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Pen Your Pride

Chapter 20

Justin hung his head, placed his hands on his hips and allowed Hannah to leave him.  What the hell was wrong with him?  What kind of man said those things to a woman?  “An animal”?  “Panting”?

She must think I’m a psycho!  A sex-crazed lunatic, only seeking his release in ravaging her like the animal he claimed!

When that wasn’t the case at all!  His reaction was only fueled by hers.  The greedy way she kissed him back.  The scorching path her hands left on his skin.  How she looped her legs around his waist, pulling their bodies together, locking him there to grind his merciless erection into her soft, warm, damp...

Letting out a muted curse, he shoved his hands into his pants to ease the angle of his throbbing hard-on.  He could hear her outside the shed, talking and laughing with whomever interrupted them.  They were always interrupted.  Whether it was by someone else or his own halting of his desire for her.  The next time he kissed her, he would make damn sure they were alone and stayed that way.

Next time?  There shouldn’t have been a this time! his thoughts reproached.  He was quickly losing his mind.  Whenever Hannah smiled at him, all he wanted to do was kiss the taste of that smile, and then, of course, she always kissed him back in such a way he barely had the strength to stop her.

He spoke the truth to her.  He’d never felt this way about a woman.  Never needed to seize a woman’s lovemaking the way he did with Hannah.  Never been this deep under the spell of a woman.  Never had he felt such addiction to a kiss and a touch and a...a smile.   And all she had to do was smile!

A sudden realization flashed through his brain, and he jerked his head up.  Beth...

Beth was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever met and could smile at any man, crook her little finger, and they’d come sprinting to do her bidding.  And here he was, acting like a jackass toward Hannah’s smile.  He once vowed that a woman would never control him ever again.  He would never become another pawn to a female’s schemes, whether they be in the bedroom or elsewhere.  He would never be that fool again.

Not for Hannah, not for anyone!  Josie might love her, but he never would.  He’d tolerate his daughter’s friendship with Hannah Baker, because in all honesty, he didn’t see anything wrong with it now.  But that did not mean he had to strike up a relationship of any kind.  Yeah, he liked her – she was everything his daughter, his mother, and his brother described about her – but Justin was still too broken from the last time he let a woman into his life.  He had to stay away from her, and if that meant making her hate him, then so be it.  It was the easiest way to rid himself of her smiles and her laughter – his Achilles’ heel when it came to Hannah Baker.

“Justin!” Hannah’s throaty laugh beckoned him from outside.  “Come say hi to my neighbor!”

His feet actually moved toward the door before he stopped himself.  Dammit all to hell!  She’d cast a spell over him.  A few heated kisses, and she thought she could mandate him whenever she pleased?!

“Justin?”  Her head poked through the opening of the double doors and smiled beautifully.  He cast her a dark scowl.  It’s always the beautiful ones, the bitter side of his soul reminded him.

“What?” he barked.

Her smile faded as she pulled the doors open to stand in front of him.  “Mrs. Beale came over.  She needs help with...”  Her voice drifted away as he continued to glare hatefully -- the only protection he had against her.  “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong is I don’t need any of this!” he hissed quietly in her face.  She blanched.

“I don’t understand...”

“I’m leaving,” he growled, shoving past her, “and I’m taking Josie with me.”

A kind-faced, silver-haired woman stood in Hannah’s driveway, leaning on a cane and smiling a welcome at Justin as he emerged from the shed.  She lost her smile, too, when he only nodded and said, “Ma’am,” as he stomped past.  

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Beale,” Hannah said behind him as he rushed up her back stairs and into her house.  “Just give me a moment.”

The screen door slammed only a second after his own entry, and Hannah’s fingers bite into his elbow, jerking his body around with more strength and force than he’d warrant from such a slender woman.  “What the hell is wrong with you?” she whispered furiously.  “Mrs. Beale is a sweet old lady and has been my neighbor all my life!  She only wanted some help changing the light bulb in her bathroom!”

“This isn’t about Mrs. Beale,” he said back in a hushed, angry voice.  

“Hannah, dear?” Mrs. Beale’s voice carried from outside, a worried tint to her words.  “Don’t worry about it!  I’ll call my grandson!”

Hannah shot Justin a cold, scornful glare before she rushed to the backdoor.  “No, no, Mrs. Beale.  I’ll be right over.  Just give me a few minutes, okay?”

“Well...okay, dear,” the woman’s voice said, still uncertain.  Hannah turned back to him, but the moment her hand left his arm, he was heading into the living room, looking for his daughter.  She was asleep on the couch, her blond hair spilling around her angelic face on a pillow, and he hated to wake her, but they had to leave...they had to leave now!  Before Hannah smiled at him again and he carried her up those stairs and seduced her within an inch of his remaining sanity.

“Josie, honey,” he said, brushing her cheek.  “Wake’s time to go.”

“Go?” Josie asked sleepily, her eyelids opening and closing lazily.  “You said I could stay...”

“I know, baby,” he said, pulling her upright.  “But we have to go now.”

“What time is it?”

Justin glanced at the clock on the mantle, and his eyes landed on Hannah, frowning thoughtfully at him from behind the couch.  At least she wasn’t smiling.  “It’s time to go,” he said.

“Okay,” Josie sighed wearily.  “Hannah?”

“I’m right here, sweetie,” Hannah answered, though her tone bordered on tightly-bound annoyance.  “Your father needs to leave, but I’ll see you later, okay?”

Josie smiled as she stood up, wincing when she stretched her abdomen.  Hannah’s narrow gaze landed on him in accusation for hurting Josie needlessly.  “Will you bring Lady to me later?” Josie asked.  “I forgot to bring a carrier to take her home.”

“I will...I promise,” Hannah said.

“Tonight?  You’re still coming, right?”

Hannah sighed, and Justin clenched his teeth together.  It was enough that Hannah ensnared his desires with just her presence, but his daughter truly wasn’t making any of it easier on him.  “Sure, Josie,” Hannah answered. “I’ll bring her by the farm tonight.”

Josie smiled.  “Thank you!”

And at that, Hannah smiled in return, freezing Justin’s limbs in place.  “You’re welcome.”

Get the hell out of there, man!  

Hannah’s eyes and smile shifted to him.  Without thinking, he picked his daughter up in his arms and carried her out to his truck.  Josie giggled, “Daddy!  I can walk!”

Yeah, but I can walk faster, he thought grimly.

Gently, he put her in the passenger side and tucked the seat belt around her middle.  “Wait!” she said.  “My bag!  I forgot it.”

For the love of....!

“Hannah can bring it by later,” he suggested.

“But Daddy, it has my phone in it!”

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