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Authors: Shae Scott

Tags: #Romance

The Rise of Emery James (10 page)

BOOK: The Rise of Emery James
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"Exactly," he says simply.

When I don't say anything his face softens. "I'm sorry I pushed," he says quietly.

I take a deep breath. I owe him something. He's been so good to me. So patient. I shouldn't punish him for taking an interest in me. I just don’t know how to give him the answers that he’s looking for. I don’t know how to give him back the girl that he lost. I lost her too and I have no idea how to get her back.

"I know I'm not the same girl. Life happens, it changes who we are, who we thought we would be. If you're waiting for the old Emery to come back, then you're going to be disappointed. She's not here anymore," I say.

"You're right. It's not fair for me to expect you to be the same person. I didn't really mean it that way. It's just. . .I feel this wall, Em. That's all. I feel this fortress that you've built around yourself and I want to knock it down. I want to meet the girl behind it, no matter who she happens to be. You don’t have to do it all on your own, ya know." He holds my stare for a moment, letting his words sink in. When I don’t say anything, he turns, picks up his boots and walks out the back door. I'm left standing there frozen in place, completely dumbfounded by his words.

He keeps knocking me unsteady.

He’s saying all the right things, just at the wrong time. I don't know what he wants from me. When he pushes like this I don't know if he's pushing as Cole, my new friend or Cole, the love of my life.

That thought causes my heart to stutter.

Love of my life.

Was Cole the love of my life? And if he was, how did I ever marry another man? God, I'm so confused. My life is chaos. The one thing I do know. . .Cole Bennett is dangerous to my heart. Dangerous because he seems determined to expose it. He takes away the numbness that has protected me and he makes me feel everything in excruciating detail. He feels completely dangerous and while I know it would be easier to walk away from him and shut him out of my life, I just can't find the want-to to do it.

 

Cole

 

 

THE LAST FEW WEEKS
have been hell on my concentration. Usually I spend my days so focused on my work that I look up and realize that I've been on the site for over twelve hours without even realizing it. The guys give me shit about it all the time. It used to drive my ex, Aubrey, crazy. But I love my job. I'm good at it and because I enjoy it I don't mind putting in long hours.

Henry has given me a lot of opportunities. He started showing me the ropes when I was just a brat kid and he welcomed me back when I finished school. He's taught me a lot and I take care of his business like it was my own. One day I hope he lets me make that official. I've told him countless times I want to be his partner someday. He just smiles and tells me to keep working hard, but I see the interest in his eyes.

Lately, though, I’ve been less focused. At least not on work. My attention has shifted and no matter what I'm doing, my brain tends to drift back to the soft brunette waves and amber eyes of Emery James. Screw her new last name. I'll never be able to call her Forrester. It sounds snotty and stuffy. I've seen pictures of her husband and well, the name fits. But it isn’t her. I still can't wrap my head around how they ended up together. The girl in the photos with him seems like a stranger, she's nothing like the girl I knew.

But like she said, she's different now. Life changed her. I want to know why. That's part of my problem. I'm spending way too much time trying to figure it out. Trying to figure her out. I'm finding reasons to drop by her house. Finding reasons to stay there when I do. She doesn't seem to mind. I like to think that she actually enjoys the company.

Emery Forrester seems lonely. Lost. Maybe that's the real difference. Maybe that's why it's hard for me to think of her that way. I want
my
girl back. The one who grabbed life by the balls and didn't let go. She was a firecracker and I miss seeing that spirit in her eyes. And God help me, the need to find her again gets stronger every day.

It's not even six and I'm packing up my truck for the night. I promised her I'd stop by and work on a window that keeps sticking. Plus, I have been formulating a plan and I think I'm ready to put it into action.

"Heading out?" Henry asks, walking up to me. There is part of me that feels bad leaving so early, like I’m letting him down. But I know I put in hard work and it's my own ambitions that drop the guilt, not him. He's constantly telling me to take time to live life before it's over.

"Yeah, I told Emery I would stop by and fix a window," I admit. I watch as his smile widens and he claps me on the back. Thank God he approves of me hanging out with his daughter again or this could be tricky.

"You don't say? What a coincidence. I'm headed over there myself. My girl promised to cook this old man dinner. Hope you're hungry," he smiles.

"Now that you mention it, a home cooked meal sounds pretty amazing. I hope she won't mind me crashing the party."

"That girl learned to cook from her grandmother. If I had to guess, there will be enough food for an army," he laughs.

I smile, thinking of Emery's grandmother. The two of them were amazingly close and the memory of them cooking together takes me back to all of the dinners I used to have with the James family.

"You're probably right. I guess I'll see you over there in a bit then," I say, climbing up into the truck.

"Sure thing," he agrees, waving me off.

I beat Henry to the house and pull up next to Emery's fancy, white Jeep. It's an SRT8 and I can't help but wonder if she even knows what it will do. Something tells me her husband had more to do with getting the top of the line version than she did. Still, I'm dying to get behind the wheel.

I grab my bag of tools and make my way up the front steps, taking the wrap around porch over to the side door that leads directly into the kitchen, since I'm sure that's where she'll be. Sure enough, as I peer in through the screen door she is standing at the kitchen island stirring something in a huge red bowl. Her mouth is set in a fierce line, her teeth working her lip as she concentrates on the motion of the wooden spoon in her hand. She looks adorable. Even from here I see the spatter of flour across her cheek and it stirs something deep inside that makes me want to lift her tiny body up onto the counter and devour her.

I shake the thought from my head, reminding myself that such fantasies are inappropriate when it comes to a girl who just buried her husband. I counter the guilt with the knowledge that she was mine long before she was his and that should grant me full permission to imagine her any way I want to.

"What's cookin' punkin'?" I tease as I open the door with a creak. She glances up with a smile and I throw her a wink. My day just got so much better.

"Hi there," she says, setting her bowl down and dusting her hands across her apron.

"I brought tools," I say, holding up the bag.

"You always have tools. I swear I half expect you to have a film crew following you for some home improvement show at this point," she teases.

I shrug, "I'm handy."

She laughs and I cherish the sound because she doesn't do it often. And usually, when she does, she acts like she wants to take it back.

"I'm making dinner. Dad's coming over. He wanted fried chicken. I haven't made fried chicken since Nana and I keep stressing wondering if I'm remembering it right," she confesses.

I set my bag down next to the door and make my way into the kitchen. I can see that she has a pile of peeled potatoes cut and soaking in a bowl of water and it appears that she is currently working on some kind of dessert. I'm tempted to dip my finger into the gooey mixture in her bowl, but I’m pretty certain it will get my hand slapped.

"Henry told me. Well, he failed to mention you were making Nana's fried chicken. I feel pretty happy that I'm crashing this dinner party. I'm not even going to feel bad about it," I admit.

"Oh, I meant to text you and tell you. I'm sorry. Of course I want you to stay," she says, a worried look clouding her eyes. I swear she shrinks back, like she's waiting for some sort of criticism. She begins to fidget, so I reach out and cover her hand.

"Em, it's no big deal. I was just teasing you," I say carefully. Her eyes hold mine for a beat and she opens her mouth to say something, but the moment is interrupted when Henry comes through the screen door.

'Hi, Kids," he smiles as the door behind him bangs to a close. I pull my hand away from hers and she moves to give her father a hug.

"Hi, Daddy. How was your day?" she asks.

"It was good. I let this guy do most of the work these days. I just sit back and collect the check," he teases. It lifts the energy of the room and I relax a little when I see Emery smile. She returns to cooking and Henry agrees to help me fix the window while she finishes.

Dinner is amazing. Nana would be proud at the spread that Emery put on tonight. If there was any doubt, then the fact that Henry and I each ate our weight in chicken and mashed potatoes would have set it to rest.

"Damn, that was good," Henry declares as he leans back in his chair and runs his hands over his stomach. "I haven't eaten that good in I don't know how long."

"I might slip into a food coma," I agree.

Emery watches us from across the table with a satisfied grin. "I was going to send you both home with leftovers, but you ate it all," she says.

I glance over to Henry and shrug in apology. He grunts out a laugh, "Guess you'll just have to make this a steady date then," he says. Emery laughs as she moves to start clearing the table.

"Oh no you don't. Let me get it. You did all the work. I'll clean up," I say, catching her eye and giving her a smile.

"You don't have to do that," she protests.

"Sit. Talk to your dad. Let me work off some of this gravy," I insist. Finally, she relaxes back in her seat and I begin clearing off the table and carrying the dishes into the kitchen. I can hear them chatting, catching bits and pieces here and there. Henry tells her about the big job we are bidding on and asks her about how she's settling in. I can't hear her answer, but I know we both worry about her sitting in this house all the time. Which is part of my reasoning for devising a plan to get her out of it.

The dishwasher is loaded and I'm rinsing off the last frying pan and setting it in the dish strainer when Emery joins me in the kitchen. "Wow, you really did clean everything up," she says, glancing around the now spotless kitchen. The girl had flour everywhere.

"I told you I had it handled," I say, flicking the towel in her direction with a pop.

"Well, thank you. You didn't have to do all that. But I'm secretly glad that you did," she admits with a soft smile. Shit, I love it when she smiles.

"Anytime," I say, both for the dishes and for anything that gets me another one of those smiles. "Where's your dad?"

"He left. Said he'd see you in the morning and to bring coffee."

"I bought a fancy coffee pot for the work trailer and he hates it. Says it's no place for coffee that requires tiny cups to brew it. He always tries to get me to bring him some "real man" coffee," I explain with a laugh.

"The old school is always going to win out with him," she says.

"I know. I'll break down eventually and bring back his old pot, but it's too fun to watch him squirm trying to pick out a K-cup," I laugh again. Henry is like a second father to me and I can't help but tease him any chance I get. Especially since he's always the teacher and mentor in our relationship. Anytime I can out technology him I feel a little bit of pride.

"It's good seeing you two together. I like that you work with Dad," she admits.

"He's a good man. I've learned a lot from him. He's been really good to me."

She nods, but doesn't say anything. I want to ask her about her dad, why she gets that guilty look on her face when we talk about him sometimes, but I hold off. It's not the right time. I don't want her slipping into melancholy if I can help it.

"So, you have any big plans this weekend?" I ask, leaning up against the counter as she takes a seat at the bar. She throws me a look that suggests I might be crazy and I laugh. "Don't give me that look. I'm asking you a legitimate question."

She shakes her head, "No, Cole. I don't have any big plans for this weekend. I don't really do big plans these days."

"That's right, you stay here in this lonely house all the time. Must get pretty boring," I say and I see her tense, her feathers ruffled. I've poked the bear and I wait for her to roar back at me in defense.

"I'm not here all the time. I get out," she huffs. I quirk up an eyebrow in question. "I go see dad," she offers.

"Wild," I reply with a smirk.

She huffs again. "I'm not that social these days. I'm happy just being here at home," she says. “Besides you come and visit me all of the time.”

"That's fair," I say, because it is. The girl has been through hell and I don't expect her to jump into life full force. She has a lot of healing to do. I just don't think she needs to do all of it alone or stuck at this farmhouse all day and night. "Still, I think you should think about coming out with me this weekend."

BOOK: The Rise of Emery James
3.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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