Authors: Deborah Hughes
Tangled Up Hearts
Deborah J. Hughes
Copyright © 2015
by Deborah J. Hughes
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without permission in writing from Deborah J. Hughes.
Cover art by Anya Kelleye
Deborah wishes to thank all the readers of her books! She is grateful for each and every one. She also wants to thank all of those who have been so kind to leave reviews and drop her a note to let her know what they thought of her stories. As for her family and friends, their support is always, always appreciated!
To her husband: You are my hero!!
Alyssa and Cole have known each other for twelve years and for the last seven of them they have carried on a personal war. A reluctant truce, however, changes the playing field. Now their heated kisses are creating a different sort of havoc. Can they ever work through the knots tangling their hearts and overcome the barriers that stand between them?
Alyssa passed her friend's house before it dawned on her where she was and she went into a mild state of panic. Had she really just driven all the way over here without realizing it? Good God! After giving a quick prayer that she hadn't committed any driving violations, she pulled up alongside the curb, coming to a stop under the shade of a huge tree a couple houses down from Trisha's place. Since the morning sun was already heating up the day, the shade would ensure her car wasn't unbearably hot when she finally returned to it. Besides, the short walk would give her a chance to calm down.
Refocusing her thoughts to matters at hand, Alyssa drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly. She needed to get a grip on her emotions before she went knocking on Trisha’s door. Somehow or other she needed to keep her temper from spiraling out of control. As it stood now, she was hard pressed to put a lid on her frenzied emotions. One thing Trisha would not appreciate was getting an earful before she even entered the house. Since the tirade would be about her dear friend's brother, well Trisha would like that even less. In fact she just might make her turn around and leave the premises.
Huffing out an impatient breath, Alyssa glanced at her watch and was relieved to see she was five minutes early. Since she had the annoying tendency to be late for everything, it was a darn good thing that today of all days she was slightly ahead of schedule. The extra time gave her the opportunity to work on getting her emotions in check. First and foremost, she had to keep in mind that she was here because Trisha asked her to be here.
Muttering yet another reminder to stay calm, Alyssa stepped out of the car and stood still for several seconds. She would not go charging down the street no matter how much she wanted to do just that. The urge to rage at Trisha about that obnoxious, meddlesome, despicable pig of a brother of hers made her stand there and fight for emotional control. Trisha was getting impatient of late with the little war she waged with Cole. It was the only snag in their close friendship. Trisha, perhaps because of familial love, was blind to Cole's many, many faults.
Just thinking his name made her blood boil but she tempered it down into controlled annoyance. Come hell or high water, she was going to hear Trisha out first and see what this request to stop by was all about. Only then, after Trisha was done, would she launch into her own reasons for being there.
Glad to have achieved some modicum of calm, at least for the time being, Alyssa headed for Trisha's charming little cottage. Located in one of the nicer and friendlier gated communities, she knew her friend's neighbors nearly as well as she knew her own. Pleasant though most of them were, she hoped no one was out and about for she was in no mood to talk niceties. Only Trisha would do. Her dear, long-time friend was a voice of reason when she needed it. In truth, as far as Alyssa was concerned, a more understanding person could not be found. But then being saddled with a brother like hers, she pretty much had to be that way didn't she?
Heaving a huge sigh, Alyssa took in another calming breath. Seriously, she needed to chill the heck out. Squaring her shoulders, she marched up the walkway to the front door and dredged up as much determination as she could muster to keep it together.
Let Trisha have her say. Let Trisha have her say
. It was an annoying litany but a necessary exercise. If she said it enough, she might manage to comply with it. In all her life she had never felt this … was murderous too strong a word? Perhaps. She could never take a human life, not even his, but her limit was reached. No, that wasn't right either. The events of the previous evening had sent her flying past her limit. She would take no more of his crap.
It was somewhat liberating to make that decision and feeling she was in a much better place emotionally, Alyssa smoothed down her skirt, straightened her snug fitting knit top, then rapped on Trisha's door. Yes indeed, thanks to her decision to end his reign of interference, she felt pretty good and gave herself a mental pat on the back for it. No more would Cole Delaney meddle in her life. Surely Trisha would side with her on this. If not then she would ... she would ... well, she'd think of something extremely unpleasant for that annoying man. After all, she'd become remarkably good at retaliation over the years.
When Trisha didn't answer the doorbell right away, she gave a quick series of raps, her impatience wearing thin. A glance at her watch confirmed that it was nine on the nose. Trisha told her last night not to be later than nine and now that she was thinking about it she couldn't help but wonder why her punctuality was so important. Just what exactly did Trisha want to talk to her about anyway?
Clenching her teeth, Alyssa knocked again and narrowed her eyes. If Trisha didn't hurry the heck up then all her efforts to maintain control were going to slip into obscurity. Two whole seconds later, she knew it was over. Her need to vent could no longer be contained and all effort to try went up in a puff of expelled breath the moment her friend opened the door. “I swear to God, Trish, I am going to kill your brother.”
Trisha’s expressive green eyes widened in startled surprise. “My gosh, Al, what could possibly be wrong now?”
It was just the opening she needed. “I’ll tell you what’s wrong, don't you worry about that." She brushed past her wary friend and entered the house in full-on battle mode. Finally she could vent. Giving her purse a toss onto the couch, she started pacing, the restless energy surging through her too much to contain. Thank God for open floor plans. She had plenty of room to move about and if she needed to flail her arms for emphasis, well, she could do that too. Though guilt assailed her for taking her turn first, Alyssa promised herself that once she got this out of her system she’d give Trisha her undivided attention. There was just no way she could focus on whatever it was Trisha needed to discuss while her emotions were so charged. Still, though, she turned to face her friend and waited for her reaction before saying anything more.
Trisha closed the door then turned to lean against it. She returned Alyssa's regard for a few seconds then heaved a long, suffering sigh. Pushing herself upright, she held out a finger to stall the pending tirade and crossed the room, taking her sweet time about it and noticing Alyssa's clenched jaw with a narrowing of her eyes. After plopping down on the sofa and wriggling about to get nice and comfortable, she motion for her to have at it. "Okay, I'm listening."
Despite the guilt nagging at Alyssa’s conscience for taking her turn first, the state of things between her and Cole couldn’t be helped. She didn't like it any more than Trisha did. In fact, the only problem they had between them was that insufferable man. If only she could make Trisha understand that it was all his doing. If he wasn't such an ass, things wouldn't be so damn bad. And so with that, she ignored the remorse surging through her and flung up her hands. “You won’t believe what that … that scoundrel has done now.” Shaking her head at the unsavory images flooding her thoughts, she continued her restless pacing and took a moment to compose herself.
Trisha sent her a placating smile as she tried without success to inject some humor into the tense atmosphere. “You look like a caged tigress thirsty for blood. Surely it isn’t that bad?”
Alyssa arched a brow as she gave her friend a look that told her she was in no mood to be placated. Obviously Trisha did not understand how grave the situation had become. “I have absolutely had it with him. I've reached the last possible straw.”
Trisha's eyes widened in concern then narrowed with worry. Chewing on a bottom lip, something she did when stressed or working out a problem, she looked at Alyssa for a long, contemplative moment. Alyssa stared back. Trisha let out a groan of frustration. “Al, this bickering you and Cole engage in ... well, it has to end.” Her face scrunched with long-suffering bafflement. “I don’t get it. What could possibly have happened between yesterday afternoon when I called you and this morning?”
“That man has a way of infiltrating my life no matter what I do to avoid him.” Alyssa pushed her long dark hair back from her face, tucking it behind her ears where she knew it wouldn't stay, and wished she’d thought to tie the unruly mess into a ponytail. Honestly, she should have cut it years ago but when Cole mentioned once that he hated long hair, she decided then and there to let hers grow. Even though it was more of a hindrance to her than anything, the scowls Cole directed at the long locks made it all worthwhile. During the rare occasions that required them to be in each other's company, Alyssa was always sure to let it fall loose about her shoulders. His obvious annoyance as she flicked it about, practically tossing it in his face when she could manage to do so, was well worth all the bother it caused her.
Silence stretched between them, making Alyssa wonder why Trisha hadn't responded. She turned just in time to see her glance at the clock. Though she couldn't explain why that should bother her, unease slithered along her spine. “What’s with the sudden interest in time?”
Trisha shrugged away the question. “I’m just wondering how long this tirade of yours is going to last.” She waved an impatient hand about, as if trying to pluck the answer to her puzzlement out of the air. “You and Cole hardly ever see each other, Al. The few times you are near each other is only when neither of you have any choice in the matter. Honestly, I don’t get how you keep up the animosity between you as well as you do.”
It was true she rarely had to suffer Cole's company. Most of those times were during family gatherings since both their families were close friends. Sometimes, though, they bumped into each other elsewhere, like they had the previous night. It was enough to continue the discord between them and last night's meeting was the last freaking straw.
Heaving another exaggerated groan, Trisha sunk against the sofa's thick cushions and let her head fall back. Giving her temples a rub with her fingertips, she spoke on a sigh. “Well? Are you going to explain what this is all about?”
Alyssa’s restless pacing came to an abrupt halt. Standing in rigid repose, her hands clenching and unclenching, she drew in a deep breath and somehow managed to get the words out. “I hate him, Trish. I really do. I can’t take anymore. I've had enough.”
Trisha studied her quietly and when she finally spoke, her voice was calm, soothing. “It can’t possibly be as bad as that can it?” She shook her head in bewildered frustration. “I just don't get it. Why can't you two learn to get along? It makes no sense this stupid war you wage with each other.” Her expression turning sad, she looked away, her thoughts occupying her for a moment and then she heaved out a sigh. “You have absolutely no patience with each other. None." She gave Alyssa a pointed look. "You two are forever nagging each other. Neither of you will let up. And look what it's doing to you?"