Month: September 2019

romance story, romantic serial, short story chapters, sharon clark, Sharon L. Clark Author

The Path of Least Dysfunction, A Series: Chapter 35

Showing up at Jamie’s apartment unannounced was maybe not the best plan, but I didn’t want to give him a chance to wiggle out of the plans I had made for us. To my delight, when he opened the door he was wearing his customary Saturday morning attire of a pair of pajamas pants. Only pajama pants.

“Alexis!” His eyes were wide and I don’t think he realized his mouth was hanging open. “Uh, it’s nine o’clock in the morning. Is everything okay?”

I tipped his jaw closed and pressed a kiss to his lips. “Everything is great. Are you in the middle of something?”

He stepped back and waved me into his place. “Nope. Just catching up on the news and downing my third mug of coffee.” Shutting the door, he trailed after me into his kitchen. He kept taking a breath and opening his mouth but shutting it again without saying anything. I figured I’d better put him out of his misery.

“So, I know things have been weird between us since, you know…” I waved a hand in the air. “…everything.”

“It’s not weird, things are fine –“ he tried to interrupt me, but I raised an eyebrow at him and his mouth snapped shut.

“I don’t want things to be weird. I want us to move forward with our life together and to get back to being comfortable and happy and in love.” This was the part that made me a little nervous. I cleared my throat and stared at the counter. “I would like to try to make things good again and I need you to trust me and just come with me, no questions asked. Deal?”

Tilting his head and narrowing his eyes, he crossed his arms. “No questions? Not even one?”

I let out a breath and grinned. “Fine. But just one.”

With a smirk, he asked, “Can I get dressed first?”

#####

I was having a hard time keeping it together as I drove us to our first destination. Jamie kept glancing at me from the corner of his eye, his brow furrowed. I opted to keep my mouth shut on the way because I didn’t want to let anything slip. My plan for the day would, hopefully, melt the ice that remained between us and get us back on track as Jamie and Lex, two people in love.

“Seriously. Where are we going?” Jamie’s curiosity got the better of him as he peered out the window, watching the buildings give way to green fields as I drove us out of the city. “Are you taking me out in the middle of nowhere to bump me off?”

I snorted. I couldn’t help it. “Bump you off? Who are you, Al Capone?”

For the first time in a long time, he leaned back, relaxed, and gave me a true smile. A Jamie smile. And even after all this time it still stirred butterflies in my stomach.

As we pulled into the lot of the vineyard, his eyes lit up. “A wine tasting?”

“Not exactly,” I replied. Once we were standing in the entryway of the villa, I turned to him and took his hands in mine. “I’ve been terrible to you. I pushed you aside and behaved selfishly, I treated you like a second thought, and, worst of all, I made you doubt my love for you.”

I could feel some of the tension drain out of him and he took a step closer to me. That was a good sign.

“To prove to you not only that I love you beyond measure but that I’m ready to start forever with you, I thought we could spend the day looking at possible venues for our wedding.” I hesitated then added, “I mean, if you still want to marry me.”

Jamie stared at me without speaking for so long that my heart sank. I really had ruined everything. My indecisiveness had pushed him away. Jamie was not only questioning my love for him but his for me. There would be no coming back from this. I was too late. With a deep breath, I nodded and turned away to hide the tears that had started to fill my eyes.

In one fluid movement Jamie spun me back around, crushed me to him and pressed his lips to mine. He lifted me off the ground still kissing me and spun me around.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted from the moment I met you! There’s nothing you could do, Alexis Marie Murray, to make me not want to spend the rest of my life with you.” He rained kisses over my face and hair.

When I caught my breath I gasped, “I love you Jamie Graham, and I never stopped loving you, I hope you know that. I’m so sorry for everything I put you through. Let’s get married. I’m not scared anymore. I want you, for however long you’ll have me.”

We were laughing and kissing and were so lost in our own little world that the events manager of the vineyard had to clear his throat to get our attention. Knowing that he’d been standing there for who knew how long only made us laugh harder and the poor man had to wait for us to compose ourselves. Hand in hand we followed him through the villa and over the grounds to see all the options the vineyard held for us as a wedding venue.

From there, we drove back into the city and visited a gorgeous church with elaborately carved wooden pews and stained-glass windows; an events hall with high ceilings and ornate crystal chandeliers; a country club on the edge of town with a vaulted foyer in a stately manor for the ceremony and a classy banquet hall for the reception. It wasn’t until the final location that I saw Jamie’s eyes light up.

We were standing on the roof of the Envoy Hotel in the center of the city. The sun was setting by the time we got there, and the lights were coming on all around us. We had a breath-taking 360° view all the way to the waving green hills beyond the city limits one way and the towering mountains the other. I strolled up next to him and slid my hand into his.

“So?”

He let out a low whistle and grinned at me. “It’s outstanding, Lex.”

“I can see an evening wedding right here, with the sunset behind us,” I said. “We’ll have the city lights around us and the stars twinkling above us. I can’t imagine a more magical moment.”

Looking at our joined hands, Jamie was quiet. Then a slow grin spread over his features and he pulled me close to press a kiss to my forehead.

“Here’s the thing, Alexis,” he murmured. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this wedding, about marrying you. So many different ideas have run through my head and I’ve envisioned the moment we become husband and wife at each of the venues we’ve seen today. And you know what?”

I wrapped my arms around his waist and tipped my head back to look in his eyes. “Tell me.”

A light breeze blew over us and Jamie smoothed my wayward curls behind my ear. “It doesn’t matter if we get married on this rooftop, or in a cathedral, or on the side of a dirt road. The wedding ceremony is one day in what I know is going to be a long and deliriously happy life. Together. The moment you say ‘I do’ is going to hold all the magic I need to know that wishes really do come true.”

If it was physically possible for my body to melt into the cobblestones of that roof his words in that moment would have sealed my fate. And I would have been fine with it.

“Do you have a dirt road in mind or will any one do?”

I could feel the chuckle in his chest before I heard it. “Smart ass. What I’m saying is why do we need a big, fancy, expensive wedding?”

Pushing off his chest I raised my eyebrows. “Uh, have you met our mothers? They would simultaneously collapse and die if we decided not to go through with a big fancy ceremony. Their very existence hinges on this wedding.”

“I know,” he sighed. Shoving his hands in his pockets, he shrugged and scuffed his shoe on the floor. “It’s just…all I care about is marrying you.” Then his head whipped up and our eyes locked. I could see the wheels turning behind that gaze and a tickle of excitement built in my stomach.

“There’s some trouble brewing in that head of yours and I have never been more turned on,” I told him.

He winked then leaned close until his lips were touching my ear and whispered, “Alexis Murray, run away with me. Tonight.”

“To…?”

His hands spread out in front of him, he smirked. “Vegas? Let’s elope.”

My jaw dropped. “What? We just agreed not having a wedding would literally kill our mothers!”

Jamie waved a hand in the air to dismiss my comment. “They’ll still get their big affair. But we’ll have that moment to ourselves, the moment we truly belong to each other. We won’t have to worry about making every second perfect and can just have fun. What do you think?”

It didn’t take long for me to make a decision. Jamie was my world. Without him, nothing was worth anything. My happily ever after was standing right in front of me and I couldn’t wait to start the rest of my life with him. The corners of my mouth began to curl and we both pulled out our phones as we dashed for the elevator.

“You pick the hotel, I’ll buy our flights,” I said, trying to catch my breath. As the doors closed behind us I grinned up at Jamie. “By this time tomorrow, Elvis will be pronouncing us husband and wife and then you’re stuck with me.”

His face softened and he pressed a sweet, lingering kiss to my lips. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

romance story, romantic serial, short story chapters, sharon clark, Sharon L. Clark Author

The Path of Least Dysfunction, A Series: Chapter 34

I had no idea how much I’d disrupted my life until the pieces started to fall  back into place.

Putting it all together again wasn’t easy. It wasn’t as though I walked away from my dinner with Chris and back into the life I lived before I crawled out that boutique window. I had a lot of bridges to rebuild with Jamie and his family, not to mention with my own.

His brother was just relieved that Kelly and I had reconnected and that Jamie wasn’t moping around anymore. But our mothers were another story. Mine had a few choice words for me and lots of finger-wagging.

“Finally!” She threw her hands in the air. “You’re damn lucky Jamie waited for you to get over yourself and come to your senses. Most men would have washed their hands of that ridiculousness.”

We were making dinner at my parents’ house again and, unfortunately, the air wasn’t any less charged than it had been the last time I’d been there.

“You’re right. Jamie is extraordinary and I’m very lucky to have him,” I said, popping a slice of green pepper into my mouth. “I am a horrible human and barely deserve to breathe the same air he does.”

Rolling her eyes, my mom turned to me with her hand on her hip. “Very funny, Miss Smartypants.” My sisters and I smirked at each other over her head.

“Seriously, mom, he loves her. He wouldn’t just walk away at the first little hiccup, would he?” Maggie walked by and squeezed my shoulder. “What kind of marriage would that be if he wasn’t able to handle just one of the Murray sisters?”

Lisa and I snorted but my mom yelled to the living room, “Jim! Will you come in here and control your daughters?”

Her request was met with a loud guffaw over the sound of the television. “Judy, Judy, Judy. I know a fool’s errand when I hear one.”

Lisa put an arm around my shoulder and pulled me close. “How are you holding up, Lex? I know this has been hard on you, too,” she whispered. Mom had moved out of the kitchen to berate dad for a little bit, but Lisa sure didn’t want to get that wrath directed toward her.

“I’m okay,” I sighed. “It’s all been a series of awkward moments between us for the last couple weeks. Nothing has gone right. There have been far too many times that I tried to hug him or he tried to kiss me and the other person wasn’t ready or expecting it and things have just been…bad.”

Bad was an understatement.

I had talked to Chris and things between us were good. I wasn’t feeling the pull toward him like I had before. Temporary insanity and all that. Jamie and I had made plans to spend a romantic night together. I was looking forward to it, actually feeling nervous and excited, and I was up as soon as the sun peeked through the curtains.

Spending a little extra time to wash and shave and moisturize and whatnot, I imagined how perfect things were going to be now. In my mind, Jamie would come pick me up in a limousine, carrying a dozen red roses, and he’d whisk me away for a romantic rooftop dinner with a string quartet to serenade us all night. We would dance and drink champagne and whisper sweet nothings to each other before spending a wild. passionate night together and all would be right with the world again.

Instead, I shaved off the front of my shin, stabbed myself in the eye with my mascara wand, Jamie was late picking me up and had to move work papers from the front seat to the back to make room for me. We drove through nightmare traffic to a popular restaurant on the other side of town where our reservation had been lost and we sat for over an hour while they found a spot for us. I burned my mouth on the hot lasagna, Jamie dribbled soup down the front of himself, there was a screaming baby at the table next to us, and conversation was stilted and awkward. I nearly ran for the exit when dinner was over.

Trying to find a calm little bar where we could sit and unwind proved to be a bit more difficult than either of us had imagined. Everywhere we tried was standing room only, it was trivia night, the music was too loud, or it was wall-to-wall people and neither of us was up for the crowds. He finally drove me home and walked me up to my door.  The butterflies started in my stomach in anticipation of him coming in and kissing me until I was dizzy. But under the lights of the front door that were swarming with moths and other insects, he kissed my cheek and told me he’d call me then he drove away.

Maggie had joined me and Lisa, huddled around the kitchen island, and she grimaced. “Yikes.”

“Yikes is right,” I said. “That was two nights ago and we’ve barely spoken. He’s sending single-word replies to my texts and he doesn’t laugh at my jokes and I have to pull conversation out of him. Things are so weird right now. I think I screwed up everything.”

“You probably did,” Judy snapped, walking around us with her nose in the air. “After the way you treated him, he’s probably rethinking his proposal.”

Maggie and Lisa gasped.

“Jesus, Mom,” Lisa chided. “Harsh, much?”

I must have looked pretty damn forlorn because my mom took one glance at me and her whole demeanor changed. She walked over and wrapped her arms around me, patting my back.

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. That was uncalled for.” She gave me a quick squeeze and a peck on the cheek. “What are you going to do to fix things?”

Dropping my elbows to the counter and burying my face in my hands, I groaned. “I have no idea.”

“You need some kind of big, romantic gesture to show that you are still completely in for this wedding.” Maggie began to pace the kitchen, tapping a finger against her chin. “What can you do to prove that your feelings haven’t changed? A barbershop quartet? Sky writing? A tattoo?”

We all glared at Maggie like she had suggested wearing carp on our heads, but she was oblivious that her suggestions were a tad extreme. But watching her brainstorm, a slow smile spread across my face.

It was in that moment that I knew exactly how I was going to win back my fiancé.

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