Just One Touch: A Black Alcove Novel (The Black Alcove Series Book 3)

JUST
ONE TOUCH

A
BLACK ALCOVE NOVEL

JAMI
WAGNER

Also by Jami Wagner

Date in the Dark (A Novella)

Just One Kiss (The Black Alcove Series)

Just One Night (The Black Alcove Series)

To my family.
Thank you for always being there and loving me.
I
love you, too.

Just One Touch

Copyright © 2016 by Jami
Wagner

All
rights reserved.

No
part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by
any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without
the written permission of the author, except for the use of brief
quotations in a review.

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events
and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination
or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons,
living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover:
Christa Holland, Paper and Sage Design,
paperandsage.com

Editor:
Julie Sturgeon, CEOEditor,
ceoeditor.com

Formatting:
Jesse Gordon, a Darned Good Book,
adarnedgoodbook.com

Visit
my website:
www.jami-wagner.com

ISBN
– 13: 978-1530071975

ISBN
– 10: 1530071976

ASIN
– B01CMKP2QC

ISBN
– 9781310022562

Table
of Contents

Title
Page

Also
by Jami Wagner

Dedication

Copyright
Page

Chapter
One

Chapter
Two

Chapter
Three

Chapter
Four

Chapter
Five

Chapter
Six

Chapter
Seven

Chapter
Eight

Chapter
Nine

Chapter
Ten

Chapter
Eleven

Chapter
Twelve

Chapter
Thirteen

Chapter
Fourteen

Chapter
Fifteen

Chapter
Sixteen

Chapter
Seventeen

Chapter
Eighteen

Chapter
Nineteen

Epilogue

Thank
You

Acknowledgements

About
the Author

Chapter One

Conner

I can and I will be a
great father for my son.

“Dad! Dad! Did you
see?” Jake stands in front of me, his arms swinging as he catches
his breath. “I almost made it. Uncle E didn’t lift me high
enough.”

I shoot a look toward
Ethan that says
next time you
make sure my kid makes the basket
, but he and our good
friend Logan are too busy playing one-on-one at this point.

“Next time, bud, I
bet you make it.”

“I hope so! I wanna
be the best like you, Dad.”

I grin as he takes a
juice pouch from the cooler near the driveway and sits on the grass
next to me, his legs bent and arms resting by the elbows over his
kneecaps, just like me.

I
wanna be the best like you, Dad.

His words strike me
right in the chest. I don’t ever want him to think otherwise. He
doesn’t know that every night he isn’t with me, I’m working
shifts to make enough money to pay my rent because I want him to have
a warm place to come home to when I have custody. I moved out of my
sister’s basement and into my own apartment four months ago. Rent
isn’t cheap.

“Where did Aunt
Kelsey go?” he asks, twisting on his bum to find her. His hand
holding the Capri Sun squeezes a little too tight, causing fruit
punch to squirt out of the straw. The liquid lands on his cream plaid
shorts. Thank God it’s clear liquid and not red. Stains in clothes
are not an area of my expertise. The wet spot blends right in with
the dirt and grass stains he got earlier playing with his
two-year-old cousin and my niece Clara, Kelsey and Ethan’s
daughter.

He notices the new
spill and attempts to brush it off, only soaking it in more.

“She went inside to
get a surprise for you. Why don’t you go get Uncle E and Logan and
tell them to come sit until Kelsey comes back outside?”

“Okay!” His entire
face beams with excitement. His juice packet is thrown to the side as
he takes off running across the driveway. I notice his untied
shoelace a step too late. He hits the concrete, skidding his knee
across the hard surface. I’m off the grass before he can get up. In
a swift move I pick him up at the waist, place him back on his feet,
and kneel in front of him. Logan and Ethan come up behind me.

“Hey, bud, what
happened?” Logan asks.

“That was quiet the
digger you took,” Ethan says.

Jake looks between them
and back to me. I can see the tears trying to fight their way out,
but he’s fighting harder not to cry in front of anyone right now. I
stubbed my pinky toe the other day when we were at home. Jake asked
why I didn’t cry, and I told him it was because I’m a man and men
don’t cry. He then told me he was a man, too. My heart swells and I
feel like a damn sap.

He wants to be just
like me.

“That’s going to
make a nice battle wound.” Logan points to Jake’s new bloody
knee. “Does it hurt?”

Jake looks at me
quickly before he shrugs his little shoulders. “No, I’ll be
fine,” he says before squirming out of my hold. He starts to walk
away from the circle we’ve made toward the side garage door.
Probably to go inside where my sister is.

“How about we get it
cleaned up?” I suggest. I’m sure he hasn’t thought of that, but
he’ll pretend he has and act like he doesn’t need me. A phase I
hope he grows out of, soon.

“I can do it,” he
says without stopping and quickly is inside the house.

“You’ve got a tough
guy on your hands these days, huh?” Logan asks, chuckling as the
basketball shoots from his hands, hitting nothing but net.

“He better be tough.
I’m going to need someone to look after Clara when she starts going
to school,” Ethan adds as he swoops up the ball from under the
hoop.

“Yeah, that’s a few
years away, and that’s also if Heather agrees to let him go to
school in Wind Valley. She has till the end of the summer to decide,
and I suggested making a decision sooner to help with getting the
paperwork done, but that only made things worse.”

“Why would she even
consider him attending school in Envy? It’s a small town with a
school of like ten kids. If Jake went to Wind Valley, he’d have way
more options in everything: sports, clubs, and academics. Plus, WV is
only a twenty-minute drive from Envy. She should suck it up for
Jake.”

Leave it to Logan to be
all about the facts. I swear, since he found out his wife, Sara, was
expecting, this whole new person came out of him.

“If she picks Envy,
it’s only because of my lack of trying.”

“Trying to what?”
Logan asks.

I scratch the back of
my neck as I look away. How can I explain to them that Heather has
suggested dating, without getting the dead-stare look they always
give me? The one that says,
I
wish I could help, but I have no idea what to say right now.
“She wants to give the family thing a try,” I say, summing it up
quick.

Single me is screaming
no every time I think about it. Father me—he doesn’t want to rule
out anything that could be the best decision for my son.

And, yep, right there,
that’s the look. The basketball stays pinned under Ethan’s arms
as they stare at me.

“Like, as a couple
and not just Jake’s parents?” Ethan asks.

“You and Heather?”
Logan asks at the same time.

“Yep,” I answer,
nodding slowly. “That’s her idea.”

“The same woman who
made all these crazy rules for you to follow so you could get time
alone with Jake. The crazy mother who didn’t want you around and
wouldn’t agree with anything you said?” I don’t miss Logan’s
concern buried in the tone of his voice.

“Yeah, that’s about
my exact thought process,” I tell him. After all, for the first two
years of Jake’s life, she didn’t tell me I had a son.
You’re
irresponsible and can’t even take care of yourself. There was no
way I was going to put my child in your hands.

“When did she decide
this?” Ethan asks.

“About two days ago.”

“Well, crap, what are
you going to do?”

I shrug, because that’s
my only reaction to the entire idea. I still can’t wrap my head
around the fact she even came up with it. We were never a couple to
begin with. We fooled around once, that was it. Why try now? And it’s
not that she isn’t attractive, I just don’t feel a connection
with her other than Jake. I’ve seen the way my friends are with
their wives or the way they talk about them when they aren’t. I
don’t have that for Heather.

“I don’t want to
say I’m 100 percent against the idea, but forcing feelings for
someone and then it not working out doesn’t sound like anything
that ends well.”

“Do you think you
could have feelings for Heather?” Logan asks.

“Maybe. I mean, we
fooled around one night and now this is where we end up. I haven’t
really made much of an effort to get to know her outside of who is
doing what for Jake.”

“So you think if you
get to know her, you might develop real feelings for her?” Ethan
asks this time.

“There’s only one
way to find out, right? If it means giving Jake a good life, I should
try anything.”

“Well, I guess
there’s your answer,” Logan says.

“Yeah, I suppose
you’re right.”

“And you know, if you
need to talk or maybe get a woman’s perspective without leading
Heather on, Kelsey might be able to help,” Ethan adds.

I nod—my sister would
be the right person to talk to about this— but Heather is really
who I should go to. Communication is what will make this work the
best.

I pull my cell from my
pocket to shoot her a text asking if we can meet for ice cream before
my shift at the BA tonight.

The garage door opens
and Clara steps out in a blue and white polka dot dress, her brown
hair looking a bit ratty from a day of playing with her cousin. Her
steps are slow as she focuses on the paper bowl in her hands with a
scoop of ice cream in it. Jake comes out next, his steps just as
cautious for the same reason and a bandage over his knee. Then Kelsey
pokes her head out, holding the door open enough to show a glimpse of
her seven months’ baby bump.

“I have a bowl for
each of you, if you want to come get it.”

You don’t have to
tell us twice.

Once we’ve all
settled down in the grass and eaten our ice cream, I glance at my
watch. I told Heather we could meet in an hour.

“Jake, why don’t
you head on over to Grandma and Grandpa’s and give them a hug
goodbye?” With them living across the street from my sister, it’s
easier to visit everyone when we come here.

“Do I have to leave?”
His tiny, sad voice breaks my heart.

“Yeah, bud, your mom
misses you the way I do when you’re gone.” I ruffle his head and
mess up the same chocolate-brown hair that I have in the process.

I can’t read the
blank expression on his face, but based on his resistance to move
right now, I don’t want to know what he’s thinking.

My little man stops at
the sidewalk and looks both ways before he crosses the street. At
four years old, he should be by my side for this journey, but with it
being a slow neighborhood, the group of us observing from the grass
and my parents, standing on their porch, I think he’s just fine
crossing on his own.

He gives them each a
hug and then repeats his process back across the street. A few more
hugs later, we’re in my truck and headed back to my apartment. I
only glance in the rearview mirror a few times, because the bummed
out look on his face is heartbreaking. I don’t want him to go
either, and if I could say anything to him without tearing up myself,
I’d want him to know that I’m fighting for him. To be a part of
his life, to make sure he is always taken care of.

Being a family could
give me all that.

* * *

I pull up in front of
my apartment building. It has the exact same four-plex layout as Sara
and Logan’s, only this is in the building next to theirs. Still,
it’s walking distance from my job at the Black Alcove Bar and I
love it.

I put the gear of my
red, four-door Ford truck into park and take notice of the moving
truck out front and the small, white Corolla that’s in my usual
parking spot. There is a heart sticker in the window with the number
26.2 in the center. That can only mean one thing. The new tenant, the
one moving in across the hall from me, is crazy and a runner. All
runners are crazy in my opinion. What a boring sport.

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