Love at Last
by Delaney Cameron
Series: Finding Love #6
Publication Date February 20, 2017
Genres: Clean Romance
Setting: Georgia Contemporary
Written for: Adults
Working on her grandmother’s house gives Rosemary a reason to escape the media attention of a very public broken engagement. In St. Marys, she hopes to rekindle the music that used to flow easily from her mind to paper and rediscover the girl who’s somehow lost her way. Instead she finds someone who challenges her beliefs about love and tests her resolve to guard her heart.
Fresh from a writer’s convention in New York, Jase is excited to return home and start putting into practice all the things he’s learned. He has no idea that his gesture of kindness to a mysterious woman on a plane will turn his life upside down and give him his first tantalizing glimpse of true love. But unlike the fiction he spends his days writing, he can’t simply remove all the obstacles in his path to happiness. Love comes in its own time and on its own terms.
Rosemary sat down on the steps and waited for Jase to do the same. She loved this time of day when the last rays of the setting sun bathed the backyard in a mellow glow and the crickets in the bushes began their nightly roll call. “Last time we did this, my legs were longer than yours.” His chuckle brought her glance to his face.
“I bet mine are longer now.” To prove his point, he proceeded to stretch out his leg next to hers. “By at least three inches.”
Her legs might be almost as long, but they looked like a child’s in comparison. His thighs were thick with muscles and easily double the width of hers. When she realized she was staring, she rushed into speech. “This is something of a novelty for me. I’m taller than most of the people I work with.”
His grin told her that he’d noticed her perusal of his legs. She waited to see if, like most men, he would make a comment about it, but he didn’t.
“I spent the majority of my teenage years worried that I’d never grow. Every few months, my dad would give me a pep talk about growth plates and being a late bloomer. He’d remind me that Quinn had been the same way. I wanted to tell him that all of that was fine and good, but I needed those extra inches right then, not five years down the road.”
Rosemary leaned against the balustrade and tilted her face toward the darkening sky. “My biggest hang-up was wearing glasses. By the time I was fourteen, my lenses were as thick as the bottom of a glass soda bottle. My mother finally let me get contacts, but by then my eyes were so bad I still had to wear glasses to read or drive. After I left home, I saved enough money to have laser surgery. That took care of the problem.”
“I’ve compared high school to a refined sort of torture. At a time when you’re the most insecure about your appearance is when you look your worst. I remember the horror of waking up in the morning to see a huge pimple on the end of my nose, but that wasn’t nearly as bad as the time I was standing at my locker right after P.E. and realized I’d forgotten to put on deodorant. Before I could make my escape, the girl who had the locker next to me showed up. I had a major crush on her at the time, so it was even more mortifying when she kept asking me what the smell was. I wanted to crawl into a hole.”
At least his embarrassing moments were confined to high school. Rosemary had tripped over her own feet while walking around on stage during a concert. “Did you ever get together with her?”
“Sadly, I did not. I really thought that being given lockers next to each other was the universe’s way of telling me to go for it. My ability to quote the periodic table backwards and forwards wasn’t nearly as impressive to her as the muscles on the man-among-boys who had the locker on the other side of her.”
Rosemary sent him a quick sideways glance. “You don’t appear to be doing too badly in that area now.”
He shrugged. “I sold out to the myth that a guy with a six-pack can get any woman he wants.”
A smile tugged at her lips. “So women are the reason you spend your days in the gym staring at yourself in those floor-to-ceiling mirrors.”
“That was my motivation at first. Now I do it because writing is sedentary. I need the exercise. But I don’t stare at myself in the mirror. I use it to see if there are any pretty girls working out that I might like to talk to.”
“So you use the mirror to check out girls? That’s even worse.” She reached over and pinched one of the legs she’d been admiring. The shocked look on his face was priceless.
“What was that for?”
“I don’t know. I just felt like doing it.”
One eyebrow went up. “Does that rule apply to me, too? There might be something I want to do some time.”
It wasn’t so much his words as the gleam in his eyes that made her heart skip a beat. “I took a self-defense class. Proceed at your own risk.”
He laughed. “Thanks for the warning.”
Rosemary heard Ambrose pawing at the door. Before she could move, Jase reached behind them and let the cat outside. Ambrose surveyed the situation and made his move, placing himself in the six inches of space between her and Jase.
“Ambrose is giving me the same look I used to get from the fathers of the high school girls I dated.”
She stroked the cat’s head. “He’s a little protective of me. Are you going to tell me why you’re willing to take care of him?”
“Is the other subject getting too hot for you?”
“Do you want another pinch on the leg?”
“Sure, but could you switch to the other leg? I bruise easily. As for Ambrose, why wouldn’t I want to help you? That’s what friends do for each other.”
“I haven’t been too lucky with my friends lately.”
“You have to get back on the friendship horse and try again. I’m a good place to start. You have some history with me.”
“Why do you care?”
He smiled, and Rosemary’s breath lodged in her throat and refused to budge.
“Isn’t it obvious? I like you.”
She liked him, too. Much more than seemed possible after only a few hours together and definitely more than was wise considering she couldn’t see him again.
“Is something wrong, Rosemary?”
“Wrong? Not at all.” She rose to her feet with a quickness that belied her words. It was the rabbit bolting into the nearest hole all over again. “I’m in the mood for some pudding. How about you?”
By the time they were eating their dessert in the living room, the momentary panic that had seized her on the porch had faded. She was making too much of too little.
Jase pointed to the dark wood paneling on the walls. “Have you thought about just painting over it?”
“Can I do that?”
“I don’t see why not. If you get the primer tinted to match the paint, you’d probably only have to use one coat.”
“So you know about painting, too?”
“I know a little about a lot of things; you know, a jack of all trades, master of none.” He sat up and reached for his wallet. “Do you have a pen I could borrow?”
“Sure. Let me get one out of my purse.”
After she handed it to him, he wrote something on a business card. “If you decide you want to go with Winnie and me on Wednesday evening, you can reach me at this number.” He laid the card on the coffee table and rose to his feet. “I should get going. I have an errand to run for Quinn before I go home.”
“Thanks again for fixing the sink. I really appreciate it.”
“It was my pleasure. Goodnight, Rosemary.”
Only after he pulled out of the driveway did she return to the living room and pick up the card he left her. The front of it had a picture of a bouquet of flowers along with the contact information for a florist shop called Violets are Blue. On the back, along with his name and number, he’d written, “We don’t lose friends; we just learn who our real ones are.”
His words touched her and at the same time made her feel guilty. Why did he have to be so thoughtful and funny and nice and sweet and charming? It made closing the book on her reunion with him that much more difficult.
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