Wish Me Tomorrow: A Clean Romance

Wish Me Tomorrow: A Clean Romance

by Karen Rock

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781460319154
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 09/01/2013
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
File size: 580 KB

About the Author

Award-winning author Karen Rock is both sweet & spicy—at least when it comes to her writing! The author of YA and adult contemporary books writes spicy suspense and small-town romances. A big believer in Happily-Ever-After, Karen loves creating unforgettable stories that leave her readers smiling. Karen is an avid reader and baker who loves having the Adirondack Park as her backyard, where she lives with her husband and daughter who make her life complete.

Read an Excerpt

One empty folding chair. Christie Bates stared at the vacant seat then checked her iPhone to make sure the wall clock was accurate. Yep, still 6:35. Everyone in the cancer support group she led was here except one, the one who'd been coming the longest. Her insides twisted. He hadn't missed a meeting in three years.

And the sight of an empty chair in a room like this was always…ominous.

She exhaled slowly and squashed the negative thought as her eyes roamed over the chatting group. The world needed positive energy. And they needed it most of all. She jumped when a hand squeezed her shoulder.

"Would you like me to close the door so you can begin?" asked Anne, the West Side YMCA's receptionist. Pool-bound children shrieked in the stairwell outside.

"No!" Her voice sounded more forceful than she'd intended. It carried over the noise and quieted her group. Seven pairs of concerned eyes turned her way. So much for keeping things upbeat.

She pinned on a bright smile and patted Anne's hand. "We're not quite ready to start yet, but thanks."

Anne studied her for a moment then shrugged. "I'll be out front if you need me."

Her heels clicked across the wood floor and echoed in the high-ceilinged room. Overhead fans stirred the muggy June air, the humidity so thick Christie felt as though she wore it. At least she'd had time to change out of her nurse scrubs and shower before the meeting. After a twelve-hour hospital shift, the mini-break had made her feel human again.

"Why are we waiting?" a newer member asked around a mouthful of chocolate-chip cookie.

Another pointed at the clock. "We always start at 6:30."

"You're right." Christie swallowed her fear and widened her smile. Her clients had enough stress to handle. They didn't deserve more. "But let's give it a few more minutes in case someone's late. You know how hard it is to get a taxi in the rain."

The group nodded sagely then resumed their conversations. She sagged against the back of her chair. Phew. Her quick excuse worked. It was a logical reason for the delay given Manhattan's traffic issues and she wouldn't imagine another possibility. There was power in positive thinking. She shredded a napkin in her lap. Not that it had saved her brother. If only she'd been there when… She shook her head. Nope. She wouldn't get on board that dark train of thought.

She bent to pick up her juice cup and discreetly knocked on the wooden floor, no-bad-luck, an Irish superstition passed down by her gran. She'd witnessed enough medical miracles to know that science couldn't explain everything.

Christie crossed her legs, smoothing her gray pants and rumpled white blouse. Forcing her eyes from the empty chair, she surveyed the assembled group members for changes in skin color, weight and discomfort levels. Everyone seemed stable. But where was her absent client? Perhaps she would ask Anne to call and check on him. She might be overreacting, but knowing he was okay would help soothe her nerves.

Before she could stand, a tall stranger wheeled the missing man through the door. She drew her first easy breath of the night. He'd come after all. The group called out greetings to John, relief evident in their voices.

"Hello. Hope I didn't hold everyone up," the latecomer declared, as his helper—a very handsome helper, Christie noted—wheeled John into the spot beside the empty chair. Where were John's canes? Her heart sank. His condition must be deteriorating.

"Lousy weather out there, huh? My neighbor brings his kids here a couple of times a week, so I asked him to help me catch a cab." He gestured to the dark-haired gentleman wearing a navy polo shirt, jeans and a polite smile. "Eli Roberts, this is Christie Bates and—" he waved a veined hand "—everyone. You'll like them. Oh. And would you get me one of Christie's raisin-oatmeal bars? Been craving one all week."

The man nodded then helped John out of his coat, shook the rain from it and placed it on the back of the chair. His face reminded her of a Roman soldier on one of her father's ancient coins—he had a powerful jaw, straight, prominent nose and a strong brow.

"May I get anyone anything?" he asked once he'd locked John's wheels in place. After taking a few requests, he strode to the snack table. It was a good night when the group ate. Sometimes the number receiving chemo was so high the side table went untouched.

She noticed that he grabbed John a napkin and a cup of juice along with the snack. Thoughtful.

After giving John a quick hug, she straightened and looked up into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. Her grin faltered at the man's piercing stare.

"Eli. If you'd like to join us—" She extended a hand to guide him to the seat, but he jerked back. Caught off balance, Christie stumbled, her black Keds trampling each other. Heat flared in her cheeks.

"Sorry," he muttered, righting her with a quick, efficient hold on her elbow before seating himself.

O-kay. Not a touchy-feely guy. Heard and understood.

She sneaked another glance at him, registering his tense shoulders along with his guarded expression. He'd done a nice thing by bringing John in, but cancer support groups were a lot for healthy people to handle. She should give him a graceful excuse to leave.

"The Yankees' pregame coverage is playing on TV in the lounge down the hall if you'd like to wait there, Mr. Roberts."

"Call me Eli," he said in a gruff voice, his eyes inscrutable. "And I promised John I'd stay." A look passed between the two as he took his seat.

She forced a welcoming grin and nodded. If John wanted him here, that was fine. But if he didn't lighten up soon, she'd send him on a coffee run so he wouldn't put a damper on the meeting.

When she got back to her seat, she glanced his way and caught his intense gaze again. What was it about his stare that flustered her? She was a twenty-eight-year-old professional, not a schoolgirl sneaking peeks at the cute new kid. Time to get a grip.

She looked at the clock and grabbed her clipboard. Fifteen minutes behind schedule. A first. Eli was throwing her off her game, but at least John was here and the seats were full.

"Today's inspirational quote is by George Herbert," Christie began. "'Storms make oaks take deeper root.' Let's practice our relaxation breathing as we contemplate its meaning and how it applies to our lives."

Her bowed head snapped up at a muffled snort. While everyone else closed their eyes, Eli stared at the ceiling and shook his head.

"Do you disagree, Mr. Roberts?" she burst out before she could think better of it.

"I do," replied the impertinent outsider. Shooting to his feet again, he circled the group, gathering their garbage and carting it to the wastebasket.

"No matter how deep trees dig, bad storms can knock them down anyway."

Well, sure. Of course they could. Although she'd spent her early childhood in Woodlawn, an Irish-American neighborhood in New York, her family had eventually relocated to Kansas—one of Tornado Alley's hardest-hit states. There, she'd learned to weather storms, not dwell on them. When tempests hit, neighbors pitched in to put back the pieces of shattered lives.

A high-pitched sound rattled through a nearby client's tracheotomy tube. Christie grabbed the woman's shaking hand and squeezed. Elizabeth had Stage IV esophageal cancer. She didn't need a reminder of the dangers she faced.

"We focus on the positive,Mr. Roberts'" She laced her fingers with Elizabeth's, relieved when the woman's trembling eased.

His square jaw clenched. "And ignore reality? That seems a bit misleading, doesn't it, Miss Bates?"

"It's Ms.," she corrected, mostly because she was getting good and riled now. What did this man think he was doing? These people lived with far too much reality as it was. They came here for fellowship and support, not a lecture.

"Well, Ms. Bates, the truth is that all trees want to live. It's just the luck of the draw that some make it and others don't."

Heat spread up her chest and rose to her neck. She glanced down. Darn. Those red splotches betrayed her at the worst times. If only she looked as cool and controlled as Eli. She forced herself to meet his eye and caught a brief, tortured look before he averted his face. Interest-mg.

A ruckus in the corridor distracted her, reminding her that they hadn't shut the door. A pack of kids rushed past on their way from one activity to another.

"Daddy, Daddy." A young escapee wearing wet swim trunks raced inside. He launched himself onto Eli's lap, the smell of chlorine clinging to him.

"I swam without my floaties today." With his missing front teeth, the child's grin was irresistible. Christie joined in the group's chorus of oohs and aahs.

Deep dimples appeared as Eli's face relaxed into a broad smile. Where was this side of the man moments ago when he'd rained doom and gloom on her meeting? His joyful expression and the affectionate way he ruffled his son's hair did something strange to her heart. She checked out his ring-free left hand. Had his wife died? That could explain some of his behavior, as well as why John wanted him to stay at the meeting. But he looked young to be a widower, no older than his early thirties.

"Sorry," an older woman called from the doorway. "I went to get Tommy a towel, and when I came back, he was gone."

She barreled into the room and gave Christie an apologetic wave.

"It's all right, Mary," Eli said. "He does that to me, too."

Tommy squirmed at his father's stern expression. "What do you say to Mary?" he prompted and took Mary's proffered towel.

Tommy studied his swinging flip-flops. "Sorry, Mary," he said, a lisp turning his s into a th. "I won't do it again."

"Right." Eli hugged Tommy then began drying him.

Tommy pointed at Christie. "That's how I met her."

With his hair no longer plastered to his face, the youngster looked familiar. She took a moment to recall how she knew him. Since her meeting was so off track, she couldn't see the point in forcing the group back into meditation anytime soon. Besides, Elizabeth was smiling and happy, clearly enjoying their energetic visitor.

Eli's face tightened once more. "You know Ms. Bates?"

The towheaded dynamo wriggled off his father's lap and scampered over to her. "She gave me an oatmeal bar with raisins." He scanned the treat table and turned from his father to Christie, face bright and expectant. "Can I have one?"

"If your father says so." Why hadn't she recognized the adorable imp earlier? A couple of months ago, he'd burst into their meeting and wolfed down half the pan. She matched Tommy's grin. "But be careful—last time you almost took out a tray of Jell-O."

"You stopped me before I crashed." Tommy flapped the sides of his towel and jumped up and down. "But that lady with the blue hair was mad. She said I had to leave."

Christie stifled a laugh. Tommy had a point. The former receptionist had been a bit of a grump. "Not to worry. She was angry at everything."

Tommy's blue eyes grew round. "Even Jell-O?" He lowered his terry-cloth wings. "But it wiggles."

Elizabeth's tracheotomy made a humming sound, her warm smile about to steal Christie's heart. No way she was letting Tommy out the door yet. Kids had a more positive effect on people than a whole book full of inspirational quotes.

"Exactly." She nodded solemnly. "Now hold on to one end of the towel. I'm going to show you something grand before you get your dessert." She sent Eli a questioning look. Tommy had been very patient waiting for his answer.

"How did you two meet?" His light tone held an undercurrent of tension. "And, yes, Tommy, you can have the oatmeal-raisin bar." He held up his index finger. "Just one, though."

Christie pulled the other end of the towel, spinning Tommy free of the absorbent cloth.

"Again!" Tommy shouted when he rewrapped himself.

"Answer your father first, Tommy." She turned him to face his parent.

"I ran away from Mary 'cause I wanted to show Becca my drawing of Scout. Only I got lost and came here instead." Tommy scratched his freckled nose before turning back to her. "Please spin me, Miss—" He shook his small head, brow furrowed. "Miss—"

"It's Christie. Hey, everyone." A preteen girl with brown hair in a tight bun wandered into the room and returned the group's waves. She wore jeans over a black leotard and had a bag embroidered with sequined ballet shoes slung across her shoulder. "I met her when we picked you up, remember? So why did you run away? Again. You know how much it upsets Dad and Mary." Despite her admonishment, her tone was mild.

"Becca!" The boy wrapped his arms around his sister's legs. "Did you see me swim without my floaties? Do you want an oatmeal bar? It's healthy and Dad said we could."

"I didn't see you because I was still in dance. But that's awesome, Little Man." Becca fist bumped Tommy. "And, yeah. I'll have a snack. So starved."

"How was dance, Becca-Bell?" Eli's arms opened wide, his gaze expectant.

Some members of the support group began speaking in low-pitched voices, the word Yankees punctuating their discussion. No doubt they were debating the team's chances tonight. It was a crucial game that Christie was interested in herself. Yet this family fascinated her, as well.

"The same," Becca mumbled, fidgeting with the latch on her bag. "And please don't call me that anymore. Remember?"

He slowly lowered his arms, a crease appearing between his brows. "Does that fastener need to be fixed?"

Becca shrugged before she turned away.

Christie glanced between the two; their tension was palpable. Although it could be a teenage thing, it seemed deeper than that.

Elizabeth stood and brought treats, another member following with Dixie cups of juice. After taking the proffered snacks, Becca said, "Thank you," nudging Tommy to do the same.

"All right, kids." Eli rose to his imposing height. "Time to go."

He held out his arms once more. Tommy flew into them while Becca hung back and tightened her shoelaces. "I'll be home in a little bit," he promised.

"Sure," Becca replied, her voice flat. She gave Christie and the smiling support group a small wave, wrapped a protective arm around her brother and followed Mary through the exit.

"That was nice, Mr. Roberts." Christie's smile faded at his glower. She cleared her throat. "Does anyone have something they'd like to share?"

She looked pointedly at Eli, who stared back, arms crossed over his broad chest.

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Wish Me Tomorrow: A Clean Romance 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
jmcgarry More than 1 year ago
I received a free copy of this book from the author. Here's a plotline. Man and woman meet each other. There is some initial attraction, but they don't see it right away. As they continue to go out together, the love starts to grow. At some point, though, one of them decides to break it off. Both of them wind up devastated, until the magical reunion at the end when they realize they were meant to be together. Then they live happily ever after. This is the basic plotline of the book. It's also the plotline of almost every Hallmark Channel movie.  As soon as I started to read this, I had a good idea what would happen. Christine is a nurse who works with cancer patients. She runs a support group for cancer survivors. Eli brings in John, a cancer patient. Eli is also a cancer survivor with 2 kids, Becca and Tommy. At that point, I knew they would get together. And since this was the Harlequin Heartwarming series, I also knew the sex scenes would be nonexistent.  So why is this 4 stars? Because it's not the exact plotline, it's how the author uses it. I'm not sure if the author is a cancer nurse, or has a family member with cancer, but she writes with a sense of authority. She describes the patients well, as well as the 2 kids. She does a lot with the feelings between Eli and Christine, and how Christine comes to bond with the kids. I don't want to give away too much of the ending, but it is happy. All in all, a good book.
taisheena More than 1 year ago
This book was an emotional roller coaster that had me in tears so much I should invest in tissues! The writing was so true to real it had me in goose bumps. I enjoyed the characters, they were very well developed and very 3 dimensional, I just wanted to grab them all up and hold them close to my heart and keep them safe with me. My mother died of cancer in Dec of 2006, so I had a very personal relationship with the topic of cancer and surviving and wishing for just one more tomorrow. This book should be on everyone's TBR list, I think it portrays very real emotions and how to deal with them, for adults and children alike. Quote: Tommy wiped his nose with the back of his hand. "That makes me scared." He glanced up at Christie, his brows, nearly the same color as his pale skin, knotting. "Is that bad? Daddy's brave but I'm not." She cupped his soft, dimpled chin and said, "No. All feelings are okay. And I think you are very brave." Her gaze flew to Becca, who gave her a small smile. "When your dad comes home, you should tell him how you feel." I recommend this book for anyone that needs help seeing that Feelings are never wrong, they just ARE and how you deal with them is the important part.
cclblue More than 1 year ago
I had been hearing all the great reviews "Wish me Tomorrow" has been getting and I wanted to try it for myself. It is a beautiful and moving story. I couldn't put it down. The characters are powerful and drew me right in. While they have their imperfections, they are learning to live with themselves and reach out to others. Both Christie and Eli are afraid to let love into their life because of past pain. They learn to overcome this as they find that they need each other. I am thrilled to have discovered Karen Rock and look forward to reading more from her. So excited that Harlequin has a new Heartwarming line that is clean with wholesome, tender romances!
LolitaV More than 1 year ago
I got a copy in exchange for an honest review One of the most important reasons why I wanted to read this book is because I loved Camp Boyfriend by Karen and Joanne Rock and when I heard Karen was writing an adult book I just had to read it. When I picked up this book I read the first 19% in one sitting, because I couldn't put the books down, I got sucked into the story and finished the book in less than a day. While Wish me Tomorrow is really different than Camp Boyfriend it has the same addictive writing. I really enjoyed Wish me Tomorrow, it was sweet and sad. There were some heavy topics in this book, but the overal feeling was still happy and not depressing. The story is a bit predictable, but I didn't mind. The characters are done really well in this book. I liked both Christie and Eli, they each have such a distinct personality and they felt real. They both have been through a lot already and as the story progresses we find out more and more. I also really liked Eli his children Becca and Tommy, they really added something to the story. I also liked how all the characters changed during the story, there is a lot of character development going on and some characters really grow. There are some awesome side characters in this story too, some of whom I would loved to read more about like Gran and Laura (christie her roommate). For a roommate there is surpsiingly less about laura in this book and would've liked getting to know her better and see Christie interact with Laura, although there are some great scenes with the two of them, I would've liked learning more about her. I also liked the dogs in this book, sometimes it feels like pets are used to fill up a story, like something authors add like furniture in a room, but in this book the pets had personality and played an important part in the story. I especially liked Sweet Pea, she sounded like such a sweet and adorable dog and she palyed an important role in this story. It is obvious the author loves dogs and she translated that perfectly in her writing about dogs in this book. The romance in this book is sweet, but also full of difficulties. It's a bit predictable, but I felt myself really rooting for Christie and Eli. They are really good for each other and sometimes I wished they would give their relationship a chance instead of coming up with excuses why it wasn't a good idea to get involved. The ending was really nicely done and sweet and just a bit sad too.It is an open ending, which normally I don't like, and while I wanted to know what would happen next it also felt like the perfect point to end the story. To conclude: I really enjoyed this book, the writing was addictable. While the story and the romance was a bit predictable, I really liked the characters and seeing them grow. I liked how the authors included the children of Eli into the story and I liked the fact that even the dogs felt like real dogs. The characters where believeable and real and I liked seeing them develop in this story. The story deals with some heavy topics, but the overal feeling of the story isn't depressing. I really am looking forward to the next book by Karen and I hope she will write more adult books, because I really enjoyed Wish me Tomorrow.