Breathe (Sea Breeze #1)(7) by Abbi Glines

Jax slid the glass wall back down. “Kane, don’t open our doors and go park in the parking lot. I want to appear normal, so just hang out at the car.”

Kane frowned, and nodded.

“Let’s go shop.”

Jax jumped out, took my hand, and I stepped out behind him. We walked in silence to the grocery store entrance. Suddenly, nerves assaulted me. What if people recognized him and bombarded him. I didn’t want his attempt at being nice to be ruined by crazy teenage fans. We entered the store, and I looked back to see Kane following behind us. He stopped and stood outside the large glass window. Apparently, he would be standing guard in case of a mad rush of fans. I should have figured the large giant doubled as a bodyguard.

“Where to first?” Jax asked, grinning when he pulled out a shopping cart as we walked in.

“You seem really excited about shopping for food,” I whispered, not wanting anyone around us to hear me.

“I haven’t been in a grocery store since I was a kid hanging on my mom’s cart, begging for Big League Chew.”

I pitied the little boy inside who missed things as simple as grocery stores. “Well, then, let’s make this memorable. If you’re good, I will buy you some Big League Chew.”

“They still make it?”

I shrugged. “Sure, this is the South, Jax. Things don’t change here often. Time kind of stands still.”

He nodded in agreement. “I know, it’s part of the reason I love it here. No one is in a hurry.”

I walked ahead of him, and he followed behind me with the cart. I was a little embarrassed when I realized he would witness my bargain shopping. I hadn’t thought of the fact he would see me worrying over the cost of bread. I couldn’t get out of this now. I might as well swallow my pride and get what I needed. I reached for the store brand loaf of bread. I didn’t want to face him, but I knew he watched me. I walked over to the cold meats and grabbed the deli shredded roast beef Jessica adored. I hated wasting money on such expensive meat, but if I didn’t, I would be forced to hear Jessica whine for a week.

A loud whisper came from behind us, “No, Mama, I know it’s him!” and I turned to see a little girl about the age of nine, studying Jax.

He smiled at her, and her face lit up. She left her mother’s side and her mother reached out to grab her arm but missed. “I’m sorry, she’s convinced you’re Jax Stone.”

Jax only smiled and shrugged, and then he squatted down to her level. “Hello,” he said in a voice I swear could melt butter.

“You’re Jax Stone, aren’t you?”

He glanced up at the mom and back down at the girl and put his finger over his mouth. “Yes, I am, but can you keep it our secret?”

Her little face lit up, and she grinned from ear to ear. The mother appeared stunned. Jax reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a card. “Here, this has my contact number and email address on it. Do you have a pen on you, Sadie?”

I was as mesmerized as the little girl. It took me a second to register what he asked. I grabbed my backpack, pulled out a pen, and handed it to him. He signed it and asked her name.

“Megan Jones,” she replied.

He pulled out another card and wrote her name on it. “Now, Megan, get your mom to call my agent. He will be expecting a call from a Megan Jones. I am going to be stopping in Pensacola, Florida, on my tour this fall, and this will get you a backstage pass and front row seats.”

The little girl began to squeal, and Jax put his finger over his lips again. She nodded vigorously and covered her mouth.

“Just keep my secret about being here, all right?”

She nodded, and he kissed her forehead before standing up. The mother’s eyes glistened with tears. I realized tears were burning the back of my eyes too.

The mother smiled through her tears. “Thank you, I don’t, I mean I can’t....” She took a deep breath and smiled. “Thank you. She loves you. You’re all over her bedroom walls.” More tears started spilling down her face, and she wiped them away. “I’m sorry I am being so silly, but this year hasn’t been easy on her. Her dad was killed in Iraq, and things have been tough.” A small sob escaped her, and she shook her head, smiling. “Thank you so much.”

The little girl ran over to her mother and handed her the card. She turned back to Jax and put her little finger over her mouth and grinned. He bowed and blew her a kiss. Her small little hand reached out, grabbed the invisible kiss, and placed it on her lips. My heart melted as I watched them walk away, the little girl gazing back and smiling at him until they were out of sight.

I wiped the tears off my face. “Yeah, that one got to me too.”

He walked over to me, wiped a tear off my cheek, and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “However, I didn’t mean to make you cry. I just have a soft spot for my younger fans.”

“No, I loved getting to see you with her. It was precious. You were so sweet to her, and I got to see the highlight of her life.”

Jax grinned. “I doubt it’s the highlight.”

I raised my eyebrows and countered, “Well, you’re wrong. When she is thirty years old, she will be telling about the night in a grocery store where she met Jax Stone. ”

Jax smirked wickedly. “If I give you back stage passes and blow you a kiss, will it be the highlight of your life?”

I managed to keep from getting hypnotized by his incredible eyes focused on me so intently. “No, only works on fans.”

He frowned and placed his hand over his heart. “Ouch.”

I laughed and turned toward the cereal aisle, leaving him to follow along behind me.

We managed to get the rest of the things I needed without another spotting. Jax kept his eyes down. He appeared to be really interested in the things in the grocery cart to the casual observer. However, I knew he didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone. He grabbed a large package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and I found his Big League Chew at the checkout lane and added it to my cart while he wasn’t paying attention.

Once the groceries were bought, he loaded them into the cart, and we went outside. Kane stood waiting on us and again went slowly behind us. The vehicle beeped, and the lights came on as we got near it. Jax started to load the groceries into the back of the vehicle not noticing or either ignoring Kane hovering behind us.

“I’ll do it,” Kane said in a deep, rough voice.

Jax looked back at the giant and smiled. “I can handle it. You just drive.”

Kane nodded, stepped back, and let Jax finish, but he didn’t move until he went to open the door for us. Jax sighed and motioned for me to go in first. He slid in behind me, this time sitting beside me instead of across from me.

“He’s determined not to let me impress you with my chivalry and is taking all the glory.” He smiled.

I no longer saw him as shallow and self-centered. Not after the scene I witnessed in the grocery store. I would never forget the little girl’s face when Jax kissed her head for as long as I lived.

“Are you going to share those deep thoughts with me?”

I shrugged. “I’m just remembering the little girl’s face. What you did was really nice. I didn’t picture you like that.”

He frowned. “Like what?”

“Well, I guess I didn’t think you would have acknowledged a little girl, and not only did you speak to her, you made a dream come true for her. I mean, you could have just blown her off and acted like you were not Jax Stone.” I stopped talking and gazed up at him because his mouth had formed a crooked smile. “What?” I asked.

He lightly ran his finger from my ear to my chin. “I think you’re the first girl I have ever met who is I impressed by my kindness to kids.”

My heart thudded in my chest from his touch. Drawing breath into my lungs became difficult. “Well, you really need to be pickier who you spend time with,” I managed to say without sounding breathless.

He threw back his head and laughed, and I couldn’t help but smile. “You’re right, Sadie, I do, and I think I have found someone who I want to spend time with who happens to cry for little girls she doesn’t know who have lost their fathers’ in the war.”

I didn’t want to think about the sweet, little girl being fatherless. If I teared up again, I would seem ridiculous. “You’ll get tired of me quickly. I’m boring,” I admitted out loud before I realized it.

He slipped a finger under my chin and tilted my face up. “Nothing about you is boring. Just watching you think is entertaining.”

I frowned, and he kissed my head much like he did the little girl’s and laughed softly.

“Don’t frown, beautiful. You fascinate me.”

My face grew hot, and my heart pounded so hard in my chest I feared it might burst its way out. It wasn’t fair that he could affect me with so little effort.

The vehicle stopped, and I realized we were sitting outside my apartment. I frowned at him. “I never told you how to get here.”

He grinned and went to open my door. “You work for me, Sadie. I made it my business to get your address from your file and give it to Kane before we left.”

“I hadn’t thought about that,” I muttered.

He exited the vehicle and held his hand out to me. I slipped my hand in his and stepped out.

“Can I take your bags inside for you?” he asked.

“No!” The thought of Jessica seeing him, or even worse, the thought of what she might be wearing, terrified me. “Um, I, it’s just my mom is not real big on people coming in these days.”

He opened the back. “Well, at least let me carry them to the door.”

“Okay.” I walked with him to the doorway and took the bags from him, and then I reached in and took out the gum. I didn’t know what to say, so I handed it to him and his face lit up. A smile I remembered from the photos of him as a little boy appeared on his face. It wasn’t a smile the world ever got a glimpse of in magazines.

“I take it I was good.”

I nodded. “Thanks again for the ride and the company.”

He bowed teasingly. “Anytime.”

I looked at him one more time and went inside. I closed the door and leaned up against it. Jax Stone had just rocked my world, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

* * *

Chapter Five

Three days had passed since my trip to the grocery store with Jax. I hated that I caught myself searching for glimpses of him. Somewhere, deep down, I really thought he would seek me out again. However, after three days of not laying eyes on him, I knew our night at the grocery store apparently meant much more to me than him. Yes, he took me shopping, and then home, but only because of his promise to Marcus. Sure, he held my hand a few minutes, but who was I kidding, Jax Stone probably held hands with a different girl every day. I needed to find the humor in my stupidity for assuming it meant more to him, or I would curl up in a ball and cry. He did say I fascinated him, but he really should have clarified to me that I was just the fascination for the day. I hated to think badly of him for not seeking me out again because I couldn’t forget the way he’d treated the little girl, and I knew he wasn’t a shallow teen idol. After all, to Jax Stone, I was just another girl.

He hadn’t promised his undying love to me, or even told me he would see me again. We’d said our goodbyes at my house with no promises. Nothing he said told me he would seek me out again. Sure, he said he liked spending time with me, but it didn’t appear as if he was going to make good on his words. My thinking about it made me crazy. I needed to focus on other things. I’d turned Marcus down on his invitation to go boating with him and his friends on Sunday. I skipped out on time with my friend because I chose to sulk over Jax. I needed to move on and let it go. My night with Jax would be a really good memory I’d never forget, just like the little girl.

When I arrived at the Stone Mansion, Ms. Mary met me at the door. “Sadie, we're entertaining tonight. Master Jax is having over some friends, and there is to be dancing and an open bar as well as lots of food! Now, I need all my younger employees to serve all night. We got some special uniforms for this. Marcus will be here shortly with the new server, William, and they are bringing a few friends who will also be helpin' out. Don’t worry about changing just yet.”

She turned and grabbed a large bucket of something very unappetizing. “Have you ever peeled and deveined shrimp before?” Words failed me, and apparently my face showed my horror because she laughed out loud. “Of course not, you’re a Tennessee gal. Come here and I'll teach you how. We have ourselves twenty pounds of fresh shrimp we need to peel and devein for different appetizers.”

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