Falling For You [One Hot Summer Series Book 3] [MultiFormat]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Eve Asbury
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Dana Van Diver is hip, she is chic and most of all she is carefree. The kind of woman everybody wants as a friend and nobody wants as a girlfriend. But deep in her heart, Dana longs for one man: Jake Jessup. Where she is reviled in town, Jake is lauded for being loyal, hard working, and still deeply in love with his dead fiancée. Yet a brief affair with Dana begins to open his eyes to what he may be letting pass him by. They were friends, they have been lovers and now a dead woman is making them act like strangers. Will Jake's silent and stoic character force Dana's pride to accept it is over, or will two opposites finally see that they had love all along?
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, Published: 2007
Fictionwise Release Date: January 2008
This eBook is part of the following series:
* * * *
15 Reader Ratings:
"I LOVE EVE ASHBURY!!! Falling for You takes the reader on a trip, from total frustration with Jake, empathy for Dana and finally the satisfaction of a romance that delivers. I definitely Joyfully Recommend Falling for You for readers who are looking for story that will leave you smiling and hunting for the other books in Ms. Ashbury's One Hot Summer series along with her equally tempting historical romances while holding your breath waiting for the next offering from Eve Ashbury!"--A Joyfully Reviewed Recommended Read!, Melissa, Joyfully Reviewed
Dana had a lunch appointment with Rain. They were going shopping for baby things for Charlie who was due in April. Rain's house, and Beau and Charlie's, were only a mile apart from the old farmhouse where Jake lived. The odds of her running into Jake were high. But she'd made it through the past months when holidays required both families to gather, and nobody had yet caught on. Though Rain and Charlie realized she felt attraction to Jake, Dana was sure no one knew it had gone further than that deep attraction.
She'd been aware that her cousin Mason, who was Uncle James Aldrich's son by his second wife Janet, was sexually involved with Rain again. But in spite of finally having Eli here several days a week, he was in a dark, brooding mood these days and spending less time at the center and more time out of town.
But caught up as she was in her own drama, Dana was having a hard time keeping up her own I'm always okay act.
She had filled her life with work too; work at the center, starting a drama project at unity hall to give the kids a creative outlet, and consulting on a book with the town editor, Mr. Moffat on the Van Divers. Dana was also finishing up a picture book with Mr. Moffat's wife, Betsy, featuring some of the old mills and beautiful landscape in the county. To the outside it looked like the free spirit was finally becoming focused and making something of herself, something that measured up, finally, to the dignified Van Diver legacy.
"How are you feeling, Rain? You don't look so good," Dana asked Rain as they drove to the mall later in the week. Under the weather a few months back, Dana thought Rain looked as frazzled as Mason. She'd called and asked her bluntly if she was pregnant, after Charlie had called concerned about Rain's bouts of sickness. Admittedly, that 4th of July picnic and the confession that her son belonged to Mason had certainly put Rain's life in a tailspin. But Dana had thought that Rain and Mason had worked all of that out now.
"I've had some headaches." Rain shrugged, merging onto the main highway. "You know how things can get at the farm. We're getting ready to start spring planting and I..."
"What's up with you and Mason?" Dana cut in gently, noting Rain's attractive profile and seeing the tension around her red lips.
"I don't know," Rain admitted in a voice that was tired and strained. "You know how Mason is. He doesn't communicate his real feelings. He keeps me so damned confused..." Rain shoved her hand through her shoulder length dark hair. "It's been a hellish year, what with Zane. And even though Elijah and Mason are developing a bond, I feel like I can't get my balance sometimes."
Later, when they had shopped and were in the food court, Rain eyed her searchingly. "It has been a tough year, but you don't look well either, Dana."
"Work." Dana laughed, faking dry humor. "I had no idea when I confided in you and Charlie that I wanted to start this drama thing at the center and consult on the books, how hectic life would get."
"You regret it now?"
"No. I enjoy it actually. I've learned a lot, and the center has linked up with drama teachers from all over. The kids are so hyped about it. Most of them will never afford college, and the ones who have dropped out of school missed out on everything. In spite of people thinking they're dead beats, they like giving back to the community, even if it's just entertainment."
"The book is coming along?"
Dana wiped her mouth on a napkin and put the food cartons on a tray. "Yep. Mr. Moffat did the bulk of the research years ago. All I did was go through the family stuff at the house. I've also nearly finished taking all the photos for Mrs. Moffat's book. She's doing all the writing." Dana shrugged.
After looking at her a long time, Rain shook her head saying, "Jake's a fool."
Dana laughed and then got up to toss her trash. "Let's not go there. He's grieving for someone he deeply loved."
But when Rain dropped her off later, Rain had leaned out the window and said, "Even men that strong have fears, Dana. Sometimes I think Jake is hiding behind his grief."
Dana shrugged again. "Whatever it is, it's not something I can change." But she'd cried for a few hours after she'd gone to the carriage house and wrapped the gifts for Charlie. She'd cried because her head was filled with memories so real she could re-live them vividly, and if that was what Jake felt for Naomi after all these years ... Dana knew there was no hope for her. Oh God, she thought, I've made the same mistake as always. Only this time, with a man like Jake Jessup, it was harder to laugh it off, pretend to get over it. * * * *
Dana returned home from the center a few days later and walked into the big house to raid the fridge. Dressed in Levi's and sweatshirt, she saw a distraught Mason sitting at the counter. He looked like hell, his usual handsome face marred by worry lines.
"What's wrong?" Dana felt her stomach tighten in anxiety.
"It's Rain. She's been taken to the hospital. Eli is upstairs," he muttered tensely, shoving his hands through his blond and brown streaked hair. "He found her lying on the floor. I'm waiting for Charlie to call. I don't know what the hell is going on." He shuddered. "I've got to find out what's going on."
"I'll go the hospital." Dana grabbed up her keys and purse, her own fear surging because she'd just known something was wrong with Rain. The woman had looked pale and wan.
"Please call and let me know?" His green eyes were stark. "Eli's in shock. Jake and everyone were there ... Eli called me at the center, he thought she was dead, and when I got there ... I've got to stay with Eli."
"Okay. I'll call as soon as I know something." Dana dashed out to the convertible and jumped in. Speeding to the hospital, she saw a state trooper eyeing her, so she flipped her blinkers on.
When she arrived, Charlie was in the emergency waiting room filling out papers. Dana said, "Call Mason as soon as you know something." Then she'd hugged her. Charlie was crying and trying to get the information down.
"I did, "Charlie looked up, "though I'm pissed at him. He's broken Rain's heart these past months. He's been working at the farm and coming to see Eli, but he's shut her out."
"Mason is dealing with a lot of shit we don't even know about yet," Dana told her. "I wish he'd admit he obviously loves her too, but something is haunting Mason. God only knows what Uncle James put him through."
"She's been sick ... just collapsed in the fields a few weeks back. Today, it looks like she fell and hit her head on a chair. But she hadn't been well for sometime, not sleeping and eating well either." Charlie got a tissue and blew her nose, then said, "She was unconscious and there was blood. Poor Eli--it scared him so bad. It scared us all."
"Where are Beau and Jake?"
"Outside the treatment room."
Charlie was dialing Mason, so Dana found the treatment room. It was noisy in the hospital; people were lined up all along the walls. She went to Beau who still had his straw cowboy hat on and work jeans and denim shirt. Aware that Jake was a foot away, dressed much the same, she took Beau's hand and focused on him instead.
"How is she?"
"We don't know," he retorted in that southern drawl, "They're getting a room ready. The doc wants some tests started. They don't think it's the head wound that's keeping her out." His sky blue eyes were filled with worry. "She's been sick on and off."
"I know. She kept brushing it off."
He hugged her. "You don't look so hot yourself, Red"
"Work." She smiled stiffly, aware of Jake more than ever. "What can I do?"
His eyes darkened. "You make sure Mason takes care of Eli and..."
"He loves his son, Beau."
That handsome face hardened. "Pardon my bluntness Red, but he was sleeping with Rain, knowing damn good and well that she's got feelings for him. How many damn times are we supposed to overlook the fact? He comes into her life and she's left hurting? He got her pregnant at seventeen and split..."
"Beau--you know he wanted to raise Eli. She wouldn't let him."
"Right now, I'm just feeling a lot of doubt about that," Beau muttered and glanced at the door. "He was staying over there. He's working at the farm part time, in between going out of town to work. He told me they were dating, that he was making money so he could offer her something. Then, just like that ... he's dropped Rain."
"There are probably reasons for it." Dana shook her head. "Mason has a lot in his past." God, she'd had no idea Rain and Mason were already having problems.
Beau muttered, "I know that. But that's my sister in there..."
"Then talk to him man to man, Beau, please. There's been so many misunderstandings and so much pain this past year. Give him a chance to explain. Mason never had a decent father or a close friend. Maybe he needs to talk to you."
Beau looked down at the floor. "My concern is Rain right now."
Dana nodded and hugged him again. She stepped back, finally looking at Jake who had been silently watching and listening. "I'll wait around 'till she's put in a room."
Jake nodded, his eyes obviously going over her, lingering a moment longer on her face.
Dana went back to Charlie, who had told Mason what she knew of Rain's condition. But in moments the men were signaling them to the elevator.
Dana was allowed see Rain for a moment before she left the hospital. There were tests being done and blood being drawn, but the picture of the woman, now pale, breathing too shallow and with stitches in her head, upset Dana as she drove home. She sat in the car and cried some, wondering if the Jessups and Van Divers would ever just be allowed some happiness? Pulling herself together, she got out of the car, before going inside to see what she could do to help with Eli.
She really loved the kid, even before she knew he was Mason's. Elijah looked twelve instead of eight, a smaller shadow of his father, except his hair wasn't blond and brown streaked like Mason's. It was a bit darker. Still, he had the handsome Aldrich looks.
Dana heard the child crying and tapped on the door. Elijah didn't reply. She walked into the room Mason had fixed up for him with sports themes. It had a dormer window and used to be Charlie's old room. In the stately, formal house, it was now kid friendly and more comfortable for a boy his age.
"Hey, buddy." She sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed his back. "It's going to be okay. Your mom is going to be fine." She pat him gently. "You want to talk some?"
He yanked the pillow over his head, turning away from her.
Usually he was a high-energy kid who had role models like Jake and Beau to mold him into a well-rounded child. He loved the farm and recently had become close to Mason. His reaction worried Dana. She watched sobs shake his sturdy frame. He wore baggy Levi's and a jersey and his sneakers were untied. It was easy with his size to forget he was just a little kid.
He had changed Mason's life. She knew that now. Mason used to be wild, restless, always in leather, wearing motorcycle boots, with shoulder length hair. And to her memory, he'd rarely smiled. His hair was to his nape now, cut in a way that fell in his eyes sometimes, Brad Pitt style Rain had once said. He was tanned and muscular, still had a tattoo of a black cross and full moon on his upper arm. He'd told Charlie he'd had it put there at sixteen when Uncle James' thugs had beat him, and left him in a graveyard outside of town. He had another low on his abdomen she'd not seen all of.
As she sat there comforting the boy, Dana reflected that she and Charlie knew he'd done a stint in the marines, that he'd drifted in and out of town for years. One of those trips had made Eli. But his past was a murky shadow to most people. Dana realized they all had things they hadn't talked about in spite of the life they were building here.
Dana tried to talk to the boy again, but he wasn't responding. Not wanting to upset him further, she went downstairs and found Mason cooking Eli something to eat.
"He's pretty shook up."
"He thinks she's dead. Charlie said there was blood everywhere." He cleared his throat and said gruffly, "I think he blames me."
Mason put the pasta bowl on a tray. "I don't know." He rested his hands flat on the table a moment. "I've really screwed up. I've screwed everything up."
Dana touched his back. "What happened? You were obviously sleeping with her recently. You know Rain isn't the kind of woman you..."
Mason cut her off tightly. "I know. I know all of that. We've always had this chemistry. I just ... I can't give her what she needs, Dana. I can't. I've ... hurt us both."
"Is this about the past?"
He swallowed and nodded. But then he laughed coldly saying, "Dad really did win, didn't he? Even from the grave that bastard won't let go of me."
"No. Dammit, no," Dana said softly. "Look, Mason. I think you love her. But can any of us know what that is? Charlie does now. But hell, all of our lives were a mess. Maybe because of the mess we were raised in, we can't express our feelings or trust people. Probably that's more truth than we want to admit, but Rain is strong and beautiful and she obviously feels very deeply for you. Try and push past the panic. Not just for Eli, but for you and Rain."
"I can't reach him. He's..."
"Keep trying. Once she's awake, he'll see she's okay. He's in shock, finding her lying there, bleeding. For an eight-year-old, that's scary."
He picked up the tray, half talking to himself. "She's got to be okay. I can hardly think ... I have to take care of Eli."
Dana swallowed thickly, witnessing his guilt and torn emotions. "Everything will be okay," she said before he went up the stairs.
But it wasn't. Elijah withdrew further, and Dana found herself at the center more often, so that Mason could stay with his son. Between that and running to the hospital, she was tired and feeling pretty damn helpless. She watched Mason go through hell too, calling the hospital, trying to get Eli to talk to him.
He'd contacted the school, but even in the second week after the accident Eli wasn't better. He was eating, although he stayed in his room. Dana tried to reach him too, after a drive home from the hospital. Although, as soon as she told him no, Rain wasn't awake--the doctors were doing tests though--the kid went back into his shell.
Mason called one of the tutors to arrange for himself to home school for now so that Eli wouldn't fall behind in class. Eli sat up in the window and ignored him. At his wits end, Mason asked Dana to stay home and watch him and then went to the center, to catch up on his work with fundraisers. After a particularly bad day, he called and told Dana he was going to the hospital ... to try and see Rain. Dana was working in the home office when she received the call and checked on Eli. She called Charlie and discovered that Jake and Beau were at the hospital with Rain. She sat there, staring at the computer screen, her stomach tense because she hoped that Mason and Rain's brothers didn't get into a confrontation. She knew that between the wedding and working at the farm, Mason had developed a relationship with them. But they'd been the main guardians of Rain and Eli for so long that their instinct was to resent the way Mason had come into Rain's life again and upset it. They were protective of them both.
Sighing she clicked on the Jessup farms homepage. Their picture was there. She looked at it a long time, marveling that the Aldrich-Jessup connection had become so entangled and complex again.
Uncle James, Charlie and Mason's father, had been a corrupt mayor who had lured Jake Jessup Sr. into his trap. The man had died in the state pen after getting busted for transporting illegal drugs in his produce trucks. Jake Sr.'s wife having abandoned him, his troubles had left two sons and a daughter to face the town and try and survive.
Her uncle James, however, had been working his poison from the moment he had snagged a Van diver wife. He'd blackmailed his wife's sister, Bonnie when his first wife, Bridgette, died five years after the wedding. He'd wanted another Van Diver wife to keep up his front for the town and link his new money image to an old and established family.
He'd slept with Dana's mom, Bonnie, and arranged for her dad to catch them. But Bonnie hated him--Dana's dad never forgave Bonnie nor took an interest in his daughter.
Mason's mother was a nurse who'd been brought in to care for Bonnie after the abortion from that affair she'd had with James. The irony of that was, that Mason, who'd been passed off as a stepson after he'd married Janet when Bonnie left--was actually his biological child too. The women, the drugs, prostitution, the cons that James Aldrich worked, had come to a head and caught up with him. He'd blown his brains out in an old hotel on the other side of the tracks. And left Charlie who'd never known her privileged life was financed by dirty money, nor what her suave and handsome father really was--numb and devastated.
Charlie had hopped on a plane to California and made the mistake of marrying a man as arrogant and as cold as James.
Mason, who'd always hated James, had vanished back then and drifted.
Dana herself had only come to visit the cousins a few summers. But she'd searched and found Charlie in California, just in time to help her through the divorce from hell. And Mason had suddenly summoned them here to Laurel Vayle ... to the town he felt they deserved to live in--not under James's evil shadow, but in the Van Diver roots that were still deeply respected. She and Charlie had both taken the Van Diver name again, in hopes of helping themselves and the town forget the ugly scandals.
Charlie and the laid back Beau Jessup had overcome that ugly past to some extent, and fallen in love. However, Beau had wed and divorced young too, and had an ex wife from hell. In the past year his ex, Rain's boyfriend Zane Cooper, and a farmhand had finally been arrested for kidnapping Charlie and planning to murder Beau for the insurance money. The couple had gone through three trials, a custody case, and all the residual anger the town felt over the little princess who'd gone to her private schools and lived in the fancy house. Little realizing that Charlie had no real love or affection, and that finding her entire life wasn't real, was a lie, had devastated her.
Beau and Charlie had almost lost each other, in the mess, almost let the past steal their future; however, they defied the odds and had come out of it stronger and more sure of what they felt for each other. They were lucky, extremely fortunate considering the past and what Beau's ex had put them through.
Now that Dana knew Rain and Mason had some similar link through Eli, she hated to see them tearing each other apart. She hated to see two such wonderful people so afraid to feel. But she understood it, considering they had a lifetime of lies, deceptions, and playing roles they had no choice in. She knew personally it wasn't so easy to just lay yourself open to someone who had that much of a hold on your heart, and healing the hurts, clearing up long misunderstandings, trying to change, it just didn't happen overnight. A relationship like theirs was complex and both were learning what love and trust and being vulnerable meant. * * * *
Jake Jessup's mind was wandering. He had a clear flashback of the conversation he'd had with Rain out at Jessup Lake. She'd been asking him about the nightmare's he'd always had of Naomi.
"Do you still have dreams about it?"
He glanced at her. "The wreck?"
"Sometimes." He turned and stared at the lake. "Not like before, when I was always running through the rain, trying to pull her out. They're different now."
"In what way?"
His cheek muscle twitched. "She's always walking away from me, down that highway. The rain is blinding ... and I keep screaming at her. She turns and looks at me and then just walks away ... No matter how fast I run. I can't get any closer."
Rain leaned against his sun-warmed shoulder. "I think there's a message in that, don't you?"
He touched her cheek. "I don't know. I don't want to know somehow."
"Was she your first lover?"
"No. She was the only woman I loved." He sighed and dropped his hand, and they set their poles aside. He lay back, resting his arm over his eyes.
"You're a good man, Jake."
He laughed humorlessly and put his other hand on his flat stomach. "That's what everyone thinks and says, isn't it, Rain? Jake's a good man, salt of the earth. Jake's a frigging saint."
"People can't help but respect you. And be awed too, by your love for Naomi, even though she's gone."
He sucked in a long breath and said, ragged, "I've been sleeping with Dana."
Rain husked, "You're a flesh and blood man. You're both adults."
He made a sound in his throat. "You don't understand."
As he sat up suddenly she offered, "Why don't you tell me then?"
He shook his head. "It's all wrong. Wrong reasons and time and feelings, and it's just--wrong."
He could feel her staring at his rigid profile.
"Dana needs you, Jake. She's never felt wanted or loved or special."
He cussed and looked away, hiding his face from her. "That's why it's wrong for her too, Rain." He rasped, "She deserves more than being used." He got up and walked away, going down the path in the woods.
Now Jake was outside the door of Rain's room. He felt as hollow as Mason Aldrich looked, walking toward him. He'd looked in the mirror this morning and seen the dark circles under his eyes; he slept in his clothing for too many days.
"How is she?" Mason's voice sounded rough.
"They're still doing tests." Jake nodded toward the door. "Right now they're just dealing with what symptoms we knew about. God only knows what Rain kept from us."
Jake pushed away from the wall and led him to a sitting area. "The GYN is in there. They think she might have had some ovarian cysts. The main Doc, though, said she's suffered weight loss and shows signs of dehydration. We told them how long she's been sick ... He said right now the only guess is complete fatigue. That the CAT scan came back okay and maybe her body is just exhausted. She's not slept..." He was rattling, tired.
Mason leaned his elbows on his knees and looked at the floor. "I told her," he rasped.
Jake waited a second, knowing what the man meant. It had been difficult for him and Beau to hear the facts. Those thugs of James's had not only beat Mason, they had sexually violated him at sixteen. It hadn't been easy to keep that from Rain either while she was hurting, trying to understand the man. Even knowing Mason was Rain's first and vise versa, didn't make it any easier to watch his sister fall apart over him again.
He rumbled, "I guessed that. But I never thought you'd hurt her the way you did. What the hell was that all about?"
Mason looked up. "I couldn't give her what she needed."
"Are we talking money?"
"That yes. But not really." Mason looked back down and rubbed his face. "Rain's been through a lot. Not having her mother and dealing with your Dad and ... She needs more from a relationship than I have to offer."
Jake's laugh was harsh and cold. "What a frigging cop out."
Mason took the blow silently.
Jake grit low, "You should have thought of that when you were getting in her pants again." He got up and left, struggling not to say more.
He stepped out an exit and leaned against the building. Eyes closed, he wrestled with the guilt of knowing his own treatment of Dana was no better. It was months ago, but knowing about her rough past and knowing that Charlie said that men never knew what they had in her cousin, that they left her just like her Dad had, rejected her like her mom had ... It made the guilt multifaceted. And he'd been her friend since she'd shown up with Charlie on the farm that first time, but he'd been so used to burying himself with Naomi that he hadn't set out to feel anything more.
They'd spent hours talking, riding, and just being around each other because of the family connection. And somewhere along the way he'd started seeing more to Dana.
That damned party hadn't helped. He'd blamed it on the drinking for only a few days. However, he'd watched her move and dance, seen that tattoo and provocative naval ring when she and Charlie were acting up. And he'd lusted. Jake had felt six years of suppressed hungers just gather and explode in him.
When he'd taken her to his bed the night of the wedding he'd unleashed a mindless sort of aggression, honestly surprised when she'd more than matched him in it.
But every time after, for three weeks, he'd sit and hold Naomi's picture and feel a sense of culpability, and yes, uncertainty, and anger at himself. He'd belonged to Naomi for so long that he'd experienced the guilt of a betrayer.
Not only that, Jake had to face the fact that he was using Dana to appease natural desires he'd cut off when his fiancée had died. He knew he had to end it, because being aware of everything about Dana, respecting and liking her, he'd been unwilling to play that role in her life.
Though he couldn't undo the damage, he could stop himself from hurting her too, just like the others who had used her.
They were, by the marriage of Charlie and Beau, and the intricacy of Rain and Mason's ties ... family. They would be around each other often. Jake didn't even pretend that the past holidays had been easy. They hadn't been. He did respond to her physically. But the more she got in his head, the more Naomi walked away from him in his dreams.
He'd been a bastard for losing control and sleeping with Dana. He'd once had his chance at love and dreams, and lost it. Hurting her wasn't going to wipe that out.
Jake walked back inside, standing close enough to hear Beau say to Mason, "We've all got a chip on our shoulder, Aldrich. Your issues are justified. But you've had them long enough to have known what you could and couldn't have with Rain." He paused. "She's my baby sister. The only time I ever felt more helpless was when she was young and in this hospital going through twenty hours of hell, to have Eli ... your son."
Beau's smile was wintry. "Screw that, Mason," he drawled deep. "You knew what the hell you were doing. You knew it when you wanted in Eli's life."
He stood and looked at Mason. "You got that boy loving you now. So you damn well better not let him down. You'd better dig deep and find what he needs to be okay." He looked away, then back. "You were a selfish bastard this time. You've got no excuse for that." He walked past his brother.
Jake went back to the room and they both allowed Mason in when he came to the door. They stepped out, exchanging a look as it closed. Mason was in there a fairly long time. When the nurses came in, Mason came and stood outside the door, his back to Beau and Jake who were standing on either side of it.
Mason was close to the opposite wall when his knees buckled and he pressed his head into the hard plaster. He began to weep; somehow both men knew he wasn't aware of falling apart, but the sound of hurting and fear and remorse, the genuine depth of his feelings poured out in deep sobs.
Mason wasn't conscious that Jake and Beau warded the nurse off as she'd started to go to him. He didn't know that they looked at each other, then away, because his hoarse, deep sobs tore at their own gut. Jake saw Beau close his eyes and lean his head back against the wall. He himself knew what it meant for a man like that to fall apart anywhere, let alone in a hospital hallway. Jake swallowed and watched Mason put a hand to the wall and get to his feet. He shuddered then turned and walked out.
Beau said, "He loves her."
"Yes." Jake nodded and stared at his brother. "I think he always has. But then we know what she doesn't about his past, and that's a hard thing for any man to get over."
"I guess we were pretty rough on him."
"We were. But what happened to him isn't what he is, Beau. He's ten times the man his Daddy was. I know he's screwed up over the shit James put him through. But if he loves Rain, it's got to be stronger than anything."
Beau's light blue eyes were pensive, and then he murmured, "We all have our hell, don't we? I'm lucky that I have Charlie in my life. I just hope Mason realizes that Rain loves him--no matter what happened to him."
Jake agreed. "Rain is strong and I've never seen anyone able to hurt her the way his breaking up with her has."
"I'll talk to him." Beau sighed. "I guess you and me take a lot for granted being brothers and friends."
Jake smiled and shrugged. "You're an asshole sometimes, but I tolerate you."
Beau laughed. "Yeah, and you're serious as a preacher more often than not. But I tolerate that too."
They grinned and went to get coffee. Jake said he'd stay the night with Rain so Beau could be with Charlie. * * * *
Jake fell asleep after muting the T.V. His dreams were of Naomi. He half jumped sometime later and his hat went tumbling to the floor. He stood up so fast he almost tripped. Then his brown eyes were searching Rain's. He said, "Rain ... Rain. Did you speak to me?"
"Yes." She smiled. "My throat is sore."
"Here." He switched on a low florescent light and helped her sip water.
She said when finished, "I fell?"
"You had some cyst removed from your ovaries."
"And dehydration and fatigue and the doc says an ulcer."
Rain laughed weakly. "And stitches in my head ... I felt that much."
"They're out now." He touched her cheek. "Rain ... You've had a physical collapse, even though you hit your head. You've not eat or slept right in months. And likely all your life, the doc said, you've not handled stress properly."
Rain frowned. "No duh ... I wonder if doc thinks he's brilliant for figuring that out."
"It's no joke, Rain. You've actually become like a workaholic over the years. Doc said when you recover, you've got to see a massage therapist and learn how to relax."
"A Jessup?" Rain laughed softly. "We relax by working." She covered his hand. "How's Eli?"
"He's okay now. He's been torn up, worried."
Jake said, "Doc did all kinds of tests on you. He said you likely were depressed, but because you got sick and run down, it sort of got out of your control. He said people could get used to not sleeping and eating until it feels normal to them. Until the body gives out and finds its own way to rest."
"So ... when can I go home?"
Jake snorted. He kissed her brow. "Get better and eat and rest. I'm going out to tell the nurse you're awake. I'm going to call Eli too."
The nurses came after that, checking her vitals and bringing her an iced soda she asked for. Rain got the same from Dana, and a huge bouquet of flowers.
Jake noticed Dana talked to everyone, but only smiled at him, saying in her flippant and joking voice that he needed a shave and sleep. He found himself searching those dark gold eyes for condemnation and resentment. But Dana was her usual upbeat and friendly self. He didn't know why ... it didn't make him feel relieved. * * * *
Rain had a consultation with a nutritionist who loaded her up with pamphlets. She was released the following morning. Jake drove. He'd had a talk with Mason too. Mason told them he was going to Rain's house with Eli and cooking her dinner. He was going to look after her until they had a chance to do some talking. Besides that, Eli was still worried. Apparently he'd come around once Rain was awake. But Mason told Jake and Beau he felt they both needed to reassure the boy.
Since Rain was a grown woman and on her way to mending, both brothers agreed to let her handle Mason's offer her way. Now that they were sure Mason loved her. They knew only talking and time would fix whatever happened between them. Not that they were easy on Mason They pretty much told him he'd have to win Rain's heart all over again this time. It was likely that after being hurt, he'd have his work cut out for him, too.
Jake was with the others as they stood in the drive at Rain's and watched her swoop Eli off the steps and hug him. Once she'd gone inside, Jake and Beau and Charlie headed home. Jake did the evening feeding and checked with the workers on the planting progress. He worked until sundown and looked far down the road to see that Mason's truck was still at Rain's.