Title: I Loved You THEN
Series: Bristol Backroads Duet #1
Author: Jen Blau
Genre: Women's Fiction/Contemporary Romance
Release Date: May 18, 2018
Love was supposed to protect us... but sometimes, love dies.
Emily's life defines the American Dream.
She has a husband of eighteen years, two healthy teenage daughters, and a thriving business. But it's all a lie.
Happily ever after was supposed to be enough, but her marriage is tattered, along with her self-esteem. She’s drowning and nobody sees her struggle.
UNTIL Logan, the town playboy breaks down her walls and reminds Emily who she was before putting them up.
Can she risk everything for the life she wants, or will Emily stay and continue to live the lie?
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We both laughed and clinked the plastic together before each taking a sip.
Licking the sweetness from my lips, I lowered my glass with both hands, eyes following it.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure, anything.” Logan drained his portion of champagne and set his glass down. Sticking hands in his pockets, he leaned his hip against the freezer to face me.
“Why do you care so much?” I lifted my face, devoid of expression. “I mean about my writing. About my work. All these years, I thought you were this tough, no feelings kind of guy. Yet, you’ve shown so much… I don’t know. Emotion. Why?”
Logan paused, a soft grin on his face, then tilted his head and moved in closer. “I told you before. You don’t know me as well as you think you do.”
Squirming, a little embarrassed, I broke from his gaze and tucked my elbows close to my side, still holding onto my champagne flute with both hands.
“Well I am glad that you’re here.” I took in a deep breath and let it out slow, savoring the moment as I looked to the rich sunset forming outside. Pinks, blues, lavenders. Like cotton candy.
I turned back, Logan’s face only inches from mine.
“Me too,” he answered. Just then, the breeze whipped in through the door. “It probably should be Ryan, though. Right?” Logan pressed his lips tight, leaned back some and looked away towards the sunset.
My stomach clenched at the mention of my husband’s name. “Maybe. But he wouldn’t be toasting with me. That’s for sure.”
Lifting my glass, I drained what was left in it. Logan didn’t miss a beat and reached for the bottle, giving me a refill. I took a sip before continuing.
“And, I doubt he’d care. I don’t think he wants me to succeed at anything; he has no concern for my passions whatsoever. I’m not sure I’ll even tell him about this.”
I went quiet, my head spinning, not only from the phone call and the champagne, but also from the reality of my situation. The thought of Ryan dampened my celebratory mood.
“Hey…” Logan removed the glass from my hands with the tip of his fingers and set it down. “Let’s not talk about him right now. Okay?” Taking my arms, he pulled me close, wrapping them around the back of his waist. Nervous, my heart pounded as I caught the essence of carburetor mixed with his signature musky lemon cologne from his t-shirt. He’d come from working at Monroe Auto, but he somehow smelled good enough to go on a date.
“Okay,” I murmured and looked up at him. He released his hands to hold my face. Rough and calloused from working on cars all his life, his touch was still delicate as he bent, taking my lips in his.
Logan kissed me, light and gentle at first. Like I might break under his touch. But then, he dragged me closer, pressing his body to mine and taking more of me into his mouth, our kiss building intensity.
“I care,” he whispered against my skin.
My body wouldn’t relax fully. We lived on the outskirts of town, but with the garage door open, anyone could see right in. That would start some gossip.
“What’s wrong?” He leaned back, picking up on my tension. Noooo, don’t stop.
I pointed to the open door, then wiped at my wet lips.
He smirked. “That’s easy.” He walked to the side of the door and pressed the CLOSE button. The walk-in door to the outside was still open, but this was enough to conceal us.
He took back his place with me, and I let go, running my hand up his back, feeling the warmth of his skin. A moment later, Logan drew back again, his eyes fixed down into mine. He kept his hands tangled behind my head in my long hair.
“He has no idea what he has, Em. The depth of you is incredible. I see it. I see you.”
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying not to cry again. Logan took notice and pulled me to his chest in a hug.
With my eyes still shut, I lifted away. Logan bent, our lips crashing again, before I opened them. I wanted to stay like this forever.
A minute later, a truck roared outside the garage door. Ryan.
“Shit!” Logan and I broke from each other. I grabbed my glass, clearing my throat; he grabbed his bottle of beer, and we composed ourselves quickly. He stayed close, though, enough to touch the side of my body. We leaned with our backs against the deep freeze as Ryan walked in the side door.
Everything that had just happened--everything that has happened--with Logan had felt right. Unfortunately, that still didn’t make it right.
“What the hell is this?” Once inside, Ryan planted his legs wide and crossed his arms. His face tightened, and he glared between the two of them.
Born and raised on a cattle farm in rural Nebraska, Jen still resides in the Midwest with her three children, two dogs and lots of happy cows.
A proclaimed coffee, wine, and book snob, Jen writes about women and the depth of their life stories. Even before the "times-up" and new women's movement, sharing light on women's real lives was an important part of her vision and life purpose. I Loved You THEN is her first novel.