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Powerless: Chapter 18

Sloane

Dad: Sloane, it’s time for you to answer my calls. I raised you better than this. I know you can be highly emotional, but this is too far. Pull yourself together and behave like a Winthrop.


Harvey: How are you kids holding up?

Sloane: Good. Spent the night in Rose Hill. Should be in Ruby Creek this afternoon. Will keep you posted.

Harvey: How’s my boy?

Sloane: Good. Fine.

Harvey: And how are you?

Sloane: Hungover.

Harvey: He driving you to drink?

Sloane: Pretty much.


I turn my head back out the window as we crest the top of the mountain pass. Visibility has gotten worse. I can see the red taillights of the few vehicles around us and feel the truck straining to chug its way up the steep incline. In the side mirror, I can see the big round bales strapped to the flatbed, two layers fit together like puzzle pieces and covered with tied-down tarps to keep them from getting wet.

My ears pop as we hit the top altitude and start our descent, the front end of the truck pointing downward suddenly. A soft grunt comes from Jasper, and I turn to look at him. His thick brows are furrowed as he glances between the dash and the road.

“Turn the music down, Sloane.”

It’s already quiet, but I do it anyway because the tone of his voice jarring. There’s a note of anxiety, a note of authority, that has my hair standing on end.

We’re picking up speed now, and when I shift to peek at the speedometer, it creeps up incrementally second by second. A hazard light glows red just beside it.

“Jas,” I breathe out. “What’s wrong?” My chest is tight, and without even knowing what’s going on, my right hand reaches up to grab the roof handle.

“You’re buckled in, right, Sunny?” Jasper bites out, not once looking my way.

My eyes drop to both of our seat belts. “Yes,” fear bleeds into my voice.

“Sloane. Relax. I’m going to keep you safe, okay? Tell me you understand that.”

I’m nodding rapidly at him, but no words spring from my lips. They’re clamped shut too tightly.

“Talk to me, Sunny. Who found you that night when you got lost in the woods playing capture the flag?”

We’re just going faster and faster.

“You did.”

“Who bandaged your feet?”

“You,” I whimper, watching the speedometer creep up.

“Who broke you out of that fucking sham of a wedding?” he growls, tone dropping, like this is the time to be mad about that. When we’re both about to die.

“You, Jas. You. Always you.” My hand grips the front of the seat so hard I feel like I might rip the leather.

“The brakes that connect to the trailer are malfunctioning. I can only slow us down so much.”

I gasp. But Jasper is stoic. Pale but stoic. Eyes fixed on the road.

He lays hard on the horn when we come up too fast behind a car, urging them to move over. A harsh breath escapes him when they signal and switch lanes.

“There’s a runaway lane up ahead that I’m going to use, but it’s going to be bumpy. I want you to hang on as hard as you can and just breathe—trust me. You’re brave. You’ve got this.” I can’t tell if he’s talking to me or himself. “You got that? Do you trust me?” His voice is loud now, sharp, so unlike the soft, mumbled tones I’m used to from him.

“Yes, of course. I trust you.”

He looks my way quickly and nods.

The next few moments pass in the heaviest silence of white knuckles and held breath. There’s an almost ethereal quality to the moment. Like I’m watching a slow-motion video of us cruising to our deaths.

When the lane appears through the heavy snowfall, jutting sharply up the side of the mountain, I bite down on the inside of my cheek.

It’s so steep.

I know that’s the point, but it doesn’t stop the abject terror from blooming in my chest.

My eyes clamp shut when we ram into the gravel roadway. The impact jolts the truck and jostles my body as Jasper maneuvers us to safety. Or at least I hope he does. I can’t look, but I haven’t felt us flip or crash, so that’s a win.

Within seconds we aren’t moving anymore. The truck stops on the sharp incline, and with one steady hand, Jasper jams the emergency brake into place before wrapping it back around the wheel in a death grip.

The entire episode lasted mere moments, but it felt like hours. My entire body is vibrating, my chest thumping so hard with the heavy beat of my heart that it feels like it actually rattles my vision.

“Jesus fucking Christ. Holy shit. You okay?” I whisper-shout all my favorite bad words, letting go of the handle and laying a shaking hand flat on my chest.

After a few seconds, no response comes, so I turn to peer at Jasper. His hands are squeezed tight, and his entire body looks made of stone. He’s a statue, so still I can barely see him breathe.

“Jasper?”

His strong nose is pointed straight forward, and his skin is the color of crisp, white printer paper, like all the blood has left his body.

“Jas.” I touch him tentatively and squeeze his shoulder, but he doesn’t respond. Suddenly I’m less scared about our situation and more scared for him. “You’re freaking me out.”

His jaw flexes and he swallows, but his eyes stay trained out the windshield, the wind howling as the tall, dark pines sway and white snow swirls around us.

He’s in shock, that much I can gather. And while I’m no psychologist, I imagine this event was a little too close to the day we were just talking about.

The day it all fell apart.

Because the man beside me looks traumatized.

Without thinking, I unbuckle myself and make a few quick moves. I pry his hand from the wheel and crawl onto his lap, straddling his legs and trying to get him to look at me rather than at the windshield like he’s frozen in time—another time.

My hands flatten on his shoulders, and I give him a little shake. “Jasper. Look at me.”

His eyes don’t move, and panic nips at all my edges. I gently remove his hat, tossing it onto the passenger seat. It’s too hard to see him from beneath the brim, and deep down, I know that’s the whole point of why he always wears it.

He’s constantly trying to blend into the background, but even when he’s hiding, I see him.

I slide my palms over the tops of his shoulders and up the sides of his sturdy neck until my fingers weave themselves into the hair at the back of his skull. Spearmint and eucalyptus. The scent bowls me over every time. It’s a shot of electricity to my senses. I realize that if he’s washing his face with that bodywash he probably uses it as shampoo too.

The tips of my fingers move of their own accord, massaging the base of his skull. Am I taking freedoms I might not usually? Definitely. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and this whole petrified-wood-on-the-side-of-a-mountain act has got me stressed.

I press my forehead against his, trying to force his line of sight up to my own. “Jas. I’m right here. You kept us safe. Everything is okay. You did so good. Thank you for always looking out for me.”

He blinks once, and it’s like he pulls away a layer of dark shadow that covered his irises. Where they bordered on black just moments ago, they’re back to the soft navy I know so well—soft like velvet, high-lighted with streaks of denim, and little sparks of brightness where the light reflects.

“Sloane.” He sighs and warm breath hits my throat. He doesn’t move his forehead, but he does move his hands. They shape my waist and I feel them tremble.

All I do is continue to rub at the back of his head, soothing him in the only way I know how.

“Are you okay?” His voice is gritty and wavers slightly on okay.

I nod, rolling my forehead against his. “I’m good. I’m all good.”

He pulls back, and as if he doesn’t believe me, his hands take inventory of my body. They roam down, squeezing at my hip bones through my thin leggings. They slide over the tops of my thighs, and he watches raptly, like he needs to see it and feel it to believe it.

Me telling him isn’t enough.

His breathing turns ragged, and the tremors that started in his fingers take over his arms as well. When he looks into my eyes, I nod my head, trying to reassure him. But it doesn’t stop him. His fingers start back up my legs and his hands splay on my back, big enough that they cover it entirely.

“Nothing hurts?”

“Nothing hurts,” I confirm, staying deathly still, not wanting to break whatever moment this is right now.

He needs this and so do I. But in two very different ways.

When the heat of his touch rounds over my shoulders, I give in to my body and let my lashes flutter shut for one brief moment. I bask in his gentle hands, gliding up my arms in unison, checking every spot like I’m the most precious glass doll.

“You’re safe.” I’m not sure if he says it to me or to himself.

But I affirm it anyway. “I’m safe.”

When he gets to my wrists that sit on either side of his neck, he grips them and finds my gaze again. He breathes in for four seconds. And out for four seconds.

And we just exist in each other’s eyes.

Locked. Loaded.

“Are you sure your nose doesn’t hurt?” He asks about my nose, but he’s looking at my lips. My tongue darts over them as I try to calm my rioting nerves. This moment feels intensely intimate.

I’ve had a lifetime of intimate moments with Jasper, but none have felt like this with the air around us thick, heavy, and hot.

Pushing us together somehow.

His finger dusts down the bridge of my nose. It’s barely a touch. It’s a whisper. “Does it hurt, Sloane?”

I watch his lips press together and come apart to form the words. And god, I want to kiss him. I want him to kiss me. I want this moment to never end. I want Powerless to live in this truck, in the snow, at the top of a mountain with him and never leave.

My lashes flutter, and I tip my chin down incrementally to keep our lips from being lined up, to keep myself from doing something that will embarrass me—or worse, ruin us.

We’re so damn close. Close enough that he . . . presses a soft kiss to the tip of my nose and steals my breath in the process.

My eyes snap to his. Wide. Shocked.

“I’m sorry I threw that at you.”

All I can manage is a nod. My mouth is dry. I hear ringing in my ears. My eyes are sucked into his midnight sky.

He leans forward again and kisses my forehead. My fingers grip his hair and I move in closer. I tilt my head as though I could nuzzle into him, as though I could crawl into him and curl up in his chest. I want him to be as connected to me as I am to him.

He inclines his head, eyes searching. A silent question.

And I nod my response.

Then his lips are on my cheek. His hand slides around to the back of my head, and he cups my skull.

We’re so close. So latched on to one another. Like neither of us wants the other to pull away.

Jasper drags his lips along the top of my cheekbone, his stubble rasping over my skin, dotting it in tiny fires that I never want to put out.

He kisses the corner of my jaw and when the tip of his tongue flicks out, I moan. Shamelessly. Desperately.

He tugs me closer. His strong arm wraps around my waist, and he clamps me to him.

“Jasper,” I whisper.

In response he fists my hair and tugs my head to the side, dragging his hot mouth down and then back up my neck. I squeeze my legs tighter on him, hearing only the pounding of my heart in my ears and the deep groaning sound that vibrates from his chest.

“I can’t ever lose you,” he growls.

“You won’t,” I reply quietly, right as the tip of his nose traces the shell of my ear.

“I might.”

“Nev—”

Before I can say never, he cuts me off with, “Because I think I’m about to fuck everything up between us.”

And then he kisses me.

His lips mold to mine and his fingers weave into my hair as his grip turns soft.

I go still with shock—utter disbelief—and when I do, he stops, pulling away as his warm palm slides down over my throat to look me in the eye.

“I’m sor—”

I cut him off by launching myself back at him. And he doesn’t miss a fucking beat.

He doesn’t kiss me like a friend. He kisses me back with equal fervor. He kisses me like he wants to consume me.

And he does.

His hands are hot brands on my body, touching and squeezing in places I’ll never forget. His lips are warm and firm. He’s gentle but he commands me. He tilts my head the way he wants it. He sets the pace for our languid kisses until he takes on a more demanding pace.

Until his tongue slides into my mouth and his teeth nip at my bottom lip.

And me? I turn to putty in his arms. I’ve been lost to him for years, but today in a quiet truck, in the middle of a snowstorm, I let myself get lost in him.

He takes and I give.

I take and he gives.

I roll my hips against his and he groans out, “Sloane.”

The hand in my hair tightens, and I feel the dull burn of him tugging against my scalp. His opposite hand moves lazily down my rib cage, coming to rest at my hip, long fingers splayed casually over the curve of my ass, his thumb rubbing against the outline of my thong.

Everything is slow. Achingly slow. So representative of us in so many ways. But there’s also an edge of desperation in us both.

A hard bite to every movement.

My nipples pebble. My heart pounds. My body is alight. My hips roll again.

This time the hard length of him presses back. I whimper, aroused and relieved all at once. I’ve spent years thinking Jasper Gervais couldn’t want me, but right now his body tells another story.

And so do his words.

“Sunny, you’re gonna make me lose my mind.”

“Good,” I murmur against his mouth. “We’ll be insane together. I’m so tired of doing it alone.”

I’m ready to tear his clothes off and impale myself on him, here and now. I’m crazed. I feel more drunk than I did last night.

I kiss him again, pouring all the frustration and longing into him. And he gives it back tenfold. He bowls me over and steals the air right from my lungs.

And then he pulls me away. With one hand tight in my hair, he angles my head up to him and peers down at me. His eyes flit around every corner of my face as he assesses me.

He reads me like a fucking book and then tells me something I’ve longed to hear.

“You’re not alone. I’m right there with you.”

I let out a breath so big that my body sags when it leaves me.

“But this isn’t the time or place. It’s not safe. And you are too fucking precious to take chances with.”

Fuck my safety. If I died riding Jasper Gervais in the driver’s seat of this truck, I might be fine with that. What a way to go. Out with a bang, so to speak.

“When is the time and place?” I breathe out instead.

He ghosts a kiss over my damp, puffy lips and guides my ear to his mouth. “When I say so,” he rasps.

A shiver wracks my entire body. When I pull back, his eyes are dark again and they land on my lips, then my breasts, before roaming back up to my face.

He cups my head softly. “I’ll be right back. I need to check the brake attachment so I can get us back down this hill. Buckle up, just in case.”

I nod and he lifts me, depositing me in the passenger seat effortlessly.

He’s out the door and into the blowing snow without another word.

And I sit here, dumbstruck, hoping he’s okay. And taking an inventory of all the things it did to my body when he said, “When I say so.”


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