Love or hate… It’s a fine line for two broken souls.
The last thing Emma Jones needed was for her past to walk back into her life. She has a sick mother to care for, a mansion to mind and bills to be paid. But when Elliot Carmichaels saunters in with a facade of cavalier arrogance, she is faced with more questions than those she had written in her diary.
As an author with writer’s block, Elliot, aka E.A. Jones, needed a change in scenery, even it meant he had to live with the childhood crush he had ghosted. He could handle it, he told himself. He was wrong. Now stuck with a fiery woman who both tempts and infuriates him, he has to figure out if he’s going to kiss her or push her away.
Secrets must be told and pain confronted if Emma and Elliot want to salvage their relationship. But life has a way of throwing curveballs, and they will have to navigate them together or fall apart.
It all begins with two words. Dear Elliot…
Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of attempted sexual assault/date rape and mentions of PTSD. It includes the use of a date-rape drug. There are several deaths, including that of an infant.
General Release Date: 6th April 2021
Emma sat at one of the many picnic tables dotting the campus, absorbed in the latest book by her favorite author, E. A. Jones, while she munched on her tuna sandwich. It wasn’t so much that he shared a last name with her as his way with words and his world-building that captured her heart.
“Hey, is this seat taken?”
About to point out that there were plenty of other seats, Emma tilted her head back only for her words to die in her throat. There was something familiar about the guy in front of her with his warm voice and nutmeg eyes.
She tilted her head to one side and peered at him.
“Corey McMaster.” He placed his hand flat on his chest. “We were in the same class in grade seven?”
Corey the jock. Emma’s lips parted in shock at the giant of a man towering over her, sporting the university’s Varsity jacket. She recognized the football jersey beneath.
Emma flushed as she realized she had been staring. “Oh. Hi.”
“May I?” Corey pointed at the bench on the other side of the table.
“Um. Sure.” Emma shrugged and attempted to close her book and push it under her messenger bag.
“Is that Worlds Beyond?” Corey asked as he sat.
The question halted her motion, and she flushed at getting caught. “Yeah.”
“What do you think so far?”
Was the jock discussing science fiction romance with her? Emma took the book back out and held it up, the cover facing him. “You read it?” she asked instead of answering his question.
Corey blushed and rubbed the back of his head. “Well, I like the science fiction bits,” he muttered.
A grin spread across her lips. “Oh, I see.”
He cleared his throat. “Well, I think Jones does a good job making the science plausible. He did his research.”
“Yeah…” Emma lowered the book and after watching him for a couple of more seconds, decided to spare him.
“So, you play?” She gestured at his jersey.
“Oh, yeah. It’s paying for my English degree.”
Of course it is. Emma pursed her lips but said nothing. Never mind the mountain of student loans she had incurred to be here…and the extra bartending job at night.
“What about you? What are you studying?” Corey asked, oblivious to the thoughts running through her head.
“Cool. What kind?”
Emma glanced from side to side, uncertain why he’d even spoke to her in the first place, much less asked about her. Sure, they were a far cry from the elementary school where money dictated status, but still…
“Electrical. Robotics,” she answered. It bugged her to not know why. Emma leaned forward and folded her arms on the table. “Look, Corey. What’s up? Why are you here?”
The classic theme of Ghostbusters blared from her phone. Her heartbeat raced, and she forced air into her lungs as she picked it up and stared at the screen. A breath of relief escaped her lips. Thank God. Not the hospital.
Still, Emma recognized the number as someone almost as important calling. She held up her forefinger at Corey to signal him to wait and answered the call.
“Hello, Mr. Carmichael.”
“Emma, please, it’s just Uncle David,” her employer and owner of the mansion she lived in scolded.
“That’s not right. Not when you’re my boss.”
She heard a sigh over the phone and smiled a little. Both Mr. and Mrs. Carmichael had always treated her and Mom more like family than hired help—sometimes almost too much.
“Okay. All right. How is your mom doing?”
Emma glanced at Corey with unease. The conversation was getting too personal for her to talk in front of him, so flashing him a brief smile, she rose and stepped away. She kept the table in view since her stuff was there, half expecting Corey to leave. But, much to her surprise, he set his bag on the table next to hers, pulled out an apple and started eating.
She shook her head, turned her body sideways and refocused on the question. “Mom’s hanging in there. She’s at this hospital getting her tests before surgery.”
“Good. Are you okay with the hospital bills?” The concern was as thick as Mr. Carmichael’s accent.
“Yes. We’re fine. It’s free here in BC,” Emma explained. Of course, he might not have known, coming from the UK.
“Ah, Canada. Sometimes I wonder why we don’t just move there on a permanent basis.”
“You keep saying that, but you know it would make Mrs. Carmichael sad being so far from her sisters.” This wasn’t the first time Emma and he had had this conversation.
“Ah, true. Speaking of…”
“Are you flying here for a trip?” Emma glanced over at Corey, who gave her a wave and a smile. She nodded back in acknowledgment.
“Actually, Elliot is. He’ll be flying in on Saturday.”
Emma froze and her entire world stood still. Elliot. Her childhood crush. The boy who had forgotten her. The boy who had faded from her life. Never in a million years would she admit she missed him.
And wrote to him every time she wrote in her diary.
It was just a stupid habit. A fictitious person she wrote to, built on memories of a boy from her childhood, stemmed from a personal tradition that had started when they were still friends.
“How long is he staying?” She managed a more formal tone. Mom would be proud of me.
“Ah, we’re not sure.” Mr. Carmichael sounded nervous. She had never seen him nervous. “He’s had a rough go of things, but I know you two… Well…if this makes it awkward, we can arrange—”
“No, it’s okay.” Her pride wouldn’t let her say anything less. Ever since Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Emma had taken over caring for the house for them and she strove to do as well as her mother. “This is your family’s place. There’s no reason Elliot can’t—shouldn’t live here.” Nice and professional. That’s it, Em.
“Well, all right. If he gives you any trouble at all, you let me know,” Mr. Carmichael warned.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” And it damn well will be.
“Okay, I’ll email you his details. Say hi to your mom for me.”
“Talk to you later.”
“Will do.” Emma hung up, still staring at her phone. A week from today. The start of Spring Break. She wouldn’t even have school as an excuse. No, wait, she’d probably have a school project she could work on…
“Is everything all right?” Corey asked, right next to her.
Startled by his sudden presence, Emma screamed, and the phone bounced out of her hand. It flew in a perfect arch just before Corey snatched it and held it back to her. “Here.”
“Thank you.” Emma grabbed the device and jammed it in the back of her jeans’ pocket.
“You okay?” Corey asked again, catching her eyes.
“Yeah,” Emma flashed him another smile.
She wasn’t. But Elliot was just a childhood crush. She could survive this.
And she refused to believe otherwise.