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About the Author
Heather Graham (b. 1953) is a bestselling author of more than 150 romance, suspense, and historical novels that have sold seventy-five million copies worldwide. Raised in Florida, Graham went to college for theater arts, and spent several years acting, singing, and bartending before she devoted herself to writing. Her first novel, When Next We Love, was published in 1982. Although she became famous as an author of romance novels, Graham has since branched out into supernatural horror, historical fiction, and suspense, with titles such as Tall, Dark, and Deadly (1999), Long, Lean, and Lethal (2000), and Dying to Have Her (2001). In 2003 the Romance Writers of America, whose Florida chapter Graham founded, granted her a lifetime achievement award. She lives, writes, and scuba dives in Florida with her husband and five children.
Read an Excerpt
Hold Close the Memory
By Heather Graham
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1985 Heather E. Graham
All rights reserved.
Kim Trent inhaled deeply, exhaled, and slowly crushed out her cigarette. She drained the last sip from her coffee mug, stood and stretched, and placed the mug in the sink. Through the overpass to the patio she could see the boys playing in the pool. Josh made a mad dash for the water, buckled his knees beneath him, and displaced half the water in the pool as he jackknifed into it. He surfaced, grinning at his brother, Jacob, and then, as if aware his mother was watching him, he turned toward the window with a broad grin and a wink. A little pang caught at Kim's heart as she winked and waved in return. After a moment she realized she was still staring blankly out the window, and she turned with a firm mental shake.
What's with me? she wondered. She had been through discussions about moving with the boys a trillion times, and she had been through the same discussions with Keith. They all had discussed the possibility of a future marriage, and she had explained that she wasn't ready for such a big step yet. She had said that they should see how they all did living together as a family first. And now that they all had agreed to that, why was she coming up with cold feet?
She turned back to the window and watched as Josh hoisted himself up out of the pool and trotted to the window. "Hey, Mom, would you pass us a couple a sodas?"
Kim obligingly reached into the refrigerator and handed two Cokes to her son across the overpass. She watched as her son's eyes shrewdly narrowed.
"Mom," he said softly, "it's all right—really." He grinned. "You have to realize, Mother, that Jacob and I are twelve. In a few years we'll be grown up."
Kim laughed. "Oh, yeah?"
"Yeah, and we'll be heading off for college, and where will you be? I mean you're still a beautiful chick, Mom, but I mean, just how long can you count on staying that way?"
Kim grimaced. "Thanks—I think. In other words, you think we should move in with Keith now because in a few years I just might fall apart."
"Hey, Mom, you're thirty-two."
Kim laughed. "Wow! You're right. I just might go senile any day now!"
Josh had the grace to blush, and his beautiful grin was back, touching his eyes as blue and sparkling as a summer's day. The pang seemed to grip her again, and she wondered once more what was wrong with her.
Twelve years ... People shouldn't remember things after twelve years, not if they were normal. And she didn't harp on the past. She didn't even think about the past most of the time anymore. Whole months passed when she gave little thought to anything but the present.
When she did think of the past, it was normally far removed. It was usually hazy, making her smile absently with a fading, bittersweet poignancy. Except there were, she realized, things she could remember in absurd detail.
Maybe it was just the idea of leaving the house that was upsetting her, and feeling pangs of memory and lost youth was natural under such circumstances. She had been feeling nostalgic to begin with, so it was impossible not to look at the twins and shake her head a bit. They were identical and very much like their father....
"Why don't you want to marry Keith? I mean, Jacob and I don't care. Like I said, we're not little kids. It's just that we want you to be happy. In a few years—"
"I know. You'll be gone and at college, and I should rush into marriage with Keith right now before my decrepit old body starts falling apart?" Kim jiggled her eyebrows, and her son blushed and laughed again.
He paused for a minute. "You're not sure about Keith, are you, Mom?"
Kim shrugged. "Let's just say marriage is a big step, and I'm not sure I'm ready for it."
"You married my father when you were just a baby."
"I was eighteen"—Kim corrected him softly—"and that was because of your father. He was very, very sure." She suddenly leaned across the overpass to snap the pop top on his Coke. "You're getting a shade cheeky there for a twelve-year-old, son! Get back into the pool. I'm going up and start pulling apart the attic."
"O-kay!" Josh laughed, and Kim felt a little prickle at the back of her neck at the extended "oh," just like Brian's. It was really impossible for Josh to imitate his father because the twins had last seen Brian when they were only infants.
Kim lifted her brow wryly and started out of the sunny kitchen with its bright white and yellow flowered wallpaper. Josh followed her, leaving with a long wolf whistle. "Thanks!" she called over her shoulder. "Bolstering the ego of an old lady, huh?"
"It's all relative, you know."
"Sure, Mom, it's all relative!"
Kim grimaced as she started up the stairs, then paused before the antique landing mirror.
She touched her cheek and peered into the mirror. "I don't look decrepit!" She laughed aloud. If anything, today she looked uncomfortably like a teen-ager. Her hair with its shoulder-length feather cut added luminescence to her amber eyes, and the shorts and halter top she wore rounded her slim figure with the padding still in approximately the right places—the result of studious exercise.
"Not so terribly different from all those years ago," she murmured. A few crow's-feet around the eyes, but they were faint, and she deserved them. Any woman who alone had reared twin boys to the ripe age of twelve deserved a few battle scars!
The phone rang as she stood there, and she absently reached for the hall extension.
"Hello yourself, gorgeous." A male voice responded to her "hello."
Kim smiled. "Hi, Keith." She could almost see him at the phone, his dark eyes light with warmth, his fingers tapping his handsome chin. It still amazed her that Keith, the handsome bachelor playboy of West Coast Cruises, had fallen for her—a thirty-two-year-old widow and mother of two. Not that she underestimated herself. She was a good commercial photographer, a damned good one, and she considered herself bright and attractive, if not a young, blushing beauty. But at the time they met, Keith had been honest with her, telling her he didn't think he was ready for marriage or a family. After a few of the winners she had met after having been cajoled to do the bar scene with a few women friends, she had been impressed by his honesty and the sincerity with which he gave no promises but agreed to spend more and more time with the boys as their relationship grew. Strange how it had become he who had pushed for marriage rather than she ...
"How's it going?" he asked, breaking into her thoughts.
"Good," Kim replied, smiling. "There's really not too much to do since the realtor wants the furniture kept here until the house is sold. I've been packing."
"Great! Then I can pick you up tonight, and we can become official roommates."
Kim hesitated, wondering what drew her back. "Let's make it tomorrow night, okay? I'd thought I'd tear through the attic a bit."
A silence followed her words. Then he spoke with a worried tone in his voice. "You're not thinking of pulling out on me, are you?"
"No, of course not!" She thought of the days they had spent boating in the Gulf, dancing, laughing, talking about their future, both working toward it. It was exactly what she wanted, and Keith had discovered he liked being a surrogate father of twin boys who were past all baby stages. They sufficiently fulfilled whatever paternal cravings he might have had. That was lovely to her way of thinking. She was thirty-two, and she'd already reared her children well past the infant stage. She was too old or too set in her life-style to start all over again.
No, Keith was perfect. With both their incomes, they could travel; they were young; they could enjoy life to its fullest and soar into the future. He had never been the sun, but he was peace and contentment, and she loved him.
"Don't be absurd. I just need a little more time."
"You've been saying that for a month!" Keith charged, but he laughed to take the sting from his accusation. "Well, I guess one more day won't hurt. Hey," he asked suddenly, "did you make a decision about taking on any of those magazine jobs yet?"
There was a certain tenseness to his voice. Kim hesitated.
"Kim, you know the house isn't sold yet. I really don't think it's going to be a good idea to risk your steady income—"
"I wouldn't really be risking it," Kim interrupted. She sighed. The freelance work she occasionally did was a sore spot between them. It wasn't guaranteed, and Keith was in the middle of expanding his own business. Kim wasn't particularly annoyed that he took it upon himself to worry about her income since she had refused to marry him. He had studiously fought her refusal, finally accepting her argument that it was only practical for them to wait, to be sure that they could combine their lives. Keith was accustomed to complete freedom; she was used to responsibility.
"Let's talk about it tomorrow night," she said.
He chuckled, and she liked the sound. "Okay, sweetheart. We'll talk about it over a celebration bottle of Dom Pérignon."
"Sounds good. Love you."
"Love you, too. Maybe I'll stop by tonight just to see how you're progressing."
"Fine. See you then."
Hanging up the receiver, Kim wondered if she was wrong not just to go ahead and marry Keith. He was sweet; he was wonderful. Everything appeared perfect. The twins weren't at all against the idea, and her father was still furious about her "living in sin." "Damnation, daughter!" Robert had railed. "At eighteen, when everyone else was running amok and joining communes, you settled down into a decent marriage. Now you decide to do this, with the boys' knowledge no less!"
"Dad," she had said, reminding him, "I'm thirty-two years old—"
"All's the more pity. Brian wouldn't like it."
"Brian is dead, Dad," she had said softly.
"More's the pity." Robert shook his head, and Kim sighed. Her father didn't like Keith, but he had thought the world of Brian. Still, she was too old to need parental approval, although she had tried her hardest to be gentle with her father. He could afford to think of Brian; he had not had to learn to live all over again, discovering the hard way that the world was full of people who were not so strong, not so determined, not the sun.
Kim shook herself. She'd had a lot of good times in the past years; she had learned her own power and reveled in it. She had earned her independence, and she was proud of herself. She could laugh and handle any man on earth. One disaster when she had first left her shell of loneliness had taught her that she would always hold the upper hand, and she had learned to say the word "no" sweetly with a vehemence that left most would-be suitors pining with admiration. It was the best way for her to be. She knew too many divorcées and single women who had wound up feeling used and bitter.
But she wasn't, and she could still give emotionally to someone. Keith was proof of that because their relationship was a good one, an equal one.
Kim pulled down the ladder to the attic and switched on the light. She had been dreading tearing apart the attic, but it had to be done. Yet she still fought a feeling that she would be opening a Pandora's box.
She climbed the ladder, and instinctively her eyes moved to the shelf to the left. It was covered with dust, as was everything on it.
Twelve years ago she had locked all the past away.
She took a deep breath and expelled it. I can look now, she told herself. I can look, and remember, and laugh, and think about all that has been beautiful and all that was a part of growing up.
Her footsteps took her to the shelf, and she sneezed as the dust whirled up her nose. She tried to pick up an old scrapbook, but she started sneezing again, and the sneezes were so violent she dropped the book.
"Great," she muttered dryly.
A picture had fallen from the book. She hunched, down to pick it up. She smiled. It was an old picture—fifteen years old. It was from the day at the lake, the first day she had met Brian. Looking at the picture, she could remember it as clearly as yesterday....
He stood out on the float, and he happened to glance her way. She felt an instant reaction. Her hands, curled over the dock, went clammy. She could hear her heart beat, and it was pounding too fast and too loud. And it was all because his eyes touched on her. They were sky blue, framed by high-arched honey brows. His hair was a honey blond, streaked almost white in places by the sun.
He was tall and well built. In cutoffs he was nothing short of beautiful, tanned bronze, leanly muscled from head to toe. But it was his grin that seemed to cause her heart to catch in her throat; it was a smile both wicked and gentle, and it seemed to take the sun from beneath the clouds and add brilliance to the entire day.
"Sue, who is he?"
The two friends sat dangling their legs over the dock, their toes drawing patterns in the water.
Sue lowered her voice conspiratorially. "That is Brian Trent. He just transferred in; his folks moved from Arizona. He's a senior." Sue sighed long and low. "Have you ever seen such a groovy guy?"
Kim could only shake her head and then froze solid as she saw him dive from the platform.
"Oh, no!" Sue gasped. "He's coming this way."
"Gimme a cigarette," Kim demanded.
"You don't smoke," Sue said protestingly.
"Yeah, but he was talking to Cindy McCready and she's a senior and she smokes, and I don't want to look like a kid." She choked and gagged on her first drag of the cigarette, but then she got it together, leaning back with the cigarette emerging over the edge of her well-tended nails.
His head popped up in front of her dangling legs. "Hi. I'm Brian Trent."
Say something, stupid! she told herself. Her mouth didn't want to work. It was dry, and she had to moisten it. "Kim. My, uh, name is Kim."
He smiled again, and it was as if Sue, the dock, the lake—everything—had disappeared. "I know," he said softly. "I asked around. Miss Kim Thielson, cheerleader par excellence and junior prom queen."
Kim found herself blushing. She dragged on the cigarette and managed not to cough. "And you're from Arizona?"
"Yeah. We just bought a new house on Mimosa." He paused for a minute, that extraordinary grin still touching his features. "Well, prom queen, want to swim a bit?"
She nodded, then realized stupidly she didn't know what to do with the cigarette. She shoved it into Sue's fingers and shimmied off the dock. He caught her as she hit the water.
They spent the day together. Kim drank a little too much beer; all the kids drank beer at the lake because there were plenty of seniors who looked old enough to buy it if a store wasn't too discriminating.
But Brian Trent didn't drink too much. Nor did he smoke. So she started getting panicky when he watched her with those blue eyes narrowed shrewdly.
"I've got a car," he told her. "We're going to get some coffee into you. I don't want your parents thinking I'm a bad influence."
Feeling very young and very miserable, she agreed on coffee. They sat outside a fast food joint, and she kept turning up her nose at the taste. That's when Sue had popped up with the camera....
Tears touched Kim's eyes as she looked at the picture.
They both had been so beautiful, so young. He, with that sanding of blond hair just beginning to show on his chest, his bronze arm around her, his eyes so shockingly blue in the picture, his grin devilishly, wickedly endearing. She, her amber eyes a little wide, a little dazed, wearing the slightly risqué bikini that had distressed her father, her hair just drying, dipping over an eye with the red highlights somehow caught in the sun's reflection. Slim but budding nicely ...
Damn, could memories hurt! And they were suddenly very painfully clear! She could remember their first night at a drive-in and all the dates after that. By Christmas break of that year they had become a definite twosome. She had learned a lot about him. While others experimented with drugs, he steered away from them. And he had a hell of a temper. She had decided to try some pot one day with a few of the gang, and he had embarrassed the hell out of her, throwing her over his shoulder and dragging her right out of Sue's house with everyone watching.
They'd had a knock-down, drag out fight. And when she finished pummeling his chest and shrieking how she never wanted to see him again, he'd caught her wrists and calmed her wildness with his weight, lying over her on the porch couch. And she'd gone silent, because for all that they'd kissed and petted, it was the first time Kim had really become aware of her sexuality....
Kim smiled suddenly. Soon after that had come their first time together in bed after the senior prom. All the kids had taken rooms for the night, and she had known she would make love to Brian."
She started shivering suddenly. She could remember the night well: word for word; action for action.
Kim closed her eyes and let the memory flow.
Excerpted from Hold Close the Memory by Heather Graham. Copyright © 1985 Heather E. Graham. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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