Three best friends are starting over in the cozy town of Haven, Georgia, where revamping the local airport brings dreams of love and family within reach . . .
Since moving to Haven to help out her closest friends, Melanie Ramsey has begun to reclaim her strength after a difficult divorce. Through Mel’s Motivational Blog, she’s inspiring other women too. Then a wild, one-night fling with Haven’s gorgeous deputy leaves her shaken, stirred—and pregnant. But Melanie’s not giving up her newfound independence for another powerful man. Not even one as upstanding and intriguing as
Tanner Roark . . .
What matters most to Tanner: defending the weak, seeking justice, and protecting his heart after a tragic loss. Random hookups have been working out just fine until he and Melanie collide. Despite her domineering ex’s best efforts to rattle her, she’s still kind and resilient. Not to mention witty, straight-talking, and sexy as hell. Chemistry is easy. Trust, not so much. But when you find the one who sends your heart soaring, what can you do except buckle up and hold on tight? . . .
Praise for Jules Bennett and The Monroes series
“Another page turner—I couldn’t put it down!” –Lori Foster, New York Times bestselling author
“Lively. . . . A fun cast of supporting characters add zest to this enjoyable romance.” –Publishers Weekly
An excerpt from Be With Me by Jules Bennett
You’re allowed to scream, you’re allowed to cry,
but you’re never allowed to give up.
—Mel’s Motivational Blog
If there was ever a time for cocktails, it was now. On the flip side of that, Melanie Ramsey couldn’t drink. Her drinking days were over . . . at least for the next seven months and two weeks, because this morning she’d had two thin blue lines staring her in the face.
Still, she found herself in the wine aisle of Quicky Mart choosing a bottle for her best friends because they were certainly going to need it when she broke the news to them.
What paired well with dropping a bomb like an unplanned pregnancy? Blush? Red?
Considering she’d had white the night of the greatest sexual experience of her life, which had landed her here, she chose the only white that was available from this
Her fingers curled tighter around the neck of the bottle. She knew that voice. She’d replayed over and over how he’d whispered it in her ear as he’d had her pressed against the door in the foyer of his house. For the past six weeks she’d done a remarkable job of dodging him after their one-night stand. What had she been thinking? She wasn’t a one-night stand type of girl . . . then again, if they all were with men like Officer Tanner Roark, she might have to reconsider. Holy smokes that man knew how to pleasure a woman.
But playtime was over . . . and now they both would have to face the consequences.
However, now was not the time to tell Tanner that he was going to be a daddy. She was still grasping the lifechanging fact herself. After their night together she hadn’t known how to handle a situation so foreign to her. Unfortunately, avoiding him had become her go-to method until she thought of something better.
Dodging Tanner had been quite a feat considering her best friend was marrying his cousin, but Melanie had been busy and apparently so had Tanner, because he’d done little more than text. Maybe he’d only wanted one night, too. She’d heard of his widespread reputation as Haven’s most sought-after bachelor.
Melanie had thought for certain they’d been on the same page. She’d only wanted a safe man, someone she could have fun with, and prove to herself that she was in charge of her life and if she wanted to have a fling, then she sure as hell would.
Tanner was a ladies’ man. Oh, he might not exploit his bedroom talents, but Melanie had been in town long enough to see how women looked at him, what they whispered through hushed gossip at the Curl Up and Dye salon.
She’d been so certain she was ready to take full control of her life, including taking a lover of her choice, and afterwards she would go on her way.
The irony of running into Tanner only hours after her world had tilted on its axis wasn’t lost on her. She firmly believed in fate and signs.
Melanie pulled in a breath and pasted a convincing smile on her face—at least she hoped it was convincing. For the first time in two years, her nerve and courage faltered. She’d been shaken from the solid foundation she’d recently rebuilt for herself.
But she wasn’t going to fall. Never again. This moment might shake her stability, but that was life, and she’d discovered long ago as a child growing up in poverty that the more obstacles life threw in your path, the stronger you were from dodging them.
She’d developed a strength she’d never thought possible.
Clutching her cheap wine, Melanie spun around. “Hey, Tanner.”
Try as she might for a casual greeting, her heart sped up and her mouth nearly watered at the sight of him in uniform. She took in his navy uniform, how well his broad frame filled out every piece of that material, and the aviators he had tucked into the top V just above a glossy black button.
The knots in her stomach tightened. He was just as sexy and intriguing as she’d remembered . . . damn it. She’d been hoping her imagination had just conjured up how amazing they’d been together. But one look at him now only had each and every touch rushing back in glorious detail. The tingling she’d felt from his simple touches, the tickling from his warm breath along her bare skin, the passionate way he commanded her.
“What are you doing here?”
Dark eyes raked over her, giving her chills and even more flashes of their night. He had dark and sultry down without even trying.
After her less than storybook marriage ended, it had taken her a hell of a long time to get up the courage to approach another man. For reasons she couldn’t comprehend, Tanner had been the only man in the past couple years to interest her in any way. And by interest, she meant he drove her absolutely crazy with a want she barely recognized.
“I just stopped in to grab a sandwich,” he explained. “I didn’t see your car out front.”
Yeah, her silver Beemer had stood out in this tiny town of minivans and pickup trucks. Haven was a far cry from Atlanta. Melanie swallowed. She’d sold her car recently to help her best friend, Olivia Daniels, with her goal of renovating the small-town airport. Besides, ridding herself of the last shred of material things from her ex and assisting such a good cause all in the same whack had been so rewarding, so freeing.
If Neville Prescott knew where his precious BMW SUV had gone, he’d somehow spin things to the media that he was helping those less fortunate. Egotistical jerk of a politician.
Not that she’d ever wanted anything he’d given her, but when Melanie had left, she’d taken the only car she had. She’d been owed that much, to say the least.
Since selling her car she’d used the little in her savings and bought a gently used two-door sporty model. By gently used, she meant the seat didn’t move and she had to shove a pillow behind her back to reach the pedals, but it ran and got her from point A to point B. Oh, the horn might sound like a cat whose tail got run over, but other than that the car was in tip-top shape. Plus, she’d purchased a nice bike for exercise and roaming around the quaint town, so it was still a win.
Considering her childhood and teen years, having a less-than-impressive vehicle actually felt right at home. But her marriage and her childhood were not areas she wanted to explore now—or ever, really.
“Oh, I’m driving something else now.”
That’s right. The black heap in the lot, with a rusty bumper and a shorted out horn, was all hers.
Tanner propped his hands on his hips and scanned both directions of the aisle before zeroing back in on her. “You’ve dodged me for weeks.”
She’d rather talk about the sad excuse for a car than get into why she’d avoided him. In her defense, he’d not been around much, either. “I’ve been busy.”
Not a total lie. She’d been working on all of the permits and discussing renovations for the airport Olivia was revamping with the help of her fiancé, Jax Morgan. Her law degree was coming in handy in ways she never would’ve guessed a few years ago.
To turn a small-town airport into a grand, high-concept business that would draw high-dollar clients took time and patience and a hell of a lot of paperwork and funds.
Celebrities were rolling through like clockwork to film in and around Haven, Georgia. Savannah, only a short twenty-minute ride away, had definitely become a hot spot for filmmakers. Melanie planned on making sure her friends were legally covered and protected in their endeavor. She wanted this next chapter in Olivia’s life to be successful and a tribute to her late father and former owner of the airport.
“Too busy to talk to me after you slept with me and left the second your clothes were straightened out?”
That would be because their clothes never fully came off. They’d been too hot, too hurried to worry about getting completely naked.
Heat flooded her, as well as a nice dose of guilt. “Keep your voice down,” she whispered through gritted teeth. The last thing she needed was people in the Quicky Mart to hear the fairly new girl in town was getting it on with the hottest bachelor officer. Well, she had gotten it on, they weren’t doing anything now.
Except the memories that kept replaying in her mind like a silent movie.
Tanner took a half step forward and tipped his head down as he lowered his voice. “I know we didn’t agree on anything beyond that night. Hell, we didn’t even talk much. But, considering our circle of friends, I didn’t take you for the type that would brush me aside.”
She hadn’t, not exactly. She’d been completely out of her element when they’d torn each other’s clothes off in a frenzy. Melanie had gotten swept up in the moment, in the man. She’d gone into the one-night stand with her eyes wide open, teetering on the edge of fear and exhilaration all rolled into one giant ball of emotion.
Then afterward, she’d had no words. How could she know what to say or do when she’d experienced something she’d never done before? The instant retreat had been the coward’s way out, and she’d prided herself on becoming stronger than the woman she used to be. But she just couldn’t face him. Not until she knew where her head was where he was concerned, because Tanner Roark made her feel things she shouldn’t, things she’d never felt before.
After her failed marriage . . .
No. Just no. She didn’t trust her judgment—especially now. Besides, the one-night stand and the changed dynamics of their friendship weren’t of the utmost importance at this point.
“I’ve just been busy,” she repeated. “Livie is planning a cookout and bonfire soon, though. Friday, I believe. I’ll see you there?”
Tanner’s brows drew in. “Is everything okay, Mel? You seem, I don’t know, jittery.”
Jittery? More like scared out of her mind and no clue what to do next. Her life was one giant roller coaster, and she’d really like to slow down and hop off the emotional ride.
“I’m fine,” she lied with a smile.
He eyed her once again. Tanner wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t buying her quick brush-off. Today of all days was not the time to get into this discussion. Delivering babydaddy news in the middle of a gas station/convenience store was teetering too close to the lifestyle she’d tried to escape when she’d married Neville. She’d thought he was the way out of her impoverished life. She’d thought he would take her down the path to make something of herself and maybe make her parents proud.
She’d wanted their approval; she’d wanted to be proud of herself, too. None of that happened. Hindsight only proved she would’ve been better off in that trailer park working her ass off, with her scholarships to get through school, and then moving on to a law firm like she’d first planned. Thankfully, she’d been smart in school, had graduated early, had pushed through college before marrying. After that, though, her life had fallen apart.
Melanie had quickly discovered she was going to have to be her own ticket out of hell.
Too many emotions threatened to overtake her. She just wanted to get the wine and get out. There was no way she could go empty-handed to Livie and Jade and tell her two best friends about this pregnancy. Melanie needed a buffer, and wine, no matter how cheap, was always the answer . . . unless you were pregnant.
She jerked from her thoughts. Neville hated when anyone called her Mel—which was precisely why she’d named her successful blog Mel’s Motivations.
Her ex had claimed that he’d taken her from the slums and she needed to remember that. Her name was Melanie, she was his wife, and his appearances mattered, so by default hers did, too. Considering she was a branch of him, she needed to always have those pretenses in place. Perfect clothes, perfect hair, always smiling with just the right responses when she was allowed to speak.
She’d failed in so many areas. Smiling in public had been so difficult when behind closed doors she’d been living a nightmare. Some wouldn’t understand because she’d had money, cars, a big house. But none of that had ever mattered to her. Not once did she ever care about material things. She just wanted to be with a man who loved her.
Neville had been the complete opposite. He’d hated quite a bit about her, looking back. She’d mistook his attention when they first met for affection. She’d thought the grass was greener on the other side when her parents urged her to jump at the possibility of a life with such a powerful, charming man. Little did they all know . . .
Unfortunately, Melanie couldn’t change the past, and her future required all of her attention at the moment. “I’m running late.” She gripped the bottle with both hands as if drawing strength from the inanimate object. “We’ll talk at the cookout.”
Want to read more of Be With Me? Click on the links below!
About Jules Bennett
National bestselling author Jules Bennett is a former salon owner turned full‑time author. Considering she met her husband at the age of fourteen and they’ve been together since, Jules knows a thing or two about romance and happily ever after. She and her husband live in the Midwest with their two young children. When Jules isn’t creating emotional, witty stories, she’s spending time with her family, working out, or procrastinating on social media. She loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her through Facebook, Twitter, or her website: julesbennett.com.