Treat me, p.14
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       Treat Me, p.14

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  “Totally,” she said.

  “Still not ready to admit you’re in love with me?”

  Amanda’s lips went numb. “Um . . . Well . . . I-I’m not sure.”

  “You’ll come around,” he said with a confident grin. He shifted his free hand to rest on her thigh.

  If he was that sure, he knew more about her feelings than she did. If she was in love with him, the feeling hadn’t first sparked recently. It had been growing for a long time. But she didn’t want to believe that she’d fallen for him while he’d still been married to Tina. That was a betrayal to her sister that she didn’t want to face. And she definitely needed to change the subject. Again.

  “So last night I was talking to my friend Leah,” she said. Which reminded Amanda she needed to text her and see if Colton had contacted her for a second date.

  “Your cute Asian friend?” Jacob asked, glancing over his shoulder as he changed lanes to pass a lagging semi-truck.

  “What’s with the cute qualifier?” Amanda asked, narrowing her eyes at him.

  “What? I said she was cute, not that I want to screw her.”

  Amanda shoved her feelings of unwarranted jealousy into the pit of her stomach. She knew that Tina’s jealousy had been the primary catalyst for her breakup with Jacob, and Amanda refused to follow the same path.

  “Yes, my cute Asian friend Leah. She’s the one who does the GED prep course around Christmas break. Remember when we talked about that?”

  Jacob moved his hand from her leg to rest on the automatic transmission gear shift. “I remember,” he said after a moment.

  “Her class is totally full already.”

  “So I guess that idea is shot.” He didn’t seem too upset about it.

  “I thought you wanted to get your GED.”

  “I do,” he said.

  “Are you sure?” she pressed.

  “Yeah, I’m sure.”

  “Then you’ll be glad to know that Leah agreed to let you into the class as a favor to me.”

  He didn’t see her bright smile of encouragement, because he didn’t look at her. He didn’t respond either. “Jacob?”

  “The band will be working on our next album then,” he said.

  “It’s only a few nights a week. I’m sure you can make it work if you want to.”

  “I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of your smart friend,” he said quietly.

  “You won’t,” Amanda said. “Leah works with struggling students all the time.”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” Jacob took his eyes off the road long enough to glare at her.

  “I don’t know why this is escalating into an argument,” Amanda said. “You told me you wanted to get your GED but didn’t think you were prepared. Leah is the best teacher around for your exact situation. She’s willing to put her neck out for you at my request, and you act like I’ve done something wrong. I don’t understand what your problem is.”

  “My problem? You’re the one so fixated on this GED thing.”

  “Me?” she shouted, and then she lowered her voice when Julie mumbled incoherently in her sleep. “I don’t care if you ever get your GED. You said you regretted never graduating from high school.”

  “I do,” he said.

  “Jacob, I don’t want you to regret anything. Not your unfinished education. Not your relationship with Tina.” Not being with me, she added silently.

  “I don’t regret marrying your sister,” he said. “Without Tina, there’d be no Julie. I don’t want to even think about what life would be like without her. I also don’t regret divorcing your sister. She’s a huge pain in the ass. We don’t belong together.”

  Amanda couldn’t help but draw parallels between herself and Tina. Maybe Jacob thought she was being a huge pain in the ass for meddling in his life.

  “I appreciate that you’re trying to help,” he said.

  She lifted a skeptical eyebrow at him. “Do you?”

  “Yeah. I just—” He shook his head and reached for an open bottle of water, tipping his head back as he chugged half its contents. He returned it to the cup holder and gripped the steering wheel in both hands.

  Amanda traced the edge of the skull tattoo on his right shoulder. “Do you want to talk to Leah? Maybe she can convince you that you’ll do just fine.”

  “No, I don’t want to talk to Leah. What do you do in her class? Sit and read books?”

  “I think she does a practice test on the first day.”

  “A test on the first day?” Jacob blurted.

  “Practice test,” Amanda said. “It’s to see where your weaknesses are. She uses it to customize her instruction for each student. She forms study groups to work on topics and determines if there are issues that the entire class needs to be instructed on. And she does a lot of one-on-one instruction for students who are really struggling.”

  Jacob massaged the back of his neck.

  “You don’t have anything to be nervous about. If you’re not ready to take the real test at the end of the class, you can sign up to take the class again. You can take it as many times as you want. It’s not for a grade or anything, it’s just to help you do your best on the test. I know you’re smart enough to do this, Jacob.”

  He snorted. “Oh yeah,” he said. “I’m a real genius.”

  He was too hard on himself. She leaned over and kissed him on the arm. “You’re smart enough,” she repeated. “I know you are. You can trust my judgement. I’m a professional educator, remember?”

  “You aren’t the first professional educator I’ve duped with sex,” he said.

  Amanda’s jaw dropped. “What?”

  He shrugged. “Let’s just say Mrs. Cranston wasn’t helping me improve my essays when she kept me after school.” He laughed and rubbed at the center of his forehead.

  “That’s terrible,” Amanda said. “Please tell me you reported her and got her fired. Hell, got her arrested.”

  “For what?”

  “For molesting you.”

  “I honestly didn’t mind,” he said. “I was a lot better at making her moan than making heads or tails out of those boring-ass books she made us read.”

  “She was your teacher, Jacob. Jesus, how old were you?” Not that it mattered. Even if he’d been a consenting adult of eighteen, a teacher was in a position of authority, one that should never be abused. Exchanging sexual favors for passing grades? It was positively disgusting.

  “Uh, fourteen, I think.”

  “Fourteen?” Amanda clutched her stomach to stave off the nausea. “I don’t even know what to say.”

  His jaw hardened. “I’m sorry if what I did disgusts you. Failure was not an option.”

  “You don’t disgust me, baby. She fucking disgusts me!”

  “Are we there yet?” Julie asked groggily from the back seat.

  “Not much longer,” Jacob told her, smiling at her in the rearview mirror. “About twenty more minutes.”

  “Okay,” she mumbled before drifting back to sleep with her stuffed monkey snuggled tightly in her arms.

  “Did you report that teacher?” Amanda said, still feeling sick over what he’d told her.

  “It isn’t that big a deal, Amanda. Just drop it.”

  “It is a big deal,” she insisted. “Would you think it was a big deal if some teacher coerced a fourteen-year-old Julie into offering sexual favors in exchange for better grades?”

  Jacob’s face went ashen. “I’d kill the fucking son of a bitch.”

  “So now do you get why I’m so upset about this?”

  “It’s different,” he said. “Julie’s a girl.”

  “But it isn’t different,” Amanda said, shaking her head. “And I’m so sorry it happened to you.”

  “I’ve always had a thing for teachers,” he said, reaching for her hand, capturing it in his and drawing it to his lips.

  Amanda frowned and turned to him. “Please don’t tell me that your attraction to me has anything to do with what that
sick bitch did to you as a kid.”

  “But I wasn’t a kid,” he said with a chuckle. “I landed on the other side of puberty like a champ.”

  “Perhaps you were physically mature, but psychologically, you were a kid, Jacob.”

  “Did you know me then?” he asked and dropped her hand.

  “My students are all between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Trust me, they’re kids. They don’t think they are, but their decision-making processes are far from mature. Would you still sleep with a teacher for a better grade?”

  “Depends on how hot she is,” he said with a soft chuckle.

  Amanda’s nostrils flared.

  “That was a joke,” he said, patting her knee. “I don’t understand why you’re so pissed. It happened over a decade ago. No one got hurt. No one got caught. I was okay with it then and I’m still okay with it. Mrs. Cranston was definitely okay with it.”

  “She gives teachers a bad name.” Amanda crossed her arms over her chest and tried to glare a hole into the dashboard.

  “Oh,” Jacob said, the hand on her knee beginning to explore her bare skin in a most distracting fashion. “So this is really about you.”

  “Of course it isn’t about me.”

  Well, maybe it was about her. Nothing grated on her nerves more than a person of authority using their power to do wrong. Teachers, cops, CEOs—in her mind, they had the moral obligation to do the right thing. And requiring a student to exchange sexual favors for a better grade was outlandishly wrong. “Was she the only one?” Amanda asked, wishing she could see his eyes behind his sunglasses.

  “You don’t want me to answer that,” he said.

  Amanda slumped against the door and rubbed her face with her palm. “How many?”

  “A few,” he said. “My education was a joke, okay? Can we just drop it?”

  Amanda watched a muscle twitch in his jaw. She hadn’t meant to upset him. Maybe it was best to leave such things in the past.

  “Is it any surprise that I turned out to be such an idiot?” he said under his breath.

  Amanda’s heart shattered. “You aren’t an idiot, Jacob.”

  He snorted. “I know what I am better than anyone. Better than my teachers, better than you, better than—than Tina.” He pounded a fist against the steering wheel and held it there, clenched so tight that his knuckles turned white.

  As far as Amanda knew, Tina was the only one who actually called him stupid, and she did it because she knew how much it hurt him. Amanda had never gotten along with Tina, but at that moment she actually hated her own sister. Despised her.

  “You’re not an idiot,” Amanda said.

  He turned his face from her as far as he could while still keeping his eyes on the interstate stretching before them.

  Amanda needed him to believe her, but how could she erase years’ worth of negativity?

  She unfastened her seat belt, which drew his attention back to her.

  “What are you doing?” he asked.

  She shifted to kneel in her seat and leaned across the car until her lips were an inch from his ear. She held onto the back of his seat with one hand. The other hand slid across his chest to rest against his pounding heart.

  “I know you’re not an idiot,” she whispered to him. “I know it, because I could never care so deeply about an idiot.”

  His heart thudded harder and faster against her palm.

  “And I do,” she whispered. “I care about you, Jacob. I don’t ever want to hear you refer to yourself as stupid again or believe what my bitch of a sister says about you. You’re brilliant and talented and warm and generous.” She brushed a kiss against his jaw, and his free hand moved to press her palm more firmly into his chest.

  “Aunt Mander, put on your seat belt!” Julie yelled from the back seat. “That’s dangerous.”

  “Listen to your niece,” Jacob said, his voice tight with emotion.

  “Do you believe everything I said to you?”

  He squeezed her hand, and his mouth twisted into a crooked smile. “I’m pretty thick headed. I think you’ll have to tell me more than once.”

  “Aunt Mander, please!” The terror in Julie’s voice was not fabricated.

  Amanda shifted to sit back in her seat and fastened her seat belt. “I’m safe now,” she said to Julie.

  “If you need to hug my daddy, do it later,” she said. “If we got in a wreck, you would die.”

  “You heard the child,” Jacob said with a soft chuckle and a toe-curling smile. “Hug me later.”

  Amanda planned to do a lot more than hug him.

  Chapter Nine

  Somewhere along the path between the warthogs and the elephants, Jacob purposely stepped on the back of Amanda’s shoe. She stumbled forward, hands flying out to catch her balance. He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her up against him—belly to belly—relishing the feel of her soft body pressed to his.

  “I’ve got you,” he said, his lips a scant inch from hers. He wanted to kiss her so badly he almost said to hell with hiding anything from Julie. “You’re awfully clumsy today,” he teased.

  “That might have something to do with the fact that you keep tripping me.”

  “Who me?” He offered his most angelic smile as he slid a hand down her ass and tugged her closer.

  “What if you don’t catch me?”

  “I’ll always catch you,” he promised. “I’d never let you fall.”

  “I’ve already fallen.” Her happy smile seemed to brighten the green flecks in her remarkable hazel eyes as she gazed up at him.

  Could life possibly get any better? The only thing he needed to feel complete was for her to actually say she loved him while he was tangled in her bare arms and legs, his cock buried deep in the slick, molten heat between her thighs. If Julie hadn’t interrupted, worried about Amanda without her seat belt, he was positive Amanda would have said those three little words he longed to hear.

  Julie had wandered ahead several paces. “Lephalants!” She dashed farther ahead, and Jacob released his hold on Amanda to chase after her.

  “Wait for us,” he called.

  When he reached the observation area, Julie was already trying to climb up the short wall for a better look.

  “She’s huge!” she said.

  “Do you want up on my shoulders?” he asked, knowing that Julie had been dying to see elephants more than any other animal. He wanted to make sure she had the best vantage and plenty of time to enjoy them.

  “Yes, please.” She lifted her arms and leaned toward him.

  He swooped her up and deposited her on his shoulders, holding onto her ankles so she didn’t topple from her perch.

  “Look, Daddy! She’s eating hay.”

  “She certainly is.” His body jerked involuntarily when Amanda stepped up behind him and slid her hand up his back. He was uncomfortably aware of her and had been all day. While Julie provided commentary about everything the elephant was doing, Amanda slipped a hand under his shirt to touch his bare skin. He squirmed and dropped his gaze to give her a look of warning. He did not want to become visibly aroused, and being around Amanda made it difficult to keep his shorts from tenting. She offered him a devilish grin and leaned closer to playfully nip the back of his arm.

  “Are you almost ready to go home?” he asked Julie hoarsely. Please, he added silently. As wonderful a time as he was having being out and about in public with his two favorite ladies, he was very much looking forward to putting Julie to bed for a full night sleep so he could take her aunt to his bed and get no sleep at all.

 
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