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jake the panty-ripper bonus chapter: in which he is let out of the cage

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Months ago, I asked you guys for interview questions for Jake and Maya separately for the Characters Interview (which is coming soon, end of this year) Magazine.
Someone asked: When did you know for sure that you were in love with Maya?

Jake's answer: I knew I was in love with this woman when she showed up to visit me in prison with her Dove soap. It had been so long since I'd seen her and just like that, I knew exactly why I couldn't be with her. She was just too good for me. She still is.

[email protected]_810 that's what you wanted to know; this little scene dives a little deeper into that <3

***

Fact: The air smells sweeter when you're a free man.

I was inhaling it like it was weed.

Like it was pusѕy.

"Need a ride?" Ghost called from his truck as I approached him.

I grinned, taking nothing with me from the years before I was sent to prison but the clothes on my back. "Thanks for coming," I said once I was sitting beside him, running my fingers along the dash. I let out a low whistle. "This is nice."

"Things have been pretty...green since you left," he said, putting the truck into gear. He wore sunglasses, had his shaggy dark hair pushed off his forehead, and was in a dirty white tee and jeans.

"I'll try not to feel too offended."

Ghost let out a short laugh. "Yeah. You do that."

The drive was silent until I asked him, "How is she?"

Ghost didn't even have to ask who she was, but out of the corner of my eye, I could see him glancing my way. "She's fine. Still with that cyber rat."

I clenched my jaw, grinding my teeth together. "She love him?"

"Probably. It's been years, Rip. Probably gonna marry the fucκer."

I needed a beer. Or a shot. Or both. Definitely both. "As long as she's happy," I lied, tasting acid on my tongue.

The jealousy I felt was like nothing else.

Sebastian goddamn Brown was a dirty asshole that needed cleaning, but he was the man she loved, and if he was good to her−and he probably was, since she'd stuck with him for so long−then I had no business breaking them apart.

It didn't mean I hated the dicκhead any less.

I had told myself so many things about this woman−that she was better off away for me, that I would have her anyway, that she would never come to care about me the way I cared about her, that I could be good to her. That I wanted to be good to her.

I was a fucκing mess when it came to this woman, and still, I couldn't explain why my chest hurt so bad to hear that she had been with the same guy since nursing school.

That screamed commitment. That screamed marriage.

"Whatever you're thinking, Rip," said Ghost, "un-think it. She needs to stay away from you, from me, from every Phantom in Sallow County. I can't have any more innocent blood on my hands. I just fucκin' can't."

I turned to glare at him. "You think I would want anything to happen to her? After the shit that went down with her cousin?"

"No, but I think I know that look in your face. It's the same look you've had on your face every week I come by and you ask about her." He let out a sigh. "You want to fucκ her."

"Don't be so fucκing crass," I snarled, but he was right, he was right, he was so goddamn right.

I wanted her so bad that I fucκed my fist every night thinking about the day she came to visit me. It wasn't enough. The mental picture only made me hungrier for her, hungrier for all of her. It was hell, knowing that I could never do anything about it.

Ghost simply laughed at my outburst. "You're calling me crass?"

"I'm saying don't talk about her like that." I stared out the window, at the scenery that I hadn't seen since I'd been locked up. "She's not some club whore."

"Jesus, Rip. I didn't say that. She's−she was−like a kid sister to me."

Kid sister. That should've put things into perspective, made me pause a little. She was twenty-five now, far from being a kid, but I'd known her since before she was half that age.

It was fucκing creepy.

You're obsessed with her, the voice in my head insisted. You're obsessed with her and you haven't even tasted her yet.

What the hell was that? Falling for someone because they wanted to give you soap?

No. Falling for someone because they're generous, sweet, and so fucκing stunning it hurts to look at them.

I was gonna have to analyze that later. When I wasn't sober.

"Tell me something," I mumbled, wanting to forget my scrambled thoughts, my scrambled feelings. "About Ella. Did you love her?"

I could tell that this sudden change of subject wasn't something Ghost enjoyed, but he answered with, "It was...complicated."
"Complicated," I repeated. This was more than he'd ever let on to me.

"I guess I did. Love her, I mean. But not as much as she loved me. Not the way she wanted to be loved." Ghost cleared his throat. "Ѕhit. Can we talk about something else? Like how you haven't had any pusѕy in...how many years?"

"Five years, roughly," I said, my throat dry.

I could've gotten out earlier if I'd been on my best behavior.

I didn't even know what that meant.

"So," Ghost began, "where to?"

He assumed I would go straight to the clubhouse, maybe. Pick up a willing broad to give my dicκ a good workout. He assumed I wanted to lose myself in some dirty, mindless fucκing and pretend that the last five years hadn't happened, but they had.

I couldn't take back that night with Ella, that night I'd let her die, just like I couldn't take back not being at my mother's funeral. But I could make sure that Ella's only remaining relative was properly taken care of−because that girl? That girl had become a woman−a good, kind woman−while I had been stagnating in prison and she deserved not to struggle, not to suffer, because she'd struggled and suffered enough already.

I was in a position to help her. Even from afar. Especially from afar.

"Jake," said Ghost, "where am I taking you?"

There was one place I wanted him to take me, one place I couldn't go. Despite her prison visit, I wasn't so stupid to think that I'd be welcome there, and it hurt like a goddamn open wound that I wouldn't be welcome. That she blamed me. That she hated me.

"Just take me home," I answered, and Ghost drove me to the place I'd called home since the day my ma had brought me home from the hospital.

If I didn't think too hard about it, maybe I'd forget that I lived in the same town as Maya Fenton. Maybe I'd forget that she ever showed me a little kindness when I was at my lowest point.

Maybe I'd forget how much I wished she'd forget.

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5 Best Chinese Romance Books of 2018 So Far
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