Lake + Manning
Book Review - Lake + Manning by Jessica Hawkins
What a way to conclude a series that has left my emotions all over the place. This ride has been angst ridden, heartbreaking, frustrating at times and is exactly what I absolutely love in a book or series. Lake and Manning their journey has been a roller coaster of Fuck. And more then once I’ve wanted to pitch my kindle across as room for all the obstacles they have had to overcome. For me this book was raw with emotion. Because an HEA is not paved with an easy map. It’s got landmines and it can get messy but it’s how you get through those land mines together that makes love worth it. Yes I want a epic romance and yes I want a happy HEA that makes me sigh blissfully but I also want to see that not everything is perfect not every road is paved smoothly and this book gave me exactly that. It was beautiful, heartbreaking at times and it even made me wanna choke a bitch. Yes I got angry at some of the actions of these characters but I also loved those actions because they represented for me that in a relationship emotions get the better of us and sometimes we say or do things that we shouldn’t but that is what makes us human. And boy did I relate to parts of this story and at times I had to take a break from it cause it hit me a little too close to home and unleashed some feelings toward my own situation. A great book will do that to you. I loved this book and I don’t think that this series would be complete without it. It was the perfect conclusion to a love story and for the romantic in mean hit me in all the right spots.
The final book in the Something in the Way series, a love saga. Manning and I have what happily-ever-after is made of . . . A home he built us on the unshakeable foundation we fought for. A life of laughter carved out of heartache and betrayal. A love story to stand the test of time. But between a trust that can’t be broken, joy that can’t be bridled, and passion that would scorch the sun, the empty spaces are becoming more and more difficult to ignore . . . Fears that keep Manning up at night as he slips from our bed. Our complicated relationship with a man he respects and one I don't know how to forgive. And a sprawling, beautiful home with one small room I'm afraid I'll never be able to fill. Manning and I have what happily-ever-after is made of . . . But I'll beg the heavens for just one thing more.
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With oven mitts tucked under one arm and my cell balanced between my ear and shoulder, I stepped over Blue. Every winter since we’d adopted her two years ago, the dog had taken to lying in the middle of the kitchen whenever I baked.
“One sec,” I said into the phone and bent at the waist. I flipped on the oven light and a blueberry pie appeared, crust browning right on schedule. “Perfect.”
“What’s perfect?” Val asked on the other end of the line.
“The pie I’m baking Manning.”
“Good. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
Not exactly. After over a week away from Manning, food would be the second thing on his mind. “They need to think a few inches lower.”
“You’re such a wife, and you’re not even married. I bet you’re wearing an apron and everything.”
“I am. It has birds on it.”
“Okay, that’s weird. Birds have nothing to do with cooking,” Val said.
“But here’s what you need to do. Once Manning is full of pie and bear meat, or whatever a human his size eats, and he’s half-asleep, ask him why.”
“The marriage thing.”
I turned off the oven. I should’ve known she’d bring it back up, even though I’d tried to steer her off course. Diversion tactics didn’t work on my best friend when she was onto something. “There’s no marriage thing,” I said, checking over my shoulder to make sure Manning hadn’t snuck up on me. “Can we drop this?”
“You were telling me you weren’t sure why, after four years of cohabitation—”
“One of which I commuted to Los Angeles for work,” I said, “and three of which I’ve lived part-time in Pomona.”
She ignored me. “You were saying you don’t know why Manning hasn’t proposed yet.”
“That’s not what I said.” With a sigh, I removed the pie from the oven and set it on a burner. “I already know why he hasn’t—I told him not to until I was done with school.”
“You said you didn’t want to get married until you were done with school—and you’re graduating next summer. He can still propose.”
I hated to admit Val had a point. What I’d actually started to explain before I’d remembered Val would take anything juicy and run with it, was how Manning used to bug me constantly about getting married . . . but lately, he’d been uncharacteristically quiet on the topic. Between his furniture business and me being gone four days a week for school, marriage had hardly come up at all the last six or so months. I wasn’t wondering why he hadn’t proposed—I wanted to know why he’d given up trying to propose.
Because Manning had ways of getting what he wanted. We’d once spent three weeks arguing over whether I needed snow tread tires for my car. Snow in Big Bear was pretty mild, and when it wasn’t, we took Manning’s truck. Winter tires were expensive.
I’d given in out of exhaustion.
Manning wanted to get married, of that I was certain. He would’ve sealed the deal the warm September day I’d moved in except that I’d made him promise to wait. That, and he wanted the wedding to be special, and right now, neither of us had time for anything more than a quick trip to City Hall. Manning’s business kept him busy around the clock. I went to school two hours away, so I’d rented an apartment where I stayed during the week. Our life had not yet begun.
But it would soon. I had one semester left of classes before graduating in May, and surely that had crossed Manning’s mind. “I’m not going to dope him up on blueberry pie and ask him to ask me to marry him. Especially since I don’t even know if I want that yet.”
“You won’t let yourself want it because you’ve been burned in the past.”
“Not true. I want it eventually, but with our schedules—”
“Blah, blah, blah. Listen, if the pie doesn’t get him to drop to one knee, withhold sex until he caves. I assume you’re naked under your apron.”
I laughed. “I am not. And I don’t need Manning to cave. He and I have no secrets. If I’m ready for a proposal, I can just tell him.”
“Where’s the fun in that?” she asked. “In my plan, you get pie andsex.”
“I’m already getting those things. Since I was gone all last week for exams, I’m surprising him with a home-cooked meal and . . . other things.” I didn’t need an excuse to feed us both into a coma or climb Manning like the mountain of a man he was. Nor did I need one to broach the subject of marriage—should I decide to do such a thing.
“He thinks you’re still in Pomona?” she asked.
“Until tomorrow.” Blue raised her head to look at me with her signature turquoise eyes. I put my index finger over my lips. “Don’t tell Daddy.”
“Ew,” Val said. “You call him Daddy?”
“I was talking to Blue.” I squatted to scratch her stomach. Manning and I had decided to foster pets until after graduation when I’d be living at home full-time. Blue was a Border Collie-Australian Shepherd mix—or so we guessed—named after the striking color of her eyes. She’d been the third dog we’d taken in. I’d cried buckets when the shelter had placed the second dog, so Manning had suggested we keep Blue. He’d said it was to prevent more tears, but it was no secret Manning had a weakness for blue eyes.
When the front door opened, Blue perked up. “He’s here,” I whispered to Val. “I’ll call you later.”
“Tell him to put a ring on it,” she cried.
“I don’t even want to know how many times you’ve listened to Beyoncé’s new album,” I said before I hung up.
“Lake?” Manning called, stomping through the foyer.
I stood and smoothed out my apron before quickly scrubbing flour from
my wrist. “In the kitchen.”
He came in wiping his temple on his sleeve. “You said you were driving in tomorrow morning.”
I had about two seconds to get a good look at him—flannel open at the collar, a week’s worth of beard, and hair pushed off his face—before he had me off my feet and wrapped in one of his strong bear hugs.
“I decided to surprise you,” I said.
“I hate surprises.” He inhaled my hair. “There’s ice on the roads and it’s dark out. If anything had happened—”
“Want me to come back tomorrow?”
He growled into my neck and set me on the counter. “A week’s too long, Lake.”
I let my head fall back as he trailed kisses up my throat. He pulled me to the edge, urging my legs around him. “Manning,” I said when his tool belt pressed my inner thighs. “Your drill.”
“That’s not my drill, Birdy.” He snickered as he unhooked his belt and let it hit the ground with a thunk that made me jump.
“Watch out for Blue!”
“She knows to get out of the way when Mama Bear comes home.”
I laughed as he tickled the underside of my jaw with his overgrown stubble. “Why are you still wearing all that anyway?” I asked.
“Huh?” he said, leaning in for a kiss.
I pulled back. “Usually you leave your belt in the workshop at the end of the day.”
“I was coming in to grab a bite.”
I pushed my palms into his chest, using all my strength to keep him from devouring me. “A bite?” I asked. “What about those frozen meals I left you?”
“That’s a bite for me. I was going to put one in the microwave—”
“You mean oven.”
“Down the hatch and back to work. Can we talk about this after?”
I arched an eyebrow. I’d expected enthusiasm from him, naturally, but Manning was coming at me like I was blueberry pie. “After what?”
He sighed, relenting enough to let me push him back. “I missed you. You can’t expect me not to be eager.”
“Phone sex not cutting it?” I joked.
He leveled me with a glare. “You know it doesn’t. I’m just happy to have you to myself for more than a weekend.”
“Thank heavens for Christmas break.” I played with one of his shirt buttons while keeping my distance. “But it’s after seven. Why were you going back out there?”
“What do you think I do when you’re not here?” He licked his lips as he stared at mine. “I work.”
“Not tonight, you don’t.”
He squeezed my hips, bringing me against his crotch. “I never work late when you’re here. That was our deal. No matter what’s going on, if we’re both in town, we always eat dinner together.”
I kissed his forehead and slid off the counter despite his grunted protest.
“First, we eat.”
“But it’s been almost two weeks.”
“It’s been eight days.” I picked up his tool belt and set it on the counter.
“There’s lasagna in the oven, and I’m cooling a pie for dessert.”
As I’d predicted, that silenced him. Food was the one thing that had the potential to hold over Manning’s sex drive, at least for a bit.
“You were supposed to have dinner with classmates tonight to celebrate getting exams out of the way.”
“There was no dinner.” Bent over to check on the lasagna, I looked back at him and grinned. “I lied.”
“Lied?” He hooked a finger in my apron string and tugged me backward.
“To me? Who do you think you’re dealing with here?”
I pushed his hand away and shuffled back to the oven. “Hand me the mitts.”
He put them on himself and pulled the dish out to set it next to the pie.
“Nothing like your homemade meals,” he said. “My mouth is watering.”
“Patience. I won’t be responsible for yet another of your burnt tongues.
Why don’t you go shut down the shop?” I asked, turning to get a spatula.
He took my elbow, pulling me back until I was against his chest. “Thank
you,” he said.
Tucked into him, I let out a long breath. As much as I liked to tease Manning for his grumpiness when we were apart, I felt our distance, too. Every hour of every day. There were times I was tempted to drop out and leave Pomona so we could finally start our lives together, but it was the closest college to us with a veterinary program. “What’re you thanking me for?” I asked. “I haven’t done anything yet.”
Blue tried to nose between us. Manning scratched behind her ear while keeping me close. “You’re home early. That’s worth giving thanks for.”
“I wish I could be here more.”
“I want that, too, you know I do, but it’s not forever.”
Even though I knew our distance bothered Manning, he’d been nothing but supportive of my career. He’d stuck by me as I’d finished out my contract in Hollywood, then when I’d turned around and picked a university that was also two hours away. Over the last decade and a half, we’d gotten pretty used to being apart. Maybe what we needed now was a piece—or even a promise—of forever.
Damn it, Val. It was possible she’d known exactly what seed she was planting when she’d brought up marriage. That girl had always been wiser than she looked.
And then, any thoughts in my head vanished. Manning bent down and shook the ground I stood on with a slow, sweet kiss. “Should’ve done that as soon as I walked in the door,” he said.
“You were excited,” I teased, sliding my arms around his neck.
“Still am.” He thumbed the corner of my mouth. “Your lips are all red. If I’d known you were coming tonight, I would’ve shaved.”
I ran the back of my hand over the short beard he’d grown during the week we’d been apart. “You never let it get this long.”
“Because I don’t like to scratch you up.”
“So if I weren’t around, you’d go full Sasquatch?”
“Nah. All this hair itches. I’m just too lazy to shave it when you’re gone.”
Considering it was December, I kind of dug the mountain man look, but if he didn’t want to shave, I’d do it for him. He did enough for me on a daily basis; tonight was about him.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” I said, slipping out of his arms. “Go lock up. I have plans for you later.”
“Plans?” He patted my behind and picked up his belt from the counter on his way out the door. “Can’t wait.”
I turned back to Blue, who looked from me to the food as if I might finally break down and scoop a serving into her dog dish. A home-cooked meal, blueberry pie, and sex—that was a plan, wasn’t it? A good one, too. No sense in bringing up anything as serious as marriage tonight.
If only I could stop thinking about it.