DATING A METRO MAN
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SERIES: NEVER TOO LATE, BOOK FOUR
PUBLISHER: CREATESPACE PUBLISHING
FORMAT: TRADE PAPERBACK & EBOOK
LENGTH: 246 PAGES
RELEASE DATE (PRINT): JUNE 28, 2011
E-BOOK ISBN: 978-1-939988-04-1
PRINT ISBN-13: 978-1-466207-26-4
Like mother, like daughter? Or will Jenna Ranger give up on love and romance?
Book four of this humorous romantic comedy series continues this popular contemporary romance saga and explores it through a younger generation.
If asked, 30 yr old Seth Carter could not have recounted a single moment since he’d met her that he had not loved the stubborn, self-centered, and admittedly spoiled 28 yr old Jenna Ranger. Jenna admits to having her fair share of faults, but Seth is far from being the perfect man. No rational woman would want to invest in a relationship with someone who so obviously loves his cell phone more than he does her. How can she let herself love someone who chooses his work over everything else?
Read Chapters 1 and 2
There was complete silence in the car as Allen and Jenna drove away from Alexa 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.
The celebration dinner for Lauren 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 had been 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 acute embarrassment and violent 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.
Allen had watched her go. At that moment, he decided with certainty that there wasn’t a chance in hell of anything real ever happening between him and Jenna. The idiocy he felt for agreeing one more time to being Jenna’s token date was now immeasurable. Well, he intended to never be an idiot about Jenna or Seth again. It wasn’t helping any of them.
Allen sighed and blew out a frustrated breath. “Jenna, this just isn’t working.”
“I’m sorry I embarrassed you, 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 is concerned,” Jenna explained as Allen parked the car in front of her apartment. “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 Seth didn’t act on that feeling.”
“Not true. Not at all. Seth didn’t act because he never follows through on his feelings. But 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. At least she wouldn’t feel like such a coward.
“Embarrassment is temporary, but you and I are definitely not going to date anymore. We’re moving this relationship into a friendship where it belongs and here’s my first friendly piece of advice for you. Give Seth Carter another chance. You need to explore whatever it is that’s between you. 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. She might often look like her glamorous mother, but Jenna was more emotionally complex and not nearly as nice. While that cool challenge had held allure at first, over time it had worn out the patient man he normally was.
“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 just wish I could be the woman you’re looking for, and I mean that more than I’m obviously going to be able to convince you about now.”
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 in a long line that wasn’t meant for him.
“I’m not stupid and neither are you, Jenna Ranger. You didn’t get even a little bit turned on by my kiss just now, and Seth Carter is the damn reason. That’s not a truth you can run from for long, no matter how stubborn you want to be about it,” Allen said, resigned to the truth.
“I want to want you,” Jenna said quietly.
“I know you do, honey. But that’s not how the real thing seems to work. You should have figured that one out by now.”
Allen shook his head in the darkness that had fallen around them. It had been months since he’d been intimate with a woman, mostly because he’d spent two months hoping to be intimate 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 harder to get you into bed, I might have changed your mind for a short period of time. But I couldn’t let our relationship play out like that because I like your mother, Casey, Seth, and you. I was trying to be fair to all of us. Now I’m glad I didn’t press you for more because we can be real friends without any guilt. Starting next week I’m going to date other people and you are going to face your destiny.”
“Seth Carter is not my destiny. He’s my damn nemesis,” Jenna said bitterly.
“Yeah probably—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 punishment, Goddess Jenna, and get it out of your system. Then forgive Carter and live happily ever after with the man. I like him and 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 his business plans on hold long enough to have a normal relationship with me. I’ve kissed you more times in the two months we’ve been dating than I kissed Seth in the four months I dated him,” Jenna exclaimed.
Tears about the truth of that statement were blurring the anger and hurt until they were indivisible from the pain constricting 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 opened the car door and stepped out. Tears were going to start flowing rapidly soon, and she 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 he had done to win her. Or maybe she was just that wounded from Carter’s rejection. Either way, it was just sad that someone as beautiful as Jenna Ranger was so insecure about herself. But it wasn’t meant for him to fix her.
“Look, call me next week and we’ll do dinner.” Allen sighed with frustration over his efforts to make peace, 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 and only him.
“Sure,” Jenna answered. But she knew it would be a long time before she could call Allen again.
Allen’s car pulled away as she walked sniffling up her sidewalk. Maybe she was repeating her mother’s mistakes after all. Maybe she was destined to move restlessly from one man to the next while she stupidly longed for one that didn’t want her. It was the only explanation that made any sense about why the most attractive man she’d ever known had just become another casualty of her toxic dating life.
Dr. Regina Logan stopped outside her next consultation room and lifted the chart from the door. A new one, she thought, noting the green flag placed on the edge of the folder. She flipped open the chart and scanned the information quickly. She always waited until she had finished before she looked at the name of the person. Her eyes grew wide when she saw Seth Carter’s name written at the top. She swore silently in shock as she scanned the information again quickly, this time with a different eye.
Taking a deep breath, she finally knocked and stepped inside. Seth stood as she walked into the room.
“Dr. Logan,” he acknowledged. He tucked his cell phone into his pants pocket. Regina noted the action and smiled her approval of his politeness.
“Hello, Seth,” she said smiling, and then waved a hand at the chair. “Please have a seat. You can call me Regina here too if you like. I want you to be comfortable.”
“I guess you’re probably surprised to see me.” Seth sat again in the chair and studied her face, looking for shock, disapproval, surprise, or any other emotion. All he could see in her gaze was kindness and patience.
Regina shrugged to indicate her neutrality on the matter. “If I am surprised, it’s pleasantly. I hope that I can help you with whatever brought you here today.”
Seth looked at her a long time before he spoke. “I don’t know where to start.” His gaze dropped from hers to study his hands.
Regina was used to the initial discomfort that most of her patients felt. She was working to shut out the knowledge that this was Casey’s cousin and Jenna’s great love. She focused instead on Seth’s bowed head and the nervousness in his hands.
“How about I ask you some simple questions and you answer them?” Regina suggested.
Seth nodded and swallowed nervously. “Sure,” he said.
“In your client profile, you mentioned that you were experiencing some sexual problems. Do you know if you have a physical problem? Have you seen your regular physician?”
Seth shook his head. “It’s not physical. I don’t have any problems with getting—well,” he paused to look for the right words.
“—getting or maintaining an erection?” Regina supplied, helping Seth get past the verbiage.
“Right,” Seth said, glad he hadn’t had to explain it himself. “The problem isn’t physical. It’s something else, but I don’t know exactly what it is.”
“Can you describe the problem to me?” Regina closed his file. She linked her fingers together and rested her hands on top of the folder to show her willingness to wait while Seth searched for words.
“Can I use her name?” Seth asked, not sure if it was some sort of violation or not since Regina knew Jenna.
“You need to say things in any manner that works for you. You can say absolutely anything in this room and it will go no further. I don’t even put the details in your file. I use codes in my notes that are known only to me and one other deeply trusted member of my staff. I take many precautions in protecting a client’s privacy.”
Regina paused and waited to see what Seth would say next.
Seth nodded his head in acknowledgment letting Regina know that he understood and believed her. “Okay. My problem is with Jenna.” He looked away to a window that looked over the street in front of the office building.
Regina could see Seth’s mind had gone somewhere far away as he was looking for a way to explain. She well knew how difficult it was to ask for help. “Can you describe the problem?”
“Jenna thinks I don’t want her, and I can’t seem to change her mind. The night of Casey and Alexa’s engagement party I was alone with Jenna in her room. We started kissing. Things got heated between us very quickly, but I stopped because I didn’t have any protection with me. I would have helped—shit,” Seth blushed and swallowed, “I would have been happy to help her—this is incredibly hard to talk about with someone other than her.”
Embarrassed more than he could ever remember being, Seth leaned forward in the chair and rubbed his face.
Regina made a considering hum in her throat. “Let me see if I can fill in the blanks and help you a bit. You and Jenna were making out, but you stopped because you didn’t want to have unprotected intercourse with her. You were willing to do other things, but I take it Jenna had a bad reaction to that.”
Seth shook his head from side to side. “I didn’t even get to suggest it. She wouldn’t even hear me out about why I’d stopped. She was already mad when I showed up, but after that happened she was angry and cold. I could tell that she completely shut out the possibility of being with me in any manner. I don’t get what I did wrong. I thought stopping was the right thing to do—the thing a nice guy would do. I tried to ask what was wrong, but all I got was more anger. Seems like anger is the strongest feeling she has toward me.”
“Have there been other exchanges since then?” Regina asked.
“Nothing worth mentioning,” Seth said sadly. “I embarrassed her at Casey and Alexa’s wedding reception. Fortunately, I walked away before anything really bad happened.”
“Okay. This is the part where I have to ask some really personal questions. You dated Jenna for quite some time. Did you two ever have intercourse?” Regina looked at the grim set of Seth’s jaw and knew the answer before he replied.
“No,” he said.
She nodded at his cryptic reply. “Okay. Did you express your sexuality with her other ways, such as heavy petting or oral gratification?”
Ignoring his pained expression, Regina took out a pen and pretended to make a note on her chart while Seth struggled with answering.
“No. We never had sex—I mean, intercourse.”
Regina kept her head down but nodded that she heard. “So it sounds like you were abstaining. Was abstinence a mutual decision, or did one of you have a moral or religious prohibition against having sex?”
Regina looked up from her notes when Seth laughed loudly.
“No,” Seth shook his head, “neither of us had any moral or religious prohibitions. Or at least not that I knew about.”
“So abstaining was a mutual decision then?” Regina suggested, pen still poised above the file.
Seth studied his hands again. “I guess to be fair it was my call more than Jenna’s. At least, that’s what she says about it.”
“Okay. So Jenna didn’t want to abstain. Why did you want to? You were together for several months in what appeared to be a serious dating relationship,” Regina recounted.
Seth sighed. How could he explain to Regina? He could barely explain it to himself. That was partly why he was here.
“When I came across Jenna Ranger, I thought she was the most incredibly hot woman I had ever met in my entire life. But I also thought it was terrible timing for me to have found such a serious relationship. While I never felt attraction so strongly before, I know how intense that first rush of passion is for relationships and how all-consuming it can be of your time. I was incredibly busy with my business. I got phone calls from several different time zones at all hours of the day and night. I didn’t think I could be available enough to her.”
Seth looked toward the window again as he tried to describe the situation in a way that was fair to both him and Jenna.
“Jenna is used to constant attention. She would get really upset when I wasn’t giving her a hundred percent. I guess while we were dating I was trying to have just a friendly relationship until I had the time to give myself freely to a passionate one. The bottom line is I want to marry her. I’ve known that almost since the first moment we met.”
Seth leaned back in the chair and sighed at finally getting to say it out loud, even if it was just to a doctor.
“Okay. I’m convinced you have serious feelings for Jenna. What about her? Did she return your passionate interest?” Regina knew the answer already but found herself wondering if Seth really did. Somehow she doubted it.
“Yes.” Seth didn’t hesitate. “And Jenna still wants me, but now she doesn’t want to want me. I finally believe her when she says it. She’s been seeing other men and trying to get over me, but I don’t think she’s slept with any of them yet. At least, she hadn’t up to the night of Lauren’s product launch party. She accidentally confessed that there hadn’t been anyone.”
Regina looked thoughtful as she tapped the end of the pen on her chin. “Okay. Here’s my next question. While you were still actively dating Jenna, what did you do with the passion you felt, but that neither of you were expressing within your relationship? Even priests have a lot of trouble turning off sexual arousal, and they have elaborate ways to handle it. Most normal people merely subjugate the sexual urge by channeling it to either another less risky person, to self-gratification, or to substitute activities such as overeating. You look healthy and fit, so I’m going to guess that you don’t overeat.”
Seth flushed to the roots of his hair, closed his eyes, and groaned in embarrassment. “Do you have to know the specifics?”
When he opened his eyes again, Regina nodded in sympathy but was firm in her reply. “Yes. I do. I think it’s important to this discussion.”
“I resorted to—self-gratification,” Seth said, mortified as he used her clinical term for how he coped.
“There’s nothing wrong with that choice. How frequently?” Regina carefully returned her attention to the file, wrote a couple of codes, and saw Seth moving restlessly in the chair. She looked up to see his flaming red face.
“Seth, there’s nothing wrong with self-gratification. I’d be a remarkably rich woman if I had a nickel for each time I’ve had to explain this to people. The alternative to sex that you chose was a testament to your feelings for Jenna. You could have taken that passion to another person. Many—in fact most people—do that. In your case, self-gratification was probably a more honorable choice. It is the one I recommend to people most frequently in situations where one or the other of the partners can’t be sexual for some extended period of time. So tell me how often and how consistently. I wouldn’t ask such a personal thing if I didn’t think I truly needed to know.”
Regina watched his high color fade a bit as he looked toward the window and sighed. Facing truths about sexual feelings was hard for everyone.
“Four or five times a week, sometimes more. I guess it’s been that way every week since I met her.” Feeling shameful despite Regina’s reassurances, Seth leaned his head back in the chair and closed his eyes.
“That’s all perfectly reasonable,” Regina said, smiling a little at her folder. “Do you know what Jenna did to handle her abstinence?”
Seth’s head came up and his eyes locked on Regina’s. “What do you mean?”
Working not to show her irritation at his shock, Regina tried to make her voice a balance of logic and kindness. “Well—if Jenna returned your passionate interest as you claim, then it’s reasonable to assume she would need to find an outlet as well if neither of you were helping the other achieve sexual release.”
Seth frowned. He suddenly found himself remembering the power of Jenna’s desperate kiss in the bedroom the day of Alexa’s party and recalling how she had turned off her response as soon as he put on the brakes. What did that mean? “I guess I never thought about it. I guess I thought she did nothing. Women seem to handle sexual frustration better than men, don’t they?”
Regina shook her head from side to side and sighed at the lack of true understanding in his response. She saw this all the time.
“No. That’s a societal myth. Your thinking, like that of most people’s, is completely wrong. First, single women without regular sexual partners self-gratify as much as men. If you don’t think I’m right, check out the ongoing sales of vibrators. I’m sure the number would shock you, but it is hard evidence—excuse the pun. But that number doesn’t include the women who don’t use them and there’s a lot of those too. Secondly, let’s talk about sexual arousal for a woman Jenna’s age. Her sexual arousal when she is turned on is probably five times stronger than your arousal at your age. If she’s not doing anything to seek relief from the sexual tension she feels around you, then she’s probably been in the world’s worst mood for a very, very long time.”
Regina laughed softly as a shocked Seth processed the information. She could see the epiphany happening in his gaze.
“Shit,” he said, as the errors in his thinking were becoming clear. “You’re saying Jenna’s perpetually mad at me because I get her wound up and never follow through?”
“Mad is probably the mildest word you could use to describe her frustration level. When it comes to sexually frustrated women, men should avoid being alone with them in rooms with large throwable objects, sharp knives, or ball bats.” Regina smiled as understanding finally dawned in Seth’s eyes.
“When I followed her to the bedroom, she was throwing her shoes against the wall. I thought she was just having a temper tantrum. You’re telling me it could have been more than that?” Seth asked, still trying to take it all in.
Regina shrugged, “Possibly. Since I don’t have Jenna’s side of the story, I can’t confirm.”
“She said she was done with me. My God, she’s dating other guys. She’s trying to take her passion to another person because I—oh shit, Regina. What the hell am I going to do? How am I going to fix this?”
Seth looked at her desperately and her heart contracted. It was so damn hard to help people she knew. Eventually, she got up and walked to a shelf with a fishbowl full of small, colorful foil packets. Regina scooped a handful out, walked to Seth, and dropped them into his hands.
“Here. Never be without at least one of these in your pocket. If you’re not willing to take any risks, then at least be prepared at all times to follow through when given the opportunity.” Regina laughed again when Seth looked surprised at the various colors and textures.
Staring stupidly at them, Seth closed his hands around the packets of condoms and nodded. “I feel like I’m in a high school sex education course. I can’t believe I have to be told something so simple at age thirty.”
Regina laughed. “That’s because you currently have little or no sympathy for what Jenna is suffering. We need to change that and make you not just sympathetic but empathetic. As often as you’ve been achieving sexual release on your own, you’ve literally forgotten how bad it can be to be churned up and not have an outlet. So I want you to completely stop self-gratification for the next week, and then come back and see me. And I want you to not approach Jenna again until you do.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Seth couldn’t believe what he was hearing, couldn’t believe what she was asking of him.
“Do you want to fix this or not?” Regina asked quietly, smiling at his shock.
Seth nodded. “Well yes—of course, I do. I’m willing to do as you ask, but I don’t see how that’s going to make a difference.”
Regina wondered just how bad off Seth would be in a week and how long it would take him to figure it out. She’d almost said two weeks, but experience and instinct told her Seth Carter would never make it two weeks.
“You’re going to want to put away anything around your house that is valuable and that you don’t want to be broken. Getting back in touch with your sexual tension will be a bit like going through the worst parts of puberty again. When you start getting frustrated in a few days, your mood is going to shift dramatically. You may have trouble sleeping. You may be irritable with the people around you. Some men have told me that they destroyed things.”
Seth snorted. “I don’t think it’s going to get that bad in a week.”
“Think of it this way,” Regina said, eyes twinkling, “an average single man self-gratifies once or twice a week. You’re above the average. This means your sexual frustration will be proportional and likely start the first day you abstain. I could be wrong, but I’m rarely wrong. I’ve asked lots of men to do this. It is torturous, but effective one hundred percent of the time.”
She wrote something on a form and handed it to Seth. “Tell the front office I said to schedule you in the morning exactly a week from today. If you have any questions before then, call me.”
Seth nodded. “What if Jenna sleeps with someone before the week is up? She’s still dating Stedman.”
“I don’t know. Only you can answer that question, Seth.” Regina said softly.
Seth nodded and walked out the door. Regina sighed after he’d left and laid her head back in her chair. Lord, what people did to each other. The simplicity of her relationship with Ben never failed to bring a rush of gratitude to her. All the years she had spent looking had been validated the day Ben Kaiser walked into her life. The right person simply made all the difference.
She found herself wondering if Seth was going to prove to be the right person for Jenna and vice versa. Even with her skills, Regina knew all she could do was tell the truth and hope her clients were smart enough to figure it out. She sighed again and rose to go see the next one.
What a fascinating author! McDonald’s not only broken the mold, she’s completely shattered it with her tales of mature love. Her books are heartwarming, encouraging, and every woman should read this series! ~ JM Madden, author of Wet Dream, Second Time Around, The Awakening Society, A Needful Heart, and Urban Moon