Authors: Laurie Leclair
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction
Lies Of The Heart
Copyright 2002, 2013 by Laurie LeClair
All rights reserved. This work is not transferrable. Any reproduction of this work is prohibited without the permission of the author due to the infringement on the copyright. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the creation of the author or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or people, living or dead, is coincidental.
As always to Jim.
“Ah, geez, he’s even more gorgeous than he was ten years ago,” Tessa Warfield muttered under her breath as she snuck a peek at Chance Deveraux through the grimy window. He stood at the long bar. In the mirrored reflection in front of him, she got more than just a mere impression.
Tall, dark, lean. To die for.
His grandfather’s pub seemed to hum with activity while she remained outside shivering in the cold, dark November night. The prospect of entering the room full of animosity kept her rooted to the spot.
Alone at the bar, with his head down now, dejection and despair seemed to cling to Chance like a second skin. Tessa’s heart squeezed with sadness. She ought to march right in there and tell him so. But she held back even though his grandfather’s lawyer requested her to be here tonight.
The past tangled her in knots. Years of being told to despise the Deverauxs filled her head. But her heart said something far different. How could she hate Chance?
The memories of yesteryear still held her in their grip. She recalled the precious times while growing up when he’d been anything but her adversary. Something in his eyes back then called out to her, as if he’d known how desperately lonely she felt. When the other kids in the neighborhood didn’t want her hanging around with them, he’d convinced them that she wouldn’t be any trouble. She’d gone along on their many secret excursions thanks to him, always lagging behind. And he’d be the one to stop, come back and get her, and then help her up a steep hill or large boulder. Something sweet and pure unfurled in her heart each time.
It had lingered and grown into a full-blown crush by the time she’d turned ten. In the years that followed she’d succumbed even more to his charming, bad boy ways.
Now, she realized the wondrous feelings he’d evoked in her during that time prompted her to go against everything her granny had ever told her about honoring her family name. She just had to see the man who had stolen her heart when he’d only been a boy.
She could only imagine what it would be like to see him up close again, to stare into those fathomless gray eyes of his, to touch him, or maybe even kiss him once again. She gasped at the last thought. Tessa knew she couldn’t back down from her mission.
I just have to see him.
Her destination clearly defined by the brilliant beam of light over the door, Tessa gulped hard and made her way into the web of hatred.
Chance Deveraux’s heart ached and a huge, leaden knot sat in the pit of his belly. Sadness wrapped around him, engulfing him in an ocean of grief. In his mind, the words repeated themselves like gunfire:
Granddad’s dead, Granddad’s dead!
Standing alone, he leaned his forearms against the cool, gleaming mahogany bar considering how empty and lifeless his world would be without the funny old man. A tiny smile lifted one side of his mouth as he recalled the many times while growing up when either he’d fished his granddad out of trouble or vice versa. Man, they’d been a pair, matched set, as some folks in his hometown would say.
The noisy, crowded smoke-filled room closed in on him with suffocating pressure. He cupped the cold, long-necked bottle in his palm, debating whether or not to take a swig. He traced his thumb down a trail of condensation on the brown glass, recalling how many times in the past he’d done the same, only then he hadn’t fought with his conscience at all. He’d willingly gulped down the tasty brew with gusto, drowning in his sorrows.
Now, more than ever, he wished to surrender to the lure of oblivion, the blessed silencing of the bellowing in his head and the excruciating pain squeezing his chest. Something held him back from giving in.
The scent and sight of that slick road rushed up to him now. His motorcycle had hit an icy patch, then slid out from beneath him. Metal scraping and crunching had filled his ears. The memory of the bone-jarring impact on the asphalt nearly had him groaning. But it was the agony-laced screams of his friend riding on the back of Chance’s motorcycle that would never leave him alone, that had followed him to jail, and would haunt him in his dreams for the rest of his life.
Gripping onto the cool glass tighter, a muscle jumped along his jaw. To this day, Chance couldn’t even speak to anyone about that night; it was too painful to face his own mistakes, his reckless drinking and careless behavior.
He figured granddad’s soulful plea to the courts on his behalf had swayed the judge; his tarnished record should have kept him locked up. It had taken some time, but he’d straightened out his head and set himself back in the direction he’d always wanted. His hopes and dreams just hadn’t been able to come to fruition before granddad had died. And for that he’d always carry around a deep, everlasting sorrow.
Inhaling sharply, the acrid scent of cigarettes stung his nostrils. The bitter taste of regret filled his mouth, regret for missing out on the last few years of his granddad’s life.
I didn’t get the chance to prove to him that I could make something of myself after all the screw-ups
He’d still get there, with some luck and money, but the celebration wouldn’t be as sweet without his chief supporter rooting him on.
But other people were counting on him now. He wouldn’t let them down.
Not this time.
At the distinctive clicking of a cue stick hitting a ball, he glanced up watching the journey of it across the pool table, and then the ball finding its target. Scanning the patrons in the mirror above the rows of liquor bottles, he found Father Thomas O’Malley grinning from ear to ear, his bushy white brows topping twinkling blue eyes. Apparently, he’d been the one to sink the ball in the pocket. Granddad’s friend and bartender Walter scowled down at the priest as he hooked his thumbs in his red suspenders and tugged on them.
Curiosity had Chance checking out the sea of familiar faces dotting the dimly lit paneled area, keeping their distance to give him his privacy. Until now, the fifty or more people had blurred together. He looked from each crammed table to the next, all friends of his grandfather’s paying homage to the old man who had owned this very pub. The reluctant smile tugged up one side of Chance’s mouth even further. It was fitting to conduct his grandfather’s wake where he’d loved to live. Even in her distraught state, his grandmother had seen to that. Obviously granddad’s friends thought the same as one story after another about the hijinks he’d been involved in floated to Chance’s ears. Quiet, respectful laughter soon followed.
Squinting through the hazy smoke, he spotted Gil Lambert sitting by himself in the corner. The hunched over, lanky attorney looked grim-faced. His disheveled salt and pepper hair nearly stood on end as if he’d dragged his hands through it repeatedly. A mixture of concern and curiosity pooled inside of Chance.
Now, why does Granddad’s lawyer look so upset?
His middle clenched; he figured it had something to do with the upcoming reading of the will. Dread gathered low as he wondered what in the world had his grandfather pulled now. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he supposed he’d be the source of the old man’s shenanigans this time. Hadn’t he’d always been warned that his chance would come in the end?
Just then the tinkling of the bell over the door sounded, drawing everyone’s attention, including his. Horrified gasps rose among several tables nearby, and then total deafening silence reigned.
Slowly, Chance released his hold on the beer and turned fully to the intrusion. He sucked in a sharp breath and something invisible slammed into him as he gazed at the vision filling the doorway. His pulse rate picked up speed, the blood roaring in his ears. Even after all these years, he’d know that red-headed beauty anywhere.
Tessa Warfield. The enemy.
Tall and willowy she stood frozen for a moment, the outside lights illuminating her alabaster skin and her long springy spiral, strawberry blonde curls. How many times had he wondered what her hair would feel like sliding through his fingers or how soft her skin would feel beneath his hands? How many nights had he yearned to simply
But that hadn’t stopped him from dreaming about her or losing his heart to her. Knowing she was off limits made it all the more appealing to get to know her. For her sake, he’d kept his distance as much as he could. But, living across the street from one another all their lives had brought them together. They’d kept their secret meetings from their relatives. The added risk had made the encounters exciting and dangerous. That had only propelled them onward at times.
And, for those too brief times, he suspected she’d wanted the same opportunity to relish the irony of their shared situations: both parents dead, raised by grandparents, a wicked sense of humor to combat the hurt, and forced to continue a family feud where no one recalled how it had ever started.
Only he knew he’d fared better with his kin than she had with her bitter, resentful granny. A picture of the pinched up face of the older woman rose in his mind as she’d yelled at Tessa for being near him, the good-for-nothing grandson of that no-good bastard. The embarrassment and horror that had entered Tessa’s beautiful eyes had torn a chunk off his heart. In the end, they’d both stayed true to their respective families and away from each other.
Loyalty above all else.
Now, a dagger of empathy shot through him. Defenseless, she was entering enemy territory. He had all he could do not to rush to her and whisk her away from harm’s way. But he promised himself if things got ugly he’d use everything he had to protect her. The fierceness of that thought shocked him.
From across the fifteen or more feet that separated them, she caught his stare. He sucked in another sharp breath, captured by the large luminous, green eyes. How many times had he imagined her gazing at him with those big eyes of hers allowing him to be drawn into her soul, sharing their secrets with each other, sharing their pain?
Entranced, he watched a mischievous smile light up her face. The effects of the sexy and secretive curve of her peach-colored mouth wound around his middle and tugged. In the back of his mind he wondered if her lips still tasted as good as they looked.
Peaches and cream.
She made her way to him, weaving past gawking men and disapproving women.
Man, she’s got guts.
With each graceful step she closed the distance, her body gliding to him. Stark awareness of the alluring woman she’d grown up to be stirred in the primitive part of him. Her long flowing, black skirt clung to her trim, but shapely figure, clung in places he’d longed to touch. Gulping hard, his fingers itched to slide the fabric up over her calves and past her thighs.
Choking back the rumble in his chest, he tried to banish the budding desire as she drew nearer. He scanned her from the top of her curly, long hair to her perfectly shaped oval face. Her wide, scared eyes never wavered behind her long lashes. He took in her small straight nose and thrust out chin. Briefly, he dropped his gaze lower, imagining how the soft, lush femininity of her would feel in his arms. An ache of awareness shot through him.
Bewildered at his body’s instant reactions to her after all this time, he quickly raised his eyes and looked into hers once again. This time he looked longer, witnessing the deep-seated knowledge buried there in the darkening green. It felt like a fist punched him in the belly.
He knew he owned it as well. Something flickered across the surface. Pain. Then she concealed it, but not before his heart clutched. How long and how much had they both suffered because of their families feuding? Whether they wanted to admit it or not they had a certain kinship that couldn’t be denied, drawing them inexplicably together.
Some tantalizing scent drifted to him, lavender he thought. A knot, low and deep, coiled in his abdomen.
A block of icy fear sat in Tessa’s middle as she took one step after another, being sucked into the ever-increasing risk. Her heart thundered in her chest as every patron in the pub centered their attention on her, probing every nuance. The stony silence pulsated in her ears. The sickening sweet stench of a cigar drifted to her, making her tummy even queasier than it had been.