© Copyright 2005
by More Than Novellas
Jul 5, 05
Jessie grabbed her set of weights from where she'd set them beside the door and locked her front door, hooking her key to her belt. She briefly stretched, as she looked around. It was a beautiful day ... blue skies, the birds flitting from one tree to the next...
Taking a deep breath she started her run, down the street. At least three mornings out of her week, she would run, and followed the same path--a three mile run--stopping at Mrs. Jamison's house. She'd go in, share a bit of breakfast, and listen to the stories of her late husband, children and grandchildren.
Until today. To Get to Mrs. Jamison's house, she would have to go around, add a bit more to her run, she'd decided. After yesterday, she wouldn't go past his house.
Not when Scott had the conceit to think she was running by to grab his attention.
The absolute conceit!
Jul 6, 05
Jessie paused impatiently at a kerb, then sprinted across the road as soon as the truck had passed, scowling deeply.
She hadn’t even known where Scott lived, and if she had, she certainly wouldn’t have been jogging past his door at 7 in the morning in her oldest tracksuit and with her unwashed auburn hair scraped back in ponytail.
When she’d walked into the staff tea room yesterday afternoon and heard Scott bragging to another of the company execs about how one of the juniors was even running up and down his street to get noticed, Jessie could have died. At least she’d been able to back out of the doorway before they’d noticed her, although it had meant she’d missed out on her afternoon cup of coffee.
Just like she was missing out on her favourite part of her run this morning – her favourite houses and her favourite gardens that she watched blossoming with the seasons and all the other regulars she’d share a smile and wave with as they passed by walking their dogs.
Who did Scott Bentley think he was – coming to her town, taking the job that should have been hers, and messing up her life like this?
Her chest was burning by the time she made it to the top of the hill, and she sprinted down the other side, longing more than ever for the peace of Mrs Jamison’s kitchen.
Jul 7, 05
Jessie snorted. First he stole her job, then he disrupted her morning runs...she wouldn't be at all surprise to find him sitting at the round table in Mrs Jamison's kitchen.
"That's absurd." She told herself as she jogged along the sidewalk. "Scott Bentley won't be at Mrs Jamison's, he'll be watching out of his window to see if you run passed again this morning. No early visit to an old lady would be allowed to interrupt his ego feeding."
Jul 7, 05
Scott Bentley finished screwing in the light bulb for his great-aunt's front porch light. While the sun had been up for some time already in these warm summer months, Aunt Ethyl insisted that her morning visitor may not stop by if the light was not shining.
Raising a hand to rake through his deep brown hair, he remembered at the last minute that he had already gelled it for work. Instead, he reached for the doorknob of his great-aunt's front door. On the small side for a doorknob, it was decorated with an ivy pattern running around the edge. Just like the rest of her house, it spoke quietly to her quaint, comfortable taste. A diminutive woman herself, Aunt Ethyl's small cottage seemed to fit her perfectly.
As Scott made his way down the short hallway to her kitchen, he reflected that her home suit her while his new house did anything but fit him. He needed someone to make it homey or at least comfortable, as he had absolutely no time. Or at least someone to help him make it a home.
Unbidden, the face of Jessie flitted through his mind. He had mentioned seeing her running past his house to a colleague in hopes that the other man would offer some insight to the ambitious woman. She was bright with a mind for the business and had impressed him with her good work ethic. He had hoped, though, that her parading past his house had a personal motivation, rather than a professional one. But she had never offered more than the friendly smile she had ready for everyone at the office.
With a sigh, he entered the kitchen. Aunt Ethyl was removing a tray of blueberry muffins from the oven. Above the range hood hung a cross-stitched monogram, with a large J with W and E on either side. It stood for William and Ethyl Jamison. Though his great-uncle had long since gone to be with the Lord, Scott remembered their loving relationship.
"Will I ever be blessed with that, Lord?" he prayed silently.
Jul 7, 05
“That’s the porch light fixed, Aunt Ethyl,” Scott said, slipping his arms around her for a hug as he came up behind where she stood at the range. “I noticed that one of the shutters has come off its hinge too, so I’ll come by with my toolbox after work and fix that up.”
“Oh, Scottie! You needn’t go to so much trouble!”
“It’s no trouble, Aunt Ethyl,” he planted a kiss on her warm, papery cheek, “that’s why I moved here, after all.”
The old lady blushed, and Scott felt a pang seeing her pleasure in his small gifts of help. She only ever spoke warmly of her children and grandchildren, but he was sure it must hurt that none of them had given a second thought to her needs when pursuing their careers to all ends of the country. Scott had known it was answered prayer when a suitable job had come up in her town and he’d jumped at the chance to take it, even though it meant taking a slight pay cut.
He reached into the cupboard and carefully lifted out two delicate china plates and put them on the table, his mouth already watering with the aroma of sizzling eggs and bacon.
“You’ll need one more, Scottie boy”, Aunty Ethyl called over her shoulder from the frypan, “I’ve got a very special friend who comes by every other morning – it’s good timing that you popped in this morning, I’d like you to meet her.”
She took the pan off the heat, and glanced up at the clock with a frown.
“She’s never been late before though . . . I hope nothing has happened.”
As though on cue, Scott heard the back door clatter open and a breathless voice called from the hallway, “Sorry, Mrs Jamison! It took me longer than I realised to run up that big hill . . . I couldn’t come my usual way . . . you wouldn’t believe it but -”
At this point the voice had reached the kitchen door, and Scott looked up – right into the horrified eyes of Jessie McDougall.
Jul 24, 05
"M-Mr. Bently!" Jessie stammered. While she had thought of the man as Scott since his arrival at the company, she only ever addressed him as Mr. Bently. Come to think of it, she had never addressed him at all, aside from the necessary. Had she ever used his name? She didn't think so. Realizing that her thoughts were rambling, Jessie forced her eyes back to Scott's amused gaze.
"Good morning, Miss McDougall. Are you this visitor whose praises my Aunt Ethyl has been singing?" Scott knew it was a stretch of the truth, but was rewarded when Jessie's cheeks flushed a becoming pink on top of the healthy glow her run had given her.
"Your Aunt Eth-" Jessie stopped, stunned. Of all the coincidences which might have been, why this one? "Mrs. Jamison is your aunt?"
The amusement still blatantly evident on his face, Scott's grin widened. It was Mrs. Jamison who answered, though. "So you two are already acquainted? How lovely! His grandmother and I were sisters. His maternal grandmother, of course. We don't have the same last name, you know."
Jessie nodded faintly. Scott said, "You must be hungry. Please, have a seat." With that, he pulled out a chair for her at the small kitchen table, then helped his aunt carry over the last of the serving dishes. As he held a chair for his aunt, Jessie noticed that it was the one across from her, leaving the chair next to her empty. Was this a coincidence, as well?
As he sat, Jessie tried discreetly to scoot her chair away from his a bit. It was childish, she knew, but she could not seem to help herself. Seeing Scott Bently from a distance in the office was one thing. Sitting to a cozy breakfast with him and his aunt was another thing entirely! Quite frankly, this side of Scott Bently intimidated her. She could handle the driven, strongly business-minded man; he was like all of the other men she knew at work. But this Scott was just Scott, helping his aunt set the table, seating both his aunt and her guest, and offering the prayer before the meal.
The prayer! Jessie quickly bent her head, trying to focus on the words he spoke. At the "Amen" Jessie opened her eyes again, hoping her distraction wasn't evident to everyone.
"Well, Jessie, Scottie here is coming to dinner so I can thank him for fixing my light. He's going to take care of a shutter tonight." Jessie was even more nonplussed by the fact that Scott was not only considerate with his aunt, appeared to love her very much, but was also a handyman. "Why don't you come join us? You'll probably need to be leaving before we can really visit so you can get to work on time. This way, we can visit for a bit longer."
"Oh. Um, I don't know. I mean--" but Jessie was interrupted.
"Yes, please come," Scott interjected. "I can even pick you up if you'll tell me where you live."
Feeling cornered by the sweet woman of whom she had grown so fond and the man who seemed to be constantly throwing her for a loop, Jessie felt she had little choice.
"Dinner would be lovely."
Jul 27, 05
* * *
“Shame on you, Scott Bentley,” Aunt Ethyl rebuked after Jessie left. “Flustering that poor girl that way.”
“That poor girl?” Scott muttered. Maybe he had laid it on a little much during breakfast. When she’d reached for the butter, so had he. When she’s ended up with a little jam on her chin, he’s reached across and brushed it away with his napkin.
He hadn’t been able to resist. She wouldn’t meet his gaze—not intentionally, and if she did, she would always look away. And she had such pretty eyes … and when she blushed, it drove him a little mad.
She was so cute … and clearly uncomfortable.
He ran a hand over the back of his neck. He hadn’t been this frustrated … fumbling over a girl since high school—which was probably why he’d asked for advice from his coworkers.
“I can’t even get to second base with her. She holds herself so aloof.”
“I can’t understand why.”
“Oh you can’t?” Ethyl laughed. “I’m not so old that I don’t remember what it’s like to gain the attention of a handsome young man. And maybe it’s a little harder for her. Maybe Jessie’s just shy.”
“Shy?” he thought of the confident junior exec that handled the accounts like a pro. She was in a different department, but he’d watched her for awhile now. He’d thought of his conversation yesterday. Her boss praised her for her confidence and quickness to act.
He glanced at the door by which Jessie had departed. “Jessie?”
“Oh, she has friends, and she’s smart and fun—but it might be something she has to work on a little. God didn’t make us all for the spotlight.”
“What, like me?” he asked when he saw the twinkle in her eyes.
“Shy …” Scott repeated … and he began to formulate a plan.
* * *
Jessie hid in the conference room. Well, she wasn’t exactly hiding, but she was thankful she was able to fill her day with the mindless task of organizing and sorting thorough files and notes.
She ran her hands over her face and groaned into them. What was she going to do? She couldn’t have dinner with him … after yesterday, after hearing him ….
What was she going to do?
“Need some help?”
She jumped. His voice seemed to come from her dreams, or nightmares. She turned slowly, dropped her hands and stared at him.
Aug 4, 05
"No, I most definitely do not need some help!" Jessie said hotly, picking up the nearest file and flinging it at his head.
She missed...but only because he ducked.
He raised his eyebrows and idly flicked through her chosen weapon. "Is that how you got on such good terms with my Great-Aunt?" he had the gall to ask, a huge grin rippling across his face.
"As if!" Jessie rolled her eyes and turned back to her file, completely ignoring the man standing behind her. "But, while we're on the subject, perhaps you'll be so good as to give her my apologies for going back on that dinner invitation."
"No." He said shortly, bringing Jessie's head up with surprise. She hadn't expected that answer. "You're not bailing out now. You will be at that dinner."
"Yeah? What do you care?" She huffed.
* * *Now there was a question and a half. How was he supposed to answer that one without making her run from him as fast as her legs would carry her?
Aug 9, 05
"I care about my aunt. She is a dear woman who would be crushed and unable to understand why the young lady of whom she has grown so fond would cancel on her."
It was what blurted out of his mouth. While the truth, it skirted around why HE cared. What he wanted to say was that he wanted to be around her, to spend more time with her, to see whether the feelings of comfort and contentment and rightness that she seemed to elicit in him were real or some imagining of his rather lonely mind. He felt that when he was with her, he was home.
But he couldn't say that to Jessie. Not right now, not if he wanted to live. Already she had another file in her hand that might come flying across the room at any moment.
Aug 10, 05
"Isn't bad enough that I'm forced to see you during the day without forcing your company on me at night as well?" Jessie glared at him and he could tell that she was itching to throw the file.
He approached her and calmly took it out of her hand. "You might find life a bit easier if you were not inclined to go through it determined to hate people before you even know them." He observed. "But if it's that much of a problem, I'll drop you at my aunt's house and then leave. She'll understand it better coming from me."
Aug 8, 05
"But only ..." he continued slowly as he reached up and gently tapped her nose with his free hand, "if you find a way to tell me, before we get there, what you find so repulsive about me."
She stared at him, still agitated with him ... and yes, underneath the surprising anger was fear, worry ... maybe even that potential shyness his aunt had hinted upon.
It was a chance, but it was a chance he needed to take. He couldn't continue this up or down rollercoaster of private needs.
He leveled his stare at her, challenging her ... hopefully warming her, then pivoted on his heel and walked out of the conference room, taping the empty folder against his hand as he headed to his office.
* * *
Aug 12, 05
Jessie stood at her bedroom window and watched the street outside for a sign of Scott’s car. She had convinced herself not to go, then she’d thought to head over alone, but it would seem odd as Mrs. Jamison adored him.
Jessie’s hand trembled as she pressed it to her stomach. It was in knots.
She was in knots.
Why was he pushing her like this? Was he sick, demented? Did he just want to see her squirm? Could he really expect her to forget and forgive ... or did he really believe he had been right in the decisions he’d made about her career? Was she truly not good enough to do the job she loved?
Was he right?
Why had he been talking about her to the other execs?
She thought of Mrs. Jamison, thought of the adoration in her eyes when she’d looked at her nephew ...
When she’d talked about her nephew. Dear Scottie. Moved into town to help her. Handsome.
Yes he was.
A handsome devil.
Jessie agreed. He probably knew it as well.
Such a deep, searching walk with Christ.
Jessie sighed. She’d heard the stories of a doting aunt, and secretly hungered for a man who could be all those things. Dear, wonderful Scottie.
Mrs. Jamison’s nephew, was an ideal–not reality, with the man from work.
A man’s man.
She could still remember the words he’d said yesterday ... and way he’d treated her on the job since he’d arrived.
She watched as Scott’s car pulled up and parked on the street–it was classic, built for speed. She told herself to step away from the window, to head down ... or hide, but she found herself trapped. She needed to know ... which of the two sides of Scott was she watching? And how did they fit into the same person ... that Mrs. Jamison adored?
He didn’t look like the exec she knew. He looked ... like the man she’d wished for. He wore jeans and a button down shirt, relaxed, calm. He giggled his keys in his hand as he headed up the front walk.
Then he stopped, and sifted his piercing gaze over to hers.
And for a moment their eyes met. Her hand trembled against her stomach and the emotions poored out. She knew the hurt, the anger, the vulnerability was displayed on her face. She saw his confusion.
What right did he have to be confused? He’d set out from the beginning to treat her as he had.
She had a choice. She wished that she could reconcile the man she knew, with the man she wanted to know.
He’d given her the choice ... pushed her into it.
What would she say?
And did she want to hear his response?
Click here to continue to Part II
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