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Powerless: Chapter 15


Jasper: Why are you taking so long in there?

Sloane: Giving myself a drunk pep talk.

Jasper: What is that?

Sloane: It’s where I splash water on my face at myself in the mirror. Then I tell me to pull together and be cool.

Jasper: You’re talking to yourself in the women’s bathroom to be . . . cool?

Sloane: Exactly.

Jasper: Sunny. Be less cool. Come save me. The waitress keeps trying to talk to me.

Sloane: So talk to her.

Jasper: I don’t like talking to people.

Sloane: You talk to me.

Jasper: You’re not people.

Sloane: Lmao. What am I then?

Jasper: My person.

“Stop it. I’m already dead.”

He barks out a laugh as he rounds the table and leans over it. Is pool supposed to be sexy? Because Jasper makes it look sexy.

His hard body leans against the green felt top. His veined hands wrap lightly around the cue. The way his eyes narrow like this is a Stanley Cup final or something.

The way that boyish smile lights up his face when I complain about him kicking my ass. I hate losing . . . and yet, to see him smile like that, I’d lose over and over again. I’d sit on a cold roof. I’d dance in the rain. I’d go on a road trip and drink shitty beer and eat greasy foods.

For Jasper I’d do anything. Except actually tell him that.

Because when he turns me down, I’ll break. A million little pieces of me scattered into the wind.

It doesn’t matter that my love for him is pathetic and tragically unrequited.

It just is. The sky is blue. The grass is green. And I’ve loved Jasper Gervais from the first day I laid eyes on him.

With a few too many pints of cheap beer, it’s easy to admit to myself because my mental walls have evaporated entirely. I’m a twenty-eight-year-old woman with a soul-consuming, one-sided childhood crush. It’s hilarious if I think about it.

A drunk, girlish laugh bubbles out of me, and I’m not laughing with me—I’m definitely laughing at me.

“See? You just made a joke about being dead. You laugh at the most morbid shit.” Jasper grins at me from beneath his cap, leaned on the vertical pool cue.

I shake my head with a smile and take another sip. I really do laugh at inappropriate stuff. If he only knew.

“I really am atrocious at this. I hate myself a little bit for it too,” I reply, but I’m chuckling as I say it.

His chin tips out at me before he moves in my direction from the opposite side of the table. “Here. Let me show you. You’re holding it too tight.”

Jasper racks his cue on the wall and steps up behind me, his fresh, minty scent a vivid reminder of listening to him take a shower in the same hotel room as me. The smell of his soap wafted out on the rush of steam that escaped when he emerged with a towel wrapped around his waist and dark tattoos tracing every hard line of muscle. I didn’t get a good look at them all because I didn’t want to gawk.

I forced myself to stare at the e-reader on my lap. Pure torture. I stared at the same page of the same book for the entire ten minutes, like my ability to read grew wings and flew out of my head at the mere thought of him naked and soapy.

Sure, we’ve lived at the ranch house for the past week, but there were so many other people in and out of the place that it never felt like we were truly alone, other than the nights we spent sitting on the roof.

Now? On the road together? It like we’re completely isolated.

“Like this.” His pecs bump into the blades of my shoulders as he stands behind me, arms dropping down around my torso like a cage. My body seizes up, and he doesn’t help matters when he softly says, “Relax, Sloane. Bend over the table.”

My cheeks flame dark like a cherry, and I swallow, before doing as he says. I hinge at the hips, sliding my left hand up the shaft of the cue and lining it up with the white ball.

I’m already bad at pool and having Jasper imitating fucking me from behind in public definitely isn’t going to make me any better. All the balls are just a blur of color before me because my body is entirely homed in on his. The feel. The smell. The way my chest vibrates from the butterflies crashing around in there.

I laugh. “I think I saw this in a Hallmark movie once.”

His right hand cups my elbow and his left hand slides down my arm as he gently adjusts my position.

My biggest worry is that I’m going to grind my ass back into him like a cat in heat. The beer goggles are real. As real as the shame spiral will be tomorrow.

Be cool.

Be cool.

Be cool.

Even my inner voice slurs as I give myself another internal pep talk.

“This isn’t a Hallmark movie, Sunny.” His warm breath caresses the side of my neck and breezes through my hair. I suck in a quick breath and my nipples pebble instantly as his hips line up with mine.

“What is it?” My voice comes out as a hoarse whisper.

His left hand moves up, his thumb brushing once over the bone in my wrist before he slides his fingers out over mine. “Relax.” He gently shimmies my wrist. I think trying to indicate my hand is too tense. And then I watch raptly as the pads of his fingers dust over the massive diamond ring that still adorns my finger.

“This is a friend teaching another friend how to hold a pool cue properly.”

“Right.” It feels like sinking into that freezing cold lake all over again. A cold dose of reality.

He pulls my cue back as he helps to line up the shot and then pushes it back through the crook of my thumb. When the chalk-covered tip hits the ball, we freeze in place. His body on mine. My body flush against his.

For that moment, we press into each other.

The clank of the balls crashing into each other and the pounding of my heart is all I hear. We watch together, breathing in the air that the other breathes out, as the solid purple ball drops into the pocket.

And then he pulls away. Like he always does. And I’m still leaning over the table, overthinking a perfectly innocent interaction.

Like I always do.

The voice I hear next sounds like twisting chalk on the felt tip of my pool cue. “Oh my god! Are you Jasper Gervais?”

I don’t even need to look to know that Jasper offered an uncomfortable smile and his signature head nod to elicit the girlish squealing that now assaults my ears.

Pushing up to stand, I walk over to the rack without a backward glance. I press the stick into the claws that suspend it on the wall before turning and taking in the scene.

I permit myself one deep, desperate, centering breath before I plaster a smile on my face and make my way back over to the beer waiting for me.

Two girls are fawning over Jasper. I see them but not really. As usual I just see Jasper. The way his body tenses, the light peachy stain that creeps out from under his stubble across his cheeks, his hands obsessively folding at the brim of his cap.

I slide up beside him, reaching for my beer and watching one girl’s eyes catch on my ring. “Oh shit. Are y’all together?” Her finger lazily flicks back and forth between us.

Jasper’s head swivels in my direction, eyes boring into mine like I might save him. But save him how? I’m just not sure. Especially not after he told me in the plainest terms possible that I’m his friend as he bent me over a pool table.

If that felt platonic for him, well, fuck me sideways, I must be totally hammered.

“No. We’re friends.”

The girl smiles and sighs in relief. “Well, congratulations on the engagement.” Everyone’s eyes drop to my hand, and I lift my head slowly, offering her a wan smile in return. “Thanks.”

“Will you sign the back of my shirt?” Her friend asks as she tugs her coat down and pulls her hair over one shoulder, exposing her back and bare neck to my stupid-hot-friend-cousin who just takes the pen the other girl holds out to him.

When his hand wraps over her shoulder to hold her shirt in place, I walk away and order another beer that I do not need because I cannot stomach the sight of his hand on another woman.

I feel like there’s hot coal burning in my gut.

I swivel my hand in a let’s fucking go motion to the bartender, and he smirks at me. He can probably tell I’m wobbly on my feet or that my eyes are glassy. But you know what? I don’t care. I’ve been dutiful beyond compare to my family. I’ve been a professional in my career. And I’ve had a few shit weeks. If I want to watch my life circle the toilet, I can at least throw back a few delicious Buddyz Bests while I do.

I peek over my shoulder at Jasper. His hands still rests on the random girl’s back as he crouches to sign her plain white shirt.

If making yourself sick with jealousy were an art form, I’d be a master at my craft. Over the years, I’ve tortured myself by watching the NHL Awards. I’ve watched him year after year with a different woman, each one more stunning than the last. I’d watch them all dolled up, walking the red carpet, smiling for the cameras, and when it was over, I’d crawl into bed and imagine what they were doing at that very moment.

I’d envision them clinking crystal flutes filled with fancy Champagne, surrounded by other players at some ritzy club, followed by a quiet hotel room, where Jasper would peel off her slinky, sparkly dress. Because they’re always slinky and sparkly.

His lips.

His hands.

Her moans.

Imagining is easier to take than seeing it up close.

I wrap my hands around the slippery pint glasses that appear in front of me and walk back to our table.

“I want you to sign my tits,” is the first sentence I hear, and it makes me slam the pint glasses down with more force than I meant to. Drunkenness collides with anger and makes the golden liquid slosh over onto my hands.

“I only sign paper, clothes, and merch,” is Jasper’s simple response. I’m sure he’s heard this titty request many times.

I turn, wiping my hands on my jeans, not caring about the wet spots they leave.

The girl sidles closer and rolls her eyes like what he’s said doesn’t matter. “Come on. There’s barely anyone here.” Her lips tip up in a smirk and she pulls the neckline of her already deep V-neck down even lower. “Right here.”

“I’m sorry, no.”

He’s apologizing to her? His eyes fall to mine, and to his credit, he doesn’t even glance at her cleavage that now shows the trim of her red lace bra.

“Would you rather do it in the bathroom so no one can see?”

His eyes are tight and searching. He looks like a dog staring up at me through the bars at a shelter, desperate for someone to save him, to shield him. I think he’s always needed that in some way.

Holding his navy-blue gaze, I take a deep swig, and goddamn, the more Buddyz Best I drink the better it tastes.

“Girl, stop. You’re embarrassing yourself,” I blurt, flicking my eyes over to the woman who is holding her tits out to him like she’s the deal of the day at a fastfood restaurant.

I’m cringing for Jasper but I’m also cringing for her.

Hilariously, I’m cringing for me too.

Cringing all around.

Her eyes narrow and her shoulders shimmy. “He’s just playing hard to get.” She turns to Jasper with a slow, feline smile stretching at her lips. “But I’m patient. And I like to play.”

I snort in the most unladylike way, my alcohol consumption really coming out to play. But it’s like I’m watching myself from above. Little Sloane taking her toboggan down a slippery slope with no way to stop.

“Play what? Sexual harassment?”

The girl crosses her arms under her breasts, pushing them up again. And god, they really are big. I’ll readily admit I’m a little envious. “Rich coming from the girl who was just all pressed up against a man who isn’t her husband. Bet your real husband would love to know that you’re here whoring it up with an NHL player.”

One loud laugh erupts from my throat, and everyone looks at me, stunned. “Whoring it up?”

It’s funny. Sterling would absolutely use the term “whoring it up.”

I laugh again, and the girls stare at me like I’m fucked in the head.

And they’re not wrong.

The thought of Sterling knowing I’m on the road with Jasper, that we’re sharing a hotel room, playing pool and having fun, is suddenly deeply satisfying.

And hilarious.

I can vividly imagine the vein in his forehead throbbing and his meaty fingers curling in on themselves while he stomps his foot and demands I come home. Suddenly Sterling Woodcock is nothing more than a badly behaved, red-faced toddler in my head, and the image sends me right over the edge.

Laughter bubbles up slowly, and before I know it, I’m laughing hard enough that tears prick at my eyes.

Jasper shakes his head at me, but the amusement on his face is clear. He moves in and slings a long arm over my shoulders. “Time to go, Winthrop.” He turns to guide us away, the girls clearly confused as all get-out.

“No! I need to finish my Buddyz Best so I can round out my training as a connoisseur. And you need to sign that girl’s jugs so she can continue to pretend she wants your autograph when she just wants you to fondle her melons.”

The sound of a scoff and the sight of the girls turning to leave draws my attention momentarily. “I really hope she tracks Sterling down and tells him about this.”

Jasper’s laugh rumbles against me as he leads me to our coats, and it just makes me laugh harder. So satisfying. Even if I am making an ass of myself. I’m just past the point of caring. The point of caring was two beers ago.

“Sunny, you’re cut off, and all melons are going to remain in the produce section.”

“They were big, Jas. And so round.” I hold my hands up in front of me and mimic squeezing a set of breasts. “I’m a little jealous if I’m being honest. I’d kill for melons like that. Do you know which grocer carries them? I’d pay good money.”

He covers me in my coat and slings his over his arm before tossing cash on the table. Then I’m tucked up against him again and we’re walking out into the dark, frosty night. “You’re perfect the way you are, Sloane. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

Usually I’d preen and overthink that sentence, but right now I just giggle.

“Are you saying my melons are nice?” I press my chest out and cup them.

“You’re gonna get me in trouble one of these days,” is how he responds.

“Would you sign my melons if I wanted you to?”

“I need to get you some water.”

“Don’t be such a stick in the mud, Gervais. Answer the question!”

“I don’t know, Sloane.” His breath puffs out in front of him as we walk the short path back to our hotel room. “It’s hard to imagine you ever asking me to do that because you know me so well. Really proved you understand how much I hate that shit by shooting from the hip like a total nut.”

My head whirls, and I lean on his sturdy form. “Or!” I hold one finger up triumphantly. “Shooting from the tits!”

“Lord, help me,” he groans.

“Like the ladies on Austin Powers! You know the ones. The bullet bras? Sooo cool.”

“Thanks for looking out for me, Sunny,” is all he responds with as he gives me a squeeze.

I rest my head against the edge of his shoulder. “Always, Jas. Plus, I think those girls really liked me.”


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