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Not What You Expected

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"Hey, Katie."

He's smiling, friendly, good-looking. Almost familiar. He's the guy with the Red Sox cap who gave her a lift over the Kentucky line, he's the man at the counter at Keith's who wanted one more slice of pie before he hit the road, he's the tattooed worker with rough hands who showed up at Ray's farm to pick up fresh eggs once a week: he could be anybody she's met.

It lets her down.

"It's Kate," she corrects him, voice taut with a pointedness she never once used on Sawyer when he called her Freckles.

His eyes are soft enough to frustrate her despite the glint of amusement she sees so plainly in them. "I'm sorry. Kate."

The jungle hums around them; his voice is calm, unrushed, as though he has nowhere in the world to be other than right here right now with her staring intently at him, not understanding.

"I'm not what you expected," he goes on, unperturbed.

It earns a vaguely amused quirk of her lips, not quite a smile, but inside she reels, she roars.

This is it? This is him? Jacob? The one who runs the show? The one whose list she wasn't on?

Because you're flawed.

"Yeah." Her hand, itching for a purpose, curves around the back of her neck and pulls her hair away from her sweat-slick skin. She doesn't know what to do with herself; it's the open jungle, but she has no clue how to get out of this. Jaw clenching, she shakes her head. "You can say that again."

When he steps closer, she steps back. He takes another step forward to compensate for it, and his arm stretches out until his finger meets the tip of her freckled nose. "Don't be mad, Kate. It'll be okay." He watches her eyes; his fingertip lowers to run over her bottom lip. "This is progress."

Somehow he smells like sunlight.

Somehow he smells like smoke.