Romantic Women’s Fiction
Women who have faced pain, loss and heartache. They know the score and never back down. Women who aren’t afraid to love with all their passion and all their strength, who risk everything for their own little piece of heaven…
Men who live their lives on the blade’s edge. Knights in black armor. The only thing more dangerous than crossing these men is loving them…
Find out more here: http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/kswiesner/fiction1.html
Below you’ll find an excerpt from the final book in this series, available now:
WHITE RAINBOW, Book 6 of the Wounded Warriors Series
Inspirational Women’s Fiction
Awards & Honors:
5 hearts from The Romance Studio
The Romance Studio Sweetheart Award nominee
5 delightful divas, Recommended Read, and June 2010 Top Pick of the Month from Dark Diva Reviews
5 stars from Readers Favorite
5 cups from Coffee Time Romance
Highest rating from You Gotta Read Reviews
4 1/2 stars from Single Titles
Jessie Nelson has been telling herself she doesn’t deserve or believe in second chances, especially when it comes to love…until her white rainbow appears in a corporate pirate who conquers her, heart and soul.
White Rainbow Excerpt
© Karen Wiesner
“Did you set up the vials?” Jessie said to her assistant as he was preparing to leave for the day.
“They’re on the counter. You wanted five, right?”
“Yup. Thanks.” Offering more gratitude than that still wasn’t instinctive for her, but, when she turned back from her computer to see him hanging his lab coat, she said, “Enjoy your evening.”
“Thanks. You, too, Miss Nelson.”
She saved the design she was making, then got up with butterflies in her chest. She’d been waiting for this moment all day. Following a year of re-working and re-designing, and then allowing her newest perfume creation to age and amalgamate, she was at last ready to put it through the necessary final test.
After pulling on protective coverings, she entered the password and stepped into the lab. Five small perfume vials were lined up on the counter. She removed the original dark bottle of perfume from the fridge. Taking a deep breath for courage, she removed the cap. Since she’d added the middle notes to the base oil, she’d become convinced this fragrance would be the one she’d been striving to create. Her prior attempts had been fine, nothing exciting. She’d furthered the mixture with top notes and a bridge substance to bring all the scents together. Recently, she’d added a fixative to lower the rate of evaporation.
She brought the bottle to her nose. Cinnamon, bergamot, orchid… Jessie inhaled again. Hmm. The mix was perfect. During the next weekend, she planned to test how well the scent continued after the first application. She took a sterile pipette from the packet, then she transferred a small amount of the fragrance into each of the five test vials.
After she capped each small vial and returned the original bottle to the fridge, she left the lab. Back inside the office, the tap of heels reached her ears. She turned to see her mother, Clarice, coming into the lab. Jessie assessed the sharp, satin tuxedo business suit she wore approvingly. She liked to tell herself she’d taken after her mother with natural sophistication, petite yet voluptuous curves, youthful, thick auburn hair, and a face that betrayed no lines or wrinkles. Even in her late fifties, Clarice could easily pass for a thirty-year-old.
Her parents had taken a back seat in the running of the Milwaukee-based company, instating her as director of the board. Foolish, of course. She’d valiantly tried to wedge herself into the role of head of the company and failed miserably. She wasn’t suited to anything business, and she’d told her mother and father over and over she wanted nothing to do with that angle.
From an early age, her first love had been fashion. Blending this with that, coming up with something unique and intriguing. It wasn’t until she came down to the lab a year ago that she found her true calling. Learning how to design cosmetics had required intense on-the-job training, and she’d thrown herself into it, many days for longer hours than she’d ever required of herself before. She let the board run the company while she holed up, trying out new shades and scents. She’d discovered where she belonged in the family company.
“You’re down here again instead of in your office,” her mother said, a hint of worry in her tone. “I believe there’s a board meeting in progress.”
Jessie shrugged. “They can handle things without me.” She lifted one of the vials and twisted the cap off again. “What do you think of this?”
Her mother leaned in and sniffed, let the fragrance settle, and sniffed again. “Mhm. Lovely, dear. An exotic flower bouquet with just a hint of spice. Is this the new one you’ve been talking about?”
“I think I’ve perfected it now. I need to wear it for a weekend to see how it reacts with my body chemistry. Here, take one. You can let me know Monday how it works on you.”
“Of course I will, darling. I’d be honored.”
Jessie placed the tightly capped bottle into an envelope with an evaluation form. Clarice took the package when she offered it to her. “Have dinner with us tonight, Jessie. Paul and Wendy are coming with Gunner.”
Jessie and Wendy had grown up as neighbors and had shared a volatile, back and forth relationship most of their lives, one that recently blossomed into real friendship. Unable to have children together, Wendy and her husband Paul Randall had recently adopted a six-year-old boy.
Jessie debated whether she should go and put herself through the awkward hours of discomfort. For nearly eight years, Wendy had been furious with her, even after Jessie relented and divorced her brother Steve. Only in the last year had Wendy begun to forgive her for the hell she’d put Steve and their three kids through. Jessie supposed a big part of what made the difference in bringing about renewed friendship was that Wendy and Paul had moved back to Milwaukee. Seeing each other more often allowed her to make amends the way she couldn’t have otherwise. Not with Wendy living in California, a state Jessie would never return to as long as she lived.
Tonight wouldn’t be an easy evening. But either she went to her parents’ or endured a night with little to do at home. “Sure, but I have a meeting with my accountability coach at five-thirty, Mom. I’ll swing by my condo to pick up Grace, and we’ll come over together.”
Clarice beamed approval. She gave Jessie a hug. “See you in a few hours,” they said at the same time.
Gregg had been correct a year ago when he encouraged her to start all over again. She’d filled her life, her every waking moment, with productive endeavors that sent her to bed exhausted each night. Being with friends and family, holding down a full-time job–not just going in whenever she felt like it, as she’d done for so many years–church, personal Bible study and volunteer work at Wayward Angels, a few cooking classes… Her life was swamped. She’d had no time to go off the wagon. Because she never slept more than four hours a night anymore, the nightmare hadn’t returned even once. Busy schedule or no busy schedule, she knew the absence of the dream was why she’d done so well.
Jessie prepared a special box used for mailing the perfume vials, added evaluation forms, then taped the package and scrawled her younger son’s name on the front. Her daughter Valerie was spending the summer with her brother Tom and his fiancée, Misty, in California, where they went to college. Because her daughter loved fashion and make-up as much as she did, Jessie always made Val one of her testers. Misty had become one as well.
Jessie stopped in at the company mailing facility, asking them to ship the package with the proper certification. She used her cell phone to call Grace on the way to the parking garage. “Think you’re up to a dinner engagement tonight? My parents invited us. Paul and Wendy will be there.”
“I’ve missed their little boy. He’s a ball of energy. I love him, even if I do always feel exhausted afterward.”
Jessie laughed despite a stab of regret. She’d missed the childhoods of all three of her children. She’d been too busy partying, trying to kill herself, to pay much attention to any of them. Two of them rarely allowed her to forget it either. She refused to let herself wallow in pity or extreme remorse about that fact anymore though. Her kids deserved to harbor any vengeful emotion they cared to against her. The fact that all of them had, at the very least, allowed her to be a small part of their lives was more than she could ask for. Maybe someday they could forgive her and offer something resembling affection instead.
She started her car. When she picked herself up and got back on the high road a year ago, she hadn’t expected that cramming her time with so many endeavors would also give her a kind of equilibrium. Hating herself for her crimes and sins against everyone she’d ever known had kept her stuck in the rut. While she’d never have the audacity to claim she felt remotely reconciled with the past, certainly not confident of herself, she’d found that simply accepting she had a lot to make up for had changed her entire lookout. She could better endure the grudges so many bore against her. Determining to do good and make up for the past had become the perfect coping mechanism.
Whenever she forgot that, the white rainbow necklace Gregg had given her reminded her she’d always be given a second chance by those who loved her. The support of a few more than made up for the scorn of the many.
* * * *
Jessie’s accountability coach was someone she’d grown up with. Sheri had become a Christian through Gregg’s intervention, too. Like Jessie, her daily goals no longer amounted to how much booze and drugs she could consume, whether she’d remembered to eat anything, where her friends were, and how she’d get laid.
Being alone wasn’t easy for Sheri, Jessie had decided when they first started meeting in the back booth of a noisy diner to talk weekly accountability. For the past couple weeks, especially, the other woman had been gnawing on about her loneliness. “Alma set me up with her nephew last weekend. I’m not sure I ever want to go on a blind date set up by someone from church again. I swear the guy’s never done anything bad in his life. Funny that we’re both Christians, yet we’ve got nothing in common.”
Jessie sipped her diet soda, trying to look sympathetic. These sessions had been one of the hardest aspects of the last year for her. All her life, she’d considered this kind of everything-in-my-life-is-wrong conversation griping. She didn’t like the idea of giving someone a window into her soul, not when the very act opened up the possibility of realizations, hard expectations and responsibilities–three things she tenaciously avoided. She reminded herself that she needed to be accountable to someone who’d gone through the same things she had and was standing strong.
Sheri does all the talking. Do I make sure of that with my deliberate silence and encouraging responses? I know she’ll jump in if I don’t say anything. Near the end of every one of these meetings, Sheri always asked if she wanted to discuss anything. With a studied look, she’d always end up claiming she couldn’t think of a thing.
“See you next week,” Jessie said this time, after a half hour of listening to Sheri’s discontentment with the single life.
Jessie knew for a fact that it was better for her not to admit that she longed for the same things the other woman did–for a man who was a Christian but who’d done enough bad in his life to understand her.
Who am I kidding? I’ve never had a normal relationship with a man, not even my husband. Ex-husband. Besides, I’m not ready to take a risk like that right now. I’m still vulnerable and liable to fall right back into the alley gutter I was pulled out of.
She got back in her car and headed for her condo on the shore of Lake Michigan. She parked in the separate garage facility, then walked the familiar path, lined with blue, mophead hydrangeas, up to her home.
Grace was running the vacuum over the living room carpet, but stopped as soon as Jessie entered and called out.
When Wendy and Paul had returned to Milwaukee, they’d brought Grace, the sixty-four-year-old housekeeper from Wendy’s family home, with them. Wendy had suggested that Grace move in with Jessie–to help her with that accountability stuff she’d been determined to take seriously for the first time in her life. In an odd twist, Grace’s rheumatoid arthritis had become a painful liability, and Jessie now took care of her. She enjoyed the caretaking, enjoyed being needed and forced into responsibility.
“I guess your arthritis is better today,” Jessie said without scolding. Grace knew better than to overdo it, but she’d spent her life as a full-time housekeeper. One particle of dust, a crumb on the counter, lint on the carpet were all causes for panic. Knowing she could bring on a bout of excruciating pain didn’t always remove her cleaning instinct.
“Just a quick run-over,” Grace assured her. “I’m ready to go whenever you are.”
“I want to take a quick shower.” Jessie handed her an envelope. “Try this perfume out for the weekend, okay?”
Grace murmured her excitement at the prospect. “I’d love to. Thank you.”
After setting her purse on the immense kitchen island, Jessie took out her own package. She walked through the wide open spaces of the kitchen, dining room and living room. Decorating her house had been an extension of her fashion sense. Instead of little knick-knacks or paintings, she’d purchased furniture pieces that qualified as art, ones that fit her exacting qualifications for comfort.
She climbed the curved staircase to the second floor master suite. “Lights,” she said, striding through her bedroom to the adjoined private bath. The overheads came on automatically.
In moments, she was in a steaming shower, a cap over her hair to avoid the huge process of drying and styling–something she could only afford to do a few times a week. Often in the last year, she’d considered cutting the waist-length, thick mane, believing her hair gave the inappropriately sexy appearance that’d helped her get into trouble in the past. Not quite ready for that drastic step, she’d instead focused on ridding her wardrobe of the shockingly sexy outfits she used to wear. That one had been a fairly easy compromise, considering there was plenty of appealing fashion that flattered her in a tasteful way. If she could keep her hair–and shoe and purse collections–she’d get by.
After redoing her make-up and putting on her new perfume, she strolled into a walk-in closet the size of a standard bedroom, built in birch stained a neutral shade of cream. Clothes could be hung on every wall. She’d chosen to group them by occasion. Below the hanging clothes were see-through shoe drawers. Tables and shelves held purses, jewelry, underclothing, and every imaginable accessory.
She dressed in a pair of relaxed fit denims she’d reworked with stitching up both legs in the form of long-vined pink roses. A soft pink, open collared shell top went over the jeans. From the drawers that housed hundreds of pairs of shoes, she chose a new pair of pink satin, three and a half inch heels with ribbon and lace accents. For a long minute, she admired the pumps on her tanned feet in the mirror. Her daughter would adore them. She’d bought an extra pair to present to Val when she got home.
While she was filling an Anuschka flap handbag with a few essentials, the land-line phone rang.
“It’s Valerie,” Grace called up a moment later.
By some miracle, Steve had allowed his baby to go to California for the summer, and Jessie had been hearing blow-by-blow details of event from the start from Val. Given his rare moment of permission, Val had fled right after school let out to visit her brother Tom. Steve was more than a little protective of their youngest child. Who could blame him? Valerie had been utterly fragile and helpless from birth. She’d let her father rule her life up to this point, and Steve was adamant about making sure his baby girl was safe from all possible harm. Jessie knew Steve’s second wife of nearly nine years, Kristina, had something to do with getting him to agree to the trip. No doubt he’d been a nervous wreck once he gave his reluctant approval.
Jessie walked out to the hall toward the staircase. “I’ll be right down.”
Downstairs, she took the phone from Grace and put it on the speakerphone so she could get herself a glass of water. “Hey, Val. How’s summer vacation?” she said without revealing any of the tension that’d settled in her gut at the news that her daughter was calling.
At seventeen, Valerie would be a senior in high school this September. A year ago, when Jessie, in her awkward manner, had gone about trying to make amends with her children, her daughter had told her in no uncertain terms that she hadn’t forgiven her and couldn’t imagine ever doing so. Oddly enough, she saw Val more than she did her two sons, both of whom had at least made a stab at accepting her into their lives. But Val always came or called with an agenda–something she wanted.
“Did he tell you?” Val demanded in her usual, for-Mom-only rage-filled tone.
“Who tell me what?” Jessie said. She motioned toward Grace on a stool with the bottle of water. The older woman shook her head. Jessie took down only one glass.
“Daddy!” Valerie screeched. “He wants me to come home early. You have to talk to him.”
Jessie almost choked on a sip of water. Had her daughter forgotten who she was talking to? “What do you think I can do, hon? I don’t have a lot of influence with your father, as I’m sure you’re well aware.” Try zero, zilch, none whatsoever.
Considering what a lousy mother Jessie had been all her life–something Val could witness to firsthand and would never let her forget–Steve had never consulted her about anything concerning their children. From the start, he’d been the one to take care of them, always doing what was best for them. He was the kind of father they’d needed, with such an absent, uncaring mother. Maybe he’d recovered from the hell she’d put him, their kids, and his new wife through–enough to be polite to her anyway–but she doubted any of them would ever truly get over the past.
“Just talk to him,” her daughter whined. “Tell him you think it’s a good idea for me to stay in California through the rest of the time he agreed to before.”
“Val…if I tell him that, he’ll automatically believe it’s a bad idea. You’d do better to have Kristina on your side.”
Val snorted. “She is, but she’s not doing enough to convince him. She says he hasn’t slept properly since I left.”
No surprise there. Leaning across the marble island at the center of the kitchen, Jessie closed her eyes. California… Something dark and loathsome reached into her subconscious. She pulled herself upright and shoved the memory back. She opened her eyes, concentrating on breathing deeply. She told herself that having Val come to her for help was progress. She’s never needed me. She’s not offering me love here, but I owe her. I’ll never stop owing her. I’m the reason she’s so helpless and fragile. “Is there a specific reason you want to stay there, Val? Is there a guy?”
Val’s tone immediately became cold. “That’s none of your business. The point is, I want to stay. I’m having a good time.”
Ahh. So that’s it. Jessie understood Steve’s tendency to suffocate his daughter in his crushing desire to protect her. Luckily, Kristina had been good for all of them. She’d helped Steve relax enough to allow Val independence in ways he would never have considered in the past.
“I won’t get into any trouble,” Val insisted sulkily.
“I don’t think trouble is what your dad’s worried about. He’s protective of you. He’s used to watching your every move, waiting to leap in if anyone tries to hurt you. He can’t do that from afar.”
“Who’s going to hurt me? I’m just lying on the beach and sight-seeing. I’m fine. I want to stay! I won’t leave no matter what he says. Even if he comes here and tries to drag me home. If you talked to him, maybe he’d stop being so crazy.”
Jessie sighed, giving in without further fight. Talking to Steve wouldn’t help at all, but how could she ever refuse her children anything? “Okay. I’ll talk to him. Tomorrow.”
“Good. Call me on my cell as soon as you do.”
“Hold up.” Jess jumped in, realizing Val had gotten what she wanted and wouldn’t linger. “I finished my perfume. I want you and Misty to try it. I’m overnighting a package for both of you with the usual evaluation form. You can both fax it back after you’ve worn the fragrance for a few days.”
For a moment, she thought her daughter had hung up too soon to hear her, but then she said, “Whatever” and disconnected without further ado. She’d gotten what she wanted. Nothing else mattered to her. She’s exactly like I was at her age. Selfish, rebellious, and too beautiful for her own good.
Jessie leaned over and punched the disconnect button on her end.
Grace folded her hands one over the other on the island. “She never even says thank you when you agree to help her.”
Jessie shrugged. “She doesn’t need to.” She’s just collecting on the debt I owe her. Maybe someday I’ll be good for it.
Karen Wiesner is an accomplished author with 117 titles published in the past 18 years, which have been nominated/won 134 awards, and has 39 more releases contracted for spanning many genres and formats. Visit her website at http://www.karenwiesner.com and sign up for her free newsletter to qualify for her monthly book giveaways. Check out her author page at Facebook, where you can like, friend and follow her: http://www.facebook.com/KarenWiesnerAuthor.