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Chapter Fourteen


          Nathan snapped the cell phone shut and returned it to his pocket, his mind reeling with a thousand different questions. This case was turning into one big disaster and he couldn’t help but think that they were still barking up the wrong tree. All of the evidence pointed to Roger Blake but Nathan somehow couldn’t fathom the man being responsible for stabbing four women so brutally.

          Yet, Isabella had called him and said that not only had she recovered photographs of the victims from Blake’s personal computer files but also that he had been having an affair with Maria Melendez. So, he had moved on to one of the roommates, had settled for the next best thing to Jessie. Was that it?

          Why was he not convinced that Roger Blake was their killer? With all of the evidence pointing to him, it still seemed farfetched. And why had Isabella been the first one to call him with the information about the downloaded disc instead of Mike? Was Mike trying to prove he was capable of solving this thing on his own? Was he on a power trip in Nathan’s absence?

          The fact that Mike knew the four girls, had known them since high school and had been intimate with all but Jessie was tearing him apart. Why had his deputy sheriff felt it unnecessary to divulge such information? Nathan admitted that he would have thought for a split second about taking the man off of the case, but only for a second. Mike had information on the girls that could be very useful had Nathan known that he had been so close to them, had been dating Karen Shephard. It just didn’t make sense.

          It was time for him to go to work and solve this thing once and for all. As much as he hated what lie ahead of him, Nathan knew he had no choice. He needed to pry into Jessie’s mind, force her to remember what had happened. Nothing was going to be easy, but he didn’t have time to make it easy on her. He needed to get inside of her head and get what he needed so that he could finish this case once and for all. But more importantly, he needed to end this so that he could return Jessie to her life and he could return to his own.

          He was getting too close to her. Nathan knew he should have taken a step back the moment she became a person instead of a victim. Now, it was too late. He was too involved to just back away and let someone else take over the responsibility of her. The truth was, he didn’t trust anyone else to keep her safe. Yet what made him think that he was more capable than someone else?

          Shaking his head and cursing silently to himself, it killed him to admit the truth. Why was he more capable than someone else? Because somewhere in the middle of everything, he had started to care about her as a person, as a woman who was smart and witty and damn adorable. In the middle of everything, he had let his guard down and actually started to care about her on a personal level. God help him!

          This wasn’t something he was accustomed to. Usually, he’d want a woman, get his fill, and be completely satisfied. But with Jessie, he didn’t want to just have sex with her as great as it probably would be. He was longing for so much more. For the first time in his life, he wanted to let his guard down and allow someone in for the long haul. Nathan didn’t want a one-night stand.

          Jessica Porter deserved so much more than a commitment-phobia cop who didn’t even know what the word monogamy meant. He just wasn’t built that way. She was worthy of so much more.

          Turning on one foot, he walked up the narrow path to the cabin, bracing himself for what he was about to do.



* * * *



          Jessie winced as she downed the rest of the Smirnoff. The clear liquid burned as it slid down her throat, causing her eyes to water, yet, she didn’t care. Numb was what she wanted to feel and she was halfway there. Wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, she stood up and felt the room spin around her. She had achieved her goal. Jessica Porter was good and drunk.

          How pathetic she felt at that moment! Jessie felt pathetic and alone. Who would have thought that those two emotions could bombard her in such a way? She had always prided herself on being independent. Yet at the moment, she didn’t want independence. What she wanted was someone to lean on, someone that could take everything away and make her feel safe again. How in the hell had that happened?

          This was Nathan Benson’s fault. He had forced her to believe that she didn’t have to face this alone. He had made her think that he would be there for her, that he would make everything okay again. And what had she done? She had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. She had been a fool to think that she could depend on that man to make everything that was wrong right again.

          When all was said and done, he was only by her side for as long as it took her to remember the details of that night. Once he had pulled out every ounce of information she had buried inside of her head, Nathan Benson would leave her to deal with the aftermath all on her own. He didn’t owe her anything. In fact, he had said it himself. He had a job to do. And she was part of that job.

          Shoving a hand through her tangled hair, she forced herself to stand up straight. She didn’t need him or anyone else for that matter. Her life had been just fine up until now and the only person she had to thank for that was herself. So what if for the first time in her twenty-eight years she had the urge to rely on someone else, to depend on another person? It was all a figment of her imagination, this need to cling to the man that was only sticking around because it was his job to do so.

          Yet, what about this attraction she felt towards him? How did she explain that one to herself?

          That was easy. He was a good-looking man. And she… well, she was under a lot of stress. People didn’t think clearly when they were under duress. Their mind and emotions became cluttered and confused, grabbing onto anything remotely tangible just to keep some kind of hold on reality. If circumstances were different, the only thing she would feel towards Nathan Benson would be… that same damn attraction that made her knees weak and her stomach flutter.

          What was wrong with her? Who was she trying to fool? If she had met Nathan under normal circumstances she would still find herself attracted to the man. He was not only sinfully handsome… Nathan Benson was an interesting man with more wit and humor than anyone she had ever met before. He was an intelligent man who just also happened to be fierce and strong. Nathan Benson was the kind of man women dreamed of. He was the kind of man that women longed for but could not have.

          That was what she had to keep telling herself. No matter how charming he was Nathan Benson was off limits. He should come with a neon sign plastered across his chest that said ‘look but don’t touch’.

          Suddenly, Jessie heard the screen door open and shut behind her and whirled around, her legs teetering. Her hand flew out in a wild attempt to catch herself from falling. Trying hard to focus, she cocked her head sideways and squinted. Letting out an exuberant sigh as Nathan’s face came into full view, she smiled. “Hi!”

          He offered her a suspicious glance before he took a cautious step towards her. His eyes darted to the empty bottle of vodka on the table before he shook his head and groaned. Looking at her once again, Nathan couldn’t contain his anger. “Are you drunk?” he bellowed.

          Jessie shook her head and threw her hands up in the air with exaggeration. “I guess I’m busted! Boy! Nothing gets by you, does it, Detective?” she slurred. What the hell, she thought. There was no point in trying to hide it. She was officially inebriated.

          He brushed past her and grabbed the empty bottle off the table, striding into the kitchen and tossing it into the trashcan. When he turned back around, Jessie was right behind him.

          “I guess your image of me is shot all too hell now.”


          She reached up and covered his mouth with her hand. “Sh. I don’t want to hear a lecture. In case you’ve missed it, I am a grown woman! I’ll do whatever I damn well please!”

          He grabbed her hand and removed it from his mouth, his anger melting away into something else, something closer to amusement. “I wasn’t going to lecture you.”

          “Good. Because I’m tired of playing it straight. I’m through being Miss responsible, straight-laced, boring Jessie Porter that always does the right thing. We see where doing the right thing has gotten me. No where!”

          “Is that really what you think?”

          “I don’t think. I know!”

          “Okay, then.” He shrugged and turned away from her.

          “That’s it?” Jessie roared as she followed him back into the den. “That’s all you’ve got to say to me is okay?”

          Nathan didn’t spare a look back at her. “That’s it,” was his calm reply.

          “Yeah? Well, fuck you, Detective Benson! I don’t need you! I don’t need anybody!”

          He turned around abruptly and grabbed her by the arms. “No. What you need is someone to knock some sense into you.”

          “Oh yeah? And you think you’re that someone? I’d like to see you try.” She pulled out of his grasp and backed away, putting her hands up and motioning for him to come towards her. “Come on, tough guy. I’d love to see you try.”

          “I’m not going to hit you,” he replied, staring at her as if she had lost her mind.

          “No?” Jessie cocked her head to the side and lifted her brows challengingly. Without thinking, she lunged forward, her fist connecting with his jaw. Taking a step back, she raised her fists in front of her again, prepared for another attack.

          Nathan shook his head as he lifted his hand to his face and rubbed his jaw. “Feel better?” he bit out between clenched teeth.

          Jessie’s arms fell to her side as her expression crumbled. “I’m sorry,” she groaned in a pitiful voice.

          “It’s okay,” Nathan offered, knowing that she had finally met her breaking point.

          Her shoulders began to shake as the tears fell freely down her cheeks. “No! It is not okay! There is nothing okay about anything right now!”


          “I keep moving, I keep dodging the truth because the truth is too hard to take. But all of that moving and dodging has led me to the same spot.” Jessie ran a hand through her hair, sobriety taking a nasty hold on her. “Why did they have to die?” she bellowed, her voice quivering. “Why did they die and I lived?”

          He reached out for her. “Jess…”

          She backed away from him, shaking her head violently. “It doesn’t seem fair. They all loved life so much. And me? I’ve lived my life hiding from it. Hiding behind work and school and…”

          Nathan took another step toward her.

          “I have spent my entire life pushing people away because I thought that was the only way.”

          Jessie took in an uneven breath. Her world was falling around her feet, the tattered and torn pieces of her life beyond repair. She had been falling down an unending spiral over the last few days, subconsciously waiting to hit the bottom. But now, she had hit that bottom with a cold hard thud.

          “I’ve never let myself get close to anyone, not even Karen, Sherry, and Maria. Keeping my distance was the only shield of protection that I had. But little did I know that despite that armor I voluntarily put around myself, those people that I tried so hard to keep out had found their way in.” She drew in a ragged breath, feeling herself become lost in the constant spinning. “I loved them. They were like sisters to me. I loved them, yet I was ashamed of them at the same time. I considered myself better than all three of them. I felt sorry for them because they were all aimlessly looking for love, looking for the greater meaning of life while I thought I had it all figured out. They died having lived their life to the beat of their own drums while I marched to the proverbial band that was preordained for all of us. I took the highway, making sure that I made it safely from point A to point B while they took the scenic route and were happy just ending up wherever that side road took them.”

          He reached out to her again, placing his arms carefully around her shoulders and pulling her into his embrace. Yet again, she pushed him away.

          She ran her hand over her face, feeling desolate and incredibly tired. “I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to be weak. I have memories inside of my head that need to come out one way or the other. It’s time for me to stop being a coward and face the truth. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know who killed Sherry, Karen, and Maria. Now all I have to do is figure out how to retrieve that information. And you can help me or you can go to hell. But do me a favor…”

          “What’s that?” he asked in a gentle voice.

          Jessie walked over to the sofa and collapsed against the cushions, burying her face in her hands. “Help me,” she pleaded in a desperate voice.

          Nathan took a seat beside of her, placing his hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him with tearful eyes. Without conscious thought, he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her to him, allowing her to bury her face into his chest, soothing her as she sobbed.

          “Jessie,” he whispered, leaning back and lifting his hand to her chin. Nathan tilted her head so that he could look into her eyes and that was his undoing. Wordlessly, he leaned forward and captured her mouth with his own. He knew he was making a mistake, taking advantage of her when she was most vulnerable. His mind was telling him to back off, to end this here and now… but every other part of his body was telling him the opposite.

          Jessie’s arms came around his neck and pulled her to him and he almost lost it. He had thought that she was vulnerable… had thought that he was taking advantage of her. But her reaction was telling him that she wanted him just as much as he wanted her.

          Nathan pulled away from her, his breathing harsh from their kiss. “Jessie,” he nearly growled.

          “Don’t push me away,” she pleaded. “I don’t think I could take you rejecting me again.”

          “I don’t want to reject you. But…”

          She placed her finger over his mouth to silence him. “Stop thinking so much Detective. Stop thinking and just… feel.”

          Jessie refused to give him a chance to object. She leaned forward, lifting her hands to his hair, and pulled him to her, covering his mouth with her own. She could feel him resist and deepened the kiss, taking what she wanted without a thought to the consequences. She wanted him--needed him. And she never needed anything or anyone.

          Closing his eyes, Nathan allowed her lips to move over his, gently at first then with much more passion. Knowing he should have pushed her away, he couldn’t force himself to break the mesmerizing hold she had over him. Nathan wanted her unlike anything he had ever wanted in his life.

          His hands lingered in her hair as he broke the kiss and tried to push her away, but her mouth trailed across his jaw, down the column of his throat. He heard himself groan and lost control of sane thought.

          Lifting her face to his, Nathan crushed his mouth to hers once again as he stood, lifting her in his arms and carrying her to the bedroom. They fell onto the mattress together, their lips and bodies never losing contact. His hands found the bottom of her shirt and tugged upwards, releasing her only long enough to pull the t-shirt over her head and toss it aside carelessly. He found her lips again and lifted his hand, cupping her breast gently through the satin of her bra. He felt her nipple harden instantly against his palm and couldn’t suppress another primal groan.

          With practiced skill, Nathan reached behind her with one hand and released the clasp of her bra. Slowly, he lifted both hands to the straps and pulled them off her shoulders and down her arms, her breasts spilling from the flimsy fabric. It too landed somewhere on the floor along with her shirt.

          Jessie gasped as he lowered his head, his lips playing across her chest and taking one erect nipple into his mouth. She arched, her head dropping back, and lifted her hand to his head, tugging him greedily to her. She felt him pull away and opened her eyes, prepared to protest. He pulled his shirt off and threw it over his shoulder. Her stomach did a somersault as she stared up at him, bare-chested and devastatingly handsome. The muscles in his chest contracted for a second before he leaned forward and took her mouth again.

          Nathan felt her breasts brush against his bare skin and moaned, the friction of skin against skin causing his head to spin. Her fingers bit into the flesh on his back and he pushed away from her once again, needing and wanting more than just her skin melding with his. He reached for the button of her shorts and was pleased when she lifted her hips and allowed him to pull both the shorts and her white satin panties from her waist and down her legs.

          Jessie lay on the bed and stared up at him. Nathan didn’t move, didn’t flinch. He just sat there and looked at her. He couldn’t explain which emotion swamped him first. She was beautiful. He had never laid eyes upon something so beautiful before in his life. And she wanted him. He could see it in her eyes

          Nathan couldn’t think of anything other than becoming completely intoxicated on her, than taking everything she had to offer. But the desire he felt for her was overshadowed by a need so desperate and natural that he shivered. This was more than just one night of passion. This would be the night that he would get a taste of something he knew he could never be satisfied with just one sample of. To be welcomed into the arms of a woman as beautiful and remarkable as Jessica Porter was something he would never make her regret. 

          Slowly, he stood and shed his own pants, the anticipation driving him slowly insane. Nathan wanted to take his time, to take her places she had never been before. Only, he didn’t have the willpower. He needed her more than he needed to breathe.

          Balancing himself over her, Nathan found the warmth between her legs and plunged inside of her, his head spinning as her body enveloped him. He heard her groan and moved faster, thrusting inside of her like a man that had been denied the very thing he needed to survive. They moved together rhythmically, their bodies becoming one and he thought he could get lost in her forever.

          He stared at her face, her eyes closed and her mouth parted slightly as she gasped for air. “Jessie,” he whispered in a hoarse voice.

          She opened her eyes and his world began to tilt. Her legs wrapped around his torso like a vise, pulling him deeper inside of him. A long groan escaped his lips as drover harder, Jessie’s body enveloping him wholly.

          Nathan thrust inside of her once more and felt himself shudder. Her hands tangled in his hair as Jessie pulled her to him, covering his mouth with her own. Then slowly he lowered himself to the bed, pulling her on top of him, and drew in a long breath. Nathan closed his eyes and just took pleasure in  the feel of her body next to his. When he opened his eyes again he found Jessie staring back at him with wide eyes, her chin resting on his chest.

          She smiled. “Well, Detective, that was…”

          He quirked one challenging brow.

          “Incredible,” Jessie finished with a wink.

          “Earth shattering,” he added with an amused grin.

          “Off the Richter.”

          “I don’t know,” Nathan shrugged. “I think I can do better.”

          Jessie laughed. “If you think you can do better then have at it.”

          “I think I will,” he replied with so much promise and winked. “Just give me a few minutes to recover first.”

          Her reply was a throaty chuckle.



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