Authors: Delinda Jasper
|A Reason to Stay|
|Romantic Trysts (2009)|
Ellie loves her hometown, job, and best friend Jake. But Jake is a ladies man that will never settle down. Ellie can't stand to see him with other women anymore, so she is packing up and leaving Cedar Grove and everything she loves to start over. A night of unexpected passion makes her start to think maybe things can work out between them, until she happens upon a secret Jake has been keeping for more than a year. Will their friendship be forever torn apart? Or will Ellie find A Reason to Stay?
a reason to stay
by delinda jasper
A Reason to Stay
By Delinda Jasper
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Reason to Stay
Copyright © 2005, 2007, 2009 Delinda Jasper
Cover Art © 2009 DJ Alling
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No portion of this work may be transmitted or reproduced in any form, or by any means, without permission in writing from the publisher, with the exception of brief excerpts for the purpose of review.
Printed in U.S.A
This book has been previously published.
For those who are lucky enough to have a best friend and lover rolled into one.
And to my best friend, lover, soul mate, husband… thank you for being everything I never knew I wanted.
Neatly stacked boxes lined the walls; furniture
stacked neatly together in the order it should go on the moving truck crowded the middle of the living room floor. Ellie sighed heavily as she taped up the last box of CDs and added it to the stack. She was finished. Everything she owned—her entire life, was packed up and waiting for the movers to come in the morning.
At 29, she was a free woman now, with no ties holding her down. Her life was really changing, for the better. She had a new job at a major newspaper in Chicago, a huge step up from her position at the tiny Cedar Grove weekly. Her new apartment, though much smaller than the home she had shared with her grandmother, was in a very nice, upscale neighborhood. All of her friends were already planning their vacations for the year to come visit her, so she wouldn’t be too lonely. She should be thrilled with her life—but she wasn’t. Futilely pushing wayward chestnut curls from her face, she leaned against a stack of boxes and let her mind go back over her reasons for leaving, just as she had hundreds of times in the two months since her grandmother’s death.
For what seemed like the hundredth time, Ellie played her reasons for moving over in her mind again. She was 29, single, and living in a tiny little one-horse town with a dead end job. With her grandmother gone she wasn’t tied down anymore, and she had enough money to live anywhere in the world she wanted. She owed it to herself to get out in the world. Those were the reasons she gave for moving. No one seemed to notice she was only repeating what her friends told her.
The truth was, Ellie loved Cedar Grove. She had never felt tied down. She had moved here to live with Grammy shortly after her fourteenth birthday, and it was the only stable home she had ever known. She liked small town life, knowing everyone. Her job, though it didn't have much room for advancement, was fun. As for the being single part, well, she did have to agree there were more eligible men in Chicago. But eligible men were not the reason she was leaving everything she knew and loved. Her reason went much deeper than that.
"Ready to go?"
Ellie jumped at the deep voice. She whirled and stared at the man lounging lazily in the doorway. He stood well over six feet, but the way his body was leaning against the wall, with his long, faded blue jean clad legs sticking out in front of him, it was hard to tell just how tall he was. It wasn’t hard to tell though, that this man was well built. His thin black t-shirt seemed stretched to its limits as it hugged his broad shoulders and showed every contour of his muscular upper arms. The shirt was looser where it tucked into his low-slung jeans, but still clung just enough to hint at the rock hard abs beneath.
"Sheesh, Jake! Don’t you know better than sneaking up on someone like that?"
"Sneak? Who’s sneaking?" Jake’s eyes flashed mischievously as he grinned and laughed, "I just left the room five minutes ago; I didn’t realize it took so little time to forget me."
Ellie couldn’t help but laugh. Jake McCallister was a lot of things, but easy to forget was definitely not on the list.
Ellie rolled her eyes. "No, Jake, you’re not forgettable. You are annoying, aggravating, and…"
"Tsk, tsk, is that the way to way to talk about your best friend in the whole wide world? I mean really, Peaches, who else would have taken off work to help you pack up all your worldly belongings and move to the big bad city?" He peeled himself away from the wall and walked towards her. "And who else would be able to see through that tough face you’ve been putting on and know how hard all this has been on you. Come here."
She didn’t resist when he pulled her into is arms; instead she sank into his hard chest, letting his warmth comfort her. If only he really did know how hard leaving Cedar Grove was on her, but he didn’t. If he did, chances were pretty good he wouldn’t be holding her in his arms like this right now. But he was, and right now that was all she could let matter.
After tomorrow, moments like this would be few and far between, if they ever existed again at all. At that thought, the tears that had been so near the surface the past weeks began rolling down her cheeks once again.
Jake must have felt the tremors that accompanied her silent tears because he tightened his hold on her, gathering her close and tight to him, his chin resting on the top of her head. He gently rocked both of them side to side, murmuring soft words of comfort into her hair, telling her he understood how much she missed Grammy.
Grammy had been sick for a very long time, and though she missed her so much it was sometimes hard to breathe, Ellie had come to terms with the fact that Grammy was in a far better place now. Her tears for Grammy had all been shed within the first two weeks after her death. No, that was definitely not why she was crying.
Jake thought she was still upset over Grammy’s death. Taking a deep breath, his strong masculine scent filling her nose and playing havoc with her senses, Ellie wondered what he would think of her if he knew just how wrong he was. She wondered what he would do if he knew she was crying because of him.
No, she couldn’t say she was crying because of him. Though it would make her feel better and make all of this easier, she couldn’t put the blame on him. He’d done nothing wrong. That was the whole problem. It wasn’t his fault she’d been stupid enough to fall in love with him.
Jake held her until her body stopped shaking with sobs and was replaced by the occasional jump of hiccups. Stroking her hair, his voice was soft and soothing as he said, "Feeling better, Sweetheart?"
Surprisingly, she did. It had felt good to let go and let the tears flow. It had felt even better to have Jake’s arms around her while she did it. It was pretty ironic that the root of her problems was how much she wanted to be in his arms, yet whenever she needed comfort that was exactly where she ended up. Just not in the way she wanted.
"Now, are you ready for Movie Night? I’ve rented some of our favorites in honor of the last one we’ll have for a while." Jake asked as he squeezed her tighter for a moment, and then let her go.
Ellie managed a smile and nod, trying to look cheerier than she felt. She felt downright lonely without his arms around her.
Oh, get a grip Ellie
, she chided herself.
You’re acting like a lovesick teenager instead of a mature woman who is in control of herself.
The problem was she didn’t feel very much like she was in control of herself. But she had to get control. Fast. Tonight was the last night she would get to spend with Jake in a very long time, possibly ever. She would not waste it by moping around and pouting over what would never be. She would enjoy their last Movie Night if it killed her.
They’d been having movie night since their teens. One night a week they got together, watched movies and gorged themselves on take-out. At first Movie Night had been Saturdays, but as Date Night took its place and then they got older and busier, Movie Night became adaptable to their schedules. Once, when they were in college, they’d combined Date Night and Movie Night into one. It had been a complete disaster.
Their dates hadn’t understood the ritual of renting one gratuitously violent action film and one pitifully sappy romantic comedy, and then talking all the way through both movies. Neither Jake’s, nor Ellie’s date had understood why they would want to rent movies they’d already seen about a hundred times. Nor had either date been impressed by the fact that both Jake and Ellie knew the movies so well they could, and did, say the lines along with the actors. In fact, both had complained so much Jake had shut the second movie off within minutes of its start and took his girlfriend home. Ellie’s date had left just before the end of the first movie. From that night on dates had been permanently banned from Movie Night.
Her smile brighter and more genuine this time, she asked, "Pizza or Chinese for dinner?"
Ellie loved Jake’s bathroom. She knew it was an
odd room in the house to find the most attractive and comfortable, but she couldn’t help it. The first thing Jake had done when he bought the old farmhouse he lived in was remodel the master bath. It was once dark and cramped, with fixtures that had been there since the early sixties, but now it was huge and light and airy.
The wall separating the original bathroom from one of the house's five bedrooms had been knocked out in order to expand the bathroom and create a massive walk in closet. A huge tiled shower and a separate roman-style whirlpool tub replaced the old built in shower-tub combo. It could have been the bathroom of a multi-million dollar mansion instead of a hundred-year-old farmhouse.
She was going to miss this bathroom. Ellie sighed as she poured some lavender scented bath oil she kept under Jake's double sink into the steaming water filling the tub. She had often taken advantage of this room. She loved bubble baths, and both of the bathrooms in the house she’d shared with her grandmother had those tiny old tubs that barely held enough water to get a person's ankles wet, much less enough for someone with Ellie’s figure to submerge herself in.
Once the tub was filled, she turned on the whirlpool jets, stripped off her clothes and lowered her body into the frothy water. She nearly groaned her pleasure. Her body was so tired and sore from all of the packing she’d done in the last week the steaming, scented water felt like heaven on her skin. She leaned back, laying her head on the back of the tub and let the jets of pulsing water work out the kinks in her muscles.
She had at least half an hour or more before the Chinese food Jake was ordering got there, so she would have plenty of time to relax a bit. But relaxing was easier said than done. The way she’d felt when Jake held her in his arms earlier in her living room haunted her. She’d felt safe, and like in his arms was the one place she belonged. Unfortunately, that was the one place she didn’t belong.
Jake was sweet and caring, but he was also a ladies man. He loved women, and women loved him. Ellie doubted if there would ever be just one woman who could satisfy Jake’s lusts. She did know that if there was, it definitely wasn’t her. He dated tall, thin, super-model types, and that sure as heck wasn’t her. It wasn’t that Jake was shallow, far from it. But when tall, thin, leggy women were constantly throwing themselves at him, who could blame him for partaking.
There was definitely something about Jake that drove women wild, and it was more than just his good looks. Oh, he was good looking, that was for sure. In fact, he was down right gorgeous with his jet-black hair and piercing, charcoal eyes.