Still the One

( 12 )

Overview

Robin Wells takes us back to Chartreuse, Louisiana, for a deeply moving story of forgiveness and second chances.

STILL THE ONE

After Katie Charmaine's husband is killed in Iraq, all she has left is a closet full of his clothes, a few pictures, and fond memories. She not only lost her love, but her last chance to have the children she's always wanted. Until Zack Ferguson shows up in town . . . with the daughter...

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Still the One

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Overview

Robin Wells takes us back to Chartreuse, Louisiana, for a deeply moving story of forgiveness and second chances.

STILL THE ONE

After Katie Charmaine's husband is killed in Iraq, all she has left is a closet full of his clothes, a few pictures, and fond memories. She not only lost her love, but her last chance to have the children she's always wanted. Until Zack Ferguson shows up in town . . . with the daughter Katie gave up for adoption nearly seventeen years ago.

Zack Ferguson has never forgotten Katie, or the one magical night they spent together. Seeing her again brings up a tidal wave of emotions: regret over the way he left her, anger at the secret she kept, and desire he hasn't felt in years. But he's in town for Gracie. Their daughter is sixteen, angry at the world, and-worst of all-pregnant. She needs the love of her two parents now more than ever. Can these three forgive the hurts of the past and open their hearts to each other?

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Editorial Reviews

RomanceReviewsMag.com
"Very moving, lovely story. They have their difficulties and plenty of challenges, but they also have friends and good people who are there to support them. This is a special kind of story you're sure to enjoy and love."
Jennifer Jones
"Still the One is beautifully crafted with endearing characters that you will not soon forget."
theromancereadersconnection.com
Romance Readers Connection.com
"Robin Wells has written a powerful story of longing, grief and second chances in STILL THE ONE. STILL THE ONE is beautifully crafted with endearing characters that you will not soon forget."
RomRevToday.com
"A phenomenal love story, STILL THE ONE is a tangled web of lies, fate, and unrequited romance. With more twists and turns than the proverbial soap opera, (but a lot more fun!), this novel will keep readers glued to the pages until the end.... The dialogue is sharp and the emotion palpable... STILL THE ONE is a great read for a spring day!"
Jennifer Jones - theromancereadersconnection.com
"Still the One is beautifully crafted with endearing characters that you will not soon forget."
Contemporary Romance Writers on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"Robin Wells has written a refreshing, tender love story. The grandparents crazy romance added comic relief to this compelling tale."
New York Times bestselling author Sandra Hill on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"A delightful mix of humor and love! Romantic comedy at its best!"
Freshfiction.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"I absolutely loved this book! It has all the elements a reader looks for in a great story. I cried, I laughed out loud and I got butterflies. BETWEEN THE SHEETS by Robin Wells is truly a must-read."
Harriet Klausner on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"BETWEEN THE SHEETS is a fascinating contemporary romance starring a likable lead character whose reputation is ruined yet she keeps her head up high. Although insisting that she was not the he hooker, Emma is in many ways is like Monica Wolinsky who has kept her head high and has achieved plenty of earned success since her fifteen minutes of notoriety fame. The grandparents and Max add strength to a refreshing interesting character study starring a maligned yet argent heroine who holds her head up in spite of media and public ridicule you go Monica - you earned it."
Romance Reviews Today on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"BETWEEN THE SHEETS is romantic comedy at its best. The romances are sweet, passionate, believable, and, at times, hilarious. Southern charm infuses the setting and people of Chartreuse and adds the perfect atmosphere to the hijinks. BETWEEN THE SHEETS is a highly recommended tale that will enchant everyone."
Monroe Daily on HOW TO SCORE
"How to Score is the perfect beach book."
USAToday bestselling author Christie Ridgway on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"BETWEEN THE SHEETS has Southern heat, secondary characters who will steal your heart, and a hero and heroine who deserve their happy ending."
Nightsandweekends.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"If you want something light and fun, Between the Sheets is the book for you. There's no way you'll be able to feel down while reading it. It's totally enjoyable, and it's guaranteed to take you away for a few blissful hours."
Reviewyourbook.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"Between the Sheets is written with just the right amount of humor. Robin Wells puts the spotlight on several timely issues--relationships of the elderly, Alzheimer's, prostitution, and dealing with scandals. This book is a classic love story. Grams and Harold's love story was my favorite part of the book. Do not begin reading Between the Sheets until you have time to finish it; you will not be able to put it down."
Disaboom.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS
"Rarely are the sexual exploits of the over-70 set described with such humor and heat."
The Good
"Good characterization and a sense of social awareness without preaching helps this to be a recommended read."
From the Publisher
"With sympathetic, memorable characters, a touching story, gentle humor, and evocative writing, Wells's latest will please fans who like their contem­poraries with a Southern flair."—Library Journal

"Very moving, lovely story. They have their difficulties and plenty of challenges, but they also have friends and good people who are there to support them. This is a special kind of story you're sure to enjoy and love."—RomanceReviewsMag.com

"A madcap and enjoyable romantic comedy."—Publishers Weekly on HOW TO SCORE

"Still the One is beautifully crafted with endearing characters that you will not soon forget."Jennifer Jones, theromancereadersconnection.com

"Both tenderly funny and outright hilarious, this sexy, lively romp gently touches on some serious issues but highlights romance."—Library Journal on HOW TO SCORE

"Robin Wells has written a powerful story of longing, grief and second chances in STILL THE ONE. STILL THE ONE is beautifully crafted with endearing characters that you will not soon forget."—Romance Readers Connection.com

"BETWEEN THE SHEETS has Southern heat, secondary characters who will steal your heart, and a hero and heroine who deserve their happy ending."—USAToday bestselling author Christie Ridgway on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"How to Score is a fun, character-driven romance full of wonderful subplots and snappy personalities that all tie in perfectly at the book's conclusion. Not only do you root for the main characters but you'll become attached to the troubled spinster boss with an attitude and the inflexible landlord wanting to sell Sammi's historic home from under her."—Monroe Daily on HOW TO SCORE

"How to Score is the perfect beach book."—Monroe Daily on HOW TO SCORE

"BETWEEN THE SHEETS is romantic comedy at its best. The romances are sweet, passionate, believable, and, at times, hilarious. Southern charm infuses the setting and people of Chartreuse and adds the perfect atmosphere to the hijinks. BETWEEN THE SHEETS is a highly recommended tale that will enchant everyone."—Romance Reviews Today on BETWEEN THE SHEETS"If you want something light and fun, Between the Sheets is the book for you. There's no way you'll be able to feel down while reading it. It's totally enjoyable, and it's guaranteed to take you away for a few blissful hours."—Nightsandweekends.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"Good characterization and a sense of social awareness without preaching helps this to be a recommended read."—The Good, The Bad the Unread on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"Rarely are the sexual exploits of the over-70 set described with such humor and heat."—Disaboom.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"Between the Sheets is written with just the right amount of humor. Robin Wells puts the spotlight on several timely issues--relationships of the elderly, Alzheimer's, prostitution, and dealing with scandals. This book is a classic love story. Grams and Harold's love story was my favorite part of the book. Do not begin reading Between the Sheets until you have time to finish it; you will not be able to put it down."—Reviewyourbook.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"BETWEEN THE SHEETS is a fascinating contemporary romance starring a likable lead character whose reputation is ruined yet she keeps her head up high. Although insisting that she was not the he hooker, Emma is in many ways is like Monica Wolinsky who has kept her head high and has achieved plenty of earned success since her fifteen minutes of notoriety fame. The grandparents and Max add strength to a refreshing interesting character study starring a maligned yet argent heroine who holds her head up in spite of media and public ridicule (you go Monica - you earned it)."—Harriet Klausner on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"I absolutely loved this book! It has all the elements a reader looks for in a great story. I cried, I laughed out loud and I got butterflies. BETWEEN THE SHEETS by Robin Wells is truly a must-read."—Freshfiction.com on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"A delightful mix of humor and love! Romantic comedy at its best!"
New York Times bestselling author Sandra Hill on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"Robin Wells has written a refreshing, tender love story. The grandparents crazy romance added comic relief to this compelling tale."—Contemporary Romance Writers on BETWEEN THE SHEETS

"A phenomenal love story, STILL THE ONE is a tangled web of lies, fate, and unrequited romance. With more twists and turns than the proverbial soap opera, (but a lot more fun!), this novel will keep readers glued to the pages until the end.... The dialogue is sharp and the emotion palpable... STILL THE ONE is a great read for a spring day!"—RomRevToday.com

Library Journal
Resigned to being on her own after her husband is killed in Iraq, Katie Charmaine is shocked when Zack Ferguson, a man who dated and deserted her when she was 17, shows up in tiny Chartreuse, LA, with their rebellious (and pregnant) 16-year-old daughter, whom she'd given up at birth. But Gracie needs a family, whether she wants one or not, and it's up to Katie and Zack to provide it. VERDICT With sympathetic, memorable characters, a touching story, gentle humor, and evocative writing, Wells's latest will please fans who like their contemporaries with a Southern flair. Wells (How To Score) lives near New Orleans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446555982
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/1/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 4.28 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Wells
Before becoming a full-time writer, Robin Wells was an advertising and public-relations executive. Robin has won the RWA Golden Heart Award, two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Holt Medallion, and CRW's Award of Excellence.

Robin currently lives just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband and two daughters.

For more information please visit http://www.robinwells.com/

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First Chapter

Still the One


By Wells, Robin

Forever

Copyright © 2010 Wells, Robin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780446555982

CHAPTER ONE

“What are you doing Saturday night?” Lulu’s protuberant green eyes, magnified by her round horn-rimmed eyeglasses, met Katie Charmaine’s light brown ones in the salon mirror.

The question set off Katie’s internal cupid alarm. Lulu had promised to quit playing matchmaker, but that was three fix-ups ago. “I’m not sure,” Katie hedged as she towel-dried Lulu’s red curls. “Why?”

“Well, I was wondering if you want to come over for dinner.”

Katie blotted Lulu’s hair, aware that the four other women in her kitschy pink-and-black beauty shop were actively listening over the drum of rain on the salon’s slanted roof. Not that they could help it; the Acadian-style Curl Up ’N Dye beauty salon was only slightly larger than the space shuttle. The two stylist’s chairs, the manicure station, and the window-seat waiting area were within such close proximity that all conversations were public property.

But then, most conversations in Chartreuse were like that, anyway. The close-knit nature of the community was both the blessing and the curse of living in the small Louisiana town.

Katie put down the towel, picked up a wide-toothed comb, and eyed Lulu sternly in the mirror—or, at least, as sternly as she could manage. Katie’s late husband used to say that her face was half angel, half pixie, and that she couldn’t muster a stern look if her life depended on it. “When we have kids, they’re going to walk all over you,” Paul used to tease.

The fact he’d died before she’d been able to prove him wrong was the tragedy of Katie’s life. Pushing aside the thought, Katie slid the comb into Lulu’s hair. “You’re not trying to fix me up again, are you, Lulu?”

“Oh, no!” Lulu’s eyes rounded in faux innocence.

Bev, the tall, angular stylist dabbing a shade called Brown Sugar onto the retired librarian’s gray roots in the next chair, let out a disbelieving snort. One of Katie’s closest friends, the forty-something blonde winked at Katie in the mirror. “Lulu would never do that. How could you even think such a thing?”

Katie opted to ignore Bev’s sarcasm. “So it would just be dinner with you and your family?” Katie pressed.

“Well…” Lulu fiddled with the edge of the pink-and-black polka-dotted styling cape draped around her like a giant bib. “Not exactly.”

Just as Katie suspected. She worked the comb through Lulu’s short curls. “So who else, exactly, will be there?”

“Well…” Lulu blinked earnestly. “My Robby just put porcelain veneers on a new patient from Hammond.”

“A male patient?” Rachel the manicurist looked up from Josie Pringle’s hangnail, her straight black bob swinging.

Lulu nodded, nearly jerking the comb out of Katie’s hand. “He’s single and he’s really nice and now he has a beautiful smile, so I thought I’d invite him over, too.”

“And you don’t call that a fix-up?” Katie demanded.

“Oh, no!” Lulu said. “The thought never occurred to me.”

Bev snorted again.

“You’re a terrible liar, Lulu,” Rachel said.

“Not to mention incorrigible,” Katie added.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Lulu turned up her palms and attempted to look baffled. Since it wasn’t far from her usual expression, it wasn’t much of a stretch. “I’m just inviting a couple of friends to dinner.”

“A couple of friends you happen to be fixing up on a blind date,” Bev said.

Rachel giggled.

“Nice try, Lulu,” called Josie, an attractive thirty-nine-year-old brunette who was rocking her sleeping eight-month-old daughter’s stroller with her foot as she got her nails done.

“I think you should go, Katie,” said Mrs. Street, the elderly librarian.

“Yeah,” called Josie. “It never hurts to meet new people.”

Katie stifled a sigh. She knew her friends meant well, she really did, but she wished they’d quit trying to meddle in her life. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

“He’s got beautiful teeth now,” Lulu said earnestly. “You know what good work my Robby does.” She flashed her own shockingly white veneers, which slanted out like a row of venetian blinds. Robby really should have sent Lulu for some orthodontic work before slapping those puppies on her overbite, Katie thought for the umpteenth time.

She ran the comb down Lulu’s scalp, sectioning off the front from the back. “I really appreciate the thought, Lulu, but I’m not interested.”

“Still?”

“Still.” And probably not ever, she thought, tackling a snarl in Lulu’s hair.

“Katie, honey,” Mrs. Street said gently from the next chair, “it’s been two years.”

Two years, six months, and four days, to be exact—and if she turned and looked at the clock, she could pinpoint exactly how many hours and minutes had gone by as well. Her life was divided into before and after 6:10 that fateful Tuesday morning. That was the time glowing on her bedside alarm clock when she’d awakened from a dream of Paul—a dream so real, she’d thought the pillow against her back was her husband spooning her—to realize the doorbell was ringing. She’d gotten up and padded to the door, the dream still wrapped around her like a blanket, expecting to see the UPS delivery man with the new chair she’d ordered as a welcome-home surprise for Paul.

Instead, she’d peered out the sidelight window and seen two Marines in full-dress uniform standing on her porch. A scream had started in her soul, pumped through her veins, and burst out her throat. She remembered covering her ears—from her screams? From the doorbell? From reality? She still didn’t know—and running into the kitchen. She would probably still be there, rocking back and forth on the floor, her fingers plugged in her ears, chanting, No! No! No! if Sue Greenley across the street hadn’t seen the military van parked at the curb. Guessing the awful reason, she’d come over, let herself in with the key Katie kept under the potted fern by the back door, and sat beside her on the kitchen floor while the Marines delivered the awful news.

“It’s time you got back out there, Katie,” Josie was saying now.

What was the point? A man like Paul didn’t come along twice in a lifetime. For most women, he didn’t even come along once. Paul had been The One. Everyone else was destined to be second-rate, second-choice, second-best.

She was relieved to have the conversation interrupted by the jangle of the bells on the beveled-glass door. She looked up to see Eula, the local real-estate agent, step inside, bringing the scent of rain and a blast of humid July air with her.

Eula thought ladybugs brought good luck and always wore at least one ladybug accessory. Today’s ensemble featured a blue ladybug-emblazoned scarf tied amid the wattles of her chinless neck.

“Hi, Eula,” Katie called, glad for the distraction. “Any news on who’s moving into the Ashton house?”

The whole town had been buzzing about the sale of an elderly couple’s home to a large Las Vegas consortium days earlier.

“No, but we’ll know soon enough.” The heavyset woman shook out her ladybug-printed umbrella. “I had to unlock the place for a fancy interior designer from New Orleans a couple of days ago, and she’s had painters and carpenters working through the night. I saw a Hurwitz Mintz Furniture truck outside the house on my way here. Apparently the new owner is moving in today or tomorrow.”

A murmur arose among the women. “Why would someone buy a house they hadn’t even seen?” Rachel wondered.

“Maybe they just plan to use it as a vacation home,” Josie suggested.

“Why would anyone want to vacation here?” Lulu asked.

It was a good question. Chartreuse, Louisiana, was not exactly a tourist mecca.

“I think it’s someone in the witness protection program,” Bev said, wiping a blob of hair color off Mrs. Street’s neck.

“Or maybe a mobster,” Josie said. “It’s obviously someone with money, and Nellie says all the businesses in Vegas are connected to the mafia.”

Lulu rolled her bobble eyes. “Nellie thinks she knows everything.”

“That’s because she usually does,” Rachel said. “At least about what’s going on in town, anyway.”

It was true. As the clerk at the town’s only drugstore, Nellie had insider information on practically everyone. Unfortunately, she also had one of the biggest mouths in town.

“Speaking of Nellie…” Eula closed her umbrella and turned to Josie, who was peering in the stroller at her baby. “I was in the drugstore this morning, and I heard you might have some news to share.”

Josie looked up. “Oh, yeah?”

“Nellie says you bought a pregnancy test yesterday.”

Josie’s mouth curved in dismay. “Nellie wasn’t even there! I made sure she was on her lunch break.”

“Nellie counts the EPTs and condoms before she leaves the store, and if any are missing when she comes back, she looks back through the security tapes to see who bought them,” Bev volunteered.

“Good heavens. Is that even legal?” Mrs. Street asked.

Rachel shrugged. “As long as her dad owns the place, I guess she can do what she wants.”

“So… are you expecting again?” Lulu asked eagerly.

“Mercy, no!” Josie protested. “I didn’t buy the test for myself.”

“If it wasn’t for you, then who…” Lulu stopped mid-sentence. Her eyes rounded. “Oh, Lord—Madeline?” she asked in a choked whisper.

Madeline was Josie’s seventeen-year-old daughter—exactly the same age that Katie had been when she’d…

The comb slipped through Katie’s fingers and clattered to the floor.

“Oh, no!” Josie’s eyebrows shot up in horror. She waved her hands back and forth and vigorously shook her head. “No, no, no! She’s barely seventeen. Are you crazy?”

Katie hadn’t even realized she’d been holding her breath until she exhaled.

“Well, then, who’d you buy the test for?” Lulu demanded.

“Fifi.”

“Your dog?”

Josie sheepishly nodded. “She got outside before I knew she was in heat, and I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t already in a family way before I paid the ridiculous fee at the poodle stud farm.”

Laughter filled the room. “There’s a poodle stud farm?” Eula asked.

Josie nodded. “Just outside New Orleans. It’s called Who’s Your Daddy.”

The women laughed again.

“Pregnancy tests work on dogs?” Mrs. Street asked.

“I sure hope so,” Josie said. “It came out negative.”

Lulu’s forehead crinkled thoughtfully. “How did you get her to pee on the little stick?”

“I didn’t,” Josie said when the howls of laughter died down. “I took her for a walk and dipped it in the grass afterward.” Her brow pulled into a worried frown. “You don’t think other people will think I bought that test for Maddie, do you?”

“Oh, no,” Bev said. “Not the way you and Marcus go at it.”

The whole salon roared. Josie had a total of six children—the youngest of whom began to squall in the stroller.

“I’ll have to skip the polish, Rachel.” Josie sighed, pulling her hands out of the water bowl and wiping them on the towel. “The baby’s not going to give me time to let it dry.”

As Josie bent to pick up her baby, Katie knelt to retrieve the comb, which had slid underneath the counter. The bells on the salon door jangled again as she extended her arm and reached under the bottom shelf, her butt in the air, her short khaki skirt riding up her thighs.

“Is Katie here?” asked a deep male voice.

Oh, great. That was probably Derwin, the pompous, beer-bellied hair product salesman. Thanks to Lulu’s not-so-subtle hints that Katie was single, he stopped by in his pink panel van every week, even though Katie only placed an order every other month or so.

“She’s, uh, right over there,” Rachel said in an oddly breathy voice.

Terrific. He was getting a good look at her airborne backside—which would probably encourage him to stop by even more frequently. Katie grabbed the comb and started to rise, only to bang her head on the countertop. Wincing, she scrambled to her feet, turned around, and stared directly into a blast from the past.

No. No way. It couldn’t be.

But it was. The shiver of attraction skittering up her spine confirmed it. Standing in the entryway was not the bald-headed sales rep she’d expected, but Zack Ferguson—the boy who’d stolen her heart and broken it into a million pieces the summer after her junior year in high school.

Except he wasn’t a boy any longer. He’d been at least six feet tall when she’d known him, but he seemed to have gained another inch or two in height, and his once-lanky frame had filled out into the kind of broad-shouldered, muscular build that women fantasized about. His face had matured into a study of planes and angles, with a strong nose, a cleft in his chin, and a five-o’clock shadow, even though it was only two in the afternoon. He’d been cute as a teenager, but now he was devastatingly handsome—the kind of handsome that should come with a warning label, the kind that any sensible female would steer clear of, because he was no doubt accustomed to getting whatever he wanted from women.

He’d certainly gotten it from Katie eighteen years ago. The thought made her stomach tighten.

“Hello, Kate,” he said now.

Kate, not Katie. He’d been the first person to call her that, and at seventeen, it had been a heady experience. It had made her feel grown-up and worldly, as if she were an adult whose thoughts and opinions counted.

It had been a seriously bad delusion.

Still, the sound of her name on his lips made her heart patter like the rain on the salon roof, and it took a moment before she could make her mouth move. “Wh-what are you doing here?”

“I’m moving to Chartreuse, so I thought I’d come by and say hello.”

Katie felt as if the room had suddenly tilted. The women in the salon all murmured.

“So you’re the person moving into the old Ashton house?” Bev ventured.

“That’s right.”

Eula scrambled to her feet and thrust out her hand. “I’m Eula Belle Johnson—the Realtor who handled the property sale.”

Zack shook her hand. “Nice to meet you. Thank you for doing such an excellent job.”

“Oh, it was my pleasure.” The older woman gazed up at him as if in a trance. She must have realized she’d been pumping his hand as if it were a tire jack, because she blushed and abruptly pulled it away. “So you’re associated with Winning Strategies, Incorporated?”

Zack nodded. “I’m the CEO.”

Lulu whirled around in her stylist chair and flashed an overly white, bucktoothed grin. “Well, welcome to Chartreuse! I’m Lulu.” She swept her hand around at the other women. “And this is Mrs. Street and Bev and Josie and Eula and Rachel. And apparently you already know Katie.”

Avoiding looking at Katie, he nodded and smiled at each of the other women. “Nice to meet you. I’m Zack Ferguson.”

Oh, God—how had Katie forgotten about his smile? He hadn’t even turned it on her, yet she felt it like a heat lamp. The appeal of Zack’s smile was more than the physical components of straight white teeth, deep-set dimples, and devastating crinkles at the corner of his blue, blue eyes; it was a force of nature, a lightning bolt of testosterone, a shot of pure sex appeal, and she wasn’t the only woman affected by it. Rachel spastically licked her lips, Josie looked as if she’d dived headfirst into a bucket of blush, and Eula was tugging on the ladybug scarf around her throat as if it was suddenly too tight. Even the retired librarian was fanning off a hot flash, and she was a good fifteen years past menopause.

A murmur of “Nice to meet yous” sounded around the room.

The librarian regarded him thoughtfully. “Zack Ferguson, the poker champion?”

He inclined his head. “I used to be. I no longer compete.”

“Oh, my husband idolizes you!” Mrs. Street gushed. “He has the whole series of your Play to Win CDs.”

The last time Katie had looked Zack up on the Internet—which had been about seven years ago, before she married Paul—he’d been the top-rated poker player in the world, living a jet-set lifestyle and dating a Victoria’s Secret model. She hadn’t been all that surprised at his success; he’d been an amazing card shark even at seventeen. He’d spent most of his evenings that summer hustling cards in the back room of the roadhouse the next town over, and he’d made a small fortune.

“So what brings you to Chartreuse?” Rachel asked.

He stuck his hand in the pocket of his jeans. “Well, actually, Katie does.”

The women collectively gasped.

No one gasped louder than Katie. “Me?”

He dipped his head in a curt, all-business nod, his eyes giving away nothing. “Is there someplace we can go to talk?”

Panic shot through her veins. “I—I’m sorry, but I’m with a client.”

“Oh, honey, don’t you worry about me.” Lulu’s bug eyes were fixed on Zack as if he were a double serving of mile-high pie.

“But your hair’s wet and I haven’t cut it yet, and…”

Lulu wafted her hand in a dismissive wave. “That’s just fine. I’ll come back later.”

“But—but…” Panic narrowed Katie’s throat.

“Oh, dear! Silly old me.” Lulu jumped out of the chair and pulled the polka-dotted cape off her neck. “I think I left my oven on!” Her wet hair dripped onto her white linen shirt, creating transparent spots. “I better head home right now and turn it off.”

She gave Zack a broad wink as she reached for her enormous orange leather purse and black umbrella on the counter. He rewarded her with another smile, causing Lulu to flush like a smitten groupie. She teetered to the door on her high-heeled orange mules, her eyes never leaving his face. Zack stepped forward and opened the door for her, then took her umbrella, stuck it out the door, and opened it as well.

“Oh, my,” Lulu murmured, placing one hand against her chest and shooting Katie a look that clearly said, Don’t let this one get away. “How gentlemanly. Thank you!”

“My pleasure.” The wind blew his thick dark hair as he closed the door behind Lulu and turned to Katie.

He had gorgeous hair—thick and wavy, so deep a brown it was almost black. It looked overdue for a trim, but it had been cut by someone who knew what they were doing. Katie could usually tell a lot about a person by their hair, but she wasn’t sure exactly what Zack’s hair was telling her.

She wasn’t at all sure about his face, either. It must be all that poker playing, because his expression was inscrutable.

“Guess this means you’re free for a few minutes,” he said. “Is there someplace around here where we can get a cup of coffee?”

“The Chartreuse Café is right around the corner,” Rachel volunteered.

Zack’s eyebrows quirked up. “That old place is still in business?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s like sharks and cockroaches—it’ll still be here, unchanged, long after everything else is extinct and gone,” Eula said.

“So you’ve been to Chartreuse before?” Bev prompted.

Zack nodded. “I spent the summer here with my aunt’s family eighteen years ago.”

“Really? Is that when you met Katie?” Josie asked.

“As a matter of fact, it is.”

The memories of that summer flooded her mind. Katie had been seventeen, working at the bait-and-tackle shop down at the lake. When Zack had walked through the door one hot afternoon, his gray T-shirt clinging to his lean frame, her lungs had felt as if they’d forgotten how to work.

“How do you breathe in here?” he’d asked.

For a moment, she thought he’d read her mind. “What?”

“The sign on the door says live bait, but it smells like it’s been dead for days.”

“Oh.” He was talking about the odor rising from the cooler of day-old shrimp by the door—of course. She lifted her shoulders. “After a while, you get used to it.”

“You mean it doesn’t bother you?”

“No. I mean I’m used to being bothered.”

He’d laughed, a hearty, appreciative laugh, and the sound made her heart feel like it was tied to a hot-air balloon. He hooked a thumb toward the cooler at the back of the store. “Let me grab a Coke and I’ll come bother you some more.”

The door opened as he sauntered to the rear of the store, and two men in orange hunting vests ambled in. The stench of stale beer clung to them like sweat. Their bloodshot eyes ran over her in a way that had made her skin crawl. “Oo-ee. Lookee what we got here,” said the taller one.

The shorter, chubbier one, who had a stubbled chin and a scar by his eye, stared at her chest. Apparently the cretin could read, because when his gaze eventually made its way to her nametag—Katie Landers—his contiguous eyebrow rose. “Hey—are you Mona’s girl?”

Her stomach had clenched. She didn’t want to say yes, but it would be disloyal to deny her own mother. She nodded her head.

“I knew it. My, my, my. The apple sure don’t fall far from the tree.” He gazed pointedly at her breasts.

The taller one chortled, revealing two missing bottom teeth. “How old are you, honey?”

Katie decided to ignore the question. “May I help you with something?”

“Well, now, that just depends,” the shorter one said. “You ever party with your old lady?”

The other one gave a phlegmy cackle. Katie felt her face flame.

“Your mama, she sure knows how to party.”

Oh, God. Her mother had a drinking problem, and when she drank, she didn’t always remember what she did.

“Know what I hear? I hear she’s hot and heavy with the mayor now,” the taller one said.

Katie’s mouth went dry. She’d known the news was all over town, but being confronted with it head-on made her want to barf.

“Yes, sir, you’re your mama’s daughter, all right. The family resemblance is right there for all to see.” His eyes locked on her breasts in a way that had made her feel as if he could see through her shirt. “Yesirree. Your mama’s mighty fine, but I do believe you’ve got an even nicer pair of…”

“Leave her alone,” said an authoritative voice from the back of the store.

The men turned as Zack strode up. The shorter one squinted at him. “Who the hell are you?”

“The mayor’s nephew. And he’s not going to like hearing that you two are spreading nasty rumors about him.”

The short one spat in the trash can. “We don’t care what he likes and don’t like.”

“Yeah, well, maybe you’ll care to know that when folks tick him off, he gets the police to follow them. Before they know it, they’re being stopped for speeding or reckless driving or worse, and it’s their word against the cop’s.”

The two men looked at each other.

“We were just havin’ some fun,” the tall one said. They both edged toward the door.

“You picked on the wrong girl.” Zack’s brow lowered into a badass scowl. “Now get the hell out of here and don’t bother her again.”

The door banged behind them after they scurried outside. The tires of their dirty red pickup threw up a rooster tail of gravel as they squealed out of the parking lot.

Zack plopped the can of Coke on the counter. “When you said you were used to being bothered, you weren’t kidding, were you?”

“No.” To Katie’s chagrin, tears sprang to her eyes.

Zack’s eyes went all warm and sympathetic, which made a lump the size of a bullfrog form in her throat.

“Hey—don’t let them get to you. They’re just a couple of losers.”

“But what they said about my mom…” A tear snaked down her cheek. She scrubbed it away with her fist.

“They’re full of bull.”

“No.” Katie drew in a ragged breath. “It’s true.”

He just kept looking at her with that same warm, nonjudgmental gaze. “So? Your mom’s not you. None of us get to pick our relatives.” His mouth curved in a wry smile. “If we did, I’d sure ask for another set.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Mine parked me here for the summer because neither one wanted me around.”

The frankness of the remark disarmed her. “Where are you from?”

“Chicago.” He’d grinned at her, and his smile had worked its magic.

She wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Are you really the mayor’s nephew?”

He’d given a rueful nod. “He’s married to my mom’s sister, sad to say. He’s another relative I’d disown if I could.”

She’d given a tremulous grin, and his smile had widened. In the heat of it, she’d forgotten how to breathe.

She had to remind herself to take a breath now.

Rachel’s gaze darted from Zack to Katie, then back to Zack. “Have you and Katie stayed in touch all this time?”

“No.” Zack turned his blue eyes on her, and a flame of heat licked her neck. “We have some catching up to do.”

Yeah,thought Katie. Maybe you’d care to explain why you left town without a word, phone number, or forwarding address the day after we first made love. Katie’s spine stiffened against the old hurt.

“Well, you two run along—and take your time.” Bev flapped her wrist at them. “After Eula, I’m free for the rest of the afternoon, so I can take your next appointment. You’re going out to the retirement home later anyway, right?”

“Um… right.” Katie felt an irrational urge to dash out the back door.

“Ready?” Zack asked.

No. But if he was moving here, she’d have to talk to him sooner or later. Might as well get it over with.

Besides, he could no longer hurt her. Everything between them had happened nearly two decades ago. She’d handled things then, and she could certainly handle them now.

Couldn’t she?

She forced herself to smile. “Sure.” Grabbing her purse and umbrella, she followed Zack to the door.



Continues...

Excerpted from Still the One by Wells, Robin Copyright © 2010 by Wells, Robin. 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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A touching, romantic, and realistic story.

    I absolutely loved this story. Katie's inability to let go of her husband was so sad to me. I've lost family members before, but I think loosing someone who you've decided to spend your life with must be devastating. However, I think that at some point you do have to move on with your life. Zack and Gracie were just what Katie needed to move on. I got the sense that she was really ready to move on, but her heart was standing in the way. Which is all understandable.

    I didn't really "relate" to any of the characters, as I've never been in any of their situations. But they were still great characters. Zack was so head strong and thought he would be able to come in "fix" what was wrong and go back to his normal life. But Gracie and Katie, unintentionally, set his life on a different path. And Gracie, wow, what a work of art she was. But again, with every thing going on in her life, how could she not be a mess emotionally.

    As with most all romance stories I knew how it would end, but with this one having pegged the entire end of the story was not at all a disappointment. It was such a great ending. There weren't many loose ends with this one, but I would love to read a book that focuses on Gracie and the struggles that come with being a young mother. I think that would be a great addition to the story.

    I don't give out 5-star ratings that often, and I'm not 100% sure what it was about this one that compelled me to dole one out this time: I think it was a mixture of great writing, a touching story, believable characters, and situations that most anyone could picture themselves in. Plus this book just left me feeling so warm and happy.

    A review copy of this book was provided by the author. This is not a paid review and is a truthful and honest review.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Complex and Robust

    STILL THE ONE by Robin Wells is a story full of heartache, pain, and love. Like so many other wives before her, Katie suffers the shock of finding that her husband has been killed during his second tour of duty in Iraq. That right there should be enough to hook many readers and tug on a few heartstrings. Ms. Wells takes the story of the war widow and brings it to life within the pages of this book. Readers are left to ponder the question of what they would do if their spouse, their love, was gone, leaving behind only a few material possessions and no biological legacy.

    That's certainly what ripped my heart open anyway.

    It's not enough that Katie's husband is dead, he has to leave her with no children as well. What could make this situation any worse than it already is? Katie has actually already had a child and gave that baby girl up for adoption nearly seventeen years ago. Still raw with the pain of losing her husband and therefore the opportunity to have children and family of her own, Katie is in for a nasty surprise when an ex-lover shows up along with her sixteen-year-old daughter.

    What made STILL THE ONE such a great ready was Ms. Wells ability to create a realistic and believable story while manipulating our emotions in every way imaginable. One would think, okay, so Gracie and Zack show up. So what? It's not like the sudden appearance of her daughter would be enough to suddenly put joy into Katie's heart. The daughter might be angry and could just walk out and leave, then where would Katie be? And Zack? What reason would he have to stay? He's the father to Gracie and only just recently discovered as much. He has every reason in the world to be mad at Katie for not telling him about their child.

    Ms. Wells solves this dilemma by introducing a reason why the three need to stay together - Gracie is pregnant. Gracie needs her parents in this confusing time and both Katie and Zack have to find a way to forgive each other in order to help her. Who knows, perhaps forgiveness will remind the two of the connection their hearts once shared.

    I found the mix of pain and love in STILL THE ONE to be the main factor in keeping the pages flipping as fast as my eyes would allow. Simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful, Ms. Wells writes a story that sticks in the mind and permeates dreams. Her characters are relatable and it's impossible not to feel a certain amount of involvement with them. This is one of those books where, once the last page has turned and the characters are left behind, you sit staring at the back cover trying to figure out what you feel such a sense of loss and loneliness.

    I recommend STILL THE ONE to any fans of romance fiction. I couldn't ask for a more touching story, one that truly gives you hope in the world and the people in it. As a sidetone, if you've read Between the Sheets by Robin Wells, you will probably recognize some characters and references in STILL THE ONE.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    Second Chances and first loves.

    STILL THE ONE by Robin Wells is a Inspirational Contemporary Romance set in modern day Chartreuse,Louisiana. It is well written with depth and detail. This is a heartwarming story of first love and the consequences of that love. It is about forgiveness, romance, betrayal, family drama, reuniting with first love, second chances at love and happiness. The characters both the hero and heroine and the secondary characters will pull at your heart strings.When the hero founds out he has a daughter seventeen, he did not even know about, but she finds him after the death of her adopted parents. She is also pregnant. One of the options her adopted aunt sets is he and the birth mother must share joint custody of the young teenager.The heroine always hoped to one day meet the daughter she had to give up as a teenager, who wanted to give her child the best life possible. What inspires is a wonderful, heartwarming story of love and second chances.I would recommend this story if you enjoy love, romance and second chances. This book was received for review and details can be found at Grand Central Publishing and My Book Addiction and More.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 27, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    a poignant often amusing family drama

    In Chartreuse, Louisiana Kate Charmaine and Zack Ferguson spent the greatest and worst summer of their lives together. They were in love, but he was unable to commit to her. She became pregnant and depressingly gave up her child for adoption.

    Seventeen years later, Zack returns to town accompanied by pregnant teenager Gracie, who is the daughter Kate gave up for adoption. Her adoptive parents are dead and her guardian demands she remain with Zack with the stipulation he shares custody with Kate. Stunned by the turn of events, Kate, a widow since her spouse died in Iraq two years ago, is euphoric to meet her biological daughter, looks forward to being a relatively young grandma, but has doubts about Zack who hurt her the first time around.

    The return to Chartreuse (see Between the Sheets) is worth the time as Robin Wells provides a poignant often amusing family drama. The lead triangle is solid as each is fully developed with flaws and problems. Readers will enjoy the second chance contemporary while rooting for a finish from the Bard: "All's well that ends well".

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Still a Great Author

    Author Robin Wells is an accomplished romance author, having written over a dozen titles for Harlequin and won the National Readers' Choice Award for her title, Baby, Oh Baby. She has also won the prestigious National Golden Heart Award from the Romance Writers of America, and her novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Before writing romance she was an advertising and public relations executive. Other titles include: Wild About You, Between the Sheets, Ooh La La, Babe Magnet, Plain Jane Gets Her Man, The Wedding Kiss, The Executive's Baby, and Nine to Five Bride. She resides just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband and two daughters.

    Two years ago Katie Charmaine's husband was killed in his second tour of duty in Iraq, leaving her only with a closet full of clothes, some pictures, and fond memories. Despite her friends meddling in her life, she doesn't want a romantic entanglement, knowing the love she lost was her true soul mate. Then Zack Ferguson shows up in town with the daughter Katie gave up for adoption seventeen years ago. Zack was Katie's first love, and apparently she hasn't gotten over the chemistry that once flared between them. But Zack was and still is a commitment phobe, so what was the point in going down that road again? Except now there was Gracie to consider. Their daughter is seventeen, pregnant, and needs both her parents to help her through this ordeal after losing her adoptive parents. Can these three forgive the sins and hurt from the past to become a real family?

    I had the pleasure of reading one of Robin's other books for review, HOW TO SCORE, which was a hilarious read, but this book was more of a heart-breaker tugging at the emotions. And that's in no way a complaint. Every once and awhile you read a book that stays with you. This is one of them.

    I love a good southern drama. The setting in Louisiana was ideal. This is also the perfect example of a hero and heroine who warrant a happily ever after. You can't help but feel their pain, loss, and struggle as you root for them to be happy. Same goes for the secondary characters. From Gracie to Annette to Dave, they jump off the page and propel the plot. A perfect book to curl up with on the beach or by the fire. Not to be missed!

    Kelly Moran,
    Author and Reviewer

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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