The Husband Hunt (a novella) (The Bachelor Series) (6 page)

BOOK: The Husband Hunt (a novella) (The Bachelor Series)
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“You’ll keep me after I told you this?”

             
“Stick it to Brent? Hell ya!”

             
They laughed and pulled in to the parking lot of the hotel where the crew waited. Jaxie thought about Brent, then Crane, and wondered what would be best for everyone. “I’d like to leave but not get kicked off the show, you know? Saving face and all that?”

             
He smiled from the driver’s seat. “Deal. But I ask one thing. A really good sexy kiss on camera.” He grinned at her.

             
“Deal.”

             
“Let’s go have dinner and decide that we want different things out of life. I’ll say you are just too adventurous and spontaneous for me. How’s that?”

             
But, before they got to that conversation, all hell broke loose. Jaxie and Liam were in the hot tub on the rooftop of the W Hotel, moments before their planned sexy kiss and the producers got an emergency phone call that one of the girls was extremely ill and had been rushed to the hospital.

             
They got out of the hot tub, skipped the rooftop dinner and were ushered back to the mansion where Jaxie again didn’t have an opportunity to bow out gracefully. The contestant needed an emergency appendectomy and once everyone stopped worrying, things returned to normal.

             
When the other girls asked about her date Jaxie said, on camera, that they’d had a lot of fun but she wasn’t sure if she and Liam were a good match. “I’m pretty sure he was about to tell me that I wouldn’t be getting a rose.”

             
Not able to look over at Crane, she shrugged and continued upstairs to bed, knowing that one girl was out of the competition that week simply because of hospitalization. Liam would not have to eliminate anyone else that week and Jaxie found herself back in the Husband Hunt.

 

              It was a bright California spring day and after Jaxie made everyone omelets and answered enough questions about Liam’s method of kissing to make her head spin, she cornered Crane and demanded a private conversation.

             
“Let’s go out to the driveway. I’m on my way out.” He looked concerned but more guarded than she’d seen.

             
When they’d situated themselves on the rock wall that lined the driveway, Jaxie got to the point. “I want to leave the show.” She’d rehearsed this speech and that sentence hadn’t been her opener but it just seemed to burst from her mouth before she’d had a chance to censor it.

             
He continued to look at the ground. “Can I ask why?”

             
She laughed without smiling. “I’m surprised you have to, but I have several reasons.” She took a deep breath and plunged into the rehearsed version. “One reason is that I was using this opportunity to show my ex-boyfriend that I can be spontaneous and fun. And I’m really sorry for doing that because it’s not fair to the other girls. The second reason is that Liam is someone he dislikes very much and that’s not fair to Brent to play this game on national T.V. when my motive was to show him I’m adventurous, Liam’s motive for keeping me is to stick to Brent and there are girls here who really want the chance to get to know Liam. My last reason to leave is that I don’t feel anything romantically for him. Besides the fact that he’s another football player, I just don’t feel…” She threw her arms out in front of her, searching for the word without insulting Liam’s ability to attract women.

             
Crane jumped into the conversation. “I get it. But that kiss yesterday looked like you two connected pretty well.” He still wouldn’t look at her.

             
“I pretended he was someone else,” she whispered. She looked over and saw Crane’s jaw twitch, giving away emotion. “I need to go, Crane. I’m really sorry to have come here with ulterior motives.”

             
He chuckled. “Ah Jaxie, everyone here has a motive. Most, not necessarily to find love. Can you stick it out until the next cocktail party in four days?”

             
“Four days? I guess I can do that.”

             
“What will you do when you leave here? Back to Seattle right away?” He sounded like her answer mattered to him and even though they were contractually obligated to lay low for a few weeks, Jaxie wasn’t sure she wanted to return to rainy Seattle immediately.

             
“I might stick around here for a few weeks. See if there are any openings for food critics.”

             
Crane looked at her. His soulful eyes said it all.
Stay.
Why did he care? She hopped off the wall and went into the house, knowing she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone that she’d be the next to leave the show.

*  *  *  *

 

             
In the next few days, Jaxie felt a lightness of spirit she hadn’t had in months. For whatever reason, she did not miss Brent anymore. She didn’t care if Liam asked her out on a group date or a one on one, and it was much easier to really get to know the girls in the house, knowing she was out of the running. Even Crane looked happier and joked with her around the house. On the night before the cocktail party, while a group was out on a date, Crane took her aside and asked if she had a few moments to work out the logistics of how she’d leave the show. He’d pick her up in the driveway if she could slip away.

             
Jaxie tried to sneak out the patio door from her bedroom that led to the pool and was almost home free when one of the girls noticed her exodus. “Jaxie, we’re going to do a funny fashion show upstairs in a few minutes. Where are you going?”

             
“I’ll be there in a few. I just need some alone time,” she lied.

             
Walking to the far side of the property, she heard a car pull up in the driveway. This had been their plan. Jaxie was able to quietly open the passenger door which was beside an azalea bush and slip into the front seat. Crane waited in the driver’s seat, and as soon as she closed the door, they took off down the driveway to the other house, down the road which was empty until Liam returned from his date.

             
“This feels so naughty, sneaking off like this,” she said, and looked over at him, realizing that their seats were very close. Under different circumstances she might have touched his cheek, put her hand on his thigh.

             
“It’s better if no one knows you’re going to leave tomorrow so I haven’t told the other staff.” They pulled into the driveway of a modern house perched on the edge of a hill overlooking a vast valley. Crane killed the car lights and they sat in the closeness of the dark car. “This is where the Bachelors stay. We can go in, if you like,” he said.

             
Jaxie didn’t care if they went in. She hadn’t realized it was such a secret amongst the crew but honored what Crane thought was best. “We can talk here. How do you recommend I do this?” She swiveled to face him and he turned too, rubbing his chin in thought.

             
“I think you need to go to the cocktail party as if nothing is wrong. When I enter the room to tell Liam to take some time to consider his choice, you can ask to speak to me. We’ll leave the room together, you can say that you are bowing out, you know that Liam is just keeping you here but that you don’t want to take up a spot for one of the girls who is in the competition to find a husband when you know that you and Liam only feel friendship. That sort of thing.”

             
Jaxie nodded.

             
“Don’t mention that you are going home to reconcile with your football player boyfriend,” he added.

             
“What?” Jaxie was confused.

             
“Don’t say that on camera.” He looked away.

             
“But it’s not true.”

             
“Well, whatever you meant. You said when you kissed Liam, you thought of Brent. I assumed that’s why you are leaving the show.”

             
“No.” She was horrified at the thought.

             
“Okay, I’m sorry.”

             
“Don’t be sorry. I guess it sounded like that. I’m leaving for the reasons we talked about the other day. Not for Brent. Thank God.  During my time here I realized that I called it wrong with Brent. We’re not a good match, and he was right about that.” Jaxie didn’t want him to think she was returning to Brent. His opinion mattered although she wasn’t sure why. The decision to leave had nothing to do with Brent and everything to do with the fact that this sexy, interesting man named Crane was watching her parade around in her bikini, making a stupid fool of herself on a ridiculous dating show when all she wanted was to find someone exactly like Crane for herself, not Liam, not Brent. In the last two weeks, being in close proximity with these two men was the perfect opportunity for Jaxie to compare types-- Liam and Crane, and know that what she wanted was someone exactly like Crane. And she would hold out for that even if she was turning thirty in a few years and had hoped to have children by then. “I’ve learned a lot about myself here.” She couldn’t go home and have a baby with Phillip. He’d find a loving partner and hopefully she would too someday and they’d have their own babies somehow. “I don’t know how I was so stupid only three weeks ago.” Jaxie began to cry. She sobbed for the relationship that was over with Brent, and for the baby she would never have with Phillip. “I’m sorry, but I just realized how alone I am and...and...”

             
Crane was no exception to the rule that men can’t stand to see a woman cry. He patted her arm and tried telling her to stop but it was no use. Jaxie felt like a locked door had been flung open and all the tears came flooding out.

             
He rushed around the front of the car to open her door and pull her out to the driveway she let herself fall heavily into his arms blathering on about what a stupid mistake Brent had been, how she originally just wanted to show him she was fun. “But now I know I am exactly who I am and I can’t apologize for that. I’m practical and planned and I like me that way.”

             
Crane wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into his warm chest, rubbing her back, reassuring her with soothing words like “I know. You’re not. You won’t. It’ll be okay.” His soft t-shirt absorbed her tears

             
“Oh, easy for you to say.” She pulled back. “You have a wife and children and this perfect life but I’m going to be thirty soon and I’m no farther ahead than I was at twenty.”

             
“You’ll be okay.” He stopped rubbing her back. “I don’t have a wife.”

             
Jaxie stopped crying. “Your girls, your wife,” she sniffed. Pulling back, she searched his face which had that look of sadness again.

             
“At least I don’t have a wife, anymore. But I do have two beautiful children and that is something to work towards even if you end up parenting alone.”

             
“Oh. I’m sorry. I thought you were married.” Jaxie wiped her nose on her sleeve and then realized what she’d done. “Oh God, I’m a mess. I’m just emotional because I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life and for some reason I chose you to unload on.” She smiled and as he wiped her face with his sleeve, they laughed pitifully.

             
“Surprisingly, we see a lot of tears on this show.” He reached in his jean pocket and pulled out a tissue. “I keep these handy because my kids are still young.” He shrugged and handed her the tissue.

             
She blew her nose softly and took a deep breath.

             
Crane stared at her. “You are even more pretty when you cry. You know that?” He leaned in and kissed her lightly on the lips, and she didn’t pull back.

             
Was this even allowed?  He didn’t seem to think it was such a terrible idea. An apology didn’t follow the kiss.

             
“Let’s get you back to the mansion and you’ll be that much closer to leaving the show tomorrow.”

             
The mansion! Jaxie realized the girls were waiting for her to participate in the fashion show. They’d be wondering where the heck she was. She slid into the car and Crane backed out the driveway, with Jaxie still thinking what words she’d use tomorrow to announce she was out of the competition.

             
Crane pulled up to the same azalea bush, told her to keep her chin up, and she smiled at him. “Thanks. For listening.” Exiting the car, she ducked into the darkness of the property’s foliage to sneak back into the house. It wasn’t until bedtime, when Jaxie slipped between the white sheets of her reality show bed that she realized Crane had said he wasn’t married. Her eyes flew open and her heart skipped several beats. What had he said exactly? That he didn’t have a wife anymore and he was parenting alone. Either the mother of his children deserted them or she died. And Crane had kissed her as they stood in the driveway to Liam’s house. How could she not have remembered that? It had been in the midst of her confession and right afterwards she’d been concerned about looking all puffy-eyed walking back into the house, instead of being concerned that Crane kissed her.

BOOK: The Husband Hunt (a novella) (The Bachelor Series)
6.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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