by Linda D Grosvenor


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781583144565
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 12/01/2004
Series: Sepia
Edition description: Original
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 4.30(w) x 6.84(h) x 0.97(d)

Read an Excerpt


By Linda Dominique Grosvenor

Bet Books

Copyright © 2004 Linda Dominique Grosvenor
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1583144560

Chapter One

Oversize palm trees hugged the veranda, and the freshly shaven lawn left no evidence of footprints or other trespasses, just a colorful squeeze toy waiting to squeal as it played hide-and-seek with bare feet. The tall weather-beaten fence couldn't keep out the sun or tame the brisk wind long enough to still the wind chime. The flower bed still made him sneeze as the succulence of ripe pollen tangled and overwhelmed.

Monet, an incourrigible golden retriever pup, despite his unbreakable habit of chewing on anything bite-sized, was cozying up now and becoming Tim's best friend. Tim gladly obliged Monet as his mind endeavored to define this as anything other than an exaggerated Hallmark moment full of tears that never dried, only paused to replenish. He never imagined a time in his life as pregnant with possibilities. We all have something to be thankful for, he reassured himself, trying not to be sappy.

He stood back and admired his elongated suit jacket and matching black pants that hung there on a thick smooth wooden hanger. They always complemented him as his broad shoulders and well-defined back normally conjured images of him beating his chest like an African tribesman in New Guinea. Tim flicked lint from his iris linen shirt and draped it across his bed. He put on, then adjusted his glasses.

There was something more distinguished about him now. Not just the tortoiseshell frames, the way they made him appear well read, the high shine of his shoes that sat pensive in the corner, or the furrowed brow that was always contemplating new thoughts more prolific than the last. More so, it was the way he spoke with a confidence in something other than himself, a thirst that was only quenched by the actualization of his ideas. Thankfully he hadn't burned all his bridges. There were still people who called, cared, and wondered and hoped he'd make it. And he would make it. Determination was something he wouldn't soon lack.

Tim stepped in front of the wide television that was as verbose as a yapping dog who only wanted to play fetch long after midnight had settled everyone into their routines of slumber. He searched around for the remote control. Right now individuals on a news program were debating a topic too trivial to engage the television in. He muted it, respecting Sunday morning rituals. He reached in his rack and pulled out a jazz CD. Craig Crawford always mellowed him.

Pulling the sliding glass door open, Tim strolled into his yard holding a glass of mango nectar, squinting slightly with his slippers in tow slapping his heels, and reliving the past month vividly over and over again in his head. Steady stride and destination still somewhat uncertain, like many other things in his life Monet blindsided him, sending him and his drink grazing the manicured lawn and the lounge chair toppling on top of them both. Monet licked the juice off of Tim's face apologetically while Tim tussled with the chair that was now dented and permanently leaning to the side.

Tim sat in the chair anyway, bracing himself with his right foot, and separating the sections of the Sunday newspaper like an orange shared by four. He had just begun working with the dialogue for his next script and was completing the rewrites on the former. Although the gloss of the business had dulled slightly, he knew that this was what he had been waiting his whole life to achieve. Acclaim. Low hundreds as a payday for his first film was a start. Anything that parted the curtains of his mind and drew out his dreams validating them instead of rendering them a falsehood was Robin Hood in his book.

It was then that Nina did what she had always done, tiptoed into his mind unsuspectingly and shook him. He thought back to their conversation that night. She had called inquiring whether he had found a church yet. He was looking and hadn't felt led anywhere in particular but he had a feeling about where he was going this evening. It might just be his final destination. Someplace he could venture on a regular basis. He didn't like lukewarm coffee, people, or churches, but something just told him that when he found a church it'd feel like welcome home.

He may not have always been, but thankful was something that he was lately. At Tim's feet Monet sat bathing his toes with his huge slobbery tongue. Tim's cordless phone, still snuggling in the grass from last night, was ringing. His laughter caught Nina off guard.

"Having fun?"

"Well, as a matter of fact, I'm not." He chuckled, pushing his feet into damp slippers that were now masquerading as a bone. "How's your momma?" he inquired, self-assured that his curiosity wouldn't always get the better of him.

"She's hanging in there."

"And your dad?" he asked.

"Oh, he's hanging in there too." She paused.

"And Troi?"

"She's surviving."

"I hear that."

"And you, Tim? How busy is work keeping you? I mean, do you have time to relax and unwind?" She covered up her question with involuntary laughter that still left him sensing that she was feeling him out.

"In this business, time doesn't come, you have to seize it. Be it moments, minutes, or milliseconds," he preached.

"You sound relaxed though."

"I am." His lips curled into a mischievous grin as he recalled when last his lips were pressed on hers. Now that relaxed him. He wanted to extend a heartfelt invitation to her so that she could see for herself the legendary smog that appeared to be eating the city in the distance, and observe the obscure bridge that was nothing to brag about even on a clear day. But she had Momma, Daddy, and sister issues to attend to and he didn't care very much for shotgun.

"You know what I can use right now?" she asked, momentarily interrupted by short, sharp barking noises on Tim's end.

"Sorry, you were saying?" he fumbled.

"I said, what I want most in the world is to lie back for a couple of days and do absolutely nothing, a little vacation or something. You know what I mean?"

"Tim ..." a perky familiar voice interjected on his end, dragging out the one syllable in his name like a song.

He silenced the unexpected guest by muffling the phone with his hand, then put his finger to his lips.

"What was that again? I'm sorry," he apologized.

"I wasn't saying anything. Let me not keep you, I have to go anyway. I have a dozen things to do." Nina spoke calmly so as not to let on she was frowning. The heat rose in her cheeks.

"No, come on, tell me," Tim protested.

He thought that at least after all this time they were tighter than blue jeans in the rain or the effort it took to get them off. Whatever happened between them was fate. He couldn't blame the woman with bad timing.

Tim knew he cared about Nina but he couldn't allow his emotions to dictate. He had to be rational. Detached yet cordial. And although he ached like a knee skinned down to the bone to be near her, he pretended that it didn't matter one way or the other. He never wanted to be the bad guy. He knew that hurting Nina was like killing an angel, then plucking off the wings.

She said she had to go. He responded in kind. He closed his eyes and thought, a little harmless petting would do.

"So when am I gonna hear from you again?" He stroked his face and imagined this conversation possibly being their last for a good while.

"I'll be in touch," she offered.

"Are you still afraid of airplanes?" Tim hesitated.

"I can't tell, still haven't been on one."

"Would you fly if I sent you a ticket?"

"One never knows what they'd do if the opportunity presented itself," she said, hardly moving her lips.

Tim was mentally whipping himself. Never could curb his tongue. He had to learn just to say good-bye and leave it at that. He didn't know why he was always dragging things out or trying to buff every situation in his life to a car-wash shine. Tim cupped the phone with the palm of his hand, whispering to the woman who had reentered his space, knowing that as predictable as women were, Nina was probably straining to capture every word.

Visions of Nina shivering slightly as he played in her hair, and quivering as he moved in closer to her neck, came back to his remembrance. That's the way he would always remember her. Eyes closed, pouting and enjoying what he offered her. Part of him wanted to say, "Don't go, stay," or "Don't stay there, come here." He looked toward his floor at the neutral-colored carpeting instead, lowered his voice, and said, "Hey, Nina, I'll talk to you soon."

That's the way he wanted to remember his life, gloriously fulfilling as someone he dug was digging him just as much, throwing caution to the wind and allowing themselves to revel in the moment. A handful of years and a marriage ceremony later, things were different between Nina and Tim. Church only occasionally and a romance that had cooled to the touch. The communication between them was an unfeeling hollowness and he couldn't make heads or tails of it. They had both stopped making time for the little things, dinner, affectionate conversation, and lovemaking that went on for hours. They had given in to the nonchalance of everyday existence and now here they were, trying to sort out a bunch of odds and ends that wouldn't permit them to discern love right there in the palm of their hands.

Tim had guarded his heart his entire life, sifting through a maze of feminine warheads for someone who was willing to help him feed his dream of being a successful filmmaker, and now this. Women always made promises in exchange for marriage. Promises they knew they couldn't keep. They vowed that they would remain the epitome of beauty and understanding, for as long as it took to get their feet warm, and that almighty band of gold snuggly on their finger.

Tim put every breath he had into his films. All he was asking for in life was a woman to have his back. Catch him when he fell. Listen without judging. Make a marriage work without putting him on the spot demanding constant validation. Show a brother some love and appreciation. Be his wife, and then some.

Maybe Nina wasn't who he thought she was, maybe he no longer wanted what he had or needed her love the way he used to. It could be that the novelty of their affection for each other was gone and that the everyday things like watching her hair transform from a greasy head rag to tight curls falling around her face no longer impressed him. Being married, coming home to dutiful inquiries, boredom separating them into their own worlds. Needs changed. Yeah, lots of things changed, he just didn't know what he'd do to rectify it all. The boredom had consumed him and he didn't know if he even wanted to fix their broken love now or ever.

Chapter Two

Nina had listened attentively as Tim spoke of his new life that didn't include her. A new life where she was nothing more than a voice on the answering machine, and she'd cry herself to sleep every other night because she missed him. She fought not to say she craved him.

It sounded tempting and unclean, but she did. His voice made her think about peanut butter and jelly, the third grade, initials carved into an unsuspecting tree, and her first kiss all those years ago on a red toy fire engine in the rain. She knew their worlds had changed. His was moving in a more enlightening and self-discovering manner while she just existed, becoming increasingly more absorbed in nocturnal thoughts of Tim.

He knew where he was going and had his head on straight. Nina was still consumed with issues from her past and it wasn't fair to drag him into her life, then use their time together to sort through her mess. She had to have something to bring to the table. It wasn't just about getting the man, but about keeping him. In her mind she had finally come to the realization that although she found him entertaining, it was more than that. She looked at her face in the mirror and confirmed out loud that she was doing exactly what she vowed she'd never do, open up, again.

Opening up wasn't so bad. It was just all the effort it took to get there and everything you had to relinquish that had her going. Cleaning house. She was learning to do that with an old-fashioned broom. That meant that everything negative had to go. There were things that needed to increase in her life too. Tolerance. She was sure working on that. And love? Well, as of late, it had her over a barrel. All she needed to do was believe that what's yours is for you and what isn't, well, God always makes a way of escape.

Tim and Nina. Two predestined souls, God-timed births, and an orchestrated location. If she believed all of that, why was she sipping coffee now and pondering why love isn't convenient? Tim was preoccupied with whatever the significance was for that woman being in his apartment. The woman he muffled the phone over, trying his best not to let Nina hear. He hadn't even insisted that the woman wasn't important. There was a time when Nina felt like a priority to him, but not at the moment. Not anymore. Humiliation wasn't a garment that she would wear for anybody. Him in California and her in New York? A way of escape? She nodded. Maybe this was hers.

Nina was cautiously reflecting on her life. She had sold her overpriced Brooklyn brownstone, picked up, and relocated her life to California to be with Tim. She and Tim had taken the leap, jumped the broom, got hitched. The "until death do you part" thing. They planned an intimate ceremony exclusively for close family and friends. Pastel flowers, a three-tier cake with butter cream icing, no bridesmaids, his-and-her Greek wedding bands on loan from a local jeweler. Her heart bought the fact that he wanted to marry her on the summer solstice because she loved him. "It's the longest day of the year," he said. But now after the hype had died down in their airy house, and all the thank-you notes had been written, here she was at home, alone. All by herself. No sign of a husband anywhere. She didn't want to tip her mental scale with philosophical banter so she ignored the night breeze, kicked off her slippers, and snuggled up on the couch with the remote control again tonight. Monet was curled up in a furry ball at Nina's feet, wagging his tail to an unsung rhythm as she ruffled the scruff of his neck.

Tim was on location somewhere north of San Bernardino with the streets blocked off, annoying the neighbors with bright lights and filming late into the night. Nina didn't quite understand how the fairy tales had duped her into believing in happily ever after in a world where that hardly ever happens. Surely she thought she was more realistic than that. She was a rational woman, most of the time. When she moved to the West Coast, things were certainly going well for Tim.



Excerpted from Fever by Linda Dominique Grosvenor Copyright © 2004 by Linda Dominique Grosvenor. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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