Make me risk it, p.1

Make Me Risk It, page 1

 part  #5 of  Make Me Series


Make Me Risk It

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Make Me Risk It

  Titles by Beth Kery















  Because You Are Mine Series





  One Night of Passion Series




  One Night of Passion Specials



  Make Me

  Part 5

  Make Me Risk It

  Beth Kery

  InterMix Books, New York




  An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

  Copyright © 2016 by Beth Kery.

  Excerpt from When I’m With You copyright © 2013 by Beth Kery.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  INTERMIX and the “IM” design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  For more information about The Berkley Publishing Group, visit

  eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-98825-1


  InterMix eBook edition / May 2016

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



  Titles by Beth Kery

  Title Page


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Excerpt from When I’m With You

  About the Author

  Chapter One

  Living up to his easygoing management style, Sangar had no problem whatsoever telling Harper to go home once she’d turned in her work that Friday. Harper called Jacob and let him know she could leave for San Francisco whenever he was ready. His driver and he were there in the parking lot when she walked out of the newsroom ten minutes later.

  The glamour and novelty of Lattice’s sleek private jet awaiting them at the Truckee-Tahoe Airport that afternoon only added to her sense of general euphoria at the prospect of a weekend with Jacob. He was on the phone a lot during their chauffeured ride to their airport and after boarding the plane. He’d immediately apologized for his preoccupation with business when she got into the limo with him. Harper assured him she understood. He’d already put off leaving for San Francisco because he was waiting for her to finish work, after all. She relaxed in the luxurious seat, listening to him talk and experiencing his concise, drilling intelligence firsthand. Unlike this morning on the terrace, when she’d found him intimidating, she found herself relaxing, however. Wasn’t it natural, that he could apply that intense focus of his wherever he chose?

  Once the pilot informed them that they’d be taking off soon, he hung up his cell phone and dropped it on the table in front of them with a clunking sound.

  He took her hand.

  “Hi,” he said.

  “Hi,” Harper returned, smiling over at him.

  “Sorry again about all that,” he said, nodding at his phone.

  “No problem. Does it look like a problem you’ll be able to solve?” she asked. She knew by listening to him he’d been conferring with others on the copyright claim on the software for the business he wanted to buy.

  “It’ll get solved. It’s just a matter of how much time and money we have to throw at this thing to get it there.”

  “Does the prior copyright claim on the software seem legitimate?” she asked.

  His stare was on her face. As usual, she felt uniquely aware of herself and her body when his focused attention was on her. “Legitimate enough to bring it to court. It’s my job to convince the claimant that it’s not worth his time and money to take it there.” He abruptly planted a kiss on her mouth, making Harper blink in surprised pleasure. “Forget about work. Are you comfortable? Do you want anything to drink?”

  “No, I’m fine.”

  “I’ve told Cyril we were coming. He invited himself over to my house tomorrow. He has some ideas about the film he wants to run by you.”

  “That’d be great.” She laughed when Jacob made a face. “You act like Cyril is a pain, but you actually like his company, don’t you?”

  He merely shrugged, but something about his small smile told her that what she’d said was true.

  “Maybe it’ll be for the best if he comes over. I’ll be in meetings tomorrow afternoon. Cyril can keep you company. I promise you a nice dinner tomorrow night, though, and we have tickets to the opera tonight.”

  “It sounds great.”

  “Good. You don’t want to sit next to the window?” he asked, nodding toward the seat across from him.

  “No, I’d rather sit next to you.”

  The plane began to move on the runway. He seemed tense. Distracted.

  “What?” she asked him, sensing he had something on his tongue.

  “Is flying . . . or heights, one of the fears you had when you were a kid?”

  “No,” she replied without hesitation.

  “Do you mind if I ask what you were afraid of when you were young? Besides . . . you know. Knives?”

  “Why? I don’t have those phobias anymore,” she said, honestly curious about why he would want to know.

  He shrugged, bringing her attention down to his broad shoulders. He was wearing a white shirt and a tweed blazer. She had to restrain herself from putting her hands all over him, he looked so appealing. “I was just interested. It’s amazing, the way your father was able to get rid of your phobias so completely.”

  “Dogs,” she admitted after a pause, sighing. “That’s why I got a little freaked out when Charger charged me on the beach.”

  His eyebrows went up. “So the fears weren’t completely eradicated.”

  “You saw me with all your dogs. Lots of people would jump if a large animal ran at them, but I keep it under control. I can manage my anxiety.”

  “Right,” he murmured. The plane turned onto the runway. He was looking at her intently, stroking her hand with his thumb, seemingly unaware when the plane began to speed up for takeoff. “Was there anything else?”

  “Crowds. Being out in public.”

  “You were agoraphobic?”

  “Yes. School phobic, too, because of it,” she said,
looking away from his incising stare . . . feeling a little stupid. Embarrassed. She cleared her throat, reminding herself she was a grown woman now and was no longer that frightened girl. “I was never really afraid of people, per se, it was being out that got to me. I felt vulnerable. Exposed. I missed a good part of the seventh grade, because of it. Between doing the schoolwork at home, tutoring, and summer school, I was able to enter the eighth grade with my original class. Although, even in the eighth grade, my attendance was still a little problematic. By my sophomore year or so, the worst of my anxieties were past. I joined the school newspaper and the creative writing club.” She shrugged. “Writing kind of brought me out of my shell.”

  “That’s a lot of time lost. Do you regret it?”

  “Sure. A whole chunk of my childhood was taken from me.” The plane lifted from the ground and began hurtling through empty space. The engines hummed loudly in her ears.

  “Why?” he asked.

  “Why what?”

  “Isn’t there usually a precipitating event to phobias like you had? Some kind of trauma?” he probed.

  She focused on him, slightly incredulous that he expected her to spill her vulnerabilities. “Sometimes, but not necessarily. Why are you so curious about my teenage neuroses? Are you worried they’re going to make a reappearance?”

  “No. I’m just interested. I want to know you better.”

  She gave him a seriously? glance. His expression flattened, and she knew he’d just recalled their conversation from last night, the one where he’d told her firmly he didn’t discuss his past.

  “I get it,” he said, his mouth pressed into a hard line. “I’m not allowed to question you about your past if—”

  “You won’t let me do the same about yours? I’m actually okay with you asking, Jacob. It’d be nice if you at least recognized the double standard, though.”

  He looked out the window, his face turned in profile. In the distance, she saw the Sierra Nevada mountains falling away from them.

  “But not of heights,” she heard him say very quietly.

  “Excuse me?”

  “You weren’t afraid of heights,” he clarified. At first, she was puzzled by his statement, but after a moment, she considered it seriously.

  “I used to be pretty nervous about heights, when I was really little,” she replied thoughtfully, examining their clasped hands where they rested on his long, solid thigh.

  “But not anymore?” Jacob asked. She realized she’d sounded a little wistful, and that he’d turned and was peering at her.

  “No,” she replied softly. “Not anymore.”

  “Your father cured you of that fear, too?”

  “Not my father. Someone else.”

  From the periphery of her vision, she saw him open his mouth. He closed it without speaking. She stared out the window as they soared through the air, only feeling a sense of calm power as he held her hand tightly in his.

  * * *

  Twenty Years Ago

  When Jake opened his eyes the next morning at dawn, it was like waking up in a different body. A different world. His nose was buried in Harper’s soft hair. It smelled of hay from the loft, and peaches. They were on their sides, her back pressed against his front. He held her against him with one arm encircling her waist.

  Combining their heat had worked. He was warm.

  And he ached . . .

  The realization made him scoot away from her as fast as if he’d realized he hugged a tarantula to him. His hasty scuttling in the blankets made her stir. He regretted awakening her. But it was mortifying, the uncontrollable reaction of his body. It was as embarrassing as it would have been if he’d peed his pants in the middle of the night, and a girl was about to discover it. And not one of the giggling, swarming girls from Poplar Gorge Junior High, either.

  This wasn’t just any girl. It was Harper McFadden.

  “Jake?” she asked sleepily.

  “Yeah. It’s okay. Go back to sleep,” he ordered gruffly, reaching for a discarded sock.

  “’S okay. I’ll get up, if you are.”

  Both of them went to the waterfall and washed their hands and faces, then drank mouthfuls of the cool water. Slowly, Jake started to ache a little less, and his self-consciousness faded. They put on their tennis shoes silently. Harper sat cross-legged on the blankets when she was done. Her nose wrinkled.

  “What’s wrong?” Jake asked her warily.

  “I smell,” she said.

  “Like peaches,” he mumbled under his breath, tying his shoe off extra hard. He froze. His eyes widened at the recognition of his misstep.


  “Nothing,” he muttered.

  “I wish I could take a bath,” she said longingly, staring at the opening to the cave in the distance. Pale morning light was starting to shine through the small hole in the rocks.

  “I brought some soap. I could give you some privacy and you could wash in the waterfall. Water’s ice cold, though.”

  “I don’t care,” she said, sniffing in the direction of her armpit and scowling.

  “I have another idea,” he said, standing. “It should be safe. One thing I know for sure, Emmitt don’t get up until way after dawn, even when he’s tracking. It’s like his brain doesn’t function in the early morning. We probably have an hour or more to do it, and then to get back here under cover.”

  “Do what?”

  He nodded toward the back of the cave. “If Emmitt ever did track us here, we’d have to make a fast escape. There’s a small opening onto a river cliff, back there in the second cave.”

  “There’s a second cave?”

  “Yeah. The entrance to the second cave is even smaller than that one.” He nodded toward the sunlit hole. “Emmitt couldn’t get through it, but we could.”

  Harper smiled. “There are advantages to being small.”

  He turned his head, afraid she’d notice his cheeks color. She was grinning gamely, and clearly hadn’t realized how her offhand comment about his size pained him.

  “Are you afraid of heights?” he asked her.

  Her smile faded. “A little. Why?”

  “Because the only way off the cliff is through the cave, or over the edge. But the New River is nice and deep below. It’s safe. I’ve jumped the cliff six, maybe seven times,” he assured when he saw her eyes widen with anxiety.

  “How far is the jump?”

  “Thirty, thirty-five feet at most.” Was it his imagination, or did she go pale? “See, the thing is, if we practice it early this morning, we’ll know we can do it,” he explained in a rush, feeling like he was losing her cooperation by the second. “That way, our escape plan will be in place. We’ll know that even if Emmitt walked right up to this cave, we could get away from him. Plus . . . you’d get your bath. We could bring some soap.” He added the last lamely.

  “I don’t know. It sounds scary. Besides, you said that you don’t think your uncle could ever find us here.”

  “I don’t think he will. But we have to be ready for the small chance that he does.”

  She bit at her lower lip anxiously. Her lips reminded him of the color of ripe strawberries. They looked so pretty next to her copper-colored hair.

  “Can’t I just jump if Emmitt ever comes?” she asked, her voice sounding squeaky.

  “How’s this? We’ll just go out onto the cliff, and you can see what it’s like,” he said. He was worried—now more so, seeing her nervousness about heights—that she’d freeze if Emmitt actually did show up. Her anxiety could cost them precious seconds, and those seconds, their lives. If she practiced and was confident she could do the cliff jump, it’d make a big difference.

  When she didn’t respond immediately, he planted a confident, it’ll be all right, you’re making it into a bigger deal than it is expression on his face.

bsp; “Okay, but I’ve got to pee first.” He nodded as if it were no big deal for a pretty girl to talk to him about peeing. With Harper, he realized it actually wasn’t.

  * * *

  After they’d both relieved themselves in different parts of the cave, Jake led her farther back to what he called the “second” cave. He kept a flashlight stashed behind a rock at the entrance. He used it now, so as not to waste any of the batteries from the two flashlights he’d put in their backpacks.

  “Oh, look!” Harper exclaimed in a hushed tone of admiration when the beam of light lit up the cavern surprisingly well. “Stalactites and stalagmites.”

  Jake smiled at her excitement, remembering the first time he’d discovered the inner portion of the cave. Compared to the boring and bare outer cave, it’d been like entering a beautiful, alien world. “You know the difference between them?” he challenged her.

  “’Course,” she sniffed. She pointed up. “Those are stalactites and those”—she pointed down—“are stalagmites.” She glanced over at him. He just arched his brows. “Wait. At least I think so. Isn’t that right?” she trailed off uncertainly when she saw his doubtful expression.

  “Do you want me to tell you the right answer?”

  “Yeah. I mean no,” she corrected when he grinned broadly. She shoved him in the shoulder. “I knew I was right,” she accused.

  “Then what were you so worried about?”

  He started to turn off the flashlight—the small opening to the cliff was twenty feet above them now, and light streamed into the darkness. Something caught his eye next to the rock fall of stones and dirt leading to the cliff. He moved away from Harper, shining the flashlight into a dim corner.

  “What’s wrong?” Harper whispered behind him.

  “Nothing,” Jake said, hiding his concern at the sight of a large animal’s scat. He didn’t want Harper worrying about yet another thing. The cliff jump was going to be challenge enough for now. That, and getting her up there to begin with.

  He turned off the flashlight and moved next to her. The small opening was twenty feet above them. He climbed up several feet onto the rock pile, extending his hand to Harper.

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