Today, I have Char Chaffin, author and one of my favorite editors at Soul Mate Publishing. Her book, Jesse’s Girl, is one I don’t have to add to my To Be Read list, because I already read and enjoyed it immensely.
BLURB: Tim O’Malley returns to his home town of Skitter Lake, Ohio, to clear his name and get the girl: Dorothy Whitaker, the love of his life since eighth grade. Blamed for a destructive fire he didn’t set, only Tim and Dorothy know the truth; that Jesse Prescott, Tim’s best friend and Dorothy’s boyfriend, did the deed that changed an entire town. But Jesse died in that tragedy and seven years later, Skitter Lake still honors him as a hero, rather than Tim, the boy from the seedy side of town whose father was a drunk . . . and whose quick actions saved six people from perishing in that horrendous fire.
In trying to set the record straight and finally claim Dorothy as his own, Tim—and Dorothy, too—will discover that in some small towns the legend often outweighs the truth . . . and their family and friends will forever see Dorothy as “Jesse’s girl.”
Now the need to lock Dorothy in a tight embrace, and never let go, overwhelmed him. He would have picked her up and carried her to his car, then driven her all the way back to Los Angeles just to get her away from a life he instinctively knew made her miserable. Tim remembered her folks. Wilma Whitaker had been a difficult woman when she was healthy and relatively happy. He couldn’t imagine how losing Dorothy’s dad would have twisted Wilma up inside.
He must have squeezed too tightly, because Dorothy let out a breathy gasp and wriggled until he loosened his arms. She stepped backward with a blush and downcast eyes. “I really do have to go, Tim.” She raised her head and all the longing he’d already been experiencing, all the need, was plain to see on her lovely face, for about half a second.
Then, her expression shuttered, she picked up her purse from the battered nightstand next to the bed where she’d laid it, and moved toward the door. Tim followed, unsure what to say even though a hundred different lines crowded his head. Stay with me. Get to know me, again. Love me, the way I never stopped loving you.
They remained locked behind his compressed lips as he escorted her to the door and wished the last seven years had never happened.
In the open doorway she formed a smile that fell short of her eyes. “I’m glad we got to spend a little time together, Tim.” She slipped her arms around his waist for a quicksilver hug, then stepped back before he could reciprocate. “Please give your folks my best when you get back home.”
Tim flicked his eyes up to hers, then over her face, prettier than ever and without a speck of makeup. Her silky, red-blonde hair, combed back in its usual ponytail, was so unlike the current style he’d seen not only in California but here in Skitter Lake. Her dress wouldn’t have been out of place at the sock hops he remembered from twelfth grade. It was almost as if Dorothy Whitaker had frozen herself in time.
And he suddenly knew he wouldn’t be leaving at the end of the week. He’d stick around and see what was what. For Dorothy, and maybe even for Jesse.
Slowly, Tim reached out and clasped her fingers, then her wrist. Before he could talk himself out of it, he yanked her into his arms, up against his body, catching the back of her head, right below her ponytail. As her lips parted to speak, protest, whatever, he covered them with a kiss that spun out of control the instant it began. He wound an arm around her waist to anchor her tightly, but she’d already thrust her hands into his hair as she kissed him back. Tim groaned into her mouth and felt it echo back to him in the whimper she uttered that throbbed in the scant space between them.
For what seemed like an eternity, he kissed her, deep, then slow, then fast, greedy, pouring years of want and desire into a single, perfect moment. If he’d ever kissed another woman like this, he couldn’t remember. He deepened the kiss even more, and felt her fingers fist reflexively in his hair. He didn’t care if she ripped it out by the handfuls, as long as she never let go.
And as if she’d somehow heard his thoughts, she stiffened, opened her fists, slapped her hands on his chest, and pushed until he released her lips. Rosy red and swollen, they quivered as she stared up at him with shock in her eyes. She pushed again, a silent demand for him to let her go. It about killed him, but he loosened his arms and stepped back.
Silently, Tim bent to pick up the purse she’d dropped, and gave it to her. As her fingers closed over the pale yellow leather, she whispered, “Why?”
He managed—barely—to keep his hands to himself as he replied, “Because I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying. And when I do leave, Dorothy, you’ll be coming with me.”