Say You'll Never Love Me(6)

By: Ann Everett

Jared let the question stand without comment. She was a good designer, and like her, at first he thought they were the perfect match, but how could a relationship survive without trust? And clearly her insecurity caused issues in that department. A future with someone like that would be torture. He needed to break all ties. Personal and professional.

She snapped the lid on the plastic bowl and put it in the refrigerator. “Okay. Ready to talk. You first.”

There it was. That look. Hope. As if she expected him to bring up the same subject on her agenda. This would not be pretty.

She followed him to the sofa, giving him plenty of space. Still close enough to slap him when he delivered the news, and if she did, fine. He deserved it for not ending it sooner.

“I know you want more from this relationship.” Oh God. She straightened and smiled, and he hated himself for being the bad guy. “But, I don’t see that happening.”

She sucked in a breath, but didn’t release it.

“It’s wrong to keep seeing you when I’ll never be more serious.”

She opened her mouth to say something, but someone knocked.

Relief washed over him. He welcomed the interruption because he didn’t know how he’d handle things if Beth begged. And no doubt she would. She’d built this fantasy they were a textbook couple, destined to spend eternity together. Too bad he was ending her dream. But he couldn’t keep up the pretense. He jumped from his seat. “I’ll get rid of them.”

He swung the door wide, and the person standing on the porch caused his heart to plummet. “Julie! What are you doing here?”

He glanced at Beth, already on her feet, headed toward the counter. She grabbed her purse, rushed to stand beside him, and met his gaze with eyes blazing white-hot. “Now I understand. Your former fiancée shows up, and you dump me. Is she the reason you were late? You were with her?”

God. What did he do to deserve this? “That’s not what happened. I didn’t even know she was in town.”

“Oh, please. I’m not an idiot.” Beth pushed past him, nudging Julie out of the way.

Jared called after her. “Beth Ann! That isn’t true!” It was no use. She cranked the engine of her silver Altima and peeled away, tires squealing.

He shouldn’t care what she thought, but he did. Sure, he wanted her out of his life, but not because of some misunderstanding.

He faced Julie. “What the hell do you want?”

She plastered a smug grin. “Oops. Is this a bad time?”

I DON’T SEE THAT HAPPENING. Jared’s words pounded in Beth Ann’s head like an exertion headache. The kind she got after doing fifty push-ups. How could she have been so blind? She’d expected to leave his apartment with her own key, and instead, he dumped her. Unbelievable.

She angled the car into a space at a small convenience store, shifted into park, and pounded the steering wheel. Damn her! After all this time, Julie decides she wants him back, and he’s willing to reconcile? Well, he’d loved her once. Maybe he still did. Beth Ann hung her head and cried.

By now, Julie was probably all cozy in his arms confessing how calling off the wedding was the biggest mistake she’d made. Promising to spend eternity making it up. Why would he consider a reconciliation after she’d hurt him? It didn’t make sense.

Her breath hitched. She massaged her temples trying to ease the pain. She’d bet all his late appointments weren’t work-related, and he’d been seeing Julie all along. That’s why she showed up uninvited . . . to rub it in. Bitch.

Beth’s mind rebelled at the notion and she debated going back and confronting them. No, she needed proof. Ramming the gear into reverse, she traveled toward Elm Avenue. If anyone had the whole story, Maggie would.

When Beth Ann arrived, she sat in the car a few minutes to pull herself together, then glanced in the rear view mirror. Her face was a mess. Red. Puffy. Bloodshot eyes from all the tears, but she didn’t care. Her world had collapsed, and appearance was the least of her worries. As she stomped across the lawn, a dog barked. A streetlight buzzed. Illuminated by solar lights, the flower beds, full of colorful pansies, looked like they belonged in an ad for plant food. Use Brand X for healthy blooms all season. The place was downright cheery, but with her foul mood, she wanted to crush the prettiness into the dirt the way Jared had done her heart. She’d fallen in love, and now it was over, unless Maggie gave her an idea of how to win him back. By the time she reached the front porch, the waterworks started again.

Jace opened the door, took one glance and rolled his chair backwards. “Maggie! I need you in here.”