Say You'll Never Love Me(7)

By: Ann Everett

Maggie rushed into the room, panic etched on her face. Then she saw Beth Ann. “What’s wrong?”

Her friend understood heartbreak. When Beth Ann met Maggie, she and Jace were separated, but she’d saved her marriage. She’d help Beth Ann figure out what went wrong. “Jared broke up with me.” She fell to pieces.

Maggie embraced her. “Why? What happened?”

Beth Ann wiped her cheeks and thought about what a great lover Jared was. Gentle. Considerate. At least in the beginning. Lately, passion had faded. But they were perfect for each other. But if he’d had his ex on the side, then naturally desire would be affected. That had to be it. “Julie showed up.”

Jace leaned forward, face pinched. “What? There’s no way in hell he’d take her back.”

Maggie nodded agreement. “Is that what he told you?”

“Not exactly. But his intentions were clear. I bet he’s been carrying on with her for months.”

“No.” Jace folded his arms. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I promise you, he is not interested in re-kindling anything with her.”

Maggie nodded again like a bobble-head doll. “Jace is right. She practically left him at the altar. He would never take her back. Was he surprised to see her?”

“Yeah, but I thought it was because he didn’t expect her while I was there.”

For the next hour, Maggie consoled her, and Beth Ann decided Jared was worth fighting for and she wasn’t about to give up. She’d find out for herself if he’d been cheating with Julie or anybody else.

WHAT A STROKE OF Luck. If Julie read the scene correctly, her former lover had broken up with the cute, petite brunette. Her leaving in a huff confirmed it. Julie was still unclear about how the woman knew who she was, but she’d referred to her as his former fiancée. The reason didn’t matter. He was a free agent. Perfect timing.

If she jump-started their relationship, she’d never have to admit she’d bombed in New York. After her art critic boyfriend dumped her, not a single gallery would touch her paintings. Bastard. But now, to keep her artistic juices flowing, she needed a benefactor, and Jared fit the bill.

“May I come in?” She offered her best smile. The one that always got results.

His frown said it wasn’t working. “What do you want?”

This might not be easy, but she knew him well enough he wouldn’t risk a scene. He’d let her in, and that’s all it’d take.

“Are you going to invite me in or not?”

He didn’t answer, but stepped back for her to pass.

“I’m surprised you still live here. I thought by now you’d have a house and a wife.” She scanned the room. “But I see everything is the same.”

“Take my word. Plenty has changed.”

The edge in his tone proved she’d have to work harder, but that was okay. She was up for the challenge. She wasn’t in love with him, but that didn’t matter. To pursue her one true passion, art, she could love anybody. “I didn’t come here to cause trouble. I’ve moved back and wanted to see you again.”

He stood behind an upholstered chair and rested his hands on the back. “News to me. As I recall, the last time we spoke, you never wanted to see me again.”

“That’s not true. I didn’t say that. I made mistakes. The lure of bright lights confused me. But after living in The Big Apple all these years, I realized I’ll always be a Texas girl. So I’m back where I belong.”

“And I should care about this . . . why?”

She rose and moved closer, angled between him and the chair, slid her hands around his neck and kissed him. At first, he stiffened, but then circled her waist and pulled her tighter. She smiled inside. It was still there. The attraction. Passion. If she played her cards right, he’d forget all about what’s-her-name . . . once Julie had him in love with her again.

Very few of us are what we seem.

~~Agatha Christie

RAYNIE STOOD IN Silbie’s room and read the quotes stenciled around the top. You are my Sunshine. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

No surprise there would be encouragement plastered everywhere. As a life coach, it was Celeste’s job to boost morale. Help people make good decisions and keep a positive outlook. Her life had been so perfect. Great kid. Wonderful husband. Fabulous career. And from the crowd at the funeral, tons of friends. A storybook existence where the girl from the wrong side of the tracks gets the prince and lives happily-ever-after. If only she’d lived . . .