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Over You Trio

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CAN TRUE LOVE CONQUER ALL?

Jessica hopes to cure her broken heart while caring for her elderly aunt, but it may be difficult with her ex-fiancé remodeling the house. And when she finds a box in the attic full of family secrets, she soon regrets trying to discover the truth.

This bundle includes all three books in the Over You story. Over You and Second Chances are meant to be read in order. There is also a follow-up book titled Chance Encounter, which is part of the Emerald Falls romance series. Chance Encounter tells the story of Melanie (someone you’ll get to know once you’ve read the Over You series).

When Jessica Stevens temporarily moves in with her elderly aunt to help care for her, she plans to use the time to heal from a recent break-up. But when her aunt decides to do some remodeling on the old house, Jessica is dismayed to discover that the contractor is her ex-fiancé, a man who dumped her several years before.

Helping distract her from her troubles are mysterious fifty-year-old letters she finds in her aunt’s attic. The contents of the letters spur Jessica to do some digging, but as the truth of the past begins to be revealed, Jessica regrets ever finding the letters.

Scroll down to read the first chapter.

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Chapter 1

“What now?” Jessica Stevens asked as her cell phone rang. She frowned as she read the name on the screen, then sighed before shutting off the ringer. “I don’t want to talk to you, Alex,” she said in a sing-song voice. Turning her focus back to her laptop, she continued working, but the cell phone drew her attention once again when it chimed.

Trying to ignore the fact that a message waited for her, she concentrated on the programming code she was writing, but found her eyes drifting away from the computer screen and toward the cell phone. “Fine. You win.” She grabbed the phone and punched in the number for voice mail, then frowned as she listened to the recording.

“Jessica, I know you don’t believe me, but I’m really sorry about everything.” The caller released a ragged breath as if trying to control his emotions. “I care about you so much. Please let me see you. I need to talk to you in person. I need to explain.” He paused, and when he spoke again, his voice cracked. “Just give me one more chance.” He paused again. “I hope to talk to you soon. Bye.”

Jessica deleted the message, set the phone down, and massaged her forehead. Leaning back in her chair, she stared at the ceiling as if the answer to her problems would somehow reveal themselves among the swirls of textured plaster. Something landed in her lap and she jumped, startled for a moment, until she locked eyes with her gray tabby, Hudson.

“Hey there. Are you trying to tell me it’s time for a break?” She scratched his chin and he purred as he nudged her hand toward his ears. “You like that, don’t you?” Glancing at the clock on her laptop, she lifted him from her lap and set him on the floor, then went into the nearby kitchen. He followed close behind, and when she opened his cat food with the can opener, he meowed. 

“I know, I know,” she said, dumping the cat food into his bowl. “I’m late with your dinner. Again. I’m sorry, big guy, but that’s one of the hazards of working from home.” Jessica set the bowl of cat food on the floor in front of him. “The work is always there, calling to me.” 

He ignored her as he devoured his meal.

Jessica smiled as she watched him, then went back to her desk and slid into her seat, trying to get back into the groove she’d been in before the cell phone had interrupted her. She reviewed the programming code she’d written, but the text on the screen faded as the phone message replayed in her head. She blinked several times, focusing on her work, but thoughts of Alex kept demanding her attention. A few minutes later Hudson returned, rubbing against her leg. Glad for the diversion, she picked him up and set him on her lap.

“What should I do, big guy? Alex wants to try to talk me out of breaking up with him.” She held Hudson up so they were eye to eye. “I know you liked him, but I don’t think he’s good for us.” Hudson stared back until Jessica set him on her lap. 

He jumped onto the desktop and walked on a small stack of papers, then lay down. 

“I might need those.” Jessica laughed and gave Hudson a gentle poke, which elicited instant purring.

Distracted from working now, she pulled up her personal email account and saw an email from her mother, inviting her to have dinner with her and Jessica’s dad the next evening. She immediately replied, accepting the invitation. When she returned to the email program, a new email had just arrived. She frowned when she saw the name of the sender. Alex Tyler.

She groaned, but opened the email and read the message. The gist of the email was the same as the voice message. She knew if she wanted to have him out of her life, she would need to meet with him face to face and end it, once and for all. Pressing Reply, she agreed to meet him for lunch the following day, then got back to work writing her programming code.

* * *

At the restaurant the next afternoon, Jessica parked her late model Honda Accord and took a deep breath, dreading the conversation with Alex. Even though she still cared about him, and even though they had begun to get serious, his lies had damaged her trust in him and she didn’t think she could be with him anymore. She climbed out of her car and entered the restaurant, stopping just inside the doorway. Looking around the crowded restaurant, she spotted him sitting at a table reading the menu. She watched him for a moment, considering what she was about to tell him. 

He ran his fingers through his thick black hair, an unconscious gesture she’d seen him do many times. Seeing him do it now, Jessica felt a measure of endearment towards him and momentarily wondered if breaking up with him was the right thing to do. Giving a slight shake of her head, she decided to press forward with her original plan and see where it led. She moved in his direction, her heart pounding in anticipation of telling him they were done.

Alex looked up as she approached, then stood, a bouquet of colorful flowers in one hand. “Jessica.” He smiled broadly and stepped toward her, moving in for a hug.

Taking a step back, she shook her head. “We need to talk.”

Alex frowned as he sat, and Jessica slid into the seat across from him. 

He held the flowers out. “These are for you.”

“Thank you.” She took them from him and lay them on the table, then picked up her menu and stared at the selections, trying to gather her thoughts. When she set the menu down, she found Alex watching her. He reached across the table to take her hand, but she moved her hands to her lap. “Look, there’s no point in dragging this out.” She watched his face closely, assessing his reaction. “Like I told you when I found out you’d . . . well . . . cheated on me, I can’t . . .” She shook her head and looked down at her lap before gazing directly at him. “It’s over.”

“Jessica, listen to me. This has all just been a big misunderstanding.” Alex’s eyes seemed to plead with her and she felt her resolve slipping. “Whatever your friend thought she saw was really nothing more than two old college friends getting together for dinner and catching up. I hadn’t seen Mikayla in more than two years. I hadn’t even planned on having dinner with her that night. She came to my office to meet with one of the other attorneys about a business matter, and I happened to see her. She didn’t even know I worked there.”

Hearing the name of the woman he’d been with, along with all of his denials, brought back the feelings she’d had when her friend Bethany had told her she’d seen Alex kissing another woman, and then saw them leave the restaurant hand in hand. Jessica had been devastated when she’d heard the report. Recently she had begun to think Alex could one day become her husband, but now that had all been wiped away.

When Bethany had told her how Alex had been practically giddy with this Mikayla woman at the restaurant, Jessica’s thoughts had gone back over Alex’s odd behavior the previous few weeks, and how preoccupied he had seemed. Suddenly everything had clicked into place. Though she believed his story that the woman had run in to him at his office, she didn’t believe that it had just happened on the day of the dinner. “Alex, tell me the truth. Did you date this Mikayla when you were in college?”

“We may have gone on a few dates, but mostly we were just good friends.”

“Good friends.” Jessica nodded. “I see.”

“What? What do you see? Do you see how much I care about you? Do you see that I don’t want this to come between us?”

“What you don’t seem to understand is that this has already come between us. It’s been between us for weeks now.”

“Weeks? This just happened a few days ago.”

Jessica looked at the earnest expression on Alex’s face and wondered if she was wrong. Maybe she had misunderstood his recent behavior. Maybe he really was as innocent as he claimed. She tried to recall the exact words Bethany had used to describe what she had seen. It wasn’t hard since the images they invoked were burned in her mind’s eye. He had his arms around her and he kept laughing as he kissed her. Finally they left the restaurant, and when they walked out they were holding hands and gazing at each other like long-lost lovers. 

It had been painful to hear Bethany’s vivid description, and it had felt as if someone had poured a bucket of ice water over her heart, but it left no doubt in Jessica’s mind that it was more than a friendly dinner.

No, she wasn’t mistaken. And she couldn’t let herself feel sorry for Alex now as he looked so pitiful and sad.

The waitress appeared at their table, but Jessica had lost her appetite. Ordering a small bowl of soup, she waited for their server to leave before facing Alex again. “Alex, all I want is for you to be honest with me. Tuesday wasn’t the first time you ran into Mikayla, was it?”

“I want to be honest with you, I do. But I know how you are, and you’re going to jump to conclusions no matter what I say.”

Did she? Did she jump to conclusions? She had to admit that sometimes she did, but that didn’t mean she was wrong in this instance. “Just tell me the truth. That’s all I’m asking.”

He looked at his lap, then off to the side, before looking at her. “You’re partially right. It was actually a few weeks ago that I ran into Mikayla.”

I knew it, Jessica thought in bitter triumph.

“But we’re just good friends. Nothing more.”

“How can you expect me to believe you when you lied about when you first saw her?”

Alex shook his head. “See what I mean? There you go, jumping to conclusions.”

“If you weren’t doing anything wrong, why did you find it necessary to lie to me about seeing her in the first place?” 

“Why are we even talking about this? We should be talking about our future together. That’s what’s really important.”

Jessica paused, considering his words for a moment, but then a thought came to her. “Alex, it seems to me that you really like this other woman.” Ignoring the sharp pain that those words brought to her heart, she continued. “If that’s true, then we don’t have a future. If you want to be with her, why are you wasting my time and yours, being with me?”

He frowned as he seemed to ponder her question. “As long as I’m being honest, I might as well tell you something. I do like Mikayla. I’ve had feelings for her since college. But nothing is going to come of it. I’ve had to move past it. I’m with you now, Jessica. You are the one I want to be with.”

Shocked to hear his admission, Jessica didn’t know what to say for a moment. Finally, she asked, “If you have feelings for her, what makes you so sure nothing will come of it? What assurances do I have that you won’t decide to act on those feelings and leave me?”

“Because,” Alex started, then stopped. He looked at his lap, then lifted his gaze to meet Jessica’s. “Because she’s married.”

“Married? And you were kissing her?” Startled by this revelation, Jessica was even more certain that she could never trust him. “So I suppose if she were to become available, you’d be the first in line to comfort her, right?”

He shook his head. “Not if I’m with you.”

“I’m sorry, Alex, but at this point any trust I may have had in you is gone.” The shock of the conversation numbed her feelings, allowing her to remain calm.

“Look, I know I made a mistake taking her to dinner. I let things get out of control. I never should have done more than say hello at the office. But I’ve learned my lesson. It won’t ever happen again. I promise. It’s you that I love, Jessica.”

Jessica shook her head. The damage had been done. She knew it was time to move on, and now she just wanted to get back to the sanctuary of her little apartment as soon as she could so she could mourn in private. 

The waitress appeared at the table, their food in her hands. An awkward silence ensued as they both waited for her to finish setting their dishes in front of them. The waitress left, and Jessica stared at the steaming bowl of soup, her appetite non-existent. 

Alex picked up his fork and began eating his meal.

“I really need to get back to work.” Jessica set her napkin on the table and lifted her purse from the back of her chair.

“So we’re good, right?” Alex took a large bite of his pasta salad.

She stared at him, stunned that he would believe things were possibly anywhere in the realm of good. “You’re kidding, right?”

He set his fork down. “No, of course not. Don’t you believe me when I say I made a mistake, and that it won’t happen again?”

“Oh, I know you made a mistake.” Jessica held her purse in her lap, ready to bolt as soon as she could. “But that doesn’t make everything okay. We’re done, Alex.” She stood, thinking that would convey the finality of her words.

He jumped up and came towards her. “Please, Jessica. Don’t do this. You’re making a mistake.”

Putting her purse over her shoulder, she put her hands out to stop his approach. “No, the mistake would be staying with you when I can’t trust if you’ll be faithful.” She paused, watching the words sink in. When it seemed he was finally getting it, she said, “Good bye, Alex.” Then she turned and walked out of the restaurant, and to her car.

As she slid behind the wheel she looked over her shoulder to make sure he hadn’t followed her. Relieved that he hadn’t, she felt tears form in her eyes as she pictured the fun times the two of them had enjoyed together. Forcing those thoughts away, she wiped at her eyes and started her car. Heading home, she wondered how she was going to tell her parents she’d broken up with Alex, the man they had hoped would become the son they’d never had.

* * *

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