Authors: Jan Scarbrough
Tags: #Contemporary Romance
By Jan Scarbrough
Resplendence Publishing, LLC
Cover Art by Kendra Egert
Published by Resplendence Publishing, LLC
2665 N Atlantic Avenue, #349
Daytona Beach, FL 32118
Electronic format ISBN: 978-1-60735-645-5
Warning: All rights reserved. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Electronic Release: March 2013
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and occurrences are a product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places or occurrences, is purely coincidental.
In memory of my parents who were always there for me.
To Brenna and John who were troopers the whole time.
And to Bill for thirteen wonderful years of marriage.
I-64 between Louisville and Lexington
Sheets of rain sliced across the windshield, the steady flap-flap-flap of the wiper blades filling the silence in the SUV. Kate Lawrence gripped the steering wheel, unsure whether her blurred vision came from the glare of oncoming headlights against the rain or from the tears welling in her eyes.
It had been a month since her divorce was final, and tonight was the first time Jerry had taken their daughter. Visitation was an ugly, ugly word.
God! I can’t stand this!
A single tear trailed down her flushed cheek, and she swiped it away with a rough knuckle. But the lone tear soon became a torrent, distorting Kate’s vision. A sob shook her shoulders, and she clutched the steering wheel as if her life depended on it. Sitting forward, she stared into the dark, stormy night.
Stupid! I was so stupid!
She chided herself for having been too content to be Jerry’s wife and not looking past his blond good looks, charming smile and can-do personality. Why had she been so blind?
And when had things gone so wrong between them? When Reagan was born? Surely that seemed to be the start. Until then, they’d been the perfect couple.
Swept up in love, she had quit college her freshman year to marry Jerry Lawrence. He’d thought her perfect enough to marry and establish his home. She had helped him as his career took off, to entertain the right people and make the right decisions about where to live and what club to join. Always sacrificing, she’d stayed home because that’s where she belonged. That’s where he needed her.
She had been his rock. She grounded him. Or that’s what he had said.
And that’s what she had always believed.
Until that night at dinner when he quietly said he was filing for divorce. No talk. No counseling. No arguing him out of it.
Kate had sat forward then as she was doing now on her long drive home. Not understanding his words, she had opened her mouth and formed a soundless “but” as her gaze searched his stony face.
His meaning had slowly sunk into her dense, unprepared brain. That night she had been like a glob of her daughter’s Silly Putty—easily stretched, torn, sculpted and finally shattered. Jerry had devastated her world. More than that, he had destroyed her soul.
And now, she had to mold the pieces back together. Make the best of it for Reagan’s sake. She had to be strong for
. She no longer thought of Rea as Jerry’s daughter. He had broken up their family. He no longer deserved the one bright, beautiful thing that had come from their ten year marriage.
But the courts said he had rights, so she had to “exchange” Reagan with him on Friday nights during the school year and for six weeks during the summer. The trouble was Jerry traveled, and taking Reagan as mandated was often “inconvenient”. That’s why tonight was the first exchange in what promised to be a long, drawn-out process.
Anger made her set her jaw.
He might not want her, but he wasn’t going to let her daughter think she wasn’t good enough for him. Kate would see he kept his promises to Reagan.
She sat back against the seat, stretching her arms out so that she put space between her body and the steering wheel. A grim determination poured over her. She would never let anyone tell Reagan she wasn’t good enough. She’d protect her daughter. Even from her father.
Five miles later, Kate turned south off the Interstate, heading into the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. She was going home. Not the home she’d shared with Jerry and then Reagan on the hill overlooking the Ohio River in Louisville—the beautiful, rambling brick home she had so lovingly maintained for her family. No, she was driving to Eagleton, her childhood home, the town she’d escaped at seventeen when she’d been accepted as a student at the University of Kentucky.
Slinking home with her tail between her legs disturbed Kate. She had her pride.
But when it came down to it, that was all she had. Everything she owned, or thought she owned, belonged to Jerry, bought and paid for through his efforts. Kate had never worked a day in her life. She had no money, just what Jerry earned and that came into the family budget.
But it had been
money, their house, and their friends—for only as long as they were a couple. For only as long as he wanted her. As long as she played her role and kept up pretenses.
Now that was all gone, and so was her identity. It had been hard to have her rose colored glasses yanked from her eyes only to discover she was nothing without being Jerry Lawrence’s wife.
Kate felt like the character in the TV show
The Good Wife
—poor Alicia cheated on by her lying husband. Kate had watched the show, absorbed in the characterization and the weekly mystery plots, never imagining she’d end up divorced like Alicia. But unlike Alicia, Kate had no law degree. She had no way to make a living.
Yet six months ago, she’d been smart enough to hire a good female attorney. And in the settlement, she’d received a year’s worth of maintenance besides the monthly child support for Reagan. She was also awarded her portion of the house in cash and enough money to go to nursing school. Jerry had paid handsomely for his freedom, much more than he’d expected.
The thought cheered Kate as she entered the sleeping small town. She’d never believed in revenge, but lately she had toyed with the sentiment. Folks said divorce did that to you, made you a little crazy.
She’d learned the hard way.
* * * *
Kate’s new home was actually a duplex on Elm Street. Her father had found it for her when she’d been searching for a place to live. The two-story townhouse was quite spacious, but nothing like the big, comfortable home in Louisville she was used to.
The rain had not stopped. If anything, it came down harder when she pulled into the gravel parking space in front of the house.
Home, sweet home.
Stop it! Don’t be sarcastic, she scolded herself.
She had the whole weekend alone, a luxury she planned to take advantage of—if she could overcome the ache in her heart from missing Reagan.
The strain of the drive and emotions from the tense child exchange washed over Kate suddenly. Her shoulders slumped for a moment. Then she bit her lip and grabbed her purse. Opening the door, she sprinted to the covered porch, getting drenched.
It didn’t matter. She had nothing else to do tonight. Running a hot bath was the only thing on her list. Maybe she’d read a book. She hadn’t downloaded one to her Kindle in a long time. Yes, she had plenty of things to do to help her forget.
Kate swiped a lock of wet hair from her eyes. She’d forgotten to turn on the porch light. The black, rainy night closed over her like a shroud. She hurried to unlock the front door, fitting the key into the lock. She turned it hard then staggered back when it broke off in her hand.
Kate stared down at the fragment of the key in her palm. The other piece was stuck in the door lock. Now what would she do? Before leaving to meet Jerry, she’d turned the deadbolt on the back door. Her dad had the extra key, but he had gone to Cincinnati to visit his brother. She was alone in a town where she was basically a stranger.
No, she wouldn’t cry, although the situation called for tears. This on top of dropping Reagan at a McDonald’s to go home with a man she no longer knew. Kate shook her head, growing furious. If Jerry had lived up to his part of the marriage vows, she wouldn’t be standing on a dark porch, soaked to the skin, and mad enough to commit murder.
“Damn it all to hell!”
Saying the words aloud didn’t make her feel better, but it grounded her. She took a deep breath, spotting for the first time, a glimmer of light coming from the plantation shutters of the duplex next door.
Could her neighbor be home? She’d never met him. Didn’t even know his name. He’d been out of town for work Mrs. Carson, the realtor, had said when Kate had moved in four weeks ago. He must be home now.
She jumped as a clap of thunder reverberated throughout the neighborhood. “Shit!”
Her shirt and skin were wet; her hair straggled down her back, and her canvas shoes squished. And she hated storms. Lightning flashes provided just enough light for her to dash off the porch into the rain again and onto her neighbor’s covered porch that mirrored her own.
Without stopping to shake off the rain, she rapped on the front door.
Before the thunder sounded again, the door opened. Backlit against the bright and inviting living room stood the silhouette of a tall man. He wore a white t-shirt and gray sweat pants. His feet were bare.
Kate stared at him, noting the way his dark, unruly hair drooped over his forehead. She gaped at his face, at the straight nose and strong chin and the day’s growth of beard. Standing stiff and silent, as if she was a department store mannequin, she sucked in a quick breath.
“I see you’ve come home, Kate,” he said in the deep voice she remembered so well.
Scott Gray studied the rain soaked woman on his doorstep. They had a history. She looked good from what he could tell, but Kate had always looked good. That’s probably why no other woman ever pleased him. No one was like Kate.
“I heard you got divorced,” he said bluntly. He wanted to say “I told you so,” but he didn’t.
She didn’t answer him, only thrust out her hand and opened her palm. “My key broke off. Can you help me?”
He sized her up, the long length of her in her blue tank top and short shorts. She was wet through to the skin, leaving nothing for his imagination. Her nipples puckered because of the dampness, and he saw their outline through her bra and skimpy top. Her breasts were full, womanly breasts, unlike the small ones that had plagued his memories. She’d let her blonde hair grow longer, too. It bunched up around her face and lay on her shoulders Somehow, long hair suited her. He’d tried to tell her so back in the day, but she never had listened to him. Must have listened to the man she married.
The woman he’d known as Kate Cox was bad news. Had been for a long time. They’d gone together in high school. She’d been his girlfriend. Hell, he’d given her his class ring at the end of junior year. Then they’d enrolled at the University of Kentucky, and things had changed. She’d dumped him in the middle of freshman year.
He thought he’d gotten over her, but he hadn't. When Mrs. Carson, the realtor who supervised his property for him, had told him who the new tenant was going to be, he'd been surprised at the depth of his reaction. The news had felt like a punch to the gut, and he’d almost refused to sign the contract. Carrying a torch for someone who probably hadn't given him a thought in years was ridiculous. There was no time like the present to grow up and move on.