Let's Stay Together

Let's Stay Together

by J.J. Murray
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Let's Stay Together by J.J. Murray

Lauren Short dumped her cheating mega-star fiancé amid major viral media fallout. That was the easy part. Restarting her stalled career as a thirty-something actress. . .not so much. What she needs is advice from someone non-Hollywood. Someone like her surprising new online pen pal. He's a Brooklyn handyman who's understanding, honest—and daring Lauren to do one risky, sizzling reboot of her glamorous life. . .

Lauren is the one woman Patrick Esposito has crushed on forever. He never dreamed they'd meet—much less that she could use his help. Or that she would be even more down-to-earth in person. But now their offline romance is making them the hot new celebrity couple. And between the secrets they didn't expect and the trouble they didn't see coming, Patrick and Lauren will need all the right moves to stay real, keep it together, and script their own happily-ever-after. . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781617734809
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,292,140
Product dimensions: 4.15(w) x 6.66(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

J. J. Murray, a third generation teacher who has taught English for over twenty years, has lived all over the United States. J.J. Murray is the author of She's the One, The Real Thing and Something Real. Currently J.J. and his family reside in Roanoke, Virginia, the setting for many of his novels. Visit his website at JohnJeffreyMurray.com.

Read an Excerpt

Let's Stay Together

By J.J. Murray


Copyright © 2015 J.J. Murray
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61773-481-6


Dear Lauren:

I was sorry to hear about your breakup with Chazz Jackson, but when I thought about it, I wasn't sorry at all. You deserve a much better man than him. He always seemed fake to me, especially when he wasn't in a movie.

I know things are painful now, but they get better. I know because I've been there.

Please keep smiling.

A longtime fan, Patrick

Former actress Lauren Short normally would have gone on to her next e-mail without replying, but something about the honesty and the heart of the message stopped her.

Chazz was fake, Lauren thought. Both in the movies and in real life. Patrick nailed that one. If Patrick really knew how fake Chazz was. What's worse than calling someone fake? Calling Chazz "bogus," "phony," and "counterfeit" isn't enough. Chazz was more than that. He was the fakest person I have ever known.

She sighed and sank deeper into her rented love seat, her feet propped up on a rented coffee table in her newly rented studio apartment in North Hollywood.

"I don't know what I deserve these days, Patrick, old friend," she whispered, "but I certainly didn't deserve to be two-, three-, and five-timed by a man who was with me and with a series of men behind my back."

She tried to shake the image of her fiancé, action movie icon Chazz Jackson, and those two men in Chazz's house overlooking the Pacific only seven nights ago.

She failed.

"In our house, Patrick!" she shouted. "In my house! Okay, he paid for it, but I lived there for seven years. And oh how I have paid."

I may have paid with my life.

But I'm not going to think about that right now. Think positive thoughts. Think positive thoughts ....

But I kept that place looking good! she thought. I kept that place spotless! I made that place shine! But why does it matter so much to me where he messed with men? He was evidently messing with them in all sorts of places while I waited for three years, with a ridiculously huge engagement ring on my finger, to become "Mrs. Lauren ShortJackson." And then I came home to see the man I gave up my acting career for acting the fool with two men on the Lorraine black leather sofa I bought for him for his birthday!

"I'm surprised the three of them didn't collapse it, Patrick!" she shouted.

And now I'm talking to a man who isn't here, Lauren thought.

"I wish they had broken that sofa," she whispered. "Chazz should be feeling some kind of pain."

She had just finished watching Chazz play off their disengagement on Entertainment Tonight on the rented TV in front of her. "Telling them that he broke it off with me," she mumbled, "telling them that we didn't see eye to eye anymore, telling them that he would always have a soft spot in his heart for me, a woman who he still called 'his favorite leading lady.'" She looked again at her iPhone. "He even tweeted that he was 'single and looking for another future star,' Patrick! What kind of man does that only a week after a breakup?"

She shook her head. Chazz's publicist is certainly earning his keep these days. I'll bet Chazz is messing with him, too.

She shuddered.

She looked at the TV, the Rent-A-Center tag still attached to the base. I've gone from a ninety-inch flat-screen TV to a twenty-seven-inch antique.

That about sums up my life.

"You know, Patrick, maybe I should go on Entertainment Tonight and tell them how I broke the picture window looking out over the Pacific Ocean with my fists and a well-placed elbow. I shattered that huge window into a million pieces. Maybe I should tell them what I saw Chazz doing—and having done to him—with my own two eyes. Maybe I should tell them how fast those other two men were—both of them high-profile actors with wives and children, Patrick—about how they ran out of there with their pants on backward. I wish I had taken pictures. Those pictures could make me a millionaire overnight. Maybe I should tell ET that Hollywood's highest-paid he-man love interest has really been acting in those love scenes with women over the years."

She bowed her head. "But if I tell them all that, Patrick, they may give Chazz several retroactive Academy Awards for his excellent movie deceptions." She opened her eyes and laughed. "That's what the media does for fun in this town. They turn cowards into heroes and give the fakest people the most praise."

She sighed heavily. But if I tell them all that, then I'd have to explain how I didn't know that the man I was engaged to for three years was gay or bisexual and heavy on the man love—whatever that confused man was.

I have been the world's biggest fool, Patrick, I really have.

And I don't want anyone to know it.


She looked at the e-mail, amazed she was still getting any fan mail at all. Before she started dating Chazz, fan mail used to flood into her in-box in droves, but except for the last seven days of people wishing her well, there had been only a trickle of fan mail ever since she became engaged to Chazz.

"It's painful now," she whispered. "You said it, Patrick. It physically hurts. My chest, back, and neck ache. My head and my eyes pound every time I think about what happened. Whenever I close my eyes, I see Chazz and those men...."

She looked at her left ring finger, at the lighter band of brown skin. "I kind of miss the ring, Patrick. It was a rock and a half. I could have pawned it and bought a small country." It cost more than, well, I'm evidently worth. I'm sure some golden seal is now swimming around it and admiring its beauty. I'm surprised I was able to throw it so far. I hope some surfer doesn't step on it. Maybe it will end up on some beach in Hawaii. I would so love to be there.

Anywhere but here.

She glanced at the full name in the e-mail address. Patrick Alan Esposito. Okay, Patrick Alan Esposito, I will do my best to try to keep smiling.

That's about all I can do now.

"It isn't as if I'm going to get any movie or TV offers now, Patrick," she whispered. "I've been out of practice for seven years, and the biggest movie star on earth just dumped me. Therefore, I must be used up and burned out."

I must be old news.

I have been old news for seven years, and I'm only now realizing it.

I may even be an obituary. I'm sure some journalist has already written it.

She typed a quick reply:


Thank you for your uplifting letter. It came at a time when I was really down and I really needed it.

I will try to keep smiling. : )

You keep smiling, too.

Lauren Short


At eleven p.m. that evening in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn, New York, Patrick Alan Esposito blinked rapidly at his Acer laptop screen, duct tape holding its CD drive closed.

"I don't believe it," he whispered. "She wrote back. Lauren Short actually wrote back."

This is amazing.

He wiped dust from the screen with his sleeve. Her e-mail is still there. I'm not seeing things. Lauren Short wrote back to me, and it isn't a form letter. She actually answered my e-mail, despite Chazz breaking off her engagement. She called me by name, and she included a smiley face!

And she wants me to keep smiling, too!

I'm smiling!

I can't remember the last time I smiled.

It almost hurts my face to smile.

Though he was amazed at Lauren's response, Patrick was more amazed that he had written to her in the first place. He had had a crush on Lauren Short ever since he saw her in Crisp and Popp, a TV show that debuted and then disappeared after only six episodes in the fall of 2001.

But that was fourteen years ago. How can I still have a crush on her?

He shot both his arms to the ceiling and shouted, "Yes!"

A Hollywood star, a TV actress, and a certified beauty wrote back to me. I wish I had someone to tell. He ran his hands through his floppy mass of thick black hair and scratched at his coarse beard. But who would believe me if I did?

I'm glad she can't see me now.

I can barely stand to see me now.

Patrick lived frugally, some would say "barely," in Boerum Hill, a thirty-six-block section south of downtown Brooklyn east of Cobble Hill and west of Prospect Heights. A handyman and jack-of-all-trades, Patrick was the go-to guy to fix problems at five Salthead rental properties in Boerum Hill. He imagined that most tenants had his cell phone number memorized by now.

Mrs. Moczydlowska probably chants my number in her sleep. It took me a month to say her name correctly: Mot-chid-LOVE-ska. I know I see her in my sleep, all four foot, seven inches and two hundred pounds of her. She's so chubby, I can barely see her eyes. "I call your boss," she says. "You do not fix, I call your boss. You not come, I call your boss. You are not here by eight sharp, I call your boss...."

Even I don't call my boss.

Patrick wasn't even sure who his boss was.

For working up to sixteen-hour days, Patrick received a meager salary and half rent (eleven hundred dollars a month and all utilities) in one of the Salthead rentals on State Street. He had seven hundred square feet of less-than-spacious living in a nineteenth-century house that had been carved into eight apartments. A lumpy brown cloth couch canted slightly on faux wood linoleum in the main room, in front of an antique coffee table holding a thirty-five-inch television. A queen bed swallowed most of the blue-walled bedroom, glass double doors to the only closet showcasing five pairs of coveralls, assorted stained jeans, hooded sweatshirts, and scuffed and discolored work boots. A light tan window shade on the bedroom window allowed the morning sun to streak across to the bathroom, the only "modern" room in the apartment with a double-bowl sink, postage-stamp green tile, and recessed lighting, all of which he had installed himself. Under the counter in the skinny kitchen were a dishwasher he never used and a washing machine he used once a week, thick red brick walls providing the only vibrant color.

Even Patrick's apartment was barely an apartment.

Patrick maintained, rebuilt, painted, and even overhauled five-thousand-dollar-a-month apartments in buildings on Atlantic, State, Dean, Bergen, and Baltic. He carried a heavy tool bag slung over his shoulder wherever he went, roaming daily past Boerum Hill's million-dollar "row houses" to unclog sink drains, replace chipped tile, seal drafty windows, remove former rodents from traps, set off bug bombs, rewire overworked electrical outlets, plunge toilets, swap out aging water heaters, clean shower traps, free blocked sewage drains, and anything else the tenants demanded that he do.

He had finished Mrs. Moczydlowska's daily "Do it today, or I call your boss!" list over on Bergen only half an hour before he had read Lauren's e-mail. I'll bet Mrs. Moczydlowska is busy thinking up more for me to do tomorrow. There's always something wrong. "What is this bug, and what is it doing here? Why does the toilet take so long to flush? Why does the floor make so much noise?"

Patrick had learned to save Mrs. Moczydlowska's apartment for last after she had once called him back six times in one day to "Fix the fridge!" or "Get me the hot water!" or "Make the sound go away!"

Patrick led an anonymous life in stained coveralls, but he wore his stains with pride, mainly because the stains held his coveralls together.

He hit the REPLY button, then warmed his massive hands and flexed his rough fingers. How does a nobody like me write back to a movie star? Writing to her the first time was easy. I was only a fan then. Now I'm ...

I don't know what I am now.

A friend? A confidant? What should I say this time? Should I even write back? What if I do and she doesn't write back this time? Maybe she was just being nice. That's the kind of person I think she is. Yeah. She was being nice.

He sat back from the laptop. But I don't want to leave this alone. It's not as if we 're going to have a long "conversation." I just want her to know that someone cares about her, even if that someone is a nobody handyman who lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. There's no harm in that. I care, and I want her to know that I care.

I have to do this.


I'm so surprised you wrote me back.

Well, I am, he thought. But I'm sure she knows that I would be surprised. She is a star, after all, and I am not a star. He backspaced until he had a blank screen.

Miss Short:

I'm glad you wrote back.

I am glad, aren't I? Why tell her the obvious? And calling her "Miss" might remind her that she's still a "Miss" and isn't married after being engaged to that jerk for three years. He highlighted and deleted everything.


If you ever need someone to "talk" to, I'm here.

He sighed. Am I being too bold? I am actually assuming that this wonderful person doesn't have anyone to talk to. Of course she has someone to talk to! I'm sure she has plenty of friends to see her through this mess with Chazz. She doesn't need me. He sighed again. And what if she thinks I'm some reporter trolling for information? I'm sure that's how some reporters operate. They get in nice and friendly with a seemingly innocent e-mail and then air the dirt they uncover on television or in magazines.

He scratched his hair, a few dots of white paint floating to the coffee table. What does it matter, anyway? She's not writing back.

He signed it "Patrick" this time before adding a postscript:

Crisp And Popp is still the best TV show of all time. It is the world's loss that they canceled it.

He hit SEND.

I am here if you need me, Lauren, he thought. He shook his head. Maybe it's really me who needs someone to talk to. I am so tired of talking to myself. He shut down his laptop.

As he was walking all of ten feet to his bedroom, his cell phone buzzed. Mrs. Moczydlowska. It figures. Doesn't she ever sleep?

He flipped open his antiquated cell phone, one Salthead had provided for his use. "Yes, Mrs. Moczydlowska?"

"Oh, you are up," she said.

We handymen never really sleep. We only recharge our batteries. "What may I do for you?" Patrick asked.

"It is the refrigerator again," she said. "It does not keep the food cold again and it makes the noise again and I hear the rats in the walls again and what you painted today does not match anything after it is dry and ..."

See you tomorrow, Mrs. Moczydlowska, Patrick thought as she droned on and on and listed something wrong in every room. I wonder if she would care that I just received and answered an e-mail from Lauren Short, Hollywood actress. She probably doesn't even know who Lauren Short is.

"Yes, Mrs. Moczydlowska," he said absently.

"You are writing this down, yes?" she asked.

"Yes, Mrs. Moczydlowska," he said, writing random letters in the air.

"There is much to be done!" she shouted. "When you come? You come first thing in the morning, yes? You must come here first thing."

He yawned and stretched his back. "I come first thing," he said, instantly regretting it.

"What time?" she asked.

The crack of dawn. "As soon as the sun rises."

"I will be waiting. Do not be late, or I call your boss."


He edged into his bedroom and fell back onto the bed. If I brought Mrs. Moczydlowska a new refrigerator or rid her walls of every rodent and bug, she would complain about how quiet it was. If everything was perfect, she'd worry that something was about to break.

He pulled up the window shade, and the room filled with the amber light from Downtown Gourmet Deli across the street. We 're both open for business twenty-fours a day, he thought. And people expect us to be open and available no matter what.

But it's a living.

"Just not much of one," he whispered.


Excerpted from Let's Stay Together by J.J. Murray. Copyright © 2015 J.J. Murray. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Let's Stay Together 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
**I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review Lauren Short is 38 and a former actress. Chazz Jackson is an action movie icon and had been her fiance. She lived with Chazz and caught him cheating on her in the house they shared for 7 years. She had given up acting since she had been with Chazz. She had an email from a fan named Patrick and she wrote back to him. He was thrilled. From their, they start a correspondence together. I read about about half of this book and couldn't find any interest in in.
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
Loved it. Simple, feel good love story. A regular joe gets the surprise of his life due to an online pen pal. At a crossroads and looking to get her acting career back on track after a high profile breakup, Lauren Short consults on line pen pal Patrick Esposito. A handyman Patrick cannot believe his luck. He's had a crush on Lauren forever. Although a predictable story with unbelievable scenarios, I found it to be entertaining fun. Would definitely recommend. Received an ARC for an honest review.