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A devastating fire and unanswered questions have left Tish Gordon reeling. With her true love in critical condition in a Montana hospital, and secrets from the past and present continuing to haunt her, Tish is more determined than ever to prove just who is responsible for this destruction in her life.
Tish's family has come from Minnesota to be at her side, including her younger sister Ruthann, who Marshall Rawley has been in love with for years. Ruthann, just a step away from being engaged to her boyfriend back home, wants only to help Tish discover answers. What Ruthann is not expecting to find is a mysterious, dangerous link to the past, and a powerful love that not even time can destroy.
About the Author
Abbie Williams' love of the outdoors, changing seasons, and steamy romance is exactly why she is addicted to writing a saga about the lives and loves of a family of women who live on a Minnesota lake. When not curled over her keyboard, you can find her listening to bluegrass music and hanging out lakeside near her home of Rochester MN.
Read an Excerpt
Jalesville, MT - August, 2013
At some point that night, a dream assaulted me. Later I was to wonder if the quiet sounds of a trespasser had crept into my unconscious mind, triggering the nightmare. What if I'd woken just minutes earlier? Could I have stopped what happened next?
I would never know.
In the dream I was back at my older sister Camille's wedding, which had taken place in October of '06. Fiery autumn colors decorated the trees ringing Flickertail Lake that bright, sunny Saturday; I'd been eighteen years old and home from the university I attended in Minneapolis. The reception appeared in my dreamscape exactly as I'd witnessed it seven years earlier – everyone gathered in the grand ballroom of White Oaks Lodge, our family and friends, not to mention most of the residents of Landon, eager to celebrate with the happy bride and groom. Champagne and twinkling lights, live music, merry laughter from every direction – but a small knot of unease in my chest. I observed the ongoing festivity from a slight distance, as though sequestered in a dim corner.
But I couldn't walk forward.
I didn't know exactly how much time had passed before a man appeared at my elbow. I looked up at him, confused; it seemed I should know who he was but I couldn't remember. I opened my mouth to ask him his name – I knew him, there was no doubt, but why couldn't I think of his name? His gaze held mine, the lights glinting in his red-gold hair, and my heart increased its speed.
Patricia, he murmured. A smoldering grin lit his eyes and traveled to his lips.
This was all the invitation I required. I leaped into his arms, clinging to his neck; how could I have failed to recognize him? I spoke his name against the warmth of his skin, joy sparking a fire in my blood that heated my entire body.
Where have you been? I demanded.
Looking for you, of course, my sweet, sweet heart.
His arms crushed me close and I burrowed against his strong chest. A strange crackling noise, one I could not place into context, began to drown out the sounds of Camille's reception, slicing cleanly through the bubble of my happiness; I went rigid, tense with increasing dread.
Do you hear that? Ax, do you hear that sound?
Hear what sound, love?
Realization scalded my senses before I could respond – someone had lit White Oaks on fire. Beyond his shoulder I watched flames streak across the ballroom floor as though alive, consuming everything in their path. I was shouting then – begging people to run, to save their lives, but no sound emerged from my throat and no one was listening. Wild with fear, I tried to drag him outside with me but my fingers passed through empty air.
Axton! I screamed, steeped in terror. Where are you?
Brilliant orange light seared my eyeballs; flames licked at the hem of my scarlet bridesmaid gown, scalding my bare legs ...
I gasped to consciousness, thrashing upward with such violence that I almost tumbled from the bed. Heart clobbering my ribs, short of breath, I reached for the reassurance of Case, grasping his warm, nude body as my sleep-drenched brain staggered to comprehend reality.
Tish, calm down! It was a nightmare. It was only a nightmare.
Why, then, was the scent of acrid smoke heavy in the air?
I blinked, then blinked again.
It occurred to me I could see not only Case but the interior of our bedroom with much more clarity than this hour of the night should allow. The air was glowing red, as though lit by ...
"Fire," I breathed, and my heart liquefied. Naked, I kicked from the covers and sprinted into the living room, almost tearing the screen door from its hinges.
He was already at my side. "Oh Jesus, oh God, the horses," and we fell over each other, grabbing clothes, flying outside, straight into the belly of the nightmare. Our barn had morphed into an inferno against the black sky, a writhing, crackling blaze a thousand times larger than any bonfire I had ever witnessed. Temporarily mesmerized by the preposterous sight, we stood frozen in place; I shielded my eyes with a forearm, exactly as I would have upon looking straight into the noontime sun. When I stumbled forward, Case grabbed my arm and put me firmly behind him. The sound of the fire was like that of a strong wind, its heat reaching us from a good fifty yards away.
"No!" he ordered, refusing to allow me any closer to the fire.
"Cider," I sobbed. "Buck! They're in there!"
Case retained his calm while I shredded to pieces. He gripped my shoulders, leaning close to hold my gaze and speaking loudly enough to be heard. "Tish, go inside and call 911. Right now."
I clutched at him. "What are you going to do?"
"I know what to do," he assured me; reflections of the enormous leaping flames were visible in his pupils. "Call 911 and whatever you do, do not go near the barn! Tish! Do you hear me?"
I nodded like someone jerking a puppet's strings, tears streaking my face. Case leaned in and kissed my mouth, hard and possessive, and then I raced inside the trailer, made a frantic, messy search for the cordless phone, and dialed the emergency number. When dispatch answered, scant miles away in downtown Jalesville, I cried breathlessly, "Fire! There's a fire at our place, Case Spicer's on Ridge Road!"
And then, through the windows of our little trailer, I saw what Case was doing outside; the phone fell from my numb fingers, clattering to the floor. I bounded through the screen door, running full-bore for the spigot, where Case had ripped off his t-shirt and drenched it. I realized, with nightmarish clarity, that he intended to enter that monster of a fire.
Of course he would. Of course he would risk himself for something he loved.
"NO!" I screamed, tripping over a rut in the yard and landing hard on all fours. Case appeared as a charred stick figure against the blaze, maddeningly far away from my arms that would have prevented his forward motion at all costs, even the demise of our beloved animals; he had no more protection than his wet shirt wrapped around his head. I knew he was going to try to save our horses, Cider and Buck, and our rabbit and chickens. Mutt and Tiny were huddled near the trailer; I could see their jaws snapping with barks but couldn't hear a thing besides the fire.
I scrambled to my feet. Case had disappeared around the back of the barn and I floundered, panicking, before realizing what I must do. I ran inside and tore a blanket from the bed, then raced to the spigot to soak it, slopping water everywhere. The entire structure of the two-story, pitched-roof barn was engulfed; burning wood, hay, and manure polluted the air with a choking black smoke. I ran in Case's footsteps, shocked by the intensifying heat. The fire's roar was unbearable but I pushed on toward the double doors in back, driven by terror and determination, in equal parts.
Oh God, why did you just have to talk about dying?
Oh, Case, why?
I saw him as I rounded the corner; he burst free of the rolling smoke with Cider in his grasp. His shirt was over the mare's head and she was wild with fear, bucking his hold. Once clear of the smoke, Case let her free and Cider galloped into the night. Case's head and bare chest were black with soot. He didn't see me, single-minded with purpose, saving the animals. He disappeared back inside; he'd told me not to enter the barn and trusted that I would heed his words, but damned if I was going to let him do this without help, and maneuvered the sopping-wet blanket over my head like a cloak. The double doors looked like something straight out of hell, gaping like a broken mouth, smoke tumbling in dense, undulating waves.
Without hesitation, I ran through the doors.
The going was slower than I'd imagined, once inside; the smoke embraced me as if alive, jamming its caustic taste deep into my lungs. The heat was indescribable, burning through the soles of my flimsy tennis shoes, blasting my nostrils. I thought the skin might very well be peeling back from my face. I had a vague sense that I was steaming, the water on my blanket-cloak being cooked away, but my thoughts narrowed, along with my stinging eyes – I had one purpose here and that was to find Case.
Cider is already out.
Buck. He'll get Buck next.
The stalls are straight ahead.
I blundered forward, crashing against the edge of the chicken coop; the gate was open there, which meant Case had already let them free. A high-pitched wail pierced the chaos, a shrill cry of a horse in pain. I turned toward the sound just as a chunk of debris crashed no more than five feet from my body. My throat was too clogged with smoke to scream. As though moving underwater, dense and onerous, I peered upward from the edges of the blanket.
Jesus Christ, the loft!
The boards above gaped with charred holes. Before my eyes, another section of the loft buckled, unable to resist the onslaught of heat.
"CASE!" I had never been so frantic. I ran, heedless of the flames, in the direction of Buck's stall.
The blanket is on fire, it's on fire, oh sweet Jesus, it's on fire ...
Buck's galloping body filled my vision as he suddenly bolted in my direction. Instinct was all that saved me as I darted aside, avoiding his panicked flight. His tail swooped against my face as he passed.
"CASE! Where are you?" My voice was ash. I pawed viciously at the air as though this might dissipate the clouds of bitter smoke. What was left of the blanket fell from my shoulders. My lungs were about to explode. And then I stumbled and went to my knees, realizing I had just tripped over Case. Adrenaline shrieked through my limbs, disabling the fear. I fumbled for the pulse in his neck, finding it. In the concentrated orange light he appeared surreal, covered in layers of soot. The smoke would kill us both in another minute, I was certain.
He's unconscious, oh God, he's unconscious ...
In that moment there was only one thing I could do, and so I did it; I bent and scraped my arms along the floor, anchoring beneath his armpits, and then I hauled him out of there.
I came to in a room lit by a low-watt green light. Bizarre, disconnected images floated through the oozy haze in my skull as I drifted along. Every internal sound was amplified, as though I was locked in a womb.
Where am I?
I want ...
I need ...
Remembrance impacted my brain and I tried to sit, unable; something inhibited my movements and blocked my mouth and nose.
Case is hurt! Where is he?
My heart responded and there was a whirring array of mechanical noises, beeps and hisses. Voices lifted in alarm. My eyes wouldn't open all the way; through a slit in each eyelid all I could see was that dim green light. Something tethered my arms and I struggled against what felt like thin tubes attached to the undersides of my wrists.
"Hold her, get her down!"
Fast-moving hands were all over me in the next second. My throat was too parched to protest.
"Five milligrams, now!"
Velvet darkness encased me.
Time must have passed. My perception was muddy, clogged. Words floated across my view as though they were tangible objects, constructed of white feathers. I tried to reach for the word horse but couldn't elevate my hand.
"Tish, can you hear me?" My mother's lips were near my ear. I smelled-peaches, and the scent of her hair.
I tried to articulate affirmation.
"I love you so much," she whispered, and I heard tears slipping down her face; I could actually hear the little wet tracks they were making, the soft plops as they struck the sheet beneath me. "I'm right here, honey, I'll be right here."
And then I was gone again, gliding away with the white feathers.
When I surfaced at last to full consciousness, my eyes opened all the way. I lay in a dimly-lit hospital room and my mother and Camille were both sleeping in chairs positioned near the bed. This time there was nothing inhibiting my nostrils and I drew a single shallow breath. It hurt like hell; pain penetrated the depths of my chest. I could still smell the fire.
"Mom ..." I was unable to force more than a rasp from my scorched throat; my tongue seemed five times its usual size but Mom heard my plea and woke at once. Witnessing the naked distress on her face caused the solid world to drop from under my inert body; I knew I was going to die when I heard the answer to my question. My heart would simply give out and I would die.
"Where's Case?" I could hardly speak, weak as a newborn kitten, but anger and desperation lent me strength. "Tell me."
Mom cupped my shoulders and brought her eyes close to mine. I began to cry in dry, rattling huffs. Camille appeared beside Mom and their expressions conveyed such grief that I yanked free, tearing at the tubes connected to my arms, determined to climb from this bed. Mom was breathless with concern; she clutched my shoulders again, stalling my frantic movement.
"Tish, stop it! Listen to me. You're in the hospital in Bozeman. You've been here for two days now."
"Where is Case?!"
"He's in critical care. He's been unconscious since he was brought here."
Tears wet Camille's face. "You pulled him from the fire, Tish, you saved him. They found you collapsed beneath him."
I couldn't bear to be in this fucking bed without real answers. "I have to go to him, he needs me ..."
"Sweetheart, they don't know if he's going to make it," Mom finally admitted, and I could see what it cost her to tell me this. I wilted, curling inward like something already dead. I covered my face with my forearms, IV needles jangling all over the place; I'd succeeded in disconnecting myself from the slender tubes and pinpricks of blood appeared on my arm. Mom kept speaking, low and pained. "He needed emergency surgery on a heart valve. His lungs are compromised right now ..."
I moaned, feeling these words like physical blows. I begged, "Take me to him."
"Tish, you're injured. Your lungs are burned."
I closed my eyes, unable to comprehend a thing besides the fact that Case was in critical care, far away from me when it seemed as though we'd just been snuggling in our bed. I could not relent to this weakness; I had to be with him. "Mom, oh God, please help me ..."
Camille gently caught one of my fluttering hands. "We'll get you there as soon as possible."
"Now." My heart was galloping, fueling my desperation. I realized something was missing and my free hand darted to my scalp.
Mom's eyes filled with fresh tears. "Most of your hair got burned away, sweetie ..."
"Now," I whispered. Because I was no longer on oxygen and considered out of danger, the decision was made to properly remove the tubes which had been pumping my veins full of pain medication and salinized water. Camille stayed with me while Mom went to pick up Aunt Jilly, Ruthann, and Clint; my family had arrived from Minnesota late last night. Clark had called them with the terrible news; I knew the Rawleys were here in Bozeman, too, along with my dad. I should have been more grateful for their supportive presence but my thoughts would not widen enough for anything other than getting to Case's side.
Alone for the moment, pale evening light falling through the lone window as I stood on unsteady legs, I leaned against my older sister and wept uncontrollably. Camille held me close, kissing my cheek, her pregnant belly buffered between our bodies.
"He'll be all right," she murmured, again and again. "He loves you so much, Tish, he'll be all right."
In the bathroom I could hardly believe the person in the mirror was me, but I wouldn't waste time worrying over how I looked. I needed to get cleaned up so I could go to Case and put my eyes on him. I needed to tell him I was here and that he would be all right. There was no other option. I focused on that thought as water ran down my skin; despite its warmth, I couldn't stop shivering. Afterward, I sat on the bed and Camille knelt behind me; I felt her baby pushing against my spine as my sister tenderly combed my short, ragged hair. She had procured a pair of scissors to trim what was left but I was too impatient, sick with need to get to Case. And finally, they let me.
Excerpted from "Until Tomorrow"
Copyright © 2018 Abbie Williams.
Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story begins right where the last book ended with Tish Gordon and Case Spicer in the midst of a devastating fire. As Tish stands vigil at Case’s bedside, her family and the Rawleys are there with her. Ruthann finally has to face her connection to Marshall Rawley and the phenomena to the past that her sisters experienced before her. As with the previous two stories, the connection to the past and the Dove Trilogy makes this a more fascinating tale. I’m enjoying that aspect and was challenged trying to figure out the angles. There was a lot more tension and suspense as the danger was very real in the present. Ruthann and Marshall’s relationship was shadowed by hers with Liam who prior to this story was her main focus. I must admit, I’m not a fan of love triangles and this one bothered me as I couldn’t stop thinking about poor Liam as Ruthann and Marshall’s relationship intensified. It kept me from being invested in their feelings for each other. I enjoyed the story despite the triangle aspect and the fact that this ends in a cliffhanger. I’d suspected as much so it didn’t come as a surprise. This is an interesting series with strong family connections, past and present. It’s a unique storytelling approach, enhanced by my reading of the connected series at the same time. 3.5 stars (I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review)