Where and when you least expect it. . .love is there. Revising these two stories was a pleasure--I hope you'll enjoy reading them.
Bed Of Grass
Valerie Wentworth knows only too well that the most beautiful memories can also be bittersweet. But, even if it means seeing Judd Prescott again, she has to go home to Maryland for her grandfather's funeral. Her young son has never seen the green countryside where she grew up. Good thing it hasn't changed all that much. And neither has Judd. One look in his eyes, and she's right back where she started. . .crazy in love.
After The Storm
Lainie MacLeod's mother wanted only the best things in life for her beautiful daughter. And for a while, Lainie had it all, including the perfect husband. Back then, Rad MacLeod had to have been the handsomest, nicest guy in Denver, Colorado--hey, he still is. And he's the only man Lainie ever truly loved. Now Rad's back. They're both a little older and a whole lot wiser. . .and the romance is hotter than ever.
Remember when you first fell in love? It's time to get that feeling again. . .
About the Author
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Crazy In Love
By JANET DAILEY
ZEBRA BOOKS Copyright © 2008 Kensington Publishing Corp.
All right reserved.
Chapter One With efficient, precise motions, Valerie Wentworth folded the lingerie and laid it in the suitcase. Tucking a strand of toffee-colored hair behind her ear, she walked back to the open drawer of the dresser for more. There was a determined line to the sensuous curve of her lips and a glint of purpose in her light brown eyes. Her complexion had a hint of shocked pallor under its light tan.
A woman stood in the room watching Valerie pack. Her expression was not altogether approving of what she saw. She was in her forties; her figure had the solid build of middle age and her brown hair had touches of gray. Her mouth was pinched into lines that discouraged smiles.
"I still think it's crazy to go tearing off to Maryland like this, Valerie."
Valerie felt a flash of irritation at the other woman's acerbic tone. It wasn't the first time she'd heard the comment, either.
"He was my grandfather," she replied quietly. Valerie didn't pause in her packing as she walked to the closet and began taking clothes off the hangers. "He didn't have any other family but me."
"Elias Wentworth didn't want you around when he was alive. What makes you think he'd want you at his funeral?" came the challenging retort.
"He isn't in a position to say what he wants, is he?" A trace of anger laced Valerie's voice, triggered by the reference to the estrangement between herself and her grandfather. "And nothing you can say is going to make me change my mind, Clara," she warned.
"That sanctimonious old man turned his back on you seven years ago, at a time when you needed him most," Clara Simons reminded her sternly. "Him and his self-righteous ways," she murmured under her breath with a sniff of contempt. "After all the letters you wrote him, you never got so much as a Christmas card back."
"After all this time. It's a shame."
"It doesn't matter now."
Clara would not give up. "He disowned you. Blood ties meant nothing to him. After the way he treated you, I wouldn't think they'd mean anything to you, either."
Too preoccupied to answer, Valerie chose her clothes. A tailored suit in dark blue was the best she could do for a mourning outfit; her limited budget couldn't stretch to cover a new dress. She was inwardly grateful that head-to-toe black was no longer mandatory at family funerals.
"Granddad took me in and raised me after my parents died," she replied to Clara's comment. "I owe him something for that."
"No, you don't!" the woman scoffed at her logic. "How can you feel obligated to that heartless, straight-laced coot? Anyone with an ounce of compassion would have supported you seven years ago. They might not have approved of what you'd done, but they wouldn't have turned a scared girl out in the cold to fend for herself with no money and no place to go."
"Don't be so melodramatic, Clara. You didn't know me back then," Valerie said. "I was way too wild. And irresponsible. As in looking for trouble, starting when I was thirteen. I couldn't even sneak a cigarette without it turning into a disaster."
"Come on. One cigarette is no big deal."
"One cigarette is enough to set a stable on fire-and I almost did. I heard granddad coming and threw away a burning cigarette in some hay, like an idiot. If he hadn't spotted it, the stable would have gone up in flames and the horses with it. Granddad had every right not to trust me. It scared me when I realized what I'd done, but being yelled at and grounded didn't straighten me out."
"Most teenagers experiment with cigarettes. Believe me, there's worse things."
Nice try, Valerie thought. But rationalizing her behavior wasn't going to change the past.
"In your case," Clara went on, "I wouldn't be surprised if you got into trouble just to get your grandfather's attention."
"You don't understand." Valerie sighed and turned to face the woman who had become her friend, her family and something like a mother over the last seven years. "It wasn't just the smoking. I hit the liquor cabinet whenever I could until he finally had to put a lock on it. I'd take one of his thoroughbred horses and go night-riding. I don't know how many times I led a lame horse home after a midnight gallop. They were valuable animals, his livelihood, and I treated them like toys."
"Okay, that was bad," Clara admitted. Her defense of Valerie didn't sound quite as vigorous as before, but she was still steadfast in her loyalty.
"There was more." Valerie felt driven to make a full confession, needing to deal with her guilt. "I used to steal money from him to hitchhike into Baltimore and go to movies or just buy things. Sometimes I'd be gone all weekend, but I never told him where I'd been. Can you imagine what I put him through?"
"I still think you're being too hard on yourself," was the stubborn reply. "I remember how frightened you seemed when I met you. And starved for love."
"Oh, yeah. Love," Valerie said thoughtfully. An ache that still hadn't receded after seven years flickered in her tawny eyes. "Maybe I was starved for it," she conceded, since it was the easiest explanation. "But I still can't forget the look on Granddad's face the day I told him I was pregnant."
"In this day and age that's not unforgivable."
"Well, it hurt him. A lot." She could still see the anguish in his eyes when her revelation had sunk in. "He was such a moral, upright man. He couldn't help it if he felt shamed and disgraced by what I'd done."
"I still say-"
"I'm just telling you how it happened. Not how it should have been."
Clara fell silent.
"When he demanded to know who the father was and I belligerently refused to tell him, it was the last straw that broke him."
Tears burned her eyes at the memory of that stormy scene. She hid them in a flurry of activity, hurriedly folding the blouse to her blue suit and laying it in the suitcase.
"But to throw you out!" Clara refused to consider her grandfather's actions as justified.
"For a long time I resented him for it, even hated him," Valerie admitted. "But I was eighteen. Turning me out was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because it made me responsible for myself. And someone else."
"Now I know the heartache of worrying over a child, and I only regret that I never had the courage to go back and tell Granddad how sorry I was for the pain I caused him."
"And that's your reason for going to his funeral," Clara concluded, crossing her arms in front of her in a stance that suggested disapproval. "Forgive me for being so blunt, but it's an empty gesture, don't you think? And not worth getting docked for."
"Mr. Hanover gave me family leave and two paid days off." She tried to dodge the issue as she closed the suitcase and locked it with a decisive snap.
"What about the other three days you'll be away?" The pointed reminder pinned Valerie to the spot. "You won't be getting paid for them. And the price of gas is sky-high. You have to drive all the way to Maryland."
"I'll just have to cut back on a few things." She was determined not to let money issues-a polite way of saying she was close to broke, as usual-affect her decision to attend her grandfather's funeral. Somehow she'd get by.
"Humph!" Clara breathed out the sound. "You're barely making ends meet now."
"That's my problem." Valerie opened a second, smaller suitcase and set it on the bed. "You can't talk me out of going, Clara. You're just wasting your breath."
Walking to the dressing table, she opened a different drawer and took out half a dozen sets of little-boy-sized underpants and socks. When they were in the second suitcase, she began adding pajamas and pants and shirts.
Clara watched in silence for several seconds, her expression growing more disgruntled. "Okay, I guess you're going. But it doesn't make sense to drag Tadd along with you."
"He'll think it's a vacation like all his school friends take in the summer," Valerie reasoned. She frowned. That wasn't much of an answer but it was the best she could come up with.
"Well, you won't think it's a vacation while you're driving there and back with him bouncing all over the car seats," her friend declared. "What will you do with him when you get there? A six-year-old boy isn't going to understand about funerals ... or sit through one quietly."
"I don't have much choice." Valerie glanced at the second single bed in the room, a twin to her own, except for the worn teddy bear resting against the pillow. She was aware of the validity of Clara's argument.
"I'll look after him," Clara volunteered. There was a grudging quality to her voice, and impatience that she hadn't been able to persuade Valerie not to go.
Valerie glanced at her friend, her strained features softening as she looked at the stern-faced woman. For all her gruffness, Clara had become her rock. She had been the cook in a restaurant Valerie had stumbled into a week after leaving her grandfather's home. She had been frightened, broke and hungry, looking for any kind of job that would put food in her stomach. Clara had taken pity on her, paid for the meal Valerie couldn't afford, persuaded the owner to hire Valerie as a waitress, and taken her to her apartment to live until she could afford a place of her own, which wasn't until after Tadd was born.
"If school weren't over for the summer, Clara, I might accept your offer," Valerie replied, and shook her head in refusal, her brown wavy hair swinging loosely around her shoulders. "As it is, you've barely recovered from your bout with pneumonia. The doctor insisted you had to rest for a month before going back to work at the restaurant. Looking after Tadd twenty-four hours a day doesn't qualify as a rest."
"What about Tadd's father? Will you be seeing him when you go back?" Clara's shrewd blue eyes were watching her closely.
A chill of premonition made Valerie shiver. Her hands faltered slightly in the act of folding one of Tadd's shirts. The moment of hesitation passed as quickly as it had come and she was once again poised and sure of her decision.
"Probably," Valerie admitted with a show of indifference. "Meadow Farms adjoins Granddad's property, so somebody from the Prescott family is bound to put in an appearance at the funeral. I don't know whether it'll be Judd or not."
Valerie could hear a warning in Clara's tone. It made her feel even more defensive. "He runs the farm now, you know. Maybe he won't think the funeral's worth his time, neighbor or not. He may ask someone else to represent the family."
"Do you still care about him, Valerie?" came the quiet but piercing question.
A wound that had never completely healed twisted Valerie's heart, squeezing out a bitter hatred that coated her reply. "I wouldn't have married Judd Prescott if he'd begged me-not that he's ever begged for anything in his life. He takes what he wants without ever giving a damn about anybody's feelings. He's ruthless, hard and arrogant."
"I can't believe I ever thought for one minute that I was anything more to him than a fast-" She stopped herself. "Anyway, that's why I never told Granddad who the father of my baby was. I knew he'd go over to Meadow Farms with a shotgun, ranting and raving about making Judd do the right thing."
"I suppose so. But-"
"No way. I got out of there as fast I could. Just thinking about Judd Prescott laughing about being forced to marry me-ugh!"
The suppressed violence in Valerie's denial and rejection of Tadd's father brought a troubled light to Clara's eyes. Her expression was uneasy, but Valerie was too caught up in her own turmoil to notice the reaction to her reply. She continued folding and packing her son's clothes into the suitcase.
"Hey, maybe there's a sensible solution to our problem," Clara said after a long pause.
"What problem?" Valerie glanced briefly at her friend. There was none as far as she was concerned.
"I'm going crazy sitting around my apartment doing nothing and you're going to have your hands full trying to cope with Tadd on this trip." It was more of a statement than an explanation. "A change of scenery would do me good, so I'll ride along with you to Maryland. And I'll pay my share of the expenses."
"I can't let you do that," Valerie protested. "I'd love to have you come with me-you know that. But you've done so much for me already that I couldn't take any money from you for the trip."
Clara shrugged, and looked Valerie up and down, as if making a silent comment on who would win the argument. "You aren't big enough to stop me." Turning toward the door, she added over her shoulder, "I'll go pack and fix some sandwiches to take along on the trip. I'll be ready in less than an hour."
Before Valerie could raise an objection, Clara was gone. A half smile tilted the corners of Valerie's mouth when she heard her apartment door closing. Arguing with Clara was useless: once she had made up her mind about something, not even dynamite could budge her.
Valerie didn't like to contemplate what her life might have been like if she hadn't met the other woman. It hadn't simply been food, a place to live or a job that Clara had given her. She had encouraged Valerie to take night courses in computer skills and business administration, so she could eventually get a better-paying job and do more than live paycheck to paycheck in order to support herself and Tadd.
Many times Valerie had thanked God for guiding her to this woman who was both friend and adviser, supporter and confidante. Clara's insistence on accompanying her made her doubly grateful. Although she'd refused to admit as much, she was apprehensive about going back for the funeral. There were a lot of people to be faced, including Judd Prescott.
Walking to the single bed in the corner, Valerie picked up the teddy bear to put in the suitcase. A combination of things made her hold the toy in her arms-the notification a few hours earlier of her grandfather's death, her hurried decision to attend his funeral, her discussion with Clara and the memories attached to her departure from Maryland seven years ago.
Those last were impossible to think about without Judd Prescott getting mixed up in it. She fell into a reverie, not unwillingly....
Her interest in him had been sparked by a remark she'd overheard her grandfather make. He'd been condemning the oldest Prescott son for his bad-boy reputation. Before that Valerie hadn't been interested in the family who lived at Meadow Farms, dismissing them as stiff-necked snobs.
Meadow Farms was a renowned name in racehorse circles, famous for its thoroughbreds. The farm itself was a showcase, the gold standard, in fact, for other horse breeders. Few had ever matched its size or the quality of horses that were bred and raised there.
Her grandfather's low opinion of Judd Prescott had aroused her curiosity. She'd ridden onto Meadow Farms land with the express purpose of meeting him. One glimpse of the tall, hard-featured man with ebony hair and devil green eyes had fascinated her. A dangerous excitement seemed to pound through her veins when he looked at her.
In the beginning, Valerie pursued him boldly, almost brazenly, arranging chance encounters that had nothing to do with chance at all. The glint in his eyes seemed to tell her he was aware they weren't, too. It angered her then, the way he had silently mocked her initial attempts to flirt with him.
The first few times Judd kissed her, it was almost like he didn't care. Young as she was, it hadn't taken Valerie long to discover how to rev him up. Their kisses got hotter-and he was definitely into it.
Her previous experiences had been with boys her own age or a year or two older, never with anyone more than ten years her senior. She had kissed many boys, gone a little farther with a few ... just far enough to know that the sensations Judd aroused in her weren't ordinary. And he had an advantage, to say the least. Talk about sensual skill. His mouth knew how to excite her and his hands how to caress her.
What had started out as a lark became something more, and Valerie fell in love with him. Aware that he was a man with experience, she realized that her kisses wouldn't hold his interest for long, and her fear of losing him outweighed her fear of the possible consequences.
As if teenagers ever thought about consequences.
One afternoon Valerie noticed him riding alone through a wooded pasture adjoining her grandfather's land. Saddling a horse, she swallowed her nervousness and her pride and rode out to meet him. They rode only a short distance together before pausing to dismount under the shade of a tree. An embrace followed naturally. When Valerie demanded that he make love to her, Judd's hesitation was brief, his affirmative response given in a burning kiss.
Excerpted from Crazy In Love by JANET DAILEY Copyright © 2008 by Kensington Publishing Corp.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsContents BED OF GRASS....................1
AFTER THE STORM....................173