Authors: Rebecca Brock
When Jessy Monroe is stranded
at a Minnesota bus stop during a raging blizzard, the last thing she expects is the kindness of a stranger.
When Michael Forrester invites
Jessy to share the holidays with his family, the last thing he expects is to fall in love.
Jessy, used to being alone
and lonely, treasures the gift of Michael and his family. But the specter of his gorgeous ex-wife and her own inner demons threaten to take away everything she holds dear. To have the life she’s always dreamed of, Jessy must fight her insecurity and learn how to let Michael—and his family—love her just as she is.
“A charming, heartwarming love story. Ms. Brock handles the heroine’s self-esteem issues regarding her weight with sensitivity, and yet with a realism with which many readers will be able to identify....Ms. Brock has crafted a superb romance novel that had this reader giving a huge sigh of satisfaction at its end.”
At Long Last,Love
“A beautiful love story.
The Giving Season
will grab you from the very first page
and keep you turning pages until the end.
Queen of Rubenesque Romances & author of
10 Steps to Loving Your Body (No Matter What Size You Are)
tell me you’re kidding—”
“No, ma’am.” The old man behind the counter paused a moment to pick his teeth with a matchbook cover. “Storm’s caught near ’bout everybody by surprise. I’d say there ain’t an empty motel room within ten miles of here. And with tomorrow being Thanksgiving and all, there might not be one in the whole county.”
Jessy Monroe stared at the wrinkled little man, her whole world collapsing while a rerun of
blared on the countertop TV. So this was where her little cross-country odyssey would end: in the office of a cheap motel in Bear Paw, Minnesota, trapped by an unexpected blizzard.
Way to go, Jess
Melting snow dripped down her neck and back, chilling her to the bone. Great. She was wet, she was tired, and she was cold—and now this guy was telling her that there weren’t any empty rooms. For about the millionth time since packing up and leaving Kentucky, she mentally kicked herself in the butt. When it came to making brilliant life decisions, she really couldn’t be beat.
“I really am sorry about all this, ma’am—” The old man looked almost embarrassed, which made Jessy feel even worse. She forced a brittle smile despite herself.
“That’s okay,” she said quietly, straining to sound like she wasn’t about to collapse into tears. “Thanks anyway—”
Before the old man could mumble another apology Jessy headed for the door, suitcase cradled in her arms as she stepped out into the night. An icy gust of wind slapped her in the face, pellets of snow blinding her for a moment as she trudged through the ankle-deep drifts. The achy feeling she’d had since leaving Kentucky was finally turning into a cold, and she coughed explosively, her throat already raw. Great. With her luck, it’d turn into walking pneumonia by morning.
Jessy winced as another wave of numbing wind sliced through her too-thin coat.
And who do you have to thank for all this crappiness,
she thought as she climbed onto the bus again.
Charlie? The bimbo he started living with?
Nope. It’s all you, babe. You made the decision to drop everything in your life and follow him to Minneapolis. You made the choice to believe him when he said he loved you.
If one of her friends had come to her with the situation, she would have told her that no man was worth giving up your independence. And if one of her friends had even considered leaving her job to follow her boyfriend to another state in the vague hope that it would lead to true love and marriage, she would have laughed in her face and told her to wake up and smell the reality.
But no. No, no, no. Jessy couldn’t take her own advice. She was too busy mooning over Charlie Wilks, too busy being grateful that he had looked beyond the fact that she was a “big girl” and was willing to be seen in public with her. And too busy dreaming of silly romantic fantasies with a guy who obviously hadn’t reciprocated her feelings. Hindsight was a wonderful thing, and now she could see that Charlie had liked her well enough, but he hadn’t loved her. She served a purpose to him, kept him entertained.
And all it had taken was one drunken phone call to make her turn her life upside down and go running to him. She didn’t like to think she was that gullible, that desperate.
Apparently, she was.
If she’d had more experience with relationships she would have immediately realized that she wasn’t in one with Charlie. She thought that just because they had a million things in common, because they could have serious conversations and laugh at the same jokes, because they felt so utterly comfortable with each other, it was love.
Well, it was on her part, at least.
The last few days seemed like a bad dream. When Charlie had called her late one night she’d known he was drunk, but the things he said were all the things she’d ever wanted to hear. She was worth her weight in gold to him. He wouldn’t have been able to get through the past few years without her. She meant more to him than she’d ever know.
And then the final knock-out blow to her common sense: He was lonely up there in Minnesota without her, and he missed her so much he couldn’t stand it sometimes. He said he had plenty of room at his place if she ever wanted to come up and visit—or anything else. Even now, replaying the conversation in her mind, she was sure he had wanted her to move in with him. He didn’t come right out and say it, but he insinuated it.
Just like he’d never told her he loved her. But he insinuated it plenty. She wasn’t stupid. She would have known if it had
been a lie.
God, how happy she had been at first. Usually she considered and reconsidered and considered yet again every decision she had to make, especially the big life-changing, earth-rattling decisions. She had been raised by her Aunt Amelia to question every motive of other people, especially when those other people happened to be men. All that had flown out the window. In a burst of misplaced idealism she decided it was time for a change in her life.
It seemed like a sign. She had just lost her job teaching third grade due to budget cuts and her apartment was turning into a wildlife preserve for mice due to a landlord who didn’t like to deal with actually maintaining the apartment building. If ever there was time for a change, it was now.
So she did all the things she would have advised her best friend not to do. She decided to throw caution and common sense to the wind and, for the first time in her life, do something exciting and impulsive and crazy. She bought a plane ticket and decided she would just show up on Charlie’s doorstep. He’d welcome her with a kiss and be thrilled to see her and proud of her brave decision to take a chance, since he always told her she was too staid and boring, and then they’d live happily ever after.
When she showed up at Charlie’s doorstep that fateful morning, it wasn’t Charlie who had opened the door. It had been a gorgeous redhead. In a nightie. She’d taken a look at Jessy and smirked, then called for Charlie.
He came out of the bedroom with a towel wrapped around his waist and an instantly guilty look of surprise on his face when he saw Jessy.
Turned out that all that talk about being lonely and wishing she were out there with him was just that: talk. He hadn’t wanted to hurt her feelings by telling her about Kirsten. The night he’d called, Kirsten had broken up with him and he’d gotten plastered to try to get over her. He didn’t even remember half the things he had said. But now he and Kirsten were back together and planning to be married.
Throughout his whole confession Jessy had remained calm and unreadable. She didn’t cry. She didn’t speak. She just let him talk. He told her the story of how he met Kirsten the first day he’d moved into his apartment. He told her about their first date and how he realized he was in love with her a week after they met. He told her everything, and she listened. If he stopped talking, then she’d have to speak. And if she spoke, she didn’t think she’d be able to hide the agony she felt.
It all came down to his cowardice, in the end. He simply hadn’t known how to tell her the truth—that even though he really liked Jessy and thought she was a great person and a wonderful woman, he just wasn’t attracted to her physically. He wished he could get over it, but he just couldn’t.
And that was the final body blow that she just could not absorb. Those were the words Jessy knew she would play back in her mind for the rest of her life, even though she had known deep down that Charlie had felt that way. The few times he had kissed her he had seemed like he was forcing himself to do it, like he was trying to make himself enjoy it. He’d never shown any signs of affection when they were in public—never held her hand, never put his arm around her. She had heard her aunt’s voice in her mind, warning her not to fool herself about Charlie’s sincerity when he’d told her that her weight hadn’t mattered to him. At 220 pounds, Jessy realized that if a guy had to choose between her and someone half her size, the skinny gal would usually win every time; personality and character had nothing to do with it. She had just thought Charlie was different. She thought he could see beyond her shyness and her quiet nature. She thought he could see past her weight.
Before he came into her life she had been perfectly content alone. She was happy teaching, and she thought nothing of spending her evenings at home with a good book and a bag of popcorn. But it was the same old story. She took a chance and fell for him, and Charlie had broken her heart.
And now she was trapped in a blizzard, with five bucks to her name and nothing to go home to.
Happy Thanksgiving to me, Jessy thought, taking a deep breath as she leaned her head against the cold glass of the window. She wiped at her eyes, angry to be crying over him again when he so obviously wasn’t worth it. Aunt Amelia would have tut-tutted over her crying and told her Charlie wasn’t even worth the salt in her tears.
God, how she missed Amelia. It had just been six months since she’d died, and Jessy missed her more and more every day. Amelia had been her only family, and now she was totally alone.
Fresh tears burned Jessy’s eyes as another series of wracking coughs tore through her, leaving her weak. She closed her eyes, willing her memories of Charlie and Amelia and everyone else she had lost to fade away. Her entire body ached as the slight case of sniffles she’d fought for weeks finally blossomed into a full-fledged chest cold. But a cold was nothing. She could survive a cold.
She tucked her nose and chin beneath the collar of her coat, struggling to stretch her legs out in front of her. So it wasn’t the most comfortable of positions; as exhausted as she felt, a bed of nails would have been perfectly cozy. After a few minutes, she finally managed to drift into a thin, dozy sleep.
“Hey—what are you doing out here?”
Jessy jerked awake, a sharp gasp catching in her throat, choking into a cough. For a moment she forgot where she was, unable to adjust her eyes to the dark.