I seriously can’t wait for you all to fall for him as deeply as I did, he’s a pretty intense character.
***Please be advised: there are spoilers for Collide below. If you do not like spoilers, please do not click read more and yell at me later for it. If you’ve already read Collide or don’t mind spoilers, have at ‘er! 😉
Copyright 2014 J.C. Hannigan. All rights reserved.
Jax Walker’s POV
The doors to the lecture hall creaked loudly with protest as they opened. I raised my eyes from the piece of paper I had been absently doodling on and watched as the Psychology Professor, Professor Pedersen turned her steely eyes to the door. I inclined my head, leaning forward to see what the interruption was.
The air left my lungs as I looked at the girl standing in front of the lecture hall doors. She was breathtaking. Long dark hair that fell almost to her waist, bright green eyes that stood out even at her distance, plump lips that you couldn’t help but have dirty thoughts over, and her curves…they were deadly. She would be any guy’s downfall.
I wanted her to be my downfall. The thought sprang to my mind without my permission, but I didn’t mind it. It had been so long…too long. I tilted my head, brushing my own hair from my eyes as I continued to study her from afar.
She was apologizing to our professor, a faint blush creeping to her cheeks as her eyes searched out a free seat. Her gaze fell on the vacant one beside mine and she began her climb.
“I do not like interruptions,” Professor Pedersen’s voice rang out against the silence of the hall. “If you’re late, don’t bother coming in. I will be locking the doors. I do not wait around to start my lectures. You need to respect the hours allotted for this course and arrive on time.”
The girl’s head dropped forward ever so slightly. Her raven black hair fell across her shoulders, obscuring her stunning face from my view. I grinned, thanking the gods that the only vacant seat just happened to be beside me.
She sank into it, relief smoothing out the lines of worry between her eyebrows. Her fragrance invaded my senses and I smiled. She smelt good enough to eat…an enticing combination of cherries, apricots, white musk and sugar. It was mouth watering. I swallowed, my face breaking out into a grin.
“What a bitch,” I said, my voice it’s regular low octave. She looked at me, her brow rising a fraction as her eyes roamed over my face and dropped down to my chest and arms. My muscles involuntarily clenched as she roamed those emerald eyes across the length of my body. It was as if her gaze was physically touching me. Her eyes gave away her attraction. I grinned, offering my hand to her. “My name is Jax.”
“Harlow,” she said, shaking my hand. Her hand was tiny and warm in mine, and I liked the feel of it. She pursed her plump lips, as if trying to hold in a smile.
“Pretty name,” I remarked, my smile growing. It was sweet with depth, just like she appeared to be. I wanted to get to know her, to find out if my impression of her was right.
“If you two are done talking, I’d like to resume my lecture.” Professor Pedersen’s voice rang out sharply.
“Sorry about that,” I apologized, motioning for her to go on. The Professor’s lips disappeared as she scowled at me, but after a moment…she continued her lecture.
The seats in the lecture hall were close to one another, separated by thin armrests. I causally put my arm on my arm rest, inches away from Harlow’s arm. I felt her stiffen beside me, and I smiled humorously. I knew she was attracted to me, I could feel her gaze upon my face whenever she thought I wasn’t looking.
I wasn’t completely obtuse, in fact…it was suffice to say that I knew my way around a woman. At twenty-five, I’d dated quite a few of them. I knew the look they got in their eyes when they were attracted to someone and fighting it. Harlow had that look, only her look alone made me want to jump through circles for her, walk over burning coals to impress her. Her look made the muscles in my lower stomach clench with a powerful, instant desire for her.
She looked like the kind of girl who needed impressing, like a girl that would be a challenge, and I liked a challenge.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Harlow biting her lip. The simple action had me thinking about all the things I could do to those perfect lips.
I grinned at my own thoughts, shaking my head slightly at myself. I wasn’t usually a horn dog who thought coveted thoughts about a beautiful stranger, but there was something about Harlow that set my blood on fire and sparked my interest. Her fragrance, which wafted over every time she tucked her long hair behind her ear, made me feel light headed. In addition to the physical reaction, her aura intrigued me. She seemed hardened to life, almost untouchable. She had a mystery about her that I found myself desperate to unveil. She was beautiful, stunning in the most raw and pure way.
I could tell all of this from simply looking at her. I’d always been talented in reading people. It was a survival skill that I developed when I was a child. I had to learn how to read the people around me to avoid getting my ass kicked.
Broken people seemed to be drawn to other broken people. I recognized something in Harlow that I knew in myself. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. She remained silent throughout class, staring distractedly toward the front. She wasn’t paying attention, her thoughts were miles away…to that broken, mysterious place I knew all to well. I frowned slightly, wondering what could have captivated her thoughts so completely and brought such a sad look to those beautiful eyes. I didn’t want her to be sad, I wanted to see a smile transform her.
At the end of class, she didn’t move. She remained still, staring off into the place where her thoughts had taken her. I stood up, peering down at her with a smile. She didn’t seem to notice me standing in front of her.
“So…are you just going to sit here all day then?” I asked, breaking her away from her thoughts. Startled, she looked around the nearly empty lecture hall.
My smile faded slightly as she jumped up quickly and started to weave her way through the aisle. “Nice meeting you,” she said over her delicate shoulder.
* * * *
After my final class, I started home. I was a little tired, and I had to head to work in an hour. I stopped off at a cafe, intent on getting a coffee to wake myself up a little bit. It was hard enough trying to keep up with the seven six year olds that I was instructing.
I approached the counter, a smile spreading to my face as I saw Harlow. Or someone who looked like her from behind. The girl had dark hair pulled up into a bun and was chatting with a co-worker. Her sweet, edgy voice was laying into her rather stunned co-worker.
“Okay, I’m just going to cut to the chase,” she was saying. “My friend, the blond one? She thinks you’re cute. Jamie noticed and he’ll probably harass you into finding your balls and asking her out. You’ve been warned.”
“The hot one?” the guy looked completely astonished.
“Are you blind? Yes,” Harlow said.
“Huh, well go figure,” he said thoughtfully.
“Excuse me,” I noticed a break in the conversation, and I took it. The guy disappeared into the back, leaving Harlow alone on the floor. She turned her head slowly, not at all surprised by my presence. She seemed to recognize my voice.
“Oh, it’s you again,” she exhaled as she approached the till and I grinned at her like the idiot I was. Her lips curved upward in a reluctant smile.
“Yes, me again,” I responded, my eyes lingering on her face. She arched her eyebrow, making me acutely aware that she knew I was staring. I cleared my throat and shook my head, trying to rouse myself from the spell of her bewitching eyes. “Can I get a large coffee please?”
“Yes,” she rang me in, avoiding my eyes. I watched her chest rise and fall with her increased breathing.
I held out the money just a little bit out of her reach so that she had to lean forward to grab it. Our eyes met, and I felt as if my heart stopped momentarily in my chest before it increased in tempo, the green depths of her eyes pulling me in.
People say that eyes are windows to the soul. I never really understood that until this moment. I’d never felt that I “saw someone’s soul” when I looked into their eyes…at least, I hadn’t until that moment. Looking into Harlow’s, though? I saw her soul. I saw her. I saw strength and pain and resilience and determination. I saw fear and I saw hope.
I inhaled sharply, needing to drop my gaze and compose myself. I was still clenching the money. My eyes fell to her right forearm, at the beautiful black and white tattoo of a quill and inkpot. She must be a writer, I thought, loving the idea. It fit her. I wondered how many more she had.
“Love the tattoo,” I said, my eyes slowly roaming back up to look at her again. I hadn’t exactly regained composure, but I got the impression that was going to be a long term thing. Harlow unsettled me, she threw everything off it’s axles. It was perplexing. I’d never reacted to a woman like that before, not even the ones that I dated seriously and cared for. This was an amplified version of that, this was more, and I wanted to go with it. I was the kind of guy that just rolled with the punches, with whatever I was feeling.
There was too much bad in the world to turn away from the things that made you smile. I had long since learned to embrace the good when I could, to go for what made me happy. There had been enough darkness in my life, that I no longer felt the need to dwell in it.
She snatched the cash a little too roughly from my hand, her expression one of vulnerability. I knew she was affected by me the same way that I was affected by her. I could feel it in the space between us, the charge and pull. I watched as she forced those walls back up, her spine stiffening with resolve. She didn’t want to be affected by me, she didn’t want to let me in. Her behavior intrigued me. I wanted to find out the reasons for her walls. I wanted her to let me in. I wanted to help repair her broken spirit.
She handed me my change, her pretty mouth in a thin line. “Your coffee will be ready to the left of the cash,” she said, motioning with a delicate nod of her head for me to stand aside. I wanted to ask her out, but I knew by looking at her that she would turn me down. Her walls were up, her eyes stubborn and defiant. But I loved a challenge, and I knew I could get through.
After all, I knew my way around the jagged edges of a broken heart. I knew how to piece it back together, how to find the beauty again.
“See you around,” I winked, positive that I would.