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Authors: Rachel Bailey

The Summer of Jake

BOOK: The Summer of Jake
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Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan…

Life is just dandy for aspiring fashion designer Annalise Farley. She has a great job (or she will once her designs are discovered), parents who only
slightly
disapprove, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and a best friend…even if she hasn’t seen her in a while.

But then Jake Maxwell saunters back into her life. Jake, the love god. Jake, her best friend’s older brother. Jake, who broke her heart at sixteen without realizing it, then left to become a pro surfer. Now he’s back, having taken the surfing and business worlds by storm, and he’s ready for a new challenge—catching the eye of another girl. And he wants Annalise’s help.

Helping Jake land his next girlfriend is too fraught with emotional danger for her liking, but then Jake offers to put her designs in his shops. Is that the sound of her life cracking at the seams? It’s hard to tell with Jake smiling at her like she’s the only thing that makes him happy…

Table of Contents

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by Rachel Bailey. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Embrace is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.

Edited by Heather Howland and Kari Olson

Cover design by Heather Howland

ISBN 978-1-63375-018-0

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition August 2014

This book is for Barbara DeLeo, who has been on this writing journey with me since before our books were published, and is a fabulous critique partner, brainstormer, motivation specialist, and friend. I wouldn’t have made it this far without you, Barb!

Chapter One

Annalise

At five past midday, my phone rang, and—based on the laws of Murphy—I knew it had to be more bad news, so I was glad I hadn’t changed out of my pajamas yet.

Yesterday’s feat of being fired on my twentieth birthday from my first post-graduation job at Rodrigo’s Fashion Studio, which was admittedly a placeholder job until my own designs hit it big, would be hard to top, but I had faith in Murphy and his bad luck laws to bring it.

I stood, dislodging onto the floor an unimpressed, stripy cat, half a packet of chocolate-coated licorice, and the dream collage I’d been working on, and answered. “Hello?”

“Annalise? It’s Jake Maxwell.”

My heart stopped stock-still. Unfortunately, my brain simultaneously froze, and my body gave a good imitation of paralysis. Jake Maxwell, surfing phenomenon, son of Australian rock star royalty, and my best friend’s older brother, did
not
call me. We’d never had the sort of relationship that allowed for phone calls. In fact, it’d rarely allowed for one-on-one conversations, which made this call all the more unexpected.

Probably taking the silence to mean I didn’t remember him, he added, “Kelly’s brother.”

His voice was as deep and smooth as a cup of hot chocolate. Being a chocoholic, I should have recognized that as a warning. I mean, what self-respecting addict doesn’t know the path to hell is paved with chocolate-shrouded temptation?

Through a remarkable act of willpower, I regained control of my frozen bits. “Oh,
Jake
. Hi. Um, how are you?”

Then, as my brain re-engaged, I realized why he must’ve been calling. “Is it Kelly? Is something wrong with Kelly?” His sister was all we had in common.

“Kelly’s fine. And I’m fine, too, thanks. Truth is, I want to ask a favor. Nothing too extreme.” I could hear a smile in his voice, which made me wary about any favor he could want from me. Jake had always had a way about him—well, a way with
me
—and I wasn’t promising anything without details.

“What sort of favor?”

“Ah, it’s a bit awkward. How about I explain over coffee?”

I may have been apprehensive, but, honestly, refusal was never the easy option with Jake. Besides, it was just a coffee date. With a gorgeous man. What was not to like? “Sure.”

“When do you have time?”

I paused, but it was more for effect than having anything even remotely resembling a prior engagement. Though my previously frozen bits were starting to warm to the idea of meeting Jake Maxwell again, I didn’t want him to know. That would be handing him too much power. “How soon do you want to do this?”

“Today would be good. Can you meet in an hour?”

“Um,” I stalled. Now that my schedule had opened, I had all the time in the world, but I remembered again about handing him the power. “Let’s make it in two hours. At Coffee For You in Bondi Junction. Do you know it?”

“Sure do. I’ll see you then. Thanks, Annalise.”

I held the receiver, listening to the tone, playing the conversation back over in my head.

Jake Maxwell called
me
. Wanted to meet
me
. Until that phone call, I hadn’t been certain he knew more than my name, rank, and serial number. Rank: sister’s best friend. Serial number: 1-8-little-kid.

That fact didn’t bother me now—well, almost didn’t—but when I’d been an awkward, gangly teenager with a huge crush on my friend’s older brother, the knowledge had been devastating.

For two summers, I’d tagged along with Kelly to Jake’s surfing practice and occasional competitions, mooning over his bronzed physique, my eyes not even straying to the other competitors. To my sixteen-year-old fanciful imagination, he’d been a love god.

I remembered him emerging from the surf, brown hair slicked back, muscles pumped up, running across the sand with his surfboard under one arm. He’d often stop at our towels, and Kelly would jump up to congratulate him, throwing her arms around his neck, leaving me blushing in jealous embarrassment.

Then he’d turn to me, give me one of his slow, seductive smiles, say, “Hey”, and jog off to his waiting fan club.

For those two summers, and the intervening winters, I’d watched Jake, dreamed of Jake, obsessed about Jake.

I’d been reluctant to tell Kelly at first, but soon found Kelly had a secret of her own—she was just as wrapped up in Jake’s friend Adam. It became a common bond, the mutual need to watch Jake and Adam surf all summer and talk incessantly about them.

I smiled at the memory. I couldn’t remember ever being as close to anyone as I’d been to Kelly as a teenager, and I supposed, to some extent, I had Jake to thank for that.

Sighing, I finally hung up the phone. And came crashing back to present-day, appalling reality.

This was the absolute worst time for a first-ever coffee date with the overachieving, uber-successful Jake. Being fired the previous day had left my ego a little bruised. Not to mention my pockets. The job as an assistant at a designer’s studio—basically, cutting out fabric to make
other people’s
designs—had been useful for making contacts, keeping a finger on the fashion-pulse, and affording groceries.

Now I had nothing.

Well, not quite: I had Rover, a cat who, through no fault of her own, thought she was a dog. A bright yellow ancient Mini with half a tank of gas. A pair of slightly disapproving parents. A collage covered in my dreams. And a stockpile of food devoid of nutritious value.

And I had a coffee date with Jake Maxwell for some unknown—possibly nefarious—reason.

I looked down at my purple polka dot pajamas, complete with chocolate and licorice smudges, and sighed. It was going to take the full hour and a half before I needed to leave to make myself presentable.

Part of me wanted to go all out, to knock him off his feet. But the part that had been crushed by his lack of attention in the past wanted to slap the preening part. I wasn’t a kid now, and his voice certainly hadn’t taken on that warm sexiness I’d heard him use with a dozen other girls.

After a moment’s consideration, I decided to go the whole enchilada. It wasn’t for Jake’s benefit. I’d do as much before meeting anyone. Yes, indeedy.

After showering, I slipped on my lucky tan skirt with a mint green blouse. The lucky tan skirt worked its magic—I immediately felt more confident. Which was good. One day of wallowing was all I could afford. Tomorrow I’d have to start looking for a new job. Money for rent and cat food had to be my number one priority. And then I’d set about making every one of the things on my dream collage come true.

I poured some food into Rover’s bowl as she bounced around my feet like the Jack Russell terrier she thought she was, then patted her head, and left.

It was warm outside with the Australian summer setting in. Despite living in a beachside suburb, I was too far away for a sea breeze. One day I’d live in an oceanfront place.

Mindy, my yellow Mini, started with her reassuringly familiar
rattle-tat-tat
sound, and I drove the five minutes to Bondi Junction. When I’d parked and locked her door, I paused to absorb the seaside atmosphere. Pelicans and seagulls sat on the streetlights, looking out to sea. The smell of surf spray filled the air. The sounds of waves mixed with traffic created an exciting medley.

The breeze caught my hair, and I reached to grab it as I made my way toward the café. The feel of my hair in my hand reminded me of one of the biggest disasters of my teens, which,
of course
, was connected to Jake.

I’d decided my thick brown hair would never catch his attention, so I dyed it blond to emulate the girls he hung around with. I’d known my tall, skinny frame could never fill out a bikini the way theirs did—theirs seemed
made
for bikinis—but at least I could do something about my hair. So, Kelly and I bought a bottle of peroxide, turned the music up loud in my bathroom, and proceeded to turn my chocolate hair into an interesting shade of orange. It was certainly eye-catching. When my mother arrived home, she almost fainted then took me to a hairdresser who dyed it back to chocolate. I’d left it the same ever since, with only a few highlights.
Professionally applied
highlights.

Walking into the Bondi Junction café, I looked around. He wasn’t there. Excellent. That would give me a few moments to pull myself together. I was feeling decidedly un-together, and I knew it was important not to be carried away by old memories. It’d been a good four years since the height of my crush on Jake-Love-God-Maxwell. In that time, I’d completed a two-year fashion design course, dated other men, and even had a two-year relationship with one. I was
definitely
over Jake. Oh, yes.

Feeling centered again, I picked up my glass of water and was pleased with the graceful movement I was able to pull off. Unfortunately for the effect, I almost spilled the water when I saw Jake walk in.

He glanced around the tables until he spotted me then gave me his slow, seductive smile. He looked the same—his caramel hair a little long, shaggy and sun-bleached on the ends, dark eyes, athletic build encased in a gray T-shirt and faded jeans.

I was sixteen again.

This was
bad
. I was an adult, for pity’s sake, not some lovesick teenager.

I gave a little wave, which may or may not have resembled a five-year-old’s, and tried to hide my shock when he kissed my cheek before slipping into his seat. Several patrons of the cafe were watching us, probably having recognized Jake.

“Annalise Farley.” Jake grinned, and his eyes captured mine. I was a rabbit caught in headlights. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since Kelly’s wedding last year.”

Yes, the wedding—the less said about that, the better. I wrenched my eyes from his to focus on my water glass. “Mmm, it’s probably been about that long. Kelly and I drifted a little after she married Adam. And my designs take up so much of my spare time, it hasn’t left room for much else.”

“From what I hear of your talent, I’m glad you’re spending time on your own work.” He picked up a glass and watched me over the rim as he drank, ice-cubes clinking.

“Hmph.” I wrinkled my nose. Having repeatedly heard him use his smooth talk on women, I didn’t believe him for a second. “How could you know that?”

He shrugged, a teasing glint in his eye. “I have my sources.”

The waitress arrived to take our orders, and I allowed myself a sidelong look at Jake. He was still as gorgeous as he’d been at nineteen when he broke my heart—without even realizing it, because I’d been so invisible to him. Now, not only were we alone in a coffee shop, but he seemed to know about my fashion design work. Maybe he was more observant than I’d realized?

“How’s Jake Maxwell Surf going?” I asked after the waitress had left.

Unlike me, he wasn’t surprised that I’d been following his career. Or maybe he just realized his career was public knowledge. “Good. Great, really. I’ve got three JMS stores now, each with a surfing school, a retail outlet, and a board manufacturing operation. The main office is still here in Bondi, with the administration and board design section.”

“Wow, that does sound great.” Great, but predictable. Jake was destined to succeed at whatever he tried.

“In a way,” Jake said, “it’s the business that’s brought me around to asking you for a favor.”

He looked at me with puppy dog eyes—and with those eyes of darkest brown, the effect was fairly significant. And I bet he knew it. Time to focus. I needed to be absolutely on my guard. “So, what’s the favor?”

He leaned back in his chair, linking his hands behind his head. “I’ve met my future girlfriend.”

“Oh?” There was that strange freezing thing again. Twice in one day was probably bad.

“Scarlett, one of the receptionists from the law firm that handles JMS.”

“Oh.” Maybe I should check these symptoms with a doctor—paralysis of body parts could be a precursor to a stroke.

“Yeah, only problem is she’s pretty classy.”

“Oh?” Yep, brain, heart, hands—everything seized. I prayed I wasn’t going to have a stroke there at the table. Although, the mouth-to-mouth might make it worthwhile…

“And I’m not. I’ve always been a bit laid-back. More worried about catching the first waves of the morning than remembering to shave.” He ran his hand over his day-old stubble to prove his point.

My eyes followed his hand as if it were a hypnotist’s pendulum. I couldn’t believe there was one thing about Jake Maxwell that needed changing. He was already so sexy that it was an effort to drag my eyes away.

“Thing is,” he continued, “I want to make a move on her, but I think I’m a bit too rough around the edges for her taste.”

“Oh.” If someone had asked four years ago how I’d react to this news, I’d have said “panicky.” But instead, a strange hollowness spread through my chest, engulfing my insides. Was that another symptom of a stroke?

“Which is where you come in.”

“Oh?” And what had happened to my vocabulary? I was sure I’d had one earlier.

“I want you to help me clean up a bit. Not too much, just what fork to use first at dinner, maybe some clothes to wear places other than the beach, that sort of thing.”

“Oh.” Vocabularies probably froze before a stroke, too. I was sure I’d read that somewhere.

“You haven’t said anything other than ‘oh’ for a while now. Should I take that to mean you’re not interested?”

Not interested? My teenage crush appeared to have come back in force, just in time for him to tell me he’d met someone else. “Out of curiosity, is she blond?”

He frowned. “How did you know?”

“Just a guess. Jake, why are you asking me? You barely even know me.”

“Of course I know you. Practically watched you grow up. Besides, you’re the most sophisticated woman I know.”

“You think I’m sophisticated?” The words fell out before I could catch them.

“Yep.” He grinned. “And Kelly told me about your job working for that big fashion designer—you’re the perfect person to help me. Besides, I have eyes—you wouldn’t look out of place modeling some of those designs.”

“Oh.” The pleasure of finally being complimented by Jake was greatly outweighed by his earlier comment that Scarlett was blond. And did it have to be a
Scarlett
? That name spelled trouble. I knew from experience.

BOOK: The Summer of Jake
12.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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