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Until Now (Harlequin Kimani Romance Series #345)

Until Now (Harlequin Kimani Romance Series #345)

4.4 5
by Kayla Perrin

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A kiss to warm her soul… 

Never again, she vows. Now that her abusive ex-husband is in prison, Tamara Jackson has finally found some peace. Life can be sweet—as long as she remembers not to lose herself in another relationship. She pledges to remain strong, independent and single.  

But now change is in the air in the form of a sexy


A kiss to warm her soul… 

Never again, she vows. Now that her abusive ex-husband is in prison, Tamara Jackson has finally found some peace. Life can be sweet—as long as she remembers not to lose herself in another relationship. She pledges to remain strong, independent and single.  

But now change is in the air in the form of a sexy, smoking-hot man. Police detective Marshall Jennings is hardly a stranger—Tamara has known him since college, and now his best friend is married to her best friend, Callie Hart. Marshall's athletic build, flirty ways and persistent pursuit soon have Tamara second-guessing her strategy. 

Just one little fling, she thinks. No strings, he thinks. But they both thought wrong. Passion quickly cascades into something more—a wave of emotions that may sweep them into everlasting love….

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Perrin is an author who belongs on your must-read list".—Romance Reader at Heart

"Perrin does an excellent job of bringing readers a story that expertly borders the line between sweet and sappy. The trials the characters face are relatable and make for a great read."

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Harts in Love Series
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Read an Excerpt

"You won't get away with this, you hear me? You think this is the end of it, but it's not over! I promise you that! It's not over!"

Patrick yelled at the top of his lungs, causing Tamara Jackson to flinch. Michael, her son, who was sitting beside her in the courtroom, gripped her hand tighter. With a sense of dread filling her belly, Tamara watched as her ex-husband was pulled toward the courtroom's exit. He was squirming, trying to free himself from the bailiffs' grip, and she was sure that if he could, he would lunge at her and cause her bodily harm.

"I'm gonna appeal, and I'll be out of here before you know it. And then you'd better be scared!"

The judge pounded her gavel. "Mr. Jackson, please calm down."

"He's not gonna get out, is he?" Michael asked.

Tamara looked down at her son's eyes that were wide with terror. "No, honey," she told him in a reassuring tone. "He's just trying to scare us because he's angry. He won't get out of jail for a very long time."

"I promise you—I'll be back!"

Bravely, Tamara watched Patrick being led out the door that would take him out of her view—and her life—forever. He twisted his head to give her one last glimpse and then he was gone.

A long, shuddery breath escaped Tamara. It was over. Patrick was gone. She never had to see him again. "You okay?"

Tamara turned to face her mother, who was to her right. She instinctively loosened the grip on her hand. But Michael, on her left, was still holding tight to her other hand as if his life depended on it.

"I'm fine," Tamara said. She didn't feel fine right now, but she knew that she would be. Patrick was going to prison for forty-two years. He wouldn't be a problem again.

Though his promise still frightened her. She had spent years being afraid of him, and she couldn't simply turn off those feelings.

Tamara turned to her son, whose eyes were locked on the door Patrick had just exited through.

"Sweetheart, he's gone. He can't hurt us now."

"You promise?"

"Yes, I can promise you that." Tamara wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close. The prosecutor had assured her that there was no legal loophole for Patrick to file an appeal. The case against him had been ironclad.

Not only had Patrick threatened her and her son's lives, he had also tried to kill her best friend, Callie-Hart Williams—more than once. He'd been charged with kidnapping, two counts of attempted murder, assault causing bodily harm—a host of serious charges. Callie's testimony, earlier in the trial, had been moving and effective, and Tamara had seen a couple of the female jurors wiping away tears. The guilty verdict had been a foregone conclusion from the start.

"I love you," Tamara said, leaning over to rest her face atop Michael's head. "We have each other. We'll be all right."

"I love you, Ma," Michael said, his voice quavering.

Tamara's heart broke for him. No boy should have to sit in a courtroom like this and see his father sentenced to prison. But there was nothing she could do to change the events that had happened.

"Well, that's the end of that," Tamara's father commented and began to rise. "I never did like him."

Tamara bit her tongue. There was no point rehashing the fights she'd had with her parents in the past. No, they hadn't liked Patrick. But yes, she had married him nonetheless. The last thing she wanted to hear from her father now was I-told-you-sos. She had learned her lesson the hard way. All Tamara could do now was pick up the pieces of her life and move on.

And she was going to do so, literally. She was packed and ready to move back to Cleveland, where she had grown up. Callie had moved back there a year ago after Patrick had run her and her son, Kwame, off the road in an attempt to kill them both. As a result of returning to Cleveland, Callie had reconciled with her college sweetheart, who was also the father of the son he had never met. Now they were happily married. Callie and Nigel had invited Tamara and Michael to stay with them for as long as she wanted, and Tamara was taking them up on the offer.

Tamara kept her arms around her son as she stood, bringing him to his feet at the same time. One year. It had been one whole year since her world turned upside down. She was very much looking forward to putting the whole ugly ordeal behind her.

In a phone call, Callie had stressed to Tamara that she didn't need to be in the court to hear the sentencing. She had already been there to witness the verdict. And since Patrick had been found guilty on all charges, Callie assured her the sentence would be lengthy and there was no need to be in the courtroom to hear it. But Tamara knew the opposite to be true. She'd needed to be here. Needed to hear the sentence handed down. For her, it was all about closure.

In the time since Patrick's arrest, Tamara had gone through a year of counseling to deal with everything, not only for herself but also for her son. The counseling sessions had helped her understand what had drawn her to a man like Patrick in the first place.

The most important thing she had come away with was that she had to forgive herself. Sometimes, all you could do was learn from your mistakes, and this was one of those times. Tamara was wiser now in terms of knowing the signs to look for when it came to dangerous men. And she understood what had led her to make some of the decisions she had. Why she had chosen Patrick, why she had stayed. But in the end, the ownership of the behavior belonged to Patrick. She could not blame herself for what he had done.

Part of what she had learned in therapy was that she had been drawn to men who needed nurturing. It was amazing how you could think you had your life together, how you could see other people's problems, and yet so dismally fail at recognizing your own. Tamara had never put together the pieces that having had a father who was emotionally distant had led her to pick men who were like injured birds. Men she believed that with her love she could help learn to fly again.

"I do wish you would reconsider moving to Cleveland," her mother said once they were out of the courtroom.

"I know," Tamara said. She had already heard their objections to her plan. "But it's something I have to do." Tamara's parents believed the move would be temporary. But Tamara had other plans. She had taken a leave of absence from her job just in case, but she had every intention of making Cleveland her home again.

A new but familiar start.

"Right now you need to be with your family," her mother stressed. "We want to help you through this."

"And you have. In this past year, you've helped me a lot. I understand that you're worried, but Michael and I will be okay. Being here in Florida…emotionally, I can't handle it. And Michael has had a tough time, too. I think it's best for both of us that we put Florida behind us, at least for the time being."

"You're leaving your job behind," her father piped in. "How do you intend to survive?"

"I have savings," Tamara said. "And I can get another job. I can work in real estate in Cleveland if I have to."

Her father scoffed, and Tamara tried to ignore the wave of disappointment washing over. She was thirty-two, a mother and entitled to make her own decisions. She didn't need her parents' approval.

Now, of all times in her life, she needed to stand on her own two feet. But she didn't dare mention her future plans to her parents at this point—which included a change in career paths—because they would surely object.

"I know you'll miss me," Tamara said gently. "I'll miss you, too. But I'm going to be with Callie and Nigel, and Michael will have his old friend Kwame to make the transition easier. Please understand, this is something I need to do."

A look of resignation passed over her mother's face, and then she pulled Tamara into an embrace. "I love you. Your father and I just want the best for you."

"I know that."

"You're heading out tomorrow, then?" her father asked, and Tamara could tell that he was holding in his emotions. He had been emotionally aloof all of his life, but she knew that he loved her.

"Yes," she answered. "In the morning, we'll start the drive."

"You are still coming for dinner?" her mother asked hopefully.

"Yes." Tamara smiled. "Yes, of course."

Tamara looked at Michael, who had been silent during the conversation. His eyes were downcast, and she could only imagine what he was thinking.

Her poor son. Eight years old now, and he had endured more than he should. He deserved a father who loved him, not one who had made their household a nightmare. Things had soured for Patrick when he'd lost his high-paying consultant job and couldn't find a new position. He'd turned to the bottle and spiraled out of control. On more than one occasion, he'd belabored the point that he was the man, and that he should be able to provide for his family. No matter how many times Tamara had reminded Patrick that they were still doing well, that they hadn't lost everything, that their savings were going to see them through until he got another job, he didn't want to hear it.

Stop thinking about Patrick, she told herself. She knew it was easier said than done. But with her divorce decree in hand as of last week, and Patrick's sentencing today, things were already looking better.

"You know," her father began, "there's no reason that you have to leave so soon. Your house hasn't even sold yet."

"Callie's sister is getting married on Saturday," Tamara said, something she had already explained.

"I understand that," her father said. "But you can fly out there for a few days, enjoy the wedding and then come back. I don't understand why you're selling your house if it's a temporary move."

"Because she doesn't want to live in the house she shared with Patrick," her mother pointed out, sounding a little exasperated. "Surely you can understand that, Howard."

"Yes, that makes sense," he said. "But shouldn't she be here to see about securing another property, at—"

"I want to go to Cleveland," Michael suddenly interjected.

Surprised, Tamara and her parents all looked down at him.

"Tomorrow," Michael went on, looking at Tamara, his eyes pleading. "I don't want to wait."

"I know, baby." Tamara stroked his face, feeling his pain. She knew it hadn't been easy for her son in the months after his father's arrest. The kids at school hadn't been kind. They'd had to stay in Florida to deal with the charges and the trial, but it was clear now that Michael was ready for a fresh start as much as she was.

She placed her hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eye. "Don't you worry, son. We're going to Cleveland tomorrow, just as planned."

Cleveland represented a new beginning.

A new life.

Chapter 2

A trial, a divorce and a wedding.

Tamara played the words over in her mind as she drove into Cleveland, thinking that she might just have come up with the next winning title for a British comedy. Starring Idris Elba, of course—one seriously fine British brother.

Only Idris wouldn't play her crazed ex-husband. No, he would have to be a new, sexy stranger who would come into her life.

Tamara rolled her eyes and chuckled mirthlessly, then concentrated on the task at hand—looking for the exit that would lead her to St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church. Why were her thoughts even heading in the direction of any type of sexy stranger? Now that her divorce was final, she was literally and figuratively free of anyone holding her back, and the last thing she was interested in was dating. Her only focus was herself and her son completely.

A short while later, Tamara exited Interstate 490 and headed onto East Fifty-Fifth Street. She maneuvered her way to Cedar Avenue, where the historic church was located. As she reached the church, she saw a white Bentley parked outside the front. A bow adorned the car's front emblem, with two lengths of white ribbon extending to the side mirrors. White ribbon was also looped through the wrought-iron railings lining the steps, and capped off with bows at the top and bottom. A red carpet extended from the church doors down the steps to the road where the car was parked.

It was elegant and beautiful. And reminded Tamara of her own wedding day. She inhaled sharply with the memory. She didn't want to think about that day, not with the reality of how horribly her marriage had turned out.

Tamara turned into the parking lot and found an available space without too much trouble. She spent a few minutes touching up her makeup, which was all the time she could afford. She was running a little later than she had hoped, getting to the church with about twelve minutes to spare before the ceremony was to begin. She'd taken an extra day during her drive from Florida, which meant she had to travel on the day of Deanna's wedding, and that had put her a bit behind schedule.

"You ready, Michael?" Tamara said as she opened the back door for her son.

He nodded, but his eyes were still glued to his Nintendo DS gaming system.

"Okay. Time to put away your DS. We have to go inside and get a seat."

Tamara wished she had gotten to Cleveland earlier so that she could have changed into her dress at Callie's house. But traveling with Michael, she hadn't wanted to spend two excessively long days on the road. So driving this morning had been a must. As Michael got out of the car, she smoothed the back of her dress, hoping that the three-hour car ride hadn't made it too wrinkled. Then she grabbed the blazer for Michael's suit from the backseat and helped him into it.

Tamara hurried into the church with Michael. An usher handed her a glossy wedding program, with a lovely photo of Deanna and Eric posing on either side of a tree. Then Tamara and Michael headed into the sanctuary and settled in seats halfway up on the bride's side.

"Where's Kwame?" Michael asked.

"I don't know, son, but he might be in the wedding. You'll see him later."

Michael nodded but didn't look up. His gaze was on his hands. Tamara put her arm around him and squeezed. A year had passed since Michael had seen Kwame, and Tamara had no doubt that the boys would pick up where they'd left off. There was a two-year age difference between them, and Kwame had always been like a big brother to Michael.

Kwame's relationship with Michael was one of the reasons that Tamara made the decision to head back to Cleveland. She'd grown up here, but left for Florida when her parents moved there. Later, she'd started college there, and Callie had come down to join her in the "sunshine state" after she got pregnant.

Meet the Author

Kayla Perrin has been writing since the age of thirteen. She is a USA TODAY and Essence bestselling author of dozens of mainstream and romance novels and has been recognized for her talent, including twice winning Romance Writers of America’s Top Ten Favorite Books of the Year Award. She has also won the Career Achievement Award for multicultural romance from RT Book Reviews. Kayla lives with her daughter in Ontario, Canada. Visit her at www.KaylaPerrin.com.

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Until Now 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read the rest of the series and this book didn't come close to me. Tamara was flaky & I could not relate to her. I knew it was going to be some resistance but she took it too far which made it seem impossible for them to be a couple. I didn't feel a connection.
Doriecurl More than 1 year ago
I thought this story was well written and thought provoking. I enjoyed the story line and the twist and turns until the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed all the books in this series. Great Read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the story. But who vandalized the shop?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this book. Loved the chemistry between the main characters