Read an Excerpt
One Year Later
He ran from the past, from his guilt and his dead dreams. Yet they tangled in the late April air and caught him. Locked in his own private hell, Nick Alessandro ignored the brush bordering the jogging path and the highway running beside it. He didn't see the happy patches of daffodils, bright yellow in the afternoon sun, or the signs meant to attract tourists. On the five-mile run from his home and vineyard to Lake Michigan's small town of Blanchefleur, his lungs ached for air as he pushed himself to the limit, the gravel crunching beneath his running shoes.
Nick fought the nightmare of twelve years ago, the vision of his young bride sprawled on the pavement after a motorcycle accident. Alyssa, his lifetime sweetheart, his wife, his dreams. Alyssa was dead, and he could have prevented her death.
Guilt spiked, almost choking him.
The motorcycle was a toy he'd had to have.
Alyssa was a sweet necessity to his life, his heart, his soul.
The baby she had just told him about was gone, and so were his dreams.
How many times had he damned himself for that motorcycle? For not insisting that she wear a helmet?
The scar along his side and down his thigh reminded him every minute of how he had painfully crawled to her. He hadn't felt the burn of his own torn flesh; terror had moved him across the pavement.
As her husband, he'd been the one to sign the legal papers to take Alyssa off life support. Nothing, not even the land he'd sold to pay for her medical expenses, could bring her back.
"Nice muscle formation." As a personal trainer, Maggie appreciated the smooth flow of the muscles in the jogger's butt, and from the back, the rest of him wasn't bad either. His sweaty tank top clung, and with each stride, power surged beneath the skin from his powerful back, tapering to his waist -- no love handles there, just man in smooth motion -- a symphony of cords, muscle, and bone. He ran easily, sweat glistening on his dark skin, running shoes eating up the gravel path leading to Lake Michigan's small tourist town.
She gauged the man to be about mid-thirties, and he was one sweet piece of male animal, moving easily despite his size. Those defined muscles said he weighed more than he looked, but Maggie's expert trainer's eye estimated him to be about two-twenty.
Seated beside her in the passenger seat, Scout watched the man, and the quiver of muscle beneath the Labrador's thick black coat said she wanted the same freedom of late April's crisp air and sun.
Maggie slowed her pickup truck just a bit to better appreciate the man's bare shoulders and back, the tight butt in the worn loose shorts, and the defined muscles in his thighs and legs. She noted clinically that the brand-name shoes were expensive and worn and should be replaced.
Her appraisal was that of a dispassionate, assessing professional, not a woman. Maggie's fingers tightened on her steering wheel. In trying to survive, she'd lost something -- the ability to feel like a woman.
It had been almost two years since her divorce, even longer since she'd made love. Her interest in the man wasn't sexual, she told herself. She was just a physical fitness professional appreciating a fine-looking male body. That was as far as it went -- it would be a long time before she trusted anyone up close and personal.
When trusted friends, fearing for their own fortunes and welfare, turned from her, hadn't listened or helped, the scars ran deep. Maggie's husband's defection had been the worst -- he wouldn't endanger his business by standing with her against the powerful man who had caused her sister's ruin and death.
Maggie had recognized something of herself in how this man fought his body's limits, pushing himself, focusing within where the shadows weren't warmed by sunlight's kiss.
More heavily built than a sleek competitive runner, the man was evidently prowling over the darkness in him, seeking and frustrated, and fighting the realities he'd found.
Maggie's fingers tightened on her steering wheel. Once her engagement ring and wedding band would have caught the light, and now they were gone. But she'd also lost more than jewelry. She'd lost confidence in trusting the right people and in making the right choices. She'd lost a deep, intimate softness and a lifetime of dreaming about a husband, home, and family. After moving from town to town, trying to reclaim herself, she was bone-tired.
"I'm going to make it work right here, Scout. I'm going to build a clientele, then a business. I'm going to take my parents' things out of storage and make a real home with a real kitchen, my own bathroom, and a nice big backyard for you. I've been running from reality for a year, taking part-time jobs, but it's really time to settle in for whatever peace I can find. But I'm never forgetting Glenda. She'll be with me always."
Maggie had chosen the battlefield on which to fight her past -- and her fear of water, putting all behind her, attempting to manufacture some happiness in her life.
Maggie intended to meet her fear of water -- and conquer it -- in the small Lake Michigan tourist community. She would attempt an everyday familiarity, a gradual sampling, to still her overwhelming fear of water -- in short, she would face the beast in a very private battle.
After waging another furious, futile battle to avenge Glenda, Maggie had learned to hide her emotions, to share little.
But running beside her small truck, the man's emotions slid stark and savage across his face ...With Her Last Breath. Copyright © by Cait London. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.