Love Me Like This
The Morrisons, Book 3
Jan 24, 2018
Taylor had always been long and lean, with warm brown eyes and a cheerful smile. But he could swear she’d never had curves like these in college. And her mouth hadn’t been so full, either, had it? Or her gaze so full of innate sensuality?
He swallowed hard, belatedly realizing he was standing there staring at her like an idiot. He’d planned what he was going to say during the drive, but none of his grand apologies sounded right anymore.
“Taylor.” He couldn’t keep the emotion from his voice as he said her name. “It’s been way too long.”
The next thing he knew, she was running into his arms and he was holding her the way he’d secretly dreamed of for the past five years. Longer than that—since the first time he’d set eyes on her during freshman year at Stanford.
“Justin.” She drew back just enough to look into his eyes. “I’m so glad you’re here.” Then she pulled him close and rested her cheek on his chest. “Promise me we won’t ever go that long again without seeing each other, without talking to each other.”
He’d been an idiot to go dark on her in Germany. Just as he’d been a fool to assume that things would be awkward between them now, that their conversations would be stilted, that there would be lingering guilt or blame.
He should have known that Taylor would only ever welcome him with open arms, no matter how badly he’d screwed up. She’d always been forgiving, ready to see the best in people.
When she stepped back, her cheeks were flushed, and he was pretty sure he’d never seen her look more beautiful than she did standing in the Napa Valley sunlight, surrounded by flowers. It struck him how right she looked. More right, he suddenly realized, than she’d ever looked on campus or inside a chemistry lab.
“So this place is yours now?”
She grinned as she turned to take in the Victorian building, painted a cheery yellow with purple trim. “It sure is.” He could see how proud she was, and he wanted to tell her how proud he was of her too. He could only guess at the work she must have put in to make the B&B look so sparkly and welcoming. “I can’t tell you how fun it is that you’re my first guest.” She cleared her throat and asked in an officious way, “May I help you with your bags, sir?”
He laughed, glad for the easy emotion. He hadn’t laughed much these past years, not the way he used to whenever the two of them were together. “I’ll grab my things from the car later. How about a quick tour before the rest of your guests show up?”
“Tonight it’s just you and a family of four, so hopefully we’ll get some time to catch up. I’ll show you around the house first, and then we can head out into the backyard.”
He reached to grab her hand, a touch that was instantly electric, at least for him. There was so much he had to apologize for, but first he needed her to know, “I was sorry to hear about your grandfather.”
Her face fell, and she gripped his hand tightly. “I really miss him. And I still can’t believe he left his home to me.”
“He knew how much you loved it.”
“I really do. Even more now that I’ve had these past few months to make it mine.”
He hadn’t yet let go of her hand, couldn’t quite bring himself to break contact. “Why didn’t you tell me about him? And your new career?”
A guilty look crossed her face. “Last we talked, you were on the verge of a big breakthrough in the lab. I figured I’d tell you about everything when you came up for air. And with Drew and Ashley’s wedding, I knew I’d at least see you there.”
He ran a hand through his hair, feeling like a complete ass. She wasn’t the one who should be looking guilty, he was. “I’m sorry I’ve been such a bad friend.” All because their one drunken kiss hadn’t turned into the happy-ever-after he’d been hoping for. “I have no excuse for the way I’ve behaved since leaving the country. I should have made more of an effort.”
“Stop it.” She might look like a ray of sunshine, but she could be surprisingly firm. “I won’t let you beat yourself up for doing such important work. You’re on the verge of curing breast cancer. That’s more important than helping me figure out the best paint color for my B&B.”
He wasn’t surprised that she didn’t want to hear his apologies. She’d never been one to hold a grudge—if she had, maybe she would have dumped Boring Bruce one of the many times he’d disappointed her. Justin hated knowing that he was no better than her boyfriend.
Which was why he made himself say, “Much as I wish I was actually curing cancer, I’m not quite there yet. My research is just one piece of the puzzle.”
“A really big, important piece.”
“What you’re doing is important too, Taylor. Your grandfather’s legacy is living on because of you. And,” he added with a grin, “the purple paint looks great with the yellow.”
“Thank you.” She beamed at him as if he’d just given her the greatest compliment ever. “I just made chocolate chip cookies, if you’re hungry after your drive.”
His mouth was already watering as he asked, “Double chunk?”
“I wouldn’t make them any other way.”
How he didn’t kiss her then, he had no idea.
Somehow, he kept his mouth off hers as they headed up the porch steps and she pointed out the fountain she’d installed in the garden, along with new floorboards on the porch and new sashes in all of the windows.
“You did all of this by yourself?” He’d always loved working with his hands—his father had passed on his love of woodworking to Justin when he was just a little kid. This would have been a heck of a great project.
“I never knew I had any of it in me until I got here,” she said as they walked into the bright and welcoming entry. “Never even held a hammer before. At first, I was really intimidated by each new thing I needed to learn, but along the way, I realized that as long as I don’t give up, I can do almost anything I set my mind to.”
“Of course you can.” He’d known that about her all along. The only thing he was surprised by was that she hadn’t known it too, until she’d decided to open the B&B.
She gave him another radiant smile, then picked up a tray of cookies sitting on a table by the front window and held it out to him. The sound that came out of his mouth as he bit into one would have been embarrassing if he’d made it in front of anyone but Taylor. “Thisissoogood.” He shoved the rest of the cookie into his mouth while he was still talking, already reaching for another.
She laughed, looking delighted as she watched him gorge on the cookies. “Do you have any idea how much I’ve missed you? If you’re not careful, I might not let you get back on that plane to Germany next week.”
His chest ached at the thought of leaving her.
His vow not to fall head over heels in love with her again hadn’t lasted even ten minutes.
Excerpt from Love Me Like This: The Morrisons #3, copyright 2018, Bella Andre…