Iraq war widow Katie Simmons hasn’t considered giving love another chance since the devastating loss of her husband. She’s happy sharing her love with her six-year-old daughter, Jessica. What more could she want from life?
Evan Waters is headed for the big time. He’s plowing his time, money and energy into recording Spires’ debut album. Following on in his British rock legend father’s footsteps, he has big shoes to fill, a mission made more difficult by his alcoholic mother.
When Katie and Evan meet on the London Underground, she denies his advances. Evan must find a way to demolish the walls she’s built around her heart. But even if he’s successful, will he be able to provide her with the commitment she deserves and still fulfill his ambitions?
“What’s wrong, Mommy?” she called up the street as Evan turned to look at Katie. His sea-green eyes homed in on hers, loaded with revelation as he glanced at Jessica then back to her. The realization that she hadn’t told him because she’d been scared he’d run slapped her already pink cheeks. Despite her protests, she hadn’t wanted him to go away.
“Hi.” She greeted him breathlessly, even though she’d stopped running long before the physical exertion had the chance to take her breath away.
“Hi.” He smiled as she stood there awkwardly and aimlessly fiddled with a stray thread on her work tunic. “Aren’t you going to introduce me?”
Jessica eyes popped from Katie to Evan, her face still screwed up, and her father’s bright-blue eyes flashing with confusion. Katie opened her dry mouth to speak, but Jessica got there first.
“Hi, I’m Jessica. Who are you?”
Evan walked around the car, stepped onto the curb and held out his hand. “I’m Evan. Do you enjoy going to the zoo?”
Jessica shrugged. “I’m six years old. Of course, I like the zoo.”
Katie chuckled at her daughter’s serious face. She could tell Jessica was trying to act grown up. Evan laughed, too.
“We could go, if you like?”
Jessica folded her arms and glanced around the street as though she were thinking about it. She loved the zoo, so she had nothing to think about. “When? Now?”
“It’s a school night, you know?” she stated matter-of-factly.
Evan nodded again. “I promise to have you back in time for bed.”
“Okay, then, we have a deal as long as my mom can come, too.”
Evan and Katie exchanged grins. “Is that okay with you?” he asked, his head dipped and his voice but a whisper.
“It’s a bit late to ask for my permission, but yes, as long as it’s okay with you?”
“Sure it is.” He opened the passenger door and pulled out a wicker basket. “We’ll have to take the train, though. I didn’t expect there to be three of us.” He nudged Jessica with his elbow and looked at Katie as though to indicate Katie might be the unexpected guest.
Katie smiled, shaking her head while pulling her keys out. She took Jessica’s school bag from her and placed it in the hallway. “Come on then,” she said, taking Jessica’s hand and pulling her alongside Evan on the way to the underground.
“What’s your favorite animal?” Evan asked Jessica as they leaned on the railing outside the monkey enclosure.
“It has to be the penguins,” she replied after appearing to give it much thought.
“Because they’re cute, funny, they’re good swimmers and they like fish.”
“Ah, just like you then.” He reached out and patted her white-blonde head.
She rolled her eyes at him. “How do you know I’m a good swimmer?”
“I saw the swimming badges sewn on your school bag.” He dramatically rolled his eyes back at her, forcing her to giggle.
Katie had stepped back. She’d hardly spoken a word since they’d embarked on the trip. Her stomach hurt, and her heart ached. Evan had been nothing but spectacular with Jessica since they’d met. He hadn’t even questioned why Katie hadn’t mentioned her daughter’s existence, but she knew the questions would come later. She’d been glad her daughter had good taste in food when Evan had produced bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon from the picnic basket. Not your usual children’s dinner, but Jessica devoured it.
“Shall we head back?”
Katie nodded. “I hope Al’s car is still there.”
Evan laughed. “It’ll be cool. Knowing Al, there’s probably a tracker on it that would blow the thief up.”
Katie laughed and grabbed Jessica’s hand. “Aw, do we have to go, Mommy?”
“Yes, bunny, remember, Evan said he’d have you back in time for bed, and…” She glanced down at her watch. “He lied. We have fifteen minutes to get home.”
“Oh man, my bad, I’m sorry.” He pressed his palm to his chest in mock horror.
Jessica giggled and grabbed his hand. “I like you. You talk like you’re off the television.”
Katie’s eyes traveled from her hand to his, also being held firmly by Jessica. Her stomach constricted. They must look like a family, walking along hand-in-hand. Tears burned behind her eyes as she squeezed the little hand, stared straight ahead and tried to pretend this wasn’t happening.
The last thing she wanted was to start playing happy families then have it all snatched away from her…again.
They arrived back, and Evan kind of invited himself in. A bottle of wine remained in the bottom of the picnic basket, and he insisted on them drinking it together.
Jessica whined until Katie gave in and allowed Evan up to say goodnight to her before they went downstairs together.
Katie’s limbs moved awkwardly once they were alone, her emotions were all over the place. She didn’t know what to say, how to act, and consequently was relieved at the sight of the offered bottle of wine. She hoped it would soothe her frayed nerves. She grabbed the bottle and busied herself trying to locate the corkscrew in the kitchen drawer.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered as she turned to face him.
“Why are you sorry?” He cocked his head.
She mirrored his movements and leaned against the counter opposite him in her tiny galley kitchen. “Because I should have told you.”
“Yes, you should have. What did you think I’d do? Run?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I probably would have told you if I’d thought you would take off,” she lied, trying desperately to resurrect her protective walls.
He sighed heavily and looked away from her. “You keep saying that. The problem is that you’re not giving the signals that you want me to leave you alone. They’re just words, Katie.”
“I’m fucked up, Evan. I can’t risk getting any more fucked up than I already am. Trust me, you don’t want to get involved with me, not romantically anyway. Besides, I can’t afford to feel that way ever again.”
“Utterly destroyed, heartbroken, completely shattered.”
“What happened to you, Katie?” he growled.
She flinched. “It’s a long story.”
He leaned forward and shifted beside her. Her fingers burst with electric energy as he wrapped his large hand over her fist and slipped the corkscrew from her hand. She turned to look at him, finding sadness in his eyes, but luckily no pity. She couldn’t stand pity. His ragged breathing picked up a notch as she stared into those amazing clear green eyes. Her breathing quickened as he smoothed his warm fingers along her jaw line.
“It’s a big bottle, and I can get more if we need it. Tell me what happened so I can understand.” His fingers reached her chin and stopped.
She blinked back tears. His head moved slowly toward her face and broke its descent down her cheek with his lips. She knew she should move away, but he still clung to her chin, and the feel of his velvety lips fluttering gently over her skin had her paralyzed in the sweetest of ways.
“Where are the glasses?” he asked, finally stepping away.
Her head spun as she shot him a look of confusion. “Oh, yes, the wine.” She brought her palm up to her forehead, trying to disguise the heat rising from her groin to her face. “I’ll get them. Take the wine through.”
He nodded, grabbed the wine and went to the living room. After he left, she steadied herself, clutching the kitchen counter and trying desperately to cling to her resolve. He’d done an excellent job at battering it. She smoothed her hands over her face and ran her fingers under her eyes in an attempt to wipe away any mascara that might be there then grabbed two glasses from the cupboard. She took a deep breath in preparation for baring all and followed Evan into the living room.
He’d taken a space on her couch, his solid arm laid out along the back and one knee perched up on the cushion. She placed the glasses on the coffee table in front of him. He’d already removed the cork, so he poured the wine into the glasses as she sat beside him, her knee pressed against his. She sipped the wine gratefully.
“Where do you want me to start?”
“The beginning is always a good place.”
About the author:
L.T. Kelly lives in rural Lincolnshire with her husband, two children and a mentally unstable Cockapoo named Mylo. She enjoyed a successful eleven-year career in the Royal Air Force which put plenty of stories in her writing cap.
L.T. now divides her time between writing, being a wife, mother and an Emergency Medical Dispatcher for the ambulance service.
It’s the writing that keeps her sane.
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