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Brand new Book #4 in Samantha Chase’s popular Montgomery series
She will never forget their past...
He can’t stop thinking about their future...
Brand new Book #4 in Samantha Chase’s popular Montgomery series
She will never forget their past...
He can’t stop thinking about their future...
James Montgomery has achieved everything he’d hoped for in life…except marrying the girl of his dreams. After a terrible accident, Selena Ainsley left ten years ago. She took his heart with her and she’s never coming back. But it’s becoming harder and harder for him to forget their precious time together, and James can’t help but wonder what he would do if they could ever meet again.
Montgomery Brothers Series:
Wait for Me (Book 1)
Trust in Me (Book 2)
Stay with Me (Book 3)
Return to You (Book 4)
Meant for You (Book 5)
I'll Be There (Book 6)
Samantha Chase leaves her readers begging for more:
“Wow! Yet another stellar Montgomery Brothers story. Samantha Chase, thank you.”
“Refreshing…Samantha Chase really knows how to tell a story.”
“The Montgomery Brothers are perfect romance! Love it, love it, love it! Looking forward to reading more books by Samantha Chase.”
“An adventure in reading. Can’t wait to see what is in store for the other Montgomerys.”
“I don’t understand. I thought this was a done deal. There wasn’t enough interest or funds to make it happen, so I just thought we were through,&...
“I don’t understand. I thought this was a done deal. There wasn’t enough interest or funds to make it happen, so I just thought we were through,” Selena Ainsley said over the phone.
“So did all of us,” Jen continued, “but it seems like someone has stepped forward and is providing the funds to cover the cost of the entire reunion. All we need now is a person who is able to pull together an event of this magnitude on short notice. You know, the kind of woman who is super organized, great with delegating and numbers, and who maybe, perhaps, does this for a living. Sound familiar?”
“You can’t be serious,” Selena said with more humor than disbelief.
“As a heart attack.”
“Jen, as much as I would love to help out, there is no way that I can get away for the length of time it would take to put together something like this reunion. You need to find someone local who can handle all the particulars. It’s too much to manage from six hundred miles away.” She could have added that Jen should probably look for someone who actually wanted the job and the chance to go to the reunion, because that certainly wasn’t her.
“Oh, please,” Jen said with a snort of mock derision. “You know as well as I do that you can delegate a lot of the particulars. We have a venue, and you can speak to the catering staff anytime you need to, even from six hundred miles away. I’m sure with all of your connections you can organize the invitations and activities and whatever else is needed for this reunion. C’mon, say yes.”
Selena was torn. Ordinarily, this was the type of job she loved: big venue, short notice, and a bit of challenge. The problem wasn’t the job, per se; it was the location. It had been years since she had gone back to the small Long Island town where she had grown up, and just the thought of returning there now made Selena break out in a cold sweat.
If it were anybody else calling, she would have had no problem telling them no. But this was Jen. Her best friend. Her confidante. Her conscience.
“Don’t do this to me, Jen,” she began.
“Do what? Offer you a fabulous challenge? I know you thrive on this sort of thing. Everything is essentially paid for; the donor wrote us a huge check. It’s a no-brainer. Basically, all you have to do is talk to a few people and show up. You can do this kind of thing in your sleep.”
“Then I’m sure you or someone else can handle it. Seriously, I don’t have that kind of time—”
“Okay, look,” Jen interrupted. “I think I’ve been more than understanding. You moved away and never came back, and I never pushed you to. I come and visit you, and I love seeing you, but I’m beginning to feel like this friendship is a bit one-sided.”
“That’s not fair—”
“Not finished!” Jen snapped and instantly felt bad about her tone. “I’m not saying you weren’t within your rights; however, it’s been like…forever. Enough is enough. The thought of our ten-year reunion without you is just not even within my realm of comprehension. You were student body president, Selena. Everyone will expect to see you there. And on top of that, I’m your best friend and…well, to be honest with you, things haven’t been going so great for me lately, and I could really use a little time with you.” Jen knew it was hitting below the belt using her private issues to flush Selena out, but desperate times called for desperate measures.
“What’s going on?” Selena asked, concern lacing her voice.
“Remember that guy I told you about? Todd?”
Jen would have felt annoyed at her friend’s lack of memory, but Todd had been nothing but a blip on the radar. “Well, he’s kind of been stalking me. It’s starting to freak me out.”
“What? Oh my gosh! Jen! Are you okay? Have you gone to the police?”
“I have, and basically there isn’t a whole lot they can do because he’s not threatening me or anything like that. It’s just harassment.”
“He calls a lot. I run into him everywhere. Honestly, it’s kind of creepy.”
“What does he say when you answer the phone or see him?”
“Basically, he’s pleasant.”
“And…” Selena prompted.
“Until I say that I don’t want to see him again; then he tends to get a little mean.”
“But he hasn’t threatened you?”
“No,” Jen said with a sigh. “Like I said, I went to the cops and filed a report, but unless he threatens me, there’s nothing they can do. Their hands are tied and so are mine.”
“Have you thought about changing your phone number?”
“About a dozen times a day.”
“Then why haven’t you?”
“Because I keep thinking he’ll stop and just go away. I hate having to disrupt my life because this loser can’t take no for an answer.”
“Jen, you have to do something. If he continues to have access to you, then he wins.”
“I’m finally at a place where I feel like my life is going well: I own my own little house, my job is good… If I could just get rid of this creep, life would be perfect. Plus, it wouldn’t hurt if my best friend would come to our ten-year reunion that we planned together.”
Selena laughed. “Cheap shot, Jen.”
“I’m not above begging.”
“I just don’t think—”
“Then don’t think,” Jen said quickly.
“But what if—?”
“How can you be sure, Jen?”
It was times like this that Jen hated the physical distance between them because all she wanted to do was to wrap her arms around her best friend and hug her. “Selena, you are a grown woman. You own a successful business, and you never turn away from a challenge. Except this one. It’s time to own it and face it.”
Selena’s gut clenched. “What if people, you know, bring it up?”
“So what! It happened, Selena, and all of the denial in the world isn’t going to change it. I’m not trying to trivialize it, but there it is. And believe it or not, everyone has moved on with their lives. I’m sure the topic of you and James Montgomery isn’t something everyone we know is dying to talk about. People have gotten married, had kids, gotten great jobs, and some have crazy stalkers in their lives… It’s not all about you, you know.” The last was said with a smirk that Selena could detect even over the phone.
It was hard to say which emotion was the stronger one at the moment. Hearing James’s name out loud for the first time in years knocked all of the breath out of her and left her shaking, but Jen’s teasing tone helped lighten the mood almost immediately. Perhaps she was the only one who remembered or even thought about her past relationship with James. Clearly he hadn’t, since he’d never bothered to look her up. Maybe it was time to put some old ghosts to rest and go back to her childhood home and see her friends.
“If I say yes,” she began, but Jen’s whoop of delight stopped her and had her laughing. When they finally calmed down, Selena continued, “If I say yes, then I’ll need you to email all of the information to me right away so I can get started. What kind of time frame are we looking at?”
“Eight weeks,” Jen answered and prayed that she wasn’t cutting things too short.
Selena did a mental check of her calendar and all that would have to be accomplished in order for her to pull this off. “It’s going to be tight, Jen, but if you promise to help me and get a committee together quickly, I think we can have one heck of a ten-year reunion.”
“I’ve already got the committee lined up and the email is drafted. I was just waiting for you to say yes.”
“Mighty confident, weren’t you?”
“Hopeful. And yes, there is a difference.”
“Only you could talk me into this, Jen. You know that, right?”
“That’s what I was counting on,” she said and let out her first relaxed breath of the entire conversation. “So when do you think you’ll actually come up here?”
That is a good question, Selena thought to herself. “I should be able to do the bulk of it all from here, but I’ll come up a couple of days beforehand, to make sure everything’s in place.”
“A couple of days? A couple of days?” Jen cried. “I pour my heart out to you about everything that I’m going through, and you can’t even spare me a little extra time? That’s just cold.”
Selena pinched the bridge of her nose and counted to ten to wait out her friend’s audition for most dramatic phone conversation. Finally, she relented. “Fine. I’ll block out two weeks of time to come up there. A week before and a week after. How’s that?”
“Is there any way I can convince you to stay longer?” Jen asked.
“Fine,” she said with a sigh. “Two weeks, but I would prefer that it be more time before the reunion.”
“Because that means you’ll get here sooner. You have no idea how much it means to me that you’re finally coming home, Selena.”
She wasn’t going home, Selena reminded herself; she was just going back to a place she used to live to visit a friend. Her home was in North Carolina now. She wanted to remind Jen of that fact, but the emotion in her friend’s voice was enough for Selena to avoid trying to back out again. “I really am sorry I’ve stayed away so long, Jen. I never realized I was hurting you.”
“I understand why you have, but I miss you.”
“Well, by the end of those two weeks, you are going to be sick of me. I’m staying with you, right?”
“As if I’d let you stay any place else! I will do my best to make my guest room a place you’ll never want to leave!”
“Ease up there, Sparky,” Selena said with a laugh. “I have a business that needs me and employees who depend on me here in North Carolina. I’m giving you two weeks, but then it’s back home for me.”
“Fine, fine, fine,” Jen said dismissively, “be that way. All I’m saying is that maybe it won’t take another reunion to make you come back again.”
“One trip at a time, Jen. One trip at a time.”
By the time they hung up, the knot in Selena’s stomach was finally starting to ease. The reunion itself wasn’t going to be a problem; she could organize one of those in her sleep. The problem was going to be facing the memories she had been doing her best to forget. The old adage “time heals all wounds” clearly didn’t apply to her. She’d go for Jen’s sake, but it was going to take every fiber of her being to get through it without having some sort of nervous breakdown. It didn’t seem to matter how together her life had become; there were just some things that had the ability to knock you on your butt and make you doubt yourself. Returning to Long Island was one of them.
Ten years ago, her life had been turned upside down by forces beyond her control, and she had spent a large part of that time letting other people dictate her life. Not anymore. Selena had broken free of a lot of the negative forces in her life, but just because she had taken that step didn’t necessarily mean she was over the pain. She doubted she would ever fully be over that part; it was something she had learned to live with.
Jen was right. It was time to face her demons and prove to herself, if no one else, that she could go back to the place of her greatest failure and walk away with her heart still intact. She wasn’t looking forward to it. If it weren’t for the reunion, she wouldn’t ever make the pilgrimage back to her old neighborhood. Her life was fine without having to go back there. And while Selena knew that Jen really did need her right now, she was certain that with a little persuasion, she could have convinced Jen to take a holiday on the Carolina coast with her. Sure, she would have fussed for a while about the reunion, but with the whole stalker issue on the table, Selena had a feeling Jen would have seen the reason in getting out of town for a while.
“Too late now,” she mumbled as she pulled up her calendar and began making notes. “I am a grown woman. I am in control of my own life. I don’t have to answer to anybody but me.”
It was a good mantra to have.
If only she truly believed it.
* * *
James Montgomery was a leader, not a follower. He liked being in control of his own life without having to answer to anyone. True, his career in law enforcement had him answering to many people, but it was different from having to answer to his own family and dealing with their expectations of him. At this point in his career, he was well established, and the only pressure he felt was from himself. He wanted to be better, stronger, and more in control of himself personally.
Maybe someday it would be enough.
Maybe someday he’d be able to look in the mirror and know that the man he was, was good enough for…well, anything.
It had been a long time since he’d openly admitted to himself that he still struggled with a sense of inadequacy, and if it hadn’t been for today’s events, he wouldn’t be admitting to it now. Staring at the door to the station, James leaned back in his desk chair and nearly growled with frustration. Jennifer Lawson had left only minutes ago, and yet, instead of feeling like he was sitting in the present, her visit had taken him back to the past.
Ten years to be exact.
To say it was a shock to see her would be the understatement of the century. For too many years, James had distanced himself from just about everything and everyone he had ever known. It was necessary in order for him to become the man he wanted to be—needed to be. And yet, one hour of time had brought everything back as if it were yesterday
“I’m looking for James Montgomery,” she said when she walked into the station, and it had been a coincidence that he was walking by right then or he might have had someone take a message or help her instead. Jen’s eyes had lit with recognition as soon as she’d seen him, and one look at her and James had suddenly felt like that boy he had been way back then—not good enough. He actually caught himself looking around as if suspecting his coworkers were looking at him in the exact same way, that by Jen being there, they were going to know his secrets and demand he turn in his badge or something. Odd how old insecurities can rear their ugly heads at the most inopportune times.
“It’s good to see you, Jen,” he said, doing his best to sound impersonal yet professional, but her grin had always been infectious.
“You too,” she said and then anxiously looked around. “As much as I wish this was a social call, I really do need to talk to you about a possible criminal matter.”
Her statement piqued his curiosity, not that he thought Jen would stop by after all these years on a social call. James escorted her to his desk, sat back, and listened to her tell her story about her ex-boyfriend and the recent harassment. Unfortunately, the guy hadn’t broken any laws and so there wasn’t anything James could do but offer his sympathy and tell her to keep a journal of the behavior. While he knew it was of little comfort or help to her, there simply wasn’t a damn thing he could do.
He hated the look that came across her face: defeat. There had been a time in his life when he’d known that feeling all too well. Most days he was over it, but every once in a while—like now—it was easy for it to creep back up on him.
“I’m really sorry, Jen. I wish there was more I could do. I’ll run a check on this guy and see if anything turns up.”
Once they had covered that, Jen had visibly relaxed in her chair and smiled. “I still can’t believe it’s you,” she said easily. “I mean, I knew I was going to find you here; I still keep in touch with your cousin Kent. He was the one who suggested I come and talk to you. I guess I hoped there was something that could be done even though all of my online research told me there probably wasn’t.”
“I’ll start a file about it, and I’ll check in with you to keep up to date on what’s going on and if this guy’s pattern of behavior changes or gets more aggressive.”
“Thank you.” She paused and then considered her next words. “So, how have you been? It’s been a really long time. How long have you been a cop? Where are you living now?” She must have thought she was throwing him too many questions and blushed. “Sorry. I’m just really glad to see you. But really, how are you?”
How was he supposed to sum up his life since they’d last seen each other? Was he supposed to tell her about all the ways he’d been to hell and back? That he’d been working his ass off to prove to the world—or at least to one person in particular—that he was good enough and that he’d made something of himself? Probably not. Rather than go on a rant, James decided to keep it simple. “I’m good,” he said. “I’ve been a cop for the last eight years. Actually, I’m a detective now.”
She nodded. “Do you enjoy it? I mean, not that it’s a fun job or anything, or maybe it is. You never know.” She stopped her rambling again and smiled. “It suits you. You look good. Happy.”
James shrugged. Happy? He wasn’t sure he’d go that far, but he wouldn’t argue with the fact that being on the force had him feeling somewhat satisfied. “How about you? What are you doing with yourself?”
“I am an elementary school teacher now, third grade. I love it.”
Even if she hadn’t added those last words, her face and smile said it all. Jennifer Lawson had changed very little: her blond hair was a little shorter, her clothes more conservative, but she had an aura about her that bristled with energy and enthusiasm. Years ago, she had always greeted everyone with a smile and had been nothing but kind to him. It hit James then how much he had missed her friendship. Her smile. Her optimism.
“That’s great, Jen. I bet your kids love you.” He could easily picture her in a room full of eight-year-olds—laughing and smiling and doing projects with them. She had often talked about her desire to teach even when she was still in school, and James was proud of her for following through on her dream.
“Oh, I’m not so sure about that,” she said. “They like me fine when it’s recess or we’re doing art projects, but once it’s test time, then I’m the meanest teacher on the planet.”
James smiled at her. “I remember feeling that way myself back in the day. Teachers were great just as long as they weren’t handing out a test.”
“I’m teaching at the same elementary school I went to, and it’s kind of weird walking those halls as an adult. When we were students, everything looked so big, and now I walk around and feel like a giant.”
“You couldn’t pay me to go back to school,” he said, his tone a little more serious than he intended. “I couldn’t wait to get out. I give you credit for doing what you do, Jen. Not many people want to do it. Once the diploma’s in your hand, you just want to take it and run and never look back.”
She shrugged. “I always enjoyed school…and not only for social reasons, although I guess that was a definite perk. I know it makes me sound a bit nerdy, but I enjoyed the friendly competition between me and my classmates and the sense of accomplishment I felt when I got good grades.” She heard herself and almost cringed. “Wow, that definitely made me sound nerdy, didn’t it?”
James chuckled before agreeing with her. “It’s okay. Nerdy works on you. So, what challenges are you finding in the third graders?”
“Other than behavioral stuff, nothing too exciting. We have a curriculum we have to follow, so I don’t get to be as creative in the classroom as I’d like, but it’s fine. Right now I have a bigger challenge at hand. I’m actually planning our ten-year reunion. Gosh, can you believe we’ve been out of school for so long?”
“Well…” James began.
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
James had dropped out of high school at sixteen, so all this talk about reunions and whatnot was lost on him. Still, he could see that it was something Jen was excited about, so he figured he’d grin and bear it and hear her out. “No big deal. So, what are you planning?”
Jen ran through a list of details, including the venue, the theme, the response from classmates, activities for the weekend, and even the menu.
“That seems like an awful lot of work. I hope you have a big committee helping you.”
Jen nodded. “We have about two dozen people pulling it all together. It’s amazing how many people are stepping up and volunteering their time and services to help out. A lot of the graduates stayed in the area and have businesses of their own, so we have someone volunteering printing services for the invitations, another person donating balloons, flowers, and decorations, and we even have someone offering the use of the bowling alley for a get-together. It’s going to be such a great weekend, but there’s so much to do to make it all happen.”
“It certainly sounds like it,” he said with a chuckle. “So what are you, chairman?”
That made her laugh. “I am great at following instructions and delegating, but I’m not organized enough to pull off something like this. It’s just too huge.”
“Oh, come on,” he said playfully. “You have to be organized, being a teacher and coordinating lesson plans and all that, plus you teach a roomful of eight-year-olds. You can’t tell me you’re not organized. It’s not possible.”
“Well, it’s true I’m organized in my classroom, but that’s different from putting together an event of this size. With my students, I have a curriculum and lesson plans. I can mix things up a little bit with them, but for the most part, the organization is done for me. With the reunion, it’s so much more, and there’s no formal plan to follow. Luckily, we have a chairman…or chairwoman, and I’m perfectly okay with following orders. It makes me happier, and I’m sure the graduating class as a whole will appreciate it just as much.”
“As long as you have fun with it, how bad can it be, right?” he asked.
They sat in silence for a moment while James wrestled with the question that had been on the tip of his tongue since Jen had walked in the door. Knowing he would never have peace unless he asked, he took a calming breath, willed his heart rate to slow down, and did his best to sound casual. “So, you must be excited to be getting together with everyone. Is your old crowd going to be there?”
Jen wanted to smirk but did her best to keep her expression neutral. She was surprised it had taken this long to get to the subject. “Well, Kent is coming, and I think Tom, Russ, Chris, and Kerry are going to be there too.” She paused for dramatic effect. “Selena wasn’t going to come, but I talked her into being our chairwoman so now she has to. I spoke to…”
James knew Jen was still speaking, but all he could hear was a loud buzzing in his head. His heart pounded, and he was pretty sure he was starting to sweat. She was coming home. Finally.
She’d be close enough to see.
Close enough to talk to in person.
Close enough to touch.
“Well, anyway,” Jen said as she stood, “thanks for taking the time to see me. I’ll do like you said and start keeping a journal of any time Todd calls or I see him. I’m hoping that he’ll just get bored and move on, but you never know. I would’ve thought he’d get bored by now. Clearly he has nothing better to do with his time. It’s pretty sad actually.” She smiled. “Anyway, it was really good to see you again, James, and I hope it isn’t another ten years before we see each other again.” Before he knew it, she had her arms around him and was hugging him and placing a quick kiss on his cheek. The whole thing took him by surprise and the next thing he knew, she was waving and walking away.
By the time Jen left, James was sure he’d come off without sounding too much like a babbling idiot, and if he could remember correctly, he was sure he had said he might stop in on some of the reunion activities…just to see the old crowd, of course.
If Jen suspected anything different, she had kept it to herself. James looked at his calendar and saw that he had about six weeks to prepare himself and to come up with some kind of excuse to put himself in Selena’s path that wouldn’t seem like he was trying to be there. He had no idea what that would entail or what he was going to do once he saw her again. It had been a long time, and although not a day had gone by when he hadn’t thought about her, he had no idea about the woman she had become. Would she be happy to see him? Would she even be coming to this thing alone? That thought made his fists clench. He may not have any claim on Selena anymore, but that didn’t mean he’d be happy to see her walking around town with another man.
She was his.
It didn’t matter how much time had gone by since they’d last seen one another; James would always consider Selena to be his. He just couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Either way, he had six weeks to figure out what he was going to do about it.
Part of his job in law enforcement was having confidence and not shying away from a challenge or a dangerous situation—even at the risk of his own life.
And there was nothing more dangerous to James Montgomery than coming face-to-face with the woman who had essentially destroyed his whole life.
“A moving tale of reunion and redemption, the latest installment of Chase’s Montgomery Brothers series will please both fans – who will love the chance to revisit familiar faces – ...
“A moving tale of reunion and redemption, the latest installment of Chase’s Montgomery Brothers series will please both fans – who will love the chance to revisit familiar faces – and newcomers alike.” - RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars
“[Chase’s] well-drawn characters will make readers cheer for a happy ending, no matter how impossible that might seem at first.” - Publishers Weekly
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 0.00 oz
Page Count: 352 pages