Anna Kelly had no intention of returning to her hometown of Patience, Tennessee. At eighteen, feeling powerless from an abusive childhood and heartbroken from her high school sweetheart, she needed to put distance between her and the small town. Now, eleven years later she's invited to her best friend's wedding and has no other choice but to return. Though she feels much stronger the second time around, nothing can prepare her for when she sees her ex again.
After a baseball injury, Jake limped back into Patience, damaged and angry. Throwing himself into remodeling Anna's childhood home has given him purpose again. He is just getting his life back together. He can't risk sending it all back to hell again, but the woman who broke his heart has whipped back into town...and she wants her house back. In hopes of reminding Anna of what she ran away from all those years ago he makes her an offer she can’t refuse—three dates, that have Anna rethinking Patience...and the life she was supposed to have with Jake.
“Can you tell me now what was so urgent and the reason for this dance?”
“What, ready to leave me already?” He snorted a laugh.
“The song’s almost over, and I only agreed to one dance.”
“I don’t recall us agreeing on how many songs we would dance to.”
“Well, I agreed to it in my head. So, can you just start talking?”
“In your head?” He chuckled, white teeth glowing against his tanned, stubbled face.
“Yes, in my head. Start talking,” she demanded.
“Okay. Well, like I said before, we have some unfinished business to discuss. I figured doing it in a public place would be safer.”
“What business do we have? Unless you’re moving out of my house, we have nothing to talk about.” When he said nothing, she asked, “Are you moving out of my house tomorrow?”
“Well then, it’s settled. We have nothing to talk about, I listened…I danced.” She tugged against his hold, eager to get away. He still gripped her hand, twirled her, and yanked her back to fit nicely against his body again.
Even though he was becoming impossible to deal with and he was a pain in the ass, she couldn’t deny her attraction to him.
“I have a proposition for you.” His smile turned mischievous.
She didn’t even know if she wanted to know his proposition. The expression on his face told her everything she needed to know. He was up to something, something she wasn’t going to like. Probably something that would make her life even more complicated.
“You don’t even want to know what I’m suggesting? I can see your curiosity is winning out. Why not just ask?”
“Fine. I’ll bite. What are you suggesting?”
“Let’s just say…suggesting can mean so many things.”
“Just get to the point,” she bit out.
“The way I see it, we have some things we need to work out that are way overdue. You go on three dates with me and I’ll move out of your house, not asking for a cent of the money I’ve put into it.”
“You’ve got to be kidding…right?”
“What do you think?”
If it hadn’t been for Ms. Edna’s gaze and the stares of probably everyone else who had nothing better to do, she would have run from the room. Run far, far away and planned never to return. She would throw her bags in her car and drive just as fast as she did the first time she’d sped away from this town.
Was he joking? Blackmailing wasn’t the right word, because he had nothing on her. Hostage negotiation, that’s what he was doing. He was holding her house hostage unless she did what he wanted.
“We have no business together, if that’s what you want to call it. What makes you think I would ever subject myself to you again?”
“Because you want your house back.”
“I could just wait until your lease is up and not have to worry with you at all.”
“Now, we both know you won’t do that. You’ve probably already been to Garrett trying to find a way to get me out. You want that house right now for some reason, so you will go on three dates with me. Want to tell me why it’s so important to you now?”
She pulled her body from his hold with more strength than she thought she had. Turning her back to him, she didn’t care about the old women scoping out the newest drama. She couldn’t stand there listening to his crap any longer.
She quickly walked half ran, past a waiter holding a full tray of champagne glasses. When she swished past him, it took all of the waiter’s effort to keep the tray from tipping forward. That would’ve been just great if the champagne glasses went crashing to the floor. Patience would be talking about it for years to come.
She hurriedly walked past the buffet spread, dancing couples—including Em and Tommy—and all the eager eyes watching to see what was yet to come in the next chapter of Anna and Jake.
Anna was quickly out of the stuffy, overbooked hall and escaping into the night air, filling her lungs. She stepped off the last step onto the pavement leading to the parking lot. She took a second to look up at the vast sky—a little too long of a second, because a hand circled around her arm, forcing her to turn around.
“Jake, I’m through listening to all your crap. If you want to be a stand-up guy and keep my house,” she said sarcastically, “then so be it, I can’t stop you. But I will fight you every step of the way. As for this little idea you have in your pea-sized brain that I will go on a date—let alone, three of them—with you…well, let’s just say No way in hell. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like my arm back.”
She stood her ground, and he finally dropped her arm. He gave her a major headache but at the same time caused her heart to beat rapidly because of the depths she could see in his eyes.
“I’m not intending to upset you. I was just coming up with a way for you to get your house back.”
“How generous of you.” She crossed her arms, trying to resist stomping her foot again.
She turned her back to him, making her way to her parked car. He jogged after her, catching her arm before she could open the car door. She wrestled it free.
“Anna, will you please listen to me for one damn second without throwing some hissy fit?” He raked a hand through his unruly hair, looking frustrated as hell.
“Hissy fit—hissy fit…do you hear yourself when you actually talk?”
“Can you be calm, please? I was just thinking we could go on a couple of dates and maybe get tangled up in the sheets?”
She narrowed her eyes. “This just keeps getting better. So now I have to sleep with you to get you out. Well, screw you, Jake.”
With that she closed herself into the sanctuary of her car. After opening the console, she took out the keys she had placed there, and started the car. She backed out of her parking spot and left Jake standing in the gravel lot.
Three dates? Sex? What is he, some genie granting her three wishes? Hot damn, I’m the lucky girl who gets to spend three very long dates and probably some great sex with the wonderful and talented Jake Lawrence. I don’t think so.