to bring war photographer Drew Michaels
back to his estranged wife, Larissa. His need
for adventure had ultimately pushed Larissa
toward the warm embrace of the church and
away from him. But now, being back in such
close quarters with his firstand onlylove,
was stirring up feelings of peace and comfort
he'd suppressed long ago. Yet his secrets
could once again tear him away from the
woman to whom he'd uttered the words
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Twenty–three years later, Iraq
Life as he knew it was about to end.
Drew Michaels had made a mistake and now he had to pay the price. No matter how much it hurt, no matter how badly he wanted to hang on, he had to let go of the most important thing in his life—his marriage.
He just hoped he could survive the aftermath. "Mr. Michaels, take a shot of that."
Camera ever ready, Drew followed the direction of his driver's pointed finger but didn't press the shutter. He was on assignment somewhere outside Baghdad, and if he'd seen one herd of goats he'd seen them all. He wasn't in much of a mood today to take useless photos. Or any kind of photos, come to think of it. The memory of yesterday's telephone conversation with Larissa was too fresh and painful.
he'd finally told her the truth.
Well, not the real truth, but the truth she needed to hear. Their marriage had been a mistake, and he wanted a divorce.
Remembering her reaction made him want to shoot something all right, but not with his camera.
Larissa had cried. He hated himself for that, just as he hated himself for ever thinking he could make a woman like her happy.Any woman, for that matter. Drew Michaels didn't have what it took to settle down and be a husband and father. He wanted to. He just couldn't.
He and Amil, the amiable Iraqi driver, were bumping through another nameless village with the usual string of squat, sand–colored buildings and local citizens going about the normal business of living. Women in long, flowing abayahs, children herding goats with a stick, soldiers poised with automatic rifles.
Drew had spent so much time in the Middle East that the military presence had actually started to look normal to him.
Next week he was off to Indonesia. A volcano was on the howl, and disasters were his specialty. Earthquakes, volcanoes, famine, war. You name it, he shot it. Not the usual stuff though. That was boring. He either went for that elusive moment of ambient light or for the people, the human side, the kids. He was good and he knew it. In fact, photography was the only thing he'd ever been good at. If he'd stuck to his work, he wouldn't be in this mess now.
Sand swirled up in front of the jeep and Drew shaded his face. Sunglasses weren't adequate protection against Middle Eastern sand and a photographer couldn't be too careful of his eyes.
Photographic art buffs said he had great artistic vision, an eye for the perfect detail. Able to capture an image that spoke to the consciousness.
He didn't know about all that, but he didn't argue. If they wanted to pay exorbitant prices for his photos, he'd take their money.
The memory of one particular photo exhibition shimmied to the surface. Tulsa. Three years ago.
he'd felt as phony as his last name. All those society types swarming around a display of his work, murmuring things like, "inspired," or "provocative."
He should have known then to cut and run. But he hadn't.
And then Larissa had walked toward him, an artsy diamond choker around her elegant neck, sparkling diamonds dangling from her ears. His eye for detail had served him well at that moment, though he'd wished for a camera to capture her. In a long white fitted gown of some satiny material, chestnut hair pulled up at the sides, one gleaming lock over a bare shoulder, she'd captivated him.
he'd never expected to love anybody, but he'd fallen in love with Larissa on the spot. It was stupid and foolish. Now he had to right the wrong he'd done to her.
"Another week and I'm out of here, Amil," he said to the driver.
"Going home to your woman, huh?"
His woman. The words poked at him like a sticker. He should have known back then that Larissa was too wonderful for a street bum like him. He should have known he didn't have what it took to be a husband.
Attention diverted by a soldier and an Iraqi toddler in a pink dress, Drew didn't bother to answer. Some things hurt too much to discuss.
A G.I., gun slung behind him, had gone down on both knees to tie a little girl's shoe. The contrast was stunning—an innocent toddler and a hardened marine gentled by a child's trust.
Drew pressed the shutter. Now that was a picture. In front of them, two other jeeps bounced along. Though he normally worked alone, he'd been lucky to tag along on this trek into the countryside. They had a meeting with one of the tribal chiefs, and a man never knew what might come of that.
His vest rattled with rolls of film and various lenses as he reached into his inner pocket and removed a photo of Larissa. he'd taken hundreds of the woman who was his wife. She was a photographer's dream, all grace and class and innocence.
He clenched his teeth. His wife. The burning ache in his gut grew hotter. Must be getting an ulcer, a common malady for a disaster photographer.
Larissa was his love, his life, and his wife. But in three years he'd never been the man she needed. The phone call yesterday had been the hardest call he'd ever made. He hadn't slept more than three hours all week, working up to that call.
Tulsa with Larissa was the only home he'd ever known, but now that was gone, too. He couldn't go back and face her. If he did, he might chicken out. For her sake, he'd remain abroad. And selfish as always, he'd lose himself in the job and leave the dirty work to his lawyer.
His chest pinched tight as he thought of all the things she wanted that he couldn't give her. Himself mostly, but lately she'd mentioned babies.
Even though the temperature outside hovered somewhere around a hundred and ten degrees, Drew shivered. Babies. The idea scared him more than walking through a minefield. Larissa didn't know, didn't understand the dark, secret reasons why he could never, ever father a child.
"She is very beautiful."
"What?" Drew glanced over at Amil. "Oh, Larissa. My wife." The words fell from his lips as if he needed to call her his as long as he could.
"You are a lucky man."
"She wants a baby," he blurted and then wondered why. It was a moot point now.
"So give her one. A fine son to carry on your name." Which name? he wondered grimly. Michaels? Grace? Another of the reasons he had to let her go. Larissa had no clue she'd married a man who didn't exist. Wouldn't that be a shocker to her rich, politician daddy?
he'd done all right as Drew Michaels, though, and had gained a bit of a reputation with his work. Even if he did feel like a fraud most of the time, he was fine as long as no one else discovered the truth. But he wouldn't pass that legacy of lies on to an innocent child. He knew what happened to kids who came from bad bloodlines.
After making sure Amil's attention had returned to the convoy in front of them, Drew touched the photo to his lips, then slid it back into his vest. Over his heart. She was his heart and always would be, long after the ink was dried on the divorce papers, and she was happily married to some nice man who could give her all the babies she wanted.
"You come to Amil's house," the driver was saying.
"I will show you sons. Seven of them, I have. They will make you smile and you can—" He lifted one hand from the steering wheel and pretended to snap pictures.
Drew was readying a wisecrack when suddenly, the world exploded.
In a split second of horror, he comprehended the sound and knew what was happening.
Attack. A roadside bomb. God help them all.
The last thing his conscious mind registered was the smile fading from Amil's face and the bizarre experience of flying backward out of the jeep, one hand frantically gripping his Nikon.
He screamed Larissa's name.
Larissa Stone Michaels sat straight up in bed, heart thundering louder than an Oklahoma rainstorm.
Another bad dream. The third time this week she'd awakened from a terrible nightmare that she couldn't remember. Any time Drew was in the Middle East, she suffered sleepless nights and bad dreams.
Then the memory of yesterday's phone conversation flooded into her consciousness. No wonder she'd had another nightmare. Drew wanted a divorce.
A sob choked out, loud in the silent bedroom. The little Yorkie, Coco, lying at the foot of the bed, raised her tiny head. Larissa pressed a hand to quivering lips, holding back the sorrow that had ended only when she'd finally fallen asleep.
She glanced at the illuminated clock on the curio lamp stand. Four in the morning. Less than three hours since she'd last noted the time.
Many nights she awakened unable to sleep until she'd prayed for Drew's safety. But this night was different. This night, she didn't have that sweet promise that her husband loved her and would be coming home to her.
He was never coming home again.
Tossing back the duvet comforter, she swung both feet to the plush carpet. Her body trembled. The soft whoosh of the heating unit was the only sound in the quiet Southside villa. Weary and heartsick, she went into the bathroom and flicked on the light. After a moment of blindness she found a glass, ran it full of water and drank deeply. The reflection in the mirror looked wild, dark hair tangled around a pale face.
"Oh, Drew," she whispered to the mirror. "What did I do? What happened?"
With grim determination, she swallowed hard against the ache in her throat, pushing back the tears. She couldn't keep doing this. She had to get hold of her emotions long enough to think things through.
She'd had no idea anything was wrong until the phone call. She loved him. Six months ago when he was home, everything had been as good as ever. Before he left for Iraq, he'd held her such a long time and told her how much he loved and needed her.
And now this. "Jesus. Dear Jesus."
Hands braced on the sink, she squeezed her eyes tight and did the only thing she knew to do. She prayed. For Drew's safety, first and always. For their bewilderingly troubled marriage. For her breaking heart.
But this time the usual sense of peace evaded her. Her emotions were too raw and confused.
She returned to the bedroom, certain she'd slept her last. As she slipped beneath the petal–soft sheets, the phone rang.
A frightful pounding in her temples started up. A call at this time of night could not be good news.
She picked up the receiver and said, "Hello?" And the nightmare began again. Only this time, she was awake.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Since nobody else wrote a review on this I figured I would. This book was just SO good! I couldn't put it down, Linda Goodnight did great job writing this. I would recommend this to ANYONE! Please Read It, you'll be GLAD you did!
I loved this book. I read it and realized it was book 3. Now i can't wait to read the others! This book has great emotional depth.