Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Paige Parker thinks she has everything figured out. Even though her heart is broken, she manages to find love again, and she’s sure this time it’s for keeps.
Between planning her wedding and working on garments for her upcoming debut fashion show, Paige is overwhelmed. When her fiancé, Henry, suggests a couple months away from the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple to focus, she is thrilled to use the opportunity to reconnect with her best friend, Emmie.
Paige heads to Texas, ready to spend some quality time with Emmie and her baby girl, Olivia. When she arrives, she is shocked to find herself face-to-face with Christian Bennett, the man who broke her heart.
She finds herself confused. Is she truly over her first love? Is she making a mistake marrying Henry? Paige follows her heart, but this may be the most painful decision she ever makes. It leaves her wondering if true love is possible ONLY IN DREAMS.
*This book contains mature situations as well as some mature language.
**While this book is part of the Stubborn Love series it is not required to read Stubborn Love to appreciate Only In Dreams. Each book can be read as a stand alone or as part of the series.
Check out a sneak peak of the book!
I LOOK AT the clock again. I’m not sure what secrets I expect it to reveal. I’ve looked at it at least a hundred times in the last hour. 3:46 AM. Next, I look at my phone. This has become my ritual this evening. I have somehow become the girl I swore I would never be—the one waiting at home for the phone to ring.
When Christian and I moved in together three months ago, I thought the things that had been haunting him would somehow disappear. But, if anything, he has gotten worse. Even Emmie knows something is wrong. Though she does her best not to flaunt her and Colin’s love fest in my face, I can’t help but look at them and be reminded of all the things that are wrong between Christian and myself.
I’ve tried talking to him about his behavior. I tell him I can see that he’s hurting; this approach only makes him angry. I know he’s been drinking again, but every time I try and discuss it, he tells me to quit mothering him. Christ, I’m twenty-two years old. I shouldn’t have to worry about this stuff. Yet here I am. I look back at the clock. Damn it Christian, where are you?
The most horrible and terrifying things a person can imagine have been going through my mind. I’ve tried calling his cell several times, but now the mailbox is full. I mean, come on, a full mailbox? He would be furious if I treated him this way. When my agent called me earlier today and told me about an opportunity in Paris to model I turned him down flat. But now, with each passing minute that Christian disrespects me, without so much as a call, I am reconsidering my choice.
I love him; I know that much. And I used to be pretty sure he loved me. All of my model friends float from guy to guy and can’t seem to understand what Christian and I have. It just doesn’t make sense to them. Of course, it’s not making very much sense to me either right now.
My mom was always in competition with me. First, with my dad, she would do everything she could to make sure he saw me as worthless. Eventually he couldn’t stand being around her anymore. That was when she tried to use me as a weapon against him. I never blamed him, or maybe it was just that I no longer cared enough anymore about either of them to give a damn. But when my mom started making fun of me and telling all her boyfriends what a loser I was, I decided I wanted to be anywhere except in her house.
Then Christian walked into to my life. I wasn’t looking for a man to rescue me; I was never that kind of girl. No, the great thing about him was that he was just as messed up and broken from the death of his parents, but somehow, we made sense together. At first we partied, and then when Christian realized after graduation that he didn’t seem to know when to stop drinking, we simply fell into our next phase of life together. We could go out with all our friends, and because we had each other, Christian never needed to get wasted. He just liked being near me.
I’m not kidding myself. For the most part, I know he has always been about himself. He likes to look good, he likes to hang out with a certain crowd and attend the important events. When life gets to be too much you can find him at the gym, working on his massive muscles. Even Colin, his brother, is constantly teasing him about his man-scaping. But even though he likes himself a lot, he’s always managed to make me feel important and loved … until now.
I know if I could just get through to him, figure out what’s causing all of these feelings he has been having, I could help him. But … I hear the key in the lock. I shift in my seat multiple times, unsure how I should handle this confrontation. My heart begins to race. Without thinking, I leap from the chair I am perched in and flop onto the couch, laying down with my eyes closed.
What am I doing? I think. Am I really going to pretend like I’m asleep? Apparently so.
I hear the door open, and Christian grunts as he fumbles with the lock, trying to remove his keys. Once the door is closed I listen for the lock to latch, but it doesn’t happen. Instead I hear footsteps stumbling toward me—dragging across the floor. From the smell assaults my senses, I can tell he is extremely intoxicated.
I wait silently, assuming he’s now staring at me, but I can’t be sure. It’s too late not to continue with the charade. Then I hear more footsteps, and the bedroom door bash into the wall. Quickly I sit up and turn around, watching Christian stumble into the guest room. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Why on Earth would he be going in there?
I’ve had enough of the game. I want answers. I deserve answers. I hop to my feet and rush across the living room, poking my head in through the doorway Christian passed through moments ago. He is passed out, still fully dressed, including his shoes. Lying sideways across the bed, drool leaks from his mouth.
“Seriously?” is the only thing I can think to say. I want to cry; I want to throw things at him, and scream horrible things at him. But I don’t do that. The last time I cried was when my dad left, and I decided nobody would ever get to see me do that again.
Christian mumbles an inaudible response, which then trails off into a snore.
“Christian? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” I try again, but I know he won’t be waking up. Our talk will have to wait until morning. Unfortunately, sleep won’t come as easily for me.
THE HOURS TICK by, and just as I suspected I’ve been unable to sleep. I lay in our bed at first, my face growing hot with anger. Then I clean, but I hate cleaning, so that doesn’t last long. I think about calling Emmie around six o’clock, but that seems whiney and desperate. Not to mention the fact that I know most of what I tell Emmie she will tell Colin. If Colin knows Christian is getting wasted every night, it will start a huge fight between them, just giving him more ammo to use against me.
No, this is my problem, and I need to deal with it. By seven, I have come to the conclusion that maybe Christian isn’t taking me seriously. I am always happy to clean up his messes, and it seems that he is well aware of it. Maybe now what he needs is some tough love. Maybe he needs to know I’m not going to be taken for granted anymore.
I waffle on this decision for sometime—I’m not one for idle threats—and before I make the ultimatum, I need to be certain I’ll follow through. Poking my head into the guest bedroom one last time is all it takes. The room smells like a distillery. I realize now I love him enough to leave.
Packing my suitcase is harder than I thought it would be. I keep telling myself, he won’t let you leave, seeing your packed bags will be enough. Going through the drawers, one by one, folding up my favorite thrift store treasures or photo shoot take home items, my mind drifts to Emmie.
She was a wreck when I met her. She didn’t have any friends and was clearly suffering when it came to her fashion sense. I was the one who encouraged her to see how things would turn out with Colin. I was the example of happiness … wasn’t I? How did I end up here? I missed my last two modeling jobs because Christian needed one thing or another. Now my agent had warned me that the calls would stop coming if I didn’t start putting my best foot forward.
I gather the essential hair and makeup products I cannot live without and strategically place my suitcases against the wall, so that Christian will see them first thing when he wakes up. Then I wait, and wait, until I refuse to wait any longer.
Grabbing a wad of cash and my keys, I shove them into the pockets of my jumper and head to Ninth Street Espresso to grab a coffee. After a night of no sleep I need it, especially if I am going to have anything left in me for the shit storm that I know is going to happen when I get home. I keep having these moments where I think perhaps I’m overreacting, but as I recall the recent months, I quickly dismiss these notions.
“Hey Bill,” I grumble as I approach the counter.
“Paige, where’s Christian this fine morning?”
I debate how to answer. Christian and Colin are the owners of the space the coffee shop rents. While a huge part of me wants to unload on Bill and tell him exactly where Christian is, and exactly what my boyfriend can do to himself, I worry how this might affect their business relationship.
“Sleeping in.” I decide to play it safe.
“Boy, he’s got it rough, doesn’t he?” Bill laughs. I feign a smile as I watch him prepare my latte.
“New tat?” I inquire, trying not to think about my good-for-nothing sloth of a boyfriend who is still passed out at home.
“How can you possibly notice that? Besides my girlfriend, you’re the only one,” Bill marvels, handing me my cup. Bill has tattooed sleeves on both arms; it is something I always take notice of while he makes my drinks. I’ve always been fascinated with body art—tattoos being a permanent fashion statement.
I pull out the wad of bills from my pocket, even though I already know Bill is going to wave me off. “On the house,” he says.
I couldn’t explain it to him. I had been taking free coffee from this place for as long as I could remember. And until today it was merely one of the perks of dating an owner of the building, but now, it feels dirty. I am so angry at Christian, the free coffee perk has become an unimaginable sin.
“No, I insist, you always give me freebies. I think we should start a policy where I at least pay for one out of a hundred,” I joke, shoving the money further onto the counter.
“Your money is no good here, you know that,” Bill replies lifting his hands up into the air.
Grabbing the wadded up bills, I drop them into the tip jar and walk out, flashing a smile over my shoulder. Bill is nice; it is too bad his landlord is such a dick head.
The walk home is the longest walk I have ever taken. I’m more than fine if it takes me the rest of the morning to get home. But, even with dragging my feet, a short fifteen minutes later, here I am, staring at the front door of my building.
I really do love this place, the ivy has begun to climb across the brick, and I am so thrilled I convinced Colin not to cut it back. The window boxes are overflowing with the springtime flowers I recently planted. As I fiddle with the keys, small rays of sunshine filter through the leaves of the big oak tree that is bursting from the seams of the green space on the sidewalk.
This place is home—one of the few places in my life that I feel like nobody can take away from me. Now that Christian and I live together, we can never undo the choice. He owns the building, so if anyone is going to move out, it is going to be me.
I shake my head, trying to force the idea out of my mind. There is no way it is going to come to that, I remind myself. Even if I left for a few days, Christian will realize how miserable he is without me, and I will be back—back in his arms. And not the arms of the guy passed out in the guest room. I’ll be back with my Christian, the one I fell in love with as a teen.
I climb the stairs and enter the apartment. Looking around, I quickly realize Christian still isn’t awake. I huff and push the wild strands of hair out of my face. I’ve waited long enough. This needs to happen.
Stepping into the guest room, I clear my throat, loudly. Christian lay in the exact same position as the night before, clearly undisturbed by my presence. Angrily, I rush over to his oversized, beefy body and give him multiple shoves. “Wake up. You need to wake up, now!”
“Huh,” he says with a snort, wiping the drool gathering on his cheek with the back of his hand. “What’s going on?”
He seems startled. He lifts his eyes, and squinting, tries to block out the light more with his hand.
“We need to talk,” I say coolly.
I watch as he rolls his eyes and flops back down onto the bed, clearly disgusted I woke him. “Can’t this wait?” he moans.
“It has waited, all morning,” I reply firmly.
“Paige, I’m serious, I feel like shit.”
“That’s not my fault.”
“Jesus! I said not right now.”
“Don’t you dare raise your voice to me,” I command, completely in shock that he would have the nerve to talk to me that way after putting me through hell last night. “For all I knew you were dead last night.”
“I left my phone in Pete’s car,” Christian defends himself, not bothering to lift his head.
The answer does not appease me, only further infuriating me. “Pete Hannigan? The loser you said you were never going to see again, because all he does is hang out with a bunch of roadie losers at Kings and get drunk all the time? That Pete?”
“Yeah, that Pete!” Christian shouts, suddenly sitting up and glaring at me. I watch as he clutches his head, the sudden adjustment to his body and light obviously causing an intense pain. I’m not too ashamed to admit, I kind of feel he has it coming.
“What’s going on with you?” I beg, fighting the urge to rush up and start shaking him wildly.
“Nothing,” he grunts, standing and pushing past me to make his way into the bathroom. I walk into the living room, taking a seat on the chair that faces the door. He will have to look at me when he comes out. He will have to give me the answers I deserve.
I hear the flush, then a few seconds later he emerges from the doorway. He doesn’t look at me, though. He makes his way to the kitchen sink and sticks his head under the faucet. After a good soaking, he lifts up, and while dripping water all over the floor, proceeds to question, “Where are the migraine pills?”
“Basket on the top of the fridge,” I answer. I don’t even know why. I have all this anger and fight inside of me, but all of the sudden I feel incredibly overwhelmed with sadness. He really doesn’t care if I am upset. Perhaps I’ve been fooling myself about who he really is. As a girl I would watch my mom date these slime balls who would use her up until they were done and then throw her away. My stomach sinks as the idea I am exactly the same as her hits me.
“It’s like a fucking jackhammer in my skull,” he moans as he fidgets with the childproof cap, growing angrier.
I can’t explain exactly what clicks for me in that moment. I stand and glide into the kitchen casually, grabbing the bottle from his hands, and pop the lid off with ease. I deal out a dose, replace the lid, and turn to pick up my bags.
“Where are you going?” he asks, noticing the luggage for the first time.
“I’m leaving,” I say and make my way to the door, but before I can get there, he takes hold of my arm.
“Where? A job?” I can see it in his eyes. He knows what is happening as much as I do, but his voice almost sounds hopeful it really is just a modeling job.
“Yeah,” I reply. I don’t intend on taking the job in Paris, but when he asks me the question, the reply just slips out.
“When will you be back?” he inquires, his eyes shifting from my bags and then to my face repeatedly.
“I’m not coming back,” I answer, a sigh of relief passing my lips. This isn’t at all how I had expected the talk to go. I planned to complain and tell him how miserable I am. I would demand he change, or I would move out. But standing at the door, this isn’t the tone at all. Christian is the kind of broken that I can’t fix—he needs to fix himself.
“What the hell do you mean?” He is clearly becoming agitated very quickly.
“You know this has been coming for a long time. You need help, and I hope you get it, but I can’t sit here and watch you self-destruct. I love you too much for that. I can feel the rush of emotions building up, but I know this goodbye can’t be emotional, or it will scar both of us more than we can handle.
“Are you fucking kidding me? I party too hard with the boys, I don’t check in, and you’re done.”
“I don’t want to hear it, Paige. I’m sick of the drama. Get out then, if you’re leaving, just leave,” Christian snaps before turning his back to me.
I’ve never felt two such conflicting emotions at the same time. Part of me can see he is hurting. I want to scoop him up into my arms, pull him in close, and make it better. But then there is another part of me that loud and clear is telling myself, you deserve more than your mom and dad, you deserve more than him.
And then it happens, I says the words, “Goodbye, Christian.” The door closes behind me, my first love on one side, the rest of my life on the other.
About Wendy Owens
When she’s not writing, this dog lover can be found spending time with her tech geek husband, their three amazing kids, and two pups, lovingly nicknamed stinks and chubbs. She also loves to cook and is a film fanatic.