A wife and mother’s worst nightmare…a bittersweet return home…a fresh look at love.
Gayle Connolly’s dream life on the West Coast is snatched from her in the blink of an eye, forcing her to face her own worst fear—because she didn’t truly appreciate what she had, a senseless tragedy was somehow her fault. Now, she wakes up every single morning in her childhood bedroom in Michigan and wonders how she can even breathe, much less live a life devoid of everyone she loved.
Noah Stokes’ dream of taking over his family’s landscaping business is dashed when the company goes bankrupt, thanks to his father’s gambling debts. That hard reality sends him spiraling downward, where he discovers himself making money in ways he’s ashamed to admit. When he leaves it all behind and returns home to Michigan, he’s determined to regain some semblance of normalcy, not to mention his dignity.
For a while, Gayle and Noah’s smoking hot connection provides them both with distraction and solace. Until lust turns into something more—something they both resist for as long as they possibly can.
Reader advisory: This book includes the mention of miscarriages and references the death of a child in the backstory. There is a brief scene of sexual assault and references to suicide/suicidal ideation.
General Release Date: 7th August 2018
“Forward motion. Don’t think about it. Move. Put one foot in front of the other…”
Gayle’s hands hurt. She opened her eyes one at a time and saw why. She had her fingers wrapped around the thick leather-covered steering wheel so tight that when she released them with a wince, the expensive hand-stitching was embossed on her palm like a tattoo. She glanced out to see her fellow yogis unpacking their mats, towels and water bottles and heading toward the studio.
This had been a bad idea. She’d not planned to practice hot yoga today. She had an interview. A job interview. A crucial, life-altering dream-job interview with a major company that had recruited her via a top-secret headhunter. And yet here she sat, already sweaty, heart pounding, staring out into the parking lot and wishing she were anywhere but here.
But, of course, she needed this. Her hot yoga practice had been one of the few stable things in her life for the last year, two years—shit, almost three years now. It had been the only stable thing, if she were being completely honest. And one thing she prided herself on was total self-aware honesty.
She re-fastened her wilting ponytail and turned off the motor. The radio continued to drone sonorous news voices she no longer heard for the requisite thirty seconds before shutting down. Without the AC running, the interior of the car heated up fast in the midsummer sun.
But then again, she could be having some kind of shitty karmic early onset menopause, too. That would be exactly the thing, really. Even though she was only thirty-six going on thirty-seven. Her mother had gone through ‘the change’ at forty-five, after all. Tears burned behind her eyes, but she blinked them away.
There was no crying in hot yoga.
It was an iron-clad rule, at least for her.
With a teenager-worthy sigh, she hauled her yoga mat, towel and water bottle into her arms and stepped out onto the hot pavement. She’d done the calculations over and over in her head the night before. If she did this nine-thirty class, it put her home at eleven-forty. She only needed fifty minutes to get from shower to interview-ready and the damn thing wasn’t until two o’clock. If she had an appetite, she could even eat some lunch in between since it was exactly twelve miles—which translated to about seventeen minutes travel—to the industrial park where she’d be meeting with the president of TriCities Distribution in hopes of convincing him that she wasn’t overqualified for the sales director’s job. She would give her eyeteeth to get the job. She’d even take less salary than he was offering—hell, she’d do it for ten dollars a day. She didn’t need the money. She needed the distraction and she was damn good at selling beer and wine. Always had been.
She mentally reviewed the resume the headhunter had sent over to the company. The resume which had resulted in the company’s president and CEO calling her within about an hour asking why in the world she’d consider working for his company—not that he didn’t want her of course. It was just…
Gayle squeezed her eyes shut and tried to shut out the incessant buzz of memory. Today was not a time for lollygagging around in unhappiness. Today was a day of forward motion. And she was ready for it.
“Hey, girl,” a voice called from her behind her. Gayle turned, a smile fixed on her face. She’d made a few new friends thanks to this yoga thing, most of them wealthy moms-from-home who had the hours between nine and two-thirty wide open for things like exercise, lunches, facials and whatnot. She’d been invited to some of the other activities but had demurred with random excuses for the past year or so. A period of time in which she had flopped around in sweats and no makeup for the first time in her adult life, wondering what to do next.
“Hi, Pam.” She hoisted her mat and towel up under one arm so she could sip water from her yoga-studio-labeled stainless bottle. Her mouth was bone dry and she was already sweating—no wonder, since it was eighty-something degrees at nine-twenty a.m. She put the bottle to her lips and glanced over at the studio. A bank of windows in a long line of them, in a strip mall once abandoned by a large retailer then saved by another one plus a high-end grocery store.
“What’s going on over there?” she asked, only half-interested.
The other woman shielded her eyes with one hand. “Window washers maybe?”
“Maybe,” Gayle agreed. “Well, the sweat box awaits.” She started across the hot tarmac, surprised when Pam grabbed her upper arm. “What?” They were not the sort of friends who touched each other. They were only fellow practitioner-sufferers. Pam was staring at what Gayle could now make out were two guys on top of a partially lifted platform. One of them was drilling something over his head. The other was sorting through a stack of the somethings piled on the platform.
“Lord, those guys are…hot.” Pam’s voice was a loud whisper. “Look!”
Gayle looked. She even made a show of taking off her Ray-Bans to see better, as if she cared. “Hmm…guess so. Well…” She glanced at the fingers still dug into her biceps. “Better get inside.”
Pam’s face flushed when she let go of Gayle’s arm. Flustered, she recovered and treated Gayle to her bleached smile. Gayle began the trek across the pavement to the covered sidewalk, where the men were still working to a light refrain of bland, pop-country music. She got closer and snuck an actual look at them.
The one with the drill was wearing safety glasses and focused upward on his task. His light gray T-shirt was lifted thanks to his overhead efforts and her eyes went straight to the perfect strip of exposed skin. He was tan and fit. The lower part of his abs she was ogling flexed as he continued drilling or whatever it was he was doing.
Gayle let her gaze slide upward, slowing her walk. The man’s face was covered in a light beard, barely more than stubble. His jaw was square and set to his task. His shoulders were broad. His neck and face also nicely bronzed. His eyes…
Gayle blinked and took a step back when she realized he’d stopped the drill and had lifted his safety glasses to stare back at her. The ill-timed step sent her left foot down off the sidewalk and her ankle rolling in seconds. The bolt of agony made her gasp. But it was nothing compared to the actuality of finding herself on her ass, half on, half off the sidewalk. The expensive water bottle rolled away from her, coming to a clanging rest under the work platform. The tarmac burned her left hand while her right kept a death grip on the mat and towel.
Pam was at her side and pulling her up within a half-second, but the half-second she sat, sprawled like a turtle on its back and still eye-locked with the man—the young man, she self-corrected—on the platform was one of the longest of her life. Second only to the one she’d experienced on her way home from work, cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, that had set her on this current, shitty path.
“Jesus,” she muttered, staring down at her swelling ankle.
The men had stopped work. The one with the drill climbed down and retrieved her errant water bottle, handing it to her with a wide, perfect smile. Pam jostled her arm to remind her to lift it and take the thing from him. The other guy leaned over the platform railing, grinning at the small crowd of women that had gathered, all holding the same version of Gayle’s bundle of supplies. She lifted her arm, trying not to meet the man’s eyes. But she did. And they were, indeed, the exact shade of light coppery-brown she’d seen before she’d done the super-klutz move.
“Ma’am,” he said, giving his yellow construction worker’s hat a little dip. “You all right?”
His voice was like the purest honey—smooth, rich and somehow soothing. She swayed when she leaned her weight on her injured ankle, but it wasn’t because of her foot. “Ma’am?” The man put a hand on her arm, but Pam and the others hustled her inside when the studio owner appeared at the door, concern in her eyes.
“Gayle, here, sit down.” The woman’s soft voice worked its way past the unwelcome and unexpected rush of memory that had almost made her pass out on the sidewalk. She did as she was told and took the cool glass of water offered to her. She held it, staring down into it, doing her best, therapy-induced mental tricks to muscle past the voice, the touch, the laugh, all the sensations she’d associated with, and adored about, her husband.
All the things she’d taken for granted.
Finally, she sipped and nodded thanks to the efficient woman who’d shooed all the gawkers away to give her space to breathe. She drank the entire glass, then leaned back, pressing her head against the front window. “Thanks, Helen,” she said when the studio owner placed a small bag of ice on her aching ankle. “I don’t know if I can…”
A sharp rap behind her made her yelp and flinch. Helen smiled and calmly replaced the ice bag where it had been. “Your fan club wants to know if you’re okay,” she said, giving someone behind Gayle a small wave.
“My…what?” Gayle turned and saw the beautiful young man’s eyes, staring at her with concern. He lifted his thumb and treated her to his wide, gorgeous smile. Then turned it down and made a fake sad face, pointing to her. She sucked in a breath, allowing herself another second to appreciate his physical perfection—shoulders even broader than she’d thought tapering to a slim waist, long legs covered in workman’s denim, steel-toed boots. The works. He made an exaggerated shrug which tugged a smile to her lips in spite of her intention not to encourage him.
God, he’s probably all of twenty years old. Stop staring, you sick cougar.
From his place up on the platform, the other worker gazed down on all the incoming yogis with eagerness. Gayle sighed and did a halfway thumbs-up and pointed to the ice on her ankle.
“Sorry,” the man’s lips said without sound. Gayle found herself fixated on their extreme fullness. When she realized she was staring and fantasizing about what they might feel like, her entire body flushed hot. She turned away from him, mortified at herself, pressed both hands to her face, squeezed her eyes shut and focused on greeting all the incoming students instead of the much-too-handsome-for-his-own-good young man behind her.
Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, Realtor, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.
You can follow Liz on Facebook and Twitter.
"Liz Crowe writes intense true-to-life stories that make you feel. Whether it's anxiety, love, fear, hate, bliss, or loss woven into her plot lines, you will feel it deep down to your very soul." ~ Audrey Carlan, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author
"Liz Crowe is one of those rare authors who knows how to take the emotions of her characters and make them real for her readers, binding you to the story.” ~ International Best Selling Author Desiree Holt