Title: Goodbye Guy
A Cocky Hero Club Novel
Author: Jodi Watters
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Dana Lamothe, Designs by Dana
Release Date: January 24, 2021
He’s back. Jameson Maine.
The boy I used to love.
The man I love to hate. Hate like it’s a hobby. Like it’s my job.
Ironic, since love is my profession.
But with the passage of time, I’ve finally healed. Repaired the broken parts his betrayal shattered inside me, and silenced the haunting memories of what he took from me.
What he made me give up.
She’s still here. Chloe Morgan.
The girl I left behind.
The woman I can’t let go of. No matter how many miles. No matter how much time.
Annoying, since love is my nemesis.
But with the death of my father, I’m forced home. To finally face the ramshackle remains of my family’s estate, and the lying woman who broke my heart and ruined me for life.
Who’s ready to do so again.
Tears were shed, lies were spread, and secrets were kept that fateful summer ten years ago. But no longer. Now exposed, those skeletons rock our worlds all over again. But two things remain the same…
The doily was a voodoo doll in disguise.
It had him doing things he shouldn’t do. Thinking things he shouldn’t think.
Like grabbing take-out cheeseburgers.
Like researching Montauk dive shops.
Christ, she better have that bottle of bourbon handy because he needed some goddamn sense drilled into him. And since he was still within a hundred miles of Chloe Morgan, sense was nowhere to be found. That called for mind-altering substances.
If her nipples were showing, he was a goner.
“I’m only here to get my bourbon,” he announced by way of a greeting, spying her through the screen door of the carriage house.
Her back to him, she stood in the middle of the room, staring at the dresser. The empty wall above the dresser specifically, a lonely nail stuck in the center, missing the item it once held.
Lost in thought, he said her name twice before she jolted, whipping around.
“Geez!” A hand over her chest, she laughed self-consciously. “How long have you been standing there?”
Long enough to notice how sad you look. Inherently sad.
The same sadness he saw that late May day ten years ago, when she came knocking on the front door of Maine Lane with a sweet smile and a dozen congratulatory white chocolate cherry cupcakes in hand.
“Happy high school graduation,” she’d said shyly. And changed his life forever.
For the better, for sure.
Then the worse.
“Looking for this?” He held up the frame with one hand, a bag of food in the other.
Her mouth formed the cutest little O, then she laid her fingers over it.
Blue eyes wide and hopeful, she looked between the framed doily and his face as if piecing it all together.
“Wanna get the door for me?” For some ridiculous reason, letting himself in felt presumptuous.
Crazy, since this closed door had never stopped him before, locked or not. Crazy, since this house sat on property that was his birthright, absent or not.
But tonight, he needed her to invite him inside.
Allow him. Want him.
When she just stood there with those big, disbelieving eyes, too . . . hell, he didn’t know; too something to move, he questioned whether he should’ve fixed the frame or left it broken and walked away from the wreckage.
God knew he did it once before. And that exodus was a good reminder as to why he wasn’t welcome now.
“Chloe?” His voice as coaxing as he could make it, he spurred her into action. “Open the door, cupcake. Let me in.”
Because for the life of him, he couldn’t walk away.
“But . . .” She swallowed, a confused deer in the headlights. “It’s not broken anymore?”
It was a timid question, and one he knew didn’t completely refer to the doily. She was asking about a subject that required more bourbon than the bottle had left.
Something Jameson didn’t care to discuss.
“Your tape job looked like a pre-school art project. As the owner of East Hampton’s only hardware store, who else was gonna fix it? It was my civic duty.”
There. That kept the conversation present day.
“I figured it was you who took it. Who else would enter my home unannounced, and loot? I can’t figure out why, though.”
“Don’t bother asking because I don’t know the answer.”
Like their past, examining his motivations wasn’t on the agenda tonight. He wanted to drink his bourbon, eat his burger, and then leave her behind.
Shaking herself out of her haze, she opened the door, then stood back so he could enter.
“I can’t believe it,” she whispered with a ghost of a smile. It hit him right in the solar plexus. “Jameson, you, you fixed it.”
Now, that was a coaxing voice.
It could coax him out of his mind if he allowed it. Out of his misery. Out of his mission to not touch her.
Out of her mistake made so long ago.
“For my mom,” he lied.
Because old grudges were hard to let go.
Setting the bag of burgers on the counter, he hung the framed doily over the dresser, ensuring the corners were straight, his ego biting back the truth.
Yes, he fixed it for her.
He’d fix the fucking world for her. Almost died trying a few times, and not because he had a death wish, despite Easy Lee’s opinion. But because Jameson knew, despite their once-great love and now mutual hate, he would one day face her again. On this property. Possibly in this very house.
And demand the answers he had coming.
And he would damn well do it a worthy man. Not the boy she so easily walked away from as if he were unworthy.
Standing back, they admired the monogrammed doily together, a handmade lost art that somehow belonged in this tiny house constructed a hundred years ago. A rundown shack, by Genevieve’s standards.
This woman next to him, her bare arm brushing his while her sugary sweet scent surrounded him, did too. Belonged here at Maine Lane.
Once upon a time, he belonged here, too.
“Beautiful,” she whispered.
He nodded, but he wasn’t looking at the doily. He was looking at her.
“The art supply store didn’t have any mat-boards in yellow, so I chose ivory to replace it. You like it?”
Bridal veil was the technical color. And he didn’t appreciate the symbolism.
“No.” When she looked up at him, he saw gratitude in those baby blues. “I love it.”
Suddenly, despite seven perilous years of war to keep America safe, Jameson finally felt it.
Her lips quirked. “Did you suffer a traumatic brain injury in the Navy?”
And that spitfire sass of hers he liked—no, loved—was back.
“You’d think, wouldn’t you?”
“Not sure why else you’d give me such a wonderful gift after . . .” The rest of her sentence hung in the air, and she straightened her shoulders, preparing for an ugly comeback.
“Like I said before, don’t ask.” Then he nodded toward the bourbon still on the counter. “I could use some. How about you?”
Waving a metaphoric white flag—for the time being—he grabbed the booze.
Going green, she cupped her forehead and groaned sickly. “I’m never drinking again.”
He raised a doubtful brow and waited, finally adding, “That right?” Because there was more wine in her tiny kitchen than she had fingers.
“Except on holidays. Or my birthday. Or Mondays,” she clarified, grabbing bottles of water from the fridge. “Because Mondays are sooo hard.”
Her whine was endearing.
“Nobody likes a quitter,” he replied, and when she laughed, shaking her long hair away from her face, he sucked in a silent breath.
It was a gesture so innocently sexy it made his pulse pound.
“But in case you can’t trust yourself to lay off, I’ll pass too.” Setting the bourbon back on the counter, he grabbed the food and headed for the safety of the porch swing. A few feet farther away from the bed should he lose his ever-loving mind and make a move. Because, goddamn, was he tempted.
Bourbon would only weaken his resolve, and he wasn’t a guy who liked to fail.
“I hope you’re hungry. There’s a burger in here with your name on it,” he said, shaking the bag when she stared at him through the screen door, seeming surprised he wasn’t walking away.
He was surprised, too.
Romantic gestures like frame fixing and dinner bringing weren’t his thing. Honestly, he’d never had to work that hard with a woman. Hadn’t wanted to.
With Chloe he did. Back then, yes.
“How’d your thingamajig go?”
The question brought her outside. “My thingamajig? You mean the bridal shower?”
“I mean the thing where some fool paid you an exorbitant fee for a highly processed snack cake they could buy for a dollar out of a vending machine.”
She scoffed. “They’re gourmet muffins, and not highly processed but made from all organic ingredients, by a lovingly skilled hand. And she paid in full, so I’m happy as a clam.” Standing a foot away from him, her smile was feisty. “You don’t think my muffin’s worth it?”
“I’ve spent a decade wondering if the price I paid for it was worth it.” Because that cost was always there, in the forefront of his mind. Every day.
“Not laughing, cupcake.” Even now.
Even now, when he was distracted by her wholesome, cover-girl beauty. At first glance, one would never guess at her cruelty.
She wore cotton shorts and a thin T-shirt, nothing inherently sexy, but he could see the pattern of her lace bra through it—and her pretty pink nipples, if he relied on memory—but at least they were actual clothes and not a skimpy bedtime set meant to make his dick hard.
“Thanks for wearing a bra tonight.”
Yeah, her nipples were covered but good. The girl was quick on the uptake. Either that or she finally remembered his obsession with her breasts.
“You’re welcome,” she said, after a snort. “But you don’t have to worry I’ll attack you in a drunken fit of insanity tonight, or ever again. I made a promise to myself. No more nighttime stress baking until you leave.”
Until he left.
Something that should have happened already.
Handing him a bottle of water, she eyed the bag of take-out, the logo for a local cheeseburger joint printed on the front.
“If we keep feeding each other as an excuse to see one another, we’ll be morbidly obese in no time.”
He brushed off her insinuation, accurate or not. “I’m just being neighborly. And you haven’t fed me a damn thing. I’m the one doing all the sharing.”
Grinning, Chloe held up a finger, her nails painted the same red as her toes, and walked inside the carriage house.
Coming back a few seconds later, she held out both hands, offering him a small pink bakery box with a ribbon wrapped around it.
One from the stack of boxes on the table this morning.
“May I offer you, kind neighbor,” she teased, in a formal voice. “My muffin.”
He eyed it like a venomous snake.
“Oh, just take it,” she ordered, her sweetness replaced with sarcasm. “As my appreciation for the hangover goody bag. I woke up with a humdinger, but since you committed two crimes in the process, don’t take this as encouragement for bad behavior.”
He shrugged indifferently, taking the box. “Lock your door. The next guy might not be so nice.”
She snorted, disagreeing that he was nice. “Yeah, I saw what you did to a locked door.”
There was a bourbon-spiked banana chocolate muffin inside the box, but on the outside, a small piece of paper folded up and stuck under the ribbon.
I’m sorry I molested you in the kitchen. My lonely, needy muffin has no excuse—except that it’s lonely and needy. Please accept this delicious, value-priced muffin as an apology. Our muffin pain is real, but only one of us is available for consumption.
“One small caveat,” she said, pointing to the note after he read it. “I wrote that last night while I was still drunk, so any desperation you take away is the tequila talking.”
He tucked the paper back under the ribbon and set the box aside.
“Thank you. There’s nothing I’d like more than to eat that muffin. Like a monk coming off a year-long fast. That muffin hasn’t ever been eaten the way I would eat it.”
Shocked silent, she stared at him, a blush creeping up her cheeks. “Umm, what?”
Grabbing the greasy bag of lukewarm food, he tilted his head, indicating the open spot on the swing next to him. “Sit and eat. Don’t think.”
Pursing her lips, she contemplated his comment. Then sat.
My love for steamy romance began when I was in junior high. A friend and I noticed a dumpster of discarded paperbacks behind our local dime store. Covers missing and each book split down the spine, I scanned the pages for any love or lust words—and curse words, too. From that point on, I scoured the public library and the paperback racks at every store, reading anything labeled romance. I said a tearfully grateful goodbye to Judy Bloom, and Jackie Collins began ruling my world.
I live with my high school sweetheart husband in the desert Southwest. Awesome in the winter, not so much in the summer.
My life long goals are to think before I speak, smile more and swear less, and actually weigh what my driver’s license states I do.