Obligatory self promo first… ahem
Born on the wrong side of the tracks and dealt a fair share of hardship, Nikki Kline never gives up a fight. Even when her reason to keep going is ripped from her, Nikki tries desperately to hang on. But when the man who broke Nikki’s heart comes back into her life she doesn’t know how much she can take. Especially since that man seems determined to win back her damaged heart.
Wade Lightfoot is a man who knows he’s made more mistakes than most. As much as he would like to repair the damage he’s done to those he loves, Wade also knows there is no going back. But when he sets out to put things right the last thing he’s prepared to find out is that he had a son. A son he’ll never get the chance to meet.
When the truth is out and all the old wounds are bared, it seems impossible that Nikki and Wade will find their way back to each other. But true love is an undeniable force that even past hurts can’t destroy.
This book has been previously published and has been revised from its original release.
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The book is out in print now… has pretty new cover. See? It’s been expanded, revised, cleaned up, etc, etc, etc…it’s a better read than it was when it originally came out. I still don’t think it’s my best work. Some people, though, say this is their fave of mine. Weird. Ah, well. Anyway.
On to excerpt…
“You’re going to be old before your time if you keep this up, sis,” a voice said softly, jerking her out of her reverie.
She turned her head and squinted up at Shawn. “Hey,” was all she said, not responding to his words. “What are you doing here?”
“I saw your truck on my way to work,” he said, kneeling beside her. His left eyebrow was neatly bisected by a thin scar. That, and the scars he bore inside, were his only physical reminders of the accident.
There were scars inside. She sensed it, wished she could help him…but she couldn’t even help herself.
Jason had been like a little brother to Shawn. He’d adored the baby from the first and talked about how he’d teach him to wrestle, to go fish…all the cool boy stuff. Stuff Shawn hadn’t ever had much chance to do himself.
“You ever wonder what would have happened if we’d just stayed at the store that day?” she asked softly. It was a question she’d asked herself a hundred times. A thousand.
“Only a few dozen times a week,” he said.
As she looked over and met his gaze, he shook his head. “And you know as well as I do, those kinds of questions will drive us crazy. Some stupid drunk hit us, Nik. You weren’t speeding. You weren’t doing much of anything except driving in the rain. Bastard hit us, ran us off the road. You can’t blame yourself.”
She just shrugged.
She could blame herself. And she did.
“Y’know, you’re going to be late for work,” she told him, turning back to study the headstone.
Shawn shrugged. “I doubt they’ll mind.” And even if they did, he didn’t care. How could work be that important when he looked at her and all but saw the dark cloud she had wrapped around herself? He settled on the grass next to her, uncertain of what to say. When he had been little, he had always run to her when he had been hurt. Nikki had always made the pain go away. And even when he had been nothing more than a street punk, causing trouble and raising hell, when he was in trouble, it had been her he had gone to. She had always fixed it in some way.
It didn’t seem fair that after so many years of patching him up and kissing away his tears that he wasn’t able to take away any of her pain.
“Jason is probably the sweetest angel in heaven, sis,” he said, looking at his feet as he spoke. He could feel himself turning red to the roots of his hair and he had no idea where those words had come from.
“I bet he is,” came her soft whisper.
And looking over, he saw the beginning of a smile on her face.
The words, wherever they had come from, had been the right ones.
Before Nikki got out of her truck she donned a dark pair of sunglasses and forced her unruly hair into a stubby ponytail. She hadn’t really thought she would be recognized when she had decided to use her own name on her books. She really hadn’t thought that far ahead. She had only wanted them to sell.
They had sold though, and she hadn’t exactly been in the best frame of mind when she was dealing with the contract negotiations. If she had thought things through, if she had listened to the agent she’d signed with, she would have gone with a pen name. She would have done something to have some modicum of privacy.
Now it was a little too late.
Besides, in a town the size of Monticello, everybody knew everybody else’s business. The hat and the sunglasses wouldn’t fool many people, but if it helped a little she was all for it. If she lived in a larger town she’d have more anonymity than she had in Monticello. In the past few years it had come to where she couldn’t go much anywhere without somebody hailing her down to talk about books.
My little girl wrote this. Isn’t that something…
I got a book. Can you help me…
And lately, total strangers who were just in town to fish were recognizing her. Nikki wasn’t ever going to let another picture be taken of her, and her webmaster had taken down the one they’d conned her into putting up. Now if she could just get it off the back of the books…
For a while she hadn’t minded the attention too much, but as time passed she started to crave solitude. People and questions were coming to grate on her nerves something bad. It was just a sign of her worsening depression, she suspected, and if she were smart, she’d just make the drive to Somerset where she was less likely to be noticed, but she didn’t have the energy.
She made it all the way through the store without any problems and was finishing up in the dairy section. She just might make it out of the store, she realized. It even had her mood climbing up a few notches—instead of toxic, it was just slightly hazardous.
She added a carton of yogurt and some cream cheese. As she went to turn the cart around she promptly ran into somebody else’s.
“Damn it,” she muttered, but her voice was lost under the sound of baskets crashing together and groceries tumbling to the floor.
A sheepish smile crossed her face and she said, “Sorry about that.” She would hit somebody whose cart was beyond full. Kneeling, she picked up a carton of cookies and Donald Duck orange juice. She placed them in the basket before stepping away.
The guy had knelt in front of a dark child of four or five, his face hidden as he scooped up items from the floor.
“No problem,” he said, although his voice belied his words. He sounded a tad—okay, he sounded a lot irritated.
Nikki was about to make a quick getaway, but then he stood. And revealed his face.
A very familiar face, one that haunted her dreams on a regular basis. His hair was shorter, cut at his nape, and his face had thinned out just a bit, the dimples at the corners of his mouth now slashes in his lean cheeks. But the eyes were the same, deep bottomless pools of brown velvet.
“Wade,” she whispered. Her eyes, stricken, then landed on the child’s face. A little girl, a little mirror of her father.
And of Nikki’s son. She wore a red T-shirt decorated on the front with a sketch of a bright-eyed puppy. A baseball cap in that same candy-apple red sat on top of thick black hair that fell razor-straight to her tiny shoulders. She held a stuffed cocker spaniel, a mirror image of the way Jason had carried his precious Mouse.
A knife slowly embedded itself in Nikki’s heart, started to twist.
For a moment his face was blank, and then his eyes narrowed. She was unable to move as he slowly reached up and tugged her sunglasses off.
“Nikki,” he breathed, his eyes lighting as though from within.
He took a step closer and brushed her cheek with the back of his hand.
That gentle touch shattered her like glass.