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Authors: Soraya Lane

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BOOK: The Returning Hero
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For some reason, he had to be the good guy around Jamie—he’d felt the same way that first night when they’d just met and spent hours chatting. There was something about her that brought out the good in him, and he liked it.

He just hoped that it was something about her house that had helped him sleep the night before. Otherwise? He’d have yet another reason to want her in his arms. It had been months since he’d been able to shut his eyes and just relax into blackness, to sleep without thinking, and he didn’t want to go back to that dark place ever again. Not if he could help it.

CHAPTER EIGHT

J
AMIE
SAT
ON
her bed, legs curled up beneath her. She didn’t know what to do. Part of her wanted to march straight back out to Brett and tell him that she’d often thought of that night they’d first met. Maybe not in recent years, but after she’d first been with Sam, she’d often wondered:
what if
. Sam had been the love of her life and she’d never for a moment
not
wanted to be with him, but Brett…well, Brett was Brett. He was a man she’d been physically attracted to from the moment she’d met him, and she’d also been charmed by him, too.

Until she’d realized that he had a girlfriend. A girlfriend she now knew he’d finished with so he could seek her out.

Argh. There was nothing about this that was easy.

Sam’s smiling face, from a collection of their wedding photos, was staring at her from the dresser, a reminder to a life that no longer existed. A memory that would always make her happy, but one that wasn’t a reality anymore. Just like her dad had become only a memory, so, too, would Sam. Because he was gone, and nothing she could do would ever bring him back.

But Brett was real. And he was sitting outside her house, on his own, instead of with her. Waiting for her to tell him what she wanted.

She uncurled her legs, stretched, then stood. She slowly walked toward the window and parted the blinds, knowing that she’d be able to see him. Sure enough, he was sitting where she’d left him, only now his arm was slung around Bear as he stared up at the sky. No doubt looking at the stars and remembering a time when he wasn’t home, when things were different. Maybe he was even thinking about her.

Jamie longed to go to him, to be with him, but she didn’t want to make a mistake with a man who meant so much to her as a friend—she’d be lost without him.

She touched her forehead to the window and watched him. Just stared at his silhouette—his broad shoulders, his dark hair, his muscled forearm resting over her dog—and the coolness of the glass gave her flushed skin some relief.

But instead of going to him, she went to her bedside table and pulled out her leather-bound notebook, the one she kept close in case she had an idea for a new story or illustration.

Suddenly she knew exactly what she needed to do. Jamie pulled the cap off her pen and tucked up under the covers, pen poised. When Sam had been away, they’d always written to one another. Even though they’d been able to talk via video chat, they’d written so they had something to look forward to, something to anticipate in the mail during the months when they were parted.

She needed to write to him now. Needed to get her feelings off her chest and tell him…how much she still loved him, but how much she needed to let part of that go so she could move on and be happy.

 

 

Dear Sam,
This is the only letter that I’ve ever written to you, knowing it will never reach you. But part of me believes that you’re still here, in some shape or form, and if you are, I need to tell you how I’m feeling.
I know in my heart that I will never stop loving you, no matter how much time passes or what happens in my life from this day forward. I know you’d be so proud of how Bear and I are getting along, and I wouldn’t give him up for anything. But there’s something I need to tell you, something I never thought would even be a possibility.
You’ve been gone now for just over six months, and Brett came to see me. I don’t know how or why, but something has changed between us. I think I’m falling for him, Sam, and I need you to know that if you were here, this would never have happened. But you’re not here, and Brett is, and I believe that you would want me to be happy. We’re both holding back, stopping anything from happening,
because of you
, but I don’t want to be alone just to prove to your memory that I loved you.
So I need you to know that I’m falling in love with your best friend. I trust him and I know he’d never to do anything to hurt me, and I need to see if we could be happy together.
I love you, Sam, with all my heart. Not a day goes past that I don’t wish that you were still here, but I’ve had to accept that isn’t ever going to happen. I always thought you were the one, but now I’m realizing that maybe there is more than one person out there in the world for each of us. I will never stop loving you.
Jamie xx

 

 

Jamie wiped away the tears that had spilled down her cheeks and ripped the page from her notebook, before folding the letter in half. She tucked it into an envelope, sealed it, then scrawled Sam’s name across the front of it.

She had no idea if Brett would still be outside or not, but she needed to go to him before she lost her confidence. Because if she didn’t act now, maybe she never would. And part of her believed that she deserved to be happy, no matter what.

* * *

Brett shut the door and locked it, before flicking the switch and plunging the living room into darkness. He’d sat outside feeling sorry for himself for so long that even the dog had tired of keeping him company, and now he needed to crawl into bed and just sleep. No amount of thinking, of questioning himself, was going to help him to make a decision, and now he just wanted to crash. Otherwise he’d just let old feelings of guilt start to seep back into his mind, and he was over dealing with the emotional baggage he’d carried for the last decade.

“Brett?”

He squinted into the dark, trying to figure out where Jamie was. Then she flicked on a light and he could see she was standing in the hall, facing the living room.

“Hey,” he said, not having expecting her to still be up. “Did I wake you?”

She shook her head. “I never went to sleep.”

Brett crossed the room but kept his distance, not wanting to tempt himself after the hard talk he’d been giving himself outside. Jamie was out of bounds and he had no intention of crossing that line again, no matter how much he wanted to. Unless she came to him, it wasn’t even something he was going to consider. The ball was firmly in her court now, and he wasn’t going to budge from
that
particular resolution.

“Can I, ah, get you anything?” he asked. He knew how stupid it sounded the moment he said it—what kind of question was that to ask somebody in their own house?

She didn’t say anything, just stared at him. Why was she down here when she’d gone to bed almost an hour ago?

“Jamie, what happened before,” he began, not sure how to tell her what needed to be said, what he’d been thinking about. “I’m sorry if I crossed the line, because I never meant to do anything to make you uncomfortable.”

Jamie shook her head. “No, Brett, you didn’t cross the line and you didn’t do anything that I didn’t want you to do. Sam is gone. We both know that, and we both need to understand what that means.”

He swallowed, wishing this was easier, wishing he didn’t feel the way he did about her. Because then he wouldn’t be tempted by her lips, or her hair, or the way she was watching him.

“Jamie…”

“You said you’d be here for me, no matter what,” she told him.

Brett never took his eyes off her, and he also never moved, even when she started to come closer.

“I meant that if you needed me…” he began, the rest of his sentence disappearing when her finger touched his lips to silence him.

“I need you, Brett,” Jamie said, standing on tiptoe at the same time as she looped her arms around his neck. “I need you now. We can’t punish ourselves for how we feel, because we’re not doing anything wrong.”

Brett never moved, kept his hands at his sides, scared of what would happen if he let himself touch her, if he gave in to what was so close to happening. He was only a man and if she pushed him there was no way he’d be able to walk away.

“Jamie…” he murmured, but he wasn’t committed to telling her no, so he never did. He’d said if it was her choice then he’d let it happen, only he hadn’t expected her to act quite so soon.

“Kiss me, Brett. That’s what I need you to do.”

He stared into her aqua-blue eyes, knowing he was a lost man. No amount of good intentions was ever going to be enough to resist Jamie, not when her body was skimming against his, her mouth so close.

Damn it!
Brett’s hands flew from his sides to her waist, locking her in place against him as he crushed his mouth to hers. Her moan only spurred him on more, made him yank her hard to his body, one hand leaving her hips to caress her back, to feel her long hair and fist into the soft curls.

“Jamie,” he forced himself to say, his mouth hovering over hers, unable to back off even if he wanted to. “Are you sure? We can’t go back from this. It changes everything.”

She tipped her head back and looked into his eyes, her fingers tracing down his chest, before she grabbed hold of one of his hands and led him out of the room. Jamie flicked the switch in the hallway and walked them both to her bedroom, stopping at the door and leaning against the wall.

“I’ve never been so sure about anything, Brett,” she whispered into his ear, her hand clutching his T-shirt tight to keep him near. “Take me to bed.”

He stared at her, long and hard, before reaching past her and pushing the door open. There was only so long that he could play the good guy and keep telling her no. So what if he’d made himself a promise, if she was supposed to be forbidden? Jamie was holding his hand and inviting him to spend the night with her, and he’d lost all power to turn and walk away from her. This was her choice, and he wasn’t going to try to change her mind. He’d told himself all along that he wouldn’t fight it if she was sure it was what she wanted, if she came to him, and now she had.

Jamie laughed and walked backward into the room, holding both his hands. When she bumped into the edge of the bed, she stopped and pulled his hands around to settle on her waist again.

“Brett,” she whispered, fingers stroking up and down his face, before she held onto his shoulders and reached up to kiss him again.

He broke the kiss only to push her back onto the bed, watching as she fell back before bending to settle over her, his thighs locking her in place as he straddled her. She reached out to him, pulling him down, but he needed a moment to drink in the sight of her—to see her long hair splayed out around her, her full lips facing him, the rise and fall of her breasts as she lay on her back beneath him. For years he’d wondered what it would have been like if things had been different, fantasized about having her in his bed, and now she was sprawled out beneath him.

Brett dropped his upper body over Jamie’s, careful not to crush her with his weight, and kissed her mouth, before trailing kisses down her neck and back up to her lips again. For something that was meant to be so wrong, it felt so damn good.

“Don’t stop,” she whispered, sounding breathless.

He chuckled, smoothing the hair from her face before stroking her cheek. “I have no intention of stopping,” Brett told her.

“Good,” she replied, claiming his mouth again as she cupped his skull to force his head down, gripping on tight, fingers twisted in his hair.

Her lips moved gently, her tongue exploring tentatively at first, before becoming bolder, colliding with his.

All the best intentions in the world couldn’t have made him say no to this.

* * *

Jamie let Brett push her T-shirt up and she wriggled out of it, left in only her bra and her shorts. She gulped when he immediately reached down for her button, before unzipping the denim and pulling it down her legs—slowly, as if he were trying to tease her. She pointed her toes so he could slip off the jeans completely, and laughed.

“Why do I have all my clothes off, and you’re fully dressed still?” she asked.

He grinned and shrugged, but she wasn’t going to let him sit there in his jeans and T-shirt while she was left in only her underwear.

“Off with it,” she ordered, pushing his T-shirt up, eyes feasting on his stomach and chest muscles.

Brett obliged, taking it off and then standing to shed his jeans, too.

She sucked back a big breath as she watched him, looking at his big body, eyes glued to him as he lowered himself back on the bed. Jamie reached out to touch the tattoo on his left arm first, and then his other shoulder, fingers tracing over both of them. Years ago, she’d hated tattoos, but she’d grown to appreciate them now. And Brett’s ones meant something to him, told a story of who he was and what was important to him, and the ink stretched over his muscles gave him a tough edge that was at odds with how gentle and kind he’d always been to her. If ever she needed reminding of the soldier he was, of how he could protect her if ever she needed it, his tattoos made that crystal clear.

Jamie slipped her hands onto his shoulders to stroke her nails down his back, but his whole body tensed, went rigid.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, dropping her hands, knowing that he hadn’t even remotely liked the way she’d just touched him.

BOOK: The Returning Hero
3.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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