She held on tight, eyes closed because she half-expected him to kick her from him like a piece of garbage stuck to his leg. She could feel the flexing muscles under his skin, the hard tendons like cables strung up the length of his towering limb. And still she held on, pressing the whole of her body to his skin like she was trying to squeeze the anger out of him.
“I’ve had nothing else to do for the past two years than think about the man I used to be,” he said quietly, though no less bitter than before. “I know why she did what she did. It was a test and I failed it. May end up costing me a lot more than my company.”
Brooke felt a tightening in her chest as his words touched something in her. “I’m sorry, Jack,” she found herself saying.
The leg shifted, and she let go just in time for him to crouch down and lift her up to him, leaving her to stand on his bare thigh with her face crushed to his broad, fuzzy chest. One of his big hands was splayed along her back, covering her from shoulder to shoulder, and the other at her ankles. Still, even like this, his chin was several feet above her.
God, this felt good.
“Don’t be sorry for me,” he said. With her ear pressed to him like this, his voice was so deep that it practically enveloped her as much as his hands were capable of doing. “I deserve it.”
Brooke pushed away from him to look him in the eye. “I think that if you can admit that, then you don’t any more.”
He paused, looking around expectantly. When nothing happened, he turned back to her. “I guess the magic doesn’t work like that,” Jack chuckled faintly. “I’m still here. Clock’s still ticking.”
Brooke couldn’t help but laugh. She stopped, though, when she felt his hand go from her back to her hair, and around to brush along her jawline with a rough knuckle. He looked at her, distantly sad, and she watched as his eyes darted from one facial feature to another.
“You’re quite the clever girl,” he murmured. “And quite beautiful. I just wish we could have met under different circumstances.”
Her heart was pounding, and there was a little tremor in her hands as she braced herself against him. But she didn’t have anything to say – she wasn’t the kind of woman who knew how to use words to coax men into doing things she wanted them to do, nor did she have any sense of good timing for it.
So when Jack let her gently down to the ground again, giving her one last wistful, lopsided smile, she let him. And when he stood up again, she watched, tight-lipped as those muscles carried him back to the house. He had no idea what he was doing to her, did he?
Brooke sat on a rock by the shore and watched the sun set that evening as the tide came in. A few boats puttered about here and there, eventually disappearing when the sky became more stars than twilight.
She sighed and got up, and when she went back to the house, Jack was lounging in the great room, touchscreen tablet doubling as a TV remote as he paid very close attention to a news segment with furrowed brows.
“Jack Ilyin, CEO of Seattle-based Orcasoft, has not returned from his multi-year sabbatical even as his VP of operations, Gary Patel, is close to closing a deal with Google. Ilyin, the software and robotics engineer behind the prototype AMOS technology, has apparently not left his private island residence since a heated altercation with a party guest two years ago threatened to cripple his public image…”
Jack growled with irritation and Brooke risked sitting down on one of the cushions near his elbow to watch the rest of the segment.
“Theories abound as to why Ilyin abandoned his public life and ceased all direct involvement with Orcasoft, but one thing is for certain: without the guidance of its majority share holder and lead engineer, the company, and its talks with Google, are dead in the water. Reporting live from Seattle, I’m Rebecca Thomas. Back to you, Phil.”
“History Channel,” Jack barked, and the enormous screen quickly changed to footage of divers off the coast of Mallorca. He groaned and rubbed at his eyes, not paying one whit of attention to the new program. “Would you like to watch something?” he said, suddenly tired. “Here.” He picked the tablet off his chest and set it in her lap. Brooke’s eyes bugged out at the weight of it and she proceeded to orient it toward herself, trying to position the cookie sheet-sized thing so nothing was digging into her legs.
The tablet, she realized, was hand-made. It wasn’t sleek like an Apple product, but was rough, slapdash, utilitarian. “Did you make this too?” she asked.
“Mhm. Last year. Also wrote the software.”
She laughed lightly. “You make it sound like its no big deal. ‘Yeah, I totally just built this fuckin’ piece of cool hardware. Whatever. Could do it in my sleep’.” He chuckled at her imitation of him.
“Built my first computer when I was eight,” he said, trying to sound disinterested, but it was apparent to her that he was enjoying the flattery. “I’ve been at it for a while.”
“Well it’s all very impressive.” Brooke glanced at the large screen and scrolled down through the channels. She was tempted to make him sit through some episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, but instead decided on a different guilty pleasure.
The screen changed again, this time revealing a the opening credits of Body of Evidence, one of her favorite crime procedurals.
Jack cracked a smile. “Studying for those midterms, huh?”
“Quality educational programming.”
“Nothing fun about it.”
“I hope you’re taking notes.”
She tapped at the side of her head. “It’s all in here.”
He laughed some more and shook his head, propping himself up on an elbow to see better. “Amos, dim lights to 30%.”
The lights dimmed, and the show started.
Jack actually fell asleep at around 10:30, well before the marathon was over, stretching out with his hands behind his head and breathing slow and deep. He’d gotten quiet about half an hour before, leaving Brooke none the wiser, so when she discovered that he’d dozed off, she swore under her breath at being so inconsiderate and turned the TV off.
“Amos, lights to… 10%?” she whispered.
Brooke stood up, setting the tablet down on the edge of the ‘bed’, but didn’t leave. Instead, she watched him for a moment. The way his chest rose and fell, so much slower than any other person’s; the way his whiskered chin tucked up into his chest; the way his eyes moved behind his lids as he fell into REM; it was all so captivating. Her own eyes wandered down his chest, following the ripples of his musculature, the slight, blond hairs as they wound their way down his belly and disappeared under the edge of the sheet, which barely clung to his hips as it was. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw the outline of his flaccid cock laying limp against this thigh and –
Oh. Maybe it wasn’t so flaccid after all.
It moved the tiniest bit, lifting a little then settling down, and Brooke stood transfixed, staring. Heat rose to her face when she realized what she was doing, but, dammit, she couldn’t tear herself away!
When Jack shifted, laying both legs flat on the floor, Brooke jumped out of her skin and rushed out of the room, fearing the worst. But when she peeked around the corner of the hallway, the giant man was still fast asleep, and she was able to breathe a temporary sigh of relief. Very temporary, because Brooke was aware of that familiar dull ache between her legs, and she knew it wouldn’t go away without a little help.
“You’re going to be the end of me,” she quietly whimpered to herself as she rushed up the stairs to her private bath. This was something that would be best taken care of in the shower, she decided.