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The Way They Were
He hasn’t spoken her name in fourteen years. She keeps a journal hidden in the back of her closet and permits herself to write about him once a year—on the anniversary of the first and only time they made love. They promised to love one another forever, but tragedy tore them apart. Now, destiny may just bring them back together.
Excerpt for THE WAY THEY WERE
Kate’s brush slipped, smearing red paint onto the gray siding of the miniature dollhouse. Damn. She snatched a rag and began dabbing at the red spot.
She dabbed harder as if she could blot out Angie’s words. “I heard you.”
Kate glanced up, proud of the outward calm she displayed when her insides were a jumble of panic. “And what?”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, it’s me you’re talking to here, the one who sat up with you for three nights straight after that jerk left.” Angie swore under her breath and muttered, “He didn’t even have the decency to say good-bye.”
“It was a long time ago.” Fourteen years in July.
Angie Sorrento was a pint-size dynamo with a giant-sized temper who swore in Italian and English and could carry a grudge longer than anyone Kate had ever known. The only grudge larger than the one Angie had for Rourke Flannigan was the one relegated to the ex-fiancé who skipped out on her three days before the wedding.
“Really, Angie. Fourteen years is ancient history.”
Angie’s dark eyes narrowed. “That’s what I’m worried about, Kate. Your history with Mr. Jerk.”
“There’s no need to worry.” Kate dipped her brush in red and filled in the trim along the roof. This house was a four bedroom cape cod, designed for Rachel and Jared Hennessy and their seven year old twins, Jeffrey and Jason. The family had relocated from Richmond, Virginia last year so Jared could teach sophomore English and coach basketball in Montpelier. Great family—devoted couple, beautiful kids, even a golden retriever named Jed.
Angie started up again. “Even if it weren’t ‘Mr. Holier than Thou, let me grace you with my presence in this Podunk town’ and even if said man-boy weren’t someone you’d been intimately involved with, I’d still be worried.”
“Unnecessarily.” Kate ignored the way her pulse skittered when Angie talked about him.
“Stop.” Her pulse tripled.
“You buried Clay five months ago. That makes you a lonely widow. The perfect target.”
“You watch too many Lifetimemovies.” Had he heard about Clay? That was ridiculous, how could he have heard? She had no idea where he lived and now, suddenly, he was here. Why?
“Katie? Are you all right?”
No, she wasn’t. She hadn’t been all right since—Kate pushed the unwelcome truth away and glanced at her friend. “I’m fine.”
“Fine is code word for no. Look, I know you don’t want to talk about him, but there are some things you’ve got to know before this guy comes waltzing back into your life.”
“He’s hardly waltzing back into my life.”
“Steamrolling then. You just wait and see.”
“We haven’t seen each other since we were eighteen.” A marriage and child ago. “We’re strangers.”
“You were planning to marry the guy.”
Kate set down her brush and plastered the same expression she’d worn when well-wishers patted her hand and offered prayers for strength to endure her newly-widowed state. She’d never told Clay how much he meant to her, not really and now one freakish accident had stolen her chances of ever telling him.
“They say he kicks people out of their homes to get a deal.”
“That’s crazy. He would never—” She stopped. How did she know what he would never do? He was a man now, not a teenager.
“They say he buys the buildings dirt cheap, after he kicks the tenants out, and then renovates the places into posh apartments for his rich friends.” Angie crossed her arms over her small chest and tilted her head to one side so several black springs of hair bounced off her shoulders. “While you were watching Barney with Julia, I was watching him on E and seeing his face plastered in People.”
Rourke had always hated media in any form, said they made it hard to find a nugget of truth in anything. Kate started to shake her head in denial and ended in a shrug. What did she really know about him anymore? The truth slipped out again. Nothing.
“He flew to Sweden to have dinner with some beauty queen. And spent Easter skiing in the Alps.”
“Busy man.” While Rourke was globetrotting, she’d been burying her husband and trying to console her daughter.
“Still not married though plenty have tried to snag him.”
So, there was no wife.
“Here.” Angie slid a folder across the table. “Everything you need to arm yourself against Mr. Rourke Connor Flannigan.”
Kate glanced at the manila folder in front of her. “You make him sound like a villain.”
“If he gets to you again, you won’t survive.”
“Are there pictures in here?” Kate fingered the folder.
“Of course.” Angie let out an indelicate snort. “Okay, he’s drop dead gorgeous, I will give him that, but not much else.”
With a flip of the folder, she could satisfy fourteen years of wondering. “Maybe I’ll just take a peek—”
“Damn! Close the folder. Quick.”
“Because Mr. Jerk’s standing right outside.”