Please enjoy an excerpt from my debut novel, Stricken, which was released by eXtasy Books on March 17, 2017.
*This post is PG 13*
Stricken: Love deserves a second chance.
The tan door was ajar, and he could see the blue and cream tile turned into a soft blue carpet at the threshold of the office. With a hope Kara was wrong, Ewan glanced around quickly, but a movement to his right drew his attention.
Marti’s back was to him as she rooted around in a file cabinet drawer and shook her head periodically. Her outfit was professional, from the roll of hair in a French twist at the back of her head, to the black skirt suit with brown pinstripes, and the suede two-inch heeled shoes on her feet.
As he tapped his fingers on the doorjamb, a vision of her wearing nothing but one of his t-shirts and a solitaire engagement ring flashed through his mind.
“Yes?” Her voice was distant, cool and polite.
“Dr. Brown said you were in.”
Her back stiffened as he spoke to her without an audience for the first time in years. “I have no clue why you would want to see me,” she replied and dug a folder out of the drawer.
A soft sigh of exasperation came out of his throat as he entered the office and stopped halfway between the doorway and her desk. “I owe you an apology.”
“Saturday night. Shannon treated you like dirt, and—”
“I’ve dealt with people like her before and it hasn’t killed me yet.”
“That doesn’t excuse it – hell.” Ewan rubbed a hand down his face as he tried to find the right way to express himself.
“Maybe that will teach you not to take someone like her around your friends and coworkers.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s your life and your choice. If you want to go dumpster diving, that’s your business, but if I were you, I’d be careful on what I brought home.” She flipped a page in the file. “I have a meeting in less than an hour, and I’d like to be fully prepared for it, so if you don’t mind…”
“Look, I know this isn’t the ideal situation, but can’t we at least try to make an effort, for everyone’s best interest?”
So he wouldn’t look at her, he glanced around the room, and his gaze finally landed on a picture frame in her bookcase. An unwelcome, searing bolt of jealousy zoomed up his spine when he saw it was a photo of her and a man with their arms around each other.
His eyes moved to the large windows facing Citadel Hill, and locked with hers via the reflection. A sense of it being similar to the way they had stared at each other on their first date at the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg rang in his mind.
Like that day, almost nine years ago, Marti was the one to break eye contact.
“How are we going to do that?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but unless we try, Kara and Dennis are going to chalk it up to something big, and from what I’ve heard, you’re not open about your past.”
“That’s my life and my choice, isn’t it?”
Ewan sighed and raked a hand through his hair as he took a step toward her. When she stiffened, he stopped and shoved his hands into his coat pockets.
“Dr. Lewis – Marti…” He let out a long breath. “I am sorry about invading your life. If I had known you were living here, I wouldn’t have taken the promotion, and told Miranda I was moving on.”
“Some things are beyond our control or knowledge. Halifax is a big place. I’m sure you and I can avoid being in the same area at the same time as much as possible.” With a shrug, Marti turned to face him.
As her cool and detached gaze met his, Ewan nodded, and his stomach dropped as the full impact of her calm and professional air hit him.
What was I thinking when I thought that maybe…?
The girl he knew was gone, replaced by this cool, sophisticated, and distant woman.
“Okay,” he murmured, and wondered why he felt as if his heart had been ripped out again.
Marti’s expression softened as she held up the file. “I’m not chasing you out because – I really do have a meeting, and I’d better get moving if I want to be ready for it.”
Ewan nodded and moved his gaze to a spot on the carpet. “Yeah.” With a final nod, he turned and walked out of her office, not understanding the heavy feeling around him.