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CEO Kade Brennan and his wife, Jessica, couldn't wait to start a family...not being able to tore them apart. But, when fixing up their old house leads to one last night of passion, the life-changing consequences could offer a miraculous second chance!
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Cara Colter shares ten acres in British Columbia with her real life hero Rob, ten horses, a dog and a cat. She has three grown children and a grandson. Cara is a recipient of the Career Acheivement Award in the Love and Laughter category from Romantic Times BOOKreviews. Cara invites you to visit her on Facebook!Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
A block away from a destination he had no desire to reach, it pierced Kade Brennan's distracted mind that something was wrong. Very wrong.
There were no sirens, but the strobes of the blue and red bar lights on top of half a dozen police cruisers were pulsing strenuously. It was jarringly at odds with the crystal clear morning light that filtered, a suffused lime green, through the unfurling spring leaves of the huge cottonwoods that lined the shores of the Bow River.
Now, above the sounds of a river bloated with spring runoff, above the sounds of the cheerful chirping of birds, above the sounds of the morning rush of traffic, Kade could hear the distinctive static of emergency frequency radios. A robotic female voice was calling a code he did not understand. It looked as if there was an ambulance in that cluster of emergency vehicles.
Kade broke into a run, dodging traffic as he cut across the early-morning crush of cars on Memorial Drive to the residential street on the other side.
It was one of those postcard-pretty Calgary blocks that looked as if nothing bad could ever happen on it. It was an older neighborhood of arts and crafts-style houses, many of them now turned into thriving cottage businesses. Nestled under the huge canopies of mature trees, Kade noted, were an art-supply store, an organic bakery, an antiques shop and a shoe store.
This neighborhood was made even more desirable by the fact it was connected to downtown Calgary by the Peace Bridge, a pedestrian-only walkway over the river that Kade had just crossed.
Except at this moment the postcard-pretty street that looked as if nothing bad could ever happen on it was completely choked with police cars. People walking to work had stopped and were milling about.
Kade, shouldering through them, caught bits of conversation.
"No idea, but from the police presence, it must be bad."
"A murder, maybe?" The speaker could not hide the little treble of excitement at having his morning walk to work interrupted in such a thrilling fashion.
Kade shot him a dark look and shoved his way, with even more urgency, to the front of the milling crowd, scanning the addresses on the cottagey houses and businesses until he found the right one. He moved toward it.
"Sir?" A uniformed man was suddenly in front of him, blocking his path. "You can't go any farther."
Kade ignored him, and found a hand on his arm.
Kade shook off the hand impatiently. "I'm looking for my wife." Technically, that was true. For a little while longer anyway.
"Kade," Jessica had said last night over the phone, "we need to discuss the divorce." He hadn't seen her for more than a year. She'd given him the address on this street, and he'd walked over from his downtown condo, annoyed at what his reluctance about meeting her was saying about him.
All this was certainly way too complicated to try to explain to the fresh-faced young policeman blocking his way.
"Her name is Jessica Brennan." Kade saw, immediately, in the young policeman's face that somehow all these police cars had something to do with her.
No, something in him screamed silently, a wolf howl of pure pain, no.
It was exactly the same silent scream he had stifled inside himself when he'd heard the word divorce. What did it mean, he'd asked himself as he hung up his phone, that she wanted the divorce finalized?
Last night, lying awake, Kade had convinced himself that it could only be good for both of them to move on.
But from his reaction to this, to the fact all these police cars had something to do with her, he knew the lie he had told himself—that he didn't care—was monstrous in proportion.
"She's okay, I think. There's been a break-in. I understand she was injured, but it's non-life-threatening."
Jessica injured in a break-in? Kade barely registered the non-life-threatening part. He felt a surge of helpless fury.
"She's okay," the young cop repeated. "Go that way."
It was upsetting to Kade that his momentary panic and rage had shown in his face, made him an open book to the cop, who had read his distress and tried to reassure.
He took a second to school himself so that he would not be as transparent to Jessica. He looked up the walk he was being directed to. Twin white lilacs in full and fragrant bloom guarded each side of a trellised gate. The house beyond the gate was the house Jessica had always wanted.
It was a cute character cottage, pale green, like the fresh colors of spring all around it. But it wasn't her home. A sign hung over the shadowed shelter of an inviting porch.
Baby Boomer, and in smaller letters, Your Place for All Things Baby.
Jessica had given him only the house number. She hadn't said a word about that.
And he knew exactly why. Because, for a moment, that familiar anger was there, overriding even the knife of panic that had begun to ease when the young cop had said she was okay. Hell 's bells, did she never give up?
Or was the anger because the house, her new business and that phone call last night were evidence that she was ready to move on?
It was not as if, Kade told himself sternly, he wasn't ready to move on. In fact, he already had. He was just completely satisfied with the way things were. His company, Oilfield Supplies, had reached dizzying heights over the past year. Without the complication of a troubled relationship, he had been able to focus his attention intensely on business. The payoffs had been huge. He was a man who enjoyed success. Divorce did not fit with his picture of himself. Divorce.
It was going to force him to face his own failure instead of ignore it. Or maybe not. Maybe these days you just signed a piece of paper and it was done. Over.
Could something like that ever be over? Not really. He knew that from trying to bury himself in work for the past year.
If it was over, why did he still wear his ring? He had talked himself into believing it was to protect himself from the interest of the many women he encountered. Not personally. He had no personal life. But professionally he met beautiful, sophisticated, interested women every day. He did not need those kinds of complications.
He was aware, suddenly, he did not want Jessica to see he was still wearing that ring that bound him to her, so he took it off and slipped it in his pocket.
Taking a deep, fortifying breath, a warrior needing the opponent—when had Jessica become the opponent?—not to know he had a single doubt or fear, Kade took the wide steps, freshly painted the color of rich dairy cream, two at a time.
In startling and violent contrast to the sweet charm of the house, the glass had been smashed out of the squares of paned glass in the door. The door hung open, the catch that should have held it closed dangling uselessly.
Inside that door Kade skidded to a halt, aware of glass crackling under his feet. His eyes adjusted to the dimness as he burst out of the bright morning light. He had entered into a world more terrifying to him than an inhabited bear den.
The space was terrifying because of what was in it. It was the world he and Jessica had tried so hard to have and could not. It was a world of softness and light and dreamy hopes.
The stacks of tiny baby things made other memories crowd around Kade, of crying, and arguing, and a desperate sense of having come up against something he could not make right. Ever.
He sucked in another warrior's breath. There was a cluster of people across the room. He caught a glimpse of wheat-colored hair at the center of it and forced himself not to bolt over there.
He would not let her see what this—her injury, this building full of baby things—did to him.
Unfortunately, if he was not quite ready to see her, he had to take a moment to gather himself, and that forced him to look around.
The interior dividing walls within the house had been torn down to make one large room. What remained for walls were painted a shade of pale green one muted tone removed from that of the exterior of the house. The large space was connected by the expanse of old hardwood, rich with patina, and yet rugs and bookcases had been used to artfully divide the open area into four spaces.
Each was unique, and each so obviously represented a nursery.
One was a fantasy in pink: the crib was all done in pink flowered bedding, with pink-striped sheets and a fluffy pink elephant sprawled at the center. A polka-dot pink dress that looked like doll clothes was laid out on a change table. The letters g-i-r-l were suspended by invisible threads from the ceiling. A rocking chair, with pillows that matched the bedding, sat at right angles to the crib.
The next space was a composition in shades of pale blue. The crib and its bedding, again, were the main focus, but the eye was drawn to the vignette of boyish things that surrounded it. There were toy trains and tractors and trucks displayed on the shelves of a bookcase. Miniature overalls and an equally miniature ball cap hung on an antique coatrack beside it. A pair of impossibly small work boots hung from their laces off the same rack.
Next was one all done in lacy white, like a wedding dress, a basket on the floor overflowing with white stuffies: lambs and polar bears and little white dogs. The final display had two cribs, implying twins, and a shade of yellow as pale as baby duck down repeated in the bedding and lamp shades and teeny outfits.
Kade stood, sucking air into his chest, taking it all in and fighting the unmanly desire to cut and run.
How could Jessica do this? Work every day with the thing that had caused her, and him—and them—such unbelievable heartache? He felt all that anger with Jessica solidifying inside his chest. Now he was ready to face her.
He narrowed his eyes and looked to the cluster of people. They were at the very back of the old house, behind a counter with an old-fashioned cash register perched on it. Feeling as if his masculinity and size could damage the spaces, he passed through them quickly, holding his breath and being careful not to touch anything. Kade edged his way to the back of the room, inserting a firmness into his step that he did not feel.
It was unnecessary, because she didn't open her eyes as Kade arrived at the back of the store. Jessica was strapped to a wheeled gur-ney. Her eyes were tightly shut. A uniformed medic was leaning over her, splinting her right arm below her shoved-up sleeve. Two police officers, a man and a woman, stood by, notepads out.
Seeing Jessica would have been, at any time, like taking a punch to the stomach. But seeing her like this was unbearable.
It reminded him of the hardest lesson his marriage had taught him: even though it was his deepest desire, he had been unable to protect her.
Studying her now, without her awareness, Kade could see subtle changes in her. She looked oddly grown-up in a buttoned-up white blouse and a gray pencil skirt. Her slender feet were encased in a pair of very practical and very plain flat pumps. She looked professional, and yet oddly dowdy, like that British nanny on television. Her look, if it could be called that, filled him with a certain sense of relief.
Jessica was obviously not out to capture a man.
But she looked so serious, not that he expected her to be upbeat, given the circumstances. She looked every inch the pragmatic businesswoman she had evidently become, rather than the artist she had always been. He was pretty sure the only day he'd ever seen Jessica out of jeans was the day they'd gotten married.
Her hair was the same color, untouched by dye, wheat ripening in a field, but had been bobbed off short, in a way that made her features seem elegant and chiseled and mature rather than gamine and friendly and girlish. Or maybe it was because she had lost weight that her features, especially her cheekbones, seemed to be in such sharp relief. She had on not a drop of makeup. Again, Kade felt a completely unwanted niggle of relief. She was obviously not making the least effort to play up her natural beauty.
Despite the fact she looked both the same and different, despite the fact she looked pale and bruised and despite the fact she was dressed in a way that suggested she did not like drawing attention to herself, Jessica did what she had always done, even though he tried to steel himself against reacting to her.
From the first moment he had seen her laughter-filled face on campus, he had been captivated. She had been sitting with friends at an outdoor picnic area. She had looked his way just as he was crossing a huge expanse of lawn, late for class.
His heart had done then exactly what it did now. It had stood still. And he had never made that class. Instead, he had crossed the lawn to her and to his destiny.
Jessica—then Clark—hadn't been beautiful in the traditional way. A little powder had not done anything to hide her freckles, which had already been darkening from the sun. Her glossy hair, sun streaked, had been spilling out of a clip at the back of her head. She'd been supercasual in a pink T-shirt and jean shorts with frayed cuffs. Her toenails had been painted to match her shirt.
But it was her eyes that had captivated him: as green as a leprechaun's and sparkling with just as much mischief. She had, if he recalled correctly, and he was sure he was, been wearing just a hint of makeup that day, shadow around her eyes that made them the deep, inviting green of a mountain pond. Her smile had been so compelling, warm, engaging, full of energy, infused with a force of life.
But two years of marriage had stripped her of all of that effervescent joy. And he could see, from the downturned line around her mouth, it had not returned. Kade welcomed the iciness he felt settle around his heart.
He had not been enough for her.
Still, even with that thought like an acid inside him, he could not stop himself from moving closer to her.
He was shocked that he wanted to kiss her forehead, to brush the hair back from the smoothness of her brow. Instead, he laid his palm over her slender forearm, so aware his hand could encircle it completely. He saw that she was no longer wearing her rings.
"Are you okay?" The hardness Kade inserted in his voice was deliberate. There was no sense anyone knowing the panic he had felt, just for a moment, when he had thought of a world without Jessica. Especially not Jessica herself.
Jessica's eyes flew open. They were huge and familiar pools of liquid green, surrounded by lashes so thick they looked as if they had been rolled in chocolate cake batter. She had always had the most gorgeous eyes, and even her understated look now could not hide that. Unbidden, he thought of Jessica's eyes fastened on him, as she had walked down the aisle toward him... He shook off the memory, annoyed with himself, annoyed by how quickly he had gone there.
Now her beautiful eyes had the shadows of sorrow mixed with their light. Still, for one unguarded moment, the look in her eyes when she saw it was him made Kade wish he was the man she had thought he was. For one unguarded moment, he wished he was a man who had an ounce of hope left in him.
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Book Description Harlequin (Uk), 2015. Paperback. Condition: Brand New. 416 pages. In Stock. Seller Inventory # zk0263251322
Book Description Mills & Boon. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0263251322