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About the author:
What inspired you to write your book?
On 9-11, I remember so clearly the horror of that day, of watching these brave men and women run into a building to save others only to perish for their efforts. As I began writing fiction, I thought of people I admire and those firefighters came to mind. I love writing about them, creating stories for them and most importantly… giving them the happy ending they deserve.
Here is a short sample from the book:
THREE YEARS AGO…
Jessie lay wrapped in Ryan’s arms, a thin sheet their only barrier from the cool breeze that blew in from the ocean, caressing their sweaty bodies, the after effect of an hour of intense sex. She snuggled closer to him, the sound of his steady breathing lulling her into total relaxation—as if the multiple orgasms hadn’t already done that. She had been seeing Ryan exclusively for a little over two months, and it had been the best two months of her life. She closed her eyes, and her mind drifted back to the first time she’d seen him…
They’d met in the most unusual way. Jessie had arrived at her family’s beach house to find it filthy. Her mom occasionally rented it out to recoup some of the costs of the upkeep and property taxes. Unfortunately, the prior tenants hadn’t bothered to remove a single piece of trash, so the task of cleaning fell on Jessie if she wanted the place to be habitable. For months, she’d been looking forward to spending the summer at the beach. The sun, the water, the peace and quiet… it was exactly what she needed to regroup and get her life back on track.
Her most recent long-term relationship had gone downhill fast. She’d been with Derrick since her freshman year of college. They had so much history, so much in common. She had thought he was the one, and he was for a while.
Derrick had supported her when her father died the previous year, holding her hand and helping her with all the details. The devastation she felt at the sudden loss of her father was doubled when she found evidence of a sordid secret while going through his things. Her father, the man she trusted most in the world, had been having an affair for many years.
The revelation crushed her and she completely altered the precious memories she had of her dad. And she worried about her mother—had she known?—and decided to take her dad’s secret to her own grave. She told no one about it; not her mother, her sister, or Derrick.
She changed during that time, she knew it, but Derrick had supported her through it all—even as she pushed him away and refused to tell him why. Of course, that was when the trouble began. He’d started an affair of his own.
Later, Jessie discovered he’d been cheating with a woman from his office—a woman Jessie had considered a friend. She’d frequently gone out to dinner with her, helped her move into her apartment, and even watched her dog while she was on vacation. Jessie felt like a fool. He’d been with this woman for months and she’d had no idea. But as hurt and as livid as she felt, a part of her understood why. It didn’t excuse his behavior at all, but she had certainly done her part in pushing him into the arms of another woman.
And, she had to admit that Derrick had been the one who had seen her through her darkest days—even when she had tried to shut herself off from the world. How do you just walk away from the person who helped you so much? She hoped a summer on her own, away from him, might help her to change her outlook on things.
Derrick had begged her to stay, to forgive him and give him another chance. He swore he’d change and that she was the only woman he loved. When she was getting ready to leave, Derrick showed up and proposed marriage. He’d cried and pleaded when she first refused, imploring her to reconsider. Finally, Jessie had taken the ring, but hadn’t put it on her finger. She made it clear that she would spend the summer at the beach and think about his proposal. When she returned, she’d give him an answer. In the meantime, they were both free to do as they pleased. Her gut told her to run far and fast from Derrick. But he still held a piece of her heart. She loved him. He had been her whole world for a long time.
Jessie spent the first day at the beach house cleaning and dragging trash to the curb. It was dusk, and she was carrying a particularly heavy garbage bag down the driveway when it broke open, scattering trash on the concrete. She’d cursed loudly before getting another bag and cleaning up the mess, nearly crying from exhaustion. The bag felt even heavier when she picked it up a second time. “Seriously,” she muttered, dropping the bag and bending over, hands on her knees, panting. “Maybe I’ll take up jogging this summer. Damn, I’m out of shape.”
“Need some help?”
Jessie spun around at the sound of a deep male voice behind her. “Excuse me?”
He chuckled. “I’ve been watching you from my porch over there,” he nodded toward the house next door. “I thought you could use some help.”
Jessie smiled. She was both thankful and mortified. “Thank you.” She must have looked like a hot mess—messy hair, dirty clothes, sweating. She was also surrounded by the distinct smell of old garbage.
None of that seemed to matter to Ryan though. They finished cleaning together, and then he’d taken her to dinner. From that point forward, they spent every free moment together. They spent their days at the beach, sunbathing and swimming, or driving up the coast, sightseeing and shopping. He’d shown a keen interest in learning about her photography hobby, and she’d listen for hours as he shared stories of daring rescues and other acts of bravado that he regularly engaged in as a fireman.
Jessie had held out for a full two weeks before giving in to the intense desire that was palpable anytime they were together. From that moment forward, their nights were spent making love. Tonight was no different.
“Hey, Jess, baby.” Ryan gently shook her. “You awake?”
“Hmm?” She forced her eyes open, one at time. “Yeah, I’m awake.”
Ryan brushed the hair from her face and planted a soft kiss on her forehead. “You seem a million miles away.”
She rested her chin on his chest and looked up at him. “I was just thinking about the day we met.”
No matter how often she looked at him, he always managed to steal her breath. He was the most handsome man she had ever met.
“Yeah?” He smiled.
“Yeah.” She smiled in return. Things had been off between them all night. Sexually they’d connected—they always did, but there was an elephant in the room and one of them had to put a voice to it and deal with it. “I’m leaving tomorrow.”
“I know.” They were both silent for a few moments. “I’ve been thinking about it all week.”
“You have?” That surprised her. And warmed her. And concerned her. She was leaving, end of sentence. What could he possibly be thinking about?
She had been trying to avoid letting her thoughts flow that way. Instead, she’d focused on spending every last moment she could with him before she left, making beautiful memories.
“Yes.” He adjusted his body so that they were face to face. “I want you to come home with me, Jess.”
She pulled the sheet tightly around her, as if protecting herself from the intensity of his words. “What?”
Ryan took both of her hands into his. “I’m in love with you, Jess. The thought of not waking up next to you every morning and falling asleep with you in my arms every night is killing me. Please. Move to Silver Creek with me.”
She looked into his gorgeous green eyes, her heart expanding, burst into little pieces. It would be so easy to throw her arms around him and say yes, but they’d agreed from the beginning that this was nothing more than a summer fling. They’d been living in a bubble, away from real life and the day-to-day grind that reality presented. There were no doubts that she loved him. She’d loved him from the moment they’d shared their first kiss. No man had ever made her feel like Ryan did and she wasn’t sure how to handle it. It terrified her and she didn’t trust it… or herself.
“It’s just so sudden.” Her mind and her heart were in a tug of war. She wanted to be with Ryan, but there were loose ends at home she had to deal with; namely Derrick and his marriage proposal, which she had conveniently forgotten to tell Ryan about.
“Maybe, but you can’t tell me it doesn’t feel right.”
“No, I can’t.” She shook her head. “Everything with you feels right.”
He grinned that sexy boyish grin that she’d never been able to resist. He raised her hand to his lips and asked, “So, is that a yes?”
Head or heart? Both were screaming at her… encouraging her, judging her, criticizing her and reminding her of the past. As she processed through all the right and wrong reasons, her heart won out and she simply said, “Yes.”
Jessie tossed and turned, trying to find sleep but it wasn’t coming. Tomorrow she would leave with Ryan. Tomorrow she would move to a new town and start a new life with a man she was hopelessly in love with, a man who, for all practical purposes, she knew almost nothing about. Her mind was racing. She always thought she’d been a good judge of character, but after what happened with Derrick and her so-called friend, she wasn’t so sure anymore. She would never have suspected them of being so deceitful and her inability to pick up on the affair left her filled with self-doubt. How could she be sure Ryan was any different? And what about her dad? She didn’t even want to go there!
But then, who was she to judge? What about her deceit, she thought, the guilt tying her stomach in knots. Ryan had no idea Derrick even existed. What would he do when he found out? How could he trust her again? The questions kept tumbling around in her head.
Who was she kidding? She couldn’t go with him.
Throwing the covers off, she got out of bed and quickly dressed. Her stuff was already packed and in her car. The plan was to leave first thing tomorrow morning. What was she thinking? She’d only know this man for a couple of months and now she was willing to uproot her entire life, surrender her independence and follow him anywhere?
Panic sent a rush of adrenaline through her veins. She’d done that once, trusted her life to another and had her heart pulled out of her chest as a result.
No matter how she felt about him, she just couldn’t place her future in the hands of another man. There were too many unknowns, too many unanswered questions. Her heart was already breaking with what she was about to do. But it was on her terms. She couldn’t risk her heart any more than she already had.
Jessie kneeled on the bed and gave Ryan’s cheek a kiss. Tears burned her eyes as she pulled a folded piece of paper from the bedside stand and placed it on her pillow. “I’m sorry, Ryan,” she whispered. “Please forgive me.”