Beat of the Heart


Page 42




She rolled her eyes. "Oh please. I'm almost seventeen, not seven."

AJ turned around to face me. With a grin, he held out his hand. "Come on, I want to take you to see the waterfalls."

I cocked my head at him. "Is that some code word for you to get me away from the group, so you can ravish me out in the woods?"

Abby giggled. "No, there are actually some small waterfalls on the far edge of Jake's grandfather's property. They're only about twelve feet, but it's really beautiful there."

Eyeing AJ's outstretched hand, I said, "Just the waterfalls. No funny business that might land me with poison ivy on my ass, right?"

He pursed his lips in his signature smirk. "I'm not making any promises." When I started to protest, he held up a hand. "I can't be held accountable if you accidentally take a tumble out there and happen to roll through poison ivy."

"As long as you don't help me along in that tumble, I think we'll be fine." I then slipped my hand into his, and he pulled me out of the lawn chair.

"Have fun taking in the scenery," Abby teased.

I grinned at her before I let AJ tug me along behind him. He led me over to the barn where a Jeep and several four-wheelers were parked. Instead of going for the Jeep, he slid onto a gleaming black four-wheeler. Turning around, he then patted the sparse space behind him. "Hop on, babe."

I swept my hands to my hips. "You can't be serious."

"And why the hell not?"

"For one, you're saying that a city-boy like you actually knows how to ride one of those things, least of all drive it?"

"Yes, Mia, as hard as it is to believe, this Mexican city dweller actually knows how to drive a four-wheeler." I bit my lip to keep from laughing at his tone. Instead, I continued to look skeptically at him. AJ rolled his eyes "Listen, I've been riding them up here at Jake's since I was fourteen. But even before that, I was driving my uncle's motorcycle along the streets of Guadalajara, which trust me is a hell of a lot more dangerous than anything the backwoods can throw at you."

"Okay, okay, I stand corrected."

With a triumphant grin, AJ revved the motor to life. Hiking my leg, I slid across what was left of the seat behind him. I was practically plastered against his back. My bare thighs brushed against his.

"Hold on tight, baby," he called over the roar of the motor.

Wrapping my arms around his waist, I shouted back, "Trust me, you don't have to tell me that twice."

"You got nothin' to worry about. I wouldn't ever let you get hurt."

My heart fluttered a little at both his kind words and sincere tone. "Aren't you just a sweetheart?"

"Yep, I am." Glancing over his shoulder, he winked. "Now sit tight. I'm gonna give you the ride of your life."

I snickered in spite of myself. "Whatever."

AJ released the brake and stomped on the gas, sending us careening forward over the gravel road. A dirt storm kicked up in our wake, clouding my vision. As we gained speed, I gripped him even tighter. His rock hard abs tightened beneath my hands.

With a turn to the right, we left the gravel road and began tumbling over uneven and overgrown grass. Long before I could see it, I could hear the pounding roar of the water. I didn't realize I had been holding my breath until we reached the stream . AJ must've felt my anticipation because he shut off the engine and pointed to the right. "See," he instructed.

Shielding my eyes from the sun with my hand, I gazed to where he pointed and exhaled my anxious breath. Looming up ahead, water cascaded over three separate jagged rock formations before it pooled into a stream below.

"Like it?" AJ questioned, as I remained staring open-mouthed.

"Are you kidding me?"

He chuckled as he slid off the four-wheeler. As he helped ease me onto the ground, I replied, "I can't believe anything so beautiful is right here in the middle of Jake's property."

AJ reached out his hand for mine. "Come on, let's go explore."

Nodding my head, I slipped my palm into his. Conversation seemed to fail us as we strolled along the river bank. Our clothes rippled in a gentle breeze, while wildlife hummed and buzzed all around us. Squirrels scurried across treetops while birds cried out as they soared over our heads. I squealed and jerked AJ's hand at the sight of a doe and her fawn along the bank. But at the sight of us, they darted away back into the woods. "Did you see that? The baby was just like Bambi with spots."

AJ grinned at my enthusiasm. As I took in all the beauty surrounding me, I sighed with contentment. "I can see now why Jake loves this place so much."

"I don't know if I would call it 'love' or an obsession. It's getting harder and harder in between our breaks to get him back on the road."

"Well, it does make sense he wouldn't want to leave here. I mean, it's part of his blood. Being on the road has to be such a rootless existence that I'm guessing he's super thankful to have such a wonderful home to come back to."

He nudged me playfully. "Listen to you sounding all wise like Yoda or some shit."

I elbowed him back. Hard. "Please tell me you didn't just liken me to some old and wrinkly, green dude?"

"Hey, you are older than me."

"Keep it up, Resendiz, and I see a weekend of just you and your hand getting off."

Throwing his head back, AJ laughed heartily. "Come on now, don't get so riled up." He dropped my hand, so he could slide his arm around my waist. Drawing me to him, his warm lips nuzzled against my neck. "You know you're the sexiest cougar in the entire fucking world."

I wiggled out of his grasp and thrust a finger in front of his face. "You sir, are not redeeming yourself. I'm a measly three and half years older than you. I'd hardly call that a cougar."

"But thinking I'm your cougar cub gets me hard."

Rolling my eyes with exasperation, I huffed, "Just the wind blowing gets you hard."

AJ eyed me for a moment before roaring with laughter. His dark eyes danced with amusement as he playfully cuffed the back of my neck. "Damn, Mia, what am I going to do with you?"

"Take me down to the water," I commanded.

"With pleasure." He held out his hand again, and I slipped mine into his. We high stepped our way through the almost knee level grass towards the riverbank. When we reached it, I bent over, peering down at the gently flowing stream. In my mind, I had pictured harsh rapids flowing from the waterfalls, but this was so smooth. "Look how crystal clear that water is. You can see straight through to the bottom."







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