Publication date: March 14th 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Words to live by:
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Don’t break the rules.
I’d managed to fail at both by fraternizing with the enemy’s brother. Guess I’d followed in my mother’s footsteps by ignoring all the rules when it came to love.
Mom was marrying a man only six years older than me. A man who was also her student. But the biggest surprise that came out of their wedding wasn’t my new stepdad’s academic status or his age.
It was Jack Davis—my stepfather’s best friend.
Jack was the guy who could change the whole game. He was quite possibly my soul mate. But time and circumstance were against us—there was no easy way around it. I was moving back to New York in two weeks and his sister, Aubrey, was the one person my family hated most in this world. How would his sister—the enemy—deal with another Edwards girl claiming what she believed was hers? The idea of letting Jack go crippled me. Would I have to cut ties with the only man I’d ever let into my heart?
“I don’t think you’re a tease, Stella.”
“Then what do you think?” I was dying to know what was running through his mind. I wasn’t playing a game—honest to God—but I could see how it might look that way. Unlike the way I’d felt in the beginning of all this, I didn’t want him to give up on me because my actions were yo-yoing all over the place.
I wanted him to pursue me while we still had time.
Taking my hand in his, he placed one finger under my chin and turned my face in his direction. “What I think is that you’re a phenomenal kisser. And I plan on doing a lot more of that tonight and all the other nights until you leave—maybe even some of that kissing will convince you not to go. But in the meantime, we’re going back to my place, we’re going to order whatever you want to eat, then relax and watch a movie or whatever makes you comfortable. As long as we get to spend time together . . . there’s no rush.”
The saddened look in his eyes told me that last part was a lie. It was painfully obvious that we were running out of time. I hated it. There were so many things I wished for in that moment—the ability to freeze the clock, or travel back in time, or to have an endless do-over of the last few days with Jack on a repeat reel. It felt like some odd and cruel twist of fate. What kind of messed up destiny would throw Jack in my path now?
Forgoing all the bitter thoughts playing out in my frazzled brain, I nodded in answer to Jack’s questioning eyes. “Okay. I like the sound of that.”
It was time to abandon plans and worries and strategies. The only thing I planned on doing from here on out was whatever I felt was right—in the moment. I wanted to kiss him again, and if kissing led to more then I was ready for that, too. Jack was right when he said all that mattered was that we spent the time we did have together. The memories would be worth it, even if it meant hurting in their absence.
“Would you like to dance?” His bold invitation hooked me from the get-go, but I didn’t want to break into Mom and Caleb’s spotlight just yet.
Unwilling to decline his refreshing companionship, I countered, “How about a drink instead?” A shot of something stiff and fiery might pump some life back into me and eventually prepare me for the dance Jack had requested.
“Deal.” He nodded and hooked his arm with mine.
He ushered me to the bar like two old, familiar friends; I felt oddly comfortable being man-handled by him. I glanced down to where our arms intertwined and he caught me checking out his bulging bicep.
“Sorry, just thought you could use a friend,” he admitted, releasing my arm as we continued to walk. “You looked a little . . . preoccupied.”
Besides his insanely good looks and the unnerving effect he had over my body, I also had to give him props for how perceptive he was. “What, are you a psychologist or something?” I joked. I wanted—needed—to know more about him.
“No,” he laughed, running his hand over his overgrown five o’clock scruff. “But I was a bartender for a while. Kind of the same thing.”
I nodded as I raised my hand to get our bartender’s attention. “Oh, did you work with Caleb?”
“I don’t mix business with pleasure, doll. Working with friends always causes problems. Besides, bartending was never my passion.”
“Well, what is your passion?” Something deep inside me begged him to say blonde bridesmaids. I bit my lip, waiting for his response.
“I have many, but if you want to know what I do for a living, you could just ask. Or is that part of your mysterious charm?”
“Me? Mysterious?” It was my turn to laugh. Maybe he wasn’t as perceptive as I thought. I was usually an open book. My eyes were the windows to my soul, as Mom liked to put it.
“Stella,” Jack leaned closer. His tuxedo-clad arm settled around my shoulders. I really liked the way my name rolled off his tongue. And I loved the way his body molded with mine.
“Yes, Jack,” I whispered. It was a plea. Suddenly I was ready to say yes to anything he asked of me.
Caressing my bare skin with his thumb, he answered, “I meant it in a good way. You’re mysterious and beautiful and just one look at you makes me want to peel apart your layers and find out who you are.”
Wow! If my mouth hadn’t already felt stuffed with a giant wad of cotton candy that definitely did the trick.
I gulped back my nerves and said a silent prayer of thanks when the bartender interrupted us. “What can I get you?”
Words. Courage. A normal heart rate. Were any of those on the drink menu? ’Cause I sure could’ve used a potent dose of all three.
Visibly sensing how bowled over I was by what he said, Jack took charge in ordering. “A glass of Pinot for the lady, and I’ll have a . . . Stella.” His grin grew so wide it was comical. His joke should’ve made me laugh, but the innuendo got the best of me and made me squirm in my seat.
Arching a brow, I gathered my unraveled nerves and stared into his baby blues. “Seriously? Of all the beers?”
“Serious, my friend. Stella happens to be my favorite. It’s a classic, golden beauty that satisfies my thirst. And when it’s fresh, crisp taste tickles and caresses my tongue, I lap up every drop and don’t let any of it go to waste.”
Gulp! Like, literally. Where was my Pinot? I needed that sucker. Now!
“I’m sorry,” Jack finally relented through a gritty, growled chuckle. “I’m coming on way too strong and I must sound like such a dick. It’s just . . . you’ve had my attention all day, and when I saw you watching your mom and Caleb, you looked a little . . . sad, I guess. I didn’t like seeing you that way. I thought talking to you would make you laugh. Now I’ve gone and made you uncomfortable at your mother’s wedding.” He stared at his clasped hands, the ones that were no longer wrapped around my shoulders. I wanted them back there. I wanted him to touch me again. I wanted him to continue flirting and make me feel the things no other guy had ever made me feel before.
“There’s nothing to be sorry about, Jack. I’m glad you’re here.” And I was. I welcomed the distance from Nina and Ryan and Mom and Caleb, enjoying my time with someone who made me smile.
Faith Andrews is living out her dream right outside the greatest city in the world, New York City.
Happily married to her high school sweetheart, she is the mother of two beautiful and wild daughters, and a furry Yorkie son named Rocco Giovanni.
When she's not tapping her toes to a Mumford & Sons tune or busy being a dance mom, her nose is stuck in a book or she's sitting behind the laptop, creating her next swoon worthy book boyfriend.
Coffee addict, lover of wine and cheese, and sucker for concerts and Netflix, Faith believes in love at first sight and happily ever after.
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