Mike and Jade. What can I say? They were the little minor characters who could. I brought both of them into the series very early on; Jade in book 1 and Mike in book 3. I always felt like they were important to the other characters and were integral in telling the story of the others, but when I began to get deeper into the series, I began to hear both Mike and Jade in my head. I needed to know more about them. I started to feel like Jade wasn’t as happy as she should be. I felt like Mike longed for the kind of marriage Bill had. I began to realize that they deserved a story of their own.
I decided to blow Mikes life apart and not only test him as a viable lead character, but test the rest of the family and their reaction to such a personal betrayal. I always told myself I would never write a story that dealt with an affair. I have enough drama in my life that I don’t need to introduce cheating. With Mike and Rebecca, I was able to introduce the betrayal and make it a starting point for a beautiful story between Mike and Jade, and not a focal point of what went wrong in the past.
I also decided to really look at Jade. I knew her to be the nurse who worked beautifully and efficiently and who would be there in a moments notice. I knew she had a special connection to Brittany and Tommy and Naomi and the way Tramp adored her always made me smile. I also began to see her at home, alone and settled into a life she felt she deserved.
Peeps came directly from my life and my cockatiel growing up. I adore animals and they have always been a big part of my life. Peeps was a reflection of that and Jade’s background is mine. I worked in a veterinary hospital as I went through college and I never feel more accepted than when I’m with animals. They don’t judge and they accept you for all of your flaws.
Jade’s boobs are mine, too 🙂
What I found when I began to think about putting Mike with Jade, was that they both really weren’t happy. They deserved so much more than they accepted and I wanted to see if I could bring them together.
That is not to say that being single is wrong- far from it. I just know that both Mike and Jade wanted a relationship and a family and their insecurities were holding them back. I love how Mike sees Jade. In his eyes, she is beautiful and sexy and amazing. He doesn’t understand her self esteem issues because he simply doesn’t see her the way she sees herself. I think that’s so true for many of us. Our men love us, flaws and all, and we need to love ourselves, too.
Mike has his own set of issues, and they run deep. The kind of betrayal he suffered would make anyone doubt ever falling in love again. With Jade, he found someone who was just like him. He found a soul mate.
Very rarely, I write scenes out of order. With Mike and Jade, the scene when he found her at the campsite was one I saw in my head months before they even spoke. I wrote that scene and put it aside, waiting for them to meet and get to the point where the scene would come into play. I loved this scene because Jade spoke without a filter. She was feverish and hurting and when Mike held her, the words she said spoke volumes.
Mike ran back towards the campsite and checked his phone, knowing there wouldn’t be any service. His eyes filled as he felt his despair grow. Maybe she went home. Maybe he was overreacting. Maybe he was right and he had led Jade into a terrible situation. Rebecca wouldn’t care about Jade if it weren’t for him.
It was getting much darker out and he watched as the people gathered around their bonfires and he felt such a longing to be one of them. He wanted to be with Jade. He had been so blind.
“Mike?” a quiet voice called to him as he stood in the middle of the path.
“Jade?” he turned and saw her standing there. “Oh thank God!” he pulled her into his arms and hugged her, not thinking about anything other than her being safe.
“What’s wrong? Is everyone okay?” she asked worriedly after he stepped back.
“Yes, I mean everyone is fine, but I didn’t know where you were. I thought something happened to you,” he looked at her and there were deep circles under her eyes and she looked incredibly pale, even in the sunset.
Was she shaking?
“Oh, I’m okay. You should go,” she said softly and went to walk when she wobbled and he caught her.
“Hey, hey, what is it?” he held her and felt her trembling.
“I just need to sit down,” she said tearfully. “I’ve been a bit off balance all day and I was trying to get back to my tent to leave, but it seems to be taking a long time. Maybe you could help me?”
He held his arm around her and they walked the short way back to the tent. He unzipped the door and she went in, sitting down and putting her head in her hands. Mike came in with her and took the lantern, lighting it and illuminating the area.
“Okay, so tell me what’s going on,” he said as he looked at her.
“Nothing. I’ve just been feeling a little off lately and I think I lost track of time. I didn’t mean to cause any trouble,” she wiped her eyes.
“It’s okay, we’ve just been terribly worried about you,” he took her hand and she pulled it back, not meeting his gaze.
“Can you go? I don’t think you should be here,” she was sweating and shaking, two things that shouldn’t be together. “I’m so hot,” she pulled off her shirt, revealing a tank top underneath.
“Jade, please let me help you,” he ached to hold her, to comfort her.
“No, I’m fine alone,” she tried to cover her body, obviously embarrassed. She saw him staring and grabbed a towel, covering her chest. “I’m sorry.”
He was so worried about her and had no idea why she was covering herself.
“You don’t have to look at me,” she held her head and sighed. “I don’t want you to be grossed out.”
He didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Gross? I hardly think that word comes to mind when describing you,” he reached and tentatively smoothed her hair back.
She finally let her tears fall and curled up on the sleeping bag. “Did I really just say that out loud? I think I need to rest,” she closed her eyes.
“Jade, you’re scaring me here. You aren’t making sense and you’re obviously sick. We need to go to the hospital.”
“No, I’m just going to stay here. You should go back. I’ll be fine.”
He sighed and watched as she shivered. He was really worried. It wasn’t that cold out. He was confused by her sweating.
“Jade, look at me,” he smoothed her damp hair off of her face.
“I think something is really wrong,” she said fearfully as she opened her eyes and they seemed to almost roll back into her head. “I’m cold and I’m tired.”
“I’m going to call for an ambulance,” he went to get up when she grabbed his arm.
“No, please don’t leave,” she said softly. “I’m scared.”
He felt his eyes fill as he nodded. “I won’t leave. I just need to get help.” He quickly got out of the tent and raced to the people sitting at the bonfire nearby. He told them there was an emergency and they needed to find a way to call for help. He turned and saw Jade trying to move inside the tent.
“I’m here,” he rushed back to the tent and got in, gently gathering her in his arms and holding her to him, trying to get her to stop shaking. He pulled the towel off of her and held her against his chest. “We’re going to fix this.”
She lay in his arms and fought the darkness that threatened to envelop her.
“Mike?” she whispered, her face against his shirt.
“It’s okay. I’m here. I’ve got you,” he said softly.
“You’re such a good man. I always wondered what it would be like to lie in your arms,” she murmured before she blacked out, her head rolling back.
He held her to him and felt his heart breaking. “You just hold on for me, okay? Jade?”
There was no answer and he prayed that help would get there in time.
The next scene I wanted to showcase was soon after, when Jade and Mike were in her apartment and she freaked out because he found her in a towel. Mike had no frame of reference as to why she acted so scared to be seen by him and he internalized it and decided it was because of his scars.
Why wouldn’t he? Rebecca made it explicitly clear to him that what he endured was his cross to bear and by subjecting her or Jimmy to any of his injury, he was selfishly putting more on them than he should.
He assumed that’s what upset Jade. He had no idea she was worried about her own body. I love the scene when she realized just how much he had been through and the moment she touched him, their journey truly began.
“Jade, will you let me help you? Please?” he was desperate to break through her walls.
“Mike, please leave and let me get dressed,” she sobbed, desperately trying to cover her body. “Please.”
He sighed and nodded, getting up and walking out, closing the door behind him. He realized his shirt was half open and a look of understanding crossed his face. Feeling sick, he held it closed and sat down.
Jade got up and quickly pulled some clothes on; a long sleeve t-shirt and yoga pants. She felt sick to her stomach and fully expected Mike to be gone when she walked out. She brushed her hair and put the towels over the railing in the bathroom before she walked out.
Mike stood up when she came out and she looked down as she walked to the couch. He sat on the chair and waited, hating that she couldn’t even look at him.
“I owe you an explanation,” she said as she finally met his gaze.
He shook his head and smiled.
“You don’t owe me anything. I pushed my way here and it’s obvious you are really uncomfortable around me. I don’t want to leave you alone, so I’ll call Julie and I’m sure she can come over for tonight,” he stood up and crossed his arms.
“I’m really sorry I put you in this position. I guess I just wanted to help you,” he looked at her and sighed. “Just so you know, I would never make you look at me. I know my injuries were bad, and I know it’s not something you should have to look at, but I didn’t realize my shirt was ripped. I’m truly sorry.”
She was stunned.
“What? What do you mean your injuries?”
“I just figured you were afraid I was going to take my shirt off and you would have to see the scars from what happened. I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t going to do that. I would never do that, you know, force you to look at me.”
Realization dawned over her and she felt the air go out of her lungs. “Oh my God,” she sat there and put her head in her hands, her hair flowing over her fingers. “I’m such an idiot.”
He was confused. Should he leave?
She stood up and walked over to him.
Mike scarcely took a breath as she reached up and moved his hands, which held his shirt together. She placed her hands on his shoulders and looked into his eyes.
“You are so amazing. You are smart and strong and incredibly handsome. There is no part of you that I would be afraid to see.”
He reached to her face and stroked her cheek.
“You don’t know what happened. You say that, but you don’t know how bad it is,” his voice quivered as he looked into her eyes.
She smiled at him and shrugged.
“Then let me see.”
He didn’t expect that.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Do you think that little of me?”
His eyes were wet as shook his head.
“No, but I don’t think I could stand it if this changed.”
She reached up and cupped his cheek in her hand, her thumb stroking his skin. She could feel his fear.
“If what changed?”
“The way you look at me,” he said.
She said nothing and slowly unbuttoned the rest of his shirt before she pushed it off his shoulders. He watched her every move as she removed the fabric and looked at him, this being one of the most profound moments he had ever experienced. His scar was from the middle of the left side of his chest and went almost completely to the other side and down to his waist. She couldn’t see below, but she figured it went farther.
What pain he must have endured.
Jade placed her hands on his chest and looked up at him. “I think you’re beautiful,” she said as her slate gray eyes sparkled at him.
He felt a tear spill over his cheek as he was at a loss for words. He bent down and softly brushed her lips with his, barely touching them. He hesitated, not sure if she was comfortable until she moved her arms around him as he connected with her mouth again, wrapping his arms around her, his heart pounded as the soft fullness of her lips made his blood rush through his veins. He had wanted to kiss her for so long that he was afraid he would hurt her with the passion and intensity of the moment.
She smelled of coconut shampoo and she tasted like mint. He cradled her head in his hand, his fingers tangled in her hair as his other hand moved to the small of her back, pressing her to him. He forgot that he had ever kissed anyone else before. She simply had his heart.
Jade was lost in him. His mouth felt amazing. The stubble on his chin was the biggest turn on to her and his body felt strong and protective and hard against hers. Jade let herself go and just feel. When his hands moved to hold her face, she let out a small moan that let him know she was right where she wanted to be. Her fingers glided over his bare torso and even though they were close together, she wished they were closer. He tilted his head to the side and the kiss deepened before she finally stepped back and looked into his eyes, almost short of breath.
Thank you all so much! I feel like I’m missing a couple… 🙂