Authors: Ella Jade
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Contemporary, #high school sweethearts, #Series, #Small Town, #contemporary erotic romance, #Erotic, #shotgun wedding, #lost love, #second chances, #Contemporary Romance, #Ella Jade
The Steeple Town Series – Book One – A Love Stolen
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright 2012 Ella Jade
Cover Art by Fiona Jayde
This book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any existing means without written permission from the publisher. Contact Noble Romance Publishing, LLC at PO Box 467423, Atlanta, GA 31146.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. The characters are products of the author's imagination and used fictitiously.
Lila Crofton flees the town of Steeple when she learns of her boyfriend, Trevor Matheson's, betrayal. Trevor's one-night stand proves to be too much for the young lovers. Lila won't stick around and watch the only man she's ever loved move on with another. She heads to the city and starts over.
Six years later, recently divorced Sheriff Trevor Matheson is picking up the pieces of his life. When his high school sweetheart, Lila, returns to Steeple to bury her father, Trevor sees it as a sign. He's getting over a failed marriage and she's grieving the loss of her dad. They need one another. The timing couldn't be more perfect.
Can the two overcome the ghosts of their past and rekindle a love lost? Is there a second chance in their future, or is their stolen love gone forever?
Lila Crofton pulled up a stool at the edge of the bar and waited for her friend Cali to finish serving a beer to the cute man she was flirting with. It had been years since Lila had been in the old beach town restaurant.
Back then, Cali Tate's dad had run the place, before Lila had left the little New England community of Steeple, six years earlier, and tried desperately not to look back.
She was twenty, and looking to make a new life for herself when she'd left.
Then her father got cancer, a year and a half ago; she moved him to the city, and in with her. She'd told him the hospitals were better equipped for him there, and while that was true, she'd also had selfish reasons. Caring for her dad was important to her, but she didn't want to have to come back and face the memory of her stolen love. She'd thought of Trevor Matheson through the years. More than she would've liked. He was her high school sweetheart, and the love of her life. Her entire world revolved around him. It was funny how one man could make an eighteen-year-old girl's heart melt, over and over again. No matter how many times he'd hurt her or screwed things up, she'd always forgiven him. Except that last time. She'd been plain out of forgiveness.
* * * * *
The strong July sun reflected off the ocean as Lila sat by the shoreline and
watched as Trevor's tall, muscular form made its way down the beach. She licked her lips and smiled at him because she couldn't control herself when he wore his uniform.
She personally liked the handcuffs.
"Hey, Deputy Matheson. Come to arrest me?"
He smirked as he plopped down in the sand next to her. He'd completed his
criminal justice degree that May and had taken on the position of town deputy. The job was familiar to him, because he'd been on the Steeple police force since he'd graduated high school. He followed in his father and grandfather's footsteps. At least one member of the Matheson family worked on the small force for the last thirty years. Lila knew it was a tradition Trevor wasn't entirely sure he wanted to continue.
"I've been a really bad girl." Lila leaned in and ran her tongue along his bottom lip. "I think I need to be punished."
He tangled his fingers in her hair and pressed his lips against hers. They kissed for a few minutes, then he pulled back and stared at her. His usually vibrant green eyes looked dull. She'd been with him for over three years. Long enough to know when something was on his mind.
"Hard day at work?" She pushed his thick, dark hair from his eyes.
"No, not at work." He kissed her again, with more force this time.
"It's been one of those days." He picked up a broken seashell and tossed it into the surf.
"Maybe I can make it a better night?" She climbed into his lap and draped her arms over his broad shoulders. "It's my dad's poker night. We'll have the house all to ourselves."
He kept looking out into the sea, but she could tell he wasn't focused on anything in particular. He was so far away. She didn't like any distance between them. Not since they'd gotten back together, after a two-month break. Things were perfect between them, and she didn't want that to change. He had been working hard to treat her better.
He was no longer the young guy who wanted inside her panties every chance he got.
He was maturing, and Lila couldn't have been happier.
"Mary Grace Jackson is pregnant." He looked down at his hands. "Three months."
"What idiot knocked up the preacher's daughter?"
"I did." His voice was low and he refused to look at Lila.
"That's not funny." She smacked his shoulder.
"I'm not trying to be funny."
"What?" She didn't understand what was going on with him, but he'd better start explaining. "You hardly know her."
"We were broken up," he said. "I didn't tell you I slept with her because it didn't mean anything. I didn't cheat on you."
"You slept with Mary Grace? While we were broken up?" She tried to process the absurdity of the situation. They had called it quits. Lila refused to talk to Trevor during those two months they were apart. She never thought he'd go without sex, but getting someone pregnant wasn't in her thoughts, either. Since they'd gotten back together, and he'd graduated college, they'd been on the right track.
She jumped off his lap and headed toward the mainland.
"Lila." He chased after her. "I'm sorry."
"You got another girl pregnant. How could you do that to me?"
"I took her out and one thing led to another. It was just the one time." He grabbed her arm and turned her toward him. "One time."
"And that's supposed to make it better?" She pulled out of his hold.
"You and I got back together a few weeks later." He took her hand. "She never contacted me again, until today."
"To tell you she was pregnant? With your baby?" The thought of him having a baby with someone else nauseated her.
He nodded again.
"What are you going to do about it?"
"I told her I'd meet with her parents tonight. Her dad, well, he's a preacher, and he's not real happy with me at the moment."
"What are you going to tell them?"
"I don't know, but Mary Grace is upset, and I have to be there for her. This is my mistake, too."
"You don't know anything about her. How can you—?" Lila couldn't believe what was happening. Yesterday they were talking about getting an apartment together while she finished college, and today he was meeting with a girl and her parents to discuss having a baby.
"You can't be with her."
"Look, I know this isn't what we expected, but I have to be responsible."
"You weren't real responsible three months ago, were you?" Lila was upset. She wasn't being rational, but her boyfriend had gotten another girl pregnant. How was she supposed to deal with that? She shouldn't have to deal with it. "We've been together for three years. How could you sleep with someone else and not tell me? I don't care if we were broken up."
"I'm sorry." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Do you think I did this on purpose?"
She let go of his hand and started toward the street.
"Wait." He came after her. "Don't walk away."
"Trevor." She continued to head toward town. "I can't deal with this now. You do what you have to do."
"Lila, please, I can't lose you."
* * * * *
"Earth to Lila." Cali's voice pulled her from her thoughts. "Where are you?"
"Huh?" Lila stared up at Cali, and then noticed her friend Jenson was sitting on the stool next to her.
"You okay?" Jenson asked.
"When did you get here?" She hugged her friend.
"A minute ago," the petite brunette said. "You were a million miles away."
"Sorry." Lila took a sip of the soda Cali placed in front of her. "Guess I got lost in a memory."
"Thinking about your dad?" Cali gave her a sincere smile as she pushed her pink-tipped bangs from her eyes. The last time Cali had come to visit Lila in the city, Cali's bangs had been purple. Lila couldn't keep up with her quirky friend.
The three of them had been the best of friends since kindergarten. Along with
their friendship, their unique personalities grew through the years. Jenson Connors was the shy, awkward one who loved to read and write. She'd taken over Book Nook, the local bookstore after she'd graduated from Dartmouth. Cali Tate was the fun-loving, brassy girl of the group. She liked piercings and tattoos. Running Tate's at the Beach was her life. Lila loved them both like sisters, and felt comforted to have had them with her during the past few days.
"The funeral was beautiful." Jenson stroked Lila's hair. "He would have loved what you said about him."
"Thanks." Lila smiled when she thought about her dad. "I'm just happy he's finally at peace."
"Have you decided if you're going to stay in Steeple for a bit?" Jenson asked. "We don't want you to leave."
"I don't know." Lila sipped her soda. Her stomach had been unsettled since coming back. She wanted to believe it was the funeral, but she knew better.
"You shouldn't be alone," Cali said. "We can help you clean out the house."
When Lila moved her father in with her, she'd hoped he'd one day be able to
return to Steeple, so they'd left most of his belongings in the family home.
"What are you going to do with the house?" Jenson asked.
"I haven't made any plans yet." Lila sighed. "I grew up in that house. All of my memories of my parents are in there." Lila's mom had passed away when Lila was ten, but she remembered everything about her.
"That's why you should stay and take your time." Cali placed a bottle of water in front of Jenson. "We'll be here for you."
Lila nodded. It wasn't as if she had anything to go back to the city for. She'd been laid off from her teaching job, because she hadn't earned tenure, and the new teachers were always the first to go. She'd kicked around the idea of going back to school to get her doctorate. Her father had left her more than enough money to live comfortably for quite some time.
"I don't know." Lila played with the straw in her drink. "There are so many memories here."
"Screw the sheriff." Cali was always so protective of Lila, especially when it came to Trevor. "Don't let Trevor run you out of this town again."
"He didn't run me out the first time," Lila said. "I wanted to go."
There was no way she could stay and watch him marry another and raise a child.
"Bullshit." Cali wiped down the bar. "You switched schools and never looked back. You never came back to us."
"What was I supposed to do?" Lila asked. "Stay and watch him marry her?
Congratulate them when the baby came?"
"You could have fought harder for him, if you really wanted to. Not that I think the pig was ever worth you." Cali had never forgiven Trevor for getting Mary Grace pregnant.
"Cali," Jenson said, "none of that matters anymore. Lila is over it."
"Sure she is." Cali knew Lila well. As much as Lila tried to forget Trevor, she'd never gotten over the love she'd lost. First love really did die hard.
"Okay, guys," Lila said. "It's been a long week and I have a headache." She couldn't deal with any more today.
"I'm sorry." Cali grabbed her hand. "You know I love you. I don't want you to run back to Boston because you're afraid to face him. I miss you, and I want you to stay.
This is your home."
"Me too," Jenson said. "Stay with us."
"I'll think about it, but right now I want to head home and take a hot bath." Lila picked her bag off the bar and slipped off the stool. "Thanks for being there for me this week. I couldn't have planned everything and made it through the funeral without either of you."
"We'll always be here for you." Jenson hugged her. "I'll call you later and see if you want me to bring you dinner."
"Thanks, but I'm going to crawl into bed and sleep all night. I'm beat. I'll stop by the book store tomorrow." Lila leaned across the bar and kissed Cali's cheek. "I'll be fine."
"I know what you're capable of." Cali smiled. "You'll bounce back. You always do."
"Talk to you tomorrow."
As Lila walked toward the door, she dug into her bag for her car keys. She wasn't watching where she was going as she stepped into the entryway of the restaurant. She slammed into a hard, muscular body, dropping the keys to the floor.
"I'm so sorry."
She kneeled down to pick them up, feeling like an idiot for bumping into
someone. When she stood up, she was met by a warm smile and those beautiful green eyes. He could still take her breath away.