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Powerless: Chapter 14

Sloane

Sloane: This waitress is a fan.

Jasper: Sloane.

Sloane: What? She looks like she’s going to gobble you up.

Jasper: Don’t.

Sloane: Are you blushing?

Jasper: She’s a stranger. Doing her job. She isn’t looking at me like anything.

Jasper: Don’t make that face.

Sloane: If you need space, just leave a sock on the hotel room door.

Jasper: Sunny, shut up. I’d never do that to you.


The waitress seats us next to one of the enormous windows overlooking the lake. We didn’t know what to expect at Rose Hill Reach, only that it was right next door to the hotel. It’s a lovely spot though. All windows face the lake and one door opens to a long dock with a wide landing that I’m assuming could function as a patio in the summer.

Inside it’s all vaulted ceilings and dark woods. River stone fireplaces and butcher block tables. In one corner, there are even pool tables and dart boards.

It’s cozy. I almost feel like I’m at a ski lodge as I remove my jacket and scoot down into the rounded wooden chair, gazing out over the water. The water where Jasper and I just . . . well, I don’t know what we were doing.

I glance back at Jasper and watch him fold his tall, powerful frame into a chair that’s too small for him.

He reaches up to take one of the burgundy, leather-bound menus the waitress is now holding out to us. Her eyes widen when the tips of his fingers brush against her hand. Even hidden beneath the brim of his hat, he’s recognizable—especially only four hours away from Calgary.

“Oh my god. Hi,” she breathes out, looking like a kid on Christmas. “You’re Jasper Gervais.” One of her hands falls across her chest, and I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes.

Jasper gives her a kind smile and a gracious little dip of his head. “Hi,” is all he says back, turning his small smile down to the menu. In typical Jasper fashion, he’s friendly, but not that friendly.

Friendly enough that no one can say he’s rude, but not friendly enough to invite more conversation.

Not that it’s ever stopped me.

“I, uh . . .” The girl’s brown eyes flash between us, trying to read the situation before she points a finger like she’s come up with a great idea. “I’ll give you a minute with the menus!” She’s chipper, and I can’t help but notice the way her cheeks pink when her eyes land on Jasper again.

She’s starstruck and it’s honestly cute.

Jasper doesn’t notice though, or at the very least, doesn’t comment. He hunches over his menu and stares at his options. It strikes me that he isn’t an easy man to get to know, that he must seem closed off to most people he meets. Two dimensional even. But I know better. I know his humor. I know how fiercely he loves his family, and I know he has social anxiety that makes him seem standoffish to most.

He keeps so much locked up inside that he never talks about.

“What are you going to have?”

My eyes snap up and back down at the menu filled with standard pub fare. “A salad.”

Jasper’s head tips up and he stares at me, expression carefully blank before his eyes roam over me, catching on my shoulder that peeks out of the neckline of the thick knit navy-blue sweater I recently purchased.

I wonder if he’s about to say something about my meal choice. I know I’m thin. Too thin. But after years of fighting my way to the top of our ballet company and then being told I need to look a certain way for our wedding, it’s hard to change my mindset. Besides, with everything that’s happened since the wedding, my appetite has been almost nonexistent.

He shrugs and drops his gaze back down. “Okay.”

I keep reading the plastic pages before me. “Oooh. They have Buddyz Best on tap!”

Amusement sparks on his handsome face. “You can get something better, you know.”

I laugh. “Of course, I know. But I’ve developed a taste for it.”

Jasper flips his menu shut and leans back in his chair, crossing his arms. His biceps bulge against the soft, gray waffle-knit Henley he’s wearing.

I try not to stare.

“You sure you aren’t just ordering it to be contrary?”

I lean back and mirror his position. His midnight eyes drop for a split second to my shoulder again before resting back on my face. “Nope. I love it. I bet it tastes different on tap. Better even.”

His grin widens. “Yes. I’m certain the quality is really affected.”

I nod. “I wonder if it’s available in bottles.”

He snorts.

“I’ll have to try all three to really pass judgment.”

He leans across the table with a spark in his eye and a small smirk on his shapely lips. His fresh scent—spearmint and something earthy, like one of those dried eucalyptus sprigs—drifts my way as his long fingers tap on the table twice. “New goal for this road trip: try Buddyz Best absolutely everywhere we can. Become true connoisseurs.”

I laugh, wagging my head as I lean forward. Gravity pulls me toward him and our eyes lock. They lock so hard that I can’t pull mine away. His dark blues are like a vacuum. They suck me straight in, and for a split second, everything around us gets lost in the rush of blood in my ears.

“Alright! You two ready?” The server pops up next to us.

We both start and sit up straight.

With a quick coughing noise, Jasper recovers. “Yeah. Sloane, go ahead.”

I tuck my hair behind my ears and smile at the girl whose cheeks have gone pink again. “I’ll have a green salad with vinaigrette, please.” I hand back the menu, face flipping in Jasper’s direction when he says he’ll have the same.

He doesn’t pay me any mind though. “But I’ll also have an order of the battered cod bites and popcorn chicken.”

She nods, smiling so broadly my cheeks almost hurt for her.

“I’ll also have a pint of Buddyz Best,” I say.

Jasper holds his menu out. “Let’s make that a pitcher.”

She reads our order back to us and scampers away. I can feel the other staff looking over at us, but I don’t pay them any mind. Because the way Jasper is staring at me right now has my stomach twisting and thighs clenching.

I return to gazing out the window at the black lake and try to gather my thoughts.

Because I’ve been staring at Jasper Gervais since I was ten years old, and suddenly . . . he’s staring back.


“I think the popcorn chicken pairs better.” I lean back in my seat and pat my stomach. Once we had our salads, Jasper made the excellent point that beer doesn’t pair all that well with lettuce. He explained how we wouldn’t be giving the flavor profile a fair shake if we didn’t taste it with something appropriately greasy and salty.

Which is how I found myself scarfing back deep-fried meats and considering their merits while enjoying a second pitcher of cheap beer that doesn’t taste that great no matter what I pair with it.

What it tastes like, though, is rebellion. And for right now, that’s good enough for me.

Jasper nods, assessing the plates before us. “I think you’re right. But I love fish and chips with vinegar.”

Yeah, we ordered fries too. According to Jasper, just saying “fish” and not “fish and chips” is weird. Through all the gluttony, he hasn’t said a word about my weight or mentioned how much or how little I eat. He’s just put food in front of me and involved me in the fun of trying it all out with him.

Even with everything so fucked-up, I can’t remember the last time I felt this relaxed.

Tonight I’m basking in being myself, and it feels good not worrying about calories or how everyone around me is perceiving my every move.

“Fair. That was amazing too. Plus, those fries are totally homemade.”

He tosses another one in his mouth, chewing and nodding appreciatively. “I think you’re right. Wanna play a game of pool before we go back and pass out?”

He juts his chin just past me, eyes catching on my shoulder. Again. As I turn to look at the pool table, I sneak a peek down at it to see if I spilled something there or have sprouted a long hair out of a mole or something.

Seeing that my skin is clear, I hum contemplatively as I catch sight of the pool table. It isn’t overly busy but it’s not empty either. There are people milling around, so that means witnesses to how bad I am at pool.

And I hate being bad at things. Hate failing. Hate losing. I’m competitive to my core.

“I don’t really know how.”

“Well, I’ll just have to show you.” Jasper pushes to stand, and with two steps, has rounded the table and hovers over me with one outstretched hand. He looks relaxed. The way his hair curls out of the back of his hat makes the tips of my fingers itch.

“I’m good. I’ll just watch you.”

He scoffs playfully. “Come on, Sunny. WWBD?”

“Huh?” My head tips to the side, and I eye his wide, warm palm skeptically.

“What would Beau do? WWBD.”

“I actually think that’s more of a tongue twister than just saying the sentence.”

His hand bounces in front of me. “Stop stalling. Let’s go. Beau would play pool even if he sucked at it. And he’d have fun sucking.”

I quirk a suggestive brow at Jasper. I’m sure that’s not how he meant it, but after several pints of shitty beer, it’s where my head goes.

His usually serious face immediately breaks out in a breathtaking smile as he glances across the room with a laugh. White teeth. Dimples hiding under his stubble. It’s impossible to look at Jasper smiling and not smile too.

Laughter bubbles in my throat, and I slap my palm into his as he pulls me up to standing. “Fine. But I’m going to suck.”

His tongue slides out over his lips almost suggestively, head shaking like I’m in trouble. Something about the combination makes an ache unfurl behind my hips. He is effortlessly sexy. Totally distracting.

“But you’re going to have fun doing it.” He points at me as he drops my hand and reaches for our beers before turning toward the empty pool table in the corner.

We’re toeing the line of this joke, even for us, but the alcohol coursing through my veins has me feeling bolder than usual.

“I always do!” I say cheerily to his broad back that presses rhythmically against the gray fabric of his shirt as he walks away, knowing I’ll follow because he has my beer and a killer ass.

I watch his head tip back at my words. A small prayer for patience, I’m sure. “Jesus Christ, Sunny.”

After setting our drinks on a tall table, he grabs two cues and turns toward me with a challenging glint in his eye. My heart flutters in my chest, and relief hits me like a tidal wave. I’ve been so damn worried about him. When he retreats into himself, he scares me. I worry that if he goes too far back—if he slips into those dark cracks—that he won’t come back out.

Or he won’t come back out the same. Broody and shy but sweet. Jasper Gervais is so damn sweet under his standoffish exterior that it almost makes my teeth ache.

That’s another side of him few people get to see. And I think I like that about him too. He doesn’t give his attention away willy-nilly. He doesn’t absently hum along to what you’re saying while scrolling on his phone. If you have Jasper Gervais’s attention, you’ve got it all, and that’s because he wants you to have it.

He doesn’t just listen to me. He hears me. He sees me.

And there’s something precious about that, the way he can look at someone and make them feel like the only person in the room. He’s not showy, he’s not the life of the party, but he knows how to make a person feel special, to feel loved and cared for.

I’ve never known a soul more truly present.

The way he is? It speaks to me. It always has. He’s like a warm blanket that I want to wrap myself up in. And when his eyes are bright and his smile is soft like right now?

Forget it. He’s breathtaking.

“Ready to play?”

“Let’s do it.” My eyes widen. God. What is wrong with me? “Pool. Let’s do the pool.” I hold a hand up. “Play pool. Not do the pool. Ha.” I quickly reach for my beer and take a deep swig while Jasper chuckles at me.

Handsome fucking brain-cell-killing jerk.

“Do I need to cut you off?”

“Shut up, Gervais. Let’s play.”

Fire blazes in his eyes and he stares back at me. “Okay, Sloane. Let’s play.”


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