Home > Give Me One Night (McLaughlin Brothers #4)

Give Me One Night (McLaughlin Brothers #4)
Author: Jennifer Ashley

Chapter One

 

 

Ryan

 

 

I can’t believe you’re breaking up with me!”

That’s my nine-year-old self, bellowing my agony at nine-year-old Calandra, my girlfriend, my soul-mate, my life.

She gazes at me sorrowfully, her dark brown hair in pigtail braids that I thought the coolest style ever. “I’m sorry, Ryan. I just need time.”

“Time for what?” My heart hurts so bad I want to rip it out of my chest. “I asked you to marry me. I thought you loved me.”

“I do love you.” Calandra reaches a small finger to my cheek. “It’s you and me. Always. But I’m not ready for that kind of commitment. I just need …” She huffs a breath and swings her arms. “To figure things out.”

“But I love you! I don’t understand what the problem is.”

“It’s …” She shrugs, stuffing her hands into her jeans pockets. “It’s complicated. I need to be alone a little bit. To get to know me.”

“Oh. Sure. Right.” I slam my arms over my chest. “To find yourself.”

“Exactly.” Calandra eyes me critically. “Wouldn’t hurt you to do that too.”

“Yes, it would. Calandra, don’t do this.”

I’m supposed to be cool, not caring that the woman of my dreams is stomping on my heart. Chicks are a dime a dozen, right? That’s what Austin says, and he’s only five years old.

“Ryan.” Calandra shakes her head. She has wise eyes for one so young. She leans to me—she’s taller than me at that time in our lives—kisses me lightly on the lips, turns, and walks away.

“Calandra!” I shout after her.

I ball my fists and make myself keep my feet still. I will not, will not, run after her across the school ground like a big loser. The fight to stay put is tough, but I do it.

She looks back at me one more time. The expression on her face holds pain, as much as I feel. She gives me a little wave, then turns around and heads back into the school building.

Gone.

That was the first time Calandra and I broke up, and it was a kick in the gut. I’d been so arrogant, thinking I’d propose and we’d be engaged—you know, for the next twenty or so years. The wedding date was comfortably in the vague future.

I’d gone and blown it. Before lunch, Calandra and I had been inseparable. After lunch, I’d been stupid enough to think she’d be mine forever.

Even my dad’s fabulous sour cream chocolate cake couldn’t make me feel better. He’s the baker in our family. His words of wisdom did help, though. He advised me to wait, let Calandra have some time, and see what happened.

Six months later, after a chance encounter at a waterslide park, Calandra and I have a huge, long argument, clear the air, and end up back together. Just like Dad predicted. He’s a smart man.

Calandra and I are together for the next couple years, breaking up again when we’re thirteen. My hormones start to rage by then, and I stupidly suggest maybe we should try to see other people. Where I’d thought I’d meet these other girls when I was thirteen and hadn’t had my growth spurt yet, I don’t know, but the words came out.

Calandra doesn’t want to break up then, but she kisses me softly, says good-bye, and walks away, giving me plenty of time to regret opening my big, stupid mouth.

On the first day of high school for both of us, we run into each other, laugh at our silly, young selves of eight months before, talk, share a lunch table, and by that evening, are back together again.

High school is a time of rapid change, with me finally growing taller than Calandra, and Calandra filling out in a fascinating and very distracting way—you can trace Calandra’s change from girl to woman by my plunging grade-point average.

We break up and make up at least twice a year, and as we do, we grow closer and closer. My family loves her, and anything I do with my brothers, Calandra is included. Zach, Ben, or Austin will say, “Where’s Calandra?” Or “Isn’t she coming?” in puzzlement if I go anywhere with them alone. She’s been their honorary sister since grade school.

Next is college. We continue our break-up, make-up pattern while we both suffer the September heat at Arizona State’s main campus, and then enjoy the mild winter months lounging outside to study or kiss. We’ll be incredibly loving, and then have arguments of spectacular magnitude. Calandra usually wins the arguments, but making up with her afterward is seriously worth it.

Our relationship has gone physical by then, and most nights sees me in Calandra’s bed, or she in mine—whoever’s roommate is out. Only dire emergency keeps me away, and it has to be really dire.

After we graduate, she cum laude, I start working at my mom and dad’s business, McLaughlin Renovations. Calandra lands a job as a writer and editor at a local magazine. She loves getting to know her city and the people in it, she says.

We continue to see each other as often as work lets us, and spend our weekends together. We both love to hike, and our campouts in Arizona’s mountains and back country are memories we’ll treasure. The breaking up portion of our relationship has ceased as we realize that there’s no one else for either of us.

Our families wonder when we’re going to tie the knot, and for the next few years, they ram some not-so-subtle hints at us. But Calandra and I have a good thing going, and we’re not in a hurry to make our relationship satisfy anyone but ourselves.

But I have plans. I wait until we’re both settled in our careers, no longer kids, and ready for the next phase of our lives.

One balmy Valentine’s Day, when we’re both heading for the end of our twenties, I take Calandra to our favorite restaurant, order our favorite wine, and clear my throat.

I slide a small box from my pocket, pretending my hands aren’t shaking like hell. I leave my chair, and in front of God and everybody in the restaurant, I kneel next to her and hold out the box.

“Calandra Stevenson,” I say. “I’ve known you since we were knee-high to a grasshopper, as my dad says. We’ve been through thick and thin, up and down, and …”

Calandra stares at me, stunned, tears filling her big brown eyes. My carefully rehearsed speech goes out of my head—to hell with it.

“You are so beautiful,” I stammer. “Will you marry me?”

I flash back to that day when we were nine, when she’d gazed at me sorrowfully and told me she needed time.

Tonight, Calandra’s eyes continue to fill, tears spilling to her cheeks.

“Ryan,” she whispers. “Do you even have to ask? Yes.”

She launches herself at me, and I catch her in my arms while the restaurant goes wild with cheers.

I take Calandra to my parents’ house, where my brothers and folks wait, and we celebrate with champagne and gladness.

Calandra and I celebrate again later at my house. She’s always sweet in public, but in bed, Calandra is a firecracker. We make love far into the night, both of us crying our passion, laughing, coming, collapsing.

I hold her that night, the happiest man in the world.

Too bad about all the shit that rains down after that.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

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