The Man Before You
Publication date: February 9th 2021
Genres: Adult, Romance
Time may not actually heal all wounds, but love just might.
Eloise’s husband was dead and she wished she were too. She quit going to work, refused to answer her phone or her front door, and shut out the people who cared about her. She felt imprisoned by her tainted memories, but couldn’t escape her own home or recliner, because she had to focus on breathing.
Six days after she buried her husband, Jack pounded on Eloise’s door. Jack, a man she hadn’t seen or spoken to in over a decade. Jack, the only man including her husband, who Eloise felt truly knew her.
Jack’s life hadn’t been without its fair share of loss. Breaking contact after Eloise’s marriage had seemed the best thing for them, but regret tortured Jack when Eloise swung open her door and he saw the shell of the woman he once loved.
Eloise pushed Jack away ten years ago and never expected him to come back into her life. She hated herself for wanting Jack to stay, but she couldn’t help but remember the love they once shared and the life that they could’ve had—or the life they could have now.
The longer Jack stayed, the more he realized Eloise blamed herself for not being there when her husband died. Jack wanted a second chance, but Eloise didn’t think she deserved one. Eloise wanted to find herself, but wasn’t sure she could while dealing with grief, Jack’s deployments, PTSD, and a universe that seemed determined to keep them apart.
Eloise switched on the television. She didn’t remember the last time she ate or showered and had no desire to start functioning again. She pulled the blanket up around her neck as the doorbell rang. Rossi jumped up and started barking. Eloise placed her hand on top of Rossi’s head. Whoever it was could leave their “I’m sorry” and their stupid-ass lasagna tray on the porch and leave. Eloise turned up the volume and ignored the knocking that followed the doorbell. Rossi stayed standing, but quiet.
“Eloise! Open the door, please. I know you’re home.” The voice was followed by more pounding and Eloise clicked the remote volume up three more notches.
Maybe one of the neighbors will call the police and complain, she thought.
“Eloise, it’s Jack.” The noise stopped and she felt as though the wind had been permanently knocked out of her. She froze, waiting to see if the silence would stay. It didn’t.
“Eloise, open the damn door.” The male voice roared through the entryway and Eloise’s breath hitched. It couldn’t be him. She hadn’t heard that voice in ten years and yet the sound of it made her feel like she’d never gone without it.
Eloise stood and wrapped the blanket around herself tighter, hoping it would magically become a shield. She debated not opening the door, but if Jack was anything like he used to be, he wouldn’t go away. Eloise would probably leave a month from now and find he’d been living on her porch. Rossi rose with Eloise and matched her stride. Eloise took a quick glance in the mirror hanging in her entryway, knowing full well she could pass for a person who’d been sleeping behind a dumpster, and then swung the door open.
Jack. A man Eloise hadn’t seen or spoken to in ten years. He straightened from his leaning position over her window. He stood too tall, too straight. His feet spread apart too evenly. Rossi moved to place her body between Eloise and Jack, shifting her gaze from Eloise to Jack.
“Eloise.” One word, then Jack snapped his mouth shut. Eloise closed her eyes and waited for him to look her over. She knew he would. “I wish there was something to say, but I know nothing will make this any easier.” Jack’s voice was this cross between being out of breath and a whisper, and Eloise wondered where the screaming madman he was a second ago went.
“Why are you even here?” Eloise noted Jack locking his fingers in front of his waist. He looked different and exactly the same.
Shalana Battles is a YA/Adult writer who tells stories about love…sometimes with witches and ghosts. Her debut novel, SOUL JUMPER is coming out October, 6, 2020. Be the first to hear about upcoming projects and book updates by signing up for her newsletter below!