Chapter 2

Kiara was fidgeting, her hands draped over her knees, when she saw JJ's silhouette climb into the HMS Pogue.

She sighed and yelled, "Over here!"

When he trotted up the beach to where she was sitting, she said, "You dumbshit, you really thought I needed your help to fix a boat?"

He dropped to the sand and passed her a fresh beer, taking a swig of his own. "There was that one time with that tourist's Grady White when you thought it was the choke and I said it was the oxygen mix and—"

"That was two years ago and it was one time." She slammed her beer into the sand.

He subsided for a second, then, "Yeah, but I still fixed that one better than you."

"God, you're annoying," she grumbled, and grabbed him by the shirt, hauling him into her and kissing the hell out of him.

He caught his balance with his hands to either side of her in the sand, dropping his beer in the process. His breath came in with a jagged inward pull that sounded like relief, then he kissed her back fervently, his tongue almost begging as he went in for more and more and more and— Her back hit the sand and his hands were in her hair now and they felt better than anything she could remember. He was taking these tiny, nipping kisses all over her face and surging back to her mouth, and then he stopped dead and pulled back, his hat askew.

"Kie. Fuck. Maybe we shouldn't. Ever since I kissed you, it's been so weird and bad. I don't know how much longer I can take it being like this."

"John B says kissing fixes it," she said breathlessly, and pulled him back to her mouth. His leg was sprawled between hers and she eased her weight a little closer. That felt so good but she should probably stop. Except she didn't want to, especially now that her hand had found bare skin under his Pelican Marina shirt and he wasn't wearing boxers under his trunks and—

"John B said what?" he pulled away again, gasping.

"John B said if we just kissed a whole bunch, it would fix the weirdness."

JJ stared down at her. "John B said that. To you."

She nodded, sand grinding deeper into her hair.

"Fuck, I love that guy." He dove into her, grabbing her by the hips and rolling her up on top of him. There was a crunch of aluminum and JJ yelped, but when she tried to pull back he just followed her with his mouth, kissing her even as he fished around behind himself and threw his empty beer can away down the beach.

And oh wow, now that she was straddling him it was clear that he was very, very interested in what they were doing here. Uncertainty bolted up into her throat but then she remembered what John B said, about how penises pretty much liked any kind of being touched. That sounded right with what she knew of boys, so when she had the urge to rock against JJ, she just did, without worrying about if it looked stupid or if she was doing it too hard.

He moaned, his head falling back on the sand. "Oh fuck, I love you."

"You just said you loved John B," she teased. "You're fickle, Maybank."

"You're beautiful." He tangled his hand in her hair and pulled her down on top of him, his other hand flat on her lower back, rubbing sweet circles instead of sneaking up her shirt like she had expected him to be doing as soon as he got the chance. "And I love you both. You a tiny bit more than him right now, because you kiss real good."

"Only a tiny bit?" She nipped at his bottom lip. "What's a girl got to do to get some appreciation around here?"

He groaned, his eyes sharpening, and had they always been that blue?

"Please don't ask me that, Kie, or I'm going to say something dirty and you're going to be mad."

She lowered her head very, very slowly, feeling beautiful and reckless and more powerful than she ever expected. Maybe being looked at like a hot girl wasn't so bad after all. She traced his mouth with the tip of her tongue, only the ghost of a question in her head about if he might think it was gross. But the heave of his breath seemed to vote otherwise, as did his shaking hands, clasping her hips.

"What if I wouldn't be mad?" she whispered.

"Oh God," he said. "Oh fuck." He rolled her onto her back and dove back to her mouth, grinding the full length of his body against hers and oh, wow, that felt really good. His knee nuzzled between her legs and he kissed all the way down her neck to the edge of her tank top and then dropped his head to her chest, panting. "Jesus Christ, I've never been this hard in my life. Fuck, forget I said that out loud." He shook his head, his messy hair tickling her. "Kie, what—why—you haven't even wanted to look at me lately. What the hell?"

"I told you, John B said kissing cures it. And I kinda think it's working, don't you?"

He pulled away and gave her a look so hot she swallowed. Could she— Did he want—

Before she could gather her stuttering thoughts, he rolled away from her onto his back, breathing hard. "I think you either need to pin my hands down or put them exactly where you want them, Kie. Because I want to touch you everywhere, and I don't know what 'too fast' looks like for you, but I'm pretty sure that's it."

The corner of her mouth kicked up and she smiled down at him. JJ Maybank, a secret gentleman? Who would have guessed it?

She straddled him slowly, enjoying being in control as she caught his hand and slipped it up under the hem of her shirt.

He groaned. "Yeah, Barry killed me, didn't he? There's no way this is real."

She laughed. "How did I not know that kissing was going to make you funnier?"

"And I haven't even danced my jig yet."

Despite all his talk of rushing, he just thumbed the bottom curves of her breasts softly, over her bikini. It was quiet between them, her breath catching.

His lips twitched downward. "You okay? You were pretty upset when John B took you outside."

"I think you mean you were upset."

His hand clenched against her side, her shirt bunched over his wrist. "I thought he was going to kiss you again! He kept stealing sideways looks at you all night, all worried like he was thinking about something."

She rolled her eyes. "Who would bother with me if they had Sarah Cameron on the hook?"

"Any sane man or woman on earth." His hand snuck a little higher. "She's just Sarah Cameron, and you're you."

She fought a smile, dropping down to bury her head in his neck so he wouldn't see how flattered she was that he'd say it like that. "I really do feel better," she murmured.

"Good." His hand had found its place on her back, fingers sprawled wide and solid while his lips moved against her hair.

"We have to tell Pope, though."

"Pope knows."

"What?" Her face twisted. "You think he guessed?"

"No secrets between Pogues. I told him the day after I kissed you. Told him he could hit me as hard as he wanted. I pretty much deserved it."

She tensed. "What happened?"

JJ shrugged. "He didn't want to hit me. Yelled a little. We're cool now."

Her heart skipped a beat. She could picture it all too clearly, and after the bruises they saw that night in the hot tub, his cut-up face after he took the fall for Pope and showed up at the Midsommer's Night Ball…Pope would never hit JJ. Not ever, no matter what.

But the fact that she hadn't detected any new tension between the two of them…it must go deeper than that. Somehow, they must have talked things out okay before she'd managed the same with either one of them. So much for all her complaints about how women had to do all the emotional labor.

JJ craned his head away, tucking her hair out of her face. "You should talk to him."

She ducked her chin, nuzzling into his shirt to avoid his eyes. "And say what? I've tried, JJ. So many times. At a certain point, there's just nothing…" She dropped off, because she didn't want to say it like that. Not being fixed wasn't an option for them.

"After John B kissed you, you still danced with him," JJ said. "Still hugged him when he was fucked up about his dad. You were still his friend. You haven't done any of that shit with Pope and he's feeling it. Talking's just…" He fumbled for words. "Talking. You gotta be real with him, Kie." He scooted back a little, propping himself up on an elbow and resettling his hat on his head. "And if you can't set things right with him, then…"

She sat bolt upright, her spine cold where his hand had just been warming it. "Then what, JJ?"

His mouth worked. She'd never realized until she'd seen him with a split lip, but his mouth always worked like he had one, his tongue searching for the wound. Even when it was all healed again.

"Say it," she snapped. "We can't be together if we don't have Pope's permission."

"It ain't like that." He glared at her. "You've thought about it, too. It's the four of us, for good. With or without the gold. I can't be the thing that fucks that up." He hauled himself up to sitting, his twitchy hands draped over his knees. "I almost have been, a bunch of times. I fixed it, though. And that's what you've got to do. You can't—"

He glanced away toward the ocean and her eyes narrowed. "Oh, this should be good."

"Look, I've seen all the guys fall in love with you. It's funny, sometimes. I get how you're tired of it. But you can't hold it against Pope for having a thing for you when you're…" He gestured at her, struggling for words. "You."

The corner of her mouth quirked and she glanced away, pressing it flat again. He chuckled, and she knew she hadn't hidden her smile fast enough. He came closer, his hand whispering over the base of her throat. "Kie."

"Uh-huh?" Her voice squeaked, heartbeat picking up again now that he was close. More kissing was clearly required.

"We all picked you, every time." He nuzzled a kiss under her ear so soft she couldn't even believe it had come from JJ. The clasp of his snap-back hat caught in her hair and his breath washed over her neck. "You got to let him know you're picking him back. Nobody wants to be left out, especially not a Pogue." He sat back. "The whole world could give a fuck about us, so we have to look out for each other."

She pursed her lips, rolling her eyes to cover the rising flush of her skin. "You done guilt-tripping me, now?"

"What?" He grinned, his dimples peeking out irresistibly in the low light. "You don't like it when it's on you for a change?"

"Not much, no." She sighed, pretending exasperation the way she'd learned to whenever her boys did something that danced too close to her heart and she started to feel the threat of tears. The Pogues stumbled all over themselves at the sight of tears and she tried to spare them, when she could. "Tomorrow, Pope and I are back to our regularly scheduled programming, whether he likes it or not. You can strand us on a boat, if you have to."

"Happy to." His fingers skimmed her bare side, just under the edge of her shirt. "So what other great advice did John B give you while you two were out here for so long?"

"Mmm," she hummed, leaning within a breath of his mouth. "He said that any way you touch a penis pretty much feels good."

"He was out here talking to you about his dick? What the fuck?"

"No." Her hand slid over the front of his shorts. "He was out here talking to me about your dick."

"Oh," JJ said, letting her tip him back onto the sand and come up over him as a grin settled onto his face.

"Yeah," she said. "Oh."


The End


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