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Dr. Rosamund Albright could never stand by and watch someone in pain without helping. Evan Harper had been her best friend, but now the man was hurting.
The Washington, D.C., speechwriter had come home to Lighthouse, Maine, to escape the demons that were chasing him. In doing so he'd reawakened a secret yearning in Rosie that she'd buried long ago. But not even the desire he felt for her or the explosive passion they shared could break through the wall around Evan's heart. A barrier that prevented him from seeing that he was her chance to heal from a painful past.
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Shirley Hailstock likes to explore new worlds and visit exotic places. As an author, she can visit those places, and be the heroine of her own stories. The author of over thirty novels and novellas, Shirley has received numerous awards. Her books have appeared on BlackBoard, Essence and Library Journal bestseller lists. She is a past president of Romance Writers of America.
Black water swirled below the bridge. Evan Harper couldn't see it. The night was black. Everything around him was black. Low angry clouds rumbled and rolled about the heavens, speaking to him in a tongue he didn't understand. Or one he didn't want to understand.
The bridge, a metal span over the Lighthouse River, connected Allison Avenue South to its sister on the north. Painted black years ago, in daylight chipped rust stains were changing the hue to an orange-red. Trees and bushes along the shoreline were indistinct in the dark, blending in with the inky surroundings and melting the entire scene into nothing.
Evan gripped the small silver baby rattle in his big hand. A tear fell on it and he wiped it away with his thumb. The rattle was smaller than his index finger, shaped like a bone, a perfect fit for Gabe to hold. Other than Evan's fingers pulling the child up and letting him jump like a toy puppet, the rattle was the only thing his three-month-old hands could hold.
He would never hold it again.
Squeezing his eyes shut and swallowing the lump in his throat, Evan tried to block the images that formed in his head, torturing him. The flash of flames tearing through wood and siding, crackling as it ate away the structure, and the restraining hold of strong arms keeping him back as he struggled to get to the burning house.
Tears seeped from the corners of his eyes and rolled unchecked down his face. There was nothing he could have done, except die with him. There was no way to stop the flames, the smoke or the tiny voice that cried for help inside his head.
Evan opened his eyes. Using the back of his hands, he wiped the tears away and took several deep breaths.
Put it behind you, people had told him. Evan almost laughed at the thought. How do you put something like that behind you? How do you forget a child? He didn't understand men who left their children, walked away from the precious gift of life as if the child didn't matter and never looked back. Didn't they know how lucky they were? How could they stare into an innocent face that only asked to be loved and turn away? How could they endure the pain?
Evan pulled his jacket closer around him. Hunching his aching shoulders, he pushed his hands into his pockets, trying to hold the anguish that knifed through his insides. It always came like this, fresh, raw, hot and unexpected. He'd think he had conquered it, that his life was getting on track, that the platitudes people told him about being able to live with it were true, that he was finally, after two years, going to be all right. Then without warning the fire would came back; the confusion, fire trucks, men in yellow and black with big boots traipsing about and the bands holding him in place. The rope of hands keeping him still when all he wanted to do was get to Gabe. He'd wake up bathed in sweat, the covers ripped from the bed as if he'd been fighting them, or find himself sitting in his office staring through the window with no recollection of what he was doing.
Gripping the cold metal struts of the bridge, Evan stepped back, elongating his body like an athlete stretching muscles in preparation to run. He jogged daily. He'd tried to run, tried to outrun the pain, the incessant visions, but nothing helped.
So he'd come back here. Back to Lighthouse, Maine, where life was slower than it was in D.C. Where there were no memories of Gabe. Evan would give himself some time, the way his doctor suggested. Maybe he'd go to the old lighthouse and help paint the outside. They were always looking for volunteers. His Boy Scout troop had worked on it. Painting was mindless and that's exactly what he needed. He didn't need people or want them around. The lighthouse didn't speak, didn't offer condolences, didn't look at him with sad, pitiful eyes.
A car swung onto the bridge as the first drops of rain plopped against the metal railing. Evan looked around. Headlights shone in his eyes. He squinted, his hand holding the rattle came up quickly as he shaded his eyes. The mixture of salt and high-beamed illumination clashed in a shock of pain. The car passed him, but slowed to a stop several feet behind his. He slipped the toy into his pocket, still concentrating on the water. He wanted no company. His whole being was absorbed in grief and he didn't want to explain anything, even to a stranger.
Footsteps clicked on the concrete ground as they came toward him. They were tentative and female. He heard the heels of her shoes as she moved.
It was almost a whisper. He turned. A woman stood a few feet away. It was too dark to see her face. She wore a long dress or skirt with a jacket. And high heels. There was something familiar about her.
"Evan, is that you?" She took another step forward but appeared ready to run back to her car if he turned out to be someone else.
"Who is it?" he asked.
"Evan," she cried and ran, arms outstretched, toward him. He hadn't had time to process who she was before her body slammed into his. Her arms climbed around his neck in a tight hug. It had been a long time since he'd held a woman. Without volition his arms surrounded her thin body and he held her lightly. She felt good. Too good for someone he didn't know. Emotions he'd relegated behind a high-security fence in his heart found an opening and raced through it.
"When did you get back?" She spoke against his ear. Her voice was breathy and did funny things to the hair on his neck.
He pressed himself against her, closing his eyes at the heat she generated, burying his head in her neck and inhaling her. There was a sweet perfume on her skin, a fragrant scent on her hair that mingled with traces of soap or shampoo. He was amazed he could identify each of the scents separately. Evan knew it was wrong to feel like this, to hold this stranger and examine personal things about her, but she was here and he needed someone. He needed to hold someone close.
Would she understand that when he pushed her away? How long had he been holding her? He didn't want to let go, not for another minute. He loosened his arms but kept her aligned with him. His hands ran over her back. Finally, she pulled back. Her hair slipped over her shoulder and he could see her face.
"You sound surprised. Who did you think I was?" she asked.
In light of how Evan was holding her, he hesitated a moment before answering. "Of course I knew it was you. I didn't expect you to be so...beautiful." Evan wasn't kidding when he said that. He hadn't seen Rosamund Albright in nine years and she was gorgeous even in this weak light. The two had been the best of friends when he lived in Lighthouse, Maine. But he'd gone away to college and law school and eventually settled in D.C. working as a speech-writer for Senator Katherine DeLong of Illinois.
"That's probably not the truth, but it's a good answer."
"You haven't changed a bit." He smiled. Evan released her, reluctantly, he noted, and looked back at the distance over the bridge. He hadn't totally regained control of himself and he didn't want Rose to notice. She'd always known when something was wrong with him. Rose had been like a sister to him. Yet tonight, holding her in his arms, he'd had no brotherly thoughts. Initially, she was just another human being, someone to hold close while emotions warred inside him. But somewhere that had changed and she became a soft, sweet-smelling and sexually appealing woman.
"We all change, Evan." She leaned against the bridge's metal structure next to him, but not close enough to touch. "What are you doing out here?" she asked.
"I just got back. When I turned onto the bridge I thought I'd stop and survey the land."
"You mean the dark," she corrected. "You can barely see a thing tonight. But I can hear you. And you talk funny."
"I don't talk funny."
She laughed. "You've been gone a long time. You sound more like a Washington politician than the Maine boy next door."
"Just scratch me," he said. "I'm sure you'll find the lighthouse circulating in my blood."
"It's so good to see you again." She hugged him a second time but pushed back quickly. "It's raining." She opened her hand and as if on cue a raindrop plopped directly in her palm, followed by more. The misty air turned to misty rain. Evan took her hand, combining the moisture with his own. "Let's get out of here. I remember how vicious the weather can turn."
He walked her to her car. "Are you staying at your old house?" Rose asked.
He nodded. "My parents will be in Egypt for a while. I had cleaned and aired it a week ago. And if I know Mrs. Reed she'll have stocked the refrigerator."
"I have a casserole waiting."
"Sounds delicious." Evan raised an eyebrow.
"Have you eaten?"
"I wasn't fishing for an invitation."
"It's my first night back. I think I'll just go on and see what the house looks like."
"You have to eat."
"I'll grab something on the way."
"Not here. The only restaurant in town closed at nine." She paused and looked at his car, which was hidden in the darkness. "Is someone waiting for you?"
"That's not it," he said. "Good," she cut in before he could say anything more. "You know where I live."
With that, she pushed away from him and got into her car. Turning back to wave at him, she drove away. Evan strode to his SUV with a smile. He hadn't smiled in a long time and it felt good. Rose had always been bossy and she hadn't changed a bit. He found that comforting. At least something in his life was stable.
The rain was coming down steadily, washing away his bleak mood. Rose always could make him feel better. But she couldn't put all the pieces of his life back together again.
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Book Description Harlequin Kimani, 2006. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX158314787X
Book Description Harlequin Kimani Romance, 2006. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M158314787X