You can find earlier excerpts from The Reunion here.
Well, that barely there kiss had caught her by surprise. When did Brian Walsh get to be such a hottie, with moves even? Obviously he’d gotten over his shyness and reluctance around females! Jen shut her bedroom door gently after surreptitiously peeking out to watch him ascend the stairs. From the looks of it, he had a pretty great ass under that towel. He might actually have turned out to be a nice guy. He’d been flirting, she decided, and kind of hoped it wasn’t just so she’d let him stay. She smiled as she thought about future possibilities with them sharing a house and sent Pam a text, asking her to meet for breakfast in the morning.
Hey, Pammie, can you do breakfast in the morning?
Is 9:30 okay?
Sure, perfect. Where’s a good place to meet?
How about Bluebell’s, that little diner on 3rd Street? Do you remember from last time you were out?
Oh, of course. Seems we have some surprises to talk about!
Ahh, so you saw Brian?
He scared the shit out of me, Pammie! You’ve got some ‘splaining to do, girl!
Well, tomorrow she would talk it out with Pam and see what was really going on. Tonight she was dead tired from the drive and now that her heartbeat had slowed down to normal, she hoped she’d fall asleep easily. Jack had settled down on his little dog bed and curled his fluffy tail under him, the signal that he was out for the count. And all in all, it felt good knowing she wasn’t alone in the house.
The next morning Brian crept down the stairs at 6 a.m. with his blueprints in hand. He needed to get over to the Inn early, before the others got there, and he didn’t want to risk waking Jen or having her little dog hear him and start barking. She’d looked pretty beat last night and he wondered how far she’d driven.
It was true that Jen had looked great. He thought back to all the times their families had gotten together for barbecues and picnics over the years. He and Jen and Pam had played together as little kids, teased each other in junior high and then had somewhat stilted conversations as teens as their interests changed and they drifted apart. None of that had prepared him for this new, improved version of Jen Meyer.
She’d been rounder in high school and kind of shy, but she’d always been friendly to him, at least until the whole prom fiasco. Boy, had his mom been pissed at him about that. He winced to himself, remembering how furious she’d been when she found out he’d gone into work and called the date off at the last minute. Of course, she thought it probably reflected badly on her and how she’d raised him, something he hadn’t really considered back then.
He figured he’d ask Jen to dinner and try to explain about what an idiot he’d been back then and apologize once and for all. He wondered if she was here for the reunion, which wasn’t until next weekend, or some other reason. Or maybe just to visit, although he thought her sister was her only family still in Brim.
He maneuvered his pickup around her little car, amused at the way she’d parked almost off the driveway, like she’d been in a huge hurry to get out of the car and into the house. He drove slowly through the neighborhood, figuring he’d grab a cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich at the BP gas station just a mile or so away, off the main highway. Hopefully they still had decent enough coffee because he sure could use a big old cup. Or two.
Seeing Jen in pajamas, all flustered when caught by surprise, had played havoc with his sleep last night. She’d tried to hide it, but all that jiggling and bouncing as she’d jumped up from her exercise mat had made it clear she wasn’t wearing a bra under her little shirt. Luckily, she still had those great curves. Her cheeks had turned pink and her mouth had opened in surprise when he told her he had no intention of leaving. She looked so adorable that he couldn’t resist leaning in for a taste of that mouth and thankfully she hadn’t slapped his face. He smiled ruefully and reminded himself that he was 38-year-old man with a daughter of his own and not a teenaged boy with raging hormones. But, damn, she sure looked good.
You can find earlier excerpts from The Reunion here
As soon as her heart stopped pounding in her ears, Jen clumsily scrambled to her feet. She hastily pulled down the hem of her tee-shirt which had pulled up and exposed a strip of pale skin, purposely ignoring the hand he held down to help her. He was smiling a little bit, looking awfully unintimidating for an intruder, especially one dressed in just a towel with damp hair. Okay, she needed to get a grip. No one would break into a house and take a shower, right?
She tried to think what to do next, and found herself looking at his bare feet and then again at the towel. She forced her eyes up to his face and — something niggled at the back of her brain. He did look familiar. The height, the dark hair, the rather serious look on his face with just a hint of a smile. “Brian?” she blurted out. “Brian Walsh?”
“Uhm, yeah. Sorry, I didn’t know anybody else was staying at the house right now. And you are?” He raised his eyebrows in question, no sign of recognition on his face. She was pretty cute, he thought, all flustered and pink-cheeked, standing there in her flannel pants and little tee-shirt looking like she might punch him. Kinda sexy, actually.
“For God sakes, Brian, it’s Jen. Jen Meyer,” she scowled impatiently. “Maybe you should have put your glasses on before you came barreling down here. What do you mean, you didn’t know anybody else was staying here? Why are you in my parents’ house?”
He held up one hand, carefully keeping the other one on his towel. “Whoa, hang on. I got a key from Pam and I’m staying here while I’m doing renovations on the Inn. And if it’s not too much trouble, maybe I could get my shorts back before the little dust mop chews them up?”
“Oh, good Lord, his boxers were still in Jack’s mouth. Face burning, she reached to snatch them away, but of course Jack gleefully launched into their usual game of tug and it took a few minutes before Jen could get the cloth out of his mouth, all the while having to hold onto Brian’s boxers while he just stood there and smirked. “Here, take them,” she said, ungraciously shoving the damp things into his big hand.
“Oh, and by the way, I can see you just fine. Had Lasix surgery years ago and I don’t need the glasses anymore. Afraid I just didn’t recognize you. It’s been a long time, Jen, and you’ve – well, changed.”
He stopped, as though embarrassed to say that she wasn’t a chubby girl with braces anymore. “I mean, you look great, really great. It’s been a long time since I saw you last…” He trailed off, remembering that the last time they’d really spoken had been at high school graduation, when he’d tried to apologize for not taking her to prom. Again.
God, he’d been a geeky 17-year-old who panicked at the last minute about sweaty palms and unexpected boners while slow dancing with a girl. So he’d gone into work and ditched Jen, not realizing back then what a big deal it had been for her. Never realizing what a big deal dressing up was until his own little princess had been born.
“Well, thanks,” she mumbled. Then she seemed to realize that she was in her sleep shirt and pants with nothing underneath and he was wearing a terry towel slung low on his hips and dangling his boxer briefs by the waistband because they were damp from Jack’s doggie drool. Hoping her shirt was loose enough not to let anything too revealing show, Jen gestured to the door, smiling sweetly.
“Hey, don’t let me keep you from, uh, whatever it was you were doing up there. I’ll talk to Pam tomorrow and get everything straightened out. Maybe you just misunderstood about the house? There’s lots of little motels around here now, probably some with kitchenettes. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.” She couldn’t believe that Pam would have forgotten to mention that she’d told good old Brian Walsh he could stay at their parents’ house the same week she was planning to be there. Boy, was she going to give Pam a piece of her mind when they talked!
Okay, he wasn’t exactly a stranger, they’d known him and his family for years. And he had grown into a nice looking guy with damp, curling dark hair and big, broad naked shoulders. And who knew his geeky, black framed glasses had hidden such gorgeous eyes?
“Oh, sure, but I’ve already found something I like,” he said, winking at her. “Besides, I already paid Pam for the next month, so I’m not planning on going anywhere tomorrow, except back to work on the Inn.”
When her mouth dropped open in disbelief, he leaned close and brushed those soft, full lips over hers. “Sleep well, Jen,” he smiled and headed back up the stairs. Maybe being back in Brim was going to be fun after all, he thought.
You can find earlier excerpts from The Reunion here
Jen sighed with relief as she finally pulled into the driveway of what had been her parents’ house until they’d moved to always-sunny Phoenix, if only to get out of the car and stretch. She and her sister, Pam, both had keys to the little white farmhouse where they’d grown up and Pam and her family lived close enough to check on it occasionally. And, of course, her mom and dad stayed there whenever they came back to Iowa for a visit. As Jen unloaded her bags from the back and put them on the front porch, she breathed in the beautiful clean night air. And sneezed. And sneezed again. Damn goldenrod. She’d have to dig out her antihistamine tonight.
Jack was yipping away and running circles in his little crate, just in case she might have forgotten about him. “Come on, sweetie, let’s get you out of there,” Jen crooned. Boy, he really had to pee –and he wasn’t the only one. Hustling Jack and all their baggage into the house, Jen flipped on the downstairs light and quickly locked the front door behind her. Unpacking would wait until morning. She needed the bathroom, a quick shower and then some yoga stretches before bed to work out some of the kinks from the drive.
The downstairs bedroom that used to be her parents was definitely beckoning Jen as it had a lovely, queen sized bed. She pulled her suitcases in, with Jack trailing behind her, sniffing his way along the hall. New smells were doggy heaven for sure. He’d been asleep in the crate most of the evening and, even though he was definitely a snuggler and cuddler, Jack needed his play time every night.
Jen dug through one of the bags and found some stuffed dog toys that he liked to chase after and threw one down the hallway. His little feet found purchase on the carpet and he was off like a shot, back in less than a minute, prancing into the bedroom proudly with his stuffed duck hanging out of his mouth. They played a gentle game of tug and he took off again after the duck, but this time she heard him racing up the staircase and down before he came back into the bedroom and deposited the duck in front of her.
Before she could even throw it again, he took off running down the hallway and up the stairs, making more noise than a 20 pound dog should be able to make. It was his wild time of the evening, just running off some of the energy until he’d eventually come back down, sniff out his little padded bed and settle in for the night. Jen headed into the bathroom to brush her teeth and take her hair down, rubbing her scalp from having had her hair gathered up for so long.
She changed into a soft tee and sleep pants, wanting to be comfortable and cozy tonight. She spread out her yoga mat next to the bed and lay down to begin some simple stretches. She’d progressed to downward dog, hands and feet on the mat, her body bent in two, when it occurred to her that Jack hadn’t come back to the bedroom. She peered between her legs at the doorway and spotted a quick flash of brown and white fur.
Ahh, here came Jack now. Jen waited for the inevitable dance as he came into the room, but this time it wasn’t a duck in his mouth. It looked like – men’s boxer shorts?? And close behind him, as she struggled to stand up, ending up in a heap on the mat instead, were a big pair of masculine feet. Naked. Jen briefly debated whether she could pretend she’d hit her head and just stay down on the floor, then decided it was probably too late for that. Crap. Pushing down flurries of panic — this was Brim, Iowa, for goodness sake, not some big city with big city crime, she turned and faced the intruder head on.
Her gaze quickly travelled up long hairy legs to a white towel wrapped around a trim waist, a broad bare chest and finally jerked up to meet amused hazel eyes under dark brows raised in question. “I’m guessing the little dust mop belongs to you?”
You can find earlier excerpts from The Reunion here
Three weeks later, on a Friday after work, Jen pulled her shoulder length, carefully highlighted hair into a messy bun on top of her head, loaded her little King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Jack, and his crate and dishes into the back of her car along with her suitcases and garment bag and began the drive home. Pulling away from her little townhouse in the Chicago suburbs, she headed toward Route 80 and the semi-boring drive through the small hills of western Illinois that led to the flat and treeless terrain of Iowa. She stifled a yawn and thanked her lucky stars for the Starbucks sign up ahead. She still had several hours of driving left before she got to her destination, the little town of Brim, Iowa, nearly smack in the center of the state. And after moving to Chicago, she’d heard the “Idiot Out Wondering Around” acronym for Iowa more times than she could count and it always annoyed her. Or embarrassed her, if she was really being truthful. But really, at 38, wasn’t it time to stop feeling like a little girl from the country?
Pulling off at the exit, she opened Jack’s crate and snapped on his leash so he could sniff around and find just the perfect spot to do his business in the little grassy area behind the strip mall. His yips and plumy tail wags reminded her that he thought now was the perfect time to feed him his carefully measured cup of doggie chow which he promptly inhaled as quickly as she poured it into his dish. Five minutes later and he’d done his business for the evening. After cleaning up after him and a quick trip to the restroom herself, Jen was soon smiling her thanks at the hunky, much too young for her barista who made her a tall, no fat, no whip mocha, expertly crafting a heart in the foam on top. With a flirty wave, she got back in her little SUV, savoring the chocolately coffee while pulling back out onto the highway.
Tuning the radio to MY93.9, the home of the 80s and 90s, she sang along with Rachel Platten’s Fight Song and let her mind wander to growing up in Brim. To a young girl with bigger dreams, it had sometimes seemed like the most boring place on earth. And growing up in such a small town meant even though everybody knew who you were and looked out for you, they also knew every good and bad thing that ever happened in your life. Like the debacles of gym class and being picked last for every team. Or having Ms. Sinclair, her third and fourth grade teacher, always seating her next to the class clown because she was so well behaved and such a calming, studious influence. Just once, couldn’t she have sat next to a popular boy?
High school had been just as painful in its own way. Sure, she’d had friends like Sue Esther and Ruthie who lived down the street from her. They studied together and went to the movies and sometimes to a school dance, but they were both chubby girls, too, and Jen wondered if she’d stayed friends with them because, of the three, she was always the thinnest and looked even smaller by comparison. Had she really been that shallow? Well, yes, she’d been a teenage girl trying to get through life… But she was never a cheerleader or on the pom squad, too shy to even try out for the debate team. She liked English and history; math and science, not so much. She thought 4H would be sort of like a riding club, but it had turned out to be about all kinds of farm animals. And, of course, more of the kids from the outlying farms had joined than from the little town where she lived.
Then there was her prom date. Or lack of a prom date. It wasn’t like she’d been going out with Brian Walsh and he wanted to take her to prom. Her mom and his mom were friends from working at the library together for years and had thought it would be so nice if their children went to the dance together since neither one had a date. Brian was friendly enough when their families got together for barbecues in the summer, as talkative as any teenage boy would be with a girl he obviously had no interest in. He didn’t seem to have much interest in anything other than shop class and fixing cars and woodworking. But one day he strode up to her locker and very seriously asked her if she wanted to go to prom with him. His dad said he could borrow the car so she wouldn’t have to ride in his pick up. And his mom said to let him know what color her dress was.
So Jen and her mom had driven into the city to find a flattering long dress in a coral pink and she had her hair and nails done and was kind of excited/nervous about going. She was ready by 7 p.m. on the dot, waiting by the front room window, with her mom and dad poised to take the required pictures. Then Brian had called with some lame ass excuse that he’d had to work at the last minute at the Burger Barn/Video Store. On prom night. Jen had never known if he’d chickened out or really had to work, but she knew her mom and Mrs. Walsh hadn’t seemed to be such good friends after that night. Brian had called the next day, but Jen was too mortified to come to the phone and her mom hadn’t pushed her.
By graduation she’d earned enough scholarship money to convince her parents to let her go away to college where nobody knew her name. And then she’d begun the process of reinventing chubby, bookish Jennifer Meyers into the woman she was today.
You can find earlier excerpts of The Reunion here
It was half past 12 before Jen showed up, looking gorgeous and voluptuous and perfectly made up, waving to me with her French manicured hand, wearing some most-likely couture outfit. She’s always been a little on the extra-curvy side, but she has a wonderful sense of fashion and has the money to choose clothing that looks as though it was made just for her. Today it’s a beautifully tailored silky looking wrap dress, skimming her curves and draping around her figure without clinging, perfect for her job as a sales rep for a big pharmaceutical company. And her open toed booties look adorable and probably cost as much as my grocery budget for the week!
Okay, yes, maybe I’m a little jealous. But by the time I got the kids and hubby out the door I barely had the time or energy to shower and blow dry my hair and find nice black slacks and a sweater to wear. A quick swipe of mascara and lip gloss and I was out the door. I was just early enough to snag a parking spot in front of Le Bistro. It’s a cute little ladies lunch kind of place not too far from her work, with a great roasted beet and goat cheese salad and cozy booths where we could talk without interruption.
I just can’t believe that Jen is really planning to entice a guy she doesn’t even know to just sleep with her. I mean, I know I’m old-fashioned, but, at 38, that smacks of desperation to me. And after 17 years of marriage, I can’t see myself being with anyone else. Of course, Jen has been divorced for a while now and yes, I get that women have needs. I just think she should be sensible. And careful.
We do the best girlfriend hug thing and she looks at me closely and says, “God, Beth, are you pregnant? You have that dreamy look in your eyes.” I practically blush but assure her that no, it’s just all the great extra-curricular activity I’ve had going on. I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant, anyway…
“Well, see,” Jen says, “that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to tell you. I miss all those wonderful sextivities in my life lately. I haven’t met anybody that I’m the least bit interested in. So that’s why I’ve decided I’m gonna go home for my class reunion and just be open to seeing what happens. I wish I could meet somebody wonderful and fall in love, but I’m not 20 anymore. And yeah, a little excitement in my life would be nice.”
“But, Jen, a stranger? Do you really think that’s smart? Or safe?”
“Aww, c’mon, Beth, I’m talking about maybe hooking up with somebody I went to high school with, not some random stranger I bump into on the street,” she says.
“That’s exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about, ” I frown. “People our age don’t hook up. We date. We get to know each other before tumbling into bed.”
“Honey,” she says, smiling a little sadly at me, “single people any age hook up nowadays. It’s not like they’re coming over to meet my daddy before we go out! And I’m divorced. I’m pretty sure the guys will figure out that I’ve had sex before.”
“Well, of course, you’re a grown-up, you can lead whatever kind of life you want,” I say more frostily than I intended. “I’m sorry, that sounded really bitchy. You know I love you!”
“I know you do, Beth. And I love you, too! My life is fine, just a little boring lately. And work is not as satisfying as it used to be. There have been so many changes at my company lately that I’m not sure if my job is even safe anymore. And if I don’t have my job, what’s left? But I am a grown-up, one who’s tired of just seeing BOB all the time. So trust me to be responsible, okay?”
“And who is Bob and why haven’t we met him?” I’m frankly a little offended since I share almost everything about my life with Jen. She laughs back at me. “Oh, Beth, not who, what — BOB is short for battery operated boyfriend!”
I know I’m looking confused, because she leans in and says in a conspiratorial whisper, trying hard to hide a smile, “You know, my vibrator!”