Read The Trouble With Love Online

Authors: Lauren Layne

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Comedy, #Contemporary Women, #Coming of Age

The Trouble With Love (29 page)

BOOK: The Trouble With Love
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Her fingers lifted to her mouth, stunned with realization. “You didn’t know that I’d called.”

He shook his head. “I went off the grid
completely
. I fled to San Francisco and didn’t look back. And that’s not an excuse. I’m not letting myself off the hook, because I still should have come home to fight for you, even without knowing you’d called. But I swear to you I never got your messages. I didn’t know you were waiting for me.”

“But surely your parents, your friends—”

“By the time I got in touch with anyone, I forbid them to even mention you. You’d be surprised how respectful people can be about a canceled wedding.”

Emma closed her eyes. “So you didn’t leave me at the altar. You thought I’d left you.”

“We left each other, Emma,” he said carefully. “We hurt each other. If we’re going to move even a little bit forward, we need to come to grips with that.”

“I know,” she said, her eyes watering. “I know. And I’m sorry for my part. I’m
so
sorry. You said it the other day, but we were immature. Horribly so. And I’m not sure we’ve gotten any better, because if we’d just talked to each other like rational adults . . .”

His thumbs brushed over her lips. “There’s nothing rational about love.”

Love
.

He loved her.

One of his hands left her face, and she immediately missed the contact as he dug a hand into his pocket and came back with . . . a crumpled receipt.

“What’s this?” she asked, taking it when he handed it to her.

“You told me that you wanted me to prove that I intended to marry you
before
your father issued his stupid proclamation about his company going only to family. I’d held off showing you this because of pride. I wanted you to trust me. To trust in our love. But I realize now that my pride’s gotten us nowhere. And I can’t blame you for being skeptical. The facts . . . the facts were damning.”

She still stared at the paper, not quite following.

“It’s the receipt for your engagement ring,” he said quietly. “I kept it, in case we needed to have the ring sized. It’s dated weeks before I asked you to marry me. That proposal was no scheming power play for your dad’s company, Emma. That was the real deal. I was simply a boy who asked the girl he loved to spend the rest of her life with him.”

Her eyes watered. “I didn’t believe you. I belittled it. I belittled us.”

His fingers closed around hers. “Read the paper, Emma. Believe it. Please.”

She looked up at him, even though he was a little blurry through her tears. “Where are the matches?”

“What?”

She spotted the discarded matchbox on the counter and wiggled free of him, reaching for it as she pulled out a match and lit the receipt on fire. She dropped it into the garbage can when the fire got too near her fingers, and they both watched as the flame sputtered out in the cold metal can. “I trust you.”

“Well,” he said quietly, staring at the ashes. “I guess it’s not the end of the world. Unless your fingers have gotten fatter, we shouldn’t need to resize it.”

“Resize what?” she asked, still staring at the smoking embers.

She glanced at him just in time to see him lower to one knee.

“Cassidy—
Alex
.”

Between his thumb and forefinger he held a ring.

The very ring he’d slipped onto her finger all those years ago.

The same one she’d thrown at his head in a fit of righteous bridal tantrum.

“You kept it,” she whispered, staring down at it. It was a simple emerald-cut diamond, but she’d know that ring anywhere. She’d spent
hours
staring at it.

“I kept it,” he said, his voice husky. “I tried to get rid of it at least a dozen times, but . . .”

He shrugged.

Emma reached for it, and he pulled it back with a quick smile. “Nope. You don’t get something for nothing.”

His expression turned serious as he dropped his arm, the ring disappearing into his palm before she could reach for it.

She felt a surge of panic.

“What do you mean? What do you want?”

His eyes were earnest as he looked up her. “Love me?”

Emma’s heart melted and flew at the same time. And then slowly, deliberately, she lowered to her knees so they were at eye level.

Her hands reached out tentatively, her fingertips touching his cheeks before she cupped his face. Cassidy’s eyes closed.

Emma leaned forward and brushed her mouth against his. “I love you. I’ve probably never stopped loving you, which is so annoying.”

She felt his smile as he coaxed her mouth into a deeper kiss, one of his hands moving around to the small of her back as the other found the fourth finger of her left hand. It fit perfectly. Just like it had back then.

“You know,” he said, between kisses, “maybe we should resize it after all. I’m thinking if it’s too small to get off, you can’t throw it at me every time you get mad.”

She pulled back and gave him a look. “I’ll tell you what. You promise not to try and date my sister and use me to further your career, and I won’t throw the ring at your face. Oh, and—”

Cassidy hooked a hand around the back of her head, jerking her forward and cutting her off with another kiss.

He pulled back again to press his lips against her ears. “I love you. I love you so much.”

She nuzzled his neck. “I love you, too.”

He was silent for a few moments. “Also, my knees—”

“Are
killing
me,” she finished for him.

They helped each other up, laughing when Emma’s heel knocked over the garbage can, scattering black ash on her floor.

“Okay, I have to ask. Whose idea was the trash can?” she asked.

“Was it really bad?”

“So bad.”

He grinned. “I was hoping you’d say that. That, my love, was your boy-crush Lincoln Mathis. Jake thought we should bring his legendary ways with women in on the discussion, and this is what he came up with.”

“Huh,” she said, righting the can. “Good thing he’s pretty.”

“Keep it up, and I’ll fire him.”

“Go ahead. Maybe my father will give him a job.”

Cassidy barked out a laugh, and she laughed back.

It felt good.
Right
. As though she could actually feel the old wounds healing the more they joked about it.

Then he backed her against the kitchen counter, and the joking was replaced by something much more interesting.

“What do you think, darling? Do we attempt a redo at the big church wedding? Or do we piss off parents and friends alike by eloping?”

Emma touched his lip with the tip of her finger. “I’m thinking small and local.”

He kissed her finger. “Whatever you want. My only request is
soon
.”

Emma gave him a mock frown. “You didn’t like the our seven-year hiatus?”

“Are you kidding?” he said, reaching around her to grab the half-burned
Stiletto
magazine. “It gave you time to add
twelve
exes to your résumé.”


Yeah,
about that,” she said, reaching for the magazine and opening it to the page with her article. “The cover only has
half
of my headline.”

She turned the magazine around so he could read it, watching his face as he read it out loud:

“Twelve Days of Exes . . . and One Forever Love.”

His eyes found hers. “Emma.”

She smiled. “Camille let me do a last-minute change. This was printed days before you came here with your pyrotechnics and secret ring. It’s about
you,
Cassidy. It’s only you from here on out.”

He smiled back, his eyes looking suspiciously moist. “Wrong. From here on out, it’s only
us
.”

For Anna and Sarah, who taught me early on how wonderful girlfriends can be. I’m so lucky to have found you.

Acknowledgments

First and foremost, I owe a rather huge thank-you to my readers, particularly you
Stiletto
fans. I’m not exaggerating when I say that this book wouldn’t exist if not for you. Sex, Love & Stiletto was originally intended to be a three-book series. From the moment I introduced Emma, I hoped that I’d someday have the chance to tell her story, but without the enthusiastic reader demand, Emma and Alex would never have gotten their chance to shine. So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all the e-mail and Goodreads messages and tweets asking about Emma. This one’s for you guys.

As always, my agent, Nicole Resciniti, played a crucial part in it. I love you, darling, and your faith that there was a story here.

For my friends and family, I’m sure you’re sick by now of me rattling on and on about yet another story, but you always let me talk. Thank you. An extra big thanks goes out to my husband, for letting me ignore you for weeks at a time as I had an emotional affair with Alex Cassidy.

Last, but never least, I absolutely
must
acknowledge the hardworking enthusiasm of the Loveswept team at Penguin Random House. This story wouldn’t be here without the readers, but it wouldn’t be here without my “team,” either. To Sue, Gina, Kim, Katie, Janet, Lynn, and everyone I don’t get to interface with but who play a key part in the production of this book, you guys are beyond amazing. I’m so grateful for the chance to work with you. Here’s hoping there’re many more!

By Lauren Layne

Sex Love & Stiletto

After the Kiss

Love the One You’re With

Just One Night

The Trouble with Love

Oxford Series

Irresistibly Yours
(coming soon)

Redemption Series

Isn’t She Lovely

Broken

Crushed
(coming soon)

Prior to her writing career,
USA Today
bestselling author Lauren Layne worked in e-commerce and Web marketing. She wore cute shoes and actual outfits, like an adult. Then she was like,
nope,
changed into her pajamas, and started writing romance novels for Penguin Random House and Grand Central Publishing.

Lauren believes in sarcasm, weekday happy hours, and happily ever afters, the latter of which she writes full-time from her Manhattan apartment.

laurenlayne.com/

www.facebook.com/LaurenLayneAuthor

twitter.com/_LaurenLayne

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BOOK: The Trouble With Love
9.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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