Page 47 of Conceal

I’d much rather hear his ridiculous guesses because each time he does, each time he tells me some off-the-wall story of who I am and how I made it to New York City, he makes me laugh.

Both of us are quiet as the cab leads us downtown. We keep going all the way past China Town, past Tribeca, until we get to Battery Park.

“Are we going to Wall Street?” I ask as we weave in and out of traffic. I don’t know the city well enough to know the address.

He shakes his head.

“Are you planning to ever speak on this cab ride?”

With a smirk, he shakes his head again. I roll my eyes at him and watch as a muscle in his cheek twitches.

Soon, we’re pulling over, and that’s when it finally dawns on me what we are doing here.

“So . . . the next place is . . .” He rolls his hands for me to continue. “Ellis Island,” I add.

“You said you wanted to see New York. Figure what’s more New York than this?” He smirks.

“From hole-in-the-wall diners to Chelsea Piers, to Ellis Island. What’s next, the Statue of Liberty? You sure do know how to show a girl a good time.”

He puffs his chest out. “I do, don’t I?” A smirk forms across his face.

As I’m about to open my mouth and make idle conversation, the car rolls to a halt. Jax moves his hand to his pocket.

“Can I pay?”

“Nope. My city. My treat,” he says as he fishes bills out and hands them to the taxi driver.

“Fine,” I say with mock annoyance and put my wallet away.

Jax gets out first. He stands on the side of the street, his arm outstretched, and reaches his hand toward me. I let him take my hand and step out of the cab.

“So now what?”

“So now we go to the pier and get on our boat.”

“I seriously can’t believe you’re taking me to see Ellis Island.”

“I still can’t believe I am either.” He laughs.

“Have you ever been?” I ask.

“Believe it or not, no.”

“Isn’t it crazy how no matter how long you live somewhere, you might not see the sights?”

“It truly is. Say for . . . where did you say you were from?”

“Har. Har. Har.”

“Nebraska?”

“I’m from New York.” I wink. “Couldn’t you tell?”

“Yes. Totally. Born and raised, right?”

“Is that your next guess?”

“Yep. I got it. You’re actually from a famous New York family, the Astors, and you were switched at birth and raised in a humble upbringing.”

“You got me.” I roll my eyes.

“I knew it.”

“Not even close.”

“I’ll get it next time.”

“I’m sure you won’t.”

I continue to walk and smile. But the truth is, I’m doing anything but smiling inside. Every guess he makes means he’s closer, and I know I need to find my words and tell him everything. I need an ally. I need to turn Jax into one.

So why haven’t you done it yet?

Because powerful people would kill for information on you.

And . . .

I want to say I can’t trust him yet, but I know I can. I’m just not sure I’m ready to let this carefree fantasy end. I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with all the shit in my life that I’m hiding from.

A few more days.

A few more days of pretending to be a tourist, to see the sights and enjoy myself.

That’s all I want.

We walk another block until we reach the ferry. I can’t believe he planned this.

Once on the water, I stare at him. The wind batters against us, but he doesn’t seem cold at all. I, on the other hand, am freezing. I pull my arms around myself tighter, and he must notice.

His forehead creases. “I didn’t really think this through,” he says as he steps in front of me. His large frame blocks the wind, but it doesn’t remove the chill from my body as the cold winter air seeps into my bones.

“I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”

“Do you mind?” he asks as he stretches out his arms. I’m not sure what he’s going to do. He reaches around me and pulls my body toward his. His warmth instantly engulfs me.

A sudden urge to kiss him grips me.

Old Willow would have. She was fearless, always taking what she wanted.

New Willow doesn’t. She lets Jaxson hold her and settles into him.

I feel hot with his hands on me. But something deep inside tells me it’s not from the heat radiating off his body, but rather what his proximity does to me.

From where I’m tucked into him, I can smell his cologne, or maybe it’s his deodorant. But whatever it is, it smells crisp and clean, and I have a strong desire to tuck in closer to him and bask in his scent.

It’s almost primitive how I feel now tucked in his arms as though he’s protecting me. I let out a small sigh, my body loosening within his grasp.

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