Good girl love unexpecte.., p.21

Good Girl (Love Unexpectedly #2), page 21

 

Good Girl (Love Unexpectedly #2)
 


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  His eyes narrow as he steps even closer. “And yet here I am.”

  “Why?” I ask, having to raise my voice to be heard over the increasing noise of the crowd. “Why are you here?”

  Noah reaches for my hand, and I let him take it, although when he squeezes my fingers, I don’t squeeze back.

  “Here’s the thing, Jenny Dawson. I think I’m in love with you.”

  There’s a collective gasp of shock in the crowd, but there’s no way in hell their shock overtakes mine.

  I try to pull my hand back, my eyes watering. “Don’t,” I say. “Don’t do that.”

  He doesn’t release me but steps closer, his eyes going darker, his voice getting more urgent. “There are things I need to say to you. Apologies, explanations, all of that. And I know you told me that I don’t get to just say and do terrible things and then say sorry and make it all okay, but I’m asking you—I’m begging you, princess—for just one more time. Give me one more time.”

  I shake my head. “There’s too much crap between us, Noah. Preston. Whatever. You tried darn hard to push me away, to break me, to convince me you were a jerk. And congrats, because it worked.”

  Noah dips his head, and I see him swallow. He nods once, and when he lifts his head again, I swear his eyes are a little shinier than they were before, and my heart feels like it will rip in two.

  “I get it, princess. I do. There’s just one more thing I need to try. Last-ditch effort.”

  “Fine,” I whisper as I try to tug him along down the line so we can get out of the spotlight and do this later.

  “Nope, sorry, has to be right here,” he says.

  Noah steps all the way toward me, his hand slipping behind my head, destroying all Amber’s hard work on my hair, his other arm wrapping around my back.

  And then he kisses me.

  Noah Maxwell kisses me long and hard and sweet in front of hundreds of people, every last one of whom has a camera.

  I consider pulling back for exactly zero point two seconds before I give in, my arms winding around his neck as the crowd cheers.

  I could kiss him all night. Forever.

  But even through the ecstasy, a part of me remembers where we are, and we slowly pull back, breathing hard.

  “That was…mildly inappropriate.”

  His thumb touches my cheek. “You did say I shoulda kissed you.”

  I smile. “You heard the song.”

  “I did.” He smiles back. “And I seem to remember it saying there was something you would have told me if I had kissed you.”

  I purse my lips in feigned puzzlement. “Hmm, no, not ringing a bell, sorry.”

  I start to drag him forward, because we’ve really caused a backup now, although nobody seems to mind. He stays rooted to the spot, his eyes teasing, but also begging a bit too. “Princess…”

  I bite my lip and take the plunge. “I think I love you too.”

  He closes his eyes for a brief moment, as though in relief, before opening them, and this time I’m definitely sure I’m not imagining the moisture. “You think, huh?”

  This time when I pull him forward, he lets me, linking his fingers with mine.

  “What, you’re allowed to be unsure, but I’m not?” I tease, feeling a little bit vulnerable.

  “Let’s just say it didn’t come out the way I practiced. I got nervous in front of the audience.”

  “How did you practice?”

  He pulls me around once more. “I love you. All the way. No ‘I think.’ ”

  My eyes fill. “I love you too, all the way. But Noah, you know there’s always going to be an audience, don’t you? I know the life you want, and this…” I wave my hand in the direction of the crowd. “This isn’t it.”

  “No,” he says slowly. “I don’t want all that. But I want this.” He touches a hand to my face. “And you’re worth putting up with all that.”

  He kisses me again, and it’s starting to hit me that we might be front-page news tomorrow, what with all the kissing and stalling and more kissing.

  Noah pulls back, wrapping an arm protectively around me as we get closer—finally—to the inside of the theater. But a reporter, one from a major network, steps in front of us just before we make it to safety.

  I brace for the question, but the woman surprises me by addressing her question to Noah.

  “Mr. Maxwell, Amanda Taylor here with CBC Evening. You two have caused quite a scene tonight, and I just have to ask, because you make such a surprising couple…when was it you knew that America’s redeemed sweetheart here was the one for you?”

  I expect Noah to ignore her, but to my surprise he smiles and glances down at me. “You know, Ms. Taylor, it’s a little hard to say exactly…but I think it was the zip ties.”

  I let out a startled, horrified laugh and let Noah pull me inside, where he tugs me close for another kiss. Slow, lingering. Sexy.

  So…yeah.

  That’s a definitely on us being front-page news tomorrow.

  Epilogue

  I’m in the newly remodeled kitchen mixing up a pitcher of my now famous—or at least tolerable—whisky sours when Noah gets home from the grocery store.

  Dolly and Ranger both forget that they saw him not two hours ago, losing their minds in happy barks until he kneels and gives them the proper amount of attention.

  I hand him a drink, but instead of taking a sip, he pulls me close for a kiss.

  We’ve been together ten months, and for a guy who once went out of his way never to kiss me, he sure can’t get enough now.

  “I brought you something,” he murmurs across my mouth.

  “Guacamole?”

  He swats my ass. “You had that for lunch.”

  And breakfast, but who’s counting? Plus, Noah seems to have exactly zero problems with my burrito baby.

  Noah hands me a magazine, and I frown in confusion until I see the headline: “Shawn Bates Breaks Down in Tearful Interview, Admits He Never Slept with Jenny Dawson.”

  I stare at it for a long time, waiting to feel…something.

  After a long moment I set it aside.

  Noah is watching me closely. “You’re not going to read it?”

  I shake my head. “I’m glad he’s come clean for his own sake, but I guess I kind of quit caring. I’m not really sure when.”

  “I have a pretty good idea,” he says, pulling me close.

  “You’re not going to cite the zip tie example again, are you?”

  “It’s the correct answer to pretty much everything,” he says, pulling me in for yet another kiss.

  I kiss him back, and it turns handsy fast, the way it always seems to with us, but Dolly and Ranger are having none of that, careening into our legs as Dolly chases around the owl toy I just bought her, and Ranger chases Dolly.

  “All packed for tomorrow?” Noah asks as we sip our cocktails and put groceries away.

  “Yup. Short trip, so easy packing.”

  “Those are the best kind. Less jerking off for me. And probably for you too, you dirty minx.”

  “What happens in hotel rooms stays in hotel rooms,” I say, batting my eyelashes.

  “In that case, maybe I’ll have to come with you,” he growls. “See what those fingers get up to.”

  “You can’t,” I say a little glumly. “No pet care lined up.”

  He sighs and points a warning finger at the dogs. “You and you…very thin ice. How am I supposed to hump your mother?”

  “Gosh, that’s romantic.” Still, it is romantic that he’d come with me. Because I know he would if I asked, and sometimes I do, although mostly I don’t. We’re happy either way.

  He glances over at me. “We’re doing good though, right, princess? This is working for you? Because it sure as hell is working for me.”

  I set my glass on the counter, walking to him and putting both hands on his face. “Absolutely it’s working for me. Every part of it.”

  It’s true.

  I still travel more tha
n either of us would probably like, but I limit it to the absolute necessities, preferring to set up my home base in…wait for it.

  Louisiana.

  In the house.

  Noah’s worked his ass off turning the house from barely standing into a gorgeously renovated masterpiece. A perfect showcase for his new business in modern woodworking.

  The caretaker cottage has been completely renovated as a guest suite, something my family and Amber take frequent advantage of. As does Finn, although why, I don’t know, since he has his own place.

  As for my dream of converting the place to a sanctuary for musically inclined kids someday, I still want it. Someday. Maybe a retirement project.

  Or who knows, maybe little musically inclined children of my own, of the non-burrito variety.

  “What are you smiling about, princess?”

  “Just picturing little Noahs running around the house. Imagining how grouchy they’ll be,” I say, before I can think better of it. I hold my breath, hoping he won’t freak out.

  Instead he studies me. “That so? Because I have frequent visions of little Jennys running around. Thinking how noisy they’ll be.”

  My stomach flips. “You think about that?”

  His smile is warm. Intimate. “Every damn day. I know we’ve got things to do first. I want to get a few more job orders. And then there’s figuring out how to survive next year on the road for your world tour with two dogs. But when that’s over…” He taps my stomach lightly. “Knockin’ you up.”

  I lift my eyebrows. “Preston Noah Maxwell Walcott, I’ll have you know I’m an old-fashioned good girl. Is there a ring in that plan somewhere?”

  Noah freezes. My smile slips, and I feel just a little bit panicky that he looks panicky. “Hey,” I say quickly. “I was joking around. We don’t have to rush.”

  He nods, pressing an absent kiss to my forehead with a thoughtful expression on his face.

  By the time we’re done with dinner—three steaks, one for each of us and one for the dogs to split— I’ve mostly forgotten about the conversation. Sort of.

  Later, much later, we’re curled up on the porch swing, my head on his shoulder, our fingers linked beneath the quilt my mom made us for Christmas.

  The dogs are inside; the night is quiet. Perfect.

  But not quite as perfect as when I feel something cool and firm slip onto the fourth finger of my left hand under the blanket.

  I jolt a little in surprise, and he turns his head, pressing his lips to my temple. “Been carrying this around for a while,” he whispers softly. “Couldn’t quite figure out the right time or place before. But this felt like it.”

  I swallow the lump in my throat, my thumb running over the ring. I don’t have to look at it to know it’s perfect. “Yeah,” I whisper back. “This is it.”

  “That a yes, princess?”

  I nod. “That’s a yes.”

  I feel his shoulder relax a little in relief, and my cheek finds his shoulder. We stay like that for nearly an hour, and then it hits me that there may be no more perfect moment in my life than a quiet night, the man I love, and a porch swing. It takes me a little while longer to realize what I’m feeling.

  I’m feeling forever.

  For RVD. For help with the book, but mostly for making me laugh all day, every day. Also, the wine.

  Acknowledgments

  For the entire team at Loveswept for not flinching even a tiny bit when I said I wanted to write this book, and that I wanted to write it now. I’m so appreciative for how tolerant you are of my diva moments, and for your faith in my writing.

  Special thanks to Sue Grimshaw, Rachel Van Dyken, and my husband, for bravely reading the early version of this book and reassuring me that yes, a story about an irritable alpha and a reluctant country star can absolutely work.

  An extra shout-out has to go to fabulous cover designer Lynn Andreozzi for creating what I think is the quintessential Lauren Layne cover.

  Lisa, you’re the best assistant ever; thank you for taking care of All the Things so I could write this book.

  And last, but never least, for you readers, who are so good to always welcome the stories of my heart with open arms.

  BY LAUREN LAYNE

  Sex, Love & Stiletto

  After the Kiss

  Love the One You’re With

  Just One Night

  The Trouble with Love

  Redemption Series

  Isn’t She Lovely

  Broken

  Crushed

  Oxford Series

  Irresistibly Yours

  I Wish You Were Mine

  Someone Like You (coming soon)

  Standalones

  Blurred Lines

  Good Girl

  PHOTO: ANTHONY LEDONNE

  LAUREN LAYNE is the USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen contemporary romance novels. Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and Web marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to New York City to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals. Lauren currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and plus-size Pomeranian. When she’s not writing, you’ll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).

  laurenlayne.com

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  Facebook.com/LaurenLayneAuthor

  twitter.com/_LaurenLayne

  instagram.com/_laurenlayne

  The Editor’s Corner

  Swing into spring this May with Loveswept! We’ve got something for everyone, so take your pick from these fabulous romance books.

  Tracy March brings you another enchanting novel set in Colorado, with book two in her Thistle Bend series, Just Say Maybe. Brenda Rothert releases her first Loveswept book, Blown Away, a sensual, emotionally charged novel of love and loss in which a tender affair gives two daring storm chasers the strength to overcome shattered dreams and the courage to build a future together. Then we go from extreme weather to the world of extreme sports with Zoe Dawson’s pulse-pounding Mavrick Allstars series debut, the steamy Ramping Up. Bestselling author HelenKay Dimon makes her Loveswept debut with Mr. and Mr. Smith. Moving on from the suspenseful to the sensual is a novel of pleasure and persuasion revolving around a high-stakes business deal in which the rules of negotiation are defined by desire in Shawntelle Madison’s Bound to You. New York Times bestselling author Noelle Adams introduces a notorious tech mogul who makes a mild-mannered woman an offer she can’t refuse and gets in return a battle for control—and a million-dollar affair—in Fooling Around. The Hunt Club continues with Pamela Labud’s A Most Delicate Pursuit. New York Times bestselling author Erin McCarthy follows Nashville’s hottest country music duo as they fight for love in a city where dreams often cost a broken heart in Heart Breaker. And New York Times bestselling author Sawyer Bennett proves that vengeance is sweet—but seduction is to die for—in Sugar Daddy.

  Wait—there’s more! Gina Gordon’s White Lace series continues in book two with lots of sizzle and heat in Reason to Believe. A. M. Madden continues the True Heroes series—hot hero alert!—with Glass Ceilings. Two tortured souls share an unbreakable bond even as they break taboos, as Laura Marie Altom does it again with a fabulous stepbrother romance in Stepping Over the Line. Back in the sporting world, Stacked Up continues the Worth the Fight series from USA Today bestselling author Sidney Halston. And Interference continues the Pilots Hockey series from Sophia Henry, where a young single mom falls for a damaged coach pulling double-duty as a cop.

  It’s a great month for relationships, so follow us on Facebook and Twitter and let the romance begin!

  Until next month ~Happy Romance!

  Gina Wachtel

  Associate Publisher

  Read on for an excerpt from

  Blurred Lines

  by Lauren Layne

  Available from Loveswept

  Chapter 1

  Parker

  My sophomore year of high school, I ha
d a short-lived friendship with this girl named Korie Hamilton.

  She was nice enough.

  A little too much purple eyeliner, a few too many likes sprinkled throughout her constant chatter, but we had every class together our first semester, so we kind of became friends by default.

  Anyway, Korie was forever yammering on and on about how her best friend on the entire planet was Stephen Daniels, a boy she’d known for all of four weeks before promoting him to BFF status.

  Apparently it was, like, ohmigod, like, the best thing ever to have a guy she could talk to without complicating things with romantic entanglements.

  Please.

  Real best friends can generally go more than a couple hours without mentioning each other’s name, but Korie found a way to fit Stephen’s name into every other sentence.

  Just friends my ass.

  I guess technically they were platonic for a while. Stephen had a girlfriend named Libby Tittles, or something unfortunate like that, and Korie had this on-again-off-again thing with her junior high boyfriend.

  But anyone who’s ever seen a movie, or watched TV, or just had basic awareness of human interaction saw exactly where Korie and Stephen were heading: Humpville.

  Even though Korie swore up and down that she didn’t like him like that, both of their significant others were long gone by Thanksgiving of sophomore year.

  By Christmas vacation, Korie wasn’t uttering quite so many likes. Why? Because Stephen’s tongue was in her mouth before school, after school, and every freaking weekend.

  But we all know how this ends, right? Just a few short months later, not only were Korie and Stephen no longer dating, they sure as hell weren’t best friends.

  Their short-lived romance and ensuing breakup barely even registered a blip on the gossip chain, but I’d like to think it taught some of us high school girls a valuable lesson:

 
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