Worth It is out on Sunday…but here’s a taste of Jack and Ryan. This takes place about five years before Worth It.
I was not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. I loathed the idea of getting out of bed on a regular day. And the thought of hauling my ass up before dawn on Black Friday made my skin crawl. But I had no trouble bouncing out of bed at five o’clock that morning. Because I was going to see Jack.
I hadn’t seen him in days. Life on a Christmas tree farm was always busy, but this time of year meant for extra long days. The past couple of weeks had been so hectic for my boyfriend that he’d barely had time for me. I didn’t blame him for that. And he’d always made a point to call me at the end of the day, even if it was just to tell me he loved me and that he missed me. But now that the Christmas season had “officially” started, things would die down a little. I knew he’d still be busy but all the preparations that had been taking up so much of his time were complete.
Jack’s family owned a Christmas tree farm. The best one in the area. People drove great distances just to get a Bennett Family tree. They were of the highest quality and people knew they wouldn’t be disappointed if they bought their tree from Bennett’s. Plus, it was the only place in a thirty mile radius where people could choose and cut their own trees.
I had worked for them this past summer. Picking the pine cones off the trees that would be ready to sell this season was painstaking work and most of it had to be done by hand. That was how Jack and I met. His father had hired me and I’d been working for two days before I saw Jack for the first time. I’d been up on a ladder, grabbing cones off of a eight-foot Douglas fir and he’d walked up to check on me. Staring down at his gorgeous face, I was lost. In that moment, I wanted him more than I’d ever wanted anything in my nineteen years. And the lust that burned in his hazel eyes left me no doubt that he wanted me back. Of course, he’d been reluctant at first. Montana wasn’t exactly the most gay-friendly place. The age difference had made him hesitant too—he was eight and half years older than I was—but I wouldn’t take no for an answer. He liked to think he’d put up a fight, but really, it hadn’t taken me long to convince him that I was serious. The past five months had been some of the best of my life. Not counting the last five day when I hadn’t laid eyes on him and had barely heard his voice.
That would change today because Jack’s dad had hired me back for the next month. I knew we would both be busy—helping people choose their trees, cut them down, cart them back, tie them to the tops of cars and hefting them into the back of pick-ups. But we’d be in the same vicinity and he’d promised we’d be able to steal a few minutes alone.
I didn’t actually have to be at the farm until seven-thirty, but I arrived at six, hoping that we’d be able to start some of that alone time early. The shop was already bustling with activity. The farm didn’t officially open for business until eight—Jack had said it was so that those who wanted to get to the stores and take advantage of the Black Friday deals would have some time to do so. But all the employees were there, making sure everything was ready, that the tractors were gassed and the saws were in the wagons, and putting on the finishing touches on the decorations in the gift shop and outside. I spotted Jack’s sister Kate behind the counter and made a beeline for her.
She squealed when she saw me and gave me a tight hug when I was close enough. Jack’s family loved me and was very accepting of our relationship. Mine wasn’t so much. When I’d cautiously broached the subject of spending part of Thanksgiving with Jack’s family, my mother had started to cry. Both Jack and I decided that we could spend the holiday apart this year. Keeping the peace was more important than making a statement right now.
“Ryan! Missed you yesterday,” she said quietly as she let me go with a kiss to my cheek. “Jack was mopey. I wanted to smack him.”
I grinned. I loved the idea that Jack had missed me. He’d told me as much when we talked last night but it did my ego good to know it had shown.
“Where is he?” I asked, knowing my anxiousness was showing.
She smiled. “Clearing the bigger trails. We got enough snow yesterday that it needed to be done. He’ll be back in a few minutes. Make yourself useful until he arrives. Up the ladder with you!”
She pointed behind her where a twelve foot ladder was standing then held up the garland she’d just finished. She had a knack for making them beautiful. Bennett’s used boughs cut from their own trees to make them. She’d wound twinkle lights on this one as well as red velvet ribbon and pinecones. It was about eight feet long and gorgeous. I gave her the appreciation it deserved, positioned the ladder and climbed up. It took a few minutes, and I had to reposition the ladder three times, but we got it hung up. With a flourish, I plugged in the lights to a socket hidden high on the wall. She stepped back to admire it and made me adjust one of the hooks so it hung straighter. I stayed up on the ladder until she was satisfied.
“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” a deep voice murmured below me. My heart started pounding as warmth and joy filled my chest. Jack. I looked down and grinned. God, he was just gorgeous. Even with his hair sticking out from beneath the knitted cap and his cheeks flushed red from the cold. I wanted to devour him.
I climbed down quickly and as soon as I was in reach, he grabbed my waist and pulled me off the ladder. I tumbled into his arms. He was bigger than me—both in height and in breadth and I loved it when he manhandled me. He knew it too. His lips were on mine before I could formulate a greeting, pressing me back until my back hit the wall. I let him have his way, kissing him back. His lips were cold but his mouth was so warm. I was pretty sure I whimpered a little. But that just revved him up further, and he ground his groin into mine. I hitched a leg over his hip, wanting him closer.
“Jackson!” his dad’s voice shouted and Jack broke off the kiss. He didn’t let me go though, just turned his head so we could both see his dad standing behind us. He was a big man like Jack and I knew the scowl he had on his face was just pretend.
“Yes?” Jack asked, mockingly innocent. He pressed his hips just a little closer to mine. I bit my lip to keep the sound from escaping.
His dad gave an indulgent smile. “I know you’ve missed Ryan, but there will be plenty of time for all that later. There’s too much to do right now. Kiss him again and then get back to work.”
“Dad said I have to kiss you again.”
“Uh huh,” I murmured as his lips descended. I was pretty sure Mr. Bennett didn’t mean he should keep making out with me up against the back wall but I wasn’t about to protest. I melted into his body and kissed him back with all the love that I felt.
Eventually, Jack’s better sense prevailed and he broke off the kiss. He nuzzled his nose and lips along my jaw and I tilted my head to give him better access. When he reached my ear, he placed a soft kiss to the hollow below it and then licked my earlobe.
“Christ, I’ve missed you, baby. I know it’s only been a few days but it feels like forever. Can’t wait to get you alone,” he punctuated the statement with a thrust of his hips that let me know exactly what he had in mind. I moaned and distantly, I heard Kate giggle. That seemed to break the mood and Jack reluctantly pulled back.
“That girl has an unnatural fascination with my love life,” he muttered, pressing one last quick kiss to my lips. “Later. I promise. Later we’ll have some time just to ourselves. I’m going to make you come so hard.”
I sucked in a breath. My own hand hadn’t been much of a relief the past few days. Never was now that I had Jack in my life. “Yes, please.”
He grinned and then gave me a playful smack on the ass, finally stepping away completely. “You’ll probably be working in here with Kate because she adores you and wants the company. But as soon as I can get away, I’ll steal you.”
I nodded fast. That sounded good to me. Jack’s sister was fun and only a year older than I was. I enjoyed spending time with her. But I couldn’t wait until I could finally have Jack to myself.
He reached out and cupped my face with one big hand, his thumb gently smoothing over my bottom lip. His eyes were soft and tender when he smiled. “I love you.”
My heart started beating double time, just as it always did when he said those words. It was still kind of a new thing. He’d fought tooth and nail to keep from falling in love with me. I was headed for college in the future but we had plenty of time. It wouldn’t be until next fall at the earliest. If I even got off the wait-list. That was still up in the air and I tried not think about it too much.
“I love you,” I responded, meaning it with every fiber of my being. I loved the way he always sucked in a breath and grinned when I said it. My Jack was a big romantic sap at heart. He had a tough exterior but a gooey, marshmallow center. He leaned in for one more kiss but I pushed him away when his dad yelled again. He grinned a little sheepishly and turned away, striding out of the shop.
I watched him go, my heart just swelling with love and pride. That was my man. And if I had anything to say about it, he’d be mine forever. I took a deep breath and settled down before turning to Kate. She was wearing a big, dopey smile and I rolled my eyes.
With a clap of my hands, I said, “Okay, what do you want me to do?” And fervently hoped that whatever it was would keep me occupied until Jack returned.