Read Out of Control Online

Authors: Teresa Noelle Roberts

Out of Control (3 page)

Just when she was about to call Drake herself and at least get an idea when he might have free time, she had a vision for a new, ambitious work. A Green Man piece done using the layered-cameo technique—a face hinted at in the glass. Not a full sculpted face, like Susan Gott did in some of her evocative pieces, but something more subtle, suggesting both spring woods and a male presence. Something Jen could actually pull off with the tools and time at her disposal. The blown vases and simple paperweights were fun and creative in their own right. Relatively quick to make, they had a ready market at craft shows and on Etsy and eBay. Sometimes, though, she needed to create something that might be more expensive and harder to sell, and would definitely be harder to make, but would feed her soul.

She began to sketch, combining notions and colors on paper so she’d know what she was doing with the glass. She thought through processes, researched techniques different than she’d used in the past (wishing the whole time that she read faster but thankful that YouTube hid some useful how-tos among all the cute cats and music videos), made meticulous notes coded by color, saved pictures, experimented using glass left over from making her bread-and-butter projects. The vision and the background work she needed to do to accomplish it consumed any time she wasn’t at the bakery. While she worked at the bakery, did her shift as a dog walker or rode her bike from job to job, she was engrossed in the spring colors around her and the still more vivid colors in her head. She even forgot her volunteer shift at GreenStar, running in an hour late, frantic and still sweaty from the studio; she needed the volunteer discount on her groceries too badly to miss the shift completely.

Drake faded into the background, where he belonged.

At least she thought he had until she reexamined her sketches. That face in the tree would be subtle when it was worked in glass, an abstract man in an abstract tree. In the sketches, though, it was obviously Drake’s face.

One sketch even had a vine tracing that, while it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else, she knew was a bow to his glasses.

Oh Lord, Avi would laugh. Avi was used to her being the one who had some fun, then walked away because she was too busy to put up with some man’s shit.

She reached for her phone. What would it hurt to call, set up a date?

Then she looked at the sketches again. What it would hurt was her process. She was hot on the trail of this piece, but she still had a lot of work to do before she could actually get started—and that was in addition to doing her usual vases and suncatchers. Much as she
wanted
the pleasure of a picnic at Taughannock Falls or a movie or a concert, followed by the intense sex that seemed inevitable after that devastating kiss and Avi’s insider information, she couldn’t afford the distraction.

If Drake could kick her out of the house to finish his work, despite the hard-on straining against his shorts and the lust that darkened his eyes and made his voice husky, she could resist calling him until the Green Man project was glass, not a fire in her brain.

And if the attraction, once they saw each other again, was as strong as it had been that first day, it would make satisfaction all that much sweeter.

Right? She kept telling herself that every time Drake managed to fight his way through the images and techniques that crowded her head. It might have worked too, if she hadn’t suddenly woken from a sound sleep on the couch in the studio (she hadn’t wanted to take the time to go home) remembering she’d promised Drake she’d fix that stained glass window.

She didn’t want to distract herself with that now, not when that new piece was close enough she could close her eyes and see all its details, but damn it, she’d made a promise. It made sense to do it when she wasn’t living there yet to be bothered by the gaping hole where the window ought to be. And speaking of gaping holes, it was supposed to be dry and moderately warm for April in the Finger Lakes this week. It was as good a time as any to do the job. Not as cold as it had been last week, not pouring rain like it was a few days ago and would probably be by the weekend.

All perfectly logical. So why did reaching for her phone to see when she could come over feel risky? Damn it, she wasn’t normally this nervous asking someone out—and she wasn’t asking Drake out, even though she still might do so down the road. This was business.

Which didn’t stop her “Hi Drake” from sounding suspiciously squeaky when she heard his deep voice on the other end of the phone.

 

 

After ten days, Jen hadn’t called. Of course, Drake hadn’t called her either. He hadn’t forgotten the woman’s impact, the presence she packed into her small body, but thanks to concentrating on his paper, focusing on his grad students and helping see the undergrads through the last few weeks of the semester, and spending hours with just his shinai, doing kendo, he’d found his way back to a sense of balance. Convinced himself that, while Jen Kessler was attractive and worth getting to know better, his strong reaction to her had been surprise as much as anything. He didn’t find himself on the receiving end of a lot of impulsive hugs. Jen had blasted right through his carefully cultivated reserve to the part of him he kept hidden behind that mask.

Even after she’d obviously seen the riding crop, which made it all a little more interesting.

That was all.

Or so he thought until Jen
did
call. He didn’t recognize her number on his caller ID, but even after a simple, “Hi Drake,” he knew her voice.

Knew it and felt it caressing his skin, ruffling his hair, messing up his mind.

“I was wondering when you’d call.” He couldn’t decide if he sounded cool and slightly reproachful, pathetically eager or neutral. He was going for neutral but didn’t think he succeeded.

She laughed, and the sound tickled him. “Weren’t you supposed to call me when you finished your paper?”

That’s right, he had said that. “It took longer than I expected.” Which was the truth. It hadn’t helped that he kept getting distracted by thoughts of a certain red-haired artist, but saying that would definitely get into pathetically eager territory.

“And meanwhile, I’ve started researching a new piece that involves some different techniques than I normally use. I’m going to…” Her voice trailed away briefly before she continued, “Why do I suspect you’ll understand a lecture on the technical aspects of art glass about as much as I’d understand if you tried to explain what your paper was about? Except you know what glass
is
, which means you might be ahead of me trying to understand math. I gave up after geometry.”

“Geometry discourages a lot of people. That whole business of proving something that’s already obvious. But seriously, I think we’d be about even. I’m sure you can do the math you need in everyday life, but you don’t need to understand numbers the way I do. I might think a vase or a stained glass window is pretty, but I don’t need to understand it the same way an artist does—or even the guy at the beer-bottle factory.”

He was being serious, but Jen sputtered with mirth. “Beer-bottle factory?”

Her laugh was infectious, and Drake was glad to let it infect him. He was chuckling all out of proportion to the amusement, and he suspected some of it was the sheer pleasure of hearing Jen’s voice. Normally, he’d try to rein in the mirth to a more mature, dignified level. But this time he didn’t bother. After all, Jen was cracking up too.

Finally, she calmed herself. “Sorry,” she muttered. “Way underslept. That new piece is consuming me—but I bet you know something about work eating your brain.”

Drake made a small, noncommittal noise. It was scary that she understood him that well already.

“Anyway,” Jen continued, “I need to fix that window, and I realized I better do that before I get any deeper into this project. Once I finish that piece, I’ll be going crazy making vases and stuff for the Solstice Show.” Drake must have made a puzzled sound, since she added, “You know, that big arts-and-crafts show on the Commons in mid-June?”

“Right. That.” Drake thought it sounded familiar, but it wasn’t anything he’d ever paid much attention to.

“So when would be a good time to come by and do the window? I’ll have to take it out, but I know how to do that. My dad taught me. It’s supposed to be pretty nice the next few days. And I’ll be taking over the floor of the apartment for a couple of days, but I’ll lay down newspaper.”

Drake felt a wave of cock-twitching excitement at the thought of seeing Jen again, followed by a wave of dismay at the strength of his reaction. He wanted to see her, but at the same time he didn’t. He wasn’t sure if this ambivalence was because he was afraid the spark wouldn’t be there or that it would. “Come by at six,” he said. “I don’t know how long it will take to fix the window—”

“Neither do I,” she admitted. “Maybe a few hours of hands-on work, maybe longer.”

“So I’ll just give you your key early. That way you won’t need to worry about whether I’m here or not.” If he hung around, he was pretty sure she’d never get the window done, and while it would be fun, Ithaca’s weather was far too volatile to have a gaping hole to the outside for long. The weather was pleasant now, but it sometimes snowed in late April.

“Makes sense.” Was he imagining the same combination of relief and regret in her voice that he felt himself? “See you around six.”

 

 

“Bike again?” Drake raised one eyebrow like Leonard Nimoy as Spock. An apt comparison, Jen thought. Like Spock, Drake was super smart and in tight control of himself. The way Drake was looking at her suggested all kinds of dirty goodness, but he was being hands-off.

Of course she’d just arrived.

“I don’t own a car. It’s bike or bus, and the bus is a major pest.”

“Once you move in, let me know if you need a car for anything. I might be able to give you a ride or lend you mine. I can walk to campus from here, so it just sits some days.”

Jen filed that tidbit away for later. She hated asking for rides, but in winter, the bike was a bitch.

He handed her a nondescript key. She made a mental note to get one of those colored key covers so she could remember it was for the house. Maybe a nice blue-green, like the lake in the stained glass window. “This is for the back entrance, which goes right into your place. Around here.” She followed him along a slightly uneven stone path that cut through a lawn just starting to wake up from its winter doldrums, and around to a back entrance. A short walk but a pleasant one that gave her an excuse to study Drake’s truly fine ass. When they reached the back door, Drake asked her, “Do you need tools or anything?”

“I should have what I need in my pack, but I’ll let you know if I forgot something.”

Drake nodded and said, “I’ll leave you to work, then.” Instead of leaving, though, he stood there, apparently weighing whether he should hug her, kiss her or just let her get to the window and figure out where they stood some other time.

Jen was wondering the same things. But Drake’s face, calm and impassive, gave no hint that he was doing anything but letting a tenant into her future space to do some premove work and chatting a bit as he did.

Damn.

She did need to get to the window. She had hours before she had to be at Staff of Life, but at some point she’d have to return to Rafi and Melinda’s place to shower, change, make a few more sketches and, ideally, nap and eat something. On the other hand, Drake’s reserve, after the heat between them when they first met, was a challenge she couldn’t resist.

And Avi had said he might not mind. It was worth a try. Worst that could happen was she’d look like a damn fool, but if it worked, it would be worth the risk.

She stepped toward him, said, “Good to see you again,” put her arms around him and pressed close.

For a few seconds, he was still as a statue.

That was, almost all of him was still as a statue. The area that had been hidden by ugly shorts when Jen last saw him seemed quite active.

Then the statue came to life, crushing her against his body in a claiming embrace.

“Careful,” she cautioned, hating to do so, “there’s glass in my pack.” This seemed to give him permission to move his hands to her ass, which was a fine place for them to be regardless of whether there was glass to consider. She canted her hips forward, rubbed against him. At the same time, she stretched and tilted her face up.

Just in time for his lips to cover hers.

It wasn’t as intense and raw as the kiss the day they met, but if anything, it promised more. Still the kind of kiss that set her pussy on fire, with definite implications of future hot sex, but also implications of connection. Not a deep one—how could it be yet when they hardly knew each other?—but a definite sense of “I like you” layered with “I want to have wild monkey sex with you while actually swinging in a tree.” And that was a good thing. Sex with a friend was always better.

All too soon, Drake broke away. Stroking her hair, he said, “Thanks for remembering the window. I know you have a couple of jobs in addition to the glasswork. It means a lot that you made this a priority.”

“A promise is a promise.” And a cut off the rent was a cut off the rent, but the promise meant at least as much. “I should have been here sooner…”

“But you have a big project underway, and it’s eating your head. Trust me, I understand.” He smiled in a way that filled her with sun-gold warmth as well as the crimson of desire. “Which is why I hope you’ll understand if I run off like a scared rabbit. One of my grad students is defending her thesis in two days. This is the culmination of years of work for her. I want to be prepared and clear-headed—and being around you isn’t conducive to being clear-headed. I’ll be home, though. Holler if you need me.”

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