There was complete silence in the car as they drove away from Alexa’s and Casey’s house.
Allen was okay with that because it gave him time to think of what he intended to say to Jenna Ranger when he broke up with her in a few minutes. Lauren’s celebration dinner had been a lot of fun right up to the part where Jenna put her hands in Seth Carter’s lap to brush food from his crotch.
The shock on Seth’s face at Jenna’s unexpected action was comical. Seth had actually grabbed Jenna’s hand to stop her from stroking him but it had been too late to stop the inevitable from happening. Allen had wanted to laugh at Seth who looked torn between embarrassment and open lust.
The blush on Jenna’s face when she realized what she was causing to happen to Seth had also been inevitable, as was the stammering apology she gave Seth as she ran away from him to the kitchen.
The idiocy Allen felt for agreeing one more time to being Jenna’s token date was immeasurable. He intended to never be such an idiot again. It wasn’t helping any of them.
“I’m sorry, Allen. I swear I’ve not been leading you on or anything like that. I like you, really like you, but I’m certifiably insane where Seth Carter is concerned. I don’t want to feel anything for him. I don’t even know anymore what I do feel. He’s made a second career out of rejecting me, and I still can’t seem to stop being stupidly drawn to him.”
Allen turned his body in the seat until he was facing Jenna completely. He did his best to draw her gaze to his, but she was looking everywhere she could but at his face.
“Seth wasn’t rejecting you at your mother’s wedding reception,” Allen reminded her. “Any fool could see he wanted to drag you out of there, and that you wanted the same thing. I’m probably the only reason he didn’t act on that feeling.”
“Not true. Seth didn’t act because he never follows through on his feelings. Still, I didn’t mean to embarrass you then—or tonight,” Jenna said sincerely, her voice tight with unshed tears.
Allen Stedman, the best looking heterosexual man she knew, was sitting across from her and she wanted to cry because she had absolutely no interest in taking him to bed. For the first time in her life, Jenna truly wished she were more like her mother.
“Embarrassment is temporary, but you and I are not going to date anymore. We’re moving this relationship into friendship where it belongs, and here’s my first friendly piece of advice for you. Give Seth another chance. You need to explore whatever it is that’s between you,” Allen ordered. “Hell, if I had even a small chance at that much attraction to someone, I’d be all over that person.”
Allen saw his emphatic declaration brought Jenna’s gaze to his at last. Stubborn resistance wrinkled her forehead and made her frown. Jenna Ranger might often look like her glamorous mother, but she was a lot more emotionally complex and not nearly as nice. While that challenge held allure at first, over time it could wear a patience man out.
“No,” Jenna said, shaking her head in denial. “I can’t go back to Seth. The other forty or fifty chances were enough humiliation for a lifetime. I wish I could be the woman you’re looking for, and I mean that more than I’m going to be able to convince you.”
Allen leaned across the seat and put his lips on Jenna’s knowing it was probably going to be the last time. He thoroughly explored their taste and texture before pulling away. She was a beautiful, kissable woman, but obviously one more that wasn’t for him.
“I’m not stupid and neither are you, Jenna. You didn’t even get even a little bit turned on by my kiss just now, and Seth Carter is the reason. That’s not a truth you can run from for long, no matter how stubborn you want to be,” Allen said, resignation heavy in his voice.
“I’m sorry, Allen. I want to want you,” Jenna said quietly.
“I know, honey, but that’s not how the real thing seems to work,” Allen said, smiling broadly in the dark that had fallen around them now.
It had been months since he’d been a woman, and Allen had spent two months dating only this one. He figured he deserved a damn medal for not taking advantage of Jenna’s vulnerability. Carter owed him forever and one day he was going to make the man pay.
“If I had tried hard enough to get you into bed, I might have changed your mind for a short period of time. I couldn’t let our relationship play out like that because I like your mother, Casey, Seth, and you. Now I’m glad I didn’t press you for more because we can be real friends. I’m going to date other people, and you are going to face your destiny,” Allen said firmly.
“Seth Carter is not my destiny. He’s my damn nemesis,” Jenna said bitterly.
“Yeah and maybe you’re his. I loved reading mythology in college. Nemesis was the Greek goddess of retribution,” Allen said, grinning. He poked her arm with a finger, pushing Jenna toward the door. Normally, it would have made her laugh. The woman was moody as hell and you never knew where you stood with her.
“Go exact your just punishment, Goddess Jenna, and get it out of your system. Then forgive Carter and live happily ever after. I want him back in the gym with me in a few weeks. It’s your job to get him there.”
“Allen, you’re such a romantic. Seth is never going to put business plans on hold long enough to have a normal relationship with me. I’ve kissed you more times in the month or two we’ve been dating than I kissed Seth in the four months I dated him,” Jenna exclaimed, tears about the truth of that statement blurring the anger and hurt until they were indivisible from the pain in her heart.
She looked out the car window and away from Allen’s pitying gaze. “Seth Carter only cares about what he can accomplish in life. Being intimate with me has never been high up on his priority list. Even if I did manage to share his bed for a while, do you think sex is going to magically change his attitude about his work coming first? I don’t.”
“Jenna, have more faith in yourself and what you two can have together. Give up this negative thinking thing you always do about Seth. You’re just feeling sorry for yourself,” Allen said softly.
“That’s because no one else feels sorry for me at all. When rejection happens to you one day, maybe then you’ll believe me about how much it hurts to be dying with desire for someone who sets aside what you’re offering and walks away every time,” Jenna told him, opening the car door and stepping out.
Tears were going to start flowing rapidly soon, and Jenna wanted to escape before the flood came.
Allen snorted and shook his head about Jenna’s rejection comment. She was a good person in most ways, but hadn’t matured enough to realize that she had spent two months rejecting everything Allen had done to win her.
Or maybe she was just that wounded from Carter’s rejection.
Allen thought it was sad that someone as beautiful as Jenna Ranger was so insecure about herself.
“Look—call me next week and we’ll do dinner,” Allen said, sighing with frustration even as part of him was still feeling extremely relieved by the break-up. He was tired of being alone and wanted to start looking for someone who might actually want him—just him.
“Sure,” Jenna answered, knowing it would be a long time before she could call Allen again.
Maybe she was repeating her mother’s mistakes after all, she thought. Maybe she was destined to move restlessly from one man to the next while she longed for the one that didn’t really want her.
It was the only explanation for why the most attractive man she’d ever known had become yet another casualty of her toxic dating life.