Fighting for YouBy: Sydney Landon
This book is dedicated to my father, John. Most men would have been intimidated by raising three daughters, but he took it in stride. On a sunny day, you would find us on the lake fishing or at a racetrack wiping dirt off our faces. Every week was a new adventure and he is the true measure of what a father should be.
To my sisters: Kim, Teresa, and Tonja. Even when we argue amongst ourselves, we still have each other’s backs against the world.
In loving memory of Karyn. “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.” I’ll see you on the other side, my friend.
“I need to have sex—or look like I’ve had it—and you have to help me do it.”
Beth looked over at her friend Ella in surprise. You would think Beth would be used to sentences like that by now, considering her sister Suzy’s personality, but coming from her shy friend, she found herself momentarily speechless.
Ella was staying with her while Nick was out of town. Now that Beth was halfway into her pregnancy, her fiancé refused to let her stay on her own when he was traveling for work. Either Beth stayed with Suzy and her husband, Gray, or more often Ella came over to keep her company. Since her sister and brother-in-law were still newlyweds, Beth hated to cause the whole three’s-a-crowd thing at their house.
When it became obvious that Ella wasn’t going to continue without a response, Beth sighed. “I almost hate to ask, but what are you talking about?”
“I know Declan doesn’t want to go out with me because I’m a virgin.”
Feeling her protective instincts kick in, Beth demanded, “Has he told you that?”
Blushing, Ella murmured, “No, but I can tell that makes him uncomfortable. And I know that if I get some experience with men, he would start seeing me as a woman rather than a kid sister.”
“Oh honey, I don’t think he sees you like a sister. He, um . . . he may be trying to protect you from, well . . . him.”
Beth had first met Ella when she started working as her sister Suzy’s assistant last year. Ella was the receptionist at Danvers International where they all worked. Beth had felt sorry for Ella and had taken her under her wing. When they met, Ella wore dowdy clothing, like she was twenty years older than she was. As Beth got to know her, she came to learn that Ella’s parents were very religious and overprotective so Ella had never really had a chance to step out from under their care. After she got her job at Danvers, Ella moved into her own apartment and now she was desperate to experience the real world.
Growing up overweight and being an outcast herself, Beth saw a lot of herself in Ella. They had formed a close friendship over the past few months and she had helped Ella with a complete makeover. The woman staring back at her now hardly resembled the shy person Beth had first met. Ella was stunning. Her long brown hair hung in soft waves and one of the sundresses that she preferred draped her slim figure perfectly. She looked soft, innocent, and beautiful.
But the man that she worshipped from afar was as opposite from Ella as one could get. Declan Stone was a hard man. He had served two military tours and Beth could only imagine what he had seen during that time. There was no denying that he was tall and sexy with dark hair and a lean, muscular build. And she had seen the outline of a tattoo on more than one occasion. But he didn’t spend time with the rest of them very often. He was very direct and a man of few words. He didn’t hang out with the rest of the guys at the company like Jason, Gray, and Nick did. The only person at Danvers that she had ever seen him seek out was Ella.
Beth had been surprised to find that Declan and Ella had formed some type of friendship. He chatted with her, he brought her small tokens of affection, and his eyes always sought her out when they were in a room together. The problem for Ella was that he had never made any romantic moves toward her. Beth didn’t know whether to encourage her to go for it, or tell her to run in the opposite direction.
“If I show him that I’m a normal woman, just like anyone else he’s dated, I can change the way he treats me. So, I need the number of that dating service that you used before you met Nick.”
“You know it’s a dating service and not an escort service, right?”
“I know. Beth, I need more experience with men, and I can’t get it sitting at home every night. I don’t know how this dating stuff works.”
Beth knew she was probably making a mistake, but she sympathized with Ella’s plight. She had been the girl sitting at home night after night while life passed her by and she didn’t want that disappointment for her friend. Meeting Nick Merimon had changed all of that for her and she wanted the same for Ella.
“Just promise me that you aren’t going to have sex with anyone unless it’s really what you want. My first experience was far from perfect and I want better for you. You’ve waited this long, so please don’t do it just to get to Declan. If it’s right, do it for you.” When Ella nodded her agreement, Beth smiled and said, “Alright, let’s do this. We can sign up online and create your profile right now. You’ll have a date by this weekend, so get ready!”
Ella’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “I’m ready. Declan isn’t going to know what hit him when he meets the new worldly Ella.”
Ella’s heart skipped a beat every time she imagined Declan finally seeing her as a desirable woman. She had been crazy about him from the moment they met and she couldn’t imagine that ever changing. She knew his tough exterior intimidated others, but with her he showed a softer, more romantic side. From the first moment their paths had crossed, when she had dropped the stack of papers she was carrying right at his feet, she had been completely taken with him. From then on he asked her questions about her family and her life, as if he truly cared about her. He remembered her favorite kinds of food, or sweets that she liked, and usually showed up with them every few days. He told her that she looked pretty when she wore something new and he brought her favorite coffee almost daily.
Well, until the day she had asked him to her apartment for dinner. Since that day, he had been avoiding her. She felt in her heart that he was interested in her as more than a friend, but he thought she was too innocent for someone like him. She had hoped when they danced at Suzy’s wedding that he would finally see her as a woman. At first, it seemed like things were changing with that dance. He had held her close and brushed his lips against her forehead, but as soon as the dance was over, he left her standing there and had never looked back.