Read an Excerpt
Past, Present And A Future
By Janice Carter
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGood news and bad news. Funny how the two often came together. Clare read the email a second time. Her best friend since elementary school was the proud mother of a baby girl named Emma. Clare felt a rush of emotion that was a mix of joy and envy.
The bad news was that Laura wanted her to be the child's godmother, which meant going back home to Twin Falls, Connecticut. And home - somewhere she hadn't visited in the last seventeen years - was the last place on earth Clare Morgan wanted to set foot.
She quickly sent a return congratulatory message, expressing delight at the request but avoiding a definite reply by saying she'd telephone on the weekend. That would give her two days to come up with a plausible excuse to politely decline. She was flattered that Laura had thought of her, but she couldn't see herself in the role of a godmother.
Such as? Clare leaned back in her chair. There was no way she could refuse. Laura Kingsway, nee Dundas, had been her best friend since they'd started school together at Mountview Elementary in Miss Goodfellow's kindergarten class. Their friendship had weathered upheavals such as the divorce of Clare's parents when she was nine, along with boyfriend troubles during their high school years. Though their separation due to college and careers had altered the nature of their relationship to one of phone and email - in fact, the last time Clare had seen Laura was at her marriage to Dave Kingsway two years ago - they were still close.
Twin Falls. Clare had difficulty uttering her hometown's name even in her head. She still couldn't believe that Laura and Dave had chosen to move back there. But then, Laura hadn't been affected by the whole sordid mess seventeen years ago in quite the same way that Clare had.
Clare shut down the computer. She was having lunch with her editor to discuss changes to her upcoming book tour to promote her second novel. It was an important meeting and one that Clare had been anticipating for several days. The book had - to Clare's astonishment - recently made the New York Times bestseller list a mere three weeks after its launch. She just hoped today's news wouldn't diminish her enjoyment of the celebratory luncheon.
* * *
"Salut!" Alix Bennett clinked her champagne flute delicately against Clare's.
Clare took her first taste of Cristal, savoring its crisp fruitiness and thinking she could get used to the trappings of success.
"So when can we expect the next proposal?" Alix asked.
"Maybe a couple of weeks?"
Alix nodded. "Try to get it in as soon as possible. It'd be nice to be able to mention it during some of your appearances."
"You haven't even offered me a contract yet."
"After the success of Growing up in Paradise I'm sure that won't be a problem. Not after what you've already told me about this new one."
"Tina really likes it," Clare said, referring to her agent.
"Too bad she couldn't make it for lunch today."
"She's unbelievably busy but promised to make the next one."
"You mean the signing celebration for the new one?" Alix smiled.
Giddiness swept through Clare. She still had difficulty believing that all this heady success was indeed happening to her. "Assuming you buy it," she repeated.
"Given the initial sales of Growing up in Paradise, it's a done deal. But don't quote me on that," Alix said with a mischievous grin. She paused while the waiter set down their appetizers. After he left, she asked, "So, what's new in your life these days? Aside from the dizziness of fame?"
Clare smiled. Her editor loved to tease and had a penchant for hyperbole - certainly a plus when it came to pitching a book to the honchos who made the final decisions. "My best friend just had a baby girl. She wants me to be godmother."
"Ahh, that's nice. And a compliment."
"Yes. Laura and I haven't seen each other for a couple of years. Her family lived just down the street from mine in Twin Falls. We met in kindergarten."
"Wow! Not many people can lay claim to that kind of long friendship."
"She married a guy from Twin Falls, too. Dave. They dated briefly in high school, then split up and got back together again in college."
"No kidding? When I think of the guys I dated in high school, no way would I want to end up with any one of them."
Thinking of just such a guy, Clare averted her gaze from Alix to the table. She waited for the usual uneasiness that accompanied thoughts of Gil Harper to surface but when nothing happened, she raised her head with an almost audible sigh of relief.
"You okay? Thought I'd lost you there for a sec."
"Must be the champagne," Clare said. "I'm not used to drinking at lunch."
"Hey, you'd better get used to it. I see lots of celebrations ahead in your future."
"Book sales will be good enough for me, believe me. All of this," she gestured toward the plush interior of the Plaza, "is wonderful but not really my thing."
"Not really mine either, frankly." Alix put a chunk of artichoke into her mouth. "So we should enjoy while the boss is paying."
Clare followed suit, though her appetite had waned at the unbidden memory of Gil Harper. She tried to concentrate on Alix's patter of conversation, but her mind kept going back to the man responsible for her self-imposed exile from Twin Falls. Giving up, Clare pushed her half-eaten salad aside.
"I just had a brilliant idea," Alix piped up as the waiter began to remove their plates.
"The book tour's supposed to start in a couple of weeks, right?" Clare nodded.
"And you said this friend who wants you to be godmother still lives in your hometown?"
Another nod, accompanied by a rising dread.
"So how about an appearance right in Twin Falls? I mean, the symbolism's perfect. A coming-of-age book based on your life in Twin Falls -"
"Loosely based," Clare emphasized.
Alix shrugged. "Whatever. But I bet you're not fooling anyone back home with name changes and a bit of reconstruction."
Clare fiddled with the cutlery in front of her. "Perhaps not, but I didn't intend to market the book as a memoir.
It's a novel. Fiction," she added, reinforcing her argument.
"Doesn't matter. It's the whole human interest angle I like. Small town girl - okay, woman - makes it big writing a novel based loosely on her life in said small town. Having a book signing and interviews with local media from say, the town's quaint bookstore -"
"There is no bookstore in Twin Falls. At least, there wasn't one seventeen years ago."
"Hey, things change. If no bookstore, they've got to have a public library. Right?"
"I'm not -" Clare hesitated. She and Alix had a friendly relationship, but they were not friends and definitely not confidantes. How could she adequately explain her reluctance to go along with such an unthinkable scheme without spilling her guts about the event that had wreaked havoc with so many lives so long ago?
"You started to say something. Sorry, you know me. I get carried away."
Excerpted from Past, Present And A Future by Janice Carter Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.