Just Give Me a Reason
Rebecca Rogers Maher follows up Rolling in the Deep with a sexy and deeply emotional short novel in which unexpected desire leads to surprise beginnings.
Tony Lopez is losing it. Burdened by a broken marriage and a failing business, the divorced father of two young daughters isn’t on his A game when he meets Beth. She’s clearly pregnant and defiantly single: a beautiful, graceful vision that lights a fire somewhere deep beneath Tony’s layers of self-doubt. They connect at his brother’s upstate New York home during a weekend among friends. Except friends don’t feel this kind of chemistry—or want each other so bad it hurts.
Beth Cody has no use for ties that bind. She’s witnessed that kind of wrecking ball. The father of her child isn’t in the picture, and she couldn’t be happier. So when Tony sends her already raging hormones off the chart with his rugged good looks and pent-up sexuality, Beth is thrilled to indulge in a short-term affair, with no strings attached. But one taste isn’t enough. Now that she’s out of her comfort zone, Beth either needs to let go or take a chance on a man who might just be worthy of her love.
Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Rogers Maher
Praise for Just Give Me a Reason — coming soon!
I make a playlist for every book I write. Selecting and organizing songs helps me clarify who my characters are, how they feel, what they struggle with and what they need. Here’s the soundtrack to Just Give Me a Reason. Enjoy!
1. Precious, Depeche Mode
2. (For a While) I Couldn’t Play My Guitar Like a Man, Freeman
3. Use Me, Bill Withers
4. I Had Me a Girl, The Civil Wars
5. Someone Else?, Queensryche
6. Just Give Me a Reason (feat. Nate Ruess), P!nk
7. ‘Til I Whisper You Something, Sinead O’Connor
8. Tony’s Theme, Pixies
Excerpt from Just Give Me a Reason
As soon as the car is parked, the girls unbuckle their seatbelts and run squealing into the house. All the way up from the city, they’ve been hatching a detailed plan involving fairies, knights, and the dusty old attic of their aunt Holly’s new house. I believe Holly’s puppy is featured, too, in some sort of dragon capacity. It’s hard to keep up sometimes, with Ana and Sofia.
A year ago, my brother was a cook at a diner in Queens. Now he’s living in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, practically moved in with a woman who might soon be his wife. It doesn’t hurt that they won the lottery together six months ago and are now filthy rich. Their whole, perfect lives are spread out before them.
And I’m happy for them. I really am.
It’s just that sometimes I have a little trouble adjusting. Once upon a time, I was the success story, striving like hell for the life my parents wanted for me. The life my mother left Mexico for, that my father worked double shifts in construction for. That he eventually died for.
I had that life for a while—a wife, two kids, a nice home, a thriving business. Until it all started crumbling, and I couldn’t react fast enough to keep the pieces together.
Ana comes bounding out of the house now, the dog at her heels, shrieking delightedly. Sofia soon follows with a water sprayer, soaking wet and out for vengeance. I look at my watch and chuckle. It took about five minutes for trouble to find them.
I know I should go in, but I’m not quite ready to face Ray and Holly. Or Holly’s friend, for that matter, who might already be here.
I met Beth only once, five months ago, and once was almost more than I could handle. It wasn’t long after I signed my divorce papers. Ray and Holly invited us both out to dinner to celebrate their lottery win.
She was wearing a red dress, and the reason I remember that is because of the way it hugged her skin—the lush shape of her, the curve and weight. I’d say it was shallow of me to notice her body, but honestly, I didn’t choose to notice. It was like some previously silent homing device woke up in my gut and started shivering.
When Ray introduced us, she reached out and shook my hand. Her fingers wrapped around mine—firm and warm—and I’m ashamed to say my first thought was how those fingers would feel on my dick.
I wouldn’t call myself uptight, but I’m not usually the kind of person who veers off the road like that, mentally. I took my seat at the table, kept my head down, and said as little as possible while Ray and Holly talked animatedly about their plans for the restaurant.
Beth cracked deadpan jokes and tried to include me in the conversation. She might even have been flirting with me, but I was so shell-shocked, I had no idea how to respond. She was too beautiful, and I was too broken.
On the whole, it was not my finest hour.
I peer through the windshield at the front windows of Holly’s house. It’s past time I went in and faced everyone. I take a deep breath and reach for the door handle.
And my phone buzzes in my jacket pocket.
I fumble it out, glancing guiltily at the house.
Ray and Holly give me grief about accepting work calls up here. They complain that I work too much, but that’s easy for them to say when, combined, they’re worth over a hundred million dollars. I answer the phone.
“Hey, Jackie. Everything okay?”
A Stevie Wonder song filters down the line, which is no surprise. My store manager favors a certain 70s Pandora station, and she’s not shy about dancing to it.
“Oh yeah, all good, boss. Quiet. Just wanted to see if I should maybe close early like we did last week.”
Like we’ve done for the past several weeks, she’s too polite to say. When it was Saturday night and the store was so dead it wasn’t worth the electricity to keep it open.
“How quiet are we talking?” I ask her.
She hesitates, and Stevie fills in the silence with that song he wrote for his daughter. I breathe deeply so as not to listen too hard, because that song always puts a lump in my throat.
“Like, maybe two or three people in the last two hours.”
I sigh heavily.
The store’s neighborhood used to be diverse and working class, and it was no mystery how to provide for that population. We sold household merchandise out of a double storefront, and like all the other businesses on the block, we offered reasonable prices. The previous owner was Greek; I was Mexican and Italian. We both came from working-class families, and we knew the people who lived around us. Our neighbors were an old-school butcher who’d been there several decades and a cobbler who could turn an ancient pair of boots into a work of art. I worked there as a teenager for extra cash, and ten years and a business degree later, when the owner was ready to retire, I bought the place and took it over.
It was relatively simple until the neighborhood population changed. Since then, we’ve all been fighting to adjust, and some of us are failing. The butcher closed up shop three years ago—replaced by a chain store—and the cobbler is already planning his retirement. He can sell the store for seven figures now, and move out to Long Island with his grandchildren.
If I had been less distracted by the disintegration of my marriage, I might have come up with a plan of my own sooner—a strategy for reconfiguring the business, for acclimating to the shifting neighborhood. But by the time I had my head on straight, we were already sinking. For the last six months, I’ve been fighting like hell to rescue us, and every minute I’m not there I feel like I’m letting my employees down. They need their jobs as much as I need mine, and it’s not looking good for us at the moment.
I take another deep breath. “Go ahead and close up at six, okay, Jackie? Make sure you set the alarm.”
Copyright © 2015 by Rebecca Rogers Maher
Permission to reproduce text granted by Penguin Random House.