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Book 10.5 in the Gansett Island Series
Chance for Love is a USA Today and IndieReader bestseller!
Billionaire Jared James has everything a man could ever want except for the one thing money can’t buy…
After forty days holed up in his house on Gansett Island nursing a broken heart, Jared James decides enough is enough. Determined to snap out of the funk he slipped into after his girlfriend refused his marriage proposal, Jared organizes a party for the friends who’ve seen him through the worst of his heartache. Now if only he could stop thinking about the love of his life and how he will survive the rest of his days without her…
She was Elisabeth all her life until Jared made her his Lizzie…
Elisabeth “Lizzie” Sutter knows she has no business chasing Jared after she turned down his lovely, heartfelt marriage proposal in a moment of sheer panic. It didn’t take long for her to realize how foolish she’d been. Now all she can do is hope it’s not too late to set things right with the one man she can’t live without…
We got to know Jared in Time for Love, when David and Daisy befriended David’s elusive landlord who’d come to the island seeking refuge after a bad breakup. We saw him again in Meant for Love, when he reconnected with Wharton classmate Jenny Wilks. Readers were eager to know more about the woman who’d broken Jared’s heart, and they wanted to know what I had in store for him. The more I thought about his story, the more I realized what I needed to do. I hope you’ll enjoy this brief visit with some Gansett Island friends as well as the introduction of a new couple. 25,000 words
It’s high time to end the pity party. That was the thought Jared James woke up with on the fortieth day after the love of his life turned down his marriage proposal.
On that Friday morning in late July, Jared woke to the sound of seagulls and surf pounding against the rocks that abutted his property on Gansett Island—and to this somewhat major development in the midst of his retreat from real life. As he did every morning, he thought of his girlfriend, Elisabeth—“with an S,” she always said. His ex-girlfriend now…
He’d called her Lizzie, a nickname she’d always hated until he decided she was his Lizzie. Over time, he’d convinced her she loved the nickname as much as she loved him. As he had every day since it all went so bad, he thought of the night he’d taken her to a rooftop restaurant in Manhattan, which had been reserved just for them. He recalled his carefully planned proposal and the look of utter shock and dismay on her face when she realized what he was asking.
She’d shaken her head, which meant no in every language he spoke. She actually said no. That was the part he still couldn’t believe more than a month later. He hadn’t seen that coming. It hadn’t occurred to him for a second that she’d say no. When he’d gotten down on one knee, he’d pictured an entirely different outcome. He’d imagined a tearful acceptance, kissing and hugging and dancing.
There’d been champagne chilling for the celebration that hadn’t happened. He’d had the company Learjet waiting at Teterboro to whisk her off to Paris for a romantic long weekend. She’d always wanted to go there, and he was set to make all her dreams come true, starting with that one.
She’d said no.
He hadn’t heard much of what she said after she shook her head in reply to his heartfelt question. The movement of her head in a negative direction had hit him like a fist to the gut. There’d been tears, not the happy kind he’d hoped for, but rather the grief-stricken sort, the kind that come when everything that could go wrong did. He knew about those tears. He’d shed a lot of them over the last five weeks.
In all his thirty-eight years, he’d never shed a tear over a woman until he’d finally given his heart to one, only to see it crushed to smithereens after the best year of his life. He had vague memories of standing up, of staring at her tearstained face as she continued to shake her head and tried to make him understand.
But he hadn’t heard a word she said. It was all noise that refused to permeate the fog that had infiltrated his brain. He’d walked away and taken a cab to the garage where he kept his car. He’d driven for hours to get the first ferry of the morning to the home he’d bought on Gansett Island a couple of years ago and had barely seen since. He’d been too busy to spend time on the island.
Now he had nothing but time after taking an indefinite leave of absence from work.
Lizzie had called him a couple of times since that night, but he hadn’t taken her calls. What did it matter now? What could she possibly say that would make a difference? He’d erased her voice-mail messages without listening to them. The last thing he needed was to hear her voice and be set back to day one when he’d honestly wondered if he was going to be able to continue breathing without her.
Yeah, he was a mess, and he was sick to death of being a mess. He was sick to death of himself. He got up and pulled on shorts and a tank, shoved his feet into an old pair of Nikes and headed out to run on the beach, something he’d done nearly every day he’d been here. What the hell good was owning waterfront property if you didn’t take advantage of the chance to run on the beach?
He hadn’t taken the time to appreciate most of the perks of making a billion dollars before his thirty-fifth birthday. He’d been too busy making more money to enjoy what he’d already accomplished. Those days were over, too. In the weeks he’d spent on Gansett, he’d been able to breathe for the first time in longer than he could remember. Without the constant pressure of work, work and more work, he’d discovered he had absolutely no life away from work.
He didn’t have a single hobby, and he didn’t have many friends who weren’t affiliated in some way with his job. His clients were among his closest friends. How screwed up was that? Lizzie had been the exception. He’d met her at a benefit for the homeless shelter she ran for women and children in crisis. One of the guys from work had talked him into sponsoring the event, which was how he’d ended up in a monkey suit on a Wednesday evening, working the ballroom in the Ritz-Carlton at Central Park.
If he lived forever, Jared would never forget the first time he saw her. He’d been talking with some friends, guys he knew from the financial rat race, while his gaze swept the room and landed on her. She’d worn black—slinky, sexy black—that showed off her subtle curves.
However, her curves, as captivating as they’d been, hadn’t been the thing that made him walk away from a conversation mid-sentence. No, it had been her smile and the way it lit up her entire face that had him making his way across the crowded room, like a magnet drawn to the most precious of metals.
“Why am I thinking about that?” he asked himself as he pounded his footprints into the sand. “I’m done thinking about her, reliving every minute I spent with her. It’s over, and it’s time to accept that and stop acting like a pussy-whipped, pathetic, ridiculous fool. She doesn’t want you. Plenty of others do.”
Except… He didn’t want anyone else. He’d never wanted anyone the way he wanted her, and it was going to take a lot more than forty days for the yearning to subside. Still, that didn’t mean he had to walk around like a lovesick dickwad in the meantime.
He barely noticed the gorgeous scenery that unfolded before him as he hit the mile mark and turned back, a plan forming as he went. He’d invite some people over for dinner. They’d have a cookout like normal people did this time of year. David and Daisy would come, and he’d ask Jenny Wilks and her fiancé, Alex Martinez. He’d tell them to bring others who’d like a free steak and a couple of beers.
People, he thought. That’s what he needed. David and Daisy had been exceptionally good friends to him, dragging him along on many a date night and letting him be their official third wheel. The least he could do was make them dinner to thank them for their extraordinary compassion as he nursed his broken heart.
He came to a halt at the stairs that led to his house, bent at the waist to catch his breath and then walked slowly up the stairs and across the lawn, past the inground pool he’d never used. A guy came out from the mainland every week to tend to it. Perhaps it was time someone actually swam in the crystal-clear water he paid a small fortune to maintain.
Grasping the hem of his tank, he brought it up to wipe the sweat off his face. When he let the shirt drop, he noticed David coming down the stairs from the garage apartment.
“Off to save some lives, Doc?” Jared asked his friend, who was dressed in khakis and a blue dress shirt—or what Daisy called his doctor uniform.
“You know it,” David said, his face lifting into the engaging grin that had become familiar to Jared in the last few weeks.
“Hey, so why don’t you and Daisy come for a cookout tonight? You can take a swim and have a steak. If you want to.”
David eyed him skeptically. “Who’s cooking?”
“I am,” Jared said indignantly. “I’m not totally useless.”
Laughing, David said, “No comment. Daisy will want to know what we can bring.”
“You don’t have to bring anything.”
“That won’t fly with her. How about a salad?”
“Sure.” Jared had come to know Daisy well in the last few weeks and recognized defeat when he saw it. “Sounds good.”
“Great. What time?”
“Six thirty?” That sounded like a good time for a cookout, didn’t it?
“We’ll be here.”
“If there’s anyone else you want to bring, feel free.”
“Maybe I’ll ask Victoria at the clinic. She’s fun.”
“Not a fix-up, right?”
David tossed his head back and laughed. “Hardly. She’s hot and heavy with an Irishman.”
“Tell her to bring him.”
“I’ll do that.” David gave him a perusing look. “You seem better.”
“I think it’s more that I’m sick of feeling like shit. That gets old after a while.”
“Yes, it does.”
David had shared what he’d gone through after he’d screwed up his relationship with his fiancée and then had to sit on the sidelines and watch while she married someone else.
“Does it ever stop hurting like hell?” Jared asked.
Hands on his hips, Jared nodded. “Good to know. See you tonight?”
“We’ll be there. Thanks for the invite.”
“Thanks for everything. You and Daisy have been… You’ve been great. Really great.”
“I’m glad to finally get to know the guy I’ve been sending my rent checks to all this time,” David said with a smile as he headed for his car with a wave from Jared.
Clinging to the upbeat attitude he’d woken with, Jared went to the outdoor shower to rinse off the sweat and sand. He’d owned the house for three years but hadn’t discovered the outdoor shower until he’d arrived earlier in the summer.
“I need to remember how to enjoy life,” he muttered as he stood under the cool water and looked up at the bright sunshine. Other than the incredible time he’d spent with Lizzie, he’d given everything he had to his work for so long he’d forgotten the simple pleasure of an early morning run on the beach. It was quite possible that he’d never get over losing Lizzie, but there was no sense in letting what remained of his life be ruined by her rejection.
He’d recently reconnected with Jenny Wilks, a woman he’d known at UPenn’s Wharton School where he’d studied for his MBA. Jenny had lost her fiancé, Toby, who Jared had also known at Penn, in the 9/11 attacks on New York City. The reminder of Toby’s untimely death made Jared feel guilty for spending glorious summer days grieving for a woman who clearly didn’t love him as much as he’d loved her.
Jared sat on a lounge chair by the pool and let the warm sun dry him as he plotted his day. First stop, grocery store. Second stop, liquor store. When was the last time he’d been anywhere near a grocery or liquor store? He couldn’t recall. In the city, he had a household staff who took care of such things for him. Here on the island, his cleaning lady started bringing groceries with her when she realized he wasn’t eating much of anything as he nursed his broken heart.
“Enough with being a pathetic loser.” He got up to go get dressed and head out on his errands. He had a party to get ready for.
On the way into town, Jared’s attention was drawn to an Open House sign outside the Chesterfield Estate, which he’d read about in the Gansett Gazette. The twenty-acre parcel had been for sale for quite some time, and he had to admit he was curious, especially after hearing Alex and Jenny talk about it.
Since he had all day before his guests were due to arrive, he decided to indulge the curiosity and pulled down the long driveway that led to the enormous stone house on the Atlantic coast.
Jared had seen some incredible houses in his time, had been a guest at some of the most exceptional seaside homes in the Hamptons, but he’d never seen anything quite like this one. A blonde woman dressed in a sharp black suit worked the door. Jared noticed she took a quick look at him, dressed in faded cargo shorts and an old polo shirt, and dismissed him on first glance.
Part of him wanted to tell her he could buy the estate a thousand times over if he so desired, but he resisted the urge to brag and took the brochure that she handed to him.
“Make yourself at home,” she said with a tight, disinterested smile.
“Thank you.” Jared had the house to himself as he wandered through spacious, airy rooms. In the brochure, he noted that Harold Chesterfield, an oilman, had built the summer house in 1932 as a surprise for his bride, Esther, who had died a couple of years ago. A black-and-white photo of the happy couple tugged at Jared’s broken heart.
When he thought about all the things he could’ve given his beloved Lizzie… Except she’d never wanted such things from him. Her discomfort with his affluence and fondness for the finer things in life had been the only source of discontent in what had been an otherwise blissful relationship. He’d wanted to give her everything, to shower her in diamonds and whisk her away to places she’d only dreamed of visiting.
Over and over again, however, she’d told him she didn’t want those things. She wanted him but had no interest in his extravagant lifestyle. The one comment that had permeated the fog after the proposal-gone-wrong had haunted him ever since: “I can’t live like you do. I just can’t.”
“Why are you thinking about her again?” Jared muttered to himself. He’d be a raving lunatic by the time he finally emerged from his self-imposed exile. That was what she’d reduced him to.
As he walked through one incredible room after another, an idea occurred to him and solidified when he reached the grand staircase in the center of the magnificent house.
“Are you finding everything all right?” the frosty blonde asked when she found him in the drawing room, staring at the brochure like he gave a damn about the Chesterfields and their “storybook” romance.
“What’s the asking price?” It was the one thing he couldn’t find anywhere in the literature.
“It’s listed at fifteen nine.”
Jared wondered how Jenny and Alex would feel about getting married here. They’d lamented that nothing was available on short notice for a wedding this summer. Ironic, right, to be thinking about another couple’s wedding when he’d expected to be planning his own. You’re not thinking about that…
“Would they take fourteen five?”
The blonde’s mouth fell open in shock and then closed just as quickly when she recovered her composure. “And you are?”
“Oh! Mr. James! I didn’t recognize you! I’m so sorry. I’m Doro Chase, representing the Chesterfields’ heirs.”
Jared shook her hand but only because she’d thrust it practically into his chest in her excitement.
“I can’t believe I didn’t recognize you!”
“Anyway, about the offer… Are your clients willing to negotiate?”
“I’m sure they’d be willing to entertain your offer. I’d be happy to discuss it with them if you’re serious.”
Jared took in the view of the ocean, the sweeping stairway, the incredible woodwork, the huge rooms, the hardwood floors. The place called to the businessman in him and filled him with the kind of enthusiasm he hadn’t felt in weeks. “I’m serious.”
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