Twelve

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The sheets on Jackson's bed smell like him

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The sheets on Jackson's bed smell like him. I could stay here forever. After everything that happened, I thought I'd be shy, maybe even a little embarrassed but I'm not. I've never put myself at the mercy of another that way but the experience has left me wanting to do it again and again. I've never felt more alive.

My head is rested on Jackson's chest, my legs pretzeled inside his. I'd promised him I'd try to sleep hours ago, I can't. I can't stop staring at him. Examining the way his eyelashes fan out, or how the left side of his mouth bows ever so slightly downward, or the way his breathing reminds me of how he moves about, calculated, precise. He truly is a beautiful specimen of human being. There's no denying it. The rays of the sun are beginning to peek through the curtains of his steel grey bedroom and despite the fact that I haven't slept a wink, I feel better than I've felt in weeks—like Jackson is a supercharger that's boosted a slowly dying me.

I moved on about ten minutes ago from examining his face, to investigating his tattoo. I shouldn't touch him. I should let him sleep but it's too hard to resist. I brush my fingers across his chest until they reach the ink. Now that I'm close to him, the cogs, the gears all shift and morph into clock faces. Each one is different, some perfectly symmetrical, some skewed in shape, each one set to read a different time. Wispy swirls of black that surround them give the illusion of movement. It's spectacular.

His lashes flutter before he lazily opens his eyes. I'm rewarded with a smile. "Morning, Angel. I just had the best dream. My hot wife was in it doing what she does best—bein' hot and showing her smarts."

I'm getting used to the idea of being Jackson's future wife. Maybe it's too much, too soon but after letting my reservations go, setting myself free, I can see how this man is perfect for me. I press my lips to his chest, deliver a kiss and look up at him. "Sorry to wake you. I was checking out the tattoo."

He seems amused. "Yeah, what do you think? You like it?"

"It's extraordinary, how long have you had it?"

"Truth?"

"Truth."

"The sleeve started the day after I met you."

"What?"

"The day after I met you." He takes my fingertip with his free hand and places it on the clock nearest his shoulder. "This one," he says. "It started with this one."

The clock he's talking about is skewed in shape, but the numbers are clear. "12:20?"

"12:22 if we're getting specific," he says. "That's the time my whole world stopped spinning."

"What happened at 12:22?"

"I met you," he says simply. He grins again and places a kiss on my nose.

I find myself at a loss for words. "What?"

"I met you at 12:22." He moves my finger to the next clock. "And at 3:57 in the afternoon about two weeks later, I told you I was crazy about you and asked you to be my girlfriend. Officially."

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