Powerless: Chapter 20

Sloane

Dad: Sloane. Answer this fucking phone. NOW. You’re done disrespecting me. And if you’re off gallivanting with that homeless orphan, there will be consequences.


I dip my face into the warm water, hoping it will make the tears on my cheeks blend in. The steam from Blisswater hot spring wafts up around me while fat white snowflakes fall down.

I sit on the tiled bench, submerged, and I watch. The instant they contact the top of the water, they melt away into nothing.

I feel alarmingly kindred with them. Everything I thought I knew about my life has melted away into nothing in the span of a five-minute conversation.

Worst of all, I’m angry with myself for not seeing it. Because the more I think about it, the more I think I’ve been willfully ignorant concerning my father.

What little girl wants to think her dad wouldn’t have her best interests at heart? I wasn’t subtle about my crush in the early days. He and my mom would have known, they’d have seen it.

And he moved us all around like chess pieces. For what? For optics? To close a deal?

To benefit himself.

Try as I might, that’s the only thing I can come up with. Having me connected with Jasper wasn’t beneficial to him, so he made sure it would never happen.

It crushed me when Jasper didn’t show up to my first performance. He texted me and said he got caught up reviewing game tape. Sent flowers instead.

I should have been happy I’d finally made it. That he sent flowers. But instead, I cried in the dressing room while wiping off copious amounts of makeup.

I dip my face in the water again, washing away the fresh tears that have tumbled down.

When I pull my head back up and turn my face up to the cool night air, someone sits beside me.

I don’t even need to look to know who it is. I know his smell. I know his size. I know how my body reacts when he draws near.

I know him so well. And yet I didn’t know this.

Letting my head tip back against the tiled edge of the pool, I allow my body to relax and sink into the water.

We don’t talk. What is there to say? So much and so little all at once. His arm brushes against me, and then his pinky finger wraps around mine.

I don’t know how long we sit there like this. Snow falling. Fingers latched together. Steam billowing up around us. Light instrumental music plays through the speakers, and I can hear the joyful squealing of children jumping into the cold pool on the other side of the deck.

Tears continue to leak silently from my eyes. I wish I could make them stop, but I can’t. The ache in my chest is insistent, and the what-ifs or could-have-beens consume me.

What if my dad hadn’t run into him that night?

What if their elevators had passed each other? One going up while the other went down.

What if I hadn’t forced myself to hide my feelings and move on to other relationships?

What could have been if I’d just blurted it all out to Jasper?

What could we have been if he’d done the same?

Would we be together?

Would my parents support it?

Would I even care? Or would I throw it all away for a shot at something with Jasper?

The questions don’t stop, suffocating me under their weight. They say comparison is the thief of joy, and comparing how different my life might look if one tiny interaction hadn’t happened is definitely doing that.

It’s like imagining what you’d do if you won the lottery. Fun to dream about until you get depressed about the fact it will never happen.

One hot tear streaks down the side of my face, and the water swishes beside me, followed by the calloused pads of Jasper’s fingers brushing over the apple of my cheek. A breath hiccups out of me at his touch.

I still don’t open my eyes. Instead, I just let myself feel him. Jasper has wiped many of my tears away over a broken heart, over frustration, impostor syndrome, raw feet.

But never like this. Never over being the one to make me realize I’ve been a puppet. Everyone in my life has treated me like the tiny ballerina inside a jewelry box. Nice to look at and cute to listen to when you’re in the mood, but easily shut away when you have something else to do.

I’m furious with myself for smiling and spinning every time someone opened that box. I’m angry at myself for not flipping them the finger and refusing to twirl around mindlessly. I’m not angry at anyone else.

It’s all directed at myself.

And somehow I’m harder to forgive. I think deep down I expected better of myself.

I wonder if this is how Jasper feels too. Fuck, that must be a heavy burden to bear.

His broad hand slides over my cheek, his thumb and forefinger gripping my chin to turn my head his way. “Sunny, look at me.”

The authority in his voice sends a shiver down my spine even though I’m sitting in perfectly hot water. My eyes open and immediately latch onto his.

I’m transported to that first day I saw him, all tall, lanky, and boyish. Even then he moved like an athlete. His gait, his mannerisms. Everything about him screamed strength and agility. It still does but it’s tenfold.

Looking at him is almost unbearable right now.

His irises are dark sapphires under the night sky as they trace my face. Eyes. Mouth. Throat. Then lower.

A cold snowflake lands on the tip of my nose right as he asks, “Tell me how to make you feel better.”

My heart accelerates in my chest, like a car going from zero to sixty. It’s his voice. It’s his hands. His nearness. It’s the open-ended question he just asked.

I could tell him to carry me up to our room and fuck me, ruin me so thoroughly that all I can think about is him and where he’s touching me, and he’d do it.

I open my mouth to say it, but then I rein it back in, feeling so far out of my depth. Like I have whiplash. Like I need to gather my thoughts before I say or do something stupid.

Like completely ruin this friendship.

“I’m going to go take a shower,” I rasp, holding his gaze and watching his chin dip in a subtle nod.

And then I move across the pool, the water caressing my body like silk running over my skin. The sensation of his eyes roaming my back and my ass as I take the shallow steps up onto the pool is heady.

My body screams at me to go back to him. But I don’t want to be that ballerina in a jewelry box with him. I don’t want him to feel like he needs to save me.

I want to save myself.


I emerge from the bathroom in a puff of warm steam. My skin is pink and raw from how hot I had the water, from how hard I scrubbed my skin.

I feel like I scalded an entire layer of myself away in there. Found a little kernel of strength hiding underneath and latched on to it. Decided I won’t be the girl who goes along with what everyone else around her wants.

I’m going to speak up.

I’m going to get comfortable disappointing other people to avoid disappointing myself.

I won’t apologize for doing things the way I want to do them.

I’m ready to be unapologetically me and let go of the people in my life who don’t approve of the person I am now.

Jasper’s head snaps up, eyes dragging down my body and the small white towel I have wrapped around my torso. He doesn’t bother dropping my gaze or hiding the intense look of want that paints his features.

And I decide to revel in that. The petty part of me hopes it hurts. I hope he feels a fraction of the longing I’ve felt for him while he sat around, not telling me why he’s stayed so close and so far away all at once.

“Shower’s all yours. Bathroom lock doesn’t work.” I hike a thumb over my shoulder and walk straight toward my duffel bag that’s beside the atrocious little cot I’ve told myself I’m going to sleep on.

I’m not sure what point I was trying to prove. The new me would make Jasper sleep on it, but one look at him and his hulking frame tells me that isn’t an option.

I love him too much to do that to him. And he likes me too much to say no.

God. We’re so fucked.

“Thanks.” I hear him move across the room, the floorboards beneath the tightly woven carpet creaking as he lumbers past.

I try to force myself not to turn and check him out as he goes.

But I fail.

Miserably.

I let my eyes wander over his broad, toned shoulders, the way his muscles ripple in his back as he walks. The indent down the column of his spine. The grayscale tattoos that wrap around his arms and a lone one that peeks out on his ribs. I can only see it because he lifts one arm and runs a hand through his hair, but it looks an awful lot like . . .

No.

I shake my head and turn back to my bag. When I hear the click of the bathroom door closing, I drop my towel and quickly slide into a pair of black Calvin Klein sleep shorts and a tight black tank top. No bra. My breasts aren’t big enough for it to matter. This stretchy material presses them into place without issue.

I sit on the cot, and a spring pokes my ass through the flimsy mattress. It’s fine. I didn’t torture myself in pointe shoes for years to be put off by a minor discomfort.

As I lie back on the squeaky cot, the glimpse of Jasper’s tattoo keeps popping up in my head. I’ve always known Jasper has a lot of tattoos. What started out as one grew into many. They cover his biceps, twist over his shoulders, and crawl down his forearms. They’re all black, the older ones more faded than the newer ones.

For me, they just add to his appeal. Men like Sterling don’t get tattoos. They get facials. Jasper isn’t “one of us” as my dad would say—a comment that rings a lot more offensive now that I’ve removed my blinders.

Jasper is nothing like the men I grew up around. He’s raw and dirty and loves so hard he hurts himself in the process.

And I want to know what that fucking tattoo is.

I stand, storm across the room, and toss the bathroom door open, stepping into the space.

One strong hand props Jasper’s hulking form up against the shower wall while the other grips his cock, pumping up and down slowly.

His head turns to me.

Wet caramel hair frames his face, and the spray from the shower lashes his spine before streaming down in rivulets over his tightly muscled back and perfectly round ass.

I always knew Jasper’s body was great, that he spent long hours training and working and taking care of himself, but he’s . . . magazine worthy. His body looks cut from stone.

Right along with his cock.

“I’m sorry,” I say instantly, frozen on the spot, staring at his well-proportioned body. He’s a big man and so is his . . .

“No, you’re not.” His eyes hold a wicked glint as they fixate on me. He straightens, but his hand keeps twisting languidly, casually, like it’s perfectly normal for him to jerk off while I watch.

“I didn’t mean to barge in here.”

“Yes, you did.” He smirks at me now, and my knees go a little weak.

He knows me too well to pull off playing stupid. Plus, I promised myself I’d stop apologizing for being myself.

And myself really wants to see Jasper naked.

I stand here, mouth popping open and closed like a fish out of water, not sure what to do now because . . . his hand is still moving. The muscles and veins in his forearms ripple as he pumps.

“Sloane, close the door and sit on the counter.”

Pump.

“Pardon me?” My heart thrashes wildly in my chest.

“Shut the door.”

Pump.

“And put that tight little ass up on the counter.”

Pump.

My cheeks flame.

“We both know you want to watch.”

I want to deny it, tell him he’s crazy and out to lunch. That we’re friends and I don’t want to ruin our relationship.

The truth is, though, I want to ruin it. Badly.

My brain might be in bitch mode, but my heart? My heart is in slut mode.

I take a couple of steps and lift my tight little ass onto the counter.

Pump.

“Good girl,” the toned Adonis in the shower praises me, and my fingers tighten around the edge of the counter hard enough to snap a nail.

He’s so brazen, so unlike the quiet, broody man I know. His eyes lick over my skin like fire, and he never stops jerking himself as he incinerates me. Every muscle in his body is held taut, every line defined. His pecs. His abs. Those sharp V-lines that trail down to where all the action is taking place.

A prim voice inside me tells me the polite thing to do is look away.

But tonight I’m not being the polite woman I’ve been told I should be.

So I stare. I take it all in. The round, smooth head. The thick girth. The smattering of hair that leads to his toned stomach.

I absently lick my lips and he groans. My gaze snaps up to those navy eyes I know so well. They hold me captive. They’re simmering with a heat I’ve never seen. He’s done a good job of looking at me like I’m a friend, but he isn’t right now.

He’s looking at me like I’m his.

“Sloane,” he rasps as his fingers curl into the vinyl wall. “Look at me. Talk to me.”

I lick my lips again, shifting and feeling how slick I am from watching him. If I slid a hand into my shorts, I could make myself come in seconds. “Keep going,” is all I say back, squeezing my thighs together as I revel in the wet slapping sounds of his increased pace.

“You wearing anything under those shorts, honey?” I didn’t think his voice could get any lower, but it does.

“No.” My heads shakes rapidly and I swallow.

Jasper’s responding groan is pure masculinity. “I could so easily pull them to the side and see it all.” His words vibrate through my body, hitting my core with an almost painful pang of longing. For that. Exactly what he’s describing.

His gaze drops and I squirm under the weight of it. He stares hard at the apex of my thighs, where my shorts are wedged up just a little too tightly. Then his heated stare snags on my hard nipples, the frantic rise and fall of my chest, before he dives back into my eyes.

The eye contact is unnerving.

It’s erotic. He looks wild and undone.

“Fuck,” he curses before murmuring, “Sloane,” again. His body grows rigid, every hard edge of him strung tight as he tugs at his cock savagely.

And then the first shot of his cum sprays onto the glass wall in front of him. A moan erupts from my throat at the sight. Another surge. And another.

It feels messy and animalistic, and my body is a fiery ball of nerves as I watch him fall apart in front of me with my name on his lips.

I’ve never felt more important to someone, and the man hasn’t even touched me.

His chin drops to his chest, and I watch him pant, his body heaving. I’m in the same boat. It’s like I just went through an entire choreography at full intensity.

My eyes bounce between his body and the cum slipping down the glass.

He shifts the showerhead, muscles flexing as he rinses the glass before turning the shower off and stepping out of the water. He doesn’t bother covering himself. There isn’t an ounce of self-consciousness in him.

In fact, when he sees me staring, he smirks.

Droplets of water hug his skin in a way that makes me irrationally jealous. Then he reaches for a towel, and I see it again.

The tattoo.

“I came in here because I wanted to see that.” One shaky hand points at his rib cage.

He towels himself off. “You wanted to watch me fuck my hand while I pretended it was you in those tiny shorts? That’s why you barged in here?”

My core clenches and goose bumps break out along the back of my neck, cool sweat on my temples. I swallow and push ahead. “I’m talking about the tattoo, Jas.”

He glances up now, seeing where I’m pointing, and lifts his left arm. I get a full view of the tiny ballerina inked on his skin. It looks like the ones inside a jewelry box I’d been thinking about earlier.

“Oh.” He sighs. “That.”

“Yeah. That.”

Jasper drops the towel and closes the space between us, stark naked and confident, cock still full, looking fucking delicious. He puts one hand on each of my knees and pries them open. Keeping my legs clamped together was dulling the ache in my core, and I whimper before biting down on my bottom lip to shut myself up. I’m soaked and I’m sure he knows it.

He steps between my spread legs like he knows he belongs there and lifts his left arm to give me a close-up view of the tattoo.

She’s dainty and has a serene, doll-like expression on her face, hands held up in perfect pirouette position. The ribbons from her pointe shoes wrap around her ankles as she spins, and little dots texture the lace of her tutu.

I reach out and trail the tips of my fingers over the inked tulle as if the texture might be real. But all I’m met with is smooth skin, firm muscle, and a sharp intake of breath from the beautiful man who stands before me. Jasper watches my fingers as I slide them over every detail of the small ballerina tucked safely under his arm.

“What . . .” I shake my head, trying to put my words together in coherent order. “What is this?”

“I thought it would look familiar to you,” he quips, just letting me soak it in as his hips bump against the inside of my thighs. His thick cock so damn close.

My head tilts and I peek up at him. “Why?”

He knows I mean why does he have a ballerina inked on him when the rest are patterns—scales, lines, and geometric shapes that remind me of a kaleidoscope.

His Adam’s apple bobs. “Because I missed your first professional dance.” He clears his throat, staring at my hands and avoiding my eyes. “I wanted to be there so badly after all the times you’d been there for me, so I went and did something that night to commemorate it in my own way.”

I blink my lashes rapidly to clear my eyes. “You said you were reviewing game tape.”

His right hand squeezes my knee and slides up my thigh, fingers sneaking under the hemline of my shorts, dusting up further than ever before. “You really think I’d miss your big night to review game tape?”

“I . . .” I trail off because, no. If I really think about it, I know he wouldn’t. He’s always been there for me, and that night was an outlier. Looking back, it doesn’t make sense for him to miss it at all. “But you’ve come since then.”

“I started coming when I figured your dad wouldn’t be there to catch me. Your debut night was too risky. I saw the show though. I came a few weeks into the run and sat in the nosebleeds by myself.”

I flatten my palm on his ribs and turn my face up to his, his breath fanning out across my wet lips. “Why?”

His pupils shift between my eyes before he sighs and says, “It took me a while to figure that out. Years, in fact, to sort through my feelings, to make sense of them, figure out where they came from and where they were going. I thought you were just a friend. But him telling me to stay away? Him telling me I couldn’t have you? It broke something inside me. Telling me I wasn’t good enough for you? All that did was make me want to be good enough for you.”

I groan. “You have always been good enough for me.”

He grips my chin and regards me carefully under the bright lights. “I never felt like I was. But I do now.”

My head swims with his admission. Excitement quarrels with frustration. Desire wars with self-preservation.

“I need a minute,” is what I come back with as I gently push him away.

And walk out of the bathroom.

After years of longing for Jasper Gervais, I’m in shock. And I can’t think straight with his naked body against me.

I feel wrung out. I feel sad. I feel angry.

I feel so fucking horny I could burst.

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