I’m not officially participating in Spank or Treat, but I am taking advantage of the longer word count. Today’s excerpt comes from my latest release One of Those Nights. This is actually the excerpt that inspired the title. Lena is definitely having one of those nights.
Furious, Lena snatched open the door and slammed it shut behind her. The walls of her apartment shook with the force of the door crashing into its frame. Good, Lena thought grimly. It felt good to fight back in some small way against this utterly unending, frustrating day.
Too late, she realized Jonah was already in the house. He stood in the doorway of the kitchen, leaning against the frame with his arms crossed, watching her. “Sorry,” she said, “I didn’t realize anyone else was here.” She wasn’t a bit sorry, and from the way Jonah was looking at her, he knew that perfectly well. She mentally crossed her fingers and hoped that he would just let it go. If she hadn’t been so furious, Lena would have been amused by the irony of the thought. She’d spent most of her life searching for man who wouldn’t let it go, who had the nerve and the wherewithal to stand up to her sometimes unpredictable temper. Who would’ve thought that a chance encounter on a public bus would lead her to a man who had no qualms dealing with anything she dished out, temper notwithstanding? In those days, before dating Jonah, she wouldn’t have had any idea just how damned annoying dealing with a man like Jonah could be sometimes.
Without a word, Jonah crossed over to her and divested her of her jacket and backpack. Then, he bent and kissed her, hard enough that she could feel herself start to unwind from the sheer strength of it.
“Bad day?” he asked, murmuring against her lips.
Through sheer force of will, Lena resisted the urge to reply, “Duh”. However appropriate the sentiment might be, it wasn’t really fair and would most certainly not be appreciated, a fact she knew from painful experience. Instead, she replied, ”The worst.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.
Lena shook her head. “No. What I want is a hot shower and a glass of wine and to put this whole miserable day behind me.”
Jonah nodded. “I can handle that. Why don’t you go work on the shower part of that equation, and I’ll see what I can do about the wine, and possibly dinner to go with it.” He bent and kissed her again. “Go on.”
Lena leaned against the bar that separated the kitchen and the living room and kicked off her killer high-heeled shoes. They might be gorgeous, but they were torture on her toes. She peeled off her thigh-high stockings and stuffed them in the shoes, then started to pad, barefoot and bare-legged, in only her blouse and skirt, across the living room toward the bathroom. From behind her, she heard Jonah clear his throat and stopped in her tracks. For the life of her, she could never figure out how the man could make throat clearing sound stern, but somehow he did. She turned around.
Jonah nodded toward her shoes with an extremely pointed look.
Lena rolled her eyes. “The sky is not going to fall if I don’t put my shoes away the exact second I take them off, you know.”
“You’re not going to die if you put them away either,” Jonas said calmly.
Lena huffed. Why did the man have to be so infernally anal about everything? She was very tempted to leave the shoes exactly where they were, just to prove a point, but that would likely only lead to Jonah following her into the bathroom and reinforcing his opinion on her behind before he made her pick them up anyway. She stomped over to where she had left the shoes by the bar, which did little good considering she was barefoot and on carpet but made her feel better anyway, and picked up the shoes. She stomped all the way into the bedroom to put them away and all the way back to the bathroom, muttering and grumbling as she went. She might, possibly, maybe, have shut the bathroom door with a little more force than was absolutely necessary, but she absolutely did not slam it.
Lena turned the shower on as hot as she could stand, then stripped and stepped in under it. The heat felt wonderful. She stood there for a long time, letting it cascade over her body and trying to relax. The entire day had been a disaster. She wasn’t the only paralegal in the law firm where she worked, but today it seemed like everyone there had been pulling her in different directions. Everyone wanted something from her, but no one was leaving her any time or space to get anything done. It was infuriating. What’s worse was that no one seemed to have a clue what kind of pressure she was under.
Lena stood under the shower until she began to feel waterlogged, but despite her best efforts, she was still seething. Her brain flatly refused to shut up and let the horrible day go. Every annoying detail played itself back in her mind over and over again, making her want to scream or maybe bite something, hard.
Frustrated, she shut off the water and stepped out. She wrapped herself in a towel and stomped into the bedroom before dropping the towel and jerking on sweats and a tee shirt. Snatching up her hair brush, she attacked her hair, dragging the brush through it in rapid, inpatient strokes before gathering it up into a ponytail. Deprived of anything to do, she stood there, paralyzed with indecision. On the one hand, part of her wanted desperately to go to Jonah, to just cling to him with abandon and let him take care of everything. On the other hand, the part of her that was still angry twisted and snarled, wanting a fight, wanting something, anything to do battle with. At the same time, yet another part of her would’ve like nothing more than to crawl into the bed, curl up in a ball, and hide, preferably forever or at least for a very, very long time.
Jonah stepped into the bedroom, shattering her momentary paralysis. He stepped behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. “Feel better?”
Not really, she wanted to say, but instead she nodded.
“I found one of your casseroles in the freezer and put it in the oven for dinner. I followed your directions,” he said, “so it should be fine. I might be a hopeless cook, but I can follow directions, especially since your directions are a lot simpler than the blueprints and construction plans I typically deal with.” Jonah smiled, clearly joking. Lena gave him a small smile, but she couldn’t manage much enthusiasm.
“Should I throw together a salad or something to go with it?” Jonah asked.
Lena swallowed on a sigh. “Whatever you want,” she said noncommittally. Just make a decision, she wanted to scream. Jonah was the dominant man by nature. Often he could be phenomenally and infuriatingly bossy. Why, tonight of all nights, did he decide he needed her opinion to make dinner? It was food. He knew what she liked, and he knew what things she absolutely wouldn’t eat. As long as he stayed within those parameters, if he put it in front of her, she would eat it. It didn’t need to be a twenty minute discussion.
“I want to know what you want,” Jonah replied.
“I said it doesn’t matter,” Lena snapped. She twisted away, flinging her brush onto the dresser. “Make it if you want or don’t. I. Don’t. Care.” She huffed into the living room, leaving Jonah to trail behind.
He caught her before she had a chance to sit down, forcibly turning her to face him. “Oh no you don’t,” he said when she attempted to pull away. “We don’t talk to each other that way, and you know it. What’s going on? If you’re angry with me say so.”
“I’m not,” Lena told him, or at least she hadn’t been before he started acting like he couldn’t make a decision without her say so. “I told you. I had a bad day. Aren’t I allowed to have a bad day every once in a while?”
“Of course you are,” Jonah replied. “I’ve offered to talk with you about it, and I still will if you want to get it off your chest. If you want to forget it, that’s fine too. What is not fine is stomping around and biting my head off every time I ask a question. You need to settle down.”
Lena stood stock still, gritting her teeth. Settle down? He wanted her to settle down? He’d better be glad there was nothing to throw within easy reach because so help her if she could have gotten her hands on something at this moment, she would have thrown it at his obnoxious head. Of all the nerve, he had no idea what she had been through today. Let him try dealing with four demanding lawyers all day long and see how he fared. Ha, he’d probably get fired the first day for punching Peter the Weasel in the face.
“I’m trying,” she ground out finally.
Jonah moved his hands to her back and began to rub up and down. His touch was gentle but somehow went deep and firm enough to leave a shadow of the feeling in its wake. “I know you are,” he said. “Anything I can do?”
Go knock my bosses heads together and make them see sense, Lena thought. Sighing, she shook her head.
“You sure you don’t want to talk about it?” Jonah asked.
“No,” Lena said firmly. “The last thing I want to do is rehash this whole awful day. I just want to forget it, put it behind me.”
“That’s why I think it would help to talk about it,” Jonah said. “Get it out of your head and put it behind you.”
Lena stepped away and this time, Jonah let her go. “I don’t need help. I don’t need to talk about it. What I need is a glass of wine and some time to unwind and relax and forget it.”
Jonah nodded. “Okay,” he said. “We can do that, but if you keep up this attitude, I will force the issue, whether you want me to not. We can talk with you over my knee if necessary. Understood?”