**Spoiler Alert! This post contains spoilers about Book 3 in Kylie Scott's Stage Dive series, Lead. Read with caution...you've been warned!**
In Kylie Scott’s Lead, the heroine Lena is hired to babysit Stage Dive’s lead singer, Jimmy, who’s in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Lena is one of the few women Jimmy’s met who doesn’t fawn all over him, and she returns his monosyllabic grunts with her own saucy replies. Eventually, they build up a friendship, and then Lena falls in love with him. And then tells Jimmy, who laughs and tells her to get over it.
But gradually, Jimmy and Lena find themselves in a semblance of a romantic relationship, except Jimmy doesn’t think he can ever love, and Lena knows she won’t be satisfied unless he’s all in. Lena returns home to attend her sister’s wedding, and does a lot of thinking:
There’s probably a lot of things I could say about the nature of love. Exactly what I did or didn’t mean to Jimmy would never be known, perhaps not even to himself. Love was truly one of life’s mysteries. That it could fuck you five ways to Sunday and still remain so utterly perplexing and unknown was kind of impressive.
Jimmy makes a grand entrance at the wedding, and then goes to Lena, thinking all will be forgiven and she’ll come back home with him, to the easy, casual relationship they had before.
“You need to leave, Jimmy.”
It hurt to look at him. It hurt to love him even more. “You need to leave. I’m not coming back. That’s not going to happen.”
“Lena.” He grabbed my wrist, holding on tight. “You don’t mean that, you love me.”
“Yeah, I really do you know.” My throat hurt and my eyes itched.
“Then why won’t you come back?” he demanded, keeping up his grip on me.
“Self-respect, self-preservation, both of these things. And because you being willing to put up with my love is not good enough. Not even remotely. I’m not going to be your regular live-in fuck buddy, Jimmy, exclusive or not. Your whole offer is soul destroying.”
Your whole offer is soul destroying. Ouch. Lena’s right, but it doesn’t make it any easier for her—or for us. Jimmy simply doesn’t understand. No-one’s told him ‘no’ since he was young, and on top of that, he’s actually making an effort, which he hasn’t had to do with women ever either.
“I’m trying to give you what you want here, Lena.”
“No, you’re trying to give me what you want. That’s not how relationships work. You haven’t learned anything,” I said, my chin getting tight and quivery with emotion. Damn annoying. “Wondering what I might want has yet to even cross your mind.”
Even though he’s changed through knowing Lena, he remains himself—arrogant, selfish, rude, blunt, and psychically damaged. He is trying, but it’s just not good enough. Frustrated, he asks Lena what she wants.
“I want you to love me.” I pushed off his fingers. This time, he let me go.
Frustration filled his face. “Ask for something else…anything.”
We were done. Slowly, I rose, standing tall.
Jimmy looked up at me, his jaw unyielding. “I can’t.”
“Then you shouldn’t have come here. You should have let me go.”
This is the moment. If Jimmy can’t say he’ll love Lena, there is no way she can go back with him. That lack would erode the relationship and Lena’s self-confidence over time, and would leave her as destroyed as Jimmy is. But Jimmy doesn’t give up.
“I need you to come back with me, please.” His breath warmed my ear. The heat of his body beckoned against my back. “I can’t stand not having you there, not knowing what you’re thinking, what you’re doing, not being able to tell you things and share them with you. It’s just…nothing’s the same. I hate waking up without you and I worry constantly that you’re okay, that you’ve got everything you need. Look, the truth is, I’m all about you, Lena. You’re my best friend. You’re my girl.”
“I’m sorry I fucked things up. I thought if we could just stay the same, then everything would be all right, and you’d never want to leave. But I didn’t give you what you needed and it all went to shit.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t want anybody else. You’re everything to me, Lena. I’ve never felt this way about anyone. I need you to know that. You gotta understand that, okay?"
“Say something,” he urged.
“Jimmy, that’s love.”
Jimmy is such a—pardon the word—dumbass he doesn’t figure out just how he feels about Lena until she points it out to him. And once he accepts that, the two of them can find their happily ever after. But not until we've got our hearts in our throats as we wait for Jimmy to figure out what he really means.
Megan Frampton is the community manager for Heroes and Heartbreakers. She writes historical romance under her own name and romantic women’s fiction as Megan Caldwell. She likes the color black, gin, dark-haired British men, and huge earrings, not in that order. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and son.