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Kate & Reid

Ten years ago, their relationship was a scandal. . . Ten years later, it’s forever.

Readers who loved Reid and Kate in Marking Time wanted their happy ending. Here it is… 

The story left unfinished at the end of Marking Time picks up ten years later when Kate Harrington goes after the man she left behind when she set out to chase her dream of music superstardom. Now she has everything she ever wanted, except for the man she can’t live without. What will Reid say when she shows up unannounced in St. Kitts, looking to reclaim their lost love? And what will Jack, Kate’s father, have to say when he hears she’s gone back to her first love, a man Jack once considered a friend? And what do you think will happen when Jill Harrington, Kate’s sister, attorney and manager, faces off with Ashton Matthews, Reid’s son, the same man who made life miserable for Kate many years ago? The sparks will fly when the Harrington, Matthews and O’Malley families gather in Nashville for a Christmas none of them will ever forget!






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Coming Home

(Treading Water Series, Book 4)

By Marie Force
Chapter 1

The darkness came faster this time, too fast to prepare before it was upon her. Bright lights, the roar of the crowd, the band behind her… One minute, Kate Harrington was in the middle of a show. The next minute, she was in an ambulance being rushed—again—to the emergency room. This was the third time she’d passed out since a bout of pneumonia had weakened her, but it was the first time she’d done it on a stage in front of twenty thousand screaming fans.

As the paramedics started an IV and put an oxygen mask over her face, her sister Jill watched the proceedings with big, frightened eyes.

Kate couldn’t remember where they were. There’d been so many cities, so many hotels, so many venues, so many crowds over the last ten years that they’d begun to blend together into a panoramic muddle of images. When she thought about the media coverage this incident would garner, she held back a groan.

The paparazzi followed her every move like a band of rabid dogs. Passing out in the middle of a concert would make for a big story.

She pushed the mask aside. “Call Mom and Dad so they don’t hear it on the news,” she said to her sister, who doubled as her manager and attorney.

“Okay,” Jill said, pulling out the phone they called her Siamese twin because she was permanently attached to it.

As the ambulance sped through the night in the city she couldn’t remember, Kate could only imagine what they’d say this time. She’d been accused of everything under the sun, from cocaine addiction to secret pregnancies to mistreating her staff. Nothing was off-limits. No lie was too big or too preposterous. Such was life in the celebrity fishbowl.

Though she’d gone looking for a career in country music, her “crossover” appeal had made her a huge star—much bigger than she’d ever hoped or wanted to be. She’d sold more records in the last decade than any other female performer in the world, and along with that success came rabid interest in her every move.

The speculation about her personal life had been worse than ever since pneumonia forced her to cancel two weeks of shows, which was why she’d resumed the tour so soon, hoping to put an end to the vicious rumors. They’d said she was back in rehab, drying out from years of drug abuse. Her plan to go back to work and shut down the rumors had been working well until she passed out on stage. Now the gossip would be worse than ever.

If it hadn’t been such a nuisance to deal with, the buzz would’ve amused her. She was, without a doubt, the most boring celebrity in the history of celebrities. She never went anywhere that didn’t involve work. After a few spectacularly public romances fizzled, she’d sworn off men, especially well-known men. When she wasn’t working, she holed up at her farm in Tennessee with her horses, her family and her close friends—few as they were.

Of course, boring didn’t sell magazines, so they made up most of what they said about her. To the outside world, she was just another pill-popping, dope-snorting, pampered princess who’d had too much success far too soon. The people closest to her knew the truth, but sometimes she suspected even her own family wondered if any of the rumors were true.

They arrived at the hospital, and as they whisked her inside, she heard someone mention Oklahoma City and remembered arriving at the hotel suite with Jill and the sound check at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. She recalled asking Jill if they could tour the memorial at the Murrah building, and Jill saying they didn’t have time to arrange the security she’d require for such an outing. Kate had been to every major city in America and countless others overseas, but she’d rarely gotten to see anything while she was there. She was always too busy working—or too insulated by the security required to go anywhere.

This late-fall tour had been the idea of her mentor, friend, producer and fellow superstar, Buddy Longstreet. He and his record company, Long Road Records, had made her a star, and there wasn’t much she wouldn’t do for Buddy when he asked for a favor. That was how she found herself coming off a summer tour and heading right into a second tour that was due to wrap up on New Year’s Eve at Carnegie Hall.

Since she could barely lift her head at the moment, the idea of performing at Carnegie Hall in a few weeks seemed as daunting as climbing Mount Everest. Her chest hurt, her eyes were so heavy she could barely keep them open, and she felt like she could sleep for a year.

 The piercing pain of another needle being jammed into her hand forced her eyes open as a team of doctors and nurses swooped in on her. Outside the cubicle, she saw Jill on the phone, pacing back and forth in the sky-high heels and power suit that was her uniform. As she rarely saw her sister dressed in anything else, Kate liked to tease her about sleeping in a suit.

Truth be told, she didn’t know what she’d do without Jill to manage all the details, to hammer out the contracts, to fight the battles and manage the team that made it happen. Thanks to Jill, all Kate had to do was show up and sing. Worries that her sister was sacrificing her own life to run hers was something that nagged at Kate more often than she’d care to admit. But since existing without Jill at her right hand was unimaginable, Kate stayed mum on the subject, and Jill certainly never complained.

She worked like a dog and collected the big salary Kate paid her, but Kate wondered if she ever spent a dime on anything other than suits and heels and the latest and greatest in smartphone technology. The sisters were never home long enough to spend any of the money they’d made over the years.

As she watched her beloved older sister swipe at a tear, Kate reached her breaking point. Jill didn’t cry. Ever. Jill was a pillar of strength and fortitude. The pressure was getting to them both, and it was time to step off the treadmill for a while.

The medication they were pumping into her made Kate’s tongue feel too big for her mouth, but her thoughts were clear. Enough was enough. Images of the huge log-cabin-style house she’d built five years ago on her sprawling estate in Hendersonville, Tennessee drifted through her mind, making her yearn for home.

Kate must’ve dozed off, because when she awoke, she was in a darkened room. She blinked a few times to clear her vision and saw Jill standing at the window, staring out into the darkness.

“Hey,” Kate said.

Jill spun around to face her. “You’re awake.”

“How long have I been asleep?”

“A couple of hours. They admitted you because you’re dehydrated. That’s why you passed out.”

“I’m really thirsty.”

Jill helped her to take a few sips from a cup of ice water on the table.

“Where are we?”

“St. Anthony’s Hospital.”

“Is the press going crazy?”

Jill shrugged. “I haven’t looked.”

“Yes, you have,” Kate said with a small smile. “Don’t lie to me.”

“They’re flipping out, as usual where you’re concerned. This time they’re saying it was a combination of pills and booze.”

“I wish I had half as much fun as they think I do.”

“I wish both of us did.”

“It’s probably high time we had some fun, don’t you think? Let’s stop the madness and go home.”

Jill’s eyes widened, and her mouth fell open. “What’re you saying?”

“I’ve had enough, Jill. We’ve been everywhere, done everything, made a fortune. Now it’s time to live a little. How many nights have you spent in your place since it was finished?” Kate had given Jill three acres of property and a “gift certificate” good for the house of her choice. After her initial reluctance to accept such an extravagant gift, the house had been built to Jill’s exacting specifications.

“I don’t know. A month, maybe two?”

“And it’s been done for a year. That’s ridiculous. What’re we trying to prove? Who’re we trying to prove it to?”

“You have contracts, Kate. Obligations. Buddy will freak if you bail on the tour.”

“I can get a note from my doctor,” she said with a playful smile.

“You’re apt to be sued. It’s no joke.”

“I’m not joking. Let them sue me. I need a break. A real break. I want months at home. I want the family in Tennessee for Christmas. I want to see Mom, Dad, Andi, Aidan, the boys and Maggie and spend real time with them, not twenty-four rushed hours between tour stops. Don’t you want that, too?”

“You know I do, but it’s not feasible right now. We’ve got thirty dates left on the calendar before we’re done.” She didn’t mention that they’d get only a few days off before they were due in the studio to record Kate’s sixth album. After that, it was back on the road for another tour. “How am I supposed to get you out of all those obligations?”

“If anyone can do it, you can. I should’ve done this after I was sick. Instead, I went back too soon and collapsed in front of an arena full of people, giving the press enough fodder to last for weeks. I’m done, Jill.”

“For now or forever?”

“I don’t know yet. For now, definitely. I’ll let you know about forever after I’ve had a break.”

“There could be big trouble over this, bad press…”

Kate released a harsh laugh. “What other kind is there where I’m concerned?” She reached for her sister’s hand and held on tight. “We’re twenty-eight and twenty-nine years old, and we’ve spent the last five years working ourselves into early graves. We have millions in the bank, gorgeous homes that we pay people to keep clean for us, nice cars sitting unused in the garage, horses we pay people to ride for us, and five little brothers who are growing up far too fast and barely know us.”

Jill nibbled on her bottom lip, seeming stressed as she listened to Kate.

“You haven’t had a real vacation since you graduated from law school and came to work for me. I haven’t had one in so long, I think the last one was Christmas break of my senior year of high school. It’s time to live a little. What good is all the money in the world if we never do anything fun? Don’t you want to have fun, Jill?”

And there was something else Kate wanted to do, something she should’ve done a long time ago, but that was her secret and hers alone. It wasn’t something she could share with anyone, even her sister and closest friend.

“Our work is fun,” Jill said. “I enjoy it, and you do, too, when you’re feeling well.”

“I haven’t enjoyed it in a long time—long before I got sick.” Saying the words out loud was somehow freeing. “I feel like I’m on a treadmill with every day exactly the same as the last. The only thing that changes is the city and the venue.”

“What about the band and the roadies and all the people your show employs?”

“We’ll give the roadies and the tour people a nice severance package and pay the band to give us six months before they sign on with anyone else. You think they won’t welcome some time at home with their families? Some of them have kids who barely recognize them on the rare occasion they’re actually home.”

Jill nibbled on her thumbnail as she mulled it over. Her mind worked a mile a minute, which made her such an asset to Kate. After several minutes of mulling and nail biting, Jill glanced at her sister. “Let me see what I can do.”

Damn, it was good to be home, Kate thought as she took her horse, Thunder, on a slow gallop through the woods that abutted her home twenty minutes outside Nashville. At thirteen, Thunder was showing no signs of slowing down and hadn’t lost his enthusiasm for outings with Kate.

“We’ll be spending a lot more time together for the next little while, boy,” she said, stroking his neck as his hooves clomped along the well-worn path.

He nickered in response to her, as he always did, drawing a smile. She swore he was a human stuck in a horse’s body, and the comfort of being with him filled her with joy.

As they often did when she rode Thunder, her thoughts strayed to the man who’d given her the horse after their ill-fated romance blew up in their faces. It was impossible, she’d discovered, to spend time with Thunder without thinking of Reid and the magical months they’d spent together.

Kate didn’t believe in regrets. She was pragmatic enough by now to know that life could be incredibly sweet and just as incredibly painful. More than ten years had passed since the last time she saw Reid, the awful day he flew her home to Rhode Island after her sister Maggie was badly injured.

But not a day had gone by that she hadn’t thought of him, wondered where he was, what he was doing, if he was happy. One night, about six years ago, during a lonely moment on the road, she’d searched for him on the Internet and discovered he’d sold his business and left Nashville shortly after they broke up.

She’d been unable to find a single other reference to him online in the ensuing decade. It was like he’d dropped off the face of the earth, which was why she was about to ask something of her sister that she’d hoped to handle on her own.

Kate brought Thunder to a stop outside Jill’s two-story post-and-beam house. She slid off his back and tied the lead to the railing. Rubbing her hand over his flank, Kate said, “I won’t be long, pal.”

His nicker and nuzzle made her laugh. Sometimes she felt like the horse she rarely saw these days knew her better than any of the people in her life, except for Jill, of course. Since they were young girls, Jill had known her better than anyone, which was why Kate was so certain her sister would balk at what Kate was about to ask of her. But she was determined to ask anyway.

She rapped lightly on the front door and stepped inside. “Hello?”

“In here,” Jill called from the kitchen.

Kate strolled into the kitchen, stopping short when she saw Jill dressed for business, bent over her laptop with papers strewn across the table. A steaming cup of tea sat ignored next to her. “Okay, what part of vacationdidn’t you get?”

Jill glanced up at her. “You might be on vacation, but I’m still trying to keep your ass from getting sued.”

Kate glanced over her shoulder, pretending to look at her ass.

“Stop being funny. It’s no joke. Buddy is furious with you, and Ashton is, too.”

“What else is new?” Kate asked of Reid’s son, who’d given her the cold shoulder every time she saw him over the last ten years. Since he was the chief counsel for Buddy as well as Buddy’s superstar wife Taylor Jones and Long Road Records, their paths crossed more often than Kate would like.

“Regardless of his ongoing feud with you, he’s also moving heaven and earth to prevent a slew of lawsuits.”

“He’s not doing it for me. He’s doing it for Buddy and the company.”

“Who cares why he’s doing it? The end result will save you millions.”

Since Kate had been focusing on rest and relaxation since they got home two days ago, the last thing she wanted to hear about was the threat of lawsuits. “Remember those jeans we bought in the Mall of America? You must still have them around here somewhere.”

“I still have them.”

“So you can only be productive in a power suit.”

“I have a meeting in the city in just over an hour.”

Kate helped herself to a diet soda. “With who?”


Here’s your chance, she thought, as a flutter of nerves invaded her belly.Just say it. “So, um…”

Without looking up from what she was doing, Jill said, “So um what?”

Kate dropped into a chair across from her sister.

Jill took off the gold-framed glasses she used for computer work and sat back in her chair. “What’s on your mind?”

“I was wondering… While you’re with Ashton, um…”

“Will you spit it out? I’m on a schedule.”

“You’re supposed to be on vacation.”

“Speak. Quickly.”

How to sum up years of longing and regret in one sentence?

“Is something wrong, Kate?”

Hadn’t something been wrong every day that she’d spent without him? Hadn’t every man she’d been with since him failed to live up to him? Hadn’t she been disappointed time and again when she’d tried and failed to fall in love again? “Will you ask him for his father’s contact info?”

Jill’s mouth fell open, and then she quickly closed it. “You’re serious.”



“Because there’s something I need to speak with him about. Something personal.”

“And you think Ashton, who’s never forgiven you for hooking up with his father in the first place, is going to just hand over that info?”

“That’s where you come in. Your powers of persuasion are legendary.”

Jill shook her head. “I don’t feel comfortable asking him that. Our relationship is professional, and that’s a very personal topic.”

“I know I’m asking a lot. I know I always ask a lot of you, but I need to talk to him.”

“And you won’t tell me why?”

Kate shook her head.

“It’s been over with him for a long time, Kate. I don’t know what you’re hoping to accomplish—”

“I need some closure.”

Jill crossed her arms and studied her sister. “Closure.”

“That’s what I said.” After a long pause, Kate asked, “Will you ask him?” While she awaited Jill’s reply, her heart hammered. She had a feeling she was making this into too big a deal, but the need to see him, to hear his soft drawl, to feel the way she had when they were together, was getting bigger by the day. No doubt he was long over her and rarely spared her a thought. Kate told herself if that were the case, she would put the past where it belonged and get on with her life. But if there was even the slightest chance that he thought of her as often as she thought of him… “Jill?”

“If I get the chance, I’ll ask him, but no promises.”

“That’s fair enough.”

“Are you sure you want to venture into that hornet’s nest again?”

“It was only a hornet’s nest at the end. The rest of the time…” She met her sister’s gaze. “The rest of the time it was magic.”

Jill drove into the city an hour later in the white Mercedes coupe Kate had given her for Christmas last year. Her sister was endlessly generous and appreciative of everything Jill did to make her life run smoothly, but sometimes she asked too much. Like this morning… Kate had no way to know that the last thing in the world Jill would ever want to do was mention the ill-fated love affair between Reid Matthews and her sister to the man’s ridiculously handsome and endlessly irritating son.

She always dreaded her one-on-one meetings with Ashton, which were far more frequent than she’d like, thanks to the fact that Kate and the attorney for her record company didn’t speak to each other. So it was left to Jill to run interference between them. Sometimes she had half a mind to sit them down and tell them to stop acting like children, but she was wise enough by now to know that some hurts weren’t made better by time. Some hurts were too deep to ever heal.

Ashton’s office was in Green Hills, a trendy area that Jill might’ve preferred if close proximity to her sister didn’t make her life much less complicated. Plus, she knew Kate liked having her nearby. Kate needed someone around who she could always count on—and trust. Most of the time, Jill was happy to be that person.

This was not one of those times.

She pulled into a parking space behind the restored Victorian Ashton used as an office and turned off the car. She took a moment to collect herself and gather the calm, cool façade she preferred for business dealings. No matter how much time she took to affect that cool façade, however, she could count on Ashton Matthews to have her rattled and furious within five minutes.

“Just get through this and you can be on vacation,” she said out loud as she grabbed her briefcase and went inside.

“Hi, Jill,” Ashton’s assistant, Debi, said. “He’s waiting for you in his office.”

“Thank you,” Jill said with a smile for Debi. She went up the stairs and took a right, heading for the huge office at the end of the hallway. Jill had been here a hundred times and had the same reaction every time. By the time she reached the closed door to Ashton’s office, her heart beat hard, her palms were sweaty and her stomach fluttered with nerves. Why did the thought of seeing him always undo her? It was positively maddening!

Jill took one last moment to prepare for battle and raised her hand to knock.

“Come on in.”

Oh, that voice. That accent. It was positively lethal. Jill opened the door and stepped inside, closing the door behind her. When she ventured a glance at the desk, she found him sitting back in his chair, eyeing her with what seemed to be a mixture of amusement and annoyance. Good, at least they were both annoyed.

He got up slowly and came around the desk. “Jill. Nice to see you as always.”

She surreptitiously rubbed her sweaty palm on her skirt before she returned his handshake. It was appalling, really, the way she wanted to lean in for a better sniff of his cologne. He wore his blond hair short, and his dark suit had been cut to fit his broad shoulders.

“Something wrong?”

Jill snapped out of her visual perusal to realize she was still holding his hand. She released it quickly and searched for her missing composure. “Of course not.”

“Have a seat. Can I get you anything to drink?”

“I’m fine.”

Rather than sit behind his desk, he took the chair next to hers and crossed his long legs.

Jill’s mouth went dry as she watched him move like a big cat on the prowl.

“Your sister has put us in one hell of a fix,” he said in that Tennessean drawl that made her go stupid in the head, but only when it came from him. She heard that accent a hundred times a day from others, but no other voice was quite like his.

“She feels bad about it.”

“Is she really sick or in need of a vacation?”

The implication that Kate was lying made Jill see red. But then she remembered the enmity between Kate and Ashton and quelled the urge to jump to her sister’s defense. “She’s yet to fully bounce back from the pneumonia. She went back to work too soon.”

“The company’s PR people are working around the clock to deal with the fallout.”

“It’s not Kate’s fault that the press is convinced she’s strung out on drugs, and besides, that’s not what this meeting is about. The fact is, she wants a few months off, and it’s our job to make that happen.”

“It’s your job to make that happen. My job is to keep Buddy’s company from getting sued because your client is a flake.”

“That’s completely unfair and unwarranted, Ashton, and you know it. She’s one of the hardest-working performers in the business, and she is ill. I’d like to see you try to put on a two-hour concert when you can barely breathe.”

“Fine,” he said begrudgingly. “If you say she’s sick, she’s sick. I’ll do what I can to keep her from getting sued, but no promises.”

“I hope you’ll do as much for her as you’d do for any of Buddy’s artists.”

At that, his expression hardened. “What’s that supposed to mean? I treat all our artists the same, but my job is to protect Long Road Records from exposure. Your sister has exposed us to tremendous liability.”

“I’m going to keep saying it until you hear me—she is sick. If anyone tries to sue her for breach of contract, we can provide documentation from the hospital in Oklahoma City.”

“I’d like to have that for the file.”

“Fine, I’ll fax it to you when I get home.”


His sleepy-looking green eyes took a perusing journey over her that left Jill feeling naked and exposed. What the hell? “What’re you looking at?”


“Why are you looking at me?”

“Because you’re the only other person in the room.”

He had such a way of making her feel stupid. He made her want to tell him that she’d graduated at the top of her class from both Brown University and Harvard Law, but she didn’t say that. Rather, as she often did in his presence, she squirmed in her seat, sending the message that he was making her feel uncomfortable. That was probably his goal.

“And because I wonder if you ever loosen that top button and let your hair down.”

Aghast, Jill stared at him as heat crept into her cheeks. “What business is that of yours?”

“Absolutely none.”

“Then why would you say such a thing to me?”

His shrug was casual, as if this conversation was a normal part of their business routine. It most definitely was notnormal. “I wonder. That’s all.”

She didn’t want to ask. She absolutely did not want to know what he meant by that. “Wonder about what?” Clearly, her mouth was working ahead of her brain.

“I wonder what you’re like when you’re not playing barracuda protector for your sister. What do you like to do? What do you look like in a pair of jeans? What kind of music do you like? Who’s your favorite author? That kind of stuff.”

Jill had never been more shocked in her life. He wondered about her?

“Close your mouth before the flies get in there,” he said, amusement dancing in his eyes.

She needed to get out of there before she said something she’d regret—such as, I wonder about you, too. “Are you…”

He waited a long beat before he said, “Am I what?”

Jill’s mouth had gone totally dry. “Flirting with me?” The words came out squeaky and rough, and she immediately felt like a total fool. She was almost thirty years old, for crying out loud. She’d had her share of boyfriends, although none lately, not when she was so damned busy she didn’t have time to do her laundry, let alone date. Why was her reaction to this man so different from any other?

“What if I am?”

“Why?” She said the first thing that came to mind, and damn him for laughing.

“Why not? You’re a beautiful woman, or I bet you could be if you…unbuttoned…a little bit.”

“Is that supposed to be flattering?”

“When was the last time you did something just for you that had nothing to do with your sister?”

“It’s been a while,” she said truthfully.

“You wanna have some fun?”

He was so gorgeous, far more gorgeous than any man had a right to be, and that accent absolutely undid her. “What kind of fun?”

“Any kind you want,” he said in a suggestive tone that made her nipples tighten with interest. Thank God she was wearing a suit coat so he couldn’t see them.

“With you.”

“Yes,” he said, laughing again, “that was kind of the idea.”

“And how long have you been wanting to have ‘fun’ with me?”

“Awhile now, if I’m being truthful.”

Jill couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Nothing to say to that?” he asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Oh.” Brilliant, Counselor. Positively brilliant.

“So what do you say? Want to get together while you’re on vacation?”

Jill’s mind raced as she considered all the implications, including what her sister would have to say about it.

“Don’t think about what Kate would say. Think about what Jill wants.”

His insight only rattled her further. All she thought about was what Kate wanted. When was the last time she gave the first consideration to what shewanted. Longer than she could remember. “I, um…”

“Take your time.” He folded his hands behind his head. “I’ve got an hour until my next meeting.”

“Wouldn’t it be a conflict of interest for us to see each other outside of work?”

“Since we’re usually on the same side, I wouldn’t say so.”

He was a much more seasoned attorney than she was, so she took his word for it.

“I need a favor,” she said, diving in before she lost her nerve. They needed to get this issue out of the way before she could consider his very tempting offer.

“What kind of favor?”

“A personal favor that’s going to make you mad.”

“I’m listening.”

Jill couldn’t seem to form the words that would have the effect of gas thrown on a fire. Not when he’d just asked her out. She wanted to go out with him, which was the sad part. The minute she passed along Kate’s request for contact info for his father, the date would probably be off the table.


“Kate would like to contact your father.”

He froze, staring at her with contempt stamped into his expression. “You can’t be serious.”

“I’m only the messenger, so don’t shoot me.”

“There’s no way in hell I’m revisiting that issue.” His hands dropped to his lap, and he stood. “The first time was more than sufficient, thank you very much.”

“She only wants to see him for a minute,” Jill said, making it up as she went along. “Apparently, there’s something she needs to tell him.”

“The last thing he needs is to hear from her. She ruined his freaking life and nearly destroyed my relationship with him. She has a lot of nerve thinking I’m going to help her get in touch with him.”

“I understand,” Jill said, and she did. It was a sore subject for all of them. “And for the record, I told her I was uncomfortable asking you.”

Hands in pockets, he stared out the window. “Typical Kate to think of herself first and everyone else second.”

“You don’t give her enough credit, Ashton. She’s very generous and good to the people in her life.”

“I don’t expect you to see her faults.”

“I see them, but I love her enough to look past them.”

“You’ll forgive me if I don’t love her that much.” He turned to face her. “Tell her to leave it alone. A lot of people were hurt by what happened between them. My dad has a good life now, a life that satisfies him. I’d hate to see him hurt by her again.”

“He hurt her, too.”

“Maybe so, but I only saw his side of it, and it wasn’t pretty. Trust me on that.”

Jill nodded, sorry she’d broached the subject. She picked up her briefcase, stood and started for the door.


She turned back to him.

“You never answered my question.”

“Oh. I thought you were mad.”

“I am mad, but not at you. I don’t believe in shooting the messenger.”

“Could I think about it?”

“Sure. Take all the time you need. You know where I am when you make up your mind.”

Jill nodded and left, taking the stairs on wobbly legs.

“Have a good day, Jill,” Debi said.

“Thanks, you, too.”

Jill nearly dropped her keys in her haste to get in the car. For a long time, she sat there, staring out the windshield, trying to process what’d happened. Ashton Matthews had asked her out. Her sister’s sworn enemy was interested in her. What would she tell Kate?

Nothing, she decided. She’d keep it to herself for now.

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Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. 

~ Calvin Coolidge

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