Jake Tanner needs a wife, and who better to ask to marry him and help raise his orphaned niece than his best friend, Rebecca. He knows it’ll change their relationship, and becoming a family won’t be easy. But Jake has to convince her they can make it work, because he just can’t imagine doing it all with anyone else.
Rebecca Gentry has made a life she’s content with. She has her own sewing business, a lovely apartment, and a few good friends, especially the one she’s secretly loved for years. When Jake makes a rather unromantic proposal, Rebecca considers it even though she knows she’ll probably end up with a broken heart.
They know becoming a family won’t be easy, but unforeseen problems test them at every turn, and it quickly becomes clear both of their hearts are on the line.
Each book in the Jamesville series is a standalone story that can be enjoyed in any order.
Book #1: Discovering Dani
Book #2: The Way Home
Book #3: The Return of Patrick O’Rourke
Book #4: The Seduction of Shamus O'Rourke
Book #5: A Legal Affair
Book #6: By the Book
Book #7: Past Promises
About the Author
Once upon a time N.J. had the idea that she wouldlike to quit her job at the bookstore, sell everything she owned, leave herhometown, and write romance novels in a place where no one knew her. And shedid. Two years later, she went back to the book store and her hometown andsettled in for another seven years.
One day she gave notice at her job on a Fridaymorning. On Sunday afternoon, she received a tentative acceptance for her firsterotic romance novel and life would never be the same.
N.J. Walters is a New York Times and USA Todaybestselling author who has always been a voracious reader, and now she spendsher days writing novels of her own. Vampires, werewolves, dragons,time-travelers, seductive handymen, and next-door neighbors with smolderinggood looks—all vie for her attention. It’s a tough life, but someone’s got tolive it.
Read an Excerpt
"So, will you marry me?"
Rebecca Gentry sat at her pine kitchen table and blinked at the man she loved, not quite certain she had heard him correctly. In all her twenty-five years, when she had dared to imagine such a proposal, it had come nowhere close to this. She had envisioned wildflowers, a declaration of love and a man down on one knee, holding her hand tight in his. Never had she imagined a plainspoken business proposition.
She knew she was sitting there with her mouth open. She also knew he expected her to say something. But the plain fact was she couldn't think of anything to say.
"You want me to marry you?" Rebecca questioned slowly, still not certain she had heard him right.
Jake Tanner was a good-looking man, she thought as she continued to stare at him. Not classically good-looking, but handsome in a rugged way. She never tired of looking at his weatherworn face.
His green eyes looked hard as emeralds and the deep creases radiating from their corners only added to the image of strength. His black hair was swept away from his face in a careless manner and hung down to his shoulders in the back. It always looked as if he'd just pushed it out of his way. She wanted to run her hands through his hair and she found herself clasping her hands in her lap, as she frequently did around him, to keep herself from reaching out to touch it.
He stood a shade under six feet tall, which was head and shoulders over her, as she was half an inch over five feet. His shoulders were broad and solid from years of hard physical labor on his farm and that made him look even larger than he actually was.
Rebecca stared straight into his eyes, hoping to gain a clue into what had prompted this strange proposal. "Why?" Jake leaned forward in his chair and laid both hands flat on the table. "I need a wife, Rebecca, not some silly woman who thinks she's in love one day and gone the next. I respect you. Heck, I really like you. We've been friends for seven years. I know you're a hard worker, you're loyal, and you don't run away when things get tough. You've lived here all your life and you seem happy here. I think we could make a go of a marriage."
Rebecca instantly picked up on the one point that mattered. "What do you mean, you need a wife?"
Jake sighed deeply and sat back in his chair, making it creak slightly as it adjusted to his weight. Absently, he thrust a hand through his hair, tilting back his head as his eyes searched the ceiling as if somehow the right words were written there. "You know I just got back today from my brother's and sister-in-law's funeral."
She instantly leaned across the table and laid her hand on his strong, denim-clad forearm, squeezing it gently. She wished there was some way she could help alleviate his sorrow. "I know, and I'm sorry about Hank and his wife. I know you weren't close, but it's still got to be hard, maybe even harder because of that."
"You got that right." He pulled his gaze from the ceiling and gave her a mocking little smile. "Hank couldn't wait to scrape the dirt from his boots and get away from the farm as soon as he was old enough. All he wanted was the city life and I don't blame him for that. Farming isn't for everyone. But no, we were never close."
Reaching into his shirt pocket, he withdrew a small white envelope, and held it out to her. She accepted it tentatively, peered inside, and withdrew a picture of a small family. A dark-haired man stood behind a lovely looking blond woman who held a wide-eyed little girl on her lap. Rebecca found herself captivated by the child, a green-eyed imp with black hair, who looked enough like Jake to be his own daughter.
"That was taken a few months ago." He reached over and plucked the picture from her fingers. "I got it in my Christmas card this year. That's Hank, his wife Celine, and their daughter Casey."
"They were a beautiful family." Her heart went out to Jake. She handed him the envelope and watched as he carefully replaced the picture and tucked it back in his pocket.
"Casey was at home with a babysitter when Hank and Celine were in the car accident. From what I could gather, they went away a lot of weekends without her." He shook his head in disgust. "Anyhow, Hank named me her legal guardian, but I would have taken her anyway because family is family."
He took a deep breath and voiced his fears. "It doesn't matter that I've never seen her in person until a few days ago. I'm going to bring her home with me. But, Rebecca, I don't think I can raise a four-year-old girl on my own."
Rebecca nodded. "That's why you suddenly need a wife." It was more of a statement than a question, but Jake confirmed it anyway.
He sighed and his normally hard eyes softened. "She's quiet and withdrawn, and she seems confused by everything. She cried and slept almost all the time I was with her. Her babysitter agreed to stay with her for a week while I tried to arrange things here." He ran his hand through his hair again, his agitation plain.
"I could hire a housekeeper, but I think she needs stability right now more than anything else. Besides, I'm not getting any younger myself, and I'd like to have some kids of my own." He glanced at her, giving her a quick smile. "I don't think anyone else would have me, I'm stubborn and set in my ways."
"But this is very sudden, Jake. You never seemed interested in me, romantically that is."
He sat quietly for a minute, as if picking and choosing his words carefully. "I like you more than I do any other woman. You're a good friend and companion. Physically, I find you very attractive, but I admit if this hadn't come up I probably wouldn't be asking you to marry me."
"I see," she answered in a soft voice as she looked quickly into her lap. She knew he was watching her, and hoped to hide the pain that his words caused her.
"Rebecca, you know I'll always be honest with you." He reached out and took her hand in his larger, darker one. "I thought about it a lot the last few days. I'm alone now except for Casey and it made me think about a family of my own, something I haven't done in years. I'm a plainspoken man, not a romantic one. I don't believe in foolish romantics, but I do believe in friendship and commitment. There isn't another woman I would ask what I'm asking you. I think we could have a good marriage."
She stared at their joined hands, one large and callused, the other small and soft. "I just don't know. It's all so sudden."
"I know it is, but I don't have much time to wait. I've got to leave in a couple days to drive back to get Casey. I've got some legal things to get through here and with Hank's lawyers in New York. That barely leaves enough time to take care of the legalities of a wedding and get a prenuptial agreement drawn up."
Rebecca was stunned by the hard, business-like attitude, even though she had expected it from him. "You want a prenuptial agreement?"
He squeezed her hand reassuringly. "I expect our marriage to work and I know you'd never try to take the farm if it didn't. But legally you'd be entitled to part of it and I'm not taking any chances with the legal system. It's simpler this way and don't worry, I'll have a clause written in to make sure you're taken care of if something does happen and you decide you want a divorce someday."
"You almost sound as if you expect I'd change my mind." Despite her efforts, she was unable to keep the hurt from her voice.
The muscles in Jake's jaw hardened, and his words were bitter. "Farm life is hard on a woman and I've yet to meet one who would stick it out."
His expression relaxed a bit as he looked across the table at her. "I trust you to stay more than I would any other woman. I wouldn't be asking you to marry me otherwise. So, what do you say?"
Her heart pounded and she rubbed her hand against her chest in a futile attempt to make it stop. "Jake, I can't answer right now. I have so much to think about. Please, give me some time."
"It would be easier if you could answer me now, but I guess I have taken you off guard." Jake stood up and hauled on his fleece-lined jacket. "I'd give you more time if I had it, but I have to know by the morning. If you're not going to marry me I have to try and hire a housekeeper in the next two days."
"Tomorrow morning." She had a sinking feeling that her well-ordered life was toppling out of control.
She watched him as he made his way over to the door of her apartment. He opened it, but turned back for one last look. "Tomorrow, Rebecca." He walked out the door and closed it quietly behind him.
Rebecca slumped in her chair and stared at the closed door as she listened to his boots pound down the outside stairs. She didn't know how long she sat there, but it was long past dark before she made herself get up, lock the door, and drag herself to bed.
Several hours later, she lay in bed with her eyes wide open, staring at her bedroom ceiling. Her mind kept turning in circles. Yes, she loved Jake. She had loved him in her own quiet way for years, but could she marry him and legally bind herself to a man who admittedly didn't love her?
If she was honest with herself, and she always tried to be, she was already bound to him. Her heart and all her love belonged to the big, somber man who didn't believe in love. If she married him at least she would be able to give him her love in tangible ways, even if she could never tell him that she loved him.
They were both alone in the world. Would it be so wrong to marry him if she loved him? She would be his wife and companion and the mother of his children. She wanted children of her own to love and she knew she would love them even more if Jake were their father. Actually, she couldn't imagine another man she would consider having children with.
Jake was steadfast and loyal. The first to come and help during a crisis, and the last one to leave. Many families in the community owed him their thanks, but he shied away from any signs of gratitude. She knew at least five people in the community who owed their lives to the fact that he was a volunteer firefighter.
Growing up in the small community, she had heard all the rumors about Jake's mother. People still gossiped about the fact that Mrs. Tanner had left town the same afternoon that her husband was buried. When Jake got older and started dating, but never settled down, townsfolk speculated that his mother's actions might have tainted the whole idea of marriage for her son. The older women gossiped in the beauty shop about the fact his mother had hated the farm and, as a result, Jake didn't trust women. The whispers became even louder as the dating became less frequent and he started keeping to himself more.
But, her heart cried, what if he never comes to love me? What happens if someday he meets someone he can love? He would never leave her and she would have to live with that knowledge, and quite simply, it would destroy her.
Unable to stay in bed any longer, she threw back the covers and padded barefoot out into the living room of her apartment. She always felt a thrill when she entered the living room of her small two-bedroom apartment. It was here that she had fulfilled a lifelong dream.
The room held Rebecca's Sewing Studio. It had several shelves along one wall, which held materials and sewing notions, while a long cutting table stretched in front of them. Two sewing machines were set up in front of the window. One was an industrial grade machine for heavy material, such as leather and canvas, and the other — a smaller yet complex one — had helped her created more wedding and prom dresses than she could count.
Material adorned with bright, cheerful sunflowers covered a screen that graced one corner of the room. It not only added color but also provided the necessary dressing room area. Several comfortable chairs were positioned around a small coffee table and plants vied for space in huge planters strategically placed on the gleaming hardwood floor. The effect was one of an airy, open space, and the profusion of ivy and leafy green plants mixed well with the yellow and green colors that dominated the room.
She'd come a long way since finishing high school here in Jamesville. Her father had remarried and moved to Arizona with his new wife as soon as Rebecca had graduated. They had never been close, and now they exchanged cards at birthdays and Christmas. Rebecca had gotten a job as a cashier at Greer's Grocery and Gas Bar, and Mr. Greer had rented her one of the apartments above the store for a very reasonable rent.
She had sewn her own clothing, as money had always been tight. Her father had been a migratory farm worker in the warm months and a laborer in the winter. Work had been uncertain, at best. As a result, she had grown up with little but the basics.
Still, it hadn't been such a bad life, merely a lonely one. Her father had been gone a lot, and she had grown up on her own after her mother had left when she was five. Simply thinking about it made her heart ache for little Casey Tanner. She knew what it was like to feel the lack of a mother. No one to bake treats and greet you after school with a smile. No one to kiss your hurts away. No one to confide your childish dreams to. No one to teach you about clothing, boys and all those other important adolescent things. No matter how other people tried to make up for it, no one could replace a mother's love, but she would try and fill that gap in Casey's life.
Her business had started out as a way for her to earn some extra money. Making a custom set of drapes for a neighbor, hemming a pair of pants for a friend, and sewing costumes for a school pageant seemed to fill her spare time. Before she knew it she was bringing in as much money at her sewing as she was working as a cashier.
She was also putting in fourteen-hour days and she knew it had to stop. She had approached Mr. Greer about setting up her sewing studio in her apartment. While he had been sorry to see her leave the store, he had supported her idea of locating the studio in her home.
The arrangement was actually beneficial to both of them. It made a convenient stop for women who wanted some sewing done. They could easily drop into her studio while they were there to pick up groceries or get some gas. They got all their errands run in one convenient stop. Some women had even started to do more shopping at Greer's because they had to run up to her sewing shop. Besides which, she still filled in every now and then when they were short-handed in the grocery store. All in all, she had been very pleased with her life.
Oh, she was lonely at times. Her job kept her busy and she didn't date at all. She had been what is commonly referred to as a "late bloomer." She had always been small for her age and had stopped growing completely when she had reached the great height of five feet and one-half inch. Add to that a slight build, short brown hair, and pale blue eyes and she had looked like a child until she'd turned eighteen. By then, she'd had enough of a bosom to notice. Not much, but enough for Peter Finch to ask her to the senior prom.
She remembered her prom for two reasons. Not because it was such a wonderful night to remember, but because it was the most traumatic night of her life. It was the night of her first date and the night that she fell in love.
She had been so excited to be going to the prom that she had sewn a new dress. It was a three-quarter length, baby blue dress with a modest neckline and lacy trim. Money she couldn't afford to spend had been spent on a tiny bottle of lavender perfume and a pale pink lipstick. Everything was perfect.
Peter had looked incredibly handsome in his charcoal gray suit. His blonde hair and blue eyes made him popular with the girls — that and the fact he played on the football team. She had repeatedly pinched herself all night long just to make sure she wasn't dreaming. She had been the envy of many of the girls at school. When Peter had pulled his truck to a stop on the side of the road on the way home, she was sure he was going to steal a kiss. Her very first kiss. Her pink-tinted lips had pursed in anticipation.
What she had gotten was more than a kiss. He had grabbed her and smashed his lips down on hers as his hands had started pulling down the top of her dress. Rebecca had frozen with panic. When his hand had touched her bare skin, she'd started to fight and to scream. Peter had gotten angry with her and started yelling that she owed him since he had asked her to the prom. After all, everyone knew she didn't get asked out. She should show him some appreciation for tonight.
Excerpted from "The Way Home"
Copyright © 2006 N.J. Walters.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After seeing the 4 1/2 star rating i was diappoinred with this book.