Every woman needs a man who can make her feel like sixteen again…
Jo couldn’t believe she was even considering it. She had to be crazy.
But the minute she’d walked out of the lift and seen Jetta standing there, the wildest idea suddenly struck her.
She knew she should be kicking herself for even thinking it, and yet…
Well, for one thing, he was great looking, and dressed well. Clothes just seemed to hang so well on his tall, well-built frame. He oozed masculinity so effortlessly, and stood out easily from any other guy in the room. She was convinced: Jetta Freeman was 100% hunk material. Not that she knew so much about such stuff. She hadn’t been in a proper relationship in years – and she wasn’t sure she even knew how “dating” went these days. But then, she had no time now to “date” anyone, had she? She needed to get married, pronto. And it was about time she found her first likely candidate…
“How on earth did you find out about this place?” Jo asked with delight as they walked into the interior of the restaurant. The whole setting was rustic yet elegant, with plenty of earthy hues and roughly hewn decor. The scents of delicious cooking which teased her nostrils were tantalising indeed. The tables were few and widely spaced to make sure that diners enjoyed plenty of room. It all looked so exclusive, yet with a soothing ambience that made one feel right at home.
Jeta smiled, placing his hand in the small of her back as an attendant led them across to their well-placed table. “Well, I had to ask around for the best place to take a beautiful woman whom I dearly wanted to impress…and someone suggested this restaurant. It comes highly recommended.”
“How thoughtful,” Jo purred, smiling back at him and settling into the chair the attentive waiter held out for her. She knew she should be immune to his flattery by now, but she wasn’t, not completely. He took his seat opposite her, and they promptly made their orders to the hovering waiter.
“I can’t wait to try some authentic Gambian cuisine,” she said enthusiastically. “Haven’t had the chance so far. You know, I always make a point of enjoying the local fare of any country I visit. And from what I can tell, I think the food here is going to be great.”
It had better be, considering how much I’ll be paying for it, Jeta thought ruefully. And then pushed such depressing thoughts from his mind as he smiled and nodded. “Trust me, it is. It’s really not much different from ours: spicy, rich, filling. I hope you aren’t on any special diet,” he teased, his grin widening.
“Not tonight, no,” she assured him, finding it easier by the minute to smile back. She’d been so sure she’d be bored out of her mind; Jeta was handsome yes, but he came across as really overbearing. Well, a little. She never knew they could carry on a decent convo with such ease…
“Okay…,” she began suddenly, sitting forward and propping her chin on her fist, “Excuse me if this seems so cliché, but – could you tell me more about yourself?”
He shrugged, eyes dancing a little humorously. “Yeah, sure. What do you want to know?”
“How old are you?”
He looked playfully taken aback by her directness, but answered seriously, “Thirty five.”
“Unmarried, of course.”
“Guilty,” he said with a nod. “I’m a Rivers man, run my company, and can be something of a klutz when it comes to meeting beautiful, career-driven women for the first time.”
He sent her one of those boyish grins of his, as Jo realized he was referring to that seminar episode. She found herself agreeing wholeheartedly with his statement as she made a funny face.
But then her eyes fell on the exquisite flower arrangement placed between them on the table, and she said lightly, “That reminds me…I’d like to thank you for the lovely red rose you sent to me while I was in hospital. That was really sweet of you.” Then she looked up at him with an arched eyebrow. “Um, you did send it, didn’t you?”
“Well, yeah,” he said almost defensively. “I have to confess that though I’ve been told a few times that I make the ladies swoon, I’ve never had one actually faint on me.” He had an endearing, humorous grin on his face, and Jo found herself shaking her head with a chuckle.
And then his eyes sobered a little as he asked quietly, “Seriously though, what truly happened? I was really worried.”
Jo shrugged, trying to steel herself against the sincere warmth she found in his expression. “Let’s just say…I’d bitten off more than I could chew, work-wise. The strain of the seminar was the last straw, I guess.”
Jetta nodded. “I totally understand. You could say I’m going through something of a bad patch myself.”
Jo looked at him with curiosity, deciding that it was her turn to at least, show some concern. “Want to talk about it?”
Jeta opened his mouth to reply, thinking suddenly, this was his chance. She was all ears, and he seemed to have gotten her full attention at last. For the first time, she looked ready to actually listen to him. Now, he could tell her about the financial trouble his company was in, and how much the Creekview contract could turn it all around…
And yet, Jeta couldn’t help thinking that, here he was with one of the most captivating women he’d ever met; beautiful, independent, witty. He realised with a jolt that she fascinated him as a person; he wanted to know what made her tick.
“You know what,” he said a few moments later, flashing a wide grin, “Let’s not dwell on much of business tonight – let’s just get straight down to the fun part.”
She smiled back, nodding her approval. “Sounds like a plan,” she agreed. Not too long after, their first course arrived.
The meal was fabulous. Freshly prepared with the most choice ingredients, every dish was a delight to the palate. The good food and wine they enjoyed did much to further lighten the atmosphere as they chatted and laughed. Jo was pleasantly surprised to discover how many interests they seemed to share, and how their ideas on many topics were so in sync. The evening passed quickly, and Jo found herself enjoying every minute.
“So, how was it?” he asked lightly an hour later, as the waiter left with the last of their dishes. They still had a half-drunk bottle of wine which they were polishing off.
“Do you need to ask?” she replied, her tone a bit accusing. “I ate like a horse; why the heck didn’t you stop me?”
He chuckled, toying with the stem of his glass. Jo looked down at the table and thought, nice hands. He had long, tapered fingers, dusted lightly with hairs, the nails neatly manicured. Why on earth she should suddenly have an image of those hands gliding warmly over her bare skin was beyond her, and she snapped her head up quickly to find him smiling.
“I liked that you enjoyed your food so much. Not really a fan of women with bird-type appetites,” he said with a shrug.
“Well, to answer your question, it was fantastic…what I’d call a first class gourmet meal. Or shall we say…the epitome of excellent cuisine?” She waved one hand in the air theatrically, making him huff.
“Call it by all the fancy names you want…I still just think of it as great food, plain and simple,” he told her, and she could only shake her head at him, laughing.
Gosh, she’d been doing that a lot all night, Jo realised. Smiling, laughing, bantering. Their rapport was healthy, natural. He talked and she liked to listen, enjoyed the cultured, deep strobe of his voice. And he had the way of making even the most ordinary comments sound funny, while keeping a straight face the whole time. Jo realised she was beginning to like him – and that scared the heck out of her.
She found herself sobering as she felt his gaze on her, steady and dark. “You know, I like the way you laugh,” he said thoughtfully. “Very musical, and natural. It’s nice.”
“Thank you,” she said, equally serious now. It was amazing what that simple comment did to her. When did it start to matter what he thought of her, Jo wondered frantically? She let out a deep sigh. “I guess..it’s been a while that I’ve laughed so much. The food was great, the wine superb, and the company…enjoyable.” Her eyes held his for a few moments, a small smile playing on her lips. “I’ve had so much fun tonight; I don’t think I could take much more.”
“Not even some dancing?” he enquired with a mock-disappointed slouch, and she giggled like a school girl as he added, “The night’s far too young and our belly’s much too full…I know of a nice club where we can work off some of that “excellent cuisine”. What do you say?”
“Yes,” Jo told him promptly. She’d be the first to admit that she wasn’t much of a dancer, and the smoke, crowds and noise from most clubs were hardly her thing. The truth, she realised, was that she needed more time with Jetta. He was turning into a pleasant surprise – and something told her there was more in store…
Was there really such a thing as a “chemistry” between two people? When being with someone would feel like the most natural thing in the world? As the hours rolled by, you got more and more accustomed to them, and it seemed as if you’d known them all your life. You didn’t feel intimidated or threatened in any way by their presence; and when they touched you or casually took hold of your hand, it felt pretty…nice.
Oh heck, now I’m getting soppy, Jo was thinking, as she allowed Jetta take her by the hand and lead her through the throng in the up-beat nightclub. The atmosphere of the place was so alive and bright, and wasn’t as bad as she’d expected. It was actually a high brow establishment, with a fantastic bar and talented DJ who churned out well-loved dance tunes. Being there with Jetta made it all the more exciting. He surprised her by being such a laid back and well, cool kind of guy. They got to sit the VIP section and had the most expensive liquor served at their table, while they watched the other patrons having fun on the dance floor. That was till Jetta asked her if she felt like joining them.
“Well, if you’re brave enough to actually witness me dancing…,” she warned him with a grin, but he waved her protests aside.
“The music will guide you,” he assured her, taking her arm in that natural way she was beginning to get used to. Jo was surprised at how easily she was warming up to him, and how welcome his touch had become. His fingers wrapping around her bare arm lightly, yet with a gentle pressure that gave her the impression of strong hands. Hands she sensed could be as kind as they could be rough…
Enough with your fixation about his hands! she told herself mockingly, following him over to the dance floor. He was right, of course. Once she got into the music, she started to find her rhythm, and dance. Soon she started to really let go, inspired by the thumping beat of the music, and the equally vitalised crowd. And not to mention her very attractive, very charming dance partner. Damn, the man could move, she noted admiringly, allowing him to draw her closer as the music finally slowed.
“At last…an excuse to get you in my arms,” he growled, eyes narrowing sexily as he twirled her round once, before tugging her to him once more.
Playing along, she gasped dramatically, fluttering her lashes as she wrapped her arms about his neck. “Careful…I might actually get the wrong idea that you probably like me,” she purred.
Jetta tipped his head to the side. “Why would it be a wrong idea?” he asked, becoming serious in a flash. “I’ll admit, we got off on the wrong foot. But tonight..I think I’m getting the chance to see the real you.”
“And what is the real me?” she queried, keeping her fingers busy by trailing them in circles around the back of his neck. Jo knew she was flirting with him, which was crazy. Because she never flirted. What the heck was coming over her?
He shrugged, his grip on her waist tightening somewhat in response to her feather-light caresses on his nape. Something flared in his eyes as they held hers, making her heart pound in her chest. Beneath the banter, within their little bursts of humour, was a budding spark that Jo suspected would detonate into something that would engulf them both…
“It’ll be kind of hard to describe,” he murmured thoughtfully, his tone soft. “You’ve got the smarts…”
“And you’ve got jokes,” she told him with an approving nod, and saw him scowl playfully at her for interrupting him, so she zipped it.
“Thank you…I think,” he said with a smile, then continued, “And you’re really, amazingly lovely. I guess that must be why I’ve been getting so many envious looks for all the guys here – or didn’t you notice?”
She shook her head, gazing up at him and forgetting she wasn’t supposed to be taking him seriously. “Not really. But I did get the distinct impression that at least half of the women in the room would love to be standing in my shoes right now.”
There was that flash of his devastating smile again, and his eyes seemed to twinkle in the semi-dim club. If there was music playing Jo wasn’t aware of it any more, nor was she sure they were even still dancing. He held her close and looked down at her as a man would look at a woman; with admiration, desire…passion. She shivered at the sudden thrill she got from realising that he wanted her. Because she totally felt the same…
“I must warn you, Josephine, that flattery goes straight to my head,” he rumbled deeply, one hand sliding up and down her back in a tingling caress. Even through the fabric of her dress, she felt the warmth of his touch. And shivered.
“It’s a good thing I wasn’t flattering you, then,” was her smiling retort, and then she frowned slightly. “Why do you keep calling me that? I mean, it’s not something I’m used to.”
“That’s your full name, isn’t it? Because I took the liberty of finding that out, after that little spat of ours at the seminar.” He grinned suddenly. “And besides, I may never get completely used to calling you “Jo”.”
She giggled, surprised that she didn’t feel in the least offended. “Well then, you can call me what ever you prefer,” she said, shrugging happily.
“Thank you…because believe me, Josephine is a very beautiful name. Very much like its owner…,” he said softly, his eyes boring into hers.
The intensity of his gaze made Jo feel self-conscious, and there was a strange tightness in her chest. She lowered her gaze, but then felt him take her chin and tip it up again.
“I think I wanted you the first time I saw you,” he admitted, voice deepening. “And then I acted like an idiot. For weeks after that, I berated myself for ruining what seemed like my one opportunity with the most desirable woman I’d ever met. I don’t think I’ll make that mistake twice. Can I kiss you?”
Jo blinked, surprised at the unexpected demand, even as his tender confession made her heart sing. Her eyes fell to the sculpted lines of his well-shaped lips. And then she thought, heck yes.
For her reply, she took hold of both sides of his head, and pulled it slowly down to hers.
Moments later, their lips were welded together in a seeking, searching kiss. Jo felt a rush of pleasure at the exciting new taste of him, all firm, fresh, and manly. She felt him press her closer and her soft body instinctively molded itself to his solid, reassuringly powerful length.
The kiss deepened, and she heard him moan softly deep in his throat as she sucked boldly on his thrusting tongue. If that nudging hardness she felt against her belly was anything to go by, then Jo figured he was getting as charged up by the kiss as she was. She felt such sensual delight, and a deep sense of female power to know the effect that kissing her was having on him. And considering that this was the first real kiss she’d had in at least two years, Jo couldn’t help but be thrilled. Many men had shown desire for her in the past, but for once in a long, long time, she had found one that she actually desired as well.
Delicious-tasting moments later, they drew apart reluctantly, and Jo looked up to find Jetta staring down at her like he was seeing her for the first time. The tenderness, the depth, of his gaze made her breath catch. He traced a finger down the slope of her cheek, his voice somewhat husky as he said, “Come on, let’s get out of here before we get arrested or something.”
Every woman needed to meet that special man who would make her feel like sixteen again, who could put that twinkle in her eye and the spring in her step. Her heart would start racing with just his smile, and when he touches her, the earth moves…
They were walking hand in hand by the time they were striding back into the hotel after the taxi had dropped them off. Then it was up the lift and soon, Jo was unlocking her room door. She went in, dumped her bag on the nearest chair, and then turned in surprise to find him still standing there, leaning against the door jamb, hands jammed in his pockets.
“Well, come on in,” she saw with a smile. “It’s not like I’m going to bite you…that hard.”
“Hmm…didn’t know you were into pain play,” he teased, finally walking in casually. He looked round at the exquisitely appointed rooms, the decor quite opulent and tasteful. “Nice,” he said approvingly.
“Thank you,” she purred. “I must admit that I’m no fan of hotels, but I do try to live it up anytime I get to stay at one. So…can I offer you a nightcap?” She was standing by the mini bar as she spoke, and cried out in surprise as she felt him grab her waist and pull her back against him.
“Yes. You,” he growled into her ear….
Thank you for reading The Barter Affair and leaving comments, likes and shares. Hope you have a lovely Easter Weekend!