MaddJax, Book Two
Absence diminishes little passions and increases great ones,
as wind extinguishes candles and fans a fire…
~ Francois De La Rochefoucauld
Friday! Thank goodness, I thought as I approached Janie’s desk. I was looking forward to a weekend of relaxation and putting this trying week behind me. I had plans to hang out with Dad this weekend by the pool, during our family lock-in, and then tune in to Netflix in the evening and do some binge-watching, following our dinner reservation in town. Dad’s a huge ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and ‘Walking Dead’ fan. Though, I’d still have to contend with Jaxon’s closeness.
It hadn’t been easy ignoring all Jaxon’s sexiness throughout the week: all those steamy glances from across the room, behind the clear glass separating our office spaces, his hand or side brushing mine whenever he was near, his whispered breath hot and seductive. Yeesh! And that jolt of electricity that zinged and zipped between us. I swear it was even stronger than usual with that anger of his radiating off of him. Somehow that brought the sexy up another few notches—several smoldering degrees of hotness. I just may have to crash in the pool house for sleep, or the downstairs guestroom, to avoid that heat penetrating through my bedroom wall from Jaxon’s and pulling me to him—seeing as Mom brought the hammer down on my sneaking off to sleep elsewhere. Apparently, I hadn’t been hiding it as well as I thought; she’d been aware the entire time.
“Hello, my lovely,” I said to Janie. “Do you know where Jax has run off to? I need him to sign off on these?” I waved the sheets of photo proofs in my hand in front of her, the graphics for our new co-CEO status. The faces of the company. That had been fun—in a purely sarcastic way—posing for promo head-shots together. My panties had nearly combusted.
Janie stared at me like I’d gone cuckoo.
“Maddison,” she spoke solemnly, “he’s gone?”
“Gone?” I echoed. “What do you mean…gone? When?” We’d agreed, by way of text, to both cut out at three thirty to get a jump on our family weekend. It was only two o’clock. Slacker.
“I thought you knew?”
“Knew what?” I was a little confused, and a bad feeling came over me.
My heart stopped cold. “Dad?” I managed.
“No. Though, I’m sure he’s on his way, too,” she added, before dropping the bomb. “Your grandmother’s passing.”
“Oh, no,” I said softly, a mere whisper under my breath.
“I told you, Maddison… Life doesn’t stand still while you ponder and dwell about what path to take. It keeps moving—and sometimes passes you by.”
God, she was right. “I have to go, Janie,” I plopped the pictures I was holding down on her desk, “I need to be there.” I was hoping I wasn’t too late?
“About damn time, Maddie,” Janie retorted smugly. “I’ll clear your schedule and tell your driver you’re on your way down.”
“Thank you, Janie,” I sputtered in haste, already at my office door to grab my things.
“All set,” Janie said as I swung back by her desk on the way out. “Except…small change in plans. Your driver took Jaxon home…”
“But Jaxon drove today,” I recalled.
“He was too upset to drive home, so he left his car and had Jared take him.” Oh. “Guess you’ll have to drive Jaxon’s sports car. Darn.” Janie had a sparkle of mischief twinkling in her emerald eyes and a beaming smile to match. “I already called the garage attendant to bring it around for you.”
Hope he doesn’t mind. That Maserati GranTurismo is sort of his baby.
“I’ll call the pilot and have him hold the plane until you get there.”
Plane? Crap. I forgot Dad’s parents—Grandma Sarah and Grandpa Kelley—lived in Texas. Ugh. At least it’d be on the company jet.
I shifted gears and accelerated, maximizing my speed and minimizing the time to get home. First off, I was going to have to get myself one of these babies; it’s the funnest thing ever to drive! It’d set me back a bit, but totally worth it. Hmm. Maybe in white.
Ooh. Or pink!
I screeched to a halt in the side driveway, tires squealing. Oops! Jaxon would spank my backside if he knew—quite literally, and no doubt, enjoy it immensely.
I scrambled out of the car, taking my handbag and Jaxon’s keys with me, and burst into the house. “Jaxon?! …Jax?!”
“Miss Maddison,” Josie’s gentle voice caught me off guard, “he’s upstairs in his room, packing things.” She peeked her head out from the pantry. “Your father’s already on his way to the airport with your mother, dear.”
“Alright,” I sprinted toward the stairs, shouting back to her, “Thanks, Jos!”
I charged up the staircase, up to the second floor and then the third, calling out for Jaxon, until I reached the landing and heard a loud noise just beyond, something slamming against a wall in Jaxon’s bedroom, followed by shattering, and what sounded like glass raining down. Shit. I ran to his bedroom door and stormed in in a panic, “Jax…?!” then immediately froze at the sight of him sitting at the foot of his large king-sized bed, hunched over with his face buried in his hands, elbows resting on his sturdy suit-clad thighs, and the strong stench of alcohol and men’s cologne mingling in the air. Whoa. Then I caught sight of what hit the wall, my eyes skimming past Jaxon and sweeping over a mixed array of broken glass and amber liquid soaking the carpet beneath the remains of a mangled lampshade, and then sliding back to Jaxon. “What’s wrong…?” Stupid question. “Are you alright, Jax?”
“Get the hell out, Maddison!” he spat. I winced at his harshness. “I’m not in the mood to play on your seesaw with you.”
But I’m going nowhere. “Let me be there for you.”
I moved to sit beside him on the bed and tentatively touched a hand on his shoulder. Jaxon tensed and stiffened in reaction, straightening upright. So, I scooched in a little closer and rubbed my hand back and forth on his shoulder, letting it travel down his back and then back up. Jaxon loosened, and then sagged back down again, moisture in his eyes and on his cheeks.
Not a sight I relished.
“Talk to me, Jax, please?” I whispered softly.
He sat silent for a beat.
And then a beat longer.
“I should have been there…” he mumbled “like she always was for me.” I’d never seen him like this, so dark and distraught.
Unfortunately, I knew that place, all too well—ironically, a place he’d put me in the day he left town.
“I couldn’t be there and here, at the same time. You know?”
“Honey, your Grandmother knows how much you love her and how important she’s been in your life.” He stared up at me, his fingers brushing lightly along my cheek, but said nothing. “Can you tell me what happened? I don’t know any of the details.” I continued rubbing Jaxon’s back with one hand while the thumb of the other wiped tears from his cheeks, my own eyes filling with tears at the sight of him, so broken.
Jaxon shook his head, indicating that he wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. That was all right, I could give him that. Instead, I hugged my arms around him and held him tight for a spell. Jaxon’s arms unexpectedly engulfed me, embracing me back with a fierce grip, his face nestled into my neck, breathing me in.
“What can I do to help you?” I whispered into his ear.
The spell was instantly broken, Jaxon’s arms releasing me as he pulled back from my hold. He flopped back on the bed, lying on his back. I went with him, arms brushing at our sides, and I tenderly covered the top of his hand with my palm, fingers clenched between his. “They’re holding the plane for us,” I murmured calmly, “so, whenever you are ready, we’ll go.”
Jaxon’s head turned toward me, “We?” he questioned bitterly.
I ignored his acrid tone and gently nodded my head. “I’m at your side for this, with you the whole way.”
Raising our hands to his lips, he kissed the back of mine, whispering “Thank you” in a fragile breath, before tipping his head slightly.
I took that as a sign that Jaxon was ready to move ahead. I pulled my hand from his and jumped into gear, scurrying to his closet for a suitcase or bag, and then came back out to him. “What things should I pack for you? Safe to say you don’t need to pack cologne,” I teased, seeing as his cologne bottles were scattered in jagged bits on the floor.
Jaxon rolled his eyes to me with a not very amused expression. Ooh. Too soon for that joke. “I left most of my stuff there. I just need…” He heaved a heavy sigh. “Screw it. I’ll buy whatever else I need once we’re in Texas.” He stood from the bed, raking a hand through his hair and tugging. “For you, too,” he determined. “Just pack what you absolutely need.”
“Okay. Want to come with?” I worried leaving him alone in this state.
Jaxon simply nodded and shuffled my way.
I led him through our shared bathroom, pausing to grab my necessities—makeup bag, flat iron, curling iron, blow-dryer, shampoo, conditioner, styling products, toothbrush, et cetera—and loading it all into Jaxon’s arms, before moving on to my closet for my designer luggage set and overnight bag. I snatched a few things to wear, a dress for the funeral, PJ’s/nightie—my favorite T-shirt of Jaxon’s—and shoes, and placed them in the medium-sized suitcase. Then I went back to Jaxon, seated on the lounge beside the closet, to load my bathroom necessities in the overnight bag.
Ooh! Perfume. Almost forgot. I sashayed to my vanity and was about to pick out a bottle of perfume and body spray when Jaxon spoke up, “The Cherry Blossom one,” he rasped, “It’s my favorite on you. Sexy, beautiful, and intoxicating as hell.”
Um. Well, then. My body tingled from head to toe, a flash of heat hitting my cheeks. Man knows what he likes. I gently bit my bottom lip as I plucked up the bottle Jaxon had requested, without even a glance at him. That would surely undo me, seeing the smoldering heat and desire in his eyes, and we’d never make it out of this room.
We said our goodbye and hugged Josie. She’ll have an easy time of it without any of us home. As we left the house and stepped onto the side driveway, en route to the town car and our driver, there was Jaxon’s luxury sports car, exactly where I’d parked it. Jaxon paused and spun to me, with a “How the hell did my car get here?” expression on his face.
I shrugged my shoulders and smiled. “You left me no choice,” I simply said. It was then that I saw the first sign of a smile glimmer behind that somber frown. “Which, by the way, I want one. Total kickass ride.”
The corners of Jaxon’s lips tipped up slightly, “I’ll see what I can do.” and he escorted me ahead.
I slipped into the back seat of the town car and Jaxon slid in beside me, leaving a few inches of space between us. Our drive was silent, and I couldn’t help wondering what Jaxon was thinking. It was unusual for him to be so quiet. But under the circumstances, I guess it was understandable. He was likely worried sick. His grandmother’s the closest thing to a biological mother he had; more so even than Josie.
Jaxon reached for my hand between us, somewhat tentatively, still giving me the space I’d asked for, but seeking the comfort. In that moment, I didn’t much care about the need for space between us. I’d give him whatever he needed.
When we arrived at the company jet, Dad was waiting at the bottom of the steps to greet us. “How are you holding up, son?” he right away asked Jax, giving him a quick hug.
Jaxon shrugged one shoulder and grunted something unintelligible.
Then I was next to receive a hug from Dad, along with a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for looking after your brother,” he whispered in my ear.
I tried not to cringe. Brother!
Dad urged us up the steps into the plane, letting us know our pilot, John, was already in the cockpit prepared for takeoff.
I took my usual seat across the aisle from Mom and Dad, able to look out the window. Jaxon sat beside me, still unusually silent. I was really beginning to worry about him, fearing what would happen if he kept this all inside, his feelings. I was determined to get him talking before this flight was over and we were in Texas. I’d give him a bit more time to settle in and work through his thoughts, I figured, then I was going in with a nudge and questions.
Jaxon leaned over and rechecked my seatbelt, tugging to make certain it was secure. It was. He’d already checked it twice prior.
In a matter of minutes, we were ascending into the sky and soaring in the air.
Jaxon relaxed his head against the headrest and closed his eyes.
This was going to be an excruciatingly long flight if Jaxon remained this silent and closed off the entire way. I put my hand over his to comfort him, locking our fingers together.
“Be careful Maddison, someone might see and think that you like me,” Jaxon deadpanned.
“I’m not worried,” I responded with a sprinkle of sunshine. He peeked one eye open at me, his dark brow raised skeptically.
I shrugged my shoulders, muttering simply, “I don’t care about that right now.”
Jaxon seemed content with that, and closed his eye again and went back to his headspace, without another spoken word. Though, he did give my fingers a squeeze between his, stirring what felt like a thousand butterflies flittering about in my belly, my skin prickling at the sensation.
With any luck, I’d pleasantly be able to experience Jaxon’s rousing affects for the next three hours.
We were somewhere over Lubbock before Jaxon somewhat came to life and began to talk. And by talk, I meant opened up.
“How much longer,” he asked, moving on before I had a chance to answer him. “I swear, if she passes before I get there, I will never fucking forgive myself. I already feel like complete shit for not being there for her and my grandfather when this all went down and she first took ill; that’s bad enough, after they’ve done so much for me. I keep thinking about how scared Grams must be, and how my grandpop’s sitting all alone in that hospital, waiting, worrying. Carrying the burden by himself.” Jaxon exhaled loudly, his heavy eyelids closing. “Fuck.”
From what Dad murmured to me on our way up the steps into the jet, it didn’t look good for his mother, Sarah. Her death was imminent; her organs had already begun to shut down. It was simply her time. I just hoped for Dad’s and Jaxon’s sake it wasn’t before we arrived.
“She’ll wait for you,” I said in support. And if it was at all in her will, that was exactly what Sarah would do. Wait for her only Grandson, who was more like a second son to her, to say goodbye before she took her last breath. “And in the meantime, she will have the flowers you sent to brighten her day and remind her of you, her favorite Grandson.”
Jaxon’s eyes popped open wide and swung my way. “Flowers? What flowers?” he questioned.
“I ordered them for you shortly after takeoff. Yellow Daisies and Gardenias; separate vases, of course. Those are her favorites, right?”
He gave me a funny look, totally baffled and momentarily at a loss for words. I’d have laughed, if it wasn’t for the circumstances. His expression was priceless.
“Who are you and what have you done with my sister Maddison?”
“Ha-ha. Very funny,” I snorted, my eyes softly rolling. “And can you please refrain from referring to me as your sister? I find it a little cringe-worthy.”
“No, seriously, Maddison, that was amazing. Thank you.” Without thought, Jaxon lifted my hand and kissed the back. My heart rate sped up and my eyes shot across the aisle to our parents. Okay, so I do still care what they think. Whew. Both asleep; didn’t see.
I took advantage of the dead time during the flight, since Jaxon was zoned out, and started making the necessary arrangements, so Jaxon and Dad wouldn’t have to—with a little help from Janie by way of email. The service would be held at Chapel of Faith & Hope, the church Sarah had attended all of her life. The very chapel she and Kelley Jaimison, her husband of sixty-two years, vowed their love to one another, by the same reverend.
Following, she would be laid to rest in the family plot beside her parents, her two sisters, her grandparents, and her great-grandparents, and would only be attended by immediate family.
I saw to the flower arrangements for the service as well, choosing Sarah’s favorite flowers, plus a mix of pink and red roses from our family, since they were a favorite of Jaxon’s—all pending her passing, of course.
One would think I knew Sarah Jaimison well, from all the details I knew about the lovely woman. But it was all mostly details I’d heard Jaxon or Dad mention about her over the years, when sharing family stories. I’d actually only met Sarah a handful of times. Although, from the very first meeting I liked her, the woman had sass. And she’d always treated me with kindness and love, and made me feel as if I’d been a member of her family all along.
The wake afterwards—or what I preferred to call a ‘Celebration of Life’—would be held at their home, The Jaimison Ranch, and catered. Janie had helped me with the selection of a top-notch local catering company. And I assumed there’d be the typical casseroles and such ones would bring, too.
Nevertheless, none of this—the arrangements I’d made—would I mention to Jax… At least not yet. But when the time came, he and Dad would be thankful and relieved to not have to make the necessary final arrangements themselves, while grief-stricken. And they were welcome to change anything they felt the need to.
“You’re welcome,” I said to Jaxon, giving his hand a gentle squeeze. “But really, it’s nothing. I’m happy to help.” I turned my gaze away from him, focusing on the fast approaching land outside the small window, objects becoming increasingly larger in my view.
Damn, I loved this side of Maddison. The cool-calm-and-collected-in-a-crisis-side, doing what she did best; thinking logically, rationally, and handling the details and the matters at hand. Truthfully, it turned me the hell on.
Fuck, I’m gonna be struck by a damn lightning bolt, thinking about sex with my stepsister while my God-fearing Grandmother is lying on her deathbed in a hospital, about to get her wings.
First, the way Maddison had stepped in, without my even asking. Instinctively, and humbly. Like a true partner carrying the burden of weight when the other partner was unable. A wife caring for the needs of her husband, out of concern and love. And all without me knowing, while I wrestled with my emotions. Shit, even before we left the house, rushing home like she did, because she knew I needed her, seeing to packing and coming along. Wow. And if I knew Maddison—which I do, quite well—she’d seen to the necessary arrangements following Grandmother’s passing, as well, but was waiting to spring that on me when the time came.
She’d officially blown my mind.
And my mind was already pretty fucked up and consumed today, my body as well. Numb. Truthfully, I hadn’t felt this messed up since I’d left Maddison behind and moved to Texas. I’d barely spoken a word since Grandfather called with the news. I was all in my head; thinking, dwelling, and remembering. Fuck, I hate being in my head.
I turned to glance over my shoulder, across the aisle at Dad and Marie. I could only imagine how Dad must be feeling. Pretty much like me, I assumed. But in his condition, a heavier load; this may only worsen things for him. And his treatment Monday…well, that was out the window. If we were in Texas for the week, like I expected we would be, he would have to postpone it. That’s not really an option, as far as I could see or was concerned.
My thoughts shifted back to Maddison, my thumb stroking the back of her hand softly. Turnabout, they say it’s fair play. Well, when Maddison got there and saw the surprises in store—my life, my house, my business—she’d never doubt me again. It’d prove my competency. And then some. I was going to thoroughly enjoy her shock and surprise at the realization of all I’d accomplished during our years apart…
We went straight to the hospital upon landing in Texas, at Dallas Fort Worth. Grams, thank goodness, was still with us. I’d be able to spend a bit more time with her. Just as Maddison had believed, she’d waited. Though, Grandfather said she was fairly weak, when Dad phoned him shortly after landing, but knew I was on my way; as well as the rest of the family.
My gut was in all sorts of knots, fearing what condition Gram would be in by the time I got to her, and what the sight of her would do to me.
Maddison’s fingers slipped across the skin at the back of my neck, the tips whispering into my hair. “It’s going to be okay, Jax. I’m here for you, honey, lean on me for whatever you need,” her soft, reassuring voice soothed as we followed behind our parents, down the hospital corridor leading to my grandmother’s room. “Remember, it’s a blessing that you got here in time and that you get to see her, that’s all that should matter.” She pecked my cheek lightly.
I really could not believe how amazing Maddison was being. It made me wonder if she’d changed her mind about us, that maybe she’d stopped caring about the fallout. But the likelihood was slim.
Dad paused at the door into Grams’ room before entering, and the rest of us halted our steps, following suit. He glanced back at me. “Would you like to go in alone first, son?” he graciously offered.
By the morose expression marring his features, Dad was dreading this as much as I was.
A large lump lodged in my throat, and before I could take a breath and get the words out to answer my father, Maddison spoke up for me. “Why don’t the two of you go in together, Dad? Mom and I will wait out here and give you all a few minutes.”
My eyes fixed on Maddison. What I was seeking, I wasn’t sure. All I knew was that in that moment, I wasn’t certain I could make it through that doorway without her. “You can do it,” Maddison whispered intuitively. “She needs you. And you need this… Closure and all.”
I gave a weighted sigh. She was right, I knew it. Didn’t make it any easier though.
Maddison’s tender hand nudged my lower back, urging me toward the inevitable. “Fine,” I muttered.
She surprised the hell out of me when her hand slipped over my ass as it left my back, inconspicuous to our parents. But I knew, and I was taking that little bit of hope with me into that hospital room. This girl knew how to play me in the best of ways. I whirled back to her, mesmerized when I saw the cutest little smirk playing on her lips, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes. Oh, how I love this girl. I shook my head and walked off, thinking— To be continued later…
I walked in to the sweetest sight before me. Grandpops was seated beside my Grams, her tiny hand clutched between both of his, held against his lips while she slept.
It tugged at my heart. I want that—a love like theirs—and I’m going to move heaven and earth to get my angel to see that. And it made me wonder how he’d do without her. I quickly pushed that aside; a thought for another time.
Dad placed a hand on Grandpop’s shoulder, as not to startle him. “Hi Pop,” he murmured, “How ya holding up?”
“Better now that you’re here,” he answered. I could hear the strain in his voice. He sounded drained. I was so glad we were here now, able to lend him support. He gently laid Gram’s hand on the bed beside her, and then stood to his feet. He was a tall man, even for his age, still standing proud at 6ft 5in. He clutched his arms around my father, and then grabbed ahold of me. “So happy to have you home, JJ. You’ve been missed around here.”
Guilt set in. Confirming my earlier feeling that I should have been there. Never left them, in the first place. I gripped onto him. “I’m sorry you had to go it alone, Grandpop.”
I felt a brush against my pant leg and looked down. My grandmother’s frail fingers were reaching out to me. “What’s an old lady gotta do to get a hug from her only grandson and son around here?” she croaked, her voice rough, raspy and dry, a sad resemblance to her usual sweet tone.
Though, her sass was alive and well.
I leaned to her frail form and wrapped my grandmother in my arms, lifting her back from the bed. “I love you, Grams,” I whispered by her ear, barely able to choke back my emotions and hold back the tears forming in my eyes. “So sorry I wasn’t here sooner.”
“Nonsense, love.” She placed a faint kiss on my cheek. “You have a life to live. No need to waste it. Now let me at my son,” she ordered, her arms falling from me.
Chuckling softly, I moved aside, allowing Dad to slide in.
His arms swallowed her up, her small body looking puny in his massive hold. “Hi, Ma,” Dad murmured, emotion tearing at his throat.
Nothing about this didn’t suck, big and hard!!
“Oh, my son,” she cried, holding my father in a death grip. It struck me in that moment that her concern was for her son and his recent diagnosis. I hadn’t realized he’d told them. But, of course he would.
“Don’t worry about me, Ma. I’m strong as an ox, you know it,” he played it down, “good stock!”
“Just like your father,” she purred, and then laid her head back and closed her eyes for a spell, as Dad released her onto her pillow.
Fuck, this sucks!!!
“Where’re your girls?” Grandpops asked out of the blue.
I didn’t know about anybody else, but, for me, I welcomed the change in subject. Especially if that subject was Maddison and bringing her nearer to me.
“Yes. I need to speak to that daughter of yours, son,” interjected my grams from her sleepy state, her eyes still giving the appearance she was asleep. She’d certainly fooled me.
I wondered what that was about; why she wanted to speak to Maddison.
“I’ll go get them, now,” I said. Though I had the feeling my clever grandmother was up to something, even now, as weak as she was…
‘MaddJax BK2’ MaddJax Series ~ Chapter One & Two
MaddJax, Copyright © 2018 by Deborah Ann