Say You'll Never Love Me(4)

By: Ann Everett

Jared moved away from the window. No need to torture himself. Regardless of the attraction, he’d never act on it. Not that Maggie would. She loved Jace. Always had. Always would. Fact was, Jared didn’t want her as much as someone to love him with the same devotion. Given Jace’s playboy lifestyle, Jared thought he’d be the first to marry. But as ready as he was to settle down, he kept making the wrong choices.

“No reason for that. You have Beth Ann.”

Mom’s voice jarred him back to reality. The news about his love life might shock her because she already considered him and Beth as a serious couple. “Not for long. Lately, I’ve seen a side of her I don’t like. Clingy. Gets all paranoid when I’m around other women. She’s too damn insecure, and I’m tired of it.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

She took it better than he expected. Good. If his soon to be ex-girlfriend was as understanding, he’d be home free. Who was he kidding? He hoped she didn’t go psycho Fatal Attraction bunny-boiler on him. “Yeah, well, it is what it is.”

Mom folded the dish towel and laid it on the counter, then smoothed the creases with her palm. “I worry the breakup with Julie affected you to where you’ll never trust women again.”

He plopped onto a bar stool and rested an arm on the countertop, regretting he’d brought up the subject. At least Julie had called off the wedding a few weeks before in place of leaving him at the altar. But that had been about getting refunds from the caterer and florist more than sparing his feelings. “We’ve been over this. That was years ago. I’ve recovered.”

She leaned forward and widened her eyes. “Have you?”

“Yeah. And I learned something. Falling out of love takes longer than falling in. But I haven’t thought about Julie since the last time you mentioned her. So don’t waste your worry.” Not a lie. He rarely thought about her, but when he did, he was still bitter as hell.

“Not possible. It states in the Mom Manual I’m required to fret over all things concerning my children.”

He strolled around the counter and pulled her into a hug. “Yeah. You’ve got the hardest job in the world, and you’re great at it. That’s my problem. I’m waiting for a woman like you.”

She nudged him away. “You are so full of it.”

“It’s true. Jace found the perfect wife. So between you and her, the bar’s set high.”

“It was all Maggie. He wouldn’t have given her a second glance had she not been tutoring him. Definitely wasn’t his type, but you’re right, she was what he needed.” Mom pulled him into another hug, and squeezed as if she didn’t want to let go.

He patted her shoulder. “I’m fine, Mom. Really.”

She released her grip and walked to the coffee pot, then hoisted it in the air. ”You want a cup?”

“No ma’am.”

“Oh, thanks for coming to pick up your dad. His car should be repaired by Friday.”

“Well, he’d better hurry or we’ll be late. He has a nine o’clock appointment to go over the plans for the dental center.”

“Here I am.” Dad stood in the doorway. Lately, he’d slowed down. Complained more and allowed Jared to take the lead on new projects. He worried, but Dad said it was nothing more than age catching up with him.

“Babe, can I get a coffee to go?”

“You bet.” She filled an insulated mug, attached the lid and passed it over. “Jared, sure you don’t want any?”

“No thanks.” He winked at her, then faced his dad again. “Come on, old man. Race you to the car.”

He waved him off. “Go ahead and run. I always let you win anyway!”

On the way to the office, Jared’s phone chimed ten times. He glanced down at the screen. All from Beth.

Dad shot him a look. “You going to answer those?”

“No need. They all say the same thing. Where are you? What are you doing? Beth is driving me nuts. It’s like she needs to know my every move.”

“That’s not good.”

“Yeah, but I’m about to put a stop to it. I’m breaking up with her.”

“I didn’t realized she’d gotten so obsessive. Probably a good move. Oh, has your mother mentioned hiring an intern?”

“No. Why?”

“She wants me to cut back.”

“Not a bad idea. I passed on a couple of renovation jobs this month because I’m swamped with construction plans. I know you are, too.”

“Call the architecture department at Tech. Speak to Professor Gray. He’ll recommend someone.”