|Publisher:||Genesis Press, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)|
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I can't believe I let you talk me into this. Today more than ever I know we are too old for this. We should be doing anything except going to college. We could be shopping at the Grand Traverse Mall. Heck, we're missing one great sale, ya know?" Jan Walker huffed her complaints to Leela Taylor as they hustled through the crowded halls to their next class.
Leela stopped, placed her hands on her hips and scowled at her lifelong friend. "Thirty-six isn't old. Besides I hear the history prof is a real looker and single. That should keep your mind busy for a while."
"Where did you hear this? Or are you just making it up so I won't skip class on the first day?" Jan's face creased in suspicion as she stepped closer.
"I heard it in the cafeteria this morning. Now hurry, or we'll be late." Leela tugged on Jan's arm as she quickened her pace.
The crowds thinned and the talking became hushed as the students made their way into classrooms. Leela hated being late. After all these years, she was finally going to finish her education, and she didn't want to miss one minute. Frantically she looked around for lecture room 70. Perplexed, she stood back and stared at her schedule and facility map. "Damn it. I know it has to be on this hall." Leaning against the wall, she took in a deep breath. The air was filled with perfume and cologne, mixed with the freshly painted walls, reminiscent of her first time in collegeeighteen years ago.
She glanced up from her schedule. Now where was Jan? First she couldn't find her classroom and now Jan had disappeared. She let out a long breath. Her friend's lusty laughter brought her attention to the end of the corridor. She could see Jan talking to a tall, blonde man who was leaning down to listen. Leela quickly covered the space between them. As she arrived, the man entered the classroom.
Leela frowned. "What are you doing? Can't you save your flirting for later?"
"Calm down. This is our classroom. We still have two minutes to spare." An impish grin spread across Jan's face. "Don't you want to know who I was talking to?"
"Not really but I know you are going to tell me anyway." Leela stepped toward the door then waited while Jan fussed with her hair.
Pulling out a mirror and lipstick Jan freshened her full lips. Pressing them together with a smack, her eyes glittered. "None other than our history professor, John Whitman." Running her fingers through her hair, she continued, "This should really be biology class. He has a set of genes to die for."
Leela's lips quirked with amusement, the irritation she had felt, forgotten. "Thank God, I was worried you wouldn't find anything to entertain yourself." They entered the room smiling, enjoying their light-hearted bantering.
"Oh, great, the last two seats are front-row center," Jan whispered.
"That's what we get for being late." Leela shrugged. She slipped into her seat, and Jan sat next to her. The professor's back was to the students. With red marker in hand, he wrote HISTORY 231 on the white board. He turned to address his students. "This is the class. If you aren't where you belong perhaps you should find your proper place." He placed the marker on the lip of the board and glanced over his students.
The heavy lashes that shadowed Leela's cheeks flew up. She stared in disbelief. Her heart thudded heavily against her rib cage. A soft gasp escaped her lips. "Jack," she uttered under her breath. The long hair and beard were gone but she could never mistake those piercing-blue eyes and his deep rich voice. His name bounced like a ping-pong ball from her scalp to her toes touching every nerve on its journey.
Their last time together began to play in her mind as if it were yesterday. A warm autumn breeze filtered in from the window setting the stage for reminiscing. Her emotions ranged from glowing passion to frustrated anger.
She remembered leaving his apartment all those years ago. She'd promised herself she would never see him again. And she would have kept that promise if fate hadn't stepped in. She was pregnant. Seven months after she'd left Jack and before their child Alex, was born, she returned to Central Michigan University. She would've told Jack about their child but he had left with another woman at the end of the first semester. Leela grimaced. She could still feel the sting of discovering that his love had been so shallow. Well she was stronger now. She could keep the promise she had made so long ago, even with this new twist of providence.
Leela knew he was talking, she could hear the hum of his rich baritone voice, but she couldn't hear the words. A tap on her arm startled her. She glanced at Jan who was mouthing, "What's wrong?" Leela shook her head and watched as Jack returned to the board.
He nodded to the few students who realized their mistake and stole from the room. "Good afternoon, class. Now that we have weeded out the wayward souls, we'll continue." Indicating the board, he said, "As you can see, my name is John Whitman. If you are older than thirty, you may call me John, if not, you may address me as Professor Whitman." Pausing for a moment, he added, "I must admit that I'm rarely addressed as John." The students roared. "I guess I never have a student who is older than thirty." He surveyed the room. "At least none that will admit it," he added. Again the students responded to his light-hearted manner.
Leela shrunk in her seat as Jack's survey of the classroom continued. He glanced in her direction, then at Jan and smiled. His bright face suddenly darkened as he moved his gaze back to Leela. She felt the blood drain from her face as his startled stare turned to recognition. He glared at her. She slid down farther in her seat as if she could ward off the inevitable.
Their gazes met and held as nineteen years crumbled away. Leela looked into eyes that mirrored her own feelings. Eyes that grew angrier as perished memories rose from their well-marked grave. Leela shuddered as she watched Jack wrestle with the same thing she was struggling with: the past. They froze in a stunned tableau, somewhere in time.
The students stirred in an uncomfortable shuffle as the couple held the silent stare. Cold dignity created a stony mask on Jack's face as he pulled his open gaze from her and walked to the board. Leela was assailed by a tumble of confused thoughts and emotions. She watched as Jack grabbed the red marker and jerked at the cap until it came lose. He began to write again. Ten percent followed by class attendance. Then he wrote twenty-five percent followed by term paper due November tenth. The marker was shaking in his hand as he finished. Mid-term, followed by thirty-five percent and final exam followed by fifty percent. She could see his long frame straighten as he pulled a deep breath into his lungs. He laid the marker down and returned his attention to the class.
He fixed his eyes on the back of the classroom. "Now, class, if you have minimal math skills, you'll note this adds up to one hundred and twenty percent. This gives you room for error." Glancing around the classroom, carefully ignoring Leela, he added, "But of course this group will be so exceptional the extra will not be needed." The students visibly relaxed and collectively breathed a sigh of relief.
Leela watched as Jack regained his stride and began his opening lecture. "We begin this class circa eighteen hundred." Leela let out the breath she had been holding. Thank God Jack was ignoring her. The last thing she wanted was for anyone to know about their past, especially their last day. She could feel her face flush, and her stomach knot as she remembered. Oh God, how she remembered the cruel words he had so recklessly flung, chilled her even now. One word at a time they were dredged from the past. Shuddering, she tried to suppress the onslaught of memories and the consequences of seeing him again. She never thought she would see this day. It was too late: Pandora's box was open. She would never forget what Jack did.
The time span had definitely not healed the hurt and pain. She stole a look in Jack's direction. He was sitting on the edge of his desk with his long legs stretched in front of him. His body was permanently embedded in her mind. She could see the hard muscles of his thighs through his jeans. She knew under the dark blue shirt, which accentuated his eyes, was a sinewy, golden chest. His face looked even longer without the beard but it was still like a magnet, drawing her. Shaking her head, she couldn't believe her thoughts. How could she still be attracted to him, after all this time and after what he had done to her?
The class began leaving, bringing Leela from her reverie. She glanced at Jan's seat; it was empty. Her gaze followed the sound of her friend's voice. At the front of the room Jan was talking with Jack. He looked totally captivated by her. But then Jan could hold anyone's attention. Leela had always admired her friend's ability to make friends with complete strangers but this time was different. Pushing down the irrational pangs of jealousy, Leela made her way to where Jack and Jan stood.
The short trip to the front of the room was like the longest mile. She was determined to keep the gut-punching feeling from showing and instead be extremely casual. Approaching them Leela stood straight, squared her shoulders and pasted on her sweetest smile.
Jan turned to Leela. "It's about time you woke up. My gosh, you're going to have John thinking you're bored to death."
Leela kept her smile in place glancing from Jan to Jack. "Don't be silly, Jan. As much as I love history, I doubt I could be bored." Then turning her full attention to Jack whose blue eyes were piercing hers, she spoke softly. "I know you told us your name is John Whitman, but ... well it's just that a long time ago I knew a man who looked a lot like you." Waving her hand, she added, "But his name was Jack." Leela was in control again, and she felt great. She could see Jack wrestling with the possibility that she didn't recognize him. Patting his arm she added, "but I'm sure you're nothing like the man I knew."
Jack raised his eyebrows, leaned forward and lowered his voice "In fact, I do remember you. I believe you were a freshman at CMU when I was a senior." A mocking smile played on his face as he offered a challenging probe. "If I remember right, you quit college to go to D.C. and save the world. How did that go?"
His rich voice was velvet smooth and his posture relaxed. He could have been asking about the weather. Damn him, she thought. She'd forgotten just how ingenious he could be in a discussion. He seemed to enjoy her struggle to capture her composure. Lifting her chin a little more, she answered almost too casually, "It went very well. Thank you." She couldn't think where to take this to regain her ground.
Jack's grin spread from ear to ear. His eyes were filled with self-assurance. "Maybe sometime you could fill me in on your great trip to save mankind or womankind as you would have it."
"Perhaps I will, Jack ... or is it John now?"
Jack leaned in a little farther, "Jack, is my nickname. Only people who are, or have been, close to me call me that." She didn't miss the double meaning of his statement. She had known him very intimately. She shivered inside.
Leela's cheeks burned in remembrance, while trying to push away fleeting pictures of their entwined bodies. She fought the desire to tell him what she really thought. She knew she'd lose the war of words and right now she didn't have enough control. She turned to Jan. "We'd better get going. I'm sure John and I could bore you to death with our reminiscing." She shot him a glare and hoped he caught the change from Jack to John.
A swift shadow of anger swept across his face. He looked as if he would respond but instead he picked up his briefcase and moved toward the door. "I'll see you ladies the day after tomorrow." Checking his watch he added, "I have a group of brilliant minds waiting for me in another room."
Leela watched as he exited the room without a hint of looking back. Again he had the upperhand in the war of words.
Jan folded her arms over her chest. "Okay, my best friend, the one who tells me everything? Explain what just happened. I'll be particularly interested in how D.C. went very well.
Leela threw her book bag over her shoulder. "Come on, we'll talk on the way home." She needed time to sort out her feelings and just how much of this saga she would share with her friend who did know everything about her ... almost everything.
Leela was glad she was driving; it gave her something to concentrate on. She was embarrassed by the confrontation in class. Her insides jumbled trying to sort out her feelings and the story she'd tell Jan and eventually her son. Alex, their son, hers and Jack's, who would be eighteen next summer and was asking to find his father. Leela had avoided the questions with light banter but she knew that wouldn't hold him off long.
Jan rolled down the window and stuck her head out. "Don't you just love fall?" She breathed deeply of the intoxicating air.
Leela inhaled deeply. The breeze from Lake Michigan was fresh and warm, gently brushing the coloring trees that were scattered along the shoreline and carried in the fragrance of the changing season. She knew this was Jan's way of laying the groundwork for the interrogation. She watched as her friend pushed her thick mass of raven curls from her face. Her gaze met Jan's as her friend turned toward her. She held her breath. Here comes the cross-examination.
"Do you want to share any of the story or do you want to keep it bottled up?" she asked, caution filling Jan's voice.
"I don't know where to start." Leela let out a long sigh. Running her hands over the smooth steering wheel, she tried to think of something equally smooth to say. "The truth is I bought into the free love thing. I thought I was a flower child." She let out an embarrassed laugh. "You know, pollinate and go on to the next garden. But when I left my first garden, I was going to bear fruit." It was a relief to say it aloud. Glancing at the confused face of her friend, she added, "Well say something."
Jan's dark brown eyes sprung wide open, her light mahogany face grew lighter. "Are you telling me that our gorgeous professor knows who Alex's father is ...?" Then her mouth formed an O. "Leela," she said slowly as if waiting for everything to register. "Alex is a darker version of the professor," she blurted. And then hit her forehead with the palm of her hand. When no denial came from her friend, she gasped. "My God, does Jack even know? Does Alex?"
Leela shook her head and stared out the window at the brilliant profusion of colors lining the streets. Yesterday the bright colors mirrored her life, fragrant and alive with color and today they mocked it. She pulled into the driveway of Jan's farmhouse and turned off the engine. "I can't imagine how Alex will react. Somehow I have to keep him from finding out. Jack was never interested enough to find me, and I won't let him hurt Alex. Alex doesn't know his father is white, and I'm not going to tell him. It would mean adjusting to a whole new thought pattern."
"Leela, I'm sorry. I never knew the hurt you went through. I really thought it was just a one-night stand. She paused. "You don't think Alex has guessed? His eyes are blue-green and his hair is not like this." She patted her curly, dark hair. Jan stared at her sympathetically, "I know, sister. You had real feelings for him, didn't you?"
"Had is the key word here. I'd completely put him out of my mind until today." She knew this wasn't true. Whenever she looked at Alex, she thought of Jack. His eyes were a blend of hers and his father's. She shook her head.
"Alex thinks his eye color is like mine and a hundred other ancestors. I saw no need to tell him differently. She couldn't let their lives become tangled. They'd already had enough pain to last a lifetime, first her mothers death and then her dad's suicide. No, she thought, just avoid the involvements and then there'll be no pain.
Jan spoke quietly. "Leela, why didn't you tell Jack when you found out you were pregnant? Things might have been a lot different."
Leela shrugged her shoulders as if it didn't matter. "I tried." Making a futile attempt to conceal her pain, she offered a smile to her friend. "When I returned to tell him of his impending fatherhood, he had left with another woman." Sucking in air to keep the tears from flowing, she added, "I guess our relationship meant more to me than it did to him."
"Oh, Leela. Why didn't you tell me this years ago? No one should have to carry a secret like this." Hugging her friend, Jan cursed. "Damn him. Believe me, girlfriend, your secret is safe with me. He doesn't deserve you or Alex." Releasing Leela, she added. "God this man is a real jackass. I'm sure the only way he can get a woman's attention is to stand in front of a classroom."
This time Leela did laugh. Jumping to her defense was just like Jan. Eyeing Jan directly Leela asked, "What happened to the best genes you'd seen in a long time?"
Jan opened the door and stood outside the car leaning in the window. "Well, you just can't tell a book by its cover, even if the book is well put together."
"Thanks Jan. You are a true friend. Please remember what I've shared with you is a part of mea part no one else knows. I have to keep this from Alex." Leaning her head back against the seat, she continued, "I want to take control of my own life. For thirty-six years my life has controlled me. That's why I went back to school, and I don't want what happened last time to repeat itself. But most of all now, I don't want Jack to do to Alex what he did to me."
Jan reached in and patted Leela's shoulder. "You know you can count on me. You've always been there for me. I'll never forget how much you helped when Tom died. Me a widow with two small kids ..." Shaking her head she spoke almost reverently. "You saved my life, and now I'll return the favor." Flashing her brightest smile, she added, "After all isn't that what our mothers planned at our births?" She flipped her dark curls from her face. "Not only will I keep your secret but somehow we will get even with Professor One-night-stand."
Before Leela could protest Jan walked with a determined gait toward her house. She turned and gave a quick wave and then disappeared through the door. Leela shook her head. "She's nuts. Now I'll have to keep an eye on her." She left muttering to herself.
Leela placed her books on the kitchen counter next to Alex's schoolbooks. Pausing, she ran her fingers over the raised letters on his notebook. "Alexander Hamilton Taylor," she murmured. His name was the only gift she could give her son from his father. She smiled as she remembered her first encounter with Jack. He was giving a speech at a civil rights rally, where he espoused the great qualities of Alexander Hamilton. Oh, he had explained, not that Hamilton was a civil rights leader but he was honest to a fault. And that was what was needed in this country ... more honesty.
She could see Jack's bright young face filled with the conviction he spoke. When she first met him she'd been a blushing virgin, but she was mature now. She had a son to protect and nothing would get in the way of Alex's happiness. The slamming door brought Leela back to the present.
"Mom, I'm home! How was school today?" Alex asked as he opened the refrigerator. Pulling out a chicken leg he began chewing while talking. "I love asking that."
"School was fine. How did your day go?" Leela wanted to keep the subject on him; she needed time to assimilate the day's happenings.
"Great! I made the basketball team and the debate team, all in one day."
Leela poured herself a cup of coffee. "Alex, that's wonderful. I'm so proud of you." Sipping the hot brew as she sat at the kitchen table, she asked, "By the way have you completed your college applications yet?" She watched her son ease himself into the chair across from her. He moves just like his father, his body, almost a duplicate, long and muscular yet graceful.
"Yes, Mom, they're all done. You know I want to go to Central Michigan University, don't you?"
"I know, honey, and I'm sure you'll be accepted. They wouldn't dare turn you down," she laughed and pinched his cheek.
Alex rubbed the spot. "Mom, I think cheek pinching should go to the same place my tricycle went. How about you?"
Leela hugged her son, "Okay. Just once more for old times' sake." Pinching his cheek again, she looked at him seriously. "I don't know what I'll do without you next year."
Alex held his mother at arm's length. His piercing aqua eyes staring into her sad, soft forest orbs. "Now, Mom, don't go all teary eyed on me. You know you've got college, and what about Dave?"
Leela glanced at her watch and jumped up. "Dave will be here in an hour. We're going to look at property for his new house."
Alex followed his mother from the kitchen. "Mom, I think it's time we had a son-to-mother talk."
Leela held up her hands to stop what she knew was coming. "Alexander, don't start that again. Dave knows I'm not going to marry him. He also knows that I'm not going to marry anyone. We enjoy each other's company, that's all there is to it. I've told him if he finds someone else, he is free." Looking pointedly at her son, she added, "Our relationship has no strings."
"The guy loves you."
"No, he doesn't. We're just friends."
"This week property and next week the china pattern," Alex teased. "Yep, old Dave can't wait for me to go to college. I suppose you could do worse. At least the guy has money."
Leela wanted to change the subject. "Why do you call him old Dave? He's only a year older than I am? Do you think I'm old?"
"At thirty-six you're no spring chicken, but, no I guess I don't think you're old. We both know who has a birthday in two months."
Leela threw her shoe at Alex, "Get out of here. Your teasing will drive me crazy someday."
"Mom, I think it's too late."
Their laughter filled the house. Leela pounced on Alex and began to tickle him. He was so much larger than she and this was her only defense. Neither of them heard Dave enter the house, until she caught a glimpse of him standing, watching as mother and son spent their energies.
"Hello. Is this a private brawl or can anyone join?"
"Hi." Leela squeezed out before Alex took advantage of the moment. He picked up his mother and carried her to Dave. "Would you please take this young lady off my hands? I have a date tonight. Oh, and have her in early. She has an eight o'clock class in the morning." Alex poured Leela into Dave's waiting arms, "Now, Mom, behave yourself."
Leela flushed as she wiggled out of Dave's hold. Grabbing Alex by the arm she reached up and pinched her son's cheek. "You worry about Alex and I'll worry about Leela."
Alex shook his finger at her, "Mom, remember the tricycle."
Leela laughed as Alex slumped away and dropped into a chair. Then she turned her attention to Dave. "I'm sorry. I'll be ready in a few minutes. This youngster needed a dressing down. He refers to us as old."
Dave gave an easy smile and looked to where Alex had stretched out on the sofa, "I guess when I was a teenager I thought mid-thirties was old too. Thank God I was wrong."
Excerpted from Rendezvous with Fate by Jeanne Sumerix. Copyright © 2000 by Jeanne Sumerix. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had my doubts about this book, but I'm glad I read it because it was an amazing read!
Good Read but too slow and heroine appeared brainless
Another one of your books I just couldn't put down! I loved it! The characters are so refreshing and real! I could relate so well to Leela, being a single mother myself for so long! Alex did steal the show in this book for sure! Would love to see him get his own book! Every time I read one of your books I hate to have it end! Just want to go on reading more and more! You have such a unique writing ability! I have never read books like these, they really are original and refreshing!! And Jack, wow you just give these characters so much life and sensual appeal! Can't wait for February to read the next one!
This is a wonderful passionate story of two people who have to fight for their love. Jack and Leela are two of the best characters in a romance I've read in a long time. Ms. Sumerix has written a sexy romance that explores not only racism but even more important redemption. I can't wait to read more from this talented new voice
In 1979 at CMU senior Jack Whitman asks his beloved freshman Leela Taylor to move in with him and eventually marry him. Leela rejects Jack¿s offer because she is quitting school to help people, starting as a clerk in DC. They part angrily with neither one aware that their recent lovemaking has left Leela pregnant. Nineteen years later, Leela returns to school only to find Jack is the professor of her history class. Leela never told her son Alex who his father is nor informed Jack he sired a child. As they share memories, Jack and Leela realize they still love one another. However, if he learns the truth will he understand why she never told him about Alex? Then there is the people they are seeing who refuse to give up on their relationship so that Jack and Leela can regain what they almost had. RENDEZVOUS WITH FATE centers on a second chance at love relationship drama rather than the interracial problems confronting the two lead protagonists. The story line is well written and readers will understand Jack¿s hurt and reluctance, but struggle with Leela¿s save the world motive for leaving school and her beloved. For a welcome change, the teen seems reasonably adjusted and thus not interferes with the prime story line. Jeanne Sumerix shows she is a superb author, but though this reviewer enjoyed the tale, concentration on the biracial aspect rather than the second chance theme would have been refreshing. With her talent, Ms. Sumerix easily could have been a pioneer not a settler. Harriet Klausner
Jack and Leela were given a second chance to find and hold dear the love they had in college. I was thrilled that the author didn't spend time on the race issue when that wasn't the reason these two people were apart. Neither of them had a problem with each others race. Their problems were more internal. A Love as strong as theirs transcended the norm and lept to a higher realm. I LOVED IT!