When lawyer Anna brings her boyfriend Jason home for the holidays, it’s a recipe for family drama. Her parents have high expectations for her fast-track future. And those don’t include her hooking up with a kennel worker suffering the results of traumatic brain injury.
With a lousy memory and a shaky past, Jason knows he’s no prize. But what he and Anna have together is priceless. An impulsive proposal on the way to her family’s house seems the best way to prove his feelings for her are forever. Anna’s hesitation to accept stops his heart. And when she seems willing to use him to get back at her manipulative mom, Jason wonders if he’s made the mistake of his life.
Exposed to the light of critical eyes, Jason and Anna’s fairy-tale romance threatens to crumble. The hurdles of their pasts may prove too much for this princess and her pauper. And this new year may ring in bright beginnings – or the end of all their hopes and dreams.
You ever experience one of those moments when people stare at you like you’re a turd that won’t flush? That’s pretty much how I felt the night of the Christmas party at Anna’s law firm. Dressing up in a suit was like putting on a costume, and I have to admit I looked damn good that night, but underneath, I was still Jason Reitmiller—a partially disabled, minimum-wage-earning dog washer.
All of her coworkers knew that, of course, which had to be weird for Anna. I could tell she was nervous, because she kept asking me if I was all right. No headaches? No impending panic attacks or outbursts of temper?
I couldn’t blame her for fearing a repeat of the meltdown I’d had only a few months earlier at her place of employment. None of these lawyers would have forgotten that drama. Thus the curious looks at the turd in their midst.
Anna gripped my arm and occasionally leaned in to point out someone. Until now, they’d been faceless names featured in stories about her work life. But there was no way in hell I was going to be able to connect all these names to faces in one evening.
“There’s Jules Arden.”
I knew I had to at least program Arden into my low RAM memory. The senior partner was Anna’s mentor, the man who helped guide her career at Haggenstern and Lowe.
“Jules. Got it.” I looked at the beautiful woman beside me, and suddenly the rest of the room and all my anxiety disappeared. What the fuck did I care what a bunch of strangers thought of me and the way I’d humiliated myself in front of them? Anna wanted me here by her side at this fancy social event. I would keep my shit together and do her proud.
“Did I remember to tell you how gorgeous you look?” I asked.
Her gaze stopped darting around the room and came to rest on me. She smiled, and her beautiful brown eyes sparkled. “Several times. But you know I don’t have a problem with you repeating things.”
“In that case…” I leaned close and whispered, “You look fuckin’ awesome, and I can’t wait to get home and peel that dress off you.”
“Any time,” she murmured. “If you start to feel stressed out or get tired, let me know and we can leave.”
For just a moment I considered taking her up on the offer. I wasn’t at my best in crowded situations. Since the car accident which had left my brain scrambled and my body lame, I struggled to perform daily tasks, let alone process a lot of new input all at once. But then the very fact that Anna had offered me an out made me not want to take it. If we were going to last as a couple, I had to be able to fit into her world at least a little bit.
“No way. I’ve got the prettiest woman in the room on my arm, and I intend to show her off.” Sometimes I amaze myself with my suaveness. Maybe it’s a hint of the player I used to be before the accident.
Anna smiled again, and I thought she seemed a little less nervous. “All right, then. I want to introduce you to Jules.”
We waded through a stream of sparkling party dresses and starched white shirtfronts, which gleamed under the Christmas lights illuminating the banquet room that the law firm had rented for the occasion. The sweetness of too many perfumes and a tang of pine from decorated trees along one wall mingled into a strong odor that made me need to sneeze.
As we made our way toward what’s-his-name—JULES. Jules Arden—Anna occasionally stopped to introduce me to the people she worked most closely with. I smiled, shook hands, and tried to file away names, but they flitted out of my consciousness almost as soon as they entered. I could hardly pull out my I-pad and type them in, and without that organizational tool, I was lost.
“Nice to meet you. Anna’s mentioned you many times,” I said to one guy, whose name was Dan or Doug or maybe Dave.
“All good I hope.” A guy with slicked-back hair studied me intently. Definitely a turd-gazing look.
Bonnie Dee began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, she was the designated ghost tale teller, guaranteed to frighten and thrill with macabre tales. She still has a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.
Writing childish stories for her own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, she dreamed of writing a novel, but didn’t have the necessary focus and follow through at that time in her life. A husband, children and work occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that she began writing again. Bonnie enjoys reading stories about people damaged by life who find healing with a like-minded soul. When she couldn’t find enough books to suit her taste, she began to write them.