A man from her past . . . A young boy's future.
Guidance counselor Alexandra Lexington found strength in prayer as she healed from an abusive relationship. And when she encountered the troubled son of Adam Boyer, something special happened. Not only could she help this boy find peace, but also she could confront his father a man with whom she shared a poignant history.
Determined to be a good dad, Adam retired from the navy to rebuild his life with his son. But colliding with Alexandra Lexington was a surprise. He had carried a grudge against her family, but watching her overcome tremendous obstacles, he couldn't help admiring her . . .and then falling for her. Had God given Adam a second chance at love?
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Chapter One"This is it, Xandra, old girl. 245 Hollow Stump Lane," Alexandra whispered hoarsely into the still, fall night. She wasn't old, of course. Just thirty-two. But she felt twice that as she stood in the moonlight-dappled shadow of a huge oak tree, tired to the bone.
Sighing, she leaned against the tree, chilled by the fall freeze, her light denim jacket affording little protection from the wind. She gazed up at the house she'd walked miles to reach. The lights were on inside the big old stone Victorian. All and all, it looked like a nice place to live. It looked safe.
Maybe her long journey home was over.
"We tend to call the police when we find someone skulking around in the dark," a disembodied female voice said from the top of the porch steps.
Xandra closed her eyes, fighting tears. She knew that voice. Did she live under a dark star? How could the one woman who could help her turn out to be the one woman in the world with the most reason to laugh in her face? The sad thing was, because she'd let herself be such a coward all these years, she knew she deserved no better.
Swinging her nearly empty backpack onto her shoulder, Xandra stepped out into the light of the full moon. Elizabeth Boyer was more likely to spit on her than help her, but she had nothing left to lose. She was on foot in rural Chester County. Her pockets were empty but for a couple of dollars and change. She wore thrift store clothes and used sneakers. She'd slept in homeless shelters, on buses, in train stations for months. And Michael had beaten and frightened any Lexington pride out of her a year before that.
"A woman gave me this address. This is New Life Inn, isn't it?"
The disbelief in Elizabeth's voice wasn't new to Xandra. She'd heard that same disbelief in the voices of the police officers back in California who'd responded to her 911 calls. Most recently she'd heard it from her own mother when she'd shown up at her childhood home a few hours ago, only to be turned away.
Michael Balfour was a saint - a blameless saint - according to her mother and the rest of the world. Her husband was frantic, she'd told Xandra. He had been for the months it had taken her to make her way home to Pennsylvania. He'd spent a fortune on detectives trying to find her. Oh, and Xandra was apparently "delusional" now. She needed to go back home. Michael would get her the help she seemed to need. They would book the flight back to the prison of her husband's Northern California vineyard. But no. They couldn't, in good conscience, help her in any other way. After all, Michael would never forgive them if they made it too easy for her to remain apart from him.
"Alexandra Lexington Balfour, actually," she admitted now to Elizabeth. And it was an admission. Both her surnames brought her only shame before this courageous woman.
"I can't believe you'd come here," Elizabeth snapped. "Hasn't your family punished me enough for something that wasn't my fault? The women living here deserve peace. Take potshots at me in public all you want, but leave New Life Inn out of it."
"Causing you one more minute of undeserved pain is the last thing I want," Xandra said quietly. "Elizabeth, please. The only reason I'm here is for help, just like those women inside. And I need help for the same reason they do." She hated that her voice shook with exhaustion. With desperation. With fear. "I've walked at least ten miles today, and I'm not sure I can get all the way back to town again. I'm just about out of cash. I'm two dollars and twenty-seven cents from having no options at all."
Elizabeth's turnaround was instantaneous. "Of course we'll help you, Alexandra," she said, rushing down the steps, nothing but kindness in her tone now.
Xandra's rubbery legs just about went liquid beneath her and she lost her long-fought battle with tears. When she'd boarded a bus at dawn two months earlier in the small Northern California town of Summit Falls, she had sworn she'd shed her last tear over Michael Balfour.
"I'm not crying over him," she told Elizabeth, who was now supporting her with an arm around her waist. "It's just that I thought they'd side with me this time."
Elizabeth sighed. "We certainly hit the jackpot when parents were assigned, didn't we?"
Xandra huffed out a breath and stared into the kind eyes of Elizabeth Boyer. "You should have pressed charges against Jason. My brother deserved to go to prison for rape. He was a mean and violent boy who grew into a monster. I'm sorry for what he did to you. I'm sorry for what we did afterward."
Elizabeth tilted her head, her long blond hair shimmering in the moonlight. "If I remember every nasty encounter correctly over the years, you always stayed silent. I saw you as your mother's supporter, but you were really just standing there, right?"
"Sometimes silence isn't always golden. I found that out the hard way in a town my husband - "Xandra closed her eyes, shook her head and corrected herself. They were the hardest words she would ever speak but she forced herself to say them aloud to Elizabeth. "No ... my abuser. In the town my abuser owned."
Elizabeth smiled kindly. "You're going to be fine, Alexandra. You've already taken several very important steps that take a lot of women too many years to make. Welcome to a new life."
Excerpted from Abiding Love by Kate Welsh Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Highly reccomend this book. Kate Welsh is a wonderful writer. I'm quickly becoming a huge fan