There isn't anyone else, is there?" He looked around the room, his arms spread wide, as if he was actually asking me if there was another person around. His eyes locked back on mine, and he arched an eyebrow, his expression taking on one of a scorned lover, all of the sudden.
I tried to hide the small gasp that chilled my body. It shivered down my body and hit me right in the gut. His words had been sincere, but the inclination was that of a jealous boyfriend making sure his girlfriend wasn't cheating. The thought hit me with a wash of heat and embarrassment. I knew he didn't mean what I thought, but I allowed myself to imagine it for a moment.
“No, there isn't." I had to break my eyes from his before I revealed too much. “I don't have the time for anyone, even friends."
Jaxon leaned forward, our bodies so close that I needed to remind myself how to breathe before I ended up launching myself at him. My mind was a constant haze of emotions that I couldn't control.
His voice was smooth and sultry as he whispered, “You have me."
The question slipped out before I could stop it, and my voice cracked at the end. I pressed my lips together and paused, waiting for the response.
Jaxon breathed in before he stood up and fixed his suit jacket and cleared his throat. “I should get going. It's late, and you most likely have work in the morning."
I tried to ignore the way my heart sank at his reaction. It was nice that he hadn't made a comment that I could easily misunderstand, but it was disheartening that I couldn't get a smile, a sweet gesture, anything from him. Anything that I really wanted.
I could have used some sort of kindness right now when I had nothing else left to fight for.
I hummed and pushed my chair back across the floor. I followed Jaxon through the house, staring at his back.
“Yeah, I do have to work in the morning. Thank you again, for stopping by."
I wanted to tell him to stay. To talk some more. Maybe even to ask him some questions about the editing business. Any advice that could get me a little closer to where he stood would be helpful. He was so high up on the ladder in the company, someone like me just trying to break in would be a tiny speck.
Jaxon paused when he reached the front entrance, turning to make eye contact. In the small foyer, our bodies close together, heat rose up into my cheeks, and it was hard to hide. I'm sure he was able to notice it, but he didn't say a word about it.
“I'll always check in on you." He sighed, a smile on his lips.
“I know." He cared too much to not. Simply because I was my father's daughter. That had to be the only reason. The only one he would ever admit to me or anyone else, anyway.
Silence enveloped us, my chest tight as I wondered what would happen next. Would he continue the conversation, to stay longer, or would he leave quickly?
Jaxon reached out and ran a finger through a lock of my hair before he said, “Have a good night, Sara."
He sighed and opened the door, stepping across the threshold. Jaxon exited out onto the porch and stared up into the night sky. The smile was still splayed across his face, and all I wanted to do was step up and wrap my arms around his waist. To hold him close and let him reciprocate the gesture. To be held.
With a tight swallow, I nodded to no one in particular. “You too, Jaxon."
With an awkward wave I smiled and shut the door as Jaxon left. I sighed, my body weak as I was able to finally relax. I slumped against the door jam, my lungs tight as the air lodged in my chest, refusing to flow smoothly.
Shit. I almost messed that up completely. It was a good thing he had left when he did. I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to hold on for much longer without giving away what I had been thinking of.
I went back inside, into my room, thinking I'd get ready for bed, but all I did was sit on the edge of my mattress and think about the mess my life was.
After another couple of minutes, a loud bang on the door had me leaping out of my skin. It was. a harsh, heavy knock. Heart in my throat, my head turned toward the front of the house. Could it be Jaxon? Had he come back so soon?
Hurrying to the front of the house, I unlatched the lock and swung the door open.
“Did you forget something?"
It wasn't Jaxon that stood on the other side, though. What towered over me were three bulky individuals. Men with defined muscles even beneath their clothes. The man in the front was my height with a tailored suit and a neat hairdo while the other two were obviously hired henchmen. They both had on jeans and black T-shirts, their knuckles marred with scars and fresh bruises.
The man in the front smiled a large, toothy grin and tilted his head. The shiver that bit at the nape of my neck caused me to freeze on the spot.
What had my dad gotten himself into this time?