Stay with Me
All I Want Series, Book 5
I want a fling. He wants forever.
I never thought I’d be back in my hometown, but here I am living with my parents. I keep telling myself it’s only temporary but the hardest part is facing everyone I left behind—including Wyatt Carter.
He might not have been the reason I left, but he‘s the reason I never came back.
Wyatt is no longer the easy-going predictable guy I fell for. An officer of the Department of Natural Resources, he's an intriguing mix of cocky and bossy, which is almost as sexy as the way he fills out his uniform. I couldn’t resist him then, and I don’t want to now. I want to explore our chemistry but he wants a commitment—the one thing I’ve never been able to give him.
He thinks two blue lines change everything... but he’s wrong.
+ Excerpt +
The crowd, which had been watching Jack and Samantha, dispersed so I ran my fingers down the skirt to smooth out the wrinkles and drew in a shaky breath, worried I’d finally have to face everything and everyone I’d left behind.
I approached Samantha to wish her well. “Congratulations!” They’d gotten engaged before Christmas, but I hadn’t been home yet to see her ring. She held out her hand for me to inspect. “It’s beautiful.” I hugged her and whispered. “I’m so glad you’re going to be my sister.”
“Thank you,” she murmured.
I turned to Jack who said, “I’m so glad you could make it.” He pulled me in for a hug—one I needed desperately. I relaxed into his embrace trying to remember the last time he’d hugged me. Was it when he left for college? I held onto him for a long time then too, hoping he’d change his mind about leaving. He was the eternal peacemaker in our family and when he left things weren’t the same. Back then, I couldn’t wait to get away from my family, this small town, and— I pulled back from Jack, seeing him. The one I left behind. Wyatt Carter.
This was the first time I’d seen him in seven years. My pulse pounded in my ears as I took in his gray suit, his reddish-brown hair trimmed close to his head on the back and sides, left slightly longer on the top, and a scruff bordering on a full beard covering his chin. So different from the unruly curly hair and smooth face he’d kept when we were kids.
My arms hung loosely at my sides as I tried to keep my shoulders back, my face devoid of emotion. But inside, my stomach was churning and my heart was beating out of my chest. He wasn’t the reason I left, but he was the reason I’d stayed away. “Wyatt. I’m surprised to see you here.”
The fitted suit, his stylish hair, and the jacket straining around his biceps made me swallow hard. He was a man now. So different from the boy I’d walked away from.
“Why is that?” Wyatt’s eyebrow raised, standing feet shoulder-width apart, arms crossed over his chest. His voice was deeper and raspier than I remembered. Everything about his posture and tone screamed that I was the one who didn’t belong, even if it was my brother’s engagement party.
His light blue eyes, which once looked at me with love and affection, now sparked with irritation. I couldn’t blame him. I hadn’t expected to see him here either.
“I didn’t know you were even friends with Jack.” I’d left for college and visited occasionally—enough to keep my parents happy. I’d wanted to escape my family’s bickering and the family business which, if I’d stayed, threatened to consume my life. Every time I returned, I couldn’t wait to get in my car and head back over the bridge to the city.
I’d been friends with Wyatt since we were kids, but after Jack went to college, he was more. He represented safety and an escape from my family, but it wasn’t enough. When I accepted a full ride to college, I thought I’d go without anything or anyone holding me back. I hadn’t expected the break-up to be so hard. I’d managed to avoid seeing Wyatt on those visits because I was ashamed of the way I had ended things and I was scared of my reaction if I saw him.
“There’s a lot you don’t know,” Wyatt said, his voice was tight, and a muscle ticked in his jaw. “We work together.”
I looked to Jack who watched our exchange, and his eyes were concerned. Why hadn’t he warned me Wyatt would be here? I’d dated Wyatt after Jack left for school so maybe he didn’t realize how close we’d been. And over the years, I’d never asked about him. I’d pretended he didn’t exist. Like there wasn’t anything between us but young love. That’s what I told myself so I could move on.
But now that he was here, standing in front of me, I knew I hadn’t moved on at all. All those emotions were flooding back to me—regret for how I ended it and a crushing feeling of loss. Less than a minute in his presence and it was like no time had passed—nothing had changed. When you’re a teenager, you think there’s always something better out there. How wrong I’d been.