Just One Night - Josh & Bailey

By: Melanie Shawn

It was the same thing he’d done when they were fourteen swimming down at the river and she’d had a wardrobe malfunction. After an impressive backflip off a rock she’d emerged from the water with the triangle material of her bathing suit top pushed under her armpits.

She had thought it was funny, but not Josh. It hadn’t seemed to make any difference that there wasn’t another soul to witness her. He’d thrown a towel around her as he’d scanned the area looking for anyone who might’ve been around and caught a glimpse.

That was Josh. He was always trying to protect her. She’d never appreciated it at the time, but she did now.

As he pulled to a stop and set his foot on the ground, Bailey found herself suddenly short of breath. She began to hyperventilate, knowing that in seconds she would swing her leg over the seat and he’d be out of her arms. She fisted her hands in an attempt to stop herself from gripping onto his shirt holding him in place, and begging him to be in her life again.

It might’ve been her imagination, or just wishful thinking, but it seemed that he didn’t want this moment to end, either. He stilled and she could feel his breath coming in short pants as his back rose and fell against her cheek.

Part of her brain, the logical side, knew what she needed to do. She needed to get off the bike, thank Josh for his help, and forget this anomaly in their strained relationship had ever occurred. But the other side, the side that was ruled by her heart, was pleading for her to tell him that she still loved him. That she’d always loved him. That she’d never stopped loving him.

But that would mean telling him everything. The whole truth. And that was the one thought that made her even more scared than letting him go.

* * *

Josh felt Bailey’s weight shift as she dismounted, and without warning, his heart did a nose dive. It didn’t surprise him. He’d never stopped loving her. No matter how many times he replayed her cutting him out of her life. No matter how many times he reminded himself of all the unreturned phone calls and unanswered messages. No matter how many times he remembered the things she’d said to him when he’d shown up on her doorstep to confront her.

“I have a life now. A real life. I don’t love you, Josh. I don’t think I ever did. I was a kid. We were kids. You were a distraction from my shitty home life. I needed a distraction. That’s all you were. A distraction.”

It had struck a fear that he’d always harbored deep in his subconscious. Her home life had been bad, and she always said that when she was with him he made everything okay. That he was her safe place. He’d wondered if she’d still love him if her life was different.

Truth be told, he’d loved being her escape. It hadn’t mattered to Josh that they were young, or that his friends would tease him about spending all of his time with her. When it came to Bailey, he had blinders on. She was his world.

He knew now that it was naive of him to think that they’d end up together, but as a love-struck kid he’d never given it a second thought. It had never occurred to him that her feelings hadn’t been as real and lasting as his were. And he sure as hell had never considered the possibility that he’d only been a distraction to her.

“Thanks!” She spoke loudly to be heard over the roar of the engine.

He knew the gentlemanly thing to do would be to shut the bike off, but he honestly wanted this interaction over as quickly as possible. The damage that had been done by speaking to her again, having her on the back of his bike, and feeling her body pressed against his had already set him back years in his journey to finally get over Bailey Rossum.

He gave her a small nod of acknowledgement as she started to remove his jacket. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the leather sleeves slip down her arms, revealing sun-kissed skin that shimmered beneath the twinkle lights strung across the entrance to the country club. He told himself that it was just skin, nothing special. But he knew better. He knew that her skin was silky smooth and tasted as sweet as sugar. He used to joke that she tasted so sweet she was going to give him diabetes.

She handed back his leather bomber and reached up to release the clasp tucked beneath her chin. After several seconds of her fidgeting with it, she didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.

“Push in and then pull,” he instructed. He didn’t trust himself enough to touch her again. Earlier, when he’d helped her put it on, his self-control had nearly snapped like a twig beneath Paul Bunyan’s boot. He’d almost done something stupid. Something like tell her how fucking beautiful she was or how much he’d missed her, or worse—kissing her before he snapped out of the spell he’d fallen under.

Her face contorted. “What? I can’t hear you!”

He cut the engine, set his jacket on his thigh, and lifted his hands to demonstrate as he repeated, “Push in then pull out.”

She studied his movements and tried to mirror them but it didn’t budge. The helmet was old and the fastener stuck. The trick was not to loosen the tension as you pulled.

His choices were give her the helmet or help her out of it, so he gave in. His hands covered hers and he pushed in and pulled out. Her breathing sped as he unlatched the gear. When the clasp released, he dropped his arms to his sides. She removed the headwear and handed it to him.