Ophelia’s gaze slammed to his, those dark-green eyes burning into her.
“Stop treating me like some guest. I know you’re pissed. And I know you’re lying to me about there not being room at the inn.”
She flinched but held her ground. How dare he? It wasn’t her responsibility to make things right. She refused to give over her safe haven to the man who had almost broken her.
Ophelia straightened up to her full height, unpinned her arms from her chest, and welcomed the prick of glorious, clean, hot anger heating her blood.
“Fine. You want to push? Want to know the truth? You’re right, Kyle. I have plenty of available rooms, but space has nothing to do with it. I don’t want you here.”
Pain flashed in his eyes, but she refused to let him affect her. Not this time.
“I can’t pretend to be best buds reunited while we drink beer and talk about the good old days. I’m not comfortable with you sleeping under my roof while you create another hot screenplay to make you more millions. Go back to California. Go back to your sun and fake smiles and cutthroat deals and your real life. Leave me my damn memories. How’s that for the truth?”
She waited for him to either turn and leave or pummel her with his own accusations. Instead, he laughed. The sound came out dry—it contained none of the joyful buoyancy she’d known so well.
He closed the distance between them, forcing her to lift her chin to keep his gaze. “There you are,” he murmured. His body practically crackled with heat and anticipation, like fur boots dragged over a carpet, ready to ignite a shock. “That’s the girl I remember. The one who looked at you straight and told you the truth whether you liked it or not. The one whose temper simmered beneath the surface and kept me off guard. God knows I’m starting to lose my instinct on what’s real or fake anymore.”
She refused to engage in memories of who they’d once been. He’d chosen to stay across the country and carve out a new life in Hollywood alone. Her voice dripped icicles. “Yes. Karma can be a real bitch. And don’t think you can pretend to be the cynical, rich screenwriter who suddenly tires of his plastic life and returns home to find himself again—along with his first love he hasn’t forgotten.” A touch of meanness flared inside. “Trust me, it’s been done to death. I’m hoping you’ll at least be original.”
“Maybe that’s what I’m really afraid of,” he said quietly. “That I’ve been kidding myself all along. That I’m really just a trope.”
He’d only been here a few moments and already she was choking on emotion. She wouldn’t allow him to torture her for the next few months. She might not live through it.
“Go home, Kyle.”
“I know I hurt you. We hurt each other. Together, we’re a tangled mess. I have no right to ask this of you, but I am. I have a screenplay I need to write and I have to do it here, surrounded by the memories of my childhood and what it means to return home. And you’re part of it, Ophelia. I need to sequester myself from the world and see if I can really do this thing, or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life.”
She gritted her teeth against the anguish. His regrets would always revolve around his career, but she had no right to feel bad about it. She was only part of his past. They may have loved each other once, but he hadn’t come back to make amends. His reasons were purely selfish. At least now she knew the rules so there would be no false expectations. She despised the brief disappointment she felt but swore she’d never let him tip her off balance again.
“You can stay at another B & B or hotel. Go to Mohonk Mountain House.” The popular resort attracted visitors from all over for its gorgeous views of the mountains, shimmering lake, and endless activities set around the giant, rustic lodge.
“It’s too commercial and crowded. The nearest B & B or hotel is almost an hour away. It won’t work.” He half closed his eyes, as if fighting to try and explain it right. “I need to be near Ethan and the farm. I’ve never felt safer anywhere in my life than this inn, where your mother cooked for me and made me feel like family. Where I found my best friend and my first love.”
She couldn’t help the grunt that escaped her lips.
He forged on, his voice a touch pleading. “Somehow, I’ve lost a part of me along the way. I stopped writing.” He lifted his hands up. “I’ve been blocked for almost a year now, and I know if I can stay here this winter to connect with my past and write this script, I can get my life back. I’m asking to stay.”
His final words exploded in the air like fire and dissipated slowly like smoke. After eight years, he was at her doorstep. He needed her help. She’d dreamed of this day, but it usually occurred in a fantasy where she looked really hot and wore spiked heels and tossed her hair over her shoulder in dismissal while he begged for forgiveness for letting her go.
Instead, he stood in her home with his fancy boots and briefcase and requested to spend the winter so he could write the script of his dreams. Then he’d return to Hollywood in restored glory, leaving her without a backward glance.
Ophelia dragged in a breath. Then another. Soon, calm radiated from her core, soothing the rough edges and the wicked emotional roller coaster he always took her on.
“I understand,” she said.
Relief skittered over his features. His shoulders relaxed, and a slow smile curved those luscious lips that used to plunder hers with such sweet, spicy passion. “Thank you, Ophelia. I cannot tell you how grateful I am. Where can I bring my things?”
She smiled back, stretching out the glorious moment so she could savor it over and over in her dreams. “Back out to your car.”
The confident expression on his handsome face vanished. “What?”
Her smile grew brighter. “I heard you, and I understand your dilemma, Kyle, but you can get your life back on somebody else’s property. Good luck with your project. I’m sure it will be another Fast and Furious hit.”
“I didn’t write those screenplays.”
“Oh, sorry. Sometimes they all seem the same.” His wince confirmed she’d made a direct hit to his ego. “I am not now and will never be your consolation prize, or the vehicle needed to reconnect with your past. Whatever we felt for each other died long ago—including our friendship. I’d advise we leave the dead untouched. Don’t you agree?”
She walked past him, opened the door, and waited.
Slowly, he backed up, took his briefcase, and stepped into the cold. He paused only briefly. His gaze pierced hers, holding her captive. Those dark-green depths mixed with seething, raw emotions.
Then Ophelia shut the door.
Her fingers shook. She held her breath and counted.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven . . .
Footsteps clattered down the porch steps. Soon, headlights cut through the side window, arced high, then disappeared into the night.
It was like he’d never even been there.
He was gone.
Relief sagged her muscles even as her stomach turned. Ethan would be pissed. She hadn’t acted as a gracious, calm, centered hostess. She’d turned a childhood friend out in the cold after he asked for help. It was against everything she’d practiced and become since returning home—a woman who not only accepted but also tried to embrace her new life and find joy in all the hidden parts.
Today, she’d acted like a lover scorned. A woman bent on a little revenge.
God, it felt so damn good.
She headed toward the kitchen to open a bottle of wine.
Vacuuming was definitely done for the day.
Title: A Brand New Ending
Author: Jennifer Probst
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Ophelia Bishop was a lovestruck teenage girl when she and Kyle Kimpton chased their dreams to Hollywood. Kyle’s dreams came true. Ophelia’s did not. When Kyle chose his career over their relationship, Ophelia returned home to rural New York to run the family’s B & B—wiser, and more guarded against foolish fantasies. Now Kyle has come crashing back into her life, and all her defenses are down.
Kyle can’t think of a better place to write his latest screenplay than his hometown. After all, that was where he met the heart of his inspiration—his first love. He knows the damage he’s caused Ophelia, and he wants a chance to mend their relationship. If anyone can prove to Ophelia that happy ever afters aren’t only for the movies, it should be him.
As much as Ophelia’s changed, she still has feelings for Kyle. But her heart has been broken before, and she knows that Kyle could run back to Hollywood at any time. She gave up her dreams once, but maybe she can dare to change her own love story…one last time.
Jennifer Probst is the New York Times bestselling author of the Billionaire Builders series, the Searching For series, The Marriage series, the Steele Brothers series, and The Start of Something Good, which is the first book in the Stay series. Like some of her characters, Probst, along with her husband and two sons, calls New York’s Hudson Valley home. When she isn’t traveling to meet readers, she enjoys reading, watching “shameful reality television,” and visiting a local Hudson Valley animal shelter.
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