I opened my eyes to pitch darkness.
I’d fallen asleep again without getting ready for bed.
I groaned and the curse that left my lips was muffled by the textbook underneath my face.
It was a book with too many pages.
I didn’t want to read it and probably didn’t need to read it.
Heck, I’d been trying to read it for the past five hours and the result...well, a wet trail of drool straight down the binding.
Hypnotherapy 101 was one course I was destined to fail if I couldn’t even get through the main text on the subject. I knew I needed to study but there were a lot of things I’d rather do, like—
The corner of my lip turned up in a lopsided smile and my clit throbbed in response.
Yep, that’s what I’d rather do.
I had lots of material stashed away in my memory. The latest of which was the feel of Jacob Fimmel’s hands around my waist.
I closed my eyes briefly, as I revelled in the memory. God, imagine those hands doing the same thing as he guided me down onto his…
I stopped the thought as my clit throbbed again.
Thinking about Jacob only led to one thing and I really needed to get back to studying. My lecturer didn’t care about hot men or what I’d like them to do to me. Or did he? I chuckled at the thought.
Yawning, I waited a few minutes for my eyes to adjust to the room. Judging from how dark it was, I reckoned mom had already come home from her shift at the hospital. Slipping my leg over the mattress and sliding onto the floor, I padded lighty to her room.
The door was half open, as she’d always left it after dad died...after everything changed...after I started having recurring nightmares that had me waking every night, drenched in sweat, my pulse through the roof. She’d left her door open so she could hear my screams and come to wake me.
That was the thing with those nightmares. I was always paralyzed, unable to move, unable to wake myself up—just trapped in the nightmare playing in my head with my body wanting run but my mind holding me frozen.
The memory of the dreams made me shudder.
Peeping into the room, I could just make out mom’s blonde head poking from under the duvet. Her light snoring confirmed what I already knew—she was completely worn out.
A sad smile smoothed my lips.
She didn’t have to work so hard if she wasn’t alone. She was only working so hard for me.
I sighed as the whole reason why I needed to complete college confronted me again. What started out as a way to potentially help myself was now presenting itself as a lifeline for both of us.
I needed to complete community college for both of us.
Stepping away quietly from the door, I padded to the refrigerator and poured myself a glass of orange juice. I still hadn’t turned on the light but I knew the kitchen by heart, plus my eyes had adjusted to the darkness.
I’d done a lot of things in my room in the darkness. My eyes were used to it.
Walking aimlessly over to the kitchen window, I sipped my orange juice and looked out. The light across from me caught my attention immediately. I could see right into Jacob’s kitchen.
It was empty though; no one was around. Why was the light on? I wasn’t sure, but it had to be around three a.m. at least.
I stood looking into the kitchen for a few minutes, absentmindedly sipping on my orange juice. Just when I was about to turn and head back to my room I saw him.
A shirtless Jacob.
He walked into the kitchen and headed directly to the refrigerator. I watched, my heart rate increasing, as he pulled out a bottle of alcohol, poured himself a glass, and took a drink.
It must have been very strong because he screwed his face a little as the drink made contact with his throat.
He closed his eyes for a second and leaned back against the kitchen counter.
A delightful little buzz went up my spine as I watched his Adam’s apple bob in his throat, and I swallowed as well. My mouth was suddenly dry.
What luck to be giving my eyes such an early morning feast. I gulped again as my eyes roamed over his arms then down his chest. I could just about make out the dark curly wisps that ran down his torso and disappeared in his pants.
I knew where they led. I knew what they pointed to.
I could feel myself getting moist just thinking about it.
Fuck. I wish I could see it again.
Hard. Thick. Large and throbbing.
“Layla?” The whisper almost made me jump out of my skin.
Red-faced, and thankful she couldn’t see my cheeks in the darkness, I swung my neck so fast in the direction of the sound, it almost broke.
Mom padded over to me. I could see her rubbing her eyes.
“What are you doing up?” I could’ve asked her the same question.
“I was studying.” I didn’t know why I was whispering.
My eyes flew back over to the window. Jacob was still there.
Shit. She was going to realize I had been standing here staring at him like a creep.
“You have that big exam tomorrow, don’t you?” She’d reached where I was standing and I could see her face just enough to know she was looking at me as she spoke.
I nodded then realized she probably couldn’t see that I did. “Yea.” I let out a breath slowly. Why did I feel so guilty? Like I’d been caught doing something naughty.
Mom’s warm, comforting hand pressed against my back and she patted it lightly.
“You’ll pass it. It’s that course you hate, isn’t it?”
“Yep.” I sighed again.
Mom patted my back again and then I felt her hand pause in mid-motion.
“Oh,” she breathed, and my heart stopped beating for a second.
I could see her enough to realize she was now staring out the window.
I didn’t quite like the way she’d said it, as if she’d seen something of interest.
I was instantly annoyed.
“I guess he can’t sleep again,” she murmured.
“Jacob,” she murmured again, her focus no longer on me or our conversation. No, her focus was on my midnight snack across from us and I didn’t like it.
She’d called him Jacob. I mean, that was his name but it was my name for him. I only called him Jacob in private. He was Mr. Fimmel in public. But Mom was calling him by his first name.
I turned to focus my gaze on him once again and realized he was still standing in the same position, leaning against the kitchen counter.
He had the glass he’d been drinking from pressed firmly against his forehead, his eyes still closed.
She’d called him Jacob.
I repeated it in my head and felt myself frown. I knew adults referred to each other by their first names; I guess I could do the same. I was an adult too. It may be irrational, but I hated that Mom and Jacob were on a first-name basis.
“Told me he’d been having trouble sleeping lately,” she continued, removing her hand from my back and folding her arms.
I could see enough of her face now to see her eyes no longer had sleep in them. They were alive with...well, I hope I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was seeing in her eyes.
“He told you that? Why?” I asked, trying to hide the annoyance from my voice.
Mom glanced at me for a second. “He’s my friend. We talk. He’s been having trouble sleeping for some time now. He didn’t tell me the cause though.”
They were friends.
I wanted to be friends with him. Not my mother!
And when did they have these conversations?
I watched my mother lick her lips absentmindedly.
It hit me then that she hadn’t turned on the light either.
My eyes narrowed.
“Maybe I should tell him to try what we did to help you back then with your sleep.” She seemed to be thinking out loud.
I knew what she was referring to.
It had been the only thing that had helped—the only thing that had stopped the nightmares from coming for me at night.
It was the reason I’d initially gone to study psychotherapy. That and my father’s death.
I didn’t answer my mother. I didn’t know what to say.
It took a few seconds before I finally said, “Ok.”
Turning, I whispered that I was heading back to bed and left her standing at the window.
In my room, I flopped into my pillow and refrained from screaming.
I couldn’t study now. And I definitely couldn’t do what I’d wanted to do earlier. There was no throbbing in my core anymore. Instead, there was that distinct feeling of panic.
I’d seen the look in her eyes. I knew it well because I looked at Jacob the same way.
Mom was thirsty, and it wasn’t water she thirsted for.
I walked to the front door with my shoulders slumped.
I’d had three exams in a row and they absolutely kicked my ass. I was only happy to be home so I could go lock myself in my bedroom and make myself feel better.
I was just opening the door when I heard someone call my name. Looking up to the direction of the sound, my eyes widened slightly. Jacob Fimmel was waving at me from his front garden.
How had I not noticed him standing there?
My eyes widened even more as I realized he was heading my way.
The keys slipped from my hand. Stooping to pick them up, I was just straightening myself when I spotted his gray sneakers on the floor in front of me.
That undeniable scent of his cologne reached my nostrils.
This was Jacob. Pure Jacob standing in front of me.
My heart rate increased.
My eyes followed the sneakers, up his legs to the hem of his shorts, up the shorts to his—I gulped—crotch. It took me a few seconds to realize I was staring at it and my gaze then flew to his face. I blinked wildly.
“Layla.” Jacob smiled as he greeted me and those lines at the corners of his eyes appeared.
I felt my body warm immediately as his voice reached my ear.
“Mr. Fimmel,” I steadied my voice but knew I couldn’t steady my insides. Inside, everything was going haywire.
As I smiled and looked up at him, I noticed the slight redness in his eyes. Mom had probably been right about the sleeping thing.
It’d been three days since she’d said that and I still couldn’t take the bad taste our conversation had left in my mouth.
“How’s your exams going?”
How did he know I had exams?
I shrugged. “I’d like to say they’re going well, but they aren’t.”
I should have lied. Now he was going to think I’m dumb.
“Hypnotherapy, isn’t it?” He smiled, disarming me as if I needed to be disarmed any further.
My eyes searched his for answers. Just how did he know that?
“Your mother told me you were having some trouble,” he explained.
Sometimes, I didn’t know if I should love or hate that woman. In the past few days, it was leaning to the latter.
“Um, yea.” I nodded. It felt strange that he knew so much about me. Just how much more did he know?
I looked up at him and his eyes were unreadable. The air suddenly felt thick and I couldn’t breathe.
“I need your help with something.”
“You left your keys inside again?” I blurted.
“No,” he chuckled and his gaze softened but there was still something intense behind it. “I’m having a bit of...trouble and your mother mentioned you might be able to help.”
My brows furrowed. Just what has my mother been telling him about me.
“You know, since you’re training to be a psychotherapist.” He seemed uncomfortable and he folded his arms across his chest.
“Can we talk inside?”
“Oh, of course.” I spun and opened the door. Jacob Fimmel was asking to come into my house. My house. With me. Alone.
I don’t know how I managed to open the door but somehow I did without causing the keys to fall again.
Once inside, Jacob came in behind me and closed the door lightly behind him.
“Um, please have a seat.” I gestured to the couch.
I’d imagined him within my space many many times but my imagination had been lacking. He seemed to fill the room with his presence. It was as if I could feel the air around him move as he walked over to the couch and sat.
He glanced around the living room before he turned his head to smile at me and then he did something that I swore made me stop breathing. His eyes lingered on my chest for just a little but just enough for me to start tingling there.
Oh. My. God.
I hadn’t bothered to wear a bra today and a glance down confirmed my nipples were poking through my tight t-shirt. They were hard and I felt a jolt of electricity shoot straight to my core.
“Layla.” Jacob’s voice brought my wandering thoughts back to the present.
“I need you to try some of your techniques on me.”
“What?” I repeated my thoughts.
“I need you to do to me what you do to yourself at night.”
My mouth went dry, my clit throbbed, and I gulped all at the same time.