We have all experienced that lightening flash moment when love strikes us down, when we know without a shadow of a doubt that we're in love...and only hope it's reciprocated by our beloved. Today we're sharing a glimpse inside the romance novel In Between where that moment is captured perfectly.
"Everything we have here is perfect," she whispered with sudden tears shimmering in her eyes and appearing like shards of gold in the candlelight. "I paint, we travel, you spar with Ava, we make love morning, noon, and night, we do whatever we want when we want to do it. No one interferes with us. Back home...it will be different. I know I suggested me tying up loose ends and leaving it all behind, but once I get there it won't be as easy to leave as I'd like to believe."
He wanted to understand, but didn't. Obviously, she omitted details. Then again, maybe he didn't comprehend her concern because he had never had a hometown and his family had always been accepting of anything he had ever imagined trying. He didn't know what it meant to have a 'home,' not in the grand scheme anyway. Wherever his parents were became a destination for holidays and special occasions. He stored some things in Brussels at his grandmother's house, but other than that, no one he knew would ever think it odd for him to travel or to love.
But he wanted that home base. He wanted to travel and explore, but he dreamed of coming home to someone who missed him and who wanted to hear his stories.
"Credere nell'amore," she said with a crooked grin.
"I do believe in love," he replied. "What am I going to do with you, Jessica Moriarty? You're maddening."
"You know exactly what to do with me, Jacques Sinclair." Her grin turned wicked in a heartbeat.
"I want to know the details about you, all of them, not just the pretty ones, but the dark ones, too. I won't run away." He reached across the table and snagged her hand in his. "I am more worried that you will run away because you are assuming things about me that are not true. Love is the beginning, but we need trust to go all the way."
She squeezed his fingers and focused on their joined hands. "I don't want either of us to give up who we are for the sake of each other. I don't want to stall your career...and I don't want to feel like my old life is too small for you to be happy."
"I will never make you give up anything for me."
"Yet you've already given up South Africa for me."
"Oh, my God. Not South Africa again." He pulled his hand free of hers and shook his head.
"And London. Simone told me—"
"Stop it, Jess." He gave her his best Do-Not-Go-There look before refilling his wine glass.
She leaned back in the chair, folded her arms across her chest, and once again looked toward the sea where the cruise ship had made little progress on its voyage.
"I push people away, it's what I do. Kind of like a thing, I guess." She shrugged, her voice quiet. "I grew up always needing to be the adult from as far back as I can remember. I watched my mom transform like a chameleon for any man who paid attention to her. I don't blame her...she is how she is...my life is good now, I'm not complaining. I have it all, you see. I live in a gorgeous apartment in an enviable location. I love my friends and landed a prestigious job in my chosen field. Now I have you and it all seems too good to be true. I thought I could simply fly home and let it all go, but that feels wrong, too. I want to paint my days away, but I hear all the words from people in my past telling me how silly that is. I also love architecture and worked hard to be the best—"
"Why can't you be both?" He frowned, truly not understanding the dilemma and wishing he could. "I love you, Jess, not what you do as a profession."
"That's just a piece of the problem, Jacques. I'm all my mom has." She shook her head and looked exasperated. "I confuse myself over and over again about what's right and wrong. Traveling the world with you feels like a dream, but so does bringing you home with me and making it all work out. An impossible dream."
"Nothing is impossible." He shrugged, frustration drumming in his skull as to what to do to make her understand that he truly believed that they could make it work.
"You're the ultimate dreamer, Jacques, and I love you for that," she whispered, eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I'm torn between what my heart wants and what my brain believes. So I will probably try to push you away again and again. Don't let me. Keep being stubborn and don't let me go no matter what bullshit I spout off."
He hesitated a moment while he digested her words before laughing. "You are fascinating, have I told you that? And crazy, that's obvious. My fascinating lunatic."
"Doesn't say much about your judgment, does it?" She shrugged again, the wicked grin returning. "Now you're going into this with your eyes wide open. My life is messy back home. Marc is trouble, always has been. People think we're going to get married."
His laughter faltered. "Married? Why would they think that?"
"Because it fits into their plans, but not mine."
"I've never been missed." He blurted it out because he wanted her to know that he didn't leave a charmed life like she believed. "People in my life are used to me being gone so they do not miss me. I disappear for months on end and no one bats an eye because they say, 'oh, that is just Jacques.' I am not attached to anything except my work."
"You have Ava." She faced him again, this time cupping her wine glass with both hands.
"She expects me to go, just as I expect her to go." He thought of Simone's accusations about 'slumming' it at the apartment building and pretending to be less than what he was. "We are blessed with wealth and with worldly parents who raised us as citizens of the world. But do you know what I dream of?"
She shook her head no.
"A home where someone expects me at a certain time and misses me when I am not there." He felt embarrassed at the admission and broke eye contact. "Sometimes when I travel I hear men on the phone with their wives and they are telling them about their day and assuring them that they will be careful. I hear them complain about it—sometimes—but I know they like having that connection with someone who looks at the stars at night and wonders what constellation the other one sees."
He fiddled in his pocket for another cigarette. For someone who had pushed her for confessions, he suddenly wished he'd kept his mouth shut.
"Ava loves you."
"Oh, I know." He lit the cigarette and watched the stern of the cruise ship distance itself from shore. "We all love each other. My family is very close in that way, but we do not wonder about each other. Never mind. I am not explaining myself well. Forget it."
"You want someone to curl up with on the sofa after a long journey, someone who has been counting the days until you return so she can hear your stories and thank God you're okay," she whispered with a slow smile. "I want to be that person."
He smoked his cigarette and fought the urge to leap across the table and hug her, but stopped himself. After all, he had an image of cool and aloof romantic European to uphold. Grinning, he shrugged and exhaled a stream of smoke.
"So, Jacques Sinclair, getting back to that whole what-are-you-going-to-do-with-me question..." she finished the wine in her glass without looking away from him.
Oh, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with her.
"Portami a letto," she said with a smile, her long hair billowing around her as she wiggled her finger at him in a come-to-me motion.
"Take me to bed," he repeated in English, his gaze moving over her body with territorial pride. "Gladly."
He tossed more than enough money to pay the bill onto the table, propped it beneath the wine bottle, and followed her off the narrow deck of the restaurant.
He paused at the top of the stairs and looked up at the stars. Yes, he wanted her to be the one who looked at the constellations and missed him.
"What are you waiting for?" She called to him from the bottom of the stairs, her yellow dress shaping her legs in the wind. "Portami a letto!"
He laughed at the people who looked at her as if she'd lost her mind. She was his kind of crazy beautiful.
"Bossy American," he muttered when he got close enough for her to hear him.
She stepped backward out of reach, arms outstretched, and said, "Credo nell'amore!"
I believe in love!
He jogged to catch her after she abruptly turned and ran toward their small hotel down the narrow street. Snatching her around the waist, he crushed his mouth against hers and prayed that she truly believed and wasn't simply lost in the moment because he'd never wanted anything or anyone as much as he wanted her.
Keep reading In Between, book one of the 2-part Dancing Barefoot Series
Back cover blurb...
In between responsibilities and dreams...
Jessica Moriarty has always played by the rules, but for once in her life, she's doing exactly as she pleases. In between graduate school and 'real life', she's in Florence, Italy, indulging her love of art and abandoning inhibitions.
Meeting Jacques Sinclair rocks her off center. Whereas rules and living up to expectations have dictated her life, he is the opposite. A rebel. A photographer. A man who lives for the moment. He sweeps her up into a riveting romance that makes her question all she's ever believed to be true.
The drum of old commitments echo through her heart as time ticks away. Will the crush of 'real life' undermine the love she's found in between...?