Wade Sinclair knows you can't run from the pasthe's tried. After his beloved sister was murdered, he ran from Alaska to California only to discover there was no escape. So when a family crisis calls him back, he discovers therapist Morgan O'Hare knee-deep in their affairs. As soon as he meets Morgan, he feels as if there is brightness in the world again.
It would be inappropriate for them to get involved, yet the spark is irresistible. Wade never expected this kind of joy again. But is he really ready for this? Together, maybe they could find the strength to move on if they're brave enough to try.
About the Author
Kimberly and her three children make their home in the Central Valley of California.
Read an Excerpt
If insomnia was the devil's handmaiden then Wade Sinclair was her bitch most nights. Like tonight.
He rolled to his side, refusing to look at the red numbers glowing from his digital alarm clock because he didn't want to know how much sleep he wasn't getting. Five a.m. came early when operating on very little sleep.
He squeezed his eyes shut and tried meditating but his mind was too unruly to cooperate.
Each time he came close to drifting to sleep, his baby sister's face popped into his mental theater, and sleep fled like a deer with a cougar on its tail.
Simonepretty, charming, too smart for her britchesdead.
It's been eight years, he wanted to groan as if trying to negotiate with whatever demon prevented his eyes from closing and his mind from resting. How much longer was he supposed to carry this burden of unending grief and guilt?
He rolled to his feet and walked to the window to stare out across the forested land of the Yosemite National Park. But instead of California pines, he saw Alaskan hemlock and spruce, native to the Kenai mountains of his homeland. He saw the deep snow that had blanketed the ground and made the terrain hard to traverse. He saw his sister's body trundled into the body bag as they carried her away.
This was Trace's fault. If his brother hadn't kept bugging him about coming home, he wouldn't have been reminded daily of that awful day. No witnesses saw Simone climb into the car with her killer that night. No witnesses ever came forward to lend any clues.
And her killer continued to walk free.
Maybe that was what kept him awake at night.
And not even moving away to California had changed that.
His last conversation with Trace was too fresh in his mind to ignore, and he felt like a royal shit for being so curt with his younger brother, but he couldn't drop everything in his life just to play mediator between his siblings and his parents. Just because he was the oldest didn't mean he had the answers to every problem.
"It's bad, man," Trace had said emphatically. "I didn't want to believe it but Mom is going to die in that house if we don't do something. And Dad he's in total denial and too stoned half the time to be of any help."
"I can appreciate that but I have responsibilities here that preclude me from hopping a plane anytime my family demands it," he replied, giving more attention to an environmental impact survey than to what his brother was saying. "I'm sure it'll blow over if you give it time."
"Stop giving me your practiced administrator rhetoric and start acting as if you actually give a damn," Trace said. "The house has been condemned. They wouldn't do that if it weren't necessary."
"What do you mean condemned? Surely, that's an overreaction to the situation," he said, frowning. How bad could it be? His mother had never been a terribly neat and tidy person but she'd never been an abject slob. Their home had been lived in, but never dirty. "On whose authority?"
"Adult Protective Services. And they're not going to let her back in until it's been resolved to their satisfaction."
He exhaled a breath of irritation. "So where is she staying now?"
"With a friend. But she keeps sneaking back to the house when no one is looking. Miranda has caught her there twice already. She's acting like a kid who won't take no for an answer. I'm worried about her mental health and that's not an exaggeration. I can't believe it, but Mom's a hoarder."
Maybe he could pencil in a day or two to fly over there but even as the thought crossed his mind, he had to immediately cross it out. "We'll just have to trust the authorities to handle the situation. They're far more equipped to deal with someone in her situation than us."
"I can't believe it." His brother's incredulous tone made Wade shift in discomfort. There was no misunderstanding Trace's disgust in his lack of action. "You're willing to completely let our family twist in the wind because it's too inconvenient to come home? Screw you, Wade. They're your parents, too. Miranda's been trying to handle this situation because neither of us held up our end but that's done. We need you home. Now. And I don't give a shit about your fancy admin job. Find a way. You've got to have personal leave available to you. Use it."
Wade blinked against the harsh truth, surprised Trace had called him on the carpet. But even though Trace was righthe did have plenty of personal leave banked upWade didn't want to go. He'd rather have his fingernails peeled off than board a plane for Alaska. And not even his brother's contempt could compel him to return to the one place where ghosts from the past roamed free.
"I'm sorry. I can't," he said, wiping at the sudden beads of sweat popping along his hairline and causing his skin to itch. He rubbed his hands on his slacks, realizing with a flush of shame he was being a coward but he wasn't ready to go back to Alaska. He might never be. "You'll just have to figure out something without me." And then he'd hung up on his brother.
No one liked to admit when they'd acted less than heroically. And Wade knew leaving Alaska had been an act of cowardice but in the time since he'd been gone he'd worked hard to make a life for himself where he did good things and tried to make a difference.
So it chafed pretty hard when he found himself forced to be the bad guy.
He was the superintendent of a national park, not some paper-pushing, middle-management drone who could split at a moment's notice just because someone in the city housing authority deemed his mother a bad housekeeper.
Things would blow over and everything would revert to the way it was beforeperhaps no betterbut at least no worse.
Yeah, so why did he feel as if something really bad were just around the corner?
Wade finally glanced at the alarm clock and noted with weary relief that 4:00 a.m. wasn't the earliest he'd showered and started his day so he might as well get moving.
As he walked to the shower and turned the water on, he purposefully shoved all thought of his family to the bottom of his mental cache. He had his own life to live and he refused to feel guilty about it.
End of story.
Morgan O'Hare was an excellent example of the fact that fidgeting was not reserved for children.
"Nervous?" a soft voice inquired gently and caused Morgan to jump. A plump, older woman with graying hair smiled and introduced herself, saying, "I'm Cora. Is this your first time to our grief support circle? I haven't seen you before and I come every week."
"Yes, actually," Morgan answered, hesitating to strike up a conversation with the kind stranger. She knew support groups were usefulshe often referred her own clients to such groups if the need arosebut she'd been unable to get herself to commit to one for herself. Even now, she'd traveled far from her own city of Homer to Anchorage to attend a meeting because she didn't want anyone to know that she still hadn't gotten over her husband's death from three years ago. Intellectually, she knew that there was no statute of limitations on grief, but people had a tendency to judge just the same. And she couldn't afford anyone in her own sphere to realize she was struggling when she counseled people every day on how to move on from their mental obstacles. Morgan focused a bright, engaging smile on Cora and said, "My name is Melinda."
"Melinda, such a pleasure to meet you. Grab a cookie and a seat. The circle will start in five minutes."
"Sounds good," Morgan said, but knew she wouldn't stay in spite of her best intentions the moment the fake name had slipped from her lips. She'd hoped that by making the commitment to drive all the way to Anchorage, she'd find the courage to cry in front of strangers, but when push came to shove, she couldn't. And as more time went on, how could she explain that she couldn't talk about the death of her husband without talking about that other thing that had happened, too?
"Melinda, are you coming?" Cora waved her over from the gathering circle of people as they took their seats, and Morgan nodded and waved but began backing toward the exit.
"I'll be right there after I visit the ladies' room," she answered with a bright, entirely false smile. As soon as Cora turned away, Morgan booked it out of there with her heart pounding and her palms sweating. She didn't feel halfway normal again until she'd put Anchorage miles behind her.
"Epic fail," she muttered, borrowing a phrase from her younger clients. And embarrassing. An instant replay bloomed in her mind and she cringed. Why couldn't she do this? Why couldn't she sit in that damn chair and tell her story? Share her grief? Because staying silent was easier, less painful and less messy than letting it all out. She didn't have time to grieve any longer. Her client list was long and her practice well-established. Morgan O'Hare was a respectable authority on mental health. She'd even written a book on the subject! And she was a damn hypocrite.
Morgan managed to make it home in time for her favorite show, and after wiping off her makeup and twisting her hair in a ponytail she settled into her late husband's recliner and clicked on the television. Let the good times roll, she thought with a sigh, wondering if there would ever come a time when she didn't feel like a fraud living someone else's life.
Not likely if she couldn't get past this. David died three years ago.
She wasn't sure which stage of grief she was stuck in because she jumped between all the stages like a child playing hopscotch. Sometimes she was hurt; other times she was angry.
No, angry wasn't a strong enough word. She was enraged.
But she couldn't show that side of her grief. People understood her tears; they wouldn't understand her rage.
Morgan rose abruptly and padded into the kitchen. She opened the refrigerator and reached for the wine but then stopped.
David's favorite brand of pinot grigio awaited her as it always did but she wanted a beer. In the early days of their marriage, David had lightly chastised her penchant for beer as low-class and had endeavored to educate her palate. She supposed he'd succeeded for she dutifully drank the finest wines and could appropriately pair wines with their courses. But she really still preferred a cold beer.
Her daddy had always said he couldn't trust a man who wouldn't share a beer with him.
Suffice to say, Daddy and David hadn't been the best of friends.
Maybe her daddy had seen something she'd completely missed because she'd had hearts in her eyes.
"I wish I'd listened, Daddy," Morgan murmured as she grabbed a beer by the neck and pulled it from the fridge. With two twists, she'd cracked the top and took a deep swig.
"What do you think of that, David?" she asked to the empty kitchen. Nothing but silence answered. Great. She ought to get a cat if she was going to start having conversations with people who weren't there.
People thought she didn't date because she was afraid no one would be like David.
Morgan always smiled and nodded, letting them go on thinking that.
The real truth? Morgan was afraid she'd find someone just like him.