Next week, I’m sending out my newsletter with a behind-the-scenes-peek into the true story that inspired my latest release Always Remember. It involves a 45 year old secret, but thankfully there’s a happy ending to this tale. So if you want the scoop, sign up for my newsletter. In the meantime, here’s a short excerpt from Always Remember.
My heroine, Jessie Adams, has just arrived at the hero’s ranch. This excerpt begins as she walks into the house where she grew up and sees her parents.
There was nowhere left to run and hide, so Jessie forced herself to move into the semi-darkness of the bedroom where a nightlight shone in the corner, casting shadows onto the walls. She looked past her mother to where her dad sat beside the bed, his once handsome face newly lined with worry.
Would he forgive her for staying away for so long? Her heart was bruised enough without adding more guilt to the rest.
In the mournful silence of the room, he lifted his gaze from his wife’s face, the ready laughter she remembered in his eyes gone, replaced by shades of sadness. She held her silence while he focused on her, experienced a moment of fear before recognition crossed his features.
Then the lines of sorrow on his face eased. He placed his wife’s hand on the quilt, gave it a loving pat. With hands braced on his knees, he pushed himself to his feet and came around the bed, the stiffness of old age apparent.
Relief swept through Jessie and she went into his open arms. He clasped her tightly to his chest, squeezing with a strength that belied his feeble appearance. “Oh Dad. I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier.”
“Hush, sweetie. It’s enough you made it now.”
She wanted to stay there forever, her cheek pressed against his shoulder, safe and secure like when she was a child. Jessie inhaled the familiar scent of pipe tobacco that clung to his clothes as if he’d just left the porch swing moments before their arrival. Too soon, he released her and turned her toward the bed.
For the first time since she entered the room, Jessie looked at her mother. Really looked. Her knees turned liquid. Guilt slammed the breath from her lungs.
“Your Ma’s been asking for you day and night. So afraid we might not get hold of you in time.”
Without taking her eyes off her mother’s haggard features, she was aware of him moving around to the opposite side of the bed and of Nate stepping forward to stand at her side.
“She has good days here and there, but mostly now she just wants to sleep. Asks for you whenever she wakes up though.”
The robust, energetic woman Jessie remembered was gone. The woman lying on the bed was a shrunken, fragile replica of her mother, skin stretched tight over the bones in her face. Hands, once strong and beautiful, were lined with prominent veins and covered with translucent flesh.
The woman asleep on the bed wasn’t robust and indestructible. She was frail and small and helpless.
Jessie took her mother’s hand into her own. It was warm, the skin soft as a newborn’s, the flesh sagging with the passing of years. So many of them gone, lost. Wasted.
As the wail of a long lost child echoed through her thoughts, a sob worked up her throat.
Oh God, Mother, what did I do? What did we do?
A tear slipped down her cheek. Choking back a sob, Jessie gently laid the fragile hand back on the bed, turned and collided with the broad expanse of Nate’s chest. He caught her by the shoulders, his touch firm, warm, familiar…missed.
Concern flashed in the shadow-darkened depths of his gaze. How could he still care after all she’d taken away from him? Because he didn’t know. He might never know.
Pulling free of his hold, she raced from the room, out the front door, and into the quiet darkness of the night.
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