Sunday, August 31, 2008

When Heroes Collide...

Forgotten is the story of Caitlyn Smythe and Brandon Price; Forgotten is an unforgettable romance about two people who meet by chance,
love by choice and are torn apart by intrigue. Their romance survives a foreign threat to national security, kidnapping, personal tragedy and a murder attempt.

Readers of Forgotten will get to meet the hero of my next book, Within the Law (to be published November 2008). Here is the first time that Brandon Price (hero of Forgotten) and Tom Hughes (hero of Within the Law) meet...

The next day, Brandon bought another cup of coffee and drove down the road back into her town. Feeling determined, he parked directly in front of her house and stood beside his car for a few minutes trying to muster his courage. Her porch had a glider swing and rattan table just to the side of the door and he could easily imagine her having a morning cup of coffee out there while she enjoyed the lake view. In a brief fantasy, he saw himself seated next to her... sated from their nights and cheerful about their days. He hoped it wasn’t too late.

The house, as Malcolm explained it, had been her childhood home. She had lived there until, at the tender age of twelve, a drunk driver had run her parents off the road. Then she went to live with relatives. She moved to the city several years later. The relatives arranged for a realtor to rent the house out until Caitlyn’s twenty-first birthday when it would became hers. Her parents’ life insurance had paid off the house and the rent covered taxes and maintenance. It was definitely worth holding on to until Caitlyn came of age and made her own lifelong decisions. Since the house was paid off, all Caitlyn had to worry about was the current taxes and utilities.

It was small with just a patch of a front yard and a gravel-lined driveway along side it. Brandon didn’t see any car beside the house. The roof was sharply peaked and close-up he could see the paint was gray and weathered from the harsh winters and lakefront winds. A dented metal mailbox to the side of the porch steps had a red flag standing up. Two flower boxes hung off either side of the porch, both boxes had tiny white flowers. An empty cardboard carton, the kind used for appliance deliveries, sat at the end of the porch.

He walked up three wooden steps onto the porch. He hesitated just a moment before rapping his knuckles firmly against the door. A minute or two passed with no answer, he repeated his knock. Brandon rehearsed the words he planned to say to her and he hoped she would give him a chance to plead his case. Still there was no answer. He noticed a window behind the glider and took the few steps to it. He cupped his hands over the glass and tried to peer in through the sheer curtains covering the window. The living room was sparsely furnished, a big overstuffed sofa sat in the middle of the room. She had used a lot of bright colors to decorate and he thought that suited her. Whenever Caitlyn came into a room, everything always came alive. Beyond the sofa, in the dim shadows, it looked like she was doing renovations. One of the walls had some white patches.

“Can I help you?” A man’s voice called from behind him.

Brandon quickly turned in the direction of the question. He saw a state trooper’s car parked behind his. Standing just outside the cruiser’s open door was the same man he had seen with Caitlyn the day before. This time, he was in uniform.

“I’m looking for Caitlyn... Smythe” Brandon walked to the top of the porch steps.

The officer closed the car door and approached. “And you are?”

He waited until the officer was closer. “A friend of hers from New York City.” He wanted to say her husband, but at the same time he didn’t want to cause her problems and he wasn’t sure what she might have told people.

“Caitlyn’s at work. I just drove her there.” His answer was very matter-of-fact.

Brandon came down the steps to face the other man. He felt resentment that the trooper had so much familiarity with her. The two had gone out to dinner the night before and Brandon didn’t see him leave her house afterwards. And now this morning he’d already driven her to work. Brandon’s jealously mounted as he wondered if this man had spent the entire night with Caitlyn. At the same time, Brandon wanted Caitlyn to be happy and wanted her to find someone who could make her happy. It hurt to think he might not be that man.

“You know her pretty well?” Brandon was trying to figure out what kind of relationship this man had with her.

“Yeah.” The officer was wary. He wasn’t offering any information. “Is there any message you want me to give her?”

Officer Hughes, as his nametag read, was a local guy who obviously had been spending a lot of time with Caitlyn. He definitely seemed to feel entitled to act protective of her. Hughes was about his height and weight, maybe a little younger. A gray hat rested squarely on his head and shielded his sun-glassed eyes from the glare of the sun that was making Brandon squint.

“Just that... her friends from the city miss her.” He mentally sized the officer up. His jealous fantasies almost grew out of control. He wanted to punch Hughes. But that certainly wouldn’t win any favors from Caitlyn. He knew she detested violence. And without first speaking to Caitlyn, he didn’t want to make any assumptions that she would want him to even come back into her life.

“Can I give her your name?” It was obvious that the officer was assessing Brandon in the same alpha-male dominant way. He stood with his feet firmly planted on the ground facing Brandon.

“No, it’s not necessary.” There were few times that Brandon had ever felt this unsure of himself. His lack of confidence annoyed him. But the other man’s confidence seemed to be more than enough for the two of them.

Hughes cocked his head, “Are you going to be staying around?”

It was a challenge, not a question. Brandon saw defiance in the other man’s expression. Officer Hughes definitely felt he had the right to be there, that he had the right to question Caitlyn’s visitor.

Brandon wondered if it was time to sign the annulment papers, if it was time to let her go. He wondered if that would make Caitlyn happiest. “No, I’m driving back to the city.” He looked back at the house. “I guess that there is nothing more for me to do here.”

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