Upon her return home, Jake Logan made Laura see how the perfect life she’d ordered (with a little denial on the side) wasn’t so perfect. Sure, her marriage to him had been electric in that department but it had failed miserably in others.
Now Laura Matheson had another chance, a new lease on life and the ex-husband she’d always loved staring at her.
Which path would Laura choose this time? That impossible “perfection” or a cozy love seat in her ivory towerwith Jake Logan by her side?
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Journey Of The Heart
By Elissa Ambrose
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShe knew he'd show up.
Face it, she told herself. She'd hoped he'd show up. She'd spent five long years telling herself she had forgotten him, all the while wanting to see him once again. For closure. It was closure she desired, not the man himself. And what better place for closure than at a funeral?
Now here he was, standing directly in front of her, extending his hand, and she could think of nothing, not one single thing, to say. Take his hand, dummy, her inner voice directed. Don't be nervous. Now smile. That's it, you're doing fine!
She raised her head and looked into his eyes. They were as dark and compelling as she remembered, eyes a woman could easily get lost in. But those telltale lines around the corners were new, and so was that little scar above his right brow.
An accident at a site? A fallen crane? A minor explosion? But wouldn't Cassie have told her if something had happened to Jake? Laura had instructed her dear friend to never, absolutely never, speak his name to her again, but where Jake was concerned, Cassie never listened.
"It's good to see you, Squirt," he said, holding Laura's hand. "You look well. So do you, Cass." He nodded at the slim, dark-haired woman sitting next to Laura in the pew.
Laura was well. Surgery and chemotherapy had seen to that. After her recovery, she had resolved to follow a healthy lifestyle, which meant regularly working out at the gym. Now, five years later, she was in better shape than ever. She wasn't one to toot her own horn, but these days Laura Matheson knew she looked better than well. She had managed to keep off those extra pounds she'd lost during treatment, and after her hair had grown back in, she'd added gold highlights to her natural dark blond.
As for Jake, he looked basically the same. Laura remembered the lanky boy she had adored in high school, the cocky teenager with the dark, unruly shock of hair that kept falling in his eyes. And he still had that same little dimple on the left side of his smile, although he wasn't smiling now. The scowl on his face looked as fixed as a tattoo.
But even though he was no longer the happy-go-lucky boy from her youth, Jake Logan still looked good. Damn good, especially in that suit. Laura suppressed a smile, imagining him swearing under his breath, trying to straighten his tie. He'd always been a jeans-and-lumber-jacket kind of guy. A man's man. Strong and muscular because of so many years in construction, at six foot two he was almost a foot taller than Laura. Now, hearing him call her Squirt, her old nickname, she felt a familiar rippling in her heart.
"You look well, too," she said, trying to ignore the electricity from his touch. She pulled her hand away. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Why couldn't she think of something clever to say? Something with ginger, Cynthia might say. Might have said, Laura corrected herself.
Her throat tightened with remorse. Would she ever be able to think about Jake without thinking about Cynthia? But that wasn't the six-million-dollar question. It was Jake who had never stopped thinking about Cynthia, Laura's best childhood friend, and years later, Jake's first wife.
"I'm sorry about your aunt," he was saying now, his voice somber. "I know how difficult this must be for you. How are you holding up?"
Before Laura could respond, the minister arrived at the lectern, signaling that the service was about to begin. Jake abruptly turned his back and began to walk away.
"Jake, wait!" she called after him, surprising herself with her forwardness. "Will you be coming over later? People will be dropping by the house after the service, and I'd like it if you came by. Bring Cory, too. How is he? I'd love to see him."
He spun around. "How the hell do you think he is? How would any ten-year-old kid be in his situation? You have your nerve, asking about him. You may not have given a hoot about me, but don't sit there pretending that you cared about my son. You abandoned him when he was only five."
She felt the color drain from her face. "What are you talking about? My leaving had nothing to do with him. I never thought -"
"That's just it, you didn't think - which is odd, considering how you used to overanalyze everything." He exhaled slowly. "Look, I didn't come here to make a scene. No, Cory and I won't be coming by later. He doesn't remember you, and I don't want to resurrect old wounds." He gave her a curt nod of farewell. "Take care of yourself, Laura."
Tormented with conflicting emotions, she watched her ex-husband walk away. What exactly had she expected? To find that Jake had changed and wanted to start over? She had made a life for herself without him. She had a fiancé who adored her, and she was happy. She had come back to Connecticut to pay her last respects to her aunt, and that was all.
But that was not all. She still hadn't decided what to do with the house. The rambling two-story cottage was now hers. Legally it had been hers since the death of her parents, but after she had left home to marry Jake, she had been content to let her aunt stay on. On the one hand, Laura wanted to sell the house and get on with her life. On the other hand, part of her wanted to keep it, reluctant to let go of the past once and for all. Although she had almost no memory of the years before her parents had died, she had a vague sense that she had been happy there, before her aunt had moved in.
"Looks like Jake still has the old charm," Cassie murmured, breaking into Laura's thoughts.
Laura reached into her purse for a tissue. "I can't really blame him. I just thought he'd be over his anger by now. He's still so ... bitter."
She scanned the pews, telling herself she wasn't looking for him. She took in the scene around her, noting how quickly the chapel had filled. Who were all these elderly people? Aunt Tess hadn't exactly been the sociable type. Or the motherly type, either.
Laura closed her eyes, trying to conjure up an image of her parents. If she could only remember one thing, a lingering scent of aftershave, a hairpin left on the bathroom counter, anything at all.... She had been five years old when the driver of the truck lost control and crossed the median, killing himself and her parents. Five years old. The same age as Cory when she'd left Jake. A dull ache centered inside her. Did Cory ever think about her? Or had he completely obliterated her from his mind, as Jake had said?
She opened her eyes and tried to focus on the minister.
"... generosity of spirit," he was saying. "Elizabeth Armstrong touched the hearts of all those who knew her, and will be sorely missed...."
Cassie leaned over and whispered, "'Generosity of spirit?' The only one generous here is the minister."
"Be good," Laura admonished. "Try to remember, she took me in. She raised me."
"Took you in? It was your parents' house, not hers! That woman got a free ride, living in that house. Not that she was ever there to take care of you. Raised you? I don't think so. You raised yourself."
But Cassie whispered on. "And while we're on the subject of who wronged whom, I want you to remember that it was charm-boy here who abandoned you, not the other way around. Sure, technically you left him, but he didn't try very hard to get you back, and he wasn't there for you when you needed him most."
As far as Laura was concerned, the issue regarding who left whom was still off-limits. As if sensing her friend's discomfort, Cassie relented and leaned back in the pew. But Cassie was Cassie, and couldn't stay quiet for more than a minute. "Where did you find this guy?" she snickered, motioning to the pulpit. "'Touched the hearts of all those who knew her'? Is he for real?"
"He's from Ridgefield," Laura answered in a low voice. "My mother and Aunt Tess grew up there. Honestly, Cass, can't you just sit still and listen to the sermon? The woman was my mother's sister."
Excerpted from Journey Of The Heart by Elissa Ambrose Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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