She should be at her “perfect” sister’s bedside, awaiting the arrival of the newest member of her family. But the thought of spending hours at the hospital with her suffocating relatives has Sophia hailing the first taxi she sees. Only to realise too late that the man at the wheel of her getaway car is the most unpleasant one she’s ever had the misfortune to meet.
Parker Jones, the handsome yet surly driver in question, is used to dealing with baggage of the family variety. And it just so happens he’s in need of temporary escape from his own. Witty banter with a beautiful—if exasperating—woman while chauffeuring her around the city on a gorgeous spring day makes for an ideal break from reality.
But a lot can happen in twenty-four hours: babies can be born, family can reconnect. And maybe the most unlikely pair can fall in love.
One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!
This book is approximately 72,000 words
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
She won't care if I'm not here.
The words were on the tip of Sophia Roux's tongue. She glanced over at her mother, who was sitting at her side. Charlene Roux worried her thumbnail, staring off into the distance. Sophia's sister, Zoey, was on Sophia's other side. Zoey alternated between pacing the small space of the hospital waiting room and annoying Sophia. The latter was currently happening. It was part of why Sophia was plotting her escape.
'Babies don't care who's there when they're born,' Sophia whispered to Zoey. She ignored that Zoey was tapping her thigh with a finger. 'Besides, the baby hasn't even arrived yet. Let me get back to my life.'
Slyly, she looked over at her mother. Charlene wasn't paying any attention. Sophia wouldn't be punished for trying to escape.
'Angie would stay if it were your baby,' Zoey replied, all logic despite the thigh-tapping, which was gradually increasing in speed. 'She'd probably be in the room with you.'
'Hell, no,' Sophia said with a shudder. 'One, I'd have to want a baby for that to happen. Two, even if I did, I can't imagine wanting to see people after I pushed a human being out my vagina.'
Oh, damn. Her mother had heard that.
Zoey snickered. The three people who were sitting in the row in front of them looked scandalised. Sophia wondered if her mother's reaction was because Charlene was offended, or because those people had heard her.
She hadn't meant to raise her voice, but surely she hadn't said something scandalous? They were in a hospital, for heaven's sake. She could have sworn she'd used the scientific term for where babies generally came out of in church.
Because it wasn't like God had created vaginas or anything.
'I'm sorry,' Sophia said. She was speaking to her mother, but she eyed the people still looking at her. 'I meant after I negotiated the terms of my baby's release with the stork who only delivers to hospital rooms where my partner and I are present.'
'Sophia,' her mother said again, her tone disapproving, if reserved. 'Can't you try to support your sister instead of ...' Charlene lifted her hand, dropped it.
Sophia purposefully unclenched her jaw.
'I'm here, aren't I? Supporting Angie.' Even though Angie didn't support us when we needed her. But let's forget about that, shall we? She pulled herself back to the present. 'All I'm saying is that Angie's baby will have done the equivalent of an intergalactic move. Would you want to entertain guests after that?'
Zoey laughed. Her mother did not.
Not that it surprised her. Charlene had always disapproved of Sophia's sense of humour — amongst other things. Though the sense of humour issue was likely because Sophia hadn't inherited it from her father or mother. She wished she could say it was a combination of their genes, but that wouldn't be true either.
Her mother had no sense of humour.
Miraculously, Sophia didn't snort out loud at her little joke. Instead, she simply sat, her conversation with Zoey ended by the Vagina Saga. Time ticked by slowly. As it did, Sophia felt her soul die.
She'd already been there for ninety minutes. Angie had been in labour for longer, but Ezra, Angie's husband, had told them it was pointless coming to the hospital since it was still early. The only reason the two of them had gone to the hospital was because Angie had tested positive for some bacteria and needed to be put on antibiotics so it wouldn't be passed to her baby.
This did nothing to change Sophia's mind about not wanting a child.
In any case, Charlene had decided not to take Ezra's advice. She'd wanted to come to the hospital immediately. She'd demanded Sophia and Zoey go, too. Sophia had wanted to say something about it, but then she'd seen Charlene's expression. Her mother was terrified.
To be fair, terror was the state Charlene lived in since her husband's death. Sophia sympathised. It was scary to build an entire life around someone, then have to live it when they were no longer there. But she wouldn't coddle her mother. She wasn't Angie, who soaked up everyone's emotions as if she were a wet sponge, cleaning up their messes in the process. Nor was she Zoey, who would do whatever she wanted to regardless of the people around her. Yes, Sophia felt for her mother; she also needed Charlene to get her act together.
But after five years of dealing with her mother's terror, Sophia knew when to pick her battles. This was not one of them. Today's terror came from a mother's fear for her child. So Sophia bit her tongue, woke Zoey up, and now they were in the waiting room ... Waiting.
She'd sent Ezra a message as soon as they got there, but there'd been no reply. He'd either turned off his phone or put it on silent. Or he simply wasn't interested in checking it.
When Angie had introduced him almost two years ago, Sophia had realised he was different to the men she knew. He watched Angie with an intensity that made her think he was trying to anticipate Angie's next move. He paid attention to Angie even when she wasn't paying attention to him. Sophia could only imagine what would happen when Angie actually needed his support.
But it had been ninety minutes. Almost two hours now, she saw, checking the clock on the blue wall of the waiting room. The bubble of anxiety around her mother was growing larger and larger. Charlene needed an update, and Sophia needed to get out of there before she got trapped in the bubble. Not because she would feel the anxiety, but because she nearly always popped the bubble. Her mother didn't need that today.
'Where are you going?' Zoey asked. Charlene's gaze rose with her. It was curiously blank.
'I thought I'd try to find some news,' Sophia told Zoey.
'I'll come with you.'
'No,' she said immediately. Zoey's eyes widened. 'Sorry, Zo, it'll be easier if I do this myself.'
Zoey's voice was breathy. It was the tone she used when she was hurt but didn't want to show it. Sophia softened.
'Can I bring back something for you?' she asked, wanting to make it better. 'Chips? Chocolate?' When Zoey didn't look up, Sophia lowered her voice. 'Both?' There was a long pause before Zoey looked at her. 'Lightly salted chips. Fruit and nut chocolate. And something to drink.'
'Of course,' Sophia said with a smile. She turned to her mother. 'And you, Mom?'
'A water, please.'
Sophia nodded, her smile disappearing as she walked away from her family. She felt hollow and full at the same time. The hollowness was because these events made her remember her father. Nothing much had fazed him. Generally, that attitude had spilled over to her mother. Charlene wouldn't be the mess she currently was if Daniel Roux had been there.
Sophia didn't engage with that hollowness. It was simply there. An observation. A consequence of death. The fullness was more dangerous anyway. Emotions that swelled into the hollowness. Resentment, betrayal. A cesspool of negativity that Sophia fed each time something like this happened.
When she felt out of her depths with taking care of her mother. Or when Zoey needed someone who could nudge her in the right direction. Whenever she thought that Angie would be better equipped to deal with the remaining members of her family. When they thought so, too.
But after their father's death, Angie had run. All Zoey and their mother had left was Sophia. They'd often made it clear they didn't think it was enough. When Angie had finally come back, Sophia could see why. Angie was exactly who they needed her to be, even if she had come back changed.
Sophia hadn't changed though. And the differences between her and her older sister were sharp and aggravating. It didn't matter that Sophia had picked up the slack when Angie couldn't. It only mattered that she was there when Angie needed her. Because families were there for one another.
Except their family had conditions.
If only Sophia adhered to those conditions, too.
'What are you alluding to, Dr Craven?'
'We suspect your mother has dementia,' Dr Craven said, obliging Parker Jones's request and cutting the bull. Parker wasn't sure if that was a good thing now that he'd heard the words come out of his mother's doctor's mouth. 'There's no one test I can administer to give you certainty, but the testing we have done up to this point has made me fairly confident. The behaviours you've described over the past few years are also good indicators.'
An unreasonable wave of guilt washed over him. They were making this diagnosis based on information he'd provided. Behaviours he'd questioned his mother on and she'd brushed off. Now those behaviours were part of how they knew she was sick.
He felt sick.
'The good news is that it's in the early stages. Your mother still has good years ahead of her. It will require some adjustment, but there's no reason why things can't be normal for the foreseeable future.'
How is that good news? he wanted to ask. He didn't. Instead he looked through the small window in the door of the room where his mother lay. She was alone. His father had stepped in and paid so she could have privacy.
Parker blew out a breath. 'Can I see her?'
'She's sleeping.' There was the briefest of pauses. 'I'm more than happy to answer your questions, Mr Jones.'
'That won't be necessary,' he replied woodenly. He held out a hand. 'I appreciate you caring for my mother.'
When Dr Craven had shaken his hand, Parker walked away, leaving the confused doctor behind. Parker knew what the man was thinking. Someone who'd just been told his mother might have dementia shouldn't walk away. He should have questions. He should ask those questions so he knew what to do next. Parker was well aware of what he should have done.
It was why he'd walked away.
Not his best moment, he could admit. But there was too much going on in his head for him to think logically. He hadn't been able to since he'd got the call from his neighbour telling him his mother had been hit by a car. Fortunately the car hadn't been going fast, and Penny Jones's injuries were minimal — a broken arm, a cracked rib, some bruising. The real problem was the police report an officer had conveyed to him shortly after the incident.
A car hadn't bumped into Penny; she'd walked in front of it.
He gritted his teeth, quickened his steps down the white hallway of the hospital. Though he wasn't in any of the wards, the smell of sterility that attempted to mask illness churned his stomach. The walls were tall, the windows high, not allowing him a necessary glimpse of the outside world. He needed to prove to himself that he wasn't trapped. Not by the terrible building he was in, or by his mother's possible illness. Or perhaps he needed to be around people, he thought, his legs still moving despite the fact that he didn't know where he was going. If he made his way down to the cafeteria, he'd be exposed to the busyness that was always there, regardless of the time. Busyness meant noise, which meant people, and energy. Surely that would distract him. Pull him out of his own head.
Instead, he lost his breath.
He didn't know what had happened until it was too late. He was already falling, propelled by a force that couldn't only have been a person since his breath was knocked out so completely. He was on the floor when he saw it wasn't someone with machinery or the like. It was only a person. She looked tiny, sprawled on the floor across from him, though her expression made him think she had little to no awareness of this fact.
He got to his feet, held out a hand to help her to hers. But she was already up, gathering the snacks he only now realised had scattered at their collision. He lowered, reaching for a water bottle, but she snatched it away from him before he could get a grip on it. When she was standing again, she glowered at him. He frowned. Neither of them said anything for a moment.
'You're not going to apologise?' she asked in a prim voice.
'Why would I apologise?'
'You walked into me.'
'You walked into me.'
'Really?' he asked lightly, though annoyance had stretched its wicked arms and gripped his tongue. 'How do you know that?'
'You weren't paying attention.'
'The fact that you can say that tells me you were paying attention, which means you knowingly walked into me. Your fault.'
Her mouth opened, as if she wanted to say something, but no words came out. It drew his attention to her lips. Plump, with an intricate network of creases imprinted into their fullness that he'd never seen before. They were neither pink nor red, those lips, but fell somewhere in between, or formed a fascinating combination of the two.
'Hey,' she said sharply. 'My eyes are up here.'
He lifted his gaze. 'I was trying to figure out what you'd say next. Nothing good, I imagined.'
Colour spread on her cheeks, making him notice the dark spots on the brown skin for the first time.
'This is what I get for speaking to a man I don't know,' she muttered, rolling her eyes. 'Listen,' she continued more loudly, 'I don't care that you're a jackass who knocks people over with their tank-like body and then refuses to apologise. I —'
'Why not?' he asked.
'Why not what?'
'Why don't you care?'
'I can handle it.'
He smirked. The colour on her skin grew deeper.
'Continue,' he said, folding his arms. Her eyes dipped to his biceps. Then she met his eyes and he swore the look she gave him could set the world on fire.
'I don't need your permission to continue.' He waved a hand.
'Out of curiosity — are you just an annoying person?' she asked. 'Or are you saving this side of your personality for me?'
He only smiled, because that seemed to annoy her more than anything and for some perverse reason, he enjoyed seeing the way her colour changed when she was annoyed.
'Of all the days I could meet an inconsiderate —'
'Unfair,' he interrupted. 'I'm not inconsiderate.'
'Considerate people apologise.'
'We've already established that you were the one responsible for this. Usually the person responsible for the action apologises to the victim.'
Her entire face tightened. 'Victim?' She barked out a laugh. 'Get out of my way. I have enough of those in my life.'
The abrupt change in her demeanour had him giving her space before his brain could catch up with what had happened. When it did, the anger that had taken a back seat to his amusement flared.
'Now you're being rude, too. You're the annoying person in this equation.'
She whirled around. 'Hey, buddy, you don't get to call me rude when you're being rude yourself. When you're purposefully going out of your way to get a reaction from me.'
Now he opened his mouth. Shut it. Because she was right, and he would not tell her that. He wouldn't lie either.
He clenched his jaw, hating that she'd put him in a predicament where he couldn't have the upper hand. Her eyes dipped to his mouth, and she smirked.
'It isn't so fun when you're on the other side, is it?' She walked away.CHAPTER 2
Sophia was still bristling when she returned to the waiting room. She might have won whatever weird, petulant argument she'd got into with that strange man, but the fact that she'd had an argument at all annoyed her.
It didn't help that she'd had a frustrating time trying to find out which room Ezra and Angie were in. She'd been bounced between counters as if she were at a shop and not a hospital. Eventually, when she got the information, she was told visitors were only allowed during visiting hours. It was five in the morning. Visiting hours weren't until the afternoon.
After that, she shouldn't have been surprised the vending machine had stolen all of her cash. Security had been no help. Apparently, vending machines were used at 'own risk'. She'd eventually found a small shop in the cafeteria to buy Zoey and her mother's things at. They'd only been selling coffee at that point, but she'd begged and begged and had somehow convinced the clerk to sneak her the chips and chocolate.
Of course bumping into a giant and having an argument with him had annoyed her then. He could have killed her if he wanted to, yet he'd refused to accept responsibility for the attempted homicide. He was grumpy, too, which she would have been fine with if he hadn't purposefully taunted her. That self-satisfied expression on his handsome face hadn't helped.
Handsome face? Wait, when did that happen? She didn't think he was handsome ... did she? Okay, sure, objectively, he had an okay face. But handsome implied she liked it, and she wouldn't like someone who was purposefully contrary. She didn't care how muscular his giant body was.
'Why are you shaking your head?' Zoey asked, taking her chips from Sophia's hands though it was at the bottom of the pile she carried. Sophia corrected to make sure the rest of her haul didn't drop and glared at Zoey.
'Because I knew you were going to do something stupid like that,' she said. 'I was trying to warn you.'
'Alas,' Zoey said cheerfully. Sophia bit back a sigh.
'You might as well help me with this now.'
Zoey tilted her head, opening the bag before slowly bringing one chip to her lips. 'First apologise for being snappy.'
'What is it with people wanting me to apologise for something they did wrong?'(Continues…)
Excerpted from "One Day To Fall"
Copyright © 2019 Therese Beharrie.
Excerpted by permission of Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.