Courtney flopped down on the penthouse couch, glaring at her sister as Elizabeth pulled her leather jacket on over her black leather pants and white lacy tank top. “I still don’t understand how you managed to get to a point in one night that I couldn’t do in four years.”
Elizabeth fluffed her hair a little and smiled winningly at her sister. “I’m just good that way I guess,” she preened. She checked the clock on her brother’s desk. “Are you gonna just sit there while he picks me up?”
“Yes, because I want to make sure you’re not making this up,” the blonde remarked scathingly. As if on cue, they heard a knock on the door. Elizabeth pulled the door open and grinned.
“Hey, you ready?” he asked.
Courtney stood quickly. “Jason,” she said before the two could leave. “I wanted to thank you for taking care of the Joey Jr. thing.”
“No problem” Jason replied. He glanced back at the brunette. “Ready?”
“Let’s go. See ya, Court.”
After the door was closed, Courtney narrowed her eyes and grabbed her own jacket. She had some serious rethinking to do with this plan. The only thing she could be sure of was that even if Jason did want to do more with Elizabeth tonight, the brunette would almost certainly hold off. Courtney knew her sister very well–she wasn’t the first date type either.
She still had time.
As the waitress placed the plate piled with ribs in the middle of the table, Elizabeth spread a napkin over her lap and grinned at him. “Prepare to be blown away.”
He shook his head. “No way they’re better than Kelly’s.”
She picked up one of them and bit into it, smearing some of the sauce around her mouth. Jason stared at her for a moment, a little surprised. Most of the women he’d been out with would not have done that–and even if they had, they would have hurried to wipe it off.
Elizabeth frowned when he didn’t bite into his own. She set her rib down and reached for another napkin while licking some of the sauce from her thumb. “Problem?”
“No. Nothing,” Jason said before biting into his food. He chewed slowly and swallowed. “They’re not bad.”
She rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on. They’re so much better than Kelly’s. Just admit it.”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
Elizabeth laughed. “You’re nuts, I swear. These are way better.” She picked up her soda and gulped it. “God, some men just don’t want to be wrong.”
“It’s a matter of opinion,” Jason argued good-naturedly. “You like Eli’s, I like Kelly’s.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine.” Her eyes twinkled. “You’re still wrong though.”
After they’d polished off the plate of ribs, they left the restaurant and headed around the corner where Jason had parked his bike.
“So, final analysis?” Elizabeth asked, swinging in front of him and blocking his path to the bike.
He grinned. “They’re passable.”
She groaned. “After an hour and half of eating those things, you can’t come up with anything? Courtney was right–you are a man of few words.”
“I prefer actions to words,” Jason replied. He hesitated. “The other night at Jake’s…”
Elizabeth sighed. “Yeah, what about it?”
“I was there because Sonny wanted me to keep an eye on you,” Jason admitted. “I just thought you should know that.”
“So when I asked you if my brother sent you and you said you always rent a room there…that was a lie?” she asked, a little irritated. “And what’s tonight? A follow-up assignment?”
“I do rent a room at Jake’s,” Jason corrected. “And tonight has nothing to do with your brother.”
Elizabeth shrugged and looked away. “What’d he tell you? That he’d been following me around? Leaving messages on my voicemail?”
“He was also hanging around the building and sending flowers,” Jason informed her. “Sonny didn’t tell you that.”
She pursed her lips. “Well, Michael will certainly be hearing about that from me. It’s my life and if I wanted a guard, I’d have one. But I can take care of myself. I don’t need anyone.”
“Sonny doesn’t think you can’t take care of yourself,” Jason protested. “He just wants you safe from jerks like Joey Sorel.”
“He’d also like me to dress like I was twelve and stop going to Jake’s,” Elizabeth remarked, “but that’s not going to happen either.”
“You deserve better,” Jason argued.
“How the hell would you know?” she demanded. “You’ve known me for all of two days.”
“Because any woman deserves better than some asshole who thinks it’s okay to hit them,” Jason retorted.
Elizabeth pale and moved back, brushing up against the bike. “H-how did you know about that?”
Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Sonny overheard you on the phone with him.”
She swore under her breath. “I am going to kill him,” she muttered. “He had no right to eavesdrop–”
“And Joey Jr. was lucky I didn’t break his hand off,” Jason cut in hotly. “What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you go out with him in the first place?”
“It’s none of your damn business,” Elizabeth retorted. “He hit me, I kicked him and it was over. I didn’t go back to him–I’m not some little helpless female who stays in an abusive relationship because I think he’ll change. I went out with him twice and when I wouldn’t sleep with him, he backhanded me across the face.”
Jason narrowed his eyes and his face was flushed. “He did it because you wouldn’t sleep with him?” he repeated.
“You know what? This is none of your business,” Elizabeth replied, scathingly. Damn this. Damn the bet and damn Courtney. “Take me home.”
“Never mind,” she snapped, “I’ll walk.” She turned to the side and stalked towards the corner. He followed her and grabbed her by the elbow, spinning her to face him.
“Wait just a damn minute,” he muttered. He grabbed her wrists to keep her from hitting him and swore as they struggled. “Why are you being so defensive?”
“Why are you being so nosy?” she demanded.
“Because…” Jason hesitated. Why was he digging into this? Joey had gotten the message–he wasn’t going to go near Elizabeth again. Sonny had dropped the whole subject. It was over as far as his boss was concerned.
“Because I don’t understand why you’d go out with someone like him in the first place,” he responded finally. “You deserve so much better.”
“And I’ll ask you again…how would you know what I deserve?” she asked softly. She peered up at him, a little confused by his demeanor.
He kept his grip on her wrists but switched them to one hand while using the other to touch her cheek. “Because I know how I’d treat you.”
She licked her lips nervously–she could deal with a guy being attracted to her–wanting to touch her and all that, but this was different. Jason wasn’t like the losers from the bar.
“Aren’t you going to kiss me?” Elizabeth breathed, her eyes searching his.
“Do you want me to?”
She nodded tremulously. “Yeah.” He let her wrists go and cradled her face with his hands before pressing his firm lips against her soft ones. She parted her lips immediately, thrusting her tongue into his mouth. Her fingers dug into his short blonde hair as she pressed herself against him.
Unprepared for sudden sharp lust that pierced through him, Jason broke the kiss abruptly, leaving them both breathless and a little dazed.
“Yeah…I think this is going to be a thing,” he managed to say.
Elizabeth blinked and licked her lips again, tasting him on them. Yeah…so this bet with Courtney had taken on a life of itself, she mused. She wanted him–more than she wanted to win some stupid bet.
Maybe it was time to have a talk with her sister.
“I should take you home,” Jason said after a moment of strained silence. After only a brief hesitation, he asked, “When can I see you again?”
“Tomorrow,” Elizabeth responded instantly. She had a feeling they both knew if she’d said something different–something along the lines of “right now” they could have been back in his room at Jake’s in ten minutes flat. But Jason wasn’t looking for an easy lay and she was no longer looking to win a bet.
The stakes had definitely been raised.
Around the corner, Courtney glared in the direction of her sister and her date as they got onto Jason’s bike and drove off. “Son of a bitch,” she muttered, expecting to see Jason take the turn towards Jake’s. But at the red light, he turned towards the Towers and Courtney grinned.
The next morning, Elizabeth woke up early and grabbed the first pair of pants of shirt she saw. After shoving her feet into a pair of sneakers, she was out of the penthouse, darting past a surprised Sonny.
She knocked briskly on her sister’s apartment door a few times. It was nearly ten now and Courtney was almost always up by now.
She heard a shuffling sound and turned to see Courtney emerging from around the corner, near the elevators. Her shirt was rumpled and her hair was messy. Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “What happened to you?”
“An eventful night,” Courtney smirked, pulling her keys out of her purse and unlocking her door. Elizabeth followed her inside.
“I want to call off the bet,” Elizabeth said, closing the door. Courtney paused and looked at her oddly.
“I want to call off the bet,” Elizabeth repeated. She ran a hand through her hair. “Something’s different with Jason, Court. He’s different, I mean. Last night–” She broke off and smiled. “I like him. And I don’t want to win a bet anymore.”
Courtney sighed and gripped the kitchen counter. “Oh…Lizzie.”
“Yeah, I know…it’s not like me and–” Elizabeth broke off abruptly, paling. “Where were you last night?”
“I went to Jake’s,” Courtney admitted. “Jason came in, we played some pool…and…”
“And what?” Elizabeth demanded, sharply. “You slept with him?”
“Look, if I’d known your feelings were different,” Courtney fumbled, “I mean, if I knew you were coming here today, I wouldn’t have–”
“Jason slept with you?” she asked painfully. Last night flashed in front of her–the way he’d touched her cheek and how he’d looked the instant before he kissed her. Had he been acting? Had he just wanted someone to sleep with? “Why last night and why not four years ago?”
“I don’t know what was different, honey. But I thought we were just playing a bet,” Courtney said, her voice pleading. “I didn’t realize–”
“No…it’s not…it’s not your fault,” Elizabeth whispered. Her eyes filled with tears. “It’s mine. I…I have to go.”
Elizabeth fled the apartment before her sister could stop her and when the door was shut, Courtney slumped onto the couch. She’d had no idea Elizabeth had developed actual feelings for Jason.
If she’d known…she never would have lied.