Powerless: Chapter 11


Willa: Sloane, can you confirm Jasper is okay? The guys are worried about him but don’t know how to talk to him about their feelings. They’ve requested we ask instead. It’s like a game of telephone over here.

Summer: We’re all texting. It’s nothing like a game of telephone.

Sloane: He’s sad. He’ll be okay.

Willa: You should bang him.

Summer: Wils, that can’t always be your advice.

Willa: Why not? It’s solid advice. Worked out for you.

Summer: She just fled her wedding.

Willa: Yeah, but that fucking guy sucked. Jasper has that hot, tortured vibe going for him.

Sloane: He’s sad. Not horny, Willa.

Willa: He can be both. Turn that frown upside down, baby girl!

“Okay, I got everything I need.” I shoulder my way into the truck with a brand-new duffel bag full of brand-new clothes and toiletries. Harvey took me into town this morning to fill in the gaps in my temporary wardrobe while Cade and Jasper got the truck and trailer set.

Jasper eyes me speculatively. He really hasn’t said much to me. I don’t know if I scared him off with my comment about how hell would be a jolly good time with him there—talk about cringe—or if he just doesn’t want me to come with him.

Maybe forcing my way into his bed was too far.

Maybe he’s figuring out that I never really got over him.

It’s hard to tell when he doesn’t talk. But I’m used to that. He’s always been quiet, and I’ve always just done what I wanted. Talked to him. At him? Practiced my choreography when I ran out of things to say.

And he’s always just watched. And listened.

So I guess the way he’s staring at me right now isn’t new either, but it has the hair on my arms standing on end all the same.

I toss the bag in the back seat, my body rumbling along with the loud truck. The dually is massive, runs loud, and has the power to pull the flat bed that is now loaded with huge round bales of hay.

My palms slap against my thighs as I stare out the windshield at the posts flanking the end of the driveway, the ones joined by an archway that has a wrought iron Wishing Well Ranch sign hanging from it. “Okay. Let’s get this show on the road.” I’m ready for some fresh scenery. I feel like I’ve been walking on eggshells all week here in Chestnut Springs.

Jasper doesn’t put the truck in drive. “You sure?”

“That we should go?” My nose scrunches as I glance over at him, so intent on me.

“No. That you should come with me.”

Heat flares on my cheeks like I’m a goddamn teenager. I almost giggle at the turn my thoughts take. I’d pay good money to come with Jasper Gervais.

“Yes. Stop asking, Gervais. You’re stuck with me.”

I chance a glance over at Jasper’s handsome face. His stubble a little longer than usual, his hair still damp and combed back. His jaw still just as stupidly square as it’s always been.

He quirks a dark brow at me. “Always.”

I huff out a small breath and drop his gaze again, trying to figure out what’s changed between us in these last several days. Did it all start that night at dinner when he met Sterling for the first time? Or was it when he charged into that room in the church, looking like a fucking superhero in a perfectly tailored suit? Was it when we sat on the roof?

All I know is that something is different.

“I can’t help but point out that you going on this road trip with me seems an awful lot like you running away from your life.”

“My mom said she’d get away, and honestly, nothing has ever sounded more appealing.” Jasper is just the cherry on top—but I don’t voice that thought. Even I have boundaries when it comes to bleeding all over the place about this unrequited crush.

He gives me a droll look, one that says, You’re full of shit, before I add, “Oh yeah? And what is it that you’re doing, Jasper?”

His Adam’s apple bobs just above the neckline of his soft brown fleece as he swallows. “Helping my family.”

I guess we both have a story that we’re sticking to.

“You gonna try to tell me you don’t retreat or isolate yourself when bad shit happens? It’s like you forget I’ve known you for almost two decades.”

A muscle in Jasper’s jaw flexes with a subtle shake of his head. He reaches forward and shifts the truck into drive. “It’s impossible to forget how long I’ve known you, Sunny,” is all he says as we pull away through the gate.

And I spend an absurd amount of time turning that sentence over in my head, wondering just what the hell he means. Impossible to forget.

“Do you think about me?” I blurt, watching him still the minute those words leap from my lips. “When we go weeks or months without talking or seeing each other . . . do you think about me?”

“Why?” His voice is cool and even, giving nothing away.

I twist at my ring nervously and sigh. “I don’t know. Here. With you.” I gesture between us. “I keep forgetting about everything else in my life. Everyone else. But when we’re apart I constantly come back to y—you know what? Never mind. Just ignore me.”

The silence that stretches between us is thick, alive and sparking with the heat and reality of my almost-confession.

A heat that suffuses my entire body when he finally responds with, “Every fucking day, Sunny.”

“Want to play I Spy?” I ask after what has got to be at least an hour of silence.

I can see Jasper retreating into himself. His shoulders curl, his knuckles turn white. I swear I can see into his brain.

And what’s in there is a man who is spinning.

It makes me want to crawl into his lap and shake him, to bring him back from whatever ledge he’s toeing.

The only way I know how to do that is to entertain and engage him. Make him laugh. He has the best laugh, all deep and soft, a little breathy like he’s trying to tamp it down and hide it away.

When Jasper laughs, he looks bashful. His eyes drop and his straight teeth flash. I guess after watching him so closely for so long, I’ve catalogued his every reaction. The little tics.

It’s pathetic if I think too hard about it.

“I Spy?” His brow lifts and he glances my way.

I reach forward and turn down the Nirvana album that has been the soundtrack to the first stretch of our trip. “Yes. It’s a game where—”

He chuckles. “Sloane, I know what I Spy is.”

“Well then, keep up. Don’t act so confused. You’re too old to play dumb. It’s not cute.”

Amusement touches every feature, and I breathe out a sigh of relief. There he is.

“Okay. I’ll go first. I spy with my little eye something that is . . . brown.”

He glances down quickly at himself. “My coat.”


“The trees outside.”


“The . . . really? Brown?”

I shrug. “Yeah. Brown. What’s wrong with brown?”

His eyes roll, and he peers around like he’s trying really hard to figure it out. “The grass?”

I scoff. “The grass isn’t brown. It’s more like yellow.”

One of his hands flies up in frustration. His fuse is short right now. He needs a laugh. “I don’t know, Sloane. There isn’t much that’s brown in this truck or out there. What is it?”

“It was a bull in a field that we already passed.” It was the darker streaks in his hair. That’s how it popped up in my head.

I was lying to him.

He barks out a laugh though, and the lie is immediately worth the deception. “You can’t pick things that we’ve already passed!”

I grin, toeing off my slip-on Vans and crossing my legs on the seat. “Keep up or tap out, Gervais. This isn’t baby I Spy. This is the big kids’ version.”

With a light shake of his head, he glances over at me. “Okay. Fine.” His chin dips, and then his eyes are back on the road. They don’t shift. They stay fastened to the blacktop that stretches ahead of us. “I spy with my little eye something that is blue.”

My lips roll together. “Okay. Blue. The sky?”

“I thought this wasn’t the baby version of I Spy?”

I huff out a quiet laugh. “Alright. The blue snowflake on the A/C button?”


“The blue stripe on the temperature control?”


My head whips around as a blue car streaks by. “That blue sedan!”

The corners of his mouth tug up. “No.”

“Ugh. Can we play baby I Spy, actually?”

He gives me a sidelong glance. “No.”

My eyes roll, and I turn to check the back seat. “My navy bag?”

“It’s more of a sky blue.”

“Okay, well, I already guessed the sky.”

“You did.” He nods.

I peer around the vehicle, wracking my brain. I should have known he’d trick me after what I just pulled on him. “Did we pass a blue house or a blue barn or something?”

“No. It’s in the car. And it’s one of my favorite things.”

“You’re full of shit, Gervais.” I flop back, crossing my arms, trying not to pout but failing.

His eyes meet mine again and stare just a beat too long. “No. I’m not.”

This time it’s my hands that fly up, right as warmth blooms on my cheeks. “Okay. I guess I’ll keep things fair and give up. I don’t know.”

This time when he talks, he doesn’t look at me. He stares at the smooth road like there’s something remarkably interesting there. He swallows, and I watch the column of his throat work beneath the stubble. “It’s your eyes.”

I go very, very still. “My eyes?” I repeat stupidly. I heard him clearly. I just didn’t expect that to be his answer. Not even close.

He shrugs like it’s nothing. “Yeah. A robin’s egg is more accurate. Remember when we were walking to the river that one time and the shell fell out of the tree in front of us? You were so excited about there being baby birds, and I remember picking it up and looking at you, thinking that it matched almost perfectly.” He chuckles when he finishes his sentence, like it’s just a friendly walk down memory lane. But inside, I’m the one who’s spinning now.

I clear my throat and suppress the swirling feelings. “Yeah. Violet and I checked on those robins every day. If we climbed the opposite tree, we could see into the nest.”

He smirks. “You two were always climbing trees.”

I smile and drop my chin to my chest. “Yeah. We were always trying to spy on you guys. Or eavesdrop. Once, we saw all of you skinny dipping in the river. Violet wanted to stop after that because she said she’d never recover.” I hadn’t felt the same, but then, I hadn’t been looking at my cousins.

My eyes were stuck on a nineteen-year-old Jasper, who was home for the summer from playing junior hockey. A nineteen-year-old Jasper who looked like he spent all his free time working out.

The same man barks out a laugh beside me. “I think she recovered.”

“Yeah,” I whisper. “I think she did.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t get that one.” He’s teasing me, oblivious to the effect he has on me—but that’s nothing new.

That would never happen.

I scoff and reach across to poke him in the ribs, smiling when he flinches. “How am I supposed to look at my own eyes?”

“Most people use a mirror.”

I poke him again and he snorts.

“Use the mirror, Sunny. What color do you think they are? Tell me that isn’t robin’s-egg blue.”

Pushed toward the center console, I peer into the rearview mirror. They’re blue. But so are the circles under my eyes. The vein that no concealer can ever really cover. So is the way I feel inside right now if I really reach down and dig my fingers into that stone at the bottom of my gut. “They’re just blue, Jas.” I flop back. “And I look tired.”

“They’re not just blue.” He says it like it’s fact and not his opinion.

My stomach flips.

And then I deflect, not wanting to linger in these memories for longer than necessary. Not wanting to face all the shit I’ve opted to run away from. Not yet. I launch back in. “I spy with my little eye . . .”

We play several more rounds.

But we play the baby version, and neither one of us calls the other on it.


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