Rehearsal that afternoon went by swiftly. Before Jennifer could get out the door, Jake came around from the drums and asked, “Jenn, are you hungry?” Jennifer stood there speechless for a few minutes. “I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner with me tonight.”
“Oh, I’d love to have dinner with you,” Jennifer finally answered after breaking the trance of staring at him.
“Would you mind having steaks and potatoes cooked on the grill?”
“That’s my favorite meal.”
They walked from the studio over to Jake’s house and entered the front door. Jake went to the refrigerator and pulled out the steaks. He selected two large Idaho potatoes and wrapped them in foil. He then went out the back door to his grill and put everything on.
Jennifer followed him outside and asked, “Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Nope. It’s all set.”
They sat at the picnic table on the deck behind the house while they waited for the steaks and potatoes to get done.
“So, Jenn, what’s really going on with you?” Jake asked. “What are you hiding or running from?”
Jennifer looked startled by the question. “Um, nothing really.”
“It just seems odd to me that you suddenly dropped out of sight a few years ago. Now you’re here trying to decide what you want to do with your life. Something caused you to drop out like that.”
“I didn’t really just drop out of sight. I had planned it for several months prior to going to Africa and working for the World Hunger Organization. I grew tired of doing the tours, the singing engagements, and concerts. I had no personal life to speak of because I was always in the spotlight and couldn’t go anywhere or do anything without a big crowd hanging about, and I was always on the road. It was okay, and it had its moments, but I wanted to do something more with my life. I was so focused on all the glamour in my life that I felt like I was becoming a very shallow person. I wanted to show others, and myself, that I was a caring person and can help those who need help. The World Hunger Organization gave me the chance to do that.”
“It was very commendable for you to do that, but you never needed to prove anything to me.” Jake looked steadily into her eyes. “Would you ever consider staying here?”
If you would have me. “I don’t know. That’s what I’m trying to sort out. I have all these houses that my parents left me, and I feel really overwhelmed with the sheer number of decisions I have to make.”
“Are the other houses the same size as the one here?”
“No, they’re twice the size of the ranch. Plus, my dad collected antiques and he has a number of pieces that are very valuable. My mother had expensive tastes, and I have to figure out what I’m going to do with all her stuff.”
“Do you think you would sell all the houses?” Jake watched her closely.
“If I decide to continue my singing career and start touring and recording again, I’d probably keep the house in Los Angeles and possibly this one. I just don’t know yet what I’m going to do.” They sat in silence for a few minutes.
“I’ll be back in a minute with the plates and silverware.” He got up and went inside the house. He came back out with the plates, silverware, and glasses filled with iced tea.
The food was finally done, so he brought the steaks and potatoes over to the table and they started to eat.
“Mmm, this steak is delicious, Jake. What did you marinate it in?” Jennifer asked, hoping to change the subject.
“That’s my secret sauce, and I don’t divulge it.” Jake stopped long enough to drill her with a steady stare.
She laughed. “Well, it’s really good.”
“This is not the only delicious meal I can make. I don’t suppose you have ever even had any experience in meal preparation, huh? I remember you hadn’t when we were going together,” he said mischievously.
“Oh, what you don’t know about me, Jake,” Jennifer responded demurely. “I can cook just as good a meal as you.”
“You’ll have to prove it,” Jake challenged.
“Is that you trying to get me to have you over for dinner?”
Jake threw his head back and laughed. “Yep.”
“Okay, you’re on. How about tomorrow night after rehearsal?”
“Tomorrow will work for me. It’ll give you time to come up with some concoction and call it cooking.” He smiled at her.
“Some concoction, huh? Boy, are you gonna be sorry.” Jennifer chuckled.
“Are you trying to tell me that you’re now some culinary artist?” Jake asked.
“No. But I’ve learned a few things about cooking.”
“Hope my stomach can handle it.”
They both burst out laughing.
Finally Jennifer brought up the subject of Kaitlin. “How come you broke up with Kaitlin?”
“How’d you know about that?”
“She stopped by the house this morning. She was upset and threatened me because she thinks I’m the reason you broke up with her. Right after I started rehearsing with you guys, she walked me out to the car and told me that she expected you two would be announcing your engagement soon.” Jennifer watched Jake’s reaction.
“Jenn, there was nothing going on with Kaitlin and me except friendship. There was no intimate relationship between us.” He looked deeply into her eyes.
“So, why did you end it with her?” Jennifer wanted to know. She also sensed that he was searching for a reaction from her.
“You and some other folks have told me that she was after more than I was willing to give.”
In her heart, she was secretly glad that his relationship with Kaitlin had ended, but it also reminded her of his stance on marriage. She doubted he’d ever want to settle down.
After they finished their meal, they took the dishes inside, rinsed them off, and put them in the dishwasher. Jennifer looked up at Jake. “Thank you for dinner. I enjoyed it.”
“I’d like to do this more often.” He smiled at her and put his hands on her waist.
“What, dinner together?” Jennifer asked.
“And that too.” Jake looked deeply into her eyes.
Suddenly the song Maybe Later echoed out. Jennifer looked at him confused.
He smiled and cocked his head. “My ringtone.” He went into the other room to grab his cellphone and answer it.
When he came back, she asked him, “You have me on your ringtone?”
“Yep.” He smiled.
He came to her and drew her close to him. She lifted her head up to meet his kiss. His kiss started gentle and slight, then became stronger and more forceful as he slipped his tongue inside her mouth. He kissed her jawline, her cheeks, and back to her mouth again. His hands gently caressed her arms and to her breasts.
Jake pulled back and asked, “Are you ready for this, Jenn?”
“Oh yeah,” Jennifer whispered.
COMING OCTOBER 20TH
When Jennifer Summers returns to the U.S. after spending two years in Africa, she has some decisions to make. Should she resume her singing career or continue to live a secluded life out of the spotlight in the hopes that her stalker won't be able to locate her?
Years ago Jake Ackerson let Jennifer go so she could pursue her dreams. When she suddenly returns to their hometown he's determined to rekindle his relationship with the woman he never stopped loving.
Jake's band is temporarily without a singer, and Jennifer agrees to take the position, but in doing so she is once again pushed into the limelight, and she knows it's only a matter of time before danger strikes.
Will Jake be able to protect her, and can he convince her to put past hurts aside and give their relationship another shot?
Content Warning: contains some sexual content