Authors: Alexandra O'Hurley
Tags: #Romance, #Healing Hearts 1
“You have nothing to say?”
Liam looked over at Jenny. She was beautiful, funny, smart, and the exact kind of woman his parents and everyone else in his life thought he should pick for a wife. His mother had even labeled her as perfect for him, her eyes twinkling with excitement. Yet she wasn’t perfect. Something inside her was missing, and he couldn’t put a finger on it.
Jenny simply wasn’t the
. And after hearing what she’d said to Olivia, it was glaringly obvious that he’d made the wrong choice.
“I don’t know how to respond. Regardless of what you seem to think, Olivia didn’t deserve to be ripped apart. I’ve never seen your vicious side, and I can’t say I like it.”
Jenny was quiet as they rode for another mile, but he could sense her mind churning from the passenger side.
“Perhaps I was a little harsher than I planned. But you need to stop feeding her infatuation.”
Was Olivia infatuated with him? He’d offered her his kiss, and she’d pushed him away, rushing past him to dinner. Yet there had been a few moments when she’d seem intrigued, even enthralled by the thought. When she’d stepped nearer, he’d wanted to grab her and pull her close.
His mind reeled. As he sat beside the woman he’d spent the good part of a year seeing, he was thinking of Olivia. That in itself spoke volumes.
He stood at a fork in the road. There were so many expectations on all sides. He needed time to think, time to decide what the best course of action was. Either he continued down this path with Jenny, knowing what she wanted from him, or he let her go, freeing them both to find whatever fate had in store.
“I think I need some time.”
“Time for what?”
He glanced over at her and noted her large eyes and incredulous look. “Just a few days. After that eruption, I think we need to cool it for a bit.”
“Cool it for a bit.”
He saw her cross her arms over her chest from the corner of his eye. “I’ll be busy this week with my schedule anyway,” she said as she settled back into her seat.
Liam turned toward her street.
“Where are we going? I thought we were going to the food bank?”
“I don’t need your help with the boxes. I can manage.” He stopped his car before her townhouse and smiled at her.
She watched him for a moment before she spoke. “We’re okay, right?”
“Yeah. We’re okay.” He smiled for her, trying to calm her fears. They weren’t okay, but he wasn’t ready to get into an argument right now. He needed time to think before he reacted.
“Okay.” Jenny smiled tremulously and leaned in to kiss him. He turned and gave her his cheek. As she leaned back, he saw a glimmering of tears in her eyes. Liam waited for her to be inside the house before he pulled away.
As he drove toward the food bank, Olivia came into his mind. How the hell was he supposed to think when all he could see was her?
“We need to talk,” Liam said into the phone. He heard the hesitation on the other end. Jenny wasn’t going to like the conversation they were going to have, but it was inevitable. They were traveling different paths, and it had become glaringly obvious over the past few weeks. After the fiasco at the club and their conversation afterward, it was time for them to sit down, have a heart-to-heart, and end their relationship.
“I need to pick up something at the outdoor mall. Why don’t we meet there, and we can stop for coffee?” Jenny’s perky tone confused him. He wondered if she was either trying to ignore the unavoidable or she didn’t sense there was a big problem.
“I’m not in the mood for shopping.”
“It’ll be quick, I promise.”
A few hours later, Liam walked along the sidewalk, as Jenny nearly pulled him down the shop-lined path.
Christmas was over a month and a half away, yet to look around him, one would think it was a day away. Jenny had filled his arms with bags upon bags of purchases. Some he wasn’t sure were gifts for others but more than likely for herself. The jingling of bells sounded across from them, the costumed Santa squealing out “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” every few seconds, in time to the clinking of change in his pot. Real evergreens were hung draped around the old-fashioned lampposts that lined the street, their fresh scent mingled along with the roasted-chestnut vendor a block away.
It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet and Liam was already over Christmas. It seemed folks went from Labor Day and jumped headfirst into
Why he’d ever agreed to go shopping with Jenny, he’d never know, especially after her ugliness the weekend before with Olivia. His feet were sore, his ears sorer, and all he wanted was a cup of coffee to warm his insides. Whoever thought up outdoor shopping malls was insane. He froze outside and then roasted as soon as they went inside a store. Then by the time he’d taken off a layer or two, she was ready to move on to the next store and he’d have to put everything back on.
“Oh, look, a jewelry store!”
Oh great. If that wasn’t a hint, I don’t know what was.
He groaned and rolled his eyes, ready to go home. “You have plenty of jewelry.”
Jenny turned and glared at him as she began pulling him closer to the store. “You never know what you might find. I need a new pair of earrings.”
Once inside, she ran up to the first case and looked over the sparkling show. Liam stood back, his arms laden. He was already beginning to feel the effects of the heat. A clerk rushed over to help her, as they often did in any store. Jenny had the look of a woman who parted with her cash easily. Liam watched as she went from case to case, asking for certain items to inspect.
“Liam, come look at this! It’s lovely.”
After adjusting the bags, he strolled over to her spot, coming up behind her and looking over her shoulder.
Upon her finger rested a single large diamond. She looked up into his face, a brilliant smile plastered over her features. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
He observed the ring once more and felt a sharp pain in his chest.
A vision of Olivia entered suddenly, slamming into his brain like a freight train. He’d been thinking of her often over the course of the past few days. The nightmares he’d once had each night of her falling as a child were now mixed with sexual fantasies of him getting his hands on her curvaceous body. Each morning, he woke thinking of her and how he could see her again, usually with his hand on his hard shaft, aching to plant it within her.
His gaze went back to the dreamy look that had softened Jenny’s face and then up to the nodding, smiling clerk. No way was he getting roped into this. “Beautiful. Are you going to buy that for yourself?”
The dreamy look was gone in a fraction of a second, replaced by a haughty glare. “No, I was just … looking.”
She handed the ring back to the clerk and stalked straight for the door. He was obliged to follow her right on out. They walked together in stifled silence for a few feet before Jenny turned and froze in her path. “Where’s all this going, Liam?”
“Where is what going?” He knew what she was inferring, but he wasn’t ready for this talk, especially in a place so public.
“Our relationship. Where’s it going? I’m not getting any younger, you know. Most of my friends are already married and quite a few already have kids. I’m behind schedule.”
“Jenny, we just took a break, so I think that’s a good sign as to where this relationship is going. Frankly, I’m not ready to get married. I have a career that demands most of my attention.” He took a deep breath and then opened his mouth to voice the worries that had nagged at him these last few days. “You knew all that walking into this. I was quite honest and upfront that I wasn’t looking to get married.”
They needed to discuss what happened at the club last Saturday, but then Liam would have to face questions of his attraction to Olivia. Now he wished he’d used the opportunity to walk away when he’d had it, instead of calling for a break.
Jenny grew silent for a moment, her gaze dipping to the ground. “I know all that … I suppose … I hoped … things would eventually lead us down the right path. When you called this morning, I figured you’d realized how much you missed me.”
“I don’t want to get married. And if that’s what you’ve got your heart set on, then I don’t want to stand in your way.”
Tears shimmered in Jenny’s eyes. He caught sight of them before she turned away. “Is this because of Olivia?”
Liam sighed, not wanting to drag Olivia into their fight. “She may have been the catalyst for all this, but I’ve had these feelings about this relationship for a long time. I’ve seen the way you look at me. I heard you tell your friends a few weeks ago you’d
landed a doctor
. I’m not interested in being landed, Jenny.”
Shock filled her face. Apparently, she hadn’t realized he’d overheard her statement. Tears began to form in the corners of Jenny’s eyes. The outside world suddenly cracked into their little scene and he recoiled, realizing people were starting to stare as they passed. “This isn’t the place for tears. We don’t need to draw our personal life out on this sidewalk for all of Charlottesville to see.”
Jenny dabbed at her eyes and stood straighter, looking around her at the people walking past. “So … just like that … our relationship is over?”
“It’s over.” He nodded, sorrow filling him that he was hurting her.
“There’s nothing I can say or do to change your mind?”
“You want something I can’t give you. Do you really want me to change my mind?”
Jenny chuckled as she wiped tears from the corner of her eyes, a fake smile plastered to her lips. He was surprised she was taking everything so well. “I suppose not.”
“Let me help you take your bags to your car.”
She looked him over, a shudder running through her. “How did I not see this coming?”
“Sure, hit me while I’m down,” she said through nervous chuckles, still wiping at her eyes.
“You wanted a marriage to happen so badly, it was all you
Jenny looked down at her feet once more, stuffing her hands in her pockets, and fumbling for her car keys. She began to walk before him, not responding to what he’d said. Liam began following behind her down the tree-lined center down several blocks to 1st Street, where she turned and walked to the parking lot.
Once they got to her car, she opened the trunk and helped him put the bags inside. She closed the trunk with a
and then turned to him, her stare downcast. “Perhaps you’re right. I did want it badly.” She lifted her gaze to him. “I wanted it badly because … I love you.”
Liam froze, not knowing how to respond, but he couldn’t leave her show of emotion unanswered.
“I will always care about what happens to you, but I’m sorry I can’t return the feelings you have for me. You’re a special woman who deserves a man who’ll love her as much as she loves him.”
He watched as her lips quivered and tears flooded her eyes. She held on to them, none running down her cheeks. “I do deserve that. I’m only sorry it won’t be you.”
“I’m sorry for that too.”
“What about me … us … doesn’t work for you?”
“I can’t answer that because I don’t know. You’re everything a man could want. You’re beautiful, smart, funny, and I enjoy your company. But you’re—” He paused, not sure how to end that without hurting her even more.
“I’m not the one.”
It was Liam’s turn to look at his feet. “Yeah.”
He felt her caress his face, and he lifted his gaze to her. She brushed past him and got into her car. Liam watched her back up, pull out of the parking lot, and drive into the distance. A sense of sadness filled him, yet at the same time, there was a profound weight lifted from his shoulders.
Liam turned from the lot and began walking, feeling freer with each step. He took a deep breath and walked into a shop on the hunt for warm coffee and a comfortable chair. He wasn’t ready to go home to an empty house; he needed to keep himself occupied for a bit and settle his emotions.
Why in the hell did Olivia’s face jump into his mind once more? He was becoming a man obsessed. Olivia was the something he was trying not to think about, and the emotions he felt for her confused him. He needed time. Time to sort his feelings out.
Olivia sat in the café perusing the classified ads. The shop had a great vibe, and she wondered why she’d never ventured out here before. Words had flown from her fingertips as she’d sipped coffee, her laptop battery dying before she could complete her thoughts. A return trip would definitely be in order, this time with laptop cord in hand. She wasn’t ready to head home, so she grabbed the paper and began looking to see what was out there.
An English degree; what the hell was she going to do with an English degree? Perhaps her mother was right; and teaching was her only option. School had been a horror for her; kids had always picked on her and laughed about her limp. The fear she would have to relive that humiliation repeatedly had kept her from wanting to put herself in that position ever again.
Unless she had the surgery.
The prospect of surgery hovered in the back of her mind. Of course she knew it was a chance for her to live a more normal life and break out of her shell.
She wanted a new life, but in grasping for it, she ran the risk of getting her hopes up for something that could never be. She’d had too many disappointments in her life and wasn’t prepared to suffer another.
“The last person I anticipated to find sitting here would be you. It must be kismet.”
Olivia looked up into the eager face of Liam Palmer; a delightful rush ballooned within her as she took in his handsome features. His face was pink from the cold, his eyes glittering, and she was reminded yet again why she’d had such a crush on him for so many years. “Kismet?”
“Long story. Can I sit?”
His words brought her out of her reverie and she realized she’d been somewhat rude. She removed her laptop case from the other chair and folded the paper together to make space for him. “Of course you can.”
The tiny table felt overly full with him once he joined her. He was all arms and legs, folded around the table. His overwhelming size made her feel petite. It wasn’t often she felt like that, and it felt nice. Liam was so handsome, she just couldn’t stop looking her fill. Her gaze roamed over his face, resting on his full lips. Olivia got the instant desire to taste them as she watched him run one long finger over the pale pink flesh.