Until Here by Cristin Cooper by Cristin Cooper - Read Online

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27k Until stand alone Novella

After a failed marriage Melanie Campbell quit a career she loved, friends she had shared with her husband and her social life. She spent three years burying herself in her job avoiding living her life until one evening her boss told her to take a month off or she was fired.

Ready to find love again, Preston Reed was going home after spending the past two years working through the pain of a broken heart.

What started as a chance meeting at a hotel bar began to feel like fate. Their connection was instant and nothing either expected.

But with only thirty days will Melanie leave with another broken heart or will Preston be able to get her to stay?

Published: Cristin Cooper on
ISBN: 1311119531
List price: $1.99
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Until Here - Cristin Cooper

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love.

Prologue

Preston

Kneeling down on bended knee, Preston gazed into tear-filled eyes. The weight of the ring in his hand grew heavier as the woman he loved shook her head no. The hope he held in his chest began to splinter as the realization hit him. The tears she was shedding were not happy tears.

He swallowed the lump in his throat hoping — praying this was all a misunderstanding. He and Bridget had been dating for two years. When she said no to moving in together last year, he agreed it might have been too soon but now…getting married felt like the right thing to do. They couldn’t date forever and Bridget’s daughter, Katie, deserved to have a father. He hadn’t realized how much he wanted a wife or to be a father until Bridget and Katie came into his life. Now it was all he thought about.

Seeing the pain in her eyes cut him as deeply as her rejection. When a sob escaped her lips, he stood. Bridget? What’s wrong? he asked as he cradled her face in his hands.

She blinked back tears but they were coming so quickly they had left dark streaks down her cheeks. I can’t. I’m sorry. She pushed past him rushing down the hall picking up the trail of clothes they had dropped on their way to his bedroom earlier in the evening.

His mind raced to catch up as he followed her. Not an hour ago they were saying ‘I love you’ and now she was scrambling to get dressed as if the ring in his hand was a bomb that was about to detonate.

He wanted to hold her still until she explained why she wouldn’t marry him. What are you doing? he asked. Just as she slipped into her skirt, he pulled her to him. Please talk to me, he begged. His eyes stung and his heart raced. What’s going on? I’m confused.

She scrambled away from him. I can’t do this. Her hand shook as she pointed back and forth between them. He was desperate to keep her from leaving until they worked this out. She wouldn’t — couldn’t just end it like this.

Needing to calm her down, he forced a smile and softened his voice. Of course, you can. We’ve been doing this for two years. From the very beginning, he knew he had an uphill battle. It took months to get her to go on one date with him and another few months before she invited him over to spend time with her and Katie. It had taken even longer before she would show outward affection when they weren’t alone. From the very beginning she resisted every step of their relationship and just like every other step, he would be patient and wait for her to be ready.

She didn’t break a smile. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her. At that moment, he needed to hold her to keep her from leaving and taking his dream of a family with her. Bridget, talk to me. You’re scaring me.

Lifting off his lap, he not only felt the physical distance but the emotional distance between them increase feeding his already growing worry. This couldn’t be the end. He reached for her hand, but she moved out of reach. I can’t move in and I can’t marry you.

He stared at her hoping she would give him something that would make sense of this mess. How could one of the best nights of his life turn into the worst? Then what have we been doing for the past two years? he asked feeling increasingly frustrated. This was the next step. He wasn’t moving too fast. She was just scared but he would show her that they were ready for this.

Dating. Getting to know one another. The way she avoided looking into his eyes, he realized she was lying. Maybe even to herself. There was no way she didn’t see this coming.

We’ve done that. Did I give you the impression I was interested in dating forever? I told you early on that I want it all. Marriage, family — all of it. Why was she with me if she didn’t want this too?

I know you did, and I wanted it too, she stated.

If she wanted it… You don’t anymore? His eyebrows turned in and he shook his head trying to grasp what she said.

I do, she said softly.

He let out a deep breath. She was just scared, he reasoned, but as they stared at one another realization dawned on him. But not with me, he muttered under his breath.

She shook her head no.

That was when it dawned on him. It was Billy she wanted to marry. He thought about the way she looked at her boss, Billy. They had a Sunday morning ritual of coffee and donuts that Preston was never invited to. He thought about the number of times they would stop talking when he entered the room and how she seemed to always gravitate toward him whenever he was around. Because you want it with Billy. He knew her and Billy loved each other as friends, at least, that’s what she said when he questioned her about their relationship. She assured him there weren’t romantic feelings between them. He had believed her.

It’s me. I love you, but I’m not ready to get married. The way she avoided looking him in the eye, he knew she was lying again. Would she have said yes if it was Billy asking? I’m sorry, she whispered.

He followed her to the front door and tried to concentrate on just breathing.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

The pressure on his chest was almost unbearable. He couldn’t let her leave. Not like this. Not after two years of chasing her.

Before she could step outside, he reached for her and pulled her into his arms. Please say yes, he pleaded one last time. Without saying a word, she kissed his cheek and pulled away. He gripped the doorframe to brace himself.

How could she do this? How could she leave when she told me she loved me?

When he could no longer see her taillights, he closed the door and drew in a deep breath. He went to the spare bedroom and stared into the room that represented everything he wanted. As he placed the ring on the dresser, he pleaded with God to make her change her mind and then closed the door on the life he had imagined with Bridget.

Chapter One

May 2nd

Preston

Preston plopped down on the edge of the hotel bed with a tired sigh. After missing his flight, he decided to get a room near the airport instead of going back to his dad’s condo where he had been living for the past several months. Lying back, he slipped off his shoes. Lost in thought, he stared at the blank ceiling.

He was ready. In fact, he was more than ready to go home and face his life.

After he and Bridget had broken up, he put all his energy into work. He reasoned he needed to prove to his dad and uncle that he was deserving of the title of partner. But, in truth, he was running away. He spent all of his time living and breathing contracts. Each day he worked late into the night until he could barely keep his eyes open and only had enough energy to fall into bed or on occasion onto the couch in his office.

A few months after his breakup he had called his uncle in Illinois to discuss transferring out of Arizona. He already had his law license in both states and would be able to start working right away. His uncle happily agreed and wished him luck in telling his father.

After a lengthy discussion over drinks, his father agreed it would be a good idea but made it clear it would only be temporary. Since then, Preston had been back to his hometown of Flagstaff only ten days out of the past fifteen months.

He thought back to those months and even though his parents weren’t happy having him so far away, he needed that time to recover and get his head on straight. It worked. His head was clear and his focus sharp on what he wanted from his life.

He no longer held on to the dream of marrying Bridget and being the father to her daughter. In fact, he recognized he had been more in love with the idea of them than he was in them as a couple. He was able to see his and Bridget’s relationship in a whole new light and realized he not only wanted — but he deserved — so much more than what she had been able to give him.

He was no longer willing to drag someone through