Guiding Emily with one hand on her arm, Jake held up the other in front of her face to make sure she couldn’t cheat and look, despite her promise to keep her eyes closed.
“Ja-ake.” The whine would have been more credible if she hadn’t giggled at the same time. “Where’re we going?”
“You’ll see. It’s not far.” Cautiously, he led her along the cracked sidewalk and around the corner. A few more paces before they stopped, and Jake dropped his hand. “You can open your eyes now.” He was half-behind her, bouncing on the balls of his feet and eager to see her reaction to his surprise. He found he was unable to keep the expectant grin off his face.
Emily blinked against the bright sunlight a couple times before glancing around curiously, until her gaze settled on the only thing Jake could have brought her to see: the car parked at the curb. Her expression hardened and her smile faded. Jake felt some of his own pleasure melt away. Maybe this hadn’t been such a good idea, after all.
“That’s my father’s car.” Emily’s tone was flat.
“No, it’s not.” Jake reached for her hand and tried to pull her with him, nearer to the car. She hung back, digging her heels in. “It’s mine, now.”
He still couldn’t quite believe Jonah had actually kept his promise to give him the Roadrunner. Hadn’t given him the car just to drive, either. No, he’d given her up, pink slip and all. The car fully belonged to him, Jake Green, and there was nothing anyone could do about that. Not even his dad. “He gave it to me.”
“Oh, really?” There was scorn in Em’s tone, and Jake experienced the first stirring of annoyance. So what if the car had belonged to Emily’s father? Who cared? She was his, now, so why couldn’t Emily just be happy for him?
“He gave it to you?” Emily whirled around to face him, eyes flashing. “Are you stupid? My dad never gives anything away for free.” She crossed her arms. “What’d'you do for him?”
Pulling back from her anger, Jake rested a hand on the gleaming metal of the roof. Mine. He shrugged. “Stuff. Some errands, and things.” He looked back at her. “Em, Jonah’s not such a bad guy. Maybe you should—.”
She made a rude noise and stalked back the way they’d come.
“Hey!” Jake jogged to catch up with her. “Where’re you goin’?” He started walking backwards ahead of her. “Come on, Em, let’s go for a ride.”
She gestured over her shoulder. “In that?” The look she gave him could’ve cut through steel for all the fire it held. “Never.” She brushed past him, and Jake was left to stare after her.
She didn’t reply, just picked up the pace and continued in a trot, her back stiff and tense and shaking. Jake’s shoulders slumped and he trudged back to the Roadrunner, knowing there was nothing he could say to her when she was like this.
Over the next weeks, Jake slowly wore down Emily’s resistance. Fate conspired to help: one day, after she’d missed the bus and a heavy thunderstorm had slashed the town with rain, she finally accepted his offer of a ride home. She sat stiffly in the passenger seat, dripping water onto the vinyl, but the next day, she didn’t object when he drove by her house to pick her up for school.
Gradually, she grew more relaxed with every ride. A couple weeks later she’d left a box of tampons and a lipstick in the dashboard as if they belonged there.
Jake loved having his own set of wheels. He loved the independence it gave him, the sense of freedom. And once she got a taste of it, Emily was right there with him whenever he took the car for a spin: racing along the back roads crisscrossing the farmlands around Jericho; throwing up dust plumes that were visible miles away; and scaring the cows with the meep-meep of the horn. During summer break, he took her to Bass Lake to swim, drying up in the sun afterwards, side by side on a blanket from the trunk. Other days, they hunted jackrabbits in the hills around the Richmond farm with Stanley. Occasionally, Jake ran errands for Jonah: trips to New Bern and Rogue River, or Goodland and Garden City. He was careful to never tell Emily about those—he’d learned a long time ago how easily mentioning Jonah could bring on one of her moods.
One night, when summer vacation was nearly over and school would start again in another week, he’d taken her to the movies in New Bern. Jake had voted for Die Hard 2, but Emily insisted on seeing Ghost. Too much of a chick flick for Jake’s taste, but since it had allowed him to sit close to Em in the dark for a couple hours, his arm slung around her shoulders while she’d snuggled up against him, sniffling at the mushy parts and pressing one soft breast against his ribs, he wasn’t going to complain.
As they reached Jericho, he was about to turn into her street when she suggested, “Let’s go to the river.”
Jake gave her a glance, barely able to make out her profile in the dark night. She must’ve sensed his gaze because she added, “I don’t want to go home yet.”
He could never refuse Emily anything, so he went left instead of right. They crossed the Tacoma bridge headed east, and then turned off from the highway. He bounced the Roadrunner along the rutted path alongside the river until they reached the clearing in the bend where the track ended.
Jake killed the engine. It ticked softly as it cooled, and for a long minute, they didn’t speak. Jake’s vision slowly grew used to the dark, and he began to make out the shapes of the trees and shrubs against the star-lit sky. The stars’ reflections glistened off the rippling surface of the fast-flowing river.
Emily shifted beside him. “Jake…?”
Something in her tone made him look at her sharply, trying to read her expression in the gloom of the car’s interior. “I…. Um…. I think I’m ready.”
Jake’s first thought was For what? but then her meaning sank in and his heart began to hammer. His mouth went dry. “Really?” His voice cracked, like it still did sometimes when he was nervous or flustered. He barely caught the quick nod in the darkness, sensing it more than he actually saw it.
She plucked at her jeans. “If you want to.”
“If I—?” God, yes, he wanted to. Had wanted to for months. They’d made out, of course, on the couch in her living room, when her mom was away and Chris had gone to bed. They’d even made it to second base a few times, Em letting him slip his hands under her shirt to fondle her breasts. But what she was offering now…. Straight past third base and scoring a home run. “Em…?”
“I’m sure, Jake. I’m ready.” As so often, she answered before he even voiced the question. “Do you have…? You know.”
“Yeah.” Jake swallowed hard, thanking whatever foresight had made him stash a few condoms in his wallet a couple months ago, just in case. “Yeah, I do.”
Emily slid a little further down her seat, turning towards him. “So, how should I…?”
A little panicked, Jake glanced around the interior of the car, fixating on the crease between the seats. He’d fantasized about this moment often enough, but always about her, never about the practicalities of doing it inside the tiny Roadrunner.
“Um… back seat?”
She crawled through the tiny gap between the front seats and settled herself in the back seat, making herself comfortable in one of the corners before holding out a hand to him. He took the invitation, squeezing himself into the narrow space in the back with her. Balancing on his knees, one on either side of her left leg, he felt he loomed over her. “Em….”
“Let’s do it, Jake. Please.”
Emily’s voice shook, and Jake almost called it off right there and then. But before he could think about it twice, she sat up and dragged her shirt over her head, revealing the plain white cotton bra she wore, and any doubts he might’ve had fled from his brain. He tried to recall what he was supposed to do next. There was only so much a guy could learn browsing the skin mags on the top shelf at the gas station’s small kiosk, or eavesdropping on the seniors in the locker room at school. He did remember that the first time could be painful for a girl, and the last thing he wanted to do was hurt Em.
Coming to a decision, he leaned in to kiss her, figuring that could never be a bad way to start. He sensed her trembling, but she parted her lips willingly enough, and he enjoyed the taste of her, until he realized that if he didn’t make the next move, it’d never get made.
He shifted, so he could let his hands wander up her naked arms and over her shoulders, until his fingers brushed at the bra straps. Emily’s breathing quickened, her chest rising and falling rapidly as he slipped the straps down her arms, moving his head down to kiss the top of her breasts, instinct guiding him. She made a sound, then nudged him away, and he sought her face, wondering if he’d done something wrong. But she gave him a hesitant smile and reached behind her to undo the clasp of the bra. She kept it in front of her for a moment, holding his gaze, until she finally gathered her courage and let her hands drop away.
Jake’s breath caught, and for a long moment, he could only stare.
“Aren’t you gonna…?” He sensed Emily blush more than he could see it, and he reached out with a tentative hand, a little surprised to see he was shaking.
“Yeah…” Experimentally, he cupped one of her breasts, startled to find it fit perfectly in the palm of his hand. He rubbed at the nipple with a thumb, a bit shocked when it hardened to a small nub, and Emily arched her back, pushing further into his hand. She made a mewling noise that sounded a little like it came from the Thompson’s kitten litter, and began to tug at the hem of his shirt. Obeying her silent demand, he shucked it over his head, shivering as she trailed warm hands along his naked back. Goosebumps of pleasure sprung up wherever she touched him, and he groaned.
He reached for her again, feeling her stomach muscles flutter beneath his palm as he slid his hands along her flank, relishing her smooth, silky skin. Reaching the waistband of her jeans, he slipped the button through its hole, before slowly dragging the zipper down and pushing his hand under the denim. Em’s fingers had stilled on his back and he sought her gaze. Her eyes were round, the whites gleaming in the darkness.
She gulped and nodded. “Yes.” It came out a whisper, and he leaned in to kiss her again. Occupying her attention like that, he slid his hand further down her panties, finding soft, elastic cotton. Beneath the cotton, he discovered stiff curls to brush through, and she was warm and a little moist against his palm. Then she froze up again, and Jake wasn’t quite sure how to proceed next.
He suddenly became aware how painfully hard he’d grown, throbbing and straining against the front of his own jeans. He pulled back and sat up. Em let out a small sigh of disappointment.
Even has he dragged his attention back to her face, she kicked off her boots and began to shimmy out of her jeans and panties, wriggling until she could kick them off entirely. Her naked legs were pale in the thin starlight, long and smooth and strong. Jake couldn’t help himself; he had to reach out and run a hand from her knee up to her hip, wanting yet afraid to touch the curls he could now see as a darker patch in the junction between her thighs. With clumsy fingers, Emily started grappling with his belt, brushing against him, and suddenly Jake found he couldn’t wait any longer. He pushed her hands away, unbuttoned his jeans and shoved them down his legs along with the boxers in a single, smooth gesture. His dick sprang free, slapping up against his belly. Emily inhaled sharply and her eyes were round.
Before he could stop her, she’d reached out and taken hold of him, her slim fingers curling around the head of his dick. He bucked into her hand involuntarily, her touch nearly undoing him right there and then. “Em…,” he growled in warning, and she let go of him instantly as if burned.
“No, it’s okay.” He shook his head, before realizing she couldn’t see that in the darkness and adding, “It’s just that—.” He fumbled to tear at the wrapping of the condom he’d got from his wallet while she was climbing through to the back.
It took him three tries—why the heck hadn’t he practiced this before?— to get it on, and even then he couldn’t be sure he’d got it right, but at that moment, he no longer really cared. He felt Em’s gaze on him, could only imagine the look on her face—Don’t screw this up…. God, don’t let me screw this up.
He settled himself more firmly between her legs, and she drew her knees up, giving him room. He tried to find her entrance, moving with his hips, growling angrily when it didn’t work. Porn movies never made it seem so difficult….
Emily’s nervous giggling at his attempts didn’t help his mood any, and Jake was about to give up altogether, frustrated and upset, when she reached down and took hold of him again, guiding him until the head of his dick caught and he slid into a warm, slippery opening. He gasped at the sensation tingling along his nerves—so hot, so smooth—and stopped still in shock for a moment, before tilting his hips to go deeper.
He didn’t get very far; something barred his way. He tried with a bit more force, and Em gasped, tensing around him. Jake froze immediately, heart thumping in his chest. “Did I hurt you?”
“No.” He felt the shake of her head. “Just… be careful.”
He tried again to get through the barrier, sharply aware of the way Em stiffened as he did so, her legs trembling and growing taut. He stopped again, not knowing what to do. Should he force himself in?
“You know, we don’t have to do this,” he offered. “Maybe you’re not as ready as you thought?”
Emily made a disgruntled noise. “Don’t tell me how I feel,” she snapped. Gulping in air, she added in a softer voice, “Gimme a minute.” She took a couple more deep breaths, until he felt her relax beneath him. She shifting her hips a little. “Try again? Just….” She paused, and he could hear his own frustration echoed in her voice when she ordered, “Just push in.”
He hesitated a moment longer, then did as she asked and pushed. There was another instant of resistance, and then he felt something give; the next moment, he found himself buried to the hilt into her moist warmth. Em cried out in what sounded like a mixture of pain and triumph
He drew back a little, thrust in again, and found no more resistance, only delicious friction. Emily crossed her ankles behind his back, keeping him captive as if she was afraid he’d run off—but he couldn’t have pulled away if his life depended on it. The sound of his heartbeat in his ears built to a crescendo, and sparks exploded behind his eyelids, and he just—.
Spent, he slumped on top of her, gulping in air. Emily pushed at his shoulders. “Jake… Can’t breathe….”
Guiltily, he rolled off of her, balancing precariously on the edge of the back seat. “You okay?” he asked her again, once he’d found his voice. “Did I hurt you?”
“Only a little.” Emily’s voice was soft, but she was stroking his arm while she said it, so he figured she couldn’t be too upset.
“Sorry.” Jake drew himself up a little, slipping the condom off. It was sticky in his fingers and he tied it off. “Did you… come?”
She didn’t reply right away. “I don’t think so.”
“I’m sorry,” he said again, trying to tug his jeans up his legs in the cramped space. “I should’ve….”
“Ssh.” She reached up to put a finger against his lips. “I… I never expected this to be perfect.”
He stared at her. “But I want you to—.”
“I know.” Her teeth flashed white as she smiled. “There’ll be other times. You’ll get it right then.”
Yes, I will, he promised himself, vowing silently that next time, it’d be all about her. Next time, and the time after that, and the next. All the time, if it were up to him.
He just hated hurting her.