Sara Thompson Layton, professor of History, is a woman grounded in the present, yet fascinated by the past and its intricate weavings and subsequent outcomes. She's a strong, resilient woman who has spent most of her thirty-eight years sheathing her emotions in a protective shell of reason and logic. The only man who has ever been able to breech that wall is Robert Rollins, a man with his own protective shell. The intense emotional bond they shared was unlike any either of these two guarded spirits had ever experienced, but the turmoil and uncertainty in their lives was too much for their fragile relationship to bear.
When Rob re-enters Sara's life seven years later, she is reluctant to risk her heart again and is locked in an emotional struggle until the day she purchases the century-old memoir of early Texas pioneer John Rollins. What Sara discovers within this weathered book unexpectedly opens a window to her own past and a 150 year old bond that shakes the foundation of her logical world, forcing her to reexamine what she believed to be a long-dead relationship.
Accepting the improbable, Sara finds the courage to let go and listen with her heart.
Fate may have brought Sara and Rob together, but only they can choose their destiny.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.44(d)|
About the Author
L. W. Ellis loves history! As a professional archaeologist and historian for more than twenty years, her study of mankind has led her down some amazing paths, challenging her to see the world differently. She was always the kid who asked "why" and that hasn't changed. She continues to be fascinated by the intricacies of the past and its continuing influence on the present. Through her explorations, she has learned that words have power. They awaken our senses to the beauty and spirit of the world around us and capture the essence of divergent concepts. No longer constrained by all that pesky data, she's taken her knowledge of science and southern history and ventured into the world of women's and historical fiction with all its infinite possibilities. She lives and writes on the north shore of beautiful Lake Travis in Lago Vista, Texas. To learn more about L. W. Ellis, check out her educational website www.nurturethemind.com or her author website at www.lwellis.com.
Read an Excerpt
Austin, Texas September 1997 - seven years later
A knot of cars glutted the southbound lanes of Lamar Street, moving in fits and starts as traffic slowly merged left to clear the mangled bumpers of three cars blocking the right-hand lane. Caught somewhere back in the pack, the sleek, black BMW inched its way toward downtown Austin.
"I should've known better than to come this way." Robert Rollins unleashed a frustrated snort. Noonday traffic was always a bitch. He should have cut over to the MoPac Freeway and come in the back way.
To make matters worse, his stomach emitted a low growl reminding him he'd missed lunch. His own fault, he should have gone to lunch with everyone else after the meeting broke up, but three hours with the "whiz kid" was just about all he could stomach in one day.
Rob rolled his shoulders, trying yet again to dismiss the terse exchange he'd had with O'Malley. Yeah, the whiz kid had put on quite a show today. So cocksure of himself. Fresh out of an MBA program and he had all the answers.
Snot-nosed kid. Not enough business experience — let alone common sense — to fill up his effng Phi Beta Kappa mug.
The older Rob got, the more difficult he found it to work with the O'Malleys' of the world. Brash young kids who thought a college degree meant they'd acquired all the knowledge they'd ever need. Too arrogant to realize that learning lasted a lifetime, that there was always something new to discover, that experience counted.
When a flash of red lights jarred him loose from his internal tirade, he hit the brakes hard, stopping mere inches from the car in front of him. "Come on, Rollins. Pay attention. It's just a job," he growled under his breath then let out a mocking snort when he realized the words that had just come out of his mouth.
For so many years, his job had been the all-encompassing focus of his life. How many times had Julia complained about the long hours he spent at the office or the days — hell, weeks — he spent on the road? He was driven, driven to the point of exhaustion. Now, with a sudden flash of red brake lights, he realized just how close he was to burnout.
He should have recognized the symptoms long before now. That of course would have required slowing down long enough to actually think about his life and where it was headed.
He let out another contemptuous grumble. My, how introspective we've become. Must be all those sessions with the marriage counselor. Or maybe it's hunger.
Or lack of sleep. After the argument he and Julia had had last night, he'd slept in the spare bedroom. Well, maybe not slept — more like tossed and turned until morning. No wonder he was off his mark at this morning's meeting.
He leaned his head out the window and surveyed the long line of traffic snaking its way down the street ahead of him. Stuck. In more ways than one, he realized as his thoughts drifted back to the night before.
"Rob, you said you wanted children."
His baffled gaze settled on her. Had she really just said that? "Julia. Now's not the time to talk about having a baby. I think we'd better concentrate on figuring out what's happening with us."
As if he hadn't spoken, she drowned him out. "Butyou always said you wanted children. You're thirty-eight. At this rate, you'll be too old to enjoy them. We can't wait much longer."
He shook his head in disbelief. "Wereyou listening to anything Dr. Lindsey said during all those hours of counseling? I hardly think our marriage is strong enough to bring a child into it."
"But children will make our marriage stronger," she stated emphatically.
Rob raked his fingers through his hair. Four months of counseling — had he been the only one sitting in the room? "Having a child isn't going to change what's wrong with our marriage. We are not ready for children."
"So when will you be ready?" she demanded, dark eyes narrowing to slits. Oh, did he know that look.
This whole conversation was ridiculous. "Don't you ever listen? Why can't you —" He bit off the angry words. He was getting too old for these all-night rows. He shoved past her and headed for the wet bar. Snatching the half-empty bottle of scotch off the shelf, he reached for a glass but stopped halfway through the motion when an image of his mother's wasted body flashed before him.
He set the bottle down.
"Not tonight, Julia. Not tonight," he appealed, pinching tightly at the bridge of his nose. "We're meeting with the Randolph group in the morning. You know how important this is."
"Business. It's always business," she flung at him. "What about ..."
Her words had trailed off because he'd tuned her out, like he always did. No wonder their marriage was a disaster. She never listened to anything he said, and he'd given up trying to decipher her convoluted reasoning. Four months of counseling hadn't changed a thing.
Now here he sat, exhausted — and stuck.
"Damn. Must be an accident," he mumbled as he craned his neck to one side in a futile effort to see around the enormous SUV filling the lane ahead of him.
He slumped back in the seat. "What did I do to deserve this?" he droned dismally and was startled by the lucid voice inside him that answered back. You mean besides lie to yourself? You're no different from the whiz kid. So sure you know everything. So sure you don't need anyone.
A sudden wave of self-pity washed over him. How had his life gotten away from him? He used to have it all figured out. He had the plan, and he'd worked it, worked it hard. He was on target — well, for the most part. He had been a little behind schedule the past couple of years, but he just needed to tweak the plan. He had to stay focused on all the targeted goals he had reached — Hoffman's Retail, Vice-President of Store Acquisitions embossed on his business cards, a healthy IRA, a classy car, right house in the right neighborhood.
So why didn't it feel right anymore? "Is that it? Is that what it's all about?" The words tumbled out of him before he realized it. Of course it was. It had to be. If not, then what had he been doing all these years? So why did he feel like he was sitting here in his fancy car and his eight-hundred dollar suit and going nowhere?
With a shake of his head, he let loose another mocking snort. I guess Julia's not the only one who hasn't been listening to Dr. Lindsey. How many times and in how many different ways had the counselor told them that sharing superficial things wasn't enough? They needed more than a few common interests and a house full of fancy stuff to make their marriage work. They needed a shared vision of the life they wanted to create together. The problem was they couldn't agree on what that might be. Sometimes he felt like all that stuff mattered more to Julia than he did.
The echo of a once familiar voice triggered a sudden sharp catch in his chest. "Oh Rob, it's not about things. Things don't matter. Doing what you love, that matters. Being with the people you love, that matters. What good are all those 'things' if you aren't happy with everything else in your life?"
Sara. Sharing with her had been so easy. She was the only one who ever really knew him, the only one ...
His mind snapped shut before he could finish the thought. He'd been doing that more and more this past year — thinking of her. He'd made his choice a long time ago and there was no going back, even if he wanted to.
He leaned his head out of the window again, attempting to assess the long line of traffic clogging the road ahead. He decided to cut over to Guadalupe Street so he began edging his way into the turn lane. As he inched closer to the intersection of 45 and Lamar, he realized his mistake. He wasn't the only one who'd opted for an alternate route.
Two blocks over, he turned onto Guadalupe Street and found himself in yet another gridlock. As his car crawled down the street, he forced his thoughts back to Julia. Julia was the woman he should be thinking about. The state of their marriage was what he needed to focus on.
He glanced at the passenger seat and easily pictured her sitting there. Julia Fiori Rollins. With her trim, toned body, well-manicured nails, and thick mane of perfectly coifed dark hair, she was a sultry, attractive woman. The chemistry between them was potent, at least in the beginning. It had waned after the first few years, but Dr. Lindsey said that wasn't uncommon. What were his words? "Sex is one thing, but love is something else. What is it about Julia that you love?" So what did he love about her?
Once again, he attempted to tally up the list. Well, she was a great cook. Socially adept — she could throw one hell of a party. She was a little self-centered, but she could be thoughtful. And ... his thoughts scattered, searching for more substantive qualities.
They did share certain interests. They both loved to travel, although they hadn't really done much traveling in the past couple of years. When was it they'd taken that last trip to Cozumel?
They liked the same music. They'd always enjoyed spending evenings at that jazz club on 6 Street. At least they used to. Was that club even there anymore?
He kept turning it over in his head, digging deeper. There had to be more. An uneasy swell of sadness crept over him. How many times had he been through this same exercise? You'd think after four months of counseling, he could find something of substance?
No, there were other things — the house. They'd found the perfect house and spent a lot of time decorating it. Okay, so they didn't exactly share the same taste in decor, but he could live with the ultra-modern crap she'd insisted on. After all, his study was his domain.
And now she wanted to turn it into a nursery.
Damn! Admit it Rob. It wasn't about wanting or not wanting to be a parent or even about the responsibility of raising a child. It was the commitment, or more accurately, the lack of commitment. If he and Julia had a child, there'd be no walking away because he knew what divorce could do to a child. He'd experienced that firsthand.
Lost in the crowded emptiness of his life, his sleek, black status car crawled along the western edge of the University of Texas campus, creeping slowly through one red light after another. Caught yet again, he rolled to a stop at the corner of Guadalupe and 26 Street.
He was suffocating. He couldn't go on pretending anymore because that was exactly what he'd been doing for so long now. He'd held on because he didn't want to admit he'd made a mistake and face the turmoil that came with divorce. He remembered too well the pain and anger of his parents' divorce, and he'd watched enough of his friends go through it to know the toll it took on everyone.
He slumped back in the seat, his sullen gaze skimming the assorted clumps of U. T. students crowding the intersection as they shuffled their way toward campus. For the most part, young, pubescent faces, their whole lives stretching out before them. They had no idea how quickly tomorrow would come. Suddenly, he felt old and tired and empty.
The unfettered truth of it washed over him in one huge wave of recognition. I don't want to be in this marriage any longer. Instead of saving his marriage, going to counseling had only made him realize how shallow and unfulfilling their life together really was. Without the passion of those first few years, there was nothing left. And it wasn't fair to Julia to postpone the inevitable.
All the wrong choices for all the wrong reasons, he admitted. How had he let it all get away from him?
Then, among the sea of faces, his eyes drifted across once familiar features. Straightening in the seat, he leaned over the steering wheel, staring across the street. The glittery rays of the bright Texas sun bounced off the asphalt roadway blinding him momentarily, but through the haze he could swear ... Sara?
He blinked. "Sara?" then blinked again. "It is her," he muttered.
His pulse took off as he watched her bounce down the stairs leading out of Dobie Mall. Thick, auburn hair floated down to still slender shoulders, glinting streaks of fire in the noonday sun. Utterly enthralled, he watched Sara casually saunter down the street, her expressive hands flying about as she talked to the woman walking beside her.
God, he could still call up the rich tone of her voice — still picture the light of curiosity that always sparkled in those large, green eyes.
Suddenly, the weight of seven years of wrong choices hit him full force. The ache he'd denied all these years crawled up from deep inside and grabbed him by the throat. He had this overwhelming urge to fling open the door and chase after her. Even after all these years, he still missed her.
The light turned green and the driver in the car behind him laid on the horn, but he couldn't seem to move. In one blinding flash of clarity the stark reality of it slammed into him — he needed her. She was the only woman he'd ever really needed and he'd blown it.
* * *
Dr. Sara Layton and her new colleague, Dr. Genevieve Emerson, threaded their way through the midday swarm of students making their way into Dobie Mall. "Well, that wasn't too bad," Gen said. "Of course, it certainly doesn't compare to good New York-style pizza or Chicago deep-dish pizza, but it wasn't bad."
Sara smiled in amusement then affecting her best Texas accent, she drawled, "Well, most everything in Texas is going to look, feel, and taste a whole lot different than anything you'll find up North."
Gen's dark, unruly brows arched toward her curly dark hair as she cast a dubious glance in Sara's direction. "Well, Texas isn't exactly where I thought I'd end up after spending five years at Columbia. But," she appeased, "U. T. is a good school so I suppose I'll just have to get used to this whole 'Texas' thing."
"Just keep remembering it is a tenure-track position," Sara pointed out as they crossed 26 Street and turned onto one of the well-manicured walkways that crisscrossed the campus. "They're hard to come by in this day and age. I had to spend my first year as an adjunct prof at Blinn Junior College. Nice school, but it can't compare to a tenure-track position at a major university, especially when you have two children to support."
"I can't imagine being single with two children and working on a doctorate. And you're still sane," Gen quipped.
Sara's throaty laugh bubbled up. "There are times my boys might dispute that. They weren't exactly thrilled at the idea of moving again, especially now they're in high school. Although Austin is familiar territory since they were both born here, and they weren't too happy about moving away the first time."
"You said their father lives here?"
"Yes." Sara nodded. "It does make it a lot easier for them to spend time with Dan. He gets to participate more in their lives, and that's a good thing."
"I take it the relationship between you and your ex is amicable?" Gen asked.
"Now it is. It was a little dicey after I moved 'his boys' to College Station to work on my doctorate. To add insult to injury, I was going to Texas A & M and, God forbid, I turn his boys into Aggies. That's a real betrayal if you're an avid 'tea-sipper.'"
"Tea-sipper?" Gen's eyes narrowed in question.
"That's an Aggie derogatory term for someone who goes to U. T. Once you've been here for a while, you'll learn the local vernacular."
"Wow, that kind of tension on top of everything else. You are a brave woman."
"Brave? I don't know about that," Sara countered. "Stubborn, maybe. Actually, I was very determined, but looking back on it all I'm not sure how I did it."
"Hi, Dr. Layton," one of Sara's students called out as she and Gen climbed the steps of the Liberal Arts Building.
"Good afternoon, Millie," Sara answered with a smile as they walked through the building's big double doors.
"Well, that was fun. You're making my 'Texas' initiation a lot more palatable, so to speak." Gen's brown eyes danced with amusement.
"I think we both need a bit of fortifying if we're going to get through our first semester. See you later at the new faculty mixer," Sara said as she stepped into the elevator.
Sara unlocked the door to her third floor office and stepped inside. It was small, windowless, and rather sterile looking, but it was hers, and she still got a thrill every time she stepped through the door. All those years of struggle and hard work had finally paid off. She let the happiness bubble up inside her. She had a sudden impulse to dance around the room but restrained herself. After all, she was a history professor so a bit of decorum was called for.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Slender Threads: Destiny"
Copyright © 2018 L. W. Ellis.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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.