Contemporary Romance Novel
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Amethyst, WI is a small, peaceful town on a pristine lake with an active tourist season in summer. When the air turns chill, the area is transformed into a ghost town with only a handful of lifers who stay. Populated with colorful characters, Amethyst is bursting with mystery, romance, and jealousy. Come and visit a place where anything is possible all-year-round.
Every rose has its thorn…
Reece Childs finally has his rose–Lona Rose, that is, a woman from his past and everything he’s ever wanted after a lifetime of the kind of transgressions he holds inside the darkest part of him…and never, ever wants Lona to find out about. He’d been as close as a kiss to having her as his wife, too. After a whirlwind courtship, he and Lona flew to Las Vegas to get hitched. Having more than one disastrous divorce already under her belt had shattered Lona’s illusions about the institution of marriage and made her superstitious about taking that journey again. So they came back and let everyone in town believe they were married. Now their little daughter Honey is two years old and life seems perfect. Reece never anticipated the thorny, black sins from his past to destroy his present and future happiness.
When Reece came back to Amethyst and fell for Lona Rose, he’d left behind truck driving and everything associated with it. He’d had no clue that Angelina Batista, his “port” in the city he made his most frequent run to, was pregnant. She shows up in Amethyst, demanding in no uncertain terms that he be a father to and provider for their son, who’s not much older than Honey. Not only has Angelina picked up and left everything else behind to pursue him, but she has medical proof that the boy is his.
The world drops out on Lona, who confronts secrets about the man she loves that she could never have imagined in her worst nightmares. She’s furious and intent on doing everything to drive this overbearing usurper as far from her happily-ever-after as she can. She’s equally unwilling to share her man with someone he never loved, regardless of the intimacy in their uncommitted relationship. Yet she soon suspects she’s fighting a losing battle because, even to keep her happy, Reece can’t turn away from his own son…
Awards & Honors:
4.5 stars from Huntress Reviews
Rose and Thorn Excerpt 2
© Karen Wiesner
The look on Lona’s face worried Reece so much, he couldn’t stop himself from taking the phone from her abruptly limp hand, then demanding, “Ma, what’s going on? Is Honey all right?” His gaze returned to Lona—her expression wasn’t one of worry for their daughter. No, she looks like somebody dumped a load of anvils on top her. That’s fear in her eyes. Fear and distrust, maybe even betrayal.
“Reece Remington Childs, you better explain yourself right now,” his mother said in the tone that always ensured him he was hip-deep in trouble. He hadn’t heard it for most of his adult life though. What was going on now?
She didn’t pause in her scolding. “There’s a woman standing at my door, claiming you’re the father of her son. She says his name is Remy, just like your father, and she asked for you using your daddy’s name at first. Who is this woman? What does she want? Why is she calling you Remy and claiming this about her boy?”
In a time vortex, Reece didn’t speaking, didn’t move, couldn’t think beyond horrifying acknowledgement that what he’d been dreading since he’d sold his old man’s rig and gave up truck driving for good was happening. I’ve been prayin’ my past wouldn’t come back and break my life in two…but somehow I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to outrun those hounds of hell forever. Dammit.
The betrayal in Lona’s eyes made perfect sense now. Feeling strangled, Reece forced himself to turn away from her, walk in the opposite direction, while asking quietly, “She tell you her name, Ma?”
“Angelina Batista. She sounds like a stripper, Reece!”
He closed his eyes as those anvils crushed him beneath their weight. His mother had no idea how right she was.
“Well?” she demanded. “What’s your explanation, mister?”
Reece drew in a deep breath that felt anything but cleansing. Here it is. The crossroads you knew sooner or later you’d have to face. And you made a vow that if this ever happened, you’d tell Lona the truth. God’s honest truth without any sugar-coating. About everything…everything but one mere technicality. Because if she ever finds that out, I’ll be a goner for sure.
He knew best that if he tried to lie or make this situation sound honorable or even decent in any way, he’d lose her. Since he came back to Amethyst, not realizing until he saw Lona Rose what he was looking for to redeem him, he’d considered telling her about the crap that’d been mostly of his own making for the majority of his life. Fact is, she doesn’t know a damn thing about me, who I was, what my old man incited before he died, damn him to hell.
Unable to help himself, Reece glanced back at the woman who’d saved him in every way. She hadn’t moved, but he could see the expression of suspicion, fear and duplicity growing by the minute. Hell, I’d rather die than tell her the unvarnished truth. And that truth sure as shooting doesn’t imply that I’ve changed. But I’m not my daddy’s worthless twin. Not anymore. Because of her, ‘cause of our babygirl. Lona and Honey mean everything to me. Nothin’ can change that…can it?
“I need to talk to Lona first,” he said to his mother quietly. “But—”
“But what?” Mona all but shouted in his ear, causing him to back the device off. “You get your ass over here right this minute, Reece Childs. That’s what you’ll do.”
“I’m on my way. But I’m talkin’ to my wife first, Ma.”
Wife. Today, if nothin’ had gone wrong, Lona would finally be the wife I’ve been callin’ her for the last few years, I’ve been wantin’ her to be mine since the day we got back together—the day I returned to our hometown for good. Damn, I should’ve known even heaven would try to protect her from my sins when I was too weak to do it myself. I’m never gonna be able to make her my wife, am I? That was the damning part, but he had the feeling the punishment would only get worse from this point on.
“What do you want me to do with her?” his mother demanded.
In the background, he heard crying, but he would have recognized Honey. “How old is the boy?” he asked abruptly.
“Doesn’t look much older than Honey. She says he’s two and half. Sure doesn’t look it. Skinny, undernourished little thing…”
The last time Reece would admit out loud to having seen Angelina had been a few weeks before he’d returned to Amethyst to settle down for good. Grudgingly, he conceded that the timing didn’t discount that Angelina had gotten pregnant. Whether or not the kid was his… Well hell, a whore like Angelina might never know the truth about somethin’ like that. But I ain’t exactly a saint myself. ‘Cause I know what I’ve done, that I haven’t been true to Lona the whole time we’ve been together—
“Ask her to tell you where she’s stayin’—”
“She’s saying she’s not staying anywhere. She says she doesn’t have any money and she’s not leaving here until she sees you.”
Sounds like Angelina—twice as stubborn as a bull rider’s mount. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Bring Lona along. She needs to be sure you haven’t been playin’ her for a fool all these years.”
Ironically, Reece’s mother had been the hardest to convince when it came to Lona. The rumor mill had painted her black since she was old enough to bat her gorgeous eyelashes and make every man in the vicinity sit up and take notice. But, once his mom really got to know her, she’d discovered the same thing Reece had: Lona Rose was a beautiful angel. Ma will defend her to the death—and she’ll take her side in this, as she should ‘cause Lona didn’t do a damn thing wrong here.
“Be there soon,” he said simply, hanging up. The dread in his gut made him feel like a hole had opened up inside him. Gotta be honest—as much as I can risk–or this is over now.
When he pivoted, Lona’s expression had turned brittle with anticipation of a blow. I wasn’t the only one livin’ in dread all this time. She’s been waitin’ for the same thing to happen with me that’s happened to her before. She expects me to get tired of her. It’s why she refused to marry me. She thinks marriage is a precursor to divorce—and boredom. But that ain’t gonna happen. If anything, I’m in deeper now than I could’ve even imagined the night I saw her again and suddenly believed in destiny for the first time.
“What the hell is going on, Reece?”
He walked to her, handing her phone back. She barely seemed to notice she was taking it. But she knew exactly what she was doing when she backed away from his attempt to take her in his arms. “Tell me now,” she demanded, warding him off.
“I’m gonna tell you, baby, but you gotta believe the truth first.”
“You know her. That boy…is…yours…”
The sob that came from deep in her throat sounded like it was strangling her. She turned away, and he wouldn’t let her push him away this time. He wrapped his arms around her from the back, holding her so tight she equally couldn’t run and didn’t collapse, as he expected her to. Lona wasn’t a fighter, God no. She was a coward, especially when it came to love, believing and accepting. She was more likely to run before she knew the truth than to wait for what she figured was a foregone conclusion.
“Lona, I love you. But, yeah, I know her. I don’t know if the boy is mine.”
“But he could be…before you came back to Amethyst and we got together?”
Reece couldn’t let himself react. He didn’t speak.
“How soon before, Reece?”
“Few weeks,” he offered shamefully, tasting the bitterness in his mouth he always knew he would if this subject ever came up.
She heaved again, pushing out the mangled words, “Doesn’t make it right.”
She sounded faint, and Reece swore. She was already slipping away from him, not fighting, assuming she didn’t have the strength to face this.
He turned her into his arms. “No, it ain’t right, Lona, but I love you more than anything. You and Honey are my whole life, the only life I want. Nothin’s ever gonna change what you two are to me, that you’re all I want and need. You and me…ah, baby, we got together so fast when I came back home for good.”
What else could explain how he’d left on the valid excuse of selling his rig and unloading himself from the truck driving life for good…at the same time, returning like a pig to its slop to the trough with Angelina? But even that betrayal had told Reece everything he needed to know. The addiction he’d suffered for so long was broken. The whole time he’d been with Angelina, his only thought had been getting back to Lona. At that juncture, he’d only been settled back in Amethyst a few weeks and he’d asked her to marry him the night he returned. Leaving Angelina that last time, he’d been a hundred percent sure he was ready to commit to one woman, give Lona every part of himself. When she told him she was pregnant, his life only got sweeter.
Did Angelina get pregnant, too, from that last slip that led me straight back to Lona’s arms? God, kill me now.
His guilt was so heavy, he couldn’t keep looking at the woman he loved as he spoke words that felt hollow because he knew he’d betrayed her—once, but that was plenty enough. “In all this time since we got together, we ain’t talked about much of anythin’, darlin’. Maybe I should’ve told you a lot more, but you gotta understand I got so many regrets, I didn’t want another. And losin’ you would be my biggest. You haven’t told me much about your past either.”
“I haven’t lied…concealed. You knew, know—”
“I know. I don’t doubt you, Lona. You’ve been honest and upfront with me. This part’s all me. I came home to escape the bad stuff my life turned into after my old man died. I wanted that over with. I always feared it’d chase me down, though, and now it has.”
When she made the move to turn aside, he drew her again into his arms, wincing at her tears and shock. “Who is she, Reece? Who the hell is she? Tell me.”
He swallowed the bitter lump that’d filled his throat. “Angelina Batista, my port in the city I made my most frequent runs to when I was drivin’ the rig.”
“And she was…some woman you slept with? That you loved?”
“No. Never love. Not even close. It was just sex. That’s all it ever was. For her. For me.”
“But…she had your baby. She came here. She must—”
“Ah, babe, trust me, she didn’t come here outta love. There’s no way. I don’t know what the hell inspired her to come lookin’ for me, but I can guess pretty easy.”
“Money. She came here to get me to pay up, do the right thing financially. That’s all. That’s all it ever was with her.”
Surprisingly, Lona was too devastated by the outcome to notice the ramifications of his words. Reece wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Sooner or later, he’d have to pay the piper, but he’d rather do it later.
“Is there a chance she’s lying? That the boy isn’t your son?”
“Yeah. There’s more than a chance. Honestly, I always knew I wasn’t the only guy. Far from it.”
She gaped at him. “Really?”
Does this actually comfort her? Give it two seconds, and it’ll do the opposite. And I ain’t gonna start disillusioning her now, especially when the letdown could explode in my face. Sure, if by some chance I can prove the kid isn’t mine, I will. But it’ll hurt more if Lona believes there’s hope in this regard and the proof isn’t in my favor.
“Will you come with me, Lona? I gotta face this even if I’d rather not. I made mistakes in the past, and I don’t wanna make another now. I want you there for all this. I promise I won’t hide anything from you, honey. Give me the chance to prove I’m the man you thought I was since we got together.”
Did a few years of good works make up for a lifetime of misbehaving? Reece wasn’t sure, but he had a sneaking suspicion in the end it would all come out in the same wash. He was about to be swept down the river by this torrential current, never to recover or be found by the light again.