Wednesday, February 27, 2019

SWEET REUNION excerpt! #contemporaryromance #romancereaders #comingsoon


20th high-school reunion. Back in the town where dreams seemed possible and the future bright, where Kate's old crush Sam still lives with his seemingly perfect life.

When Kate’s family was in a devastating car crash, she took custody of her little brother at age twenty and focused on giving him the best life he could possibly have in a wheelchair. Eighteen years later, he encourages her to put herself first for once and have fun at the reunion.

Sam is waiting until after the reunion to announce his divorce publicly, but seeing Kate again rouses feelings long buried and he wants her no matter how much it complicates the weekend. She makes him feel alive for the first time in years, he’s missed their closeness from the past, and his mom loves her like a daughter.

Kate finds Sam even more gorgeous and sexy than twenty years ago, but he’s still technically married and she lives in Nashville. No matter how amazing their connection is, a relationship would never work. Why couldn’t he have shown up to that reunion fat and bald?

This story is intended for readers 18 and over due to adult language, sexual content, and adult situations.

Sweet Reunion - Book #1 - Smashwords | Goodreads | Paperback | Barnes and Noble | Apple |

When finding your true love comes after a bit of heartbreak.

Flavors - like life - need balance. Nearly every cookie or cake recipe includes a pinch of salt. The finest dark chocolate rides the line between bitter and buttery sweetness.

So it is with The Bittersweet Series. Each book will start with the word Sweet.

Chapter One

20th high school reunion.  Back in the town where dreams seemed possible and the future bright.  Where Sam still lived.

Our history was typical—friends in high school, one of us harboring a secret crush (me).  We e-mailed a while through college, but then distance and schedules and all the normal things drifted us apart.  No dramatic ending, no goodbye…just the silence of moving on.
It sucked.
I still missed him.  Sometimes.  When life got quiet for a moment and I had nothing to do but think and remember.
The Civic Center would host the party, but Reunion Orientation was in the sanctuary of a nearby large church.  The organizers had made this thing a weekend event, see. 
Sam and his wife had sat at the other end of the long pew.  His mother sent me the wedding announcement when it happened.  The couple had been married for ten years.
You think you’ve moved on from things in your youth, then something like that arrives, and nope.
I could watch Sam in profile from here and he hadn’t spotted me, yet.  He was even more handsome than I remembered, maturity chiseling all the baby fat away into sculptured perfection.  He could’ve been a model.  Had a scout ever approached him?
The class president went through the schedule of the weekend, then wanted to lead us through our school song.  Sam looked my way for the first time and our eyes met.  He still recognized my singing voice after all this time.  Butterflies from my teens awoke and fluttered in my belly.  So wrong, Kate, he’s married.  Stupid hormones.
But his eyes were so intense.  Had he always been so focused?
I smiled and nodded and he nodded back.
Then orientation was over and people filtered out of the building. 
I turned and waited.  “Hey, Sam.”  The years had been good to him.  He still had an athletic build and no gray hair.
“This is Mandy.”  His wife shook my hand.  “Kate and I were friends.”
“We’re heading over to the Farmer’s Market. Want to join us?” Mandy asked.  She was cute, with a friendly, wholesome face.
“Uh, sure.”  It wasn’t far from here, and held every Saturday into the afternoon.  Some things never changed.  “Heard you had kids.”
“Two,” he said.  He smiled for the first time at mention of them.
Mandy reached in her purse for the photos and stuck the book in my face.  “Aren’t they adorable? Candace has her daddy’s eyes. And that’s Jordan. He’s ten months.”
“Congratulations.”  A toddler and an infant. 
They’d started kids late.  Sam had big career dreams back in high school. 
Jordan falls asleep to your album. Only thing that works when he’s teething,” she said.
So he’d kept my demo.  Not many copies ever existed.  “Not the first baby I’ve sung to sleep. Even my brother and sister.” 
“How is your family?” Sam asked.  He didn’t remember.  That hurt.
“Been on my own since age twenty.”  When all my dreams came crashing down.  “My dad and sister died.”
His eyes sparked to life with regret.  “I’m sorry, Kate. I meant to ask about your brother.”
I shrugged.  “Mother might as well be, too. Is what it is.” 
We entered the market and Mandy grabbed a basket.  “Hon, we need carrots.”  She led the way to the vegetables section. 
We strolled behind her.  “What about you? Did you get married?” he asked.
I laughed.  “Who would ever propose to me?”  He didn’t know how absurd that question was.  “Sorry, bad inside joke.”
His brow furrowed in confusion.  I wasn’t this random or unfiltered in high school.
Was I?
He started choosing carrots. 
Mandy took the bunch out of his hands and picked up another.  “No, silly, they should look like this.”
“She usually does the grocery shopping,” he said nearly monotone.
“Is there someone special in your life, Kate?” she asked.  She’d been ahead of us when he asked me.
“A guy. Sixteen years. It’s complicated.”
The furrow was still there.  “I’m glad you’re not alone,” Sam said.
“Wouldn’t say that.”
He blinked.  “Sorry?”
“I hate him a little. Like I said, it’s complicated.” 
And nothing I wanted to get into with a past crush and his perfect family.  I searched for anything remotely interesting to divert my attention to.
Mandy loaded his arms as the basket got heavy.  I lingered back as the wife took his attention.  My phone buzzed.
Sonya.  Is everyone fat and bald?
I’m strolling the farmer’s market with my gorgeous high school crush and his lovely wife. Kill me now.  I included the pistol emoji.
Sam? Water-polo-team-photo-in-the-yearbook Sam?
The one and only. He is neither fat nor bald.
Why are you torturing yourself?
I couldn’t think of a polite reason to bail.
“Kate, do you like strawberries?” Mandy asked.  She was holding a flat with multiple little green plastic baskets.
“Uh, sure, yeah.”
“Take one for your room. The motels around here don’t serve breakfast.”
“I’m staying with Jane,” I said. 
Sam’s eyes went to me.  “Mom didn’t mention that.”
“We’ve been friends a long time.”  Jane had been my piano teacher.
Sam’s mom did her best to help me start a music career.  Wasn’t her fault I had to stop before it ever really began, and she’d never judged the choices I had to make to survive.
Mandy finished shopping.  “Sam, we need to pick up the kids.”
“Right.”  He looked back to me.  “See you tonight.”  He gazed at me like he had something else to say, then turned to follow his wife.
We all had to head in the same direction, but I let them outpace me. 
Damn him for still being beautiful.  Twenty years, and my heart still lurched at the sight of him and his puppy-dog eyes.  And broad shoulders.  Tight ass.  His confident walk.  The presence he radiated that said I’ve got this and you’re safe with me. 
Twenty years and I felt like a teenager again.  I shouldn’t have come.
Back to the parking lot, and escape.
I drove to Jane’s house.  She still resided in the family farmhouse, one of the few domestic buildings in town older than the ‘60s.  The city was quite small until a county boom in the ‘70s brought new streets and new families.  Before that, it was all ranches and farm land. 
We exchanged e-mails fairly often, but this was the first time seeing each other since I left California. 
She opened the screen door when my car stopped in the driveway.  “Kate Carson, get your skinny ass over here.”
Grinning, I stepped out of the car, popping the trunk.  Jane enveloped me in a good-mom hug.  “Hi, Mama.”  I leaned back to look at her.  “Violet, huh?”
“School’s out for summer, so my hair can be any shade I want. Why has it taken so long for you to come see me?”
“You know why.”  I got my luggage out of the back and closed the lid.
She grunted.  “Get inside. You’re obviously not eating enough.”
Shaking my head, I followed the force of nature.  Mama Jane, as all her close students called her, was five-foot-nothing but a commanding presence by sheer force of will. 
She looked good for being in her sixties now.
Same piano in the front parlor.  Same roast chicken dinner in the oven.  Or lunch, considering the time.  “Put your things in the guest room. Door’s open. Then wash your hands and sit at the table. Don’t dawdle!”
“Yes, ma’am.”  I hurried up the stairs.
Entering the guest room was like stepping back in time.  Always known this room as the spare, the Pink Room.  Cream wallpaper with pink rosebuds, sheer pink curtains, pink gingham bedspread…the décor had been set up for Sam’s grandmother and apparently never changed.  I stepped into the bathroom—but this had.  The shower had a clear glass door and the sink faucet was new.  It was also a walk-in shower now instead of a tub, with tiles that looked like pale gray marble.  I washed my hands as instructed and hurried back downstairs.
Sat at the table since she never let guests help in the kitchen. 
Side dishes were already here and she was carving the chicken.  “How have you been, Kate?”
“Getting by.”
“It’s complicated.”
A snort.  She brought the platter of chicken to the table and sat.  “Why didn’t my son ever date you?”
“He never asked.”  I’d always been in the friend zone, to the pain of my innocent heart.
She piled dark meat on my plate while I reached for the green beans (fresh from her garden).  “No, he was a bit of an idiot back then.”
“All boys are.”
“You met Mandy?”
“The kids?”  Jane sat at the table.
“No. She showed me photos, though.”
“I’m sure she did. Cutest grandkids in town.”
I smiled.  “I think all grandparents say that.”
“But I’m actually right. Look at my son. More handsome than his father, and he was devastating.”
“How are you dealing with this big house alone?”  He passed two years ago.  Aneurysm in his sleep.
“I’m not alone. I have visitors all the time.”  She shook a fork at me.  “Nor am I too old to care for this place.”
“Would never imply it.”
She grinned.  “You were always one of my favorite students.”
“Not in the beginning.”
She laughed.  “Well, you sucked.”
“Others were worse. My fingers were just slow.”  Mmm, I hadn’t had a home-cooked meal in forever.  “Is Sam happy?” 
He was so reserved now.
He’d barely smiled.  It was also weird to not be greeted with a hug.  He was demonstrative back in high school.  But a good handshake was important in lawyerdom and his wife was right there…
She shrugged.  “Far as I know. Good job, good family, helps his community. Neighbors like him.”
“Good. It sucked when we lost touch and I always wondered, so thanks for sharing tidbits here and there.”
“Well, I hope you get to catch up at this reunion. What’s the schedule again?”
“Big party tonight and a picnic tomorrow. Anyone with family is encouraged to bring them to the latter.”
“So much fuss for an anniversary.”  She shook her head.
“The class president chick was always big on events. We had to have the best prom, the biggest fundraiser, so this weekend is no surprise.”
“Debbie the caterer?”
I nodded.  “That’s the one.”  I couldn’t get enough of the mashed potatoes.  Like fifty-percent butter and cream.  “Is Mandy a local?”
“She went to the other high school. They met at Sam’s firm.”
My eyes widened.  “She worked for him?”
Jane shook her head.  “Different department. She’s a nice girl.”
“But? I hear a ‘but’.”
A wave of her hand.  “Never mind. It’s not my place to say.”
“Since when do we hold back?”
Jane sighed.  “She’s a fine daughter-in-law, don’t get me wrong, and a good mother. She just…wasn’t the person I expected him to marry. Sam was a go-getter, you know, and that part of him has faded to the background.”
“You think he settled.”
Eyes to the side, she searched for the way to tell it.  “Settling isn’t the right word. I guess I’ve been surprised by his life journey. I didn’t expect him to raise a family here in the ‘burbs.”
“Well, he did get hired here after college.”
“But first companies are usually a temporary position.”  She waved it off.  “Don’t mind me. There’s nothing wrong with him.”
No…never was.  I did remember his young big-city dreams, though. 
“Can I interest you in some pie?”
My stomach gurgled.  You don’t get a vote.  “Beyond tempting, but I have to save room for tonight. And fit into my dress.”
“If I can’t convince you…”  She started clearing the table.
“Don’t give me that look, Queen of Carbs. I have to resist until later.”
She chuckled.  “You know where I keep it.”
Jane wouldn’t let me help with the dishes, either, so I went up to the guest room to unpack.
My dress was on top to minimize wrinkles and I hung it on the closet door first.  When I tried it on at the store, my first thought was wanting Sam to see it, something that shamed me since he was a married man. 
Married men were off limits. 
Set out the rest of what I needed tonight, put my toiletries in the bathroom, and stretched out for a nap.  It’d been an early flight to get here.
My phone buzzed.  Sonya again.  What happened? You stopped responding.
They needed to pick up the kids and I went to check into my room. Just finished lunch.
Did you bring the dress?
I brought the dress.
Then find a single guy and use it to get laid. This weekend is about you.
You said that before I left, and I’m not interested in a hook-up with an old classmate.
Why not? You won’t see them again. Until the 30th reunion, ha.
I’m turning my phone off now.
Ah, come on. I’m only being a good BFF and looking out for you.
I love you for thinking of me, but leave my vagina out of this.
LOL. Give me all the dirt tomorrow.
I promise.  And did turn my phone off.
I had two hours until I needed to start getting ready, so I set my travel alarm and lay down.
And dreamed about Sam for the first time since I was a teenager.
The alarm buzzed—thought I set it on the beep—and I rolled out of bed.  Blurry-eyed, I stripped out of my wrinkled clothes and turned the shower on.  Should’ve washed my eye makeup off before falling asleep.  Used a cleansing wipe on my face while I waited for it to heat.
Jane must’ve upgraded the water heater, for it didn’t take long for steam to rise.  Stepped in and—ah, bliss.  Firm water pressure dissolved the stiffness in my shoulders from sleeping in my clothes.  Running my hands over my legs, they were still smooth from the morning’s shave, so I skipped ahead to my hair, and once the conditioner was in, my body.
Eyes closed, back to the door.
Creamy bubbles felt good on my skin.  Not saying my fingers lingered on my breasts or clit.  Also not saying Sam’s face came to mind as I did.
A pair of strong hands squeezed my shoulders and I groaned.  “If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up.”
I was spun around and kissed.

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