Understood

By: Maya Banks

Dedication

To Michelle for the title help.





Chapter One

Jake Turner glanced around at the gaudy Christmas decorations adorning the interior of Zach’s Bar and Grill and suppressed a grimace.He motioned for another beer and ignored what his buddy next to him was yammering about. Things were always lively at Zach’s close to Christmas. Jake could never figure out if people were getting out to celebrate the season or if they were all just lonely and looking for another human being to connect to.

“Earth to Jake. Come on, man, you’re in another world over there.”

Jake blinked then scowled at his friend, Colin. “What the hell do you want?”

Colin nodded toward the door. “Isn’t that Ray’s ex coming in?”

Jake’s pulse quickened, and he yanked his gaze toward the entrance. All his breath left his body in one hard rush. What the hell?

His gaze came to rest on Ellie Matthews as she stood just inside the doorway. Only it wasn’t Ellie as he was used to seeing her.

She took a hesitant step forward then stopped and scanned the room, her eyes wide. Her bottom lip worked between her teeth, a sure sign of her nervousness.

Long soft curls spilled over her shoulders, hair that a man would itch to thrust his fingers into as he thrust into other parts of her body.

But what had his blood pressure soaring was her get-up. Despite it being the middle of December, she wore a top barely held up by the spaghetti strings over her shoulders. The neckline plunged, and the material cupped her breasts in all the right places.

Her mini skirt, if you could call the scrap of denim barely covering her ass a skirt, rode so high up on her thighs that Jake knew if she moved wrong, the entire bar would get a glimpse of her pussy.

She had a “fuck me” ensemble going on complete with “ride me hard” shoes. He’d never seen her in high heels once, and yet she teetered unsteadily toward the bar in three-inch, fire-engine red heels.

“Jesus, I had no idea she was so damn hot,” Colin muttered.

Jake rounded on Colin with a ferocious glare. “Shut the hell up,” he growled.

Colin raised an eyebrow in surprise but remained silent.

Jake turned his attention back to Ellie, who stood at the bar. The bartender plunked down a shot which she promptly drained before motioning for another.

There wasn’t a single male eye that wasn’t riveted on her. Two men sauntered up to the bar and stood close to Ellie. She smiled at them flirtatiously, and Jake was struck with a sudden realization.

She was taking the plunge.

A surge of red hot jealousy spilled over into his gut. She was finally breaking free of the hold Ray had on her, only this wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. Jake had waited a long time for her. He’d thought she needed more space. He was supposed to be the one she came to when she was ready to take that leap.

He gripped his beer bottle until his knuckles went white. What the hell did she think she was doing? His eyes narrowed when she downed another shot. When she turned her attention back to the crowd of admirers at her elbow, he saw the fear in her eyes.

It was then he understood what it was costing her. This whole “take me home and fuck me” was all a brave act. She was scared to death, and the only way she had a hope of carrying through with it was by getting thoroughly drunk.

Over his dead body.

He was striding across the room even before he realized he’d gotten up from his table. In two seconds flat, he shoved by the group of men all panting over Ellie and stood beside her at the bar.

She turned unfocused blue eyes up at him, the fear that shadowed her gaze disappearing as she realized who he was.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Ellie?” he demanded.

Panic flitted across her face, and the fear returned.

Without waiting to hear what she had to say, he bent slightly, pushing his shoulder into her belly. He stood back up, slinging her over his shoulder. His hand rested possessively on her ass.

He turned to glare at the men who’d surrounded Ellie. “She’s mine,” he said in his most menacing voice.

They backed off quickly.

He started for the door, Ellie’s upper body swinging against his back.

“Jake?” she said in a small voice. “Where are we going?”

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