Chasing Serenity (River Rain #1) by Kristen Ashley



If he had it right, because this was so important to him, they’d had this conversation on their third date.

If it wasn’t their third, it was their fourth.

And that wasn’t the last time they’d talked about it.

“Do you want kids, Meg?” he repeated.

“We’ve talked about this, Judge,” she snapped.

Another tell. She quickly got belligerent when she was called on something she couldn’t defend.

“Yes, and you told me you did. Now, I’m not sure you were being truthful.”

“Are you saying I lied?”

“I’m saying your hair shakes when you’re hedging. And your hair just shook.”

She knew not to challenge him on things like that. You didn’t deal with children on a regular basis, not to mention donors, and not be hyper-attentive.

“I think I’m realizing I’m one of those later-in-life-for-a-family women,” she admitted, like it was nothing.

But it was not nothing.

It was big shit.

And she knew it.

“You’d mentioned that, and I told you I wasn’t real big on being in my fifties, and living the life with my family that I want, rather than being in my thirties or forties. And you agreed, saying you wanted the same thing.”

“You’ll be fit until you die, Judge,” she scoffed. “You’ll be hiking and biking and camping when you’re eighty.”

“Sure, but time doesn’t discriminate. There’s no arguing I’ll be fitter in my thirties and forties. And when my kids are young, I want them to enjoy me when I’m also young.”

“Judge—”

“This is a big shift, Meg, anything behind it?”

“Judge.”

He didn’t cut her off that time. She just didn’t continue.

“Earlier, did you intend to end us or change us?” he asked.

It was slight, but she lifted her chin.

She had a dimple in it.

He’d thought it was cute.

He still did.

“I need a man who will fight for me,” she declared.

“I get that, because I need a woman who will do the same for me.”

It was impossible for him to put more meaning into those words.

And she knew precisely why.

She flinched.

Shit.

That said it all.

He remained standing, she sat there, and they stared at each other.

And suddenly, he got it.

He understood.

He understood where he was at.

And he understood where she was too.

This meant he got closer to the table, to her, because they both needed him to share it.

“Honest to Christ, this isn’t meant to hurt you, Meg, but I’m in love with you.”

Her expression warmed.

“But I don’t love you,” he finished.

Her face went blank.

“And if you’re honest with yourself,” Judge continued, “you’ll see you feel the same way about me. We’re great together. We’re great in bed. We’ve had great times. But there’s a reason neither of us is willing to give in order to have more of the other. We don’t fit. We don’t share the same goals. We don’t find the same things important. There’s nothing wrong with what you want or what you think is important. There isn’t anything wrong with where I’m at with all that. They just don’t go together, and I think we both knew it, you just got us on the road where we’d get it.”

Her eyes were crazy, and as such, concerning as they moved over his face and she said, “I don’t think I knew it. I think I just blew it.”

“Give it some time, honey,” he said gently.

“Judge—”

He cut her off then by leaning in and pressing a hard kiss on her mouth.

When he pulled away, he didn’t go far when he said, “Bottom line, it’s been fun, you’re fantastic, and I’ll never forget it, Meg.”

Her mouth opened.

But so they could both get on with things, Judge walked away.

And he didn’t look back.





Chapter 1





The Two Words





Judge





Now…



Considering the fact he’d brought in a coffee for his buddy, Rix, who managed the store, Judge was down on the floor where Rix’s office was, not on the top floor where his was, so he saw her when she walked into the shoe section.