Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 60 pages
Heat Level: 1
eBook Price: $.99
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Length: 60 pages
Heat Level: 1
eBook Price: $.99
All her life, Emma has shared a special affinity with dogs, communicated with them in an extraordinary way. A bond it seemed her son would share when an aging husky took on the role of his protector. But it’s been six months since Shane last had a dog in his life. With each day that passes, Emma grows increasingly anxious. While she doesn’t understand why, she knows it has something to do with the lack of a dog as Shane’s guardian. She certainly didn't expect Shane’s absentee father to return and solve the problem.
The buzz of conversation combined with the scents of fresh baking, added to the warmth of the café’s welcoming atmosphere. Emma waited for her friend Sue, as she did every Friday, with the exception of Friday the thirteenth.
On those days, Sue refused to leave the house, which made today’s request for a get-together astonishing.
Emma hardly recognised Sue when she entered the café. Misery radiated off her normally cheerful friend. In fact, she looked devastated. Her usually immaculate hair hung loosely around her face; her normally sparkling eyes were dull and weary. As for her clothes… Normally a savvy dresser, it wouldn’t surprise her if Sue had picked up the first items that came to hand. Her crumpled T-shirt shocked Emma, as did the grass stains on the knees of her jeans, and her trainers obviously hadn’t been cleaned in a day or two.
On their own, each feature would cause Emma some concern. Combined, they wiped the jovial quip right off her tongue.
“Do you know what Paraskevidekatriaphobics means?” Sue asked as she dropped her bag to the floor and flopped into the chair opposite.
Not sure where the conversation was going, Emma settled for a shake of her head.
Disgust laced Sue’s voice. “Apparently it’s the name for someone who’s phobic about Friday the thirteenth.”
Well, that described her friend to a T. Emma remained silent. What catastrophe had compelled Sue to leave her home today? She never, but never, left home on a Friday the thirteenth.
Reaching across the table, she clasped Sue’s hand in hers. “No, I didn’t know that,” Emma said carefully while she cast a glance around the room. No one bothered to look in their direction, even though to Emma, the whole atmosphere of the place seemed to hold its breath.
For what, Emma couldn’t imagine. But whatever it was, Emma deduced it wouldn’t be good. “I’ll admit I was surprised to get your call last night and even more so when you wanted to meet up this morning.”
“You know Tyler’s firm has been sending him to Baltimore more and more often recently?” Sue brushed the tears away with the back of her hand.
Emma nodded confirmation and soothed the hand that tensed beneath hers.
“And do you remember we intended to fly out to L.A. ten years ago to get married? But at the last minute, one of Ty’s work colleagues was sick, so the company sent him out to cover for the guy at a conference in Maryland instead?”
Emma nodded. Of course she remembered. She’d scrambled to change their flight plans so she could go with them. Sue and Tyler had still married that weekend, and she’d been Sue’s bridesmaid. “Yes, I remember, I was there too.”
“And I don’t need to remind you, Ty’s been spending quite a lot of company time over there these past six months and more.”
No, Sue didn’t need to tell her that. Ty had failed to join his family for their summer holiday, citing delicate company negotiations as the reason he couldn’t get away.
Not knowing what to say or whether Sue wanted her to say anything at all, Emma nodded again then added, “I remember.”
“Apparently those tricky negotiations included his prospective new wife—”
“Wife! New wife? He’s married to you.”
Sue’s words came at her like bullets from a gun. She had it wrong, surely. Memories a decade old flooded back.
Like excited school kids, the three of them had flown to Baltimore. They’d met up with Maxwell King, one of Tyler’s friends, and almost before Emma had taken in all the changes, Sue and Tyler were saying their ‘I do’s’. The four of them had gone on to celebrate with too much cheap wine, lots of laughter, and two rooms for the night.
Emma had assumed the newlyweds celebrated their wedding night to the hilt and knew she and Maxwell had.
After all, she had a little — well not so little anymore — Maxwell to prove it.
She’d returned home the following day with the newlyweds and, over the years, watched their love and marriage deepen and expand.
At least she’d thought she had.
Her gut clenched at what she read in Sue’s eyes, and she waited for the dream to explode.
“He came back last night…”
The sharpness of Sue’s voice cut through Emma’s fantasies like a meat cleaver.
“…waited until this morning, and calmly told me he’d applied for and got a decree nisi, and as of now, we are divorced.”
“D-divorced? You and Tyler are divorced?”
“So he says.” Ignoring the tears plopping on the surface, Sue snatched her hand away and thumped it on the table. Mugs jumped, coffee slurped over the rim, and people at the surrounding tables fell silent.
Startled glances zeroed in on them. Some serious, others disconcerted by the interruption. But none of them looked away when Emma tried to stare them down, so she turned her shoulder, grabbed Sue’s hand again, and fought to unscramble her brain.
She’d thought her friend’s marriage was rock solid. Divorce? No. Sue must have mistaken Tyler’s words. But the glint in her friend’s eyes shattered that illusion.
“As I said, he met someone else over there, got his divorce, and then married her, and only came back to let me know he was moving to the States permanently and he’d let me keep the house.”
Devastated for her friend, Emma allowed her fury to rise, waited, and relished the moment it spewed out and over. “I hope you told him you’d take him for his last dime. Keep the house, indeed! Your grandmother left it to you before you and Tyler married.”
As fast as her fury erupted, the thought of Sue’s children crushed it. “Do Simon and Sarah know?”
More tears slid down Sue’s cheeks. “No. I asked Tyler to stay long enough to tell them.”
“He refused, said he’d never wanted kids, so it was up to me to take on the responsibility for them from now on.”
Emma dug a packet of tissues from her bag and pushed them across the table. “Since when didn’t he want kids? He was the one who couldn’t wait to hold his babies when they were born. He was the one handing out cigars in the office. He was the one—”
“None of that matters now, does it? Obviously this woman he’s married either doesn’t like kids in general or doesn’t like Tyler’s with me specifically and has made her feelings clear on the matter.” Sue’s tone turned wistful. “I never thought I’d see the day Tyler rejected his own children.”
Emma fumed silently. She’d never thought to see the day Tyler discarded his wife of ten years, never mind his kids.
Sue’s words rattled in Emma’s brain. It brought back unwanted memories. Memories she thought she’d buried so deeply they’d never surface again. How wrong could she be? She’d been up close and personal with the experience and how hard she’d fought to overcome the lack of self-worth that engulfed her. And then there’d been her family. They’d shocked her with their resolute demand that she terminate her pregnancy. Their betrayal had added to her loneliness, until the moment her son was born. And then once again, her world had shifted on its axis. She hadn’t been able to define her love for the tiny human cradled in her arms, it was so huge. She couldn’t even maintain her loathing for his father — after all, without him, she’d have missed the best part of her life.
Oh yes, she was familiar with the result of abandonment by the father of her child; children, in Sue’s case. She understood what her friend’s future as a single parent held. Especially if Tyler refused to pay child support.
“Did you know…”
Sue’s voice cut through her indignant thoughts.
“…that this guy who came up with that unpronounceable description of people like me also claims there are twenty-one million Americans who fear Friday the thirteenth, so at least I’m in good company. Goodness knows how many Brits are Paraskevidekatriaphobics.” Sue dabbed her eyes and sniffed. “I guess I’m a wreck.” Her friend looked down, her eyes widening as she took in the state of her crumpled shirt and grubby jeans. “Yeah! I look a wreck.” She sighed, clenched the soggy tissue in her hand, and tried to hold Emma’s gaze.
A movement in the entrance diverted Emma’s attention when the stranger walked in. His eyes… The hairs on the back of her neck rose, her heart missed a beat, and her brain… her brain almost refused to acknowledge the image unfolding before her.
A pair of earth-brown eyes she never thought to see again ignored all the other customers and honed right in on her. Was she hallucinating? Anger and longing whirled together in an emotional tornado that tore through her system, leaving devastation behind.
Anger, yes she could take that, but the longing…? After ten years? Surely not. Could she be that stupid? No. Once upon a time, maybe, but not now. But…
Yes. Longings. Utterly unbelievable. After ten years of silence, the first sight of her child’s missing father stirred up old longings? Since Max, no man had managed to evoke any sexual desire in her. Yet one look at the skunk and her heart thumped against her ribs, her belly flipped, and lower…
No! It wasn’t happening. Sue’s news had unsettled her, forced old memories to the surface. Her imagination was playing tricks on her. But the apparition kept on coming.
The man approaching their table was no phantom.
“Max?” What was the father of her almost ten-year-old son doing there? Now? And — the thought almost pole-axed her — how did he know where to look for her?
“We need to talk.” She’d heard that tone before on the occasion she’d rung Max to tell him about her pregnancy. Impatience mixed with… What? How dare he? Just like that. Turn up out of the blue and state they had to talk? Who the hell did he think—? What right did he have to come there and speak to her like that?
Before she could get her brain around the answers, Max pulled Sue up out of her chair, into his arms, and hugged her.
“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I came as soon as I could.” With a gentle finger, he brushed the hair off her face. “I couldn’t believe it when Ty stopped me last week and told me what he’d done.” He dug a large cotton hanky from his jeans pocket and dried Sue’s face. “How are the children taking this?” His eyes narrowed when Sue shook her head.
“They don’t know,” she said. “Ty waited until after they left for school this morning before he told me.”
“You didn’t know until this morning?”
Shock reverberated in his voice, shone from his eyes, followed quickly by indignation. More, Emma recognised. Wrath. Max fairly shook with it.
Had he always wanted Sue and only used Emma that night as a sexual consolation? The thought clamped her throat closed. She snapped her mouth shut, watched in silence as Sue shook her head, then stilled.
“What does the timing have to do with this? According to Ty, he only met the woman recently — at a conference,” Sue added.
“He met her at a conference, that’s true enough,” Max agreed. “But it was eight months ago.” Max tightened his grip on Sue’s waist when her knees sagged and helped her back down into her seat.
“Eight months? He’s known her for eight months and only tells me after he’s got himself a divorce that he’s married someone else.” She dropped her head into her hands and tried to stifle a moan. “I need to get out of here.”
Bestselling author Sherry Gloag is a transplanted Scot now living in the beautiful coastal countryside of Norfolk, England. She considers the surrounding countryside an extension of her own garden, to which she escapes when she needs “thinking time” and solitude to work out the plots for her next novel. While out walking, she enjoys talking to her characters, as long as there are no other walkers close by.
Apart from writing, Sherry enjoys gardening, walking, reading, and cheerfully admits her books tend to take over most of the shelf and floor space in her workroom-cum-office. She also finds crystal craft work therapeutic.