Jack was at a loss. He told himself he wouldn’t let this happen. He went to check on her, not to fall in love with her. Damn Eloise and everyone’s inabilities to tell her no. He hated that about her. The way she always got what she wanted, but he loved it, too, in a way, because it meant she was happy. Eloise would rip him to shreds. God, he loved her. He loved her from the first day she walked into that theater at eighteen, but now it was different. It wasn’t just her body or sex or lust, it was friendship and trust. It was months of messages, packages, and phone calls. It was knowing that she’d finally let him in, let him within reach.
Jack couldn’t help but wonder what that would be like once he got back. They’d have so much to talk about. He’d go wherever, leave the Army if he had to, be as much in this as she’d allow. He just wasn’t sure how much she’d actually allow. If he gave up everything, changed his whole life for her and she pushed him away, he wasn’t sure he could live through that. He’d lost Eloise once, but he’d never really had her, or at least that’s what he told himself. This would be a relationship, with labels, with attachments. It was something they’d had the entire time, but never said so out loud. Talking about it made it real, and Jack wasn’t sure Eloise was ready for real.
Jack looked at the letter in his hand and reflected on what Eloise had said about the words leaving her soul. He needed that too. He carefully folded the letter, stuck it back in its envelope and then in his chest pocket, and went to find Chase.
“Chase,” Jack yelled and found him at one of the tables with a few other men. “I need some paper.” Jack remembered that Chase kept a couple of notebooks to write his wife. Everyone mostly used social media, but as Jack now knew, there was something about a physical letter.
“Writing Miss Eloise?” Chase stood and Jack followed him.
“She said she loves me.” Jack slammed into Chase’s back. “What the fuck?”
“Sorry.” Chase turned to face him. “You shocked the shit outta me. She said what?”
“You heard me, man.” Jack didn’t want to tell Chase that Eloise had endured more trauma. He didn’t want Chase to bring up the possibility that Eloise only said that because she was hurting and didn’t have anyone else. He didn’t want Chase to suggest that it didn’t mean anything, that she’d take it back, or that once he was home and she had to face her written words, she’d cover them in friendship and destroy him in the process. Jack already felt those things. No, he didn’t need Chase to say them.
The Man Before You
Grand Mesa Men Prequel
by Shalana Battles
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Time may not actually heal all wounds, but love just might.
Eloise’s husband was dead and she wished she were too. She quit going to work, refused to answer her phone or her front door, and shut out the people who cared about her. She felt imprisoned by her tainted memories, but couldn’t escape her own home or recliner, because she had to focus on breathing.
Six days after she buried her husband, Jack pounded on Eloise’s door. Jack, a man she hadn’t seen or spoken to in over a decade. Jack, the only man including her husband, who Eloise felt truly knew her.
Jack’s life hadn’t been without its fair share of loss. Breaking contact after Eloise’s marriage had seemed the best thing for them, but regret tortured Jack when Eloise swung open her door and he saw the shell of the woman he once loved.
Eloise pushed Jack away ten years ago and never expected him to come back into her life. She hated herself for wanting Jack to stay, but she couldn’t help but remember the love they once shared and the life that they could’ve had—or the life they could have now.
The longer Jack stayed, the more he realized Eloise blamed herself for not being there when her husband died. Jack wanted a second chance, but Eloise didn’t think she deserved one. Eloise wanted to find herself, but wasn’t sure she could while dealing with grief, Jack’s deployments, PTSD, and a universe that seemed determined to keep them apart.
A Second Chance Standalone Romance
Shalana Battles is a YA/Adult writer who tells stories about love…sometimes with witches and ghosts. Her debut novel, SOUL JUMPER released October, 6, 2020. Be the first to hear about upcoming projects and book updates by signing up for her newsletter below!
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