Today marks the release of my standalone contemporary romance A REASON TO STAY. Come meet Elise Newton who has it all—a dream job, a house that’s all hers, and a boyfriend who’s a cardiologist. But she has a problem -a fear of commitment. Join Elise on her journey to happy.
Elise Newton has it all—a dream job, a house that’s all hers, and a boyfriend who’s a cardiologist. Darren has been carrying an engagement ring in his pocket for two months, waiting for the perfect time to ask her to be his wife. He has no idea Elise has been waiting for the perfect time as well—to break up.
You see, Elise has a fatal flaw. She cannot commit to love.
An early-morning call from her sister gives Elise hope. She’s needed back home in Kentucky, to care for their mother who’s recovering from surgery. It’s the break Elise has been searching for, a reprieve from the strain of ducking Darren’s declarations of love.
But along with Kentucky comes seeing Ben—her first love, the one who came closest to being her happily ever after. Now a single dad, Ben has moved on with his life. But has his love for her moved on as well?
When Elise discovers a long-hidden truth about her family—and the reason why she can’t commit—she must decide which man will give her a reason to stay.
Read an Excerpt
Elise turned her chair around to look out at the sun as it climbed
higher into the sky. She knew it was already in its fixed position
back home. Friday she would be on another time zone. She needed
to begin meditating. Trying to find the quiet spot where she
could let all the bubbles that held resentment for her mother,
and the ten feet of buried feelings for Ben Hudson, float into
the sky. She would tape a mental calendar in her head, like
the ones prisoners used, marking off the days until she was
released to come back home. The place where she felt secure
and free from the temptation of the guy who still managed to
be the one she measured all the others against.
Her mental warm-up was interrupted by her ringing cell
“Hey, beautiful.” Darren’s voice brought her back to
her present-day problems. She closed her eyes, imagining
the inviting smell of his cologne, as he spoke into her ear. It
was a woodsy smell, masculine and musky after a long day
at work. She’d have to find out what it was and get a sample
from the department store to aid her in the relapse phase
after their relationship ended.
“Hey, you. What’s up? Aren’t you supposed to be
working or something?” He rarely ever called her during
work. His heavy load at the hospital prevented him from
having any free time during the day for social chit chat.
“I’m en route to my next check-up, as we speak.”
She could hear his forced breathing pattern with each step
he took. “I just had you on my mind and wanted to hear
your voice.” His smile transcended through the telephone
Elise swiveled around in her chair, twirling the strands
of her hair. “Thanks, Darren. I enjoyed last night.” Thoughts
of his hands all over her crept into her memory.
“So did I. Hey, I mentioned going away this weekend
with you, but never got to finish the proposition. Please tell
me you haven’t made plans. I’m tired of always waking up
to find an empty side of the bed. Taking you away, I’d be
sure to have you for at least forty-eight continuous hours.”
Elise took a head-start swallow, preparing herself to
deliver the news that she had to fly away to the place that
had almost claimed her life fifteen years ago. “Babe, about
this weekend. I have to go back home.” Her eyebrows lifted.
She was waiting for the twenty questions to come.
“Home? Kentucky, back home?”
“That’s the place. My sister needs me to go take care
of my mother for a week. She’s getting foot surgery this
“It would be almost impossible for me to take off on
such short notice.”
Elise broke his audible thought process. “No, I’m not
asking you to go. What I mean is, I’m just going to take a
quick trip back, carry a few trays of food to Mom, and come
back here. Then I can check off visiting for this decade and
I won’t have to return for another ten years. I’ll be back
sooner than you’ll know I’m gone.” She waited, hoping her
unrehearsed itinerary sounded like it wouldn’t take her long
at all. It almost had her convinced it wasn’t going to be as
torturous as she feared.
“Are you sure you’re going to be all right? I know you
don’t talk to your mother that much. I’ve sensed you have
some tension when it comes to the subject.”
Tension was the G-rated terminology. A blimp couldn’t
hold the bitterness she felt for her mother. “I will be fine. I
haven’t seen my sister and her kids in forever, it seems. It
will be fine.”
Did she say fine twice? It had been pointed out, once or
twice in her life, that she used that telltale word too often in
order to describe things that she definitely wasn’t fine with.
Darren was quiet. His hopes for the weekend suddenly
diminished from his tone. “Okay, but I’ll see you tonight,
“No, remember I have a late meeting?” His many
requests to lay claim to her time had begun constricting her.
This weekend, tonight, other nights. That was it! That was
his flaw. She’d found it! He wanted to spend too much time
with her. Holding a butterfly net around her like a steel cage.
She never did well with constraints. Just a few weeknights
here and there. No doubt, all the time they were spending
together had been muddling her mind, making her want to
spend more time with him. Could this be breakup material
she could use against him?
“I just figured since I wasn’t going to see you for such a
long time, I’d spend as much time with you as I could before
you left. I could come over after your meeting, if you want.”
Was he crazy? Her home was her safe haven. A place
where she hid from the world and all of its demands.
Her place to retreat to when she felt like the hands of
commitment were working their way up to her neck, bearing
down on her windpipe. She couldn’t see him tonight. She
needed as much time to mentally prepare herself for the visit
home, as possible.
“I will call you, but I’m thinking tomorrow night would
be better.” Bracing herself for his disappointed pout, she held
on to the phone.
“Just call me when you get home. I don’t want to have
to go through today with the thought that I won’t be able to
talk to you either.” He gave a dramatic pause. “Please.”
She conceded, not wanting to upset him. “Okay. Have a
“I’ll try. I love you.” The words hung in the air
somewhere between the hospital and the Franklin Office
Park, waiting for someone to claim them, then return the
She loved him. Deep down, she knew she did. She had
felt the same suffocation only once before in her life. Why
was it so difficult to admit this? Would he use it against
her? And there was the scared shitless truth of the matter.
He would use it against her. He would ask her, not just drop
hints, to move in with him, and then what? Marriage? The
mere word produced a small amount of bile in the back of
her throat. It would all go up in smoke with the three words
that scared her more than a carjacker sitting in her backseat
with a cocked gun to her head.
“You, too.” There, she said it. The two words that
always felt a little more comfortable than the prickly ones
he had just said. After all, the words did imply what he said.
Surely, he would feel validated with those just as well as the
rope and chain, I love you jargon. Anyway, she had to start
creating distance if they were going to go belly up soon. Not
committing herself to fluffy, love conversation.
She quickly clicked off the phone and pulled a water
bottle from her bag, chugging half of it, as if preparing
herself for some type of tournament in life. She flipped her
computer on and closed her eyes, waiting for it to boot up.
She began emotionally planning for some of the situations
she knew would present themselves back in her hometown.
First and foremost, Ben. The other guy, the first guy
who provoked the feeling of anxiety in her. She had managed
not to see him for the last four years. It hadn’t always been
easy. It took a lot of lies to keep her from going back home
to visit. A lot of lies about business trips and fake illnesses
that had kept her feet planted safely in California. But it
might be impossible to avoid him this trip. The town was
small and it seemed that when you tried to avoid anything
or anyone, that’s when they’d show up at gas stations and
grocery store lines. She had to work on her I’m-not-fazed-
by-you look. The one she didn’t own and could never
practice enough in front of the mirror.
The fact was that he did faze her. He still lived inside
her—his soul, a paperweight on her very own. Thoughts of
him trapped her in a spider web of memories. His boyish
smile, his flirty eyes, along with the sight of him shirtless,
pulling her into the creek that was down from his house.
She could even feel the breeze as she dropped her dress
on the edge of the water and walked to him. His chest
pressing close to her as his muscular arms encompassed
her. They waded out until the tips of her hair floated on
top the sparkly warm water. He slowly spun her around,
kissing her passionately, moving from her lips to the part of
her neck that made her eyes close with ecstasy. Her whole
world rested inside him as he held her as tight as he could,
reassuring her he’d never let her go.
“Miss Newton,” Janine quietly said, after clearing her
Elise’s trance unlocked upon hearing the high
pitch in her secretary’s voice. She was suddenly back in
California, and a thirty-one-year-old software designer. The
bright fluorescent lights of her office mutilated her dusky
daydreams of Kentucky evenings back home.