Read My Once and Future Love Online

Authors: Carla Krae

Tags: #my once and future love, #contemporary romance, #jacob and beth

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BOOK: My Once and Future Love
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“Hmm… What if you could shadow a working
photographer?”

Might work… “Like an apprenticeship?”

“Yeah… I have a friend, see. She shoots gigs
for a paper or magazine or some such.”


She?

He grinned. “Never dated her, love. Too old
for me. Anyway, I could give her a ring; see if she’s up to
it?”

“Couldn’t hurt.”

He pulled me closer. “That’s my girl.”

I kissed him, keeping the contact light and
innocent. “You should go home.”

“Not tired.”

“Not why I said it.”

He smiled, and let me go. “Okay, I’ll be
good.”

I walked him to the front door and we kissed
goodnight. Feeling the heat build in my belly again, I gently
pushed him away.

“Goodnight, Jacob.”

“’Night, Bethie. Sweet dreams.” He stepped
outside and walked to the bike.

I shut and locked the door before I ran to
him for another kiss.

 

Chapter Seven

Jacob called the next morning to tell me his
friend was free to meet up around lunchtime on Saturday. It was too
late in California to call Mom, so I sent her an e-mail about the
benefit party tonight and added a line about meeting a photographer
tomorrow to pick her brain.

Vivian wanted me to start getting ready no
later than five o’clock, so I stayed close to the house, other than
picking up the prints I had developed. I never did much with
make-up and only knew how to braid my hair, but, whatever put her
at ease.

She came into my room when I was almost done
blow-drying my hair. “Come with me, Elizabeth.”

“What for?” I set my brush on the bathroom
counter. “I’m almost done. Promise”

She smiled. “Just come to my room,
please.”

“Okay…” Still in my robe, I followed her down
the hall.

Her room looked like a decorator showcase in
a magazine, everything perfectly in its place. She walked to a
dressing table and indicated I should sit on the stool in front of
it. I sat. She gathered my hair in her hands and made a twist while
I watched in the mirror.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said.

“Indulge me. I never had a daughter’s hair to
play with.” She tucked the ends of my hair into the twist and slid
a comb in to hold it in place. Then, she reached for a few bobby
pins on the table. “There. You can dance all night and that won’t
fall out of place.”

Dancing…heh. There were no plans of making a
fool of myself in front of a hundred strangers.

She pulled a make-up palette and a few
brushes out of a drawer. I started to move out of the way to let
her sit down and finish her routine. She placed a hand on my
shoulder.

“I’m not done with you, yet, dear.”

“Huh?” I glanced at the make-up. “Oh, I don’t
wear that stuff.”

“Trust me, Elizabeth. I promise you’ll only
be a lovelier version of yourself.”

I chewed on my lip. She didn’t look like she
was budging on this. Sighing, I closed my eyes.

Vivian didn’t take long at whatever she did
to my face. I felt brushes touch my eyelids, cheeks, and lips for
all of five minutes.

“Done.”

“Really?”

“You can open your eyes, dear.”

I turned to the mirror, put on my glasses,
and stared at my reflection. Mirror-Beth was me, but better. Vivian
had used the barest hint of color, but my eyes were defined and I
now had cheekbones. The only noticeable touch, really, was the rose
on my lips. I’d never worn lipstick before and the texture felt
kinda weird.

“Thank you,” I said finally. Rude of me to
stay silent so long.

She smiled at me in the mirror. “You’re very
welcome. Go get dressed, now.”

“Okay.” I started to leave, then turned
around and hugged her.

“Oh! One more thing.” She went to her dresser
and brought back a small box. “A woman is naked without jewelry.
And don’t say no.”

I nodded and went back to my room.

Carefully stepping into my dress, I zipped up
the back, smoothed the fabric down my body, and checked my
reflection in the standing mirror. Satisfied my bra straps weren’t
showing, I stepped into the kitten heels that were also in the box
and stuffed a few things into the new clutch purse. The last touch
was the sapphire earrings and necklace set.

“Elizabeth…”

“Coming!”

Three steps down the staircase, I noticed she
wasn’t alone at the bottom.

“Jacob.”

“Bloody hell…” He stared up at me, his eyes
running over me head-to-toe and back again.

“What are you doing here?”

“I, uh, I always go to this thing. The
foundation is in the name of my best friend from boarding school,”
he said.

“Oh. Hold on.” I ran back to my room to grab
my bag.

Vivian frowned when she saw it. “Elizabeth,
isn’t that a bit casual for the evening?”

“Oh, I’m not bringing it in. I want to show
Jacob the pictures from his concert later.” I hurried down the
stairs.

“You have photos?” he asked, smiling.

“Look at them in the car,” his mother said.
She nudged us toward the door like a hen. “We’re going to be
late.”

“Yes, Mum.”

The chauffeur had the door open when we left
the house. I couldn’t stop glancing at Jacob in a suit. Just your
basic black suit with a white shirt and black tie, but wow…he was
yummy. We ended up sitting across from his mother, my camera bag
between us.

“You mentioned an old friend?” I asked
him.

“Uh, yeah. He had cancer. It was the ‘80s and
that kind of thing was harder to treat than now. So, his folks set
up the charity to fund research.”

“Is he okay now?”

He shook his head. “He passed due to an
infection.”

“I’m sorry.”

He smiled and squeezed my hand. “It was a
long time ago, love. I normally hate these sorts of parties, but
it’s a good cause.”

“And I get to see him look respectable once a
year,” his mother teased. We laughed and the mood stayed light.

He didn’t let go of my hand.

We drove out a ways west to an estate with
several acres. Behind the ornate black gate stood a house no older
than twenty years, by the materials used. My mother would take me
on Sunday drives through the rich parts of L.A., and this place
would have fit right in. Beautiful, classy, and big, though the
landscaping definitely had the English touch I’d gotten to know
here. You have no idea how refreshing it is to see no palm
trees.

The car pulled up in front. I whispered a
question about leaving my bag there in Jacob’s ear.

“No problem, love.”

Vivian had already gotten out, so it was my
turn. Not used to wearing a long dress or heels, I was extra
careful about not tripping myself and landing flat on my face. I
glanced up—or knocking my head on the roof. Successfully upright, I
stepped aside to let him out. He took my hand again, lacing his
fingers with mine.

“Nervous?” he asked quietly.

“Why?”

“Your hand is cold.”

I blushed. “Oh. A little, I guess.”

We moved up the steps. “Don’t be nervous. You
look beautiful, and I guarantee you’re smarter than at least half
the room.”

“Stop…”

“Only speak the truth, love.” He caught up to
his mother.

She gave the butler her invitation. We
followed inside.

“Whoa. If possible, it’s bigger on the
inside,” I whispered. Jacob chuckled.

Past the foyer, we heard voices. He led me
into a ballroom set up for the banquet with round tables. A live
band at one end played old standards. Vivian had already found our
table. She set her purse next to her place setting and started to
mingle.

“So how does this thing go?” I asked
Jacob.

“People arrive, then someone says an
introduction, usually a spokesman for the foundation. They start
serving food, and the guests put checks in the envelopes on the
table. Aside from the donations, it’s mostly an excuse to
socialize. Eventually, some get up to dance to the band, or walk in
the garden, or leave once they think they’ve been polite. Like Mum
said, it’s bloody boring if you’re under fifty.”

“Why don’t you mail the donation in,
then?”

He shrugged, and unbuttoned his coat. “Don’t
rightly know, anymore. Remind me to do that next year.”

“Deal.” I leaned in to add, “Maybe you’ll be
in L.A. next summer.”

He grinned and wrapped one arm around my
waist. “Maybe.”

We walked around the room for a little while,
his mother waving us over to say hello to this person or that. She
was so natural at this, working a room. Impeccably dressed in a
white dress and jacket, she had a smile and warm greeting for
everyone I met. If she had to act with some of them, I couldn’t
tell.

Jacob’s hand rested on my back, a reassuring
presence. Crowds were not my thing, and even more so in a group
where I felt intimidated. If people closed in around me, I tended
to panic and couldn’t breathe. He had to rescue me at Disneyland
once, and remembered ever since.

I loved him for looking out for me.

“Don’t know about you, love, but I’m
parched,” he said after another exchange of pleasantries.

“Sounds good.” We headed to the open bar.

A chime rung through the room. I was about to
ask what it meant, when everyone started moving to their seats.
Oh.

There was a very nice speech about the
necessity of funds to keep research alive and the current chances
of a cure, then the waiters started bringing out the first course.
I looked at all the silverware around my plate and gulped. Waiting
to see what Jacob did, I took another sip of water. He picked up
the outside fork first.

After three courses of food I could barely
identify, I hoped the entrée was something normal. Thank God for
chicken.

He whispered to me, “Don’t worry, we’ll snag
somethin’ good later.”

I giggled. Vivian arched her brow at me.

“This isn’t so bad,” I whispered back.
“Just…”

“Small?”

“Yeah.” We shared a grin, and I almost kissed
him in front of everybody. “But dessert can’t be bad.
It’s…dessert.”

“Unless it’s coffee flavor.”

My nose wrinkled up. “You would have to say
that.”

“Ain’t my fault your taste buds are
defective.”

“Eat your chicken.”

He grinned again and squeezed my knee under
the table.

Dessert had nuts sprinkled on top—which I
don’t like, either—but once removed, it was chocolate-y goodness.
The shell of chocolate hid some kind of berry mousse. Don’t know
how they sealed it in there…

“Bored?” Jacob placed his hand on my
shoulder.

“Huh?” I shook my head. “No…I was wondering
how they made the chocolate thing.”

He laughed. “You’re adorable.”

My cheeks turned pink. “Adorable is for
puppies and stuffed bears.”

“Sweetheart, learn to take a compliment.” He
stood and offered his hand. “Dance with me?”

“I don’t dance.”
Please don’t make
me
.

“Bethie, it’s just swaying in time.”

Sighing, I put my napkin on the table, and
stood. “No fancy maneuvers.”

He grinned and took my hand. “Scouts honor.”
Instead of joining the other couples, he headed for the door
outside.

“Where are you going?”

We stepped onto the patio. He pulled me into
his arms. “We can hear the music out here, too.”

I placed my hands on his shoulders. It
was
nice being a bit removed from all the chatter. The
summer night air was perfumed with roses and other flowers I
couldn’t identify in the garden. Standing between the house and the
open air, with the band playing slow jazz, the atmosphere was a lot
more romantic. Private.

“Better without all those eyes on you?” he
asked.

“Mmm-hmm.” I let out a contented sigh and lay
my head on his shoulder.

“I hope you and Kit hit it off tomorrow.”

“Kit?” I asked, lifting my head to look up at
him.

“The photographer. Did you forget
already?”


No
. You didn’t tell me her name.”

“Oh. Anyway, I hope you want to work with
her.”

“So I stay,” I translated. So
transparent.

He rolled his eyes and hugged me a little
closer. “Yeah, I have an agenda. Sue me; I have an interest in
keeping my girlfriend in town.”

“Girlfriend?” I sounded way too
hopeful-needy.

He met my eyes. “Well,
yeah
. Thought
you were the smart one in this relationship.”

My heart started doing cartwheels. “You know
what they say about assuming.”

His hands slid up to my neck, cupping my
jaw-line. “Then let me be clear: as far as I’m concerned, love,
you’re my girl. My squeeze, honey, girlfriend, etcetera. My
Bethie.”

He dipped his head and I tilted mine to my
right, rising on my toes to kiss him back. One of his hands stayed
on my cheek; the other dropped to my low back, pressing our bodies
closer. That same fire from all week stirred again, driving me to
try crawling inside him. Nothing was close enough. He could kiss me
a thousand times and I’d still want more.

It scared me.

“This, um…”

“Not really the place for a snog.” He let out
a long breath. “Yeah.”

“I’m going to visit the ladies’ room.”

“Alright. I’ll see if Mum’s ready to go.”

****

Less than a week in each other’s presence
again, and he was biting back proclamations every time he kissed
her.

He’d always cared for Beth—it was pretty easy
to do, actually—but he’d never named it before. Honestly, though,
he should’ve seen it’d come to this. She was the only girl he’d
ever trusted into his life, his secrets. Didn’t know when it
happened, really, but it all made sense at the time. They needed
quiet to study, so they went to his room. She was good at English,
so he asked her opinion of his lyrics. Their mothers hit it off, so
they ate dinner together often.

BOOK: My Once and Future Love
10.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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