Read Bound to You Online

Authors: Vanessa Holland

Tags: #Romance, #General, #Contemporary, #Fiction

Bound to You (2 page)

The smile vanished and he nodded, glancing toward the field, then he dropped his arms. “Aw hell, you’re still mad because of the way I left.”

The way you left
? she wanted to shout at him.
You used me and then dumped me and disappeared
Instead, she hugged her knees and stared straight ahead. She wanted to meet his gaze, and tell him everything, but she couldn’t move. Her jaw felt wired shut.

Well, all right then,” he said after an uncomfortably long stretch of silence. “Take it easy.”

He jogged back to the field without a glance back, or apparently, a second thought.

Fine, run away,” she whispered. “That’s what you’re famous for.”

She gathered up the blanket and basket, refusing to be a source of comical conversation for Sam and his brothers, and headed toward the fountain. But she was abruptly forced to turn toward the car before anyone saw the tears spilling down her burning cheeks.

She may have shed a pond of tears for that man, she avowed, but never would he see one single drop.


Sam turned to watch Jenna walk across the grass clutching a picnic basket and blanket, his heart still racing… hell, his hands were shaking. She had changed somehow, matured, and amazingly, grown even more beautiful. Though her personality had changed the most. She’d once been all smiles and shining blue eyes. Now, she was cold and stiff, and those eyes were full of nothing but blame.

His thoughts were shaken as he continued to back across the field and almost tripped over his very pregnant sister, Frankie, who sat on a blanket with a scattered arrangement of kids.

He quickly stepped to the side and stared at her bulging belly with dread. “Dang, Franks, did I hit you?”

Frankie shielded her eyes with her hand and squinted up at him. “I’m fine, sugar, but you don’t look so good. Sit down before you step on one of the kids.”

Sam checked the ground around his feet and sat down, keeping the sunburst of Jenna’s hair in his sight.

See that beauty over there, walking away?”

Frankie turned her head, her long brown braid whipping around like a dangerous weapon. “The leggy blonde? I saw you talking to her. Who is she?”

Jenna disappeared beyond a row of evergreens but Sam could see her face so clearly in his mind. The perfectly oval face, arched eyebrows just a shade darker than her light hair, high cheekbones, full rosy lips, and the most delicate jaw line. Skin so soft he’d barely refrained from reaching out and stroking that softness and losing himself all over again.

Jenna Morgan,” he offered. “Her dad’s the mayor. Or was when I left.”

Was, is right. He died.”

Distracted, Sam nodded then frowned at his sister. “He

I think he had a heart attack and wrecked his car? I don’t really keep up with things like that. But I remember everyone talking about it.”


She looked up at the sky and thought for a moment. “Not long ago. January, February, March? A month or two before Granddad passed away.”

I didn’t know,” he said, still watching the trees, hoping for one more glimpse of Jenna. “No one told me.”

It’s not like any of us knew him. And since you’ve been gone it’s hard to remember what you know and don’t know around here.”

Frankie’s four-year-old, Maisey, plopped down in his lap so he shifted her to a more comfortable position, planted a kiss on her forehead when she grinned up at him. “We had a thing once.”

His sister-in-law, Becky, came over with her new baby to sit and join them. “What are we talking about?”

Sam and the mayor’s daughter,” Frankie told her.

Becky handed him one of her homemade cookies. “You and the mayor’s daughter? Our mayor? When was this?”

About three years ago,” Sam said, noticing Frankie watching him with curiosity. “What?” he asked her.

Frankie looked away. “Nothing.”

It was only for about a month.” He handed the cookie to the child in his lap. “Right before I left to take over Granddad’s place. Things were pretty hot and heavy, and then… complications arose. Her dad got tough with me. Said I was gonna ruin her life. She was headed to law school and thought I’d get in the way. I had plans of my own so I decided he was probably right. I kept thinking about her, but figured I’d wait till she graduated. Law school takes three years, right, and it’s been three years. But it’s been too long. She blew me off, cold as ice. Guess it doesn’t matter.”

You’re acting like it matters plenty,” Becky cleverly observed. “Ten minutes ago you were having a great time and now it’s like a black cloud moved over your head.”

It’s pointless.” He glanced up at a slow moving cloud, pure white, and then watched a group of children run across the grass. “We live in two different worlds.”

Becky leaned forward, gazing at him sadly, and squeezed his arm. “Honey, if you want her, go after her, and make a new world all your own.”

Sam chuckled and tried not to roll his eyes. “Does that sentiment come with flowers and candy, Becks?”

She mocked offense and swatted his arm.

Oh, lord,” Frankie said. “Don’t encourage him. I know that look. He’s spotted his next challenge and it’s a bad idea.” She gave him a swat on the other arm. “Her dad just died. She doesn’t need you messing around with her right now.”

But Sam barely heard her. He’d made up his mind.

He set the child from his lap to the blanket then stood and aimed for the row of evergreens. “I’m off.”


Jenna closed the trunk of her car and took one step toward the grass, then stopped abruptly. A shiny silver Porsche convertible blocked her path. The sight of that gorgeous car took her breath away. Then she saw the driver, and tensed with dread.

Brandon Stewart sat in the driver’s seat, watching her with a smug grin. She’d heard about his recent inheritance, and his new Porsche, but had yet to see it, or him sitting there so cool and superior.

Brandon lowered his expensive shades long enough to get a good look at her. “Hey, Jen. You’re looking fine as ever.”

Just what she needed to completely ruin her day. Over the past few months, Brandon had been making his presence known again - not hounding her, exactly, but becoming enough of a bother to annoy her. In high school, he’d pestered her relentlessly to go out with him, but there had always been something about him, something strange and a little disturbing. She’d always refused but he’d kept pursuing her - driving by her house countless times every day, sending her gifts and flowers, and pictures of himself taken in what he must have supposed where provocative stances. He’d chased off every guy who’d asked her out until she’d begun to feel like a pariah.

It had taken her the better part of a year to convince him to leave her alone. She was in no mood to start all that again.

She looked for a way out, wishing she had Brianna and Ethan with her, but she was stuck. “I was sorry to hear about your grandmother,” she said, because she’d honestly liked the friendly, silver-haired woman who’d sneaked her chocolates whenever her parents were invited over for one of the Stewarts’ garden parties. But also hoping to distract Brandon from getting any romantic ideas.

What is that
you’re driving?” he said, completely ignoring her condolences, and giving her car a derisive sneer.

She’d recently sold the BMW convertible her father had given her for college graduation, needing the cash. In its place, she’d bought an inexpensive and reliable compact, gently used, she’d been told by the salesman.

Obviously aware that she could barely afford to put gasoline in her car, let alone buy something to his standards, he suppressed a grin of satisfaction. “I heard you’re trying to sell your house but you’re not getting any offers. Hop in and let’s go for a drive. We have some business to discuss.”

Business? What kind of business?”

I know all about it, Jen. Your dad was living beyond his means and left you to deal with it. How many mortgages did he have? You’re making crap wages at that clerk job. What do you do there? File, answer phones, get coffee? Does your sister know she’s not going to college this fall? Because from what I hear she still thinks she’s headed to Vanderbilt.”

Jenna stared at him in disbelief. How could he know all these things? Had he been investigating her? Then she remembered that Brandon’s sister, Ally, was Brianna’s age. Brianna had just graduated high school and did still think she was going to college – Jenna just couldn’t bring herself to crush her sister’s dreams. Not yet. She tried to think of a way to answer Brandon and came up with nothing.

You’re going under fast,” he continued, “and it’s getting ugly to watch. I feel bad for that kid of yours.”

My life is none of your business,” she snapped. That was the best she could come up with.

I’m making it my business, beautiful,” he said. “Hop in. Just a trip around the park. I have a career opportunity you need to take seriously.” When she held her ground, he perched his sunglasses on his head and met her gaze. The blond highlights in his brown hair shined in the sunlight. “I’m trying to do you a favor, Jen. Between old friends. You can’t afford to be stubborn anymore.”

They’d never been friends, their families had only run in the same circles, and she didn’t like that mischievous twinkle in his eyes. But something in his tone warned her not to disregard him now. He was right. She was drowning in debt. She couldn’t even afford stubbornness anymore.


Sam leaned against a parked SUV and watched the silver convertible glide across the parking lot, Jenna sitting in the passenger seat of that magnificent piece of machinery, holding her sparkling gold hair in a ponytail against the wind.

So she was back with her own kind. Explained her cold-as-ice attitude. For a moment, like a flash, a pang of jealousy, or defeat, darkened his mood.

Then he chuckled and turned back toward his family on the playing field. She hadn’t been wearing a wedding ring - he’d noticed that much within a minute of seeing her again.

She was still free.

And that was the only invitation he needed.





The next afternoon, while Ethan napped, Jenna stole a few minutes to sit down in the office and pay bills. She stared at her checkbook until the impossible numbers blurred. How could her father have put her in such an overwhelming situation? This question came to mind every time she sat down to face the dreaded finances. Though, she knew she was every bit as responsible for the state of her life.

She’d grown up never giving a thought to money, never worrying how the bills were paid, or what happened with the credit card once she tucked the smoking plastic back into her purse. Now money consumed her thoughts, when she wasn’t worried about Ethan and Brianna.

Or dreaming about Sam Strickland.

Or fuming over Sam Strickland’s betrayal.

Perhaps a greater shock than her father’s sudden death had been the state of his affairs - left for her to handle with no experience. And now, despite her best efforts, she would lose the house. There was no way around it, unless she won the lottery in the next few weeks. Her father had taken out two mortgages on the house and with the housing market the way it was, she wasn’t getting any serious offers. She owed more than the house was worth. He’d cashed in most of the life insurance and had only left her enough to stay afloat for a couple of months.

Now, she was running out of time. She’d have to break the news to Bri soon. She’d have to tell her sister her future was about to change. But every time she tried, she’d lose her nerve. Maybe there was still hope. She kept thinking that thought. Maybe…. She had one serious offer on the table, but it made her sick to think about it.

She was planning a massive garage sale for the next weekend, and then an estate sale for the furniture and other items worth more than she could get at a garage sale. She had her fingers crossed they would bring in enough to get the bank off her back for another month, or maybe two.

Baby’s up,” Brianna mentioned, leaning in the doorway swinging a baton in her hand. “He’s all fussy.”

I’ll be right there.”

I need the phone again.”

Later. I’m waiting on a call. I need to finish this,” Jenna said, giving her sister a look warning her not to start. “Can you check on Ethan, please?”

Brianna glared at her. “You canceled everything and you won’t even let me use the car because of the gas. What am I supposed to do? I’m sick of using your phone all the time.”

Why don’t you read? You used to love to read.”

I’m too bored,” Bri said with a groan. “I’m shut off from the world. I’m going crazy.”

Jenna leaned back in her father’s leather chair and rubbed her eyes. Soon, she’d be paying bills off the floor, because there wouldn’t be a stitch of furniture left in the house. Only Ethan’s bed, which she couldn’t stand to sell. “I need your help with Ethan today. I have to get things together for the garage sale.”

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