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Whether it's the cool, crisp air of Maine,
the hot, dusty plains of Dallas Texas,
or the misty fog of London England,
you can always depend on
Kimberly Roberts' romance novels
to offer readers a sensuous trip
along the path to romance
they won't soon forget.




Welcome readers! I hope you enjoy reading this chapter sampler, which includes the first three chapters of my contemporary romance novels, EVERLASTING and it's sequel, A CHANCE WORTH TAKING available from DiskUs Publishing.

I love to hear from my readers. You can email me at kim@kimgaona.com and I hope you'll visit my homepage at http://kimgaona.com Enjoy!

Kimberly Roberts


Short summary of EVERLASTING:

In EVERLASTING (www.diskuspublishing.com), Dallas native, Marilyn, moves to Maine for career advancement--never expecting her new boss to be the man of her dreams. Neither Marilyn nor David, a sexy Englishman, had any intention of falling in love. After all, it's just not wise for a woman and her boss to get involved. But happen it does--and hard--with a passion that just won't let go. Marilyn and David soon find themselves facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles as they're forced to deal with an accident that may leave David paralyzed for life. She's determined to help him and to break through his bitterness to make him realize she'll love him no matter what. Will she succeed? Passion, romance, and inspiration combine in this contemporary romance that will leave readers eager for more.

Short summary of A CHANCE WORTH TAKING:

Fortunately, Kimberly Roberts' readers won't have to wait a moment longer to meet Marilyn and David again as they play matchmaker for their friends in A CHANCE WORTH TAKING (www.diskuspublishing.com) , the sequel to EVERLASTING. While Catarina loves her native Dallas, she longs to visit the Tower of London and stroll along Covent Garden and Piccadilly Square. Elated to finally have the opportunity to travel there, Marilyn and David decide to contact their friend, Jax, in London and ask that he keep an eye on their naive young friend while in the guise of being her tour guide. The roguish millionaire playboy has more women hanging on him than most men could ever dream of having in a lifetime--but something about this girl from Dallas reaches a place deep inside of Jax and takes hold of his heart. Fear and misunderstanding cause Catarina to escape back to the U.S. early, and soon Jax finds himself in hot pursuit of the woman who's captured his heart. Can these lovers from opposites sides of the ocean find a common ground? With enough emotion, passion and romance to keep readers swooning, this contemporary romance is an absolute must-read.


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews, the reproduction of this work in whole or in part in any form by electronic or mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including printing, faxing, E-mail, or copying electronically, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, DiskUs Publishing.

These are works of fiction. The characters incidents and dialogues in these books are products of the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright ©2000 By Kimberly Roberts

Everlasting ISBN: 1-58495-103-6
A Chance Worth Taking ISBN: 1-58785-016-8


Contents

Everlasting

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

A Chance Worth Taking

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

About the Author


Everlasting

Copyright ©2000 By Kimberly Roberts


EVERLASTING: Chapter One

Unable to shake the apprehension gripping her gut, Marilyn stood in her office at the top of the multi-storied building and watched out the window, waiting to see David walk to his car. Gray, roiling clouds obliterated the normally crystal blue Maine sky. An autumn storm, a Nor'easter seemed to be boiling toward Sherry. From what Marilyn had been told during her short stay in the town, which would hold the central jewel in Midwest Viking's crown, such storms occasionally arrived this early in the year.

Rain began pelting the floor-to-ceiling windows of her office. Irrationally, Marilyn raised a hand to wipe away the drops, as she waited impatiently to see her lover, her fiancé, make his way to where the valet had parked his Jaguar. A sudden gust of wind shook the window, causing her to jump back half a step. Debris, bits of newspaper and pieces of cardboard danced across the pavement of the parking lot, like demons dancing to excite the passions of the devil storm hurling itself against the town.

Finally, David walked from under the cover of the building toward his car. Ignoring the wind-driven rain, he was nonchalantly strolling along, chatting with the security guard usually stationed at the front desk of the building. She watched as he threw his blonde head back and laughed at something the guard evidently had said. That was David: fearless and in control of himself and all that surrounded him. A full gale with rain so fierce that Marilyn could barely make his figure out across the drive meant nothing to him.

He waved at the guard and pulled open his door. One foot inside, he stopped and looked directly up at the window at which Marilyn stood. She watched as he lifted his fingers to his lips, kissed them and tossed the invisible kiss toward her. Unconsciously, she reached out to catch it, only realizing the futility of the act when her finger rapped against the icy pane of the window. Even if there'd been no sheet of glass between them, the kiss would have been lost on currents of the rising wind. David laughed again and waved at her, before disappearing inside the red Jaguar.

For a brief second, she demanded he look up again at her window. Somehow she'd make him understand that he should wait…wait for her. She just couldn't let him go off to his appointment without her. Marilyn couldn't shake the forbidding notion that she was watching him leave for the last time.

Only a moment later, she saw the bright red taillights of the Jag turn into the traffic of the street, lost from her vision.

An uncontrollable shudder ran through her and she hugged her arms close around her body. A chill permeated through the heavy wool suit and took up residence in her very bones. She just knew something was about to happen, something that would destroy her relationship with David.

This was ridiculous. Absolutely insane. Heavens, she was an astute and highly respected businesswoman. Not some child, given to foolish notions and superstitions. It was only because David and she had barely spent five minutes outside one another's company since she'd arrived in Sherry a week earlier. Within hours of her arrival, she'd shrewdly realized that she was in love with her employer. In the midst of all the feminine stirrings and longings, there was a core of unbridled logic that told her she'd found the one man who could complete her happiness, just as she could complete his. And with all the cunning and precise thinking that had led her to success in business, she'd decided against playing silly, female games…she merely made her feelings obvious to David.

Of course, she'd felt rather safe in that. No one could mistake the not-so-subtle signals David was sending her. The attraction was more than mutual. It was an undeniable fact.

Love at first sight? Hardly. She'd been working for Midwest Viking as an executive, as well as a jewelry designer, for nearly two years. And while until a mere week ago the relationship had been strictly professional, it hadn't taken them either very long to realize that their mutual admiration and affection had rooted itself deeper than nine-to-five at the office.

Marilyn turned away from the window and forced her arms to her sides. Taking a deep breath, she chased away her silly concerns for David's safety and walked to her desk. Brushing the skirt of her red wool suit under her, she slid into her chair and picked up the latest status report on the construction of the new store, only a few miles from the temporary office space they'd rented as a headquarters until the new building was constructed.

Casually, she scanned the report before her. As usual, concise and professional. Daryl, Midwest's architect, had provided her with all the information she needed to know in simple terms, without a lot of technical jargon that would have her reaching for her dictionary. Without needing to look, she reached over to the intercom on her desk and pressed the button to hail her secretary.

"Is Daryl still in the building?" she asked, then listened to a shuffling through the small speaker.

"Right here, boss. Need something?"

Marilyn smiled. No doubt he was wielding his charm on her secretary. Daryl may have been away from their native Texas for the past two years, but there were just some Texan attributes not easily lost, even this far from home.

"Leave her alone, Daryl," Marilyn chuckled. "Can you step in here, please?"

"Right away, boss." She heard more shuffling of papers through the speaker before Daryl's voice, becoming more distant came through again. "Don't you change a thing, Darlin'. You're perfect the way you are. I'll be right back."

Marilyn didn't really need to see Daryl. His report more than told her what she needed to know. Yet, that gloomy feeling that had settled over her as she'd watched David leave failed to dissipate. Daryl's warmth and charm seemed the perfect antidote.

She rose at the light tap at the door. "Come in."

Daryl sauntered in and nodded at her, blessing her with the gift of a crooked grin and sheepish look in his blue eyes. She shook her head at him. It was more than just that Texan charm he couldn't leave behind. From the silver studded tips of his Western cut shirt to the impeccable blue jeans to the toes of his comfortably broken-in cowboy boots, Daryl looked as if he'd just stepped out of a tourism advertisement for the state of Texas.

"Wanted to see me, boss?" he drawled in his deep, sultry voice, waiting until she'd re-seated herself before flopping down in the chair across from her desk. He lazily crossed one leg over the other; calmly tapping a rhythm against his knee with nicely manicured nails.

"Daryl, you'll do me the favor of at least turning off the intercom before resuming your flirting with my secretary," Marilyn laughed, taking a deep breath and unbuttoning the jacket of her suit. Already his presence, the homelike comfort of his Texan drawl and his humor was allowing her to relax just a bit. "Come on. I finally have her trained to the point where I'm not getting kerosene for coffee and nail polish remover stains on the reports she's supposed to be typing for me. You're going to get her flustered, and then it's hell for me again."

"Ahh, Miss Marilyn, surely you wouldn't begrudge a simple old country boy a little pleasure. Ah rely on the kindness of strangers in these foreign parts," Daryl drawled, barely hiding his grin. "Besides, I've been waiting two years for you to get up here and put me out of my misery and what happens…You come up here and the next thing I know old David has snatched you right out of my fingers."

"Daryl, I was never in your fingers," Marilyn laughed, nervously rolling the sapphire and diamond engagement ring around her own finger. David had surprised her with it the day before, when they'd visited a local jewelry shop that stocked Midwest Viking jewels. She'd been stunned by the gift, even though he'd already proposed and she'd accepted. Yet, meeting David's parents for the first time that morning, she'd realized his wisdom in giving it to her so soon. With his ring on her finger, the normal nerves in meeting one's future in-laws disappeared entirely. Not that she'd had anything to worry about. Hilary and David Sr. were two of the nicest people she'd ever met, immediately treating her as if she were already one of the family. She already regretted that they headquartered themselves in London, only rarely returning to the States for visits and important business concerns.

"Oh, that which might have been lives only in the poet's heart and the drunkard's soul." Daryl crossed his hands across his heart and looked at her woefully.

"Shakespeare?" she asked, laughing again.

"Nope. Just me. See what you're missing with that old David? Bet he never waxed poetical for you."

"Hmmmm. Seems we never get around to poetry. Other things keep us pretty busy," she teased, glancing down again at her ring. "Now, let's talk some business."

"Fire away, boss. If I can't have your heart, I'll settle for your mind. Though, if I told you that you have a beautiful heart, would you hold it against me?" Daryl asked, chuckling deeply.

Marilyn ignored the old joke as she pulled up his report. "I've read this, and it sounds very good. But, I have a question for you," she said, tapping the paper. "This says we're slightly ahead of schedule, which means that we'll more than be able to open the new store on the projected opening date of December first next year. Here's my question…Daryl, if we pulled out all the stops, keeping proper construction codes in mind, could we push for an August first opening instead?"

Daryl sat up in his chair, allowing a long, low whistle to escape his lips. She could see the wheels turning in his brain as he weighed the proposal carefully before responding. It was the gleam that sparkled in his eyes that told her his answer before he even opened his mouth to speak.

"That would really be pushing it. We're headed into winter here…and that's going to slow down construction considerably. Remember that this isn't Texas. There's no twelve-month construction season here."

"I know. But, if the weather clears up for a while, couldn't we get the frame in place and enough construction completed so that the crew could start on the electricals and infrastructure?"

Daryl cocked his head first one way and then the other. "Yes, if this storm isn't the beginning of a rough winter, I think we could probably do that. It would mean extra overtime while the weather held, though."

"I think that could be offset by the profits we'd make by opening for the full holiday season next year. Plus, that would mean that by the following Christmas we'd already be an established business here. No hesitancy in accepting Midwest Viking. You know how people react to new businesses. And this is the kind of big ticket business where the sooner you build a reputation of quality and service, the more profitable the business becomes."

This felt right. This felt safe and secure again. For this brief time, she was able to push back her concerns, the bad intuition, over David. Marilyn knew the business as well as she did the back of her own hand. If it hadn't been for her daring, and sometimes seemingly reckless, business decisions, Midwest Viking-David-would never have taken the chance on giving her this plum assignment. It was that instinctive edge she possessed that had led to her repeated successes since joining the company. Not that she hadn't sacrificed to accept the position. She'd only recently bought a townhouse, now vacant in Dallas. And, she'd had to leave her parents half a country away at home, knowing that it would be months before she could even slip away for a long weekend to see them and doubting that either of them, sharing her fear of flying, would be able to come to Sherry to see her. It was the first and longest separation from them she'd ever experienced.

"How long would it take you to run up a proposal on a new opening date?" she asked. Knowing Daryl, he had probably already run half the numbers through his head as he sat there.

"Properly motivated, I could probably come up with some projections by tomorrow morning," he replied, settling back in his chair again.

"Properly motivated? Just what would it take to 'properly' motivate you, Daryl?"

She watched him lean toward her, grinning from ear to ear. "Leave David. Run away with me. Let me keep you in a style to which you could lower yourself. I mean, if I walk away from this just to steal you, I doubt I'd ever get another assignment. So, it would be beans and bacon, I'm afraid."

"And a six-pack properly chilled in the refrigerator at all time, too, I'm sure," Marilyn laughed. "You Texas boys. See why I think I did much better finding David? He only lived in Texas a few years. He didn't have code instilled in him from birth."

"Your loss, Darlin'." Daryl smiled again, as he rose. "I'll get right on this. You'll see the report by noon tomorrow."

"I've no doubt." Marilyn pushed herself up from her chair and watched him walk to the door. "Oh, and Daryl…thanks. I may belong to David heart and soul, but it's nice to know I'm appreciated."

Daryl winked at her before disappearing out into the lobby. She watched her door slide silently closed and walked back to the window. If anything, the storm was intensifying. A thin glaze of ice covered every surface. The roads would be treacherous for even the most experienced driver. She solaced herself in knowing that David had been raised here and had probably long ago arrived at his mysterious appointment.

That he hadn't told her where he was going or whom he was meeting surprised Marilyn. But, how much did they really know about one another? David had told her that it was better this way, that they'd have an entire lifetime of getting to know each other's little secrets, endearing habits and likes and dislikes.

"Marilyn, every day will be a new adventure," he'd promised, as they'd sat together at the beach near the lighthouse days earlier. It had been the day after they'd first made glorious, passionate love. She remembered laughing to herself that the old saying about that "glow" that surrounded lovers clung to them. As they'd sat there watching the breakers crash against the rocks, sending plumes of blue-green spray high in the air, and as a light wind ruffled their hair and brought the briny smell of the ocean to their nostrils, she felt that glow radiate around them. Together in one another's arms it hadn't seemed odd at all that they could find themselves passionately in love with one another and still know so little about each other.

The only worry dancing around the edges of their happiness had been their forgetfulness. The night before, mellowed by the heady wine David had selected for dinner and soothed by the romantic melodies playing in the background, it had only seemed natural to slide into one another's arms. Under the guise of dancing, all they'd actually done was cling to one another and sway under the seductive influence of the Chianti, Harry Connick and one another.

When his hands had slowly slid up her back to her shoulders, she'd moved closer and raised her face to his. She trembled now at the memory of that first taste of David's lips, as she realized that she was standing at the window swaying slowly, as she'd done that night.

Time stopped at that moment, lasting an eternity as she memorized the feel of his lips against hers, teasing and testing. Impatience had grown within her, spreading as quickly as the liquid fire igniting the passion she'd always held so tightly in control. Being with David meant that she could lose herself, allow the control to slip away, as she savored the uninhibited raw desire she felt for him.

That she had favored him with the gift of her virginity had both surprised and humbled him. As they lay, entwined together in the sheets of her bed at the Lang mansion, panting for breath and a descent back from the heaven they'd created with their bodies, she'd felt the slight tremor and the moisture of his tears as he'd held her. So strong, so vital, so in command of himself, yet the notion she'd given her very essence to him and him alone exposed the tender, gentle nature that she'd always somehow known he possessed.

It was his tears that brought the impulsive, instinctive need to take control and, in her inexperienced way, show him just how much pleasure he'd brought her by pleasing him. Only when he seemed on the verge of all loss of self had he rolled over taken possession of her again.

"I won't say I love you," he'd whispered hoarsely. "Not now. Though I've never really made love before tonight. Sure, I've had other women. But, I know the difference now between sex and making love. This is love, but I never want you to think that those words hold any more power now, when we're like this, than when we're drinking coffee at breakfast or watching videos in the evening. This is merely the exquisite result of loving you all the time."

And then it was Marilyn's turn to weep.

Running her hand over her eyes to block the sight of the horrendous weather outside, Marilyn was startled to find tears once again in her eyes. It had all been too perfect. And perhaps it was the worry that somehow there might be a chink in that perfection, for could anything be that really pure and ideal, that led her to worry over David's safety now, the first time they'd really been separated since they'd truly found each other.

"Get over it," she ordered herself. "He's fine. He's probably just off getting me another surprise. I just hope we don't both have a surprise coming in about nine months."

She felt her face work itself into a mass of worry wrinkles and took a deep breath, forcing herself to relax. There was no sense in borrowing trouble, just as it was ridiculous to worry about David simply because he had some mysterious meeting. Just as she hadn't expected to fall in love with him so quickly, she hadn't prepared herself to obtain anything necessary to prevent a pregnancy. Fortunately, when they'd both realized what they done-several times-they agreed to obtain protection immediately. Thankfully, David had told her that he couldn't wait until they had children, though he knew it would be prudent to wait a while first.

"But, if you have conceived," he'd told her, "think of the purity of love that would bring that child into the world. He'd be the most blessed baby in the world. And you can't beat that."

How many other men would have been so loving, so caring? How many other men wouldn't have stewed over it or accused the woman of trying to trap them? Instead, David had just shrugged it off and suggested that they should marry as soon as they could because he was so excited about starting their life together.

The shrill buzz of the intercom shattered the images of David she'd formed in her mind: blonde hair tousled, lips swollen, sheen of sweat from their intensive lovemaking shining on his brow. She turned back to her desk and depressed the button on the machine.

"Yes?"

"Mrs. Hilary Lang on line one," her secretary's voice came through the speaker.

"Thanks. I've got it." Marilyn picked up the receiver and pressed the button on her telephone. "Hilary? It's Marilyn."

"Marilyn, I'm not so sure you and David should join us for lunch at the club after all. It's getting really wicked outside. In fact, David's father and I were thinking that it would probably be a good idea to just send everyone home before this storm becomes much worse."

"I think that would be a good idea. Where are you and Dave?"

"We're at the house. Marie has enough food in the freezer to feed an army. So, why don't you and David just come home? Might be a pleasant afternoon to just sit around by the fire and get acquainted," Hilary said. "As you can probably imagine, Dave and I want to know everything about you."

Marilyn laughed. She could imagine that she'd be in for the same kind of grilling that her parents planned on giving David. "That sounds delightful. But, David isn't here. He had some appointment away from the office. He didn't say where."

"Oh-"

The muffled sound on the telephone indicated that Hilary had placed her hand over the receiver. She was probably conferring with Dave.

"Marilyn, Dave's going to try to call David on his cellular. Hold on a moment, dear," Hilary said, after a moment.

Waiting patiently, Marilyn pressed the button on the intercom. Leaning over, she spoke briefly with her secretary, asking that she spread the word that the office would be closing immediately to allow everyone to go home because of the storm. She was just finishing when she heard Hilary call to her through the telephone.

"Marilyn, Dave only gets David's voice mail. That's very unusual."

"Well, this meeting must be pretty important. He probably just doesn't want to be disturbed during it."

"Dear, how are you going to get home? You went to work with David, didn't you?"

Marilyn though for a moment, sliding down into her chair and drumming her fingernails against the white blotter. Inspiration struck. "Hilary, I know that Daryl is still here and he drives one of those huge, four-wheel drive things. How about if I ask him to give me a lift? Think we can stretch Marie's lunch to feed a hungry Texan?"

"Believe me, Marie's worked for us for years. I've never yet seen her fail," Hilary laughed softly. "Just tell Daryl that he's staying here until this blows over. There's plenty of room and a lot better place than his bachelor's pad."

"Good idea. And while we're getting there, why don't you keep trying David? Make sure to tell him that I've sent everyone home so there's no sense in his coming back here."

"Right. Okay, dear, go find that Texan."

The roads were treacherous. Marilyn continually glanced over at a tight-lipped Daryl as he drove slowly, his knuckles whitening as he clutched the steering wheel. Even just creeping along the icy roads, Daryl repeatedly had to fight the large vehicle to keep it from fishtailing down the roads.

It was only when she saw the tall granite pillars guarding the driveway to the Lang mansion that Marilyn began to relax. She turned her prayers to hoping that David was already safe and warm beside the fireplace inside.

As Daryl braked to a slow stop in the circular driveway, he let out a long sigh. "Houston, the Eagle has landed. And it ain't going a foot farther until I see blue skies and dry land."

"I really appreciate this, Daryl," Marilyn said, buttoning her coat as she pushed open the door.

"Just you wait until I get around there. No way are we going to meet that new deadline if you're laid up with a broken leg," Daryl ordered, swinging out of the door. She watched him skate around the front of the vehicle and slide to a stop at her door. She slipped out slowly and felt him put his arm around her. "If I go, you go, Darlin'. And vicey versey."

Slowly they stepped toward the house; relieved when finally they reached the door, which opened immediately.

Dave looked solemnly at both of them. Marilyn noticed, with concern, that his face was heavily lined with worry with an almost gray tone beneath his tanned complexion.

"David?" she asked, before she even took a step into the house.

"No word. I've just about been ringing that cellular to pieces. He must have left it in his car, wherever he went." Dave took her arm and pulled her into the house, before looking up at Daryl. "Not the best drive I'll bet you've ever taken. Thanks for bringing Marilyn home. Hillary's got hot coffee and sandwiches waiting in the kitchen. I imagine you both could use some warming up."

As if she could even think about eating. Where was he? And why didn't he have the cellular with him? She'd once teased him about how it could probably only be removed from his body surgically. Of course, then he'd shown her just how easy it was to toss aside when he had something a bit more enjoyable in mind than business.

Still it wouldn't do Dave or Hilary any good if she went to pieces worrying over him. They didn't need any more anxieties at the moment.

"That sounds great. I'm just going to freshen up a bit, maybe change clothes and I'll be right there." Marilyn laid a hand on Dave's arm and smiled up at him. "David is perfectly safe wherever he is. He'll be in contact as soon as he can."

A sweatshirt and jeans felt heavenly, Marilyn decided, after she'd changed out of her business suit. She pulled a brush through her long hair and caught it up in a ponytail, securing it in place with a band.

Hurrying down the stairs, she glanced at the beautiful portraits of all of David's ancestors. Generation upon generation smiled down at her. One day, she knew, she'd grace the wall with David at her side, and maybe even a child or two.

Marilyn paused in the hallway, glancing at the telephone resting on a small table next to the door to the drawing room. Dave hadn't had any luck reaching David, but maybe fortune would smile on her. She lifted the receiver and quickly punched in the number to David's cellular. It rang…and rang…and just as she expected the automated voice to come on the line and ask her to leave a message, someone answered.

"H-h-hello?"

"David? David is that you? Honey, we've been so worried-"

"Ma'am, may I ask who I'm speaking with?"

"This isn't David, is it?"

"No, ma'am. I need to speak with someone who's related to Mr. Lang."

"I'm his fiancée. What's happened to David?" Marilyn fought to control the panic she knew was reaching her voice from the hollow pit in her center.

"There's been an accident. Mr. Lang has been injured and transported to Sherry Hospital. The hospital has been attempting to reach his family. Can you tell me how to get in contact with them?"

"His parents are here. How badly is he hurt?" Please God, minor injuries. Please God, a broken nose or a sprained ankle or…

"I'm afraid it's pretty serious, ma'am. But his passenger came out okay. They've transported her, but just as a precaution."

"Passenger? Someone was with him?"

"Yes, a Miss Cheryl Rogers. Ma'am, can you call one of his parents to the telephone? We're going to arrange for a patrol car to come and get them and take them to the hospital. They…ummm…they may have to make some decisions, ma'am. Could I speak with them?"

Marilyn staggered against the wall, sliding down until she was sitting on the floor, the telephone dangling limply in her hand. A vision of the last company picnic in Dallas the previous July formed in her mind. David was there, accompanied by a beautiful blonde that simply exuded vitality and energy. It was obvious to anyone observing them that she was more than just attracted to David, as she hung on him as if she were a third appendage.

Surely not…not here. Surely if there was something still between them, David would have told her. He would have explained. He wouldn't have…

"Marilyn, what's wrong?"

She looked up, seeing Dave through the veil of tears filling her eyes.

"David's hurt." She shook the telephone receiver at him. "He's hurt. He's hurt badly."

Just as Dave reached for the telephone, Marilyn clutched it to her breast.

"Dave, do you know why David would have been with Cheryl Bridges?"


EVERLASTING: Chapter Two

Through her tears, Marilyn watched Dave's mouth drop in shock, obviously just as surprised. He didn't answer, instead listened to the officer on the line. "Yes, we'll be waiting."

Marilyn held her head in her hands as the tears fell unheeded down her cheeks. What was he doing with her? Why couldn't David had told her where he was going. It didn't make sense. That was beside the point now. David was lying in a hospital with God only knows what wrong.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked over. It was Daryl. She tried to smile, sniffed back a gasp and stood.

"You okay, Darlin?"

"Yes." Marilyn took a deep breath and looked at Dave and Hillary.

"Are they picking us up soon?"

"Yes, they'll be here as soon as they can, weather permitting." Dave looked at Daryl. "Would you like to go with us?"

Daryl nodded. "Yes, thank you. I don't know if I can be of any help, but I'd like to be there all the same."

Dave led Hillary to a couch in the living room. "We'll wait here until the police arrive."

Hillary patted Dave's hand and sat quietly. "Marilyn, please come in and have a seat. There's no need in standing in the hallway. The police can only get here so fast."

Marilyn walked slowly into the living room with Daryl close behind her. She sat in one of the leather chairs across the room, separated from Dave and Hillary. It was the first time she'd felt distant from them. They'd taken her in instantly, but this escapade of David's had thrown a loop.

The room was as silent as a tomb, with only the fire crackling in the background. Dave walked across the room to the wet-bar and methodically poured himself a glass of water. The glass shook obviously, and Marilyn turned her face away, not wanting to embarrass him.

Flashing lights flickered down the hallway and Marilyn and Hillary stood at once. "They're here." Marilyn tried to calm her beating heart. They'd arrived so quickly; it had to be serious.

Daryl put a calming hand under her elbow, guiding her down the hallway to the coat hanging on the rack. He helped her with the coat and then slipped into his own large leather jacket. "Everyone ready?"

Dave and Hillary nodded and opened the door as the police officer began to knock.

The officer removed his hat. "Lang's?"

"Yes. We're ready." Dave held the door as Hillary, Marilyn and Daryl proceeded him down the steps. "Careful, we don't need another person in the hospital." His gut clenched at the thought of his strong virile son, lying in the hospital with his life on the line. God, please spare my son.

They arrived at the emergency room and were escorted to a private waiting area. The nurse turned and faced Hillary and Dave. "The doctor will be with you in a minute." She smiled and quietly walked away.

Marilyn stared in space. The smell of disinfectant was making her stomach nauseous. She squeezed her hands tight in a fist, her nails biting into her palms. There was no pain, only a numb feeling of loss. She was almost frozen with fear of the unknown.

"I knew there was something wrong." She remembered hoping he would drive carefully when she noticed the storm approaching. "I should have warned him to drive carefully. I should have done something." She wrapped her arms around her stomach. "God, I can't lose him." She anxiously chewed on her bottom lip.

David's mother pulled her close and held her. "Don't worry, dear. David is a fighter. He'll be fine, I promise." Hillary closed her eyes.

Dave stood inpatient. "Well, I'm not waiting here another minute. I'm going to go find that doctor and get some answers." Just as Dave was leaving the waiting area, a doctor dressed in light green scrubs walked in. He had gray hair and looked to be in his late sixties.

He ran his fingers through his hair then extended his hand to Dave. "Hello, my name is Scott Drummond. I'm sorry you've been waiting so long." He walked in and shook Hillary, Daryl and Marilyn's hand also. "David was brought in about two hours ago. As you know, he's been in an automobile accident. There was no ID on him so we couldn't get in touch with you when he first arrived. Luckily one of you called on his cellular."

All four stepped close together as the doctor continued. "He has several back injuries and needed immediate surgery. He's been in there for about an hour now. The spine was severely bruised and he has several broken bones in his back."

He put a x-ray on a lighted display and pointed. "One kidney was ruptured and he had internal bleeding. The surgery is going to take several hours. He can live without the one kidney and they've finally gotten the bleeding under control. David will come out of the surgery fine, but we'll not know the full extent of the injuries until he regains consciousness. He, of course, was unconsciousness when brought in. Are there any questions I can answer for you?"

Hillary asked the question that was going through Marilyn's mind but was afraid to voice. "Will David be able to walk? Are there any long term effects?" She saw Dave flinch.

"I'm sorry Mrs. Lang, but we can't answer that until David awakens. The spine looked fine, except for the bruising. But, you never can tell for sure until the patient is awake."

Marilyn straightened and tears silently fell from her eyes. "David will live. That's all that matters. We can work through anything else that comes along."

Dr. Drummond nodded. "There was another person in the car with him. A Cheryl Bridges. She was very fortunate. She only received a concussion and a few bruises. We're keeping her overnight for observation."

Three hours later the doctor returned. Everyone jumped to their feet. "David is out of surgery and doing fine. It's going to be a long haul for him. We were able to set the broken bones and they removed the kidney. They took a careful look at his spine. The spinal cord itself looks in good condition, all though there is a lot of swelling."

Dave held up his hand. "Tell us Doctor, will David be able to walk?"

"Like I said, we'll know more when he wakes up. It may take a couple of days for that to happen, or he may wake up within a couple of hours. Every case is different. You may go in and see him for a minute. However, It's best if you go home for the evening and return in the morning. If there is any change, the nurse has your number and we'll contact you immediately." The doctor left.

A great wave of relief washed over Marilyn. "He's going to be all right." She was crying and didn't realize it this time.

David's parents hugged her. "David's always been a fighter. He's the strong one in our family, don't worry." David's father held both women while they cried tears of joy.

They walked silently to ICU and looked through the window. David's parents let Marilyn go in first.

Marilyn couldn't believe what she was seeing. David was as pale as the sheets. He looked like he had lost a large amount of blood. He didn't even look alive. Large dark circles surrounded his eyes. The only sign that he was all right, was the constant beeping of the monitors. He had four different monitors hooked up and tubes coming out of him in every possible place. Marilyn went forward and kissed David on the cheek. She held his hand and put her face next to his. She could feel his breath blowing on her cheek. Knowing that David was breathing brought on another flood of tears.

She knelt down beside his bed. He's alive. God, thank you for letting him live. Marilyn kissed his cheek. "David, I'm here with you. You're going to be all right. Try to relax and everything will be fine. Can you feel me holding your hand? I'm right here. I love you so very much."

David and Hillary walked away from the glass partition. Without them saying, she knew they were going to check on Cheryl. Marilyn looked at David. Why? She wanted to shake him and ask him why he was with her? Why couldn't he have told her he was meeting with Cheryl? Surely everything they'd shared together the last few days wasn't a lie. It couldn't be. No one could fake the feelings they'd shown each other.

David's parents watched Marilyn. Hillary turned to Dave as he took her in his arms. "Hush, he's going to be all right. Don't worry, dear."

"I know. I was so scared." She wiped her tears away. "David will come through this. He's a Lang." She watched Marilyn as she talked to David. "She loves him so much. It breaks my heart to see her so unhappy. She and David were bursting with happiness this morning. I hope she knows how hard this is going to be for him when he wakes up. David's never been good at having to depend on other people. He's going to be a big grumpy bear." She chuckled.

Dave looked at his son. "My question is, why was he with Cheryl? It doesn't make any sense. I'm going to want answers as soon as possible. Marilyn doesn't deserve this added worry."

Hillary took his hand. "David has never given us reason not to trust him. Don't assume the worst."

"It's hard not to. Why didn't he tell us he was meeting with her and what is she doing here in Sherry?" He shook his head. "It doesn't add up. I'm going to talk to her as soon as she's awake."

Marilyn came out of the room. "You can go in. I didn't mean to stay so long."

Hillary hugged her. "He's going to be your husband. You deserve to be there." Hillary turned and followed Dave.

Hillary stayed on one side of the bed as Dave went to the other. "Hello, son. Your mom and I are here. I hope you know how scared you made that beautiful fiancée of yours. You both must be on the same wavelength, because she knew there was something wrong when you didn't show up for lunch." He reached down and grasped David's hand. " You're going to be fine, son."

Hillary sniffed back tears. "I hope you know you scared your poor mother, too. I didn't bring you into this world to have you taken out so soon. You better wake up quick. I love you." She leaned over and kissed his cheek and tried to keep the tears from her voice.

They walked out together as the nurses came in to check his monitors. "You can come back tomorrow around ten in the morning. If there is any change, we have your number at the desk and we'll call."

Dave stopped in front of Marilyn and Daryl. "Let us take you home, Marilyn, so you can rest. We can come back together in the morning."

Daryl guided her from the hospital. His strong presence was comforting during this time. On the ride home, Marilyn kept playing the events of the day over and over in her head. She wished there was some way she could have kept this from happening, but she knew there wasn't. She realized they hadn't asked about all the details of the accident. Was there another car involved?

They walked into the house. It was quiet and empty. Marilyn's first step inside had been with David. Now, he wasn't here. He was lying helpless in a hospital bed fighting for his life. She felt David's father removing her coat. She smiled at him. "Thank you. I'm so glad you both came into town. I don't know how I could have survived this on my own." Tears were running down her face. "Look at me. I'm a mess. That's your son laying in that hospital, not mine."

Hillary pulled her into her arms. "Now Marilyn, everything will be fine. I want you to get some rest tonight and David and I will get settled into our old room down the hall from you. If you need anything all you have to do is call out."

Marilyn couldn't do anything but nod. She turned and walked up the stairs and remembered Daryl. He was standing quietly behind her. "Daryl, thank you."

Daryl smiled his crooked little smile. "For what, Darlin?"

"For being there for me today."

"I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, go upstairs and get yourself some rest. You're going to need it. I'm going to head on back to my place. Call me if there's any news or you just need to talk." Daryl pushed back a lock of hair that had fallen from her hair clip.

"I will." Marilyn whispered. She slowly ascended the steps until she reached her room. It was dark and gloomy from the rain outside. No sunlight was pouring in, only darkness. She sat on the edge of the bed that she and David had shared. She laid back and pulled one of the pillows in front of her and cried. She wanted to hold David not the pillow. She wanted to have his arms wrapped around her and telling her it was all a bad dream.

She saw the phone and picked it up. She dialed Jacqueline, her closest friend in Dallas. The phone rang three times and when Marilyn thought she'd give up, someone answered. "Hello, is Jacqueline there?"

"Sure, hold on a minute."

Marilyn heard music in the background and groaned. This wasn't the time to call.

Jacqueline picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Jacqueline, it's me." Marilyn felt a tear drop from her eye.

"Marilyn, what's wrong? You sound horrible. Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine." She took a deep breath. "You're not going to believe what I've gotten myself into."

"What in the world's wrong? You've only been there a week, it's not like you could get into that much trouble."

"Remember our hunk boss, David?"

"Like a sane woman could forget? What about him?"

Marilyn gave a dry laugh. "We're engaged."

"No! Are you serious? How did you pull that one off?"

"You wouldn't believe it if I told you, but we are." She blew her bangs off her forehead. "God, I love him, Jacque. Never really noticed him in Dallas, but move me out here to Sherry, and we hit it off." She laughed and then started crying uncontrollably. "I don't know what to do. David's been in a car accident."

"Oh, Marilyn, I'm so sorry. What happened?"

Thoughts of the day flashed before her. "The weather's horrible here and David was out in it and I don't know. Somehow he was in a car accident. Now he's in a coma and it's a waiting game."

"Marilyn, do you need me? You know I'll come out there somehow. The Dallas store will survive for a few days."

"No, wait. I'll see him again in the morning and I'll know more then. I just had to talk to you. I've been meaning to call you the last couple of days, but it's been crazy. Now, this happens and I had to call. You've always been here for me and I needed to hear your voice. I'll call you tomorrow and let you know what's going on."

"All right. I know everything will be okay. I'll keep David in my prayers tonight. Call me as soon as you hear something from the doctors. I don't care what time it is. Um, should I mention this to the office?"

"I wouldn't. I don't know if Dave and Hillary will let the company know yet, or if they'll wait to see how he does."

"I understand. Let my know what's going on and if I can do anything for you, sis. I love you."

"I love you, too." Jacqueline was the closest Marilyn had to a sister and she thanked God everyday for bring her into her life.

Marilyn placed the phone back on the cradle and turned back on her side. The pillow was wet from her tears. She fell asleep praying God would somehow make everything all right. She knew He could do it, but would He? She'd only turned to Him in times of need. Could this be a lesson for her to turn to God more often? She prayed not. Still, the thought of Cheryl lingered in the back of her mind. Why?


EVERLASTING: Chapter Three

Marilyn and David's parents arrived at the hospital promptly at ten, the first available time for visitors. They went directly up to ICU. Each patient's window was open and Marilyn could see the visitors talking. She pushed David's door open and stopped. Another patient occupied the bed. She looked at the room number. It was right. She looked at Hillary. "David has been moved."

She shut the door and rushed to the nurse's station. "Excuse me, could you tell me where David Lang has been moved? He was in room six yesterday and now he's not there. Has something happened? Is he okay?" Marilyn was becoming frantic.

The nurse stood and looked at a dry-erase board with patient's information. "Don't worry. Mr. Lang has been moved to a private room on the fifth floor. He's out of danger and the doctor felt with you and his family; it would be more convenient if he were in a private room. I'll give you the number and you can go up to see him. The doctor is there and will be for a while." She wrote the number on a sheet of paper and gave it to Marilyn.

Marilyn rubbed her tight neck and looked at Dave and Hillary. "Did you hear her?" She was smiling. "Everything's going to be all right."

They quickly took the elevator to the fifth floor. The elevator opened facing another nurse's station. Marilyn saw a sign with numbers showing the way to David's room. When she arrived at the room, the door was open. Two nurses and Doctor Drummond were inside. The nurses were monitoring the machines hooked to him and Dr. Drummond was inspecting David's legs.

They waited while the doctor continued his examination, each holding their breath. Doctor Drummond looked up and saw them in the doorway. "Come on in. David's doing better. He's slowly coming around, but that's to be expected after his trauma."

They approached the bed. The tube had been removed from his mouth and only oxygen remained on his face. He still had an IV and a heart monitor, but other than that, it was a real improvement. Marilyn picked up his hand while Hillary and Dave went to the other side of the bed. His complexion was still pale and he had dark rings under his eyes. Marilyn continued to look at him, willing his eyes to open.

"David started coming out of his coma shortly after you left last night. We didn't want to call, knowing it would take hours for him to completely be conscious." Dr. Drummond picked up his clipboard and moved so Hillary and Dave could step closer to the bed.

"You can come in as often as you like. Some patients respond to sound and some don't, so we want to keep an eye on his behaviors. If you see any change let us know immediately. However, I still suggest you go home in the evenings so you can keep your strength up. It's going to be a long haul for him after he wakes. He's a very lucky man to have survived." He smiled and started for the door. "I have some rounds to make, but I'll be back to check in later."

Marilyn looked at Hillary and smiled. She was so overwhelmed with gratitude. God had heard her prayers and seen fit to grant her this grace. "He's going to be fine, Hillary. He already looks better. Look at his color." She leaned down and kissed David on the cheek.

Dave looked down at his son. He said gruffly. "Yes, he's going to make it. He's a strong Lang man."

Marilyn couldn't hold back the tears from falling down her cheeks. She held tight to his hand. "I couldn't lose him after just finding him." She pulled the chair next to the bed and sat down. "I'm not leaving his side. I'm staying here until he wakes up."

The door opened and Hillary and Dave spun around. "Jax, you're here." Hillary lifted her hand to him.

Jax grasped her hand and pulled her into a hug. "Of course. I would have been here sooner, but I just got the message. How's he doing?"

Jax walked closer to the bed. "He looks like hell."

"Shh, he might hear you." Marilyn reprimanded him.

Jax jerked his head to her. "I'm sorry, I didn't know." He extended his hand across the bed. "You must be Marilyn."

Marilyn looked at the hand in front of her. Large dark tanned hands with short manicured nails. She lifted hers and let the hand enfold around her fingers. "Yes." His touch was warm and comforting. She closed her eyes needing strength. She looked at his face. He looked like he'd been fashioned after Adonis himself. A beautiful man, dark complected with short brown hair, almost black. His deep British accent was mesmerizing. "I'm sorry, David has never mentioned you. He doesn't have a brother, so you must be…"

Jax laughed. "Jax Blair and I'm not surprised David didn't tell you about me. He did however tell me a lot about you." Jax quickly perused her. "Now I see why he told me to stay away. You're beautiful."

Marilyn blushed and pulled her hand out of his. "Thank you, I think."

Jax laughed again. "Don't worry. David and I have been the closest of friends since childhood. He was just letting me know you're off limits. He really cares about you."

Marilyn relaxed. He didn't bother Hillary and Dave, so he had to be harmless. "I hope so, since we're engaged to be married."

Jax gasped. "What? That was fast. I knew he had it bad, but I didn't know he was that far gone." He looked down at David, concern lacing his voice. "How's he really doing?"

"Dr. Drummond said he woke up last night, but not enough for them to be able to tell the full extent of his injuries. I guess what they mean is, they can't tell if he has feelings in his legs." She gently brushed her hand down his arm remembering the way Dr. Drummond had been checking his legs and feet.

"He'll make it. Don't worry." Jax squeezed David's hand. "I know he will." He turned away from the bed and approached Dave.

Dave hugged him. "Thanks for coming, Jax. I know how close you and David have become over the years. He'll be glad you were here."

Jax swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat. "I know. I can't believe this happened. We had lunch just a couple of days ago." He shook his head. "You never know what's around the bend."

Hillary laid her hand on Jax's arm. "I'm glad you're here and not in London. David's going to need your support."

"I can stay as long as I'm needed." Jax turned back to Marilyn. "If you need anything, you can always call me."

Marilyn witnessed the bond between the three of them. It was more than friendship. The Lang's had taken her into their circle the same way. She had never had a lack of love, but if she lost David all the love in the world wouldn't be able to fill the hole in her heart. She continued to hold David's hand, willing him to open his eyes. But it didn't happen. His blond lashes lying still on his face.

She looked back at the threesome. "If you all need to go to the office, I'll call you if there's any changes."

Dave smiled. "I think we will. You stay here and we'll call you if there's anything that needs your attention."

"Thank you."

Hillary came around the bed and gave Marilyn a kiss on the cheek. "Call us if anything changes or he wakes up."

"I promise." Marilyn nodded at Hillary. She watched as they quietly left the room. Jax looked back before the door shut. He gave her a reassuring smile and she returned it. Marilyn was glad he was there for David. If there was the chance of David not walking, she knew he would need the support of all his closest family and friends.

* * *

As the door shut, Hillary and Dave looked at Jax. Dave spoke. "Cheryl was in the car with David when it happened. She's here under observation. Obviously, she survived the accident with minimal injuries. She's in room 202; we're going there now. Do you want to come?"

Jax ran his hand through his hair. "Wait a minute. Cheryl was with David. This doesn't make sense. What is she doing in Sherry anyway?"

Hillary slipped her purse onto her shoulder. "That's what we're going to find out." She turned for the elevator. "Are you coming or not?"

Jax followed the two. "Yes."

All three were silent as the elevator descended to the second floor. The doors opened to a busy floor, visitors and patients up and around. Completely opposite of David's floor. They continued down the hallway and stopped in front of Cheryl's closed door. Hillary pushed the door open and checked to make sure there wasn't anyone else there. The room was empty except for Cheryl.

"Cheryl, how are you?" Hillary walked over and took Cheryl's hand in hers. "Dr. Drummond told us you were only being observed so we've been with David. I'm sorry we couldn't come down sooner."

"How is David? Dr. Drummond told me he's still unconscious." Cheryl asked, concerned.

"He is, but he's coming around." Hillary didn't know if she should mention Marilyn, so she waited.

Dave stepped next to Hillary and allowed Jax to walk to the other side of the bed. "I'm glad you're okay, dear. Have you notified your parents?"

"Yes, sir. I called them this morning. I assured them I'm fine. They want me to keep them informed of David's progress."

Cheryl looked at Jax. "Jax, David told me you were in town. How have you been?"

Jax studied her before he spoke. "Fine, how about you? When I talked to David the other day, he didn't mention you being in town. When did you arrive?"

Cheryl straightened the blanket over her lap and looked down. "I arrived yesterday morning. As soon as I called David at the office, he came over." She looked up at each one. "He told me about Marilyn."

Hillary let out her relieved breath. "I'm sorry, dear. I know you and David have been close for many years."

Cheryl waived her hand in the air. "Of course and that will never change. "

Hillary knew the tone Cheryl was using. It was the same irritating tone she used with others to get her way. "What did David tell you about Marilyn?"

"Oh, he said she was up here to open the new store." Cheryl continued to pleat the blanket on her bed, her hands twisting tighter in the blanket as she went along.

"That's all he said?" Hillary watched her.

"Yes." Cheryl didn't look at anyone.

"Cheryl. David and Marilyn are engaged." Dave spoke.

"Oh, but that was before I returned. We've been together too long for him to marry someone else. You know it's assumed we will marry. It's always been that way."

Hillary gasped. "Dear, David is marrying Marilyn."

"We'll, see." Cheryl finally lifted her face and started straight at Hillary. "David wants to be with me. He knows he loves me."

"Is that what David said?"

Cheryl thought for a minute and then shook her head. "No, that's when we had the accident, but he was about to. Do you know when I can see him?"

Dave and Hillary stood stunned. Jax wasn't. "Cheryl, I don't know what you're trying to pull here, but you know David only cares for you as a friend. You two have never talked of marriage."

Cheryl's voice started to rise. "How would you know, Jax? You may be David's best friend, brother practically, but I'm the woman of his dreams. You can't be everything to him."

Jax stepped away from the bed afraid he'd grab Cheryl, shake her and make her teeth rattle. "Cheryl, I'd advise you to wake from this dream world you've spun and see reality. David loves Marilyn, and she's going to be his wife, not you."

Cheryl started to cry. "Get out! I don't need your grief added to what I'm already dealing with, Jax. The man I love is in this hospital fighting for his life and you want to argue with me. Get out!"

Jax shook his head. "Cheryl, I'm warning you. I won't stand by and watch you destroy David's life."

Dave and Hillary came to stand beside Jax. Hillary spoke. "Cheryl, we're going to leave now. If you need anything call us." Hillary looked at Jax and let him know she didn't want him to say another word.

"I will. Thank you Mrs. Lang."

They all walked out of the room, leaving Cheryl behind. Jax turned around and faced them as soon as the door closed. "She's up to no good. You two have been away too long. Cheryl is one conniving woman that will stop at nothing. There's going to be trouble."

Dave shook his head. "I've never seen her that way. What happened?"

"I don't know. Cheryl's always thought of David as her property, but she's taking it to another level. That woman could be certifiable. If we were in London, I'd say lock her in The Tower."

"I'd have to agree with you. Let's just keep Marilyn from Cheryl and maybe we can get this settled without a confrontation." Dave led Hillary down the hallway. "What has my son gotten himself into?"

***

Hillary and David walked in the room at six. Marilyn stood and stretched. Her back aching from the hours spent sitting in the chair at David's bedside. "You're back."

"Have there been any changes?" Hillary asked.

"I thought he was waking up one time. He squeezed my hand. I called the nurses, but they said it was probably his muscles twitching." Marilyn looked at his hand. He hadn't done it again all day. She didn't believe the doctor. If it were involuntary twitching, it would have happened again. Hadn't they said he was waking up?

She smiled and brushed back his bangs. "I've talked to him all day. Going over the last week. I was hoping something would wake him." She shook her head. "But it didn't work."

Hillary reached across the bed to her. "The doctor said it would take time. He'll come around, don't give up hope. I know I haven't."

"Oh, I'm not. I just wish he would open his eyes. I need to tell him how much I love him."

"I know. We all do." Hillary ran her fingers through her son's hair. "He always had the softest hair." She fingered his bangs. "When he was a little boy, he'd always try to style his hair back like his dad, but it just didn't want to stay." She laughed. "It still doesn't."

Dave put his arm around Hillary. "That's our stubborn son. He wore his hair that way for two years before he finally gave up. He'll be the same with this. If he can't feel anything, he'll work hard until he can."

Marilyn held back the tears she wanted to shed for them. They loved David so very much. She knew their hearts were breaking over what happened. But, they still had hope that David could come out of this whole. She prayed for their sake he would.

Dave pulled a chair up and sat. "Why don't you two ladies go downstairs and get something to eat? I know you haven't eaten today. Have you, Marilyn?"

"No, sir. I was afraid to leave David's side."

"Well, you have to keep your strength up. Go and get something to eat. Take a break."

Hillary picked up her purse. "Come on, Marilyn. You can't argue with a Lang."

Marilyn smiled at Dave. "Thank you. We'll be right back."

As Marilyn and Hillary were getting in the elevator, Marilyn asked. "How did it go at the office today?"

"Pretty smooth actually. Daryl came by and wanted me to tell you that things were going as planned at the site and not to worry about anything. You do have a meeting tomorrow. I didn't want to cancel it without talking to you first. What do you think? Do you want to go? You probably need to get away for a while."

Marilyn knew Hillary was right. "I'll go. Do you think you could stay here while I'm gone?"

"He is my son, after all." Hillary smiled.

"I know. Thank you for letting me stay today. I know you wanted to be here."

Hillary rested her hand on Marilyn's arm. "Darling, you're just as much a part of David's life as me. He made that perfectly clear. You're a part of this family now."

Marilyn felt humbled by Hillary's words. They had taken her in without a doubt in their minds. She didn't know what to say. How could she ever tell this woman how much it meant to her to have someone believe and trust her as much as she did? "Thank you. You'll never know how much that means to me."

They walked into the cafeteria. The smell of hamburgers grilling filled the room. Her stomach growled, but Marilyn didn't feel she could eat anything, even though she knew she had to eat something to keep her strength up. She chose a roll and cup of tea. They sat at a table and talked over the day's events at Midwest. Marilyn wanted to be there to help get things rolling, but knew she couldn't leave David for very long. "After the meeting tomorrow, I'll probably drive out to the site if you don't mind."

"Of course not. Do anything you need. Our visit here was mostly pleasure. I've already taken care of what I needed to do. Take your time."

"I want to tell you something." She took a deep breath. "Dave and I went to Cheryl's room this morning when we left." Hillary hoped she wouldn't burn for the lies she was about to tell.

Marilyn waited, afraid to hear what Hillary was going to say. "Yes."

"Apparently she called the office yesterday morning and David told her he wanted to speak with her. He told her about you and your engagement. He didn't want her to hear from someone else since you had both announced it to the office." Surely this would straighten out before Marilyn discovered her lie.

Marilyn looked down and a tear dropped from her eye. "I see."

"I know you're angry he didn't tell you. I just wanted you to know why they'd met. He was telling her how much he loved you."

"Thank you, Hillary. I know he loves me, but he should have been honest and not said he had a meeting. He could have told me."

"I agree. He should have, but he didn't. There's no changing the past. You'll learn men don't always think before they act."

Marilyn smiled. "Thank you for telling me. At least I know for sure now that there's nothing going on between them. I hated not knowing. I thought I knew him, but this shows I don't. We've only really known each other for a couple of weeks."

"Marilyn, my husband and I have been married for forty years and we still discover new things about each other all the time. That will never change. There will be sad and happy times throughout your lives. That's what makes a marriage work." She smiled and brushed the tears off Marilyn's cheeks.

"Now cheer up. That stubborn son of mine loves you desperately. Desperate men do stupid things. This is just one of the many he'll do throughout the years. Come on; let's go back upstairs. It's about time for that boy to wake up and he'll want to see your beautiful face first thing."

Marilyn finished her tea and pushed it aside. Time to quit worrying about other things. David was her focus and then on to Midwest Viking.

"Let's go." Hillary stood and they left the cafeteria.

Dr. Drummond was in the room when they returned. He saw them and smiled. Marilyn waited for him to speak.

"David's moving a little more now, so it shouldn't be long. When he does finally wake up, he'll be in a lot of pain so be expecting that. I suggest you go home and get some sleep. Tomorrow will probably be a big day for you all."

Marilyn walked to David's bed and took his hand. He was still, but his breathing was deeper now, as if he were sleeping more peacefully.

Hillary and Dave looked at each other. Worry etched their faces as they watched Marilyn with David. Dave spoke. "Marilyn, I want you to come home with us. David will be fine. If there's any drastic changes, Dr. Drummond has assured me, he'll call the house immediately."

Marilyn knew he was right. "Okay, I'll go." She leaned down and kissed David gently on his bruised cheek. "I love you." She waited for a sign that he'd heard, but there was nothing. Sadly, she let go of his hand and followed Dave and Hillary out the door. The important thing was that David would soon be awake.

On the ride home, she thought of Jacqueline. She would have stayed by Marilyn's side the entire time. But, there was no need for her to. Hillary and Dave were wonderful. They cared for her as a daughter and barely knew her. She missed Jacqueline, but was glad she had Hillary and David to lean upon. She knew she could turn to them if anything happened.

When they arrived at the house, Marilyn walked up the steps and stopped at her bedroom door. The bright yellow wallpaper depressed her. It wasn't the same as before when her and David had stayed together in the big bed. David teasing her and pulling the feathers out of the comforter and mattress.

She closed the door and continued down the hall and then stood in the doorway of David's room; the dark masculine colors comforting. She walked in and shut the door behind her. The bed beckoned her to come closer. Marilyn smoothed the blanket in place. David had obviously sat on the edge when getting dressed. His shirt and slacks were nonchalantly thrown over a chair in the corner. She picked up the shirt and breathed in his familiar scent, recalling their intimate times spent together.

Pulling the covers back, she removed her clothes and slipped on the shirt. The smell of him was soothing. She slipped between the sheets and pulled the pillow close to her cheek. Tomorrow was a new day and she'd worry about it when it arrived. She vowed to pull herself together. She was here for a reason, to get the new store opened. She had a job.

That didn't mean she wasn't going to stand by David's side. She loved him with all her heart, but she wouldn't forget why she was here in the first place. She was strong and she knew she could do it. She'd help David heal and she'd do her job. Fatigue won the battle and sleep quickly took control.

* * *

Dave lay down on the bed and watched as Hillary changed her clothes. He saw the worry etched on her face and lines and dark circles under her eyes. She'd been strong the last couple of days, but he was worried about her. He waited until she sat on the edge of the bed and then put his arm around her. "Lie back, darling."

Hillary turned around and faced Dave. "You know me so well." She lay back and let Dave's arms encircle her.

"Our son is strong. He'll be fine." Dave rubbed the lines between her brows. Trying to soothe her emotions and worries. He kissed her forehead.

Hillary sighed and raised her arms around his neck. "I know. It's just so hard watching Marilyn stand by his side, when I've always been the one."

Dave laughed. "It's hard to give your son to another woman isn't it? Even though you know she loves him as much as you do. Now, you see how our parents felt."

"You're not helping, Dave."

"I know. Just trying to help you see it's natural to feel this way. Marilyn's a wonderful girl and David loves her. It would be different if she was just a girl friend, but David made it a point to let us know this was different. He wants her as his wife."

"You're right and I wouldn't stand in the way. I love the girl already." She sighed. "I just wish their future looked more hopeful. It's going to be a struggle for both."

"They'll make it. Have faith."

"I do. It's just a mother's wish for her children to have an easy life. Besides, I have a feeling they're not going to just have his rehabilitation to face, but the wrath of Cheryl. How could she have gotten so deranged? I know that's a harsh word, but that's how I feel."

Dave pulled her head on his chest. Her auburn hair splayed across his hands. "Don't worry, our son has handled her all these years. He can handle her. Besides, it's all in God's hands."

EVERLASTING is available for purchase from DiskUs Publishing and also in Rocket format for your Rocket eBook from Barnes and Nobel online and Powells Books.



A Chance Worth Taking

A Chance Worth Taking

Copyright ©2000 By Kimberly Roberts


A CHANCE WORTH TAKING: Chapter One

"Oh, Marilyn, I'm so excited!" Catarina sighed and spun in a circle, her shoulder length, brown hair twirling around her. "London, I didn't think I'd ever get to visit there."

Marilyn laughed and tried to keep little David from running off with his sister's bottle. She patted him on his bottom and shooed him towards his father. "I know what you mean. The first time David and I went to visit his parents; I was on cloud nine. It's a fabulous city; historical sights at every turn, the most delicious foods and you can dance all night at many of the nightspots, similar to their pubs. You'll have a wonderful time. I wish we were going with you."

"Me, too. It would have been perfect if you and David could have come at the same time, then I wouldn't be alone." She turned towards the rose garden and tried to look her most innocent. "Please, David. Couldn't you get away for just a few days?"

"Sorry, Cat, but we're in the middle of a corporate wide audit and I really can't get away."

Catarina smiled. "I know. You can't blame me for trying one last time."

David picked up his son and carried him towards the women. He put him down on the bench next to Marilyn and picked up Mary, their three-month-old angel. "Maybe next year, we can all go together. The trip will be on us."

Catarina blushed. "I didn't mean it like that."

David handed Mary into Catarina's arms. "Don't worry, we'll find some way for you to repay us." His brows moved up and down alluding to his daughter. "Marilyn and I always need a sitter." He laughed and dodged Catarina's quick kick.

"More like Marilyn and I will leave the kids with you and hit the pubs she was talking about." Her dark brown eyes gleaming, she laughed and handed him back Mary. She looked at her watch. "Well, I better get my bags downstairs. I have to leave within the hour." Her pulse started beating faster at the thought of boarding the plane headed for London.

Marilyn stood and they walked into the house laughing. "Don't worry I'll hold David to his promise. Next year, we're all going to London, if you can get a break from that pediatric office of yours again. I didn't think Dr. Lennox was going to let you go this time."

"Neither did I. It took a bit of persuasion, like me saying I had to get away, or I was going to start looking elsewhere. That shook him up a bit."

"I'm sure it did. That office runs like a well-oiled machine. He'll see."

"I know." Catarina skipped up the stairs and turned into the first room on the right. It was done in buttercup colors and looked out over the massive flower garden outside. Catarina loved the view. The curtains were blowing and she walked over and pushed them open. "Thank you for letting me stay this weekend, but I wish we had more time together."

"I do, too. We'll make a trip to Dallas, soon. David hasn't been to the Dallas store the last quarter and I know he's anxious to see how things are going. We'll wait until you're back and settled before we come down. Then, we can get together. Mom and dad would be thrilled to keep the children while we visit."

"That would be nice." She turned back towards Marilyn. Marilyn and David had a wonderful marriage. It was hard at first, him getting over the accident and having to learn to walk again, but now things seemed to be normal. They'd only been married two short years and already had two beautiful children, a boy and girl. Catarina envied Marilyn her happy, full life.

"I'm so glad things turned out for you and David. I wish I could have been here for you when you were going through all your trials with his accident."

"Nonsense, it turned out perfect. David and I are ecstatically happy." Marilyn smiled.

"I know and I hope nothing ever interferes with your happiness." She took a deep breath. "Enough of the serious stuff. I'm fixing to leave for London, my dream trip." She laughed and raised her arms up high.

Marilyn took one of Catarina's bags. "Come on, let's load up the car. You can't be late for your flight. You'd never forgive me."

David met them at the bottom of the stairs. "Marie's going to watch the munchkins for us while we take Cat to the airport."

"Wow, an outing without diapers. Let's run while we can. " Marilyn laughed and bolted for the door. David and Catarina followed behind joining in her laughter.

***

Catarina gripped the arms of the seat as the plane lifted off ground from J.F.K. Airport. She had a window seat, not that it really mattered since she'd be sleeping through most of the flight, but still it was nice if she wanted to look outside. Her two companions sitting next to her were an older distinguished couple. They had British accents, so Catarina assumed they were from England.

The plane adjusted and soon the seatbelt light went off. The sound of everyone unclasping his or her belts joined with hers and she relaxed back in the seat. The flight would take ten hours and she had everything she needed. A couple of magazines, her Rocket eBook in case she wanted to read her newest novels, and a journal to write any exciting events she might hear or see. She was equipped.

Catarina finished the two magazines sooner than she expected. She looked at her watch. Only an hour. Maybe I'm not as prepared as I thought. She slipped the magazines back into her small bag and pulled out her Rocket eBook. She clicked bookshelf and the eight novels she'd downloaded appeared. She picked the first one in line and sighed.

She felt the lady next to her looking over her shoulder. Catarina looked up and smiled. "Hello."

"Hello. I hope you don't mind me looking at your computer there. What is it?"

Catarina gave a short laugh. "I don't mind. Everyone asks about it. It's called a Rocket eBook. It can hold up to ten novels at one time."

"Ten, well that's a lot. How do you get them in there? Do you buy it already with the novels?"

Catarina proceeded to tell her all about the device and how to work it. The lady was mystified by it and Catarina soon found herself sitting without it as the lady read one of her stories. She laughed, closed her eyes and tried to rest. The time difference would throw her off and she knew she ought to get as much rest as she could. She went over her itinerary and checklist in her mind. Everything seemed to be in order and slowly she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Dreams of Covent Garden and Piccadilly Square floated through her mind with flowers and vendors on both sides of the streets. Suddenly, she was walking towards Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. Laughter and cheers were coming from within. She hurriedly walked through the great wooden doors and stopped as she saw rows upon rows of cheering fans sitting on wooden benches as Bards gaily reenacted Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

An annoying chiming sound kept interfering in her dream and Catarina slowly awoke. It was bright in the airplane and Catarina could hear the other passengers moving about. She sat up and saw the seatbelt sign was illuminated. She looked at her fellow passenger and the lady was buckling hers. "Are we there?"

"Yes, we're about to land at Heathrow Airport. Thank you for letting me use your eBook. It was interesting. I slipped it into your handbag."

"Oh, you're welcome. Thank you." Catarina hooked her seatbelt and checked her handbag to make sure everything was in it. She took a deep breath to try and calm her racing heart. She was thrilled to finally be in London. She'd dreamed of this day all her life.

The plane taxied to a stop and the stewardess came over the loudspeaker telling of their arrival. Catarina knew she was grinning like a fool. Tourist was stamped all over her face, but she didn't care. She readied her passport for entering London and stood as the stewardess approached their aisle.

She followed the other passengers off the plane and down a never-ending hallway. Her carryon was beginning to feel heavy and she stopped to readjust it on her shoulder. Queues assembled as Immigration loomed ahead and she rushed to get in line behind everyone else.

Her line seemed to progress smoothly. When her passport was finally stamped, she was directed to the baggage pickup area. After retrieving her bags, Catarina rented a luggage cart and proceeded to customs.

The line took considerably longer than Immigration. Leaning against her luggage, Catarina's head began to pound. She took an aspirin out of her purse and swallowed it, hoping she wouldn't choke without something to drink. Finally she moved up to the counter where a customs inspector actually looked in each of her bags. Catarina couldn't believe it. Did they think she was going to sneak a bomb in and blow up the country?

With luggage in tow, she hastily exited the building. The cool breeze whipped her hair around her and she took a deep cleansing breath. It made her head feel much better to get out of the stuffy airport.

Catarina pulled her cart over to the line of taxis. She waited to see if someone would come to her first and they did. A short balding man with a black uniform and hat came forward. "Looking for a cab, luv?"

"Yes, please. I'm going to Blakely Hotel."

"Right. I'll put your things in the boot." He collected her luggage and stowed it away in his trunk.

Catarina climbed in the back seat and smiled as he pulled away from the airport. She was surprised the back seat was so large. There was enough room for four people. People walked up and down the crowded streets stopping and talking along the way. The traffic was moving at a snail's pace and Marilyn sighed. She was anxious to arrive at her hotel, get things settled in her room, and start out for the day. She leaned towards the window and gawked.

"Is this your first visit to the big city? Taking a holiday?"

Catarina was pulled back to reality as the cabbie started questioning her. She had to get her mind in gear for the difference in languages. She'd noticed him saying boot instead of trunk earlier and now he was asking about a holiday, which she knew meant vacation. "Yes, I'm so excited. I've never been out of the States before."

"Well, I hope you have a fine time. I bet you have an entire list of sights you want to see."

"Yes, I'm trying to fit everything into one week. I don't know if I can do it, but I'm going to try."

The taxi driver laughed. "I've heard it done before. I guess if you've got a schedule already mapped out, you can do it. You'll be beat by the time you leave, but you'll have a lot of memories."

Catarina smiled. "That's what I've got planned. Lots of memories."

"We've got more museums in this town than any city in the world I think. You can't walk up a street without running into one. Then you've got a castle on each side of town you can visit, too. You can even watch the changing of the Palace Guards if you like. We locals, try to stay away from the palace at that time, the traffic is horrendous, but you tourists love it. You can go to the Tower of London, Big Ben and one cathedral after another. You're going to be busy." He laughed. "Don't forget to try pig's ear and there's even a tour of Jack the Ripper's hideouts."

"Catarina quickly looked back at him. "Pig's ear?"

He laughed. "My cockney accent, pint of beer, luv."

"Oh." She joined in his laughter. "Yes, I want to see Jack the Ripper's hideouts. That'll be fun. There's so many to choose from, that I'm just going to head out each morning and see what I can make it to. Do you suggest a particular way to transport?"

"Well, me old trouble and strife likes to take the tube, it's the easiest. You can get around a lot faster that way, but if you like to walk, you'll find places you didn't even know existed. London has more attractions than they can advertise. Walking seems to be safer. Just make sure and carry a bum bag, not one of those handbags a mugger can grab easily. If you do run into some kind of trouble, there's a copper on just about every street corner."

She was starting to understand his accent now and knew trouble and strife was wife, but was stumped. "I'm sorry, what's a bum bag?" She didn't remember the word.

"Let's see, what do you Americans call it? You know, one of those bags you strap around your waist and carry your wallet."

"Oh, yes, a fanny pack." Catarina laughed. I've got one and I'll make sure I use it. Thank you."

Catarina zipped up her light jacket. She didn't think she would need anything heavier but was afraid she may have been wrong. "It's a bit chilly for this time of year isn't it? I thought May was one of your warmer months."

"It is, but the weather changes at the drop of a hat. It will warm up later in the afternoon. It being May, you actually have a few extra special shows you can see. We have the Royal Windsor Horse Show, Flower Show and the Festival Opera. You can even experience Shakespeare under the Stars. A lot of people are disappointed when they come out in the fall and winter and realize they aren't going to see Shakespeare under the Stars. It's only opened a few months out of the year. It gets too chilly for acting out in the open weather."

"Well, it looks like I picked the perfect time, haven't I?" Catarina saw the sign of the Blakely Hotel. It was a gorgeous, small, Edwardian-style hotel. Downtown, but still quiet since it was situated in a cul-de-sac. Lantern lights adorned the front to illuminate at night and there were men dressed as palace guards standing to the side at attention. The taxi pulled up front and a valet opened the door.

"Good morning, miss." He assisted Catarina out of the taxi.

"Thank you." Catarina smiled at the young man. She watched as he collected her luggage from the boot, and then gave the taxi driver his fee and a nice tip. "Thank you so much for the suggestions."

He tipped his hat. "Have a wonderful time in London. Good day."

Catarina followed the valet into the hotel. He took her luggage to the front desk. A clerk looked up and smiled. "Hello, I'm Catarina Garcia."

"Yes, I see you'll be staying with us for seven days."

"Yes." Catarina gave him her credit card and signed the register.

The clerk snapped his fingers and another young man approached and took a key from him. "You'll be staying in room 202. It overlooks the St. James's Park, a lovely view. Room service is available at any time, so don't hesitate to ring if you need anything. Enjoy your stay at the Blakely."

Catarina smiled and followed the young man to the elevator. A sign to the side of the controls read Lift. Large lush sofas were placed throughout the lobby and paintings lined the walls in muted colors. Most of the paintings were of different men in formal and riding attire. Catarina was curious who the painting's subjects were, but didn't have time to investigate.

The elevator doors closed and it rose gently to the second floor. As the doors opened, Catarina gasped. The gleaming collection of armor before her was stunning. Silver and gold shined to perfection. "They're amazing."

"Yes, ma'am, they are. You wouldn't guess they were two hundred years old would you?"

"Are you serious? They don't look it." They were in such immaculate condition she could hardly believe it. "You'll find many more pieces throughout the hotel. The paintings downstairs are of various dukes throughout history. You'll see the same just about anywhere you go in London. Is this your first time here?"

"Yes, I'm so excited." Catarina's stomach was filled with butterflies as they approached her room.

"Here's your room. If there's anything you need, don't hesitate to ring the lobby." He walked in and set her luggage at the end of her bed.

Catarina retrieved a tip from her handbag and gave it to him. "Thank you so much." He nodded and backed out of the room. Catarina looked around in amazement. The bed was a four-poster upon a dais with lace draping from atop a canopy. She walked through a door that led to the bathroom, or the loo as it was called. Marble-top counters and a large sunken tub would, no doubt, lure her weary bones after a long afternoon of sightseeing.

She walked back into the main room and approached the large window on the far side. Catarina pulled back the curtain and stared at the view of the Park. Couples walked hand in hand and children ran in between the profusion of flowers and trees. Catarina laughed at the sight of a mother chasing her child and stepping into a puddle. Memories of Marilyn with little Davie popped in her mind. She bet that was what Marilyn was doing at that very second and loving every minute of it.

Catarina let the drape close and stepped to the bed. Reclining, she sighed as her body was all but swallowed by the down mattress. "This is the life." The linens were cool to her skin and beckoned her to stay for eternity. The light illuminating from the clock at the bedside table reminded her that she was letting the day slip away. Catarina sat up and stretched. "No time for rest. London is calling. Eternity will have to wait."

She jumped from the dais, grabbed her handbag and then remembered what the cab driver had said about the bum bag. She unzipped her largest suitcase and pulled out the fanny pack, snapping it around her waist and putting her wallet inside. She would put away her luggage later. Now, all she could think of were the sights and thrill of the city. So many things to do and see and only a week in which to do it. She placed her room key in the outside pocket of the bum bag and closed the door behind her. The excitement was too much to conceal. She felt she was walking on air as she approached the elevator, eager to begin her journey of history and awakening.


A CHANCE WORTH TAKING: Chapter Two

David picked up the phone and dialed Jax' number in London. After a long pause going through the international operator, the phone began to ring. His answering machine picked up and David growled, "Jax, I need you to return my call as soon as you get this message. If Marilyn answers, don't tell her you're returning my call. I'll tell you all about it when I speak to you."

David hung up the phone and turned, flinching when he saw Marilyn standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. "Um, I guess you heard me?"

Marilyn nodded. "Smart man, no wonder I married you. Now, are you going to tell me what that was about? I hope it's not what I think."

David took her hand and led her to the bed. "Jax isn't as bad as you think."

"Right. That's why you told him to stay away from me when you were in the hospital."

David laughed. "I just didn't want him getting any ideas about you, okay. You were mine and I'm not one to share."

"David, I don't want him messing around with Catarina."

"Darling, Jax isn't short for Jack the Ripper. He's my best friend and Cat can take care of herself. All I'm going to do is ask him to ring her and maybe take her around to some of the sights. I know London is pretty safe, but I'd feel better knowing she's not wandering the streets alone."

"I guess you're right, but make sure Jax knows she's not his usual easy-going woman. She actually has morals she abides by and I don't want to find out he's ruined her."

The phone rang and David jumped from the bed. "Hello."

"Hi, David, it's Jax. What's up?"

David looked over at Marilyn and smiled. "Good day, Jax. What do you have planned today and this evening?"

Jax laughed. "Well, since you're in the States, there's no way you could be setting me up. Let's see, I'm taking it easy this afternoon, being Saturday, and then tonight I'm meeting some friends at a pub, why?"

David sat next to Marilyn and took her hand. "Well, one of Marilyn's friends arrived there in London this morning alone. She's taking a week on holiday and I wanted to know if you'd mind showing her around town."

"I don't mean to sound priggish, but tell me a little about this girl. Is she anything like that beauty of yours?"

David smiled impishly at Marilyn. "Oh, you could say that. They're about the same height, have a body that craves a man's touch …oomph." David grabbed his stomach where Marilyn had just punched him. "Alright, back off Mari."

Jax was laughing into the phone. "You better watch it David. That wife of yours holds a mean punch."

David rubbed his stomach. "You don't have to remind me. Seriously, Cat is a nice package, but she's as pure as snow, if you get my meaning."

"Pure as snow. Are you telling me she's a kid?"

"No, she's the same age as Mari, but she's not your usual kind of woman. I know she wants to experience the pubs and night life in London, but I don't think she's ever stepped foot in one here in the States."

"Are you serious? And you want me to take her around, the man who taught you the ropes. A wolf in sheep's clothing, as Marilyn likes to refer to me."

"Jax, I trust you. I know you wouldn't take advantage of her and I'm afraid that's what will happen to her if she's out at night by herself. She has this picturesque image of London and no matter what I said, she wouldn't change her mind."

Marilyn jerked the phone away from David. "Jax, I'm trusting you to take care of Catarina, not seduce the girl. Got it?"

"Marilyn, you can trust me. I'll take her out and show her the city she's looking for. Now, where is she staying?"

"She's staying at the Blakely Hotel on St. James River. She should have arrived a few hours ago and knowing her she's already on the streets."

"I know where it is. That's a nice place, she comes from money?"

"Her family aren't paupers if that's what you're asking. Otherwise, she's a nurse and makes it on her own. She's saved her own money for this trip and is thrilled. I'm afraid she's going to try to fit in every tourist attraction she can in this one week."

Jax groaned. "The things I do for you and David. Sure, I'll give her a ring and don't worry I won't deflower her."

"Thanks and I'm not worried. You're a great guy and I don't know how I would have made it a couple of years ago without your support."

"Don't bring that up again, okay? You're family."

"Alright, so when we hang up, call her room and leave a message if she's not there. David was right, I'd rather her not be out at night by herself."

"Will do. Tell David to keep in touch and I'll talk to you later."

"Bye." Marilyn pushed the button to disconnect and set the phone on the bed. She stretched out next to David. "He said he'd call her and leave a message at the hotel."

Rolling on top of her, David brushed the hair from her forehead. "Don't worry about Cat, she can take care of herself. I have a feeling Jax will be eating out of the palm of her hand." He laughed and nipped the underside of her chin. "The same as you had me doing when you first arrived in Sherry."

"Right." Marilyn laughed. "You just better pray that Jax is on his best behavior or you're both going to be fulltime tourist guides when we all go next year. I'm not letting you forget about your promise to Catarina."

"I never make a promise I can't keep." David kissed her gently on the lips. He would make every wish of hers come true, even if it meant spending a week taking her and Cat from London to the castles of Scotland. "Come on, let's enjoy this short time of peace while the munchkins are asleep."

***

Catarina walked in the front doors of the hotel and pulled her jacket off. It had warmed up like the taxi driver had predicted. Someone at the front desk waived her over. "Good afternoon, Ms. Garcia. How was your walk?"

"Wonderful. I took the tube, which was amazing in itself, to The House of Parliament and then to Big Ben. I don't see how in the world I can get everything done that I have planned in only a week. I'm going to have to reschedule several tours." She laughed. "You know what? I think I liked riding on the tube, more than seeing The House of Parliament."

"I think a lot of people would agree with you." The young man pulled a slip of paper from a board behind the counter. "You have a message."

"Thank you." Catarina took it and walked to the lift. As the doors shut, Catarina looked down at the message. At first she thought he'd given her the wrong message, but it was addressed to her. Once in her room, she sat on the edge of the bed and read the message carefully.

She laughed out loud. David and Marilyn had a man call her. Would they never stop? He left his number so Catarina picked up the phone and asked the operator for an open line. She dialed the number and waited as it rang four times. Just as she was about to hang up, a voice hastily answered the phone. "Hello?"

She cleared her voice. "Hello, this is Catarina Garcia. Is this Jax?"

"Yes, I'm glad you rang. Marilyn called and told me you were on holiday. How do you like our city so far?"

"Oh, it's beautiful. I didn't expect to see so many gardens and flowers about."

Jax laughed. "I think the rain has a little to do with that. You want to make sure you take a small umbrella with you everywhere you go."

Catarina spotted hers lying next to the door. "Oh, I figured that one out right away. I forgot mine and had to buy one from a vendor." She joined in his laughter.

"Since you're here on your own, I thought I'd invite you out for a bit. I could show you around. It would be a little simpler than taking a cab or riding the tube."

"Actually the best time I had today was riding the tube. It was great."

"Well, it's not the safest. I think that's one of the reasons David and Marilyn called me. I could tell you about some of the places to stay away from and maybe we can make it around to a few of the spots you have penciled in to visit."

"I don't want to inconvenience you. I'm sure you had other plans this weekend, without having to become a tour guide."

"Nonsense, its no problem at all. Do you want to rest a bit before I pick you up?"

Catarina looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was plastered down from the rain and she needed to freshen up after all her walking. "I don't really need to rest, but I do need to clean up a bit. What time would you like to start?"

"I'll give you two hours and I'll meet you in the lobby of the hotel. How does that sound?"

"Fine. I'll see you then and thank you." Catarina hung up the phone and sat looking at herself in the mirror. She definitely needed a shower, but first she was going to call Marilyn and see what type of man was picking her up.

She dialed the international number and waited as the phone rang. Marilyn was the one to pick up. "Hello."

"Marilyn, hi."

"Catarina, how's the day going? Have you already been out and about?"

Catarina laughed. "You know me. I've already been to see Big Ben."

"I think that was also one of my first stops the first time David and I went to London. I didn't know it was just the clock."

"Same here. I was a little surprised, too. I was calling you because your friend Jax called. Tell me a little about him."

"He's one of David's best friends. They're more like family, Jax grew up with David and they were inseparable when they were young. He works for Midwest Viking, too. He helps run the London store and the one in Paris."

"Soooo, he's young? Does he look anything like David?"

Marilyn laughed. "Quite the opposite. Everywhere David's blonde, Jax is dark. I guess you could say he's the typical tall, dark, and handsome type. Still, you want to be on your guard. He and David were quite the lady killers during their time, and I have a feeling Jax still is."

"I knew you would be honest with me. Well, he's picking me up in a couple of hours so I guess I better get ready. Should I wear anything particular? Will he show up casual?"

"I have a feeling Jax' casual isn't quite ours. I'd wear something comfortable but not too casual, no T-shirt and jeans."

"Got it. Well, I better hang up. This call is costing me a fortune. Thanks for setting me up with a personal tour guide."

"No problem, just remember be safe in everything you do. Don't look like your typical tourist, okay?"

"Okay, mom." Catarina laughed and hung up. Her luggage was still sitting at the foot of the bed. She pulled the cases up on top and started to unload. "First thing's first. I've got to get this stuff put away before I can get ready." She hung her dress in the closet and put her other clothes in the drawers provided.

Catarina turned on the tap to get the shower warm and sighed as she looked at herself in the mirror. "A rich good looking man is taking me out on the town. Now, what should I wear?" She remembered the silk blouse she had tucked away for one of the nights at a pub and decided on that. She wanted to look her best. Maybe he would take her to a pub and she wouldn't have to go to one her first night alone. She stepped into the warm fragrant shower to prepare for the evening ahead.

***

Jax pulled his Azure to a stop in front of the hotel. A valet offered to take the keys and Jax assured him they'd be directly out. He walked inside and looked around, the lobby was exactly what he'd pictured. The basic tourist hotel, oil paintings of anonymous dukes, tea and brandy set-up on a side counter, and flowers adorning all tables. He walked to the front desk. "I'm waiting for Ms. Catarina Garcia."

"I'll ring her room for you, sir. If you'd like to have a seat in the lobby."

Jax walked to the counter and poured himself a brandy. It could be a bit before she came down so he'd relax in the meantime. He made himself comfortable and waited patiently. He saw a young woman coming out of the lounge and watched as she seductively glided across the lobby to a chair. Jax tried to straighten in his seat. She was very becoming.

She sat and crossed her legs. Even though she was wearing pants, the way they fit snugly across her legs was enough to make him want to invite her to dinner instead of the prim Ms. Garcia. She wore a pink silk blouse that draped across her breast and hinted at a view that was actually hidden from all. Seductress in the making, Jax was sure. Her dark hair was pinned up on the sides, but a few tendrils fell lazily across her cheeks. Jax had an urge to walk over and introduce himself.

As he stood, he heard someone call Ms. Garcia's name. He looked over and to his astonishment; the clerk was addressing the woman sitting in the lobby. Jax cleared his throat and thought there was no way he could be so lucky. He adjusted his tie and smiled. "Excuse me, are you Catarina?"

She stood. "Yes, you must be Jax."

"The one and only. Funny, we were sitting across from each other and had no idea. They said they were going to ring you room. When I saw you come out of the lounge, I assumed you were someone else." He was glad she wasn't.

"I was ready early, so I decided to sit in there and listen to the music." Catarina smiled.

Jax cleared his throat once again. Marilyn had to be wrong about her friend. With a body like that, and that smile, there was no way she was an innocent. He vowed to find out and hoped he was right. He didn't make it a habit to mess with innocent women; they were always looking for a relationship, one thing he had neither the desire nor the time for, especially with a woman from the states. "Are you ready?"

"Yes." Catarina slipped her small black handbag over her shoulder and walked towards the hotel entrance.

Jax walked beside her and placed his hand gently on her back. Her body was small and he liked the way his hand spanned her waist. He opened the front door for her, leading her to his car. His Bentley Azure never failed to impress women. Apparently women from the states were no different. Her eyes were wide and smiling.

"You're going to drive. I don't know why I assumed we'd be taking a cab. The streets are so full of them, I assumed everyone used cabs."

Jax laughed as he opened her door. "Leaving my life in the hands of the cab drivers has never appealed to me."

"I hope you don't mind if I close my eyes from time to time. Driving on the left side of the rode still has me a bit shaky."

"Don't worry, close your eyes and leave everything in my capable hands. I used to be the same way when I'd visit the states. I'd stay for months at a time, and therefore had to learn to drive on your motorways. I know where you're coming from." He laughed and pulled the car out of park.

The motorway was ahead and he glanced over at her. The top was down on the car and wisps of hair were blowing behind her lovely face. He wanted to place his hand along her cheek but kept one firmly on the steering wheel and the other on the gearshift. "If you're going to close your eyes, now would be the time." He accelerated and quickly pulled onto the motorway moving in between two other cars. He looked over and laughed as she'd done exactly as he said.

Jax sleekly moved into fourth gear, then took his hand and covered hers tightly as she was gripping the edge of the seat. "You can open your eyes now, you're safe." Those dark brown pools opened and she turned her face toward his and smiled. Jax took a deep breath and wondered why his heart was suddenly pounding like a marathon runner. He noticed he still had his hand atop hers and removed it. He placed his hand back on the gearshift to try to hold onto the warmth from her skin once again but it was gone.

He returned her smile. "I know you have an itinerary, but what say we see Stonehenge first? It's outside of town."

"Sounds fine to me. The more we do outside town, the less I'll have to take the cab to see."

"Right." Jax faced forward as they traveled quickly through the city. He didn't like the idea of her riding in a cab out of town and understood why David and Marilyn had called him. She was definitely an innocent if she didn't think harm could come to her taking cab out of town alone. He would have to convince her to join a tour group.


A CHANCE WORTH TAKING: Chapter Three

Catarina was awed by the landscape before her. The grounds were covered in rich green grasses, and small streams flowed under several passes. Trees were full with shades of green and a proliferation of flowers dotted the landscape as far as she could see. It was simply breathtaking, so different from the ancient downtown of London with its rock castles and winding roads. She breathed in the delightfully fragrant smells of nature and sighed. Nothing could compare in Dallas. This was God's country.

She scanned the interior of the car, richly covered in light tan leather. The center console was cherry wood and shined to perfection. Catarina wondered how much a car like this would cost. Considerably beyond her salary, she knew.

The man sitting next to her was a mystery. Surely anyone who drove something like this would be cool and aloof, but Jax didn't give that impression. He'd been kind and open when he'd introduced himself. He didn't have to offer to take her out of town to Stonehenge; he could have just taken her around downtown. Instead here they were, alone in each other's company.

She peered at him through the corner of her eye. He had a kind face. Sure he was gorgeous like Marilyn said, but he didn't use it to his advantage, at least not with her. Wait! Maybe there was something wrong with her. Did he not like her? Did he think she was a snobbish American? Surely not. Marilyn said he and David were the closest of friends. She knew she wasn't bad looking, it must be something else. Maybe he had a girlfriend. He didn't add up to Marilyn's warnings.

Catarina pushed Marilyn's warning to the back of her mind. She could make her own assumptions, and right now Jax was a perfect gentleman. She closed her hand and remembered when he'd rested his on top of hers those few short seconds. Had he felt the same electrifying current she had? Those seconds seemed to last for eternity, until he removed his hand and acted as if nothing had happened. Maybe the whole romance of London was causing her to lose reality. She needed to get control of her emotions. Jax was only trying to be friendly.

She saw a sign, Amesbury and the direction of the route to Stonehenge. She picked up her camera from the floorboard and opened the shutter. In the distance as they circled down a hill, she saw the ancient ruins nearing. Jax parked the car, and Catarina quickly took three pictures.

"Anxious?" Jax jumped out of the driver's side and came around to open her door. "Let's go in and pay. There's a fee to see the ruins now."

Catarina walked beside him. She felt her hair falling out of the clip and pulled it back, trying to secure it, but had too many things in her hands. "Jax, do you mind?" She held the camera out to him.

"No, let me hold it for you." He took the camera and stopped as she tried to clasp her hair.

The wind was pulled at the strands and she tried to hold tighter. She laughed. "Really, I'll get it."

"Don't worry on my account. It looks beautiful down." Jax smiled as she continued fighting the stubborn curls.

Catarina's heart began doing little cartwheels at the compliment. "Thank you, but if I don't pull it up now, with all this wind, I'll have hair the size of a melon soon." She tried one last time to pull it back and thankfully was able to clip it in place. "There, all done."

Jax smiled down at her. "Come on, let's go in." He opened the door, letting her enter first. She walked up to the counter and stood in line behind other tourists. "Turn around," Jax said, "and I'll take your photo under the picture of the ruins."

"Here let me show you the zoom." She leaned close to his face and pointed to the buttons to zoom in and out and couldn't help but smell his sandalwood-scented after-shave. She closed her eyes, memorizing the smell. It was wonderfully male and Jax. She slowly opened her eyes and saw Jax looking at her. Embarrassed, she stepped back and smiled.

Jax raised the camera and when he had her centered took the shot. "See, another reason to have a tour guide, they can be pretty handy at times. Imagine you trying to take your own picture."

Catarina couldn't tell if he was flirting with her or just being his comical self. She preferred to think the later, not wanting to get involved in a relationship that wouldn't last beyond a week. "Oh, I don't know. I bet I could somehow manage to take my own picture."

They were next and Catarina stepped up to the teller. "Two to see Stonehenge."

The teller asked, "Are you wanting to go with the tour group or yourselves?"

Catarina looked at Jax, arching her brow inquisitively. "What do you think? Are you educated enough to answer my many questions?"

Jax laughed. "Oh, I'm educated enough to answer any question that may pop into that beautiful head of yours."

Catarina knew there was an underlying statement but chose to ignore it. "Right." She turned back to the teller. "Just two tickets." As she handed him the money, Jax suddenly dropped the money into the teller's hand. She tried to take it out of the clerk's hands but he closed them. "No, Jax, I'll pay. You're the one taking me around."

"It's my pleasure and I'm not about to let you pay. It's on me." He gave her one of his seductive smiles and Catarina felt her toes curl. Man, he was marvelous. "Well, if you're paying for this one then I'm paying for lunch."

Jax only smiled and took the tickets from the teller. Catarina had a feeling this was his way of saying, "No way, lady." She followed him to the door as he opened it and they walked outside together. They walked around the store and followed a pathway under ground to the other side of the street. As they approached the ruins, Catarina slowed her pace. It was amazing. The stones were much larger than she'd expected.

Jax took her arm and helped her over a ditch encircling the ruins. "It's assumed these were modeled in 3000 B.C. There's nothing dating back that far, but that's the estimation."

"You mean all these stones are 5000 years old?" She couldn't believe they were that old and still standing.

"Actually, only those stones in the far distance are the original ones. These were modeled in phase two and three. Still, they're thousands of years old."

"What was the purpose of these stones? Are they the remains of a city?" She walked under a combination of three.

"No one really knows. It's assumed Druids used them for ceremonial purposes." He shrugged his shoulders. "Still, it's anyone's guess."

"Wow! This is amazing. Your country has so much history. The U.S. has only been around a couple hundred years. We don't have anything like this." She turned in a circle and opened her arms. "Ceremonial services, huh." She batted her lashes at him. "Like virgin sacrifices?"

Jax choked. "I really couldn't say."

She gave him a sly smile. "I thought you said you could answer any of my questions. I guess you're not as brilliant as you think."

Jax cleared his throat. "And you're a smarty-pants." He scratched his chin. "Let's see, I do know they have revived Druid ceremonies during the summer. I wouldn't suggest attending unless you're into that weird stuff, but I guess enough people believe in it. It's also believed that Winston Churchill was a member. I like to believe it was first built to study the sun and moon and count the days of the year and so forth." He shrugged. "Like I said, anyone's guess."

"I agree. Any information dating back to 3000 B.C. must have gone through changes over the years. It's still amazing. Look how large these pieces are and they didn't have cranes to move them. If you asked someone to move them by hand today, he'd laugh and quit."

Jax pointed to the top of the ruins. "You know, I saw a picture in the papers one day where there were twenty four men sitting up here. That was before they placed it under government control in 1984. Now it's Parliament's responsibility to look after the ancient site and they don't allow people to climb on them."

"You mean people could climb on them at will? I'm glad they finally got that taken care of. It would be horrible to see it desecrated after all these years."

Catarina walked out of the ruin and started taking pictures. "Jax, stand closer to the stones. I want to get a picture of you." She watched as he casually leaned against the stone, one foot crossed before the other. He had that sexy half smile across his face, like he knew something she didn't. Which she knew he did. "Alright, show off. I think I got it."

Jax walked up close to her. Would you like to have lunch? I know of a small place on the way back to London."

The thought of getting back in the car and leaving with Jax was maddening. She wanted to be alone with him, but knew it was dangerous. She'd never felt quite so comfortable with a man, and Marilyn's warnings kept humming in the back of her head. This was definitely a man who could hurt her. She could fall for him. However, there was no way around it. She had to leave with him and they'd be alone anyway, so why not? Her heart was beating an age-old tune. "Sure, but only if I can pay."

Jax laughed and took her arm. "This is my treat. Let me enjoy it."

"But, Jax." He silenced her with his finger on her lips. His finger was soft and it gently rubbed over her mouth. She couldn't speak. The intimate touch was not what she expected. It sent warning bells ringing through her mind, but she tried to ignore them. This was dangerous.

"I said it's my treat. Okay?"

All she could do was nod. Jax smiled and dropped his hand. He once again took her arm and escorted her back to his car. Once he opened her door, Catarina entered and watched as he rounded the front and got in, expertly pulled his car out of the lot and returned to the motorway.

They drove in silence as they passed lush green rolling hills and small towns. Soon, Windsor loomed ahead. Catarina broke the silence. "Is that where Windsor Castle's located?"

Jax looked at her as if he'd forgotten she was there. "Yes, would you like to stop?"

She knew he was taking her somewhere to eat and didn't want to make him go out of his way. "Well, if where we're going to eat is on the way, we could just drive by. Otherwise, I can wait."

Jax smiled. "Yes, actually it is on the way. We'll drive by and if you want to come back and see it after we eat, we can."

"Okay, thank you." She relaxed and left the driving to Jax. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the fresh air as it blew around them in the convertible. Catarina pictured herself walking arm-in-arm with Jax into a quaint little inn for lunch. Only a few people sitting and enjoying a late afternoon meal, quiet and romantic. She gave a short silent laugh. Right! Like Jax would be interested in her, an average girl from Dallas, Texas.

Catarina felt someone brushing the hair away from the side of her cheek and turned her face into their hand. It felt like the natural thing to do. The hand cupped her cheek and brushed a hair from her eyelashes. Catarina slowly opened her eyes and thought she was still dreaming. Jax' face was close to her own, his eyes looking into hers with a boyish smile spread across his face. Her heart pounded so loudly in her chest she was afraid he could hear it.

Catarina closed her eyes once again and then opened them. Yep, he was still there, it was no dream, and it was for real. She whispered, "I guess I fell asleep. I'm sorry."

Jax didn't remove his hand. "No problem, your body probably needed the rest after the time change. We're here. Are you ready to eat?"

Catarina hated to end the moment but she knew she'd have to be the one to do so. She turned her face from his palm and sat up. Her heart began to beat even faster at the loss of contact. The restaurant looked almost the same as her dream. Small quaint cottage beside a river. It was beautiful. She looked back at Jax. "How do you know about this place? It's beautiful."

Jax smiled. "I'm glad you like it. David's parents used to bring us here on weekends when we were growing up. The place knows us, we're like family." He got out of the car and came around to her side and opened her door. "Come on, the inside is even more impressive. You better bring along your camera."

"It was actually an inn back in the eighteen hundreds for weary travelers. Dukes and ladies would stop here on their sojourn into London. There are eight rooms upstairs where the privileged could rent for the evening before continuing their trek in the morning for the royal court." He opened the front door and allowed her to precede him.

It was dark and the tables were lit by candlelight. A man approached them. "Mr. Blair, how nice to see you again. It's been too long."

"Thank you, Jonathan. Yes, it has been a long time." He shook Jonathan's hand.

Jonathan picked up two menus. "If you two will follow me."

Jax led her through the restaurant with his hand gently placed on her back. They were guided to the rear of the restaurant to a secluded table. "I hope you enjoy your meal." Jonathan bowed and left them alone.

Jax pushed in Catarina's chair as she sat. "They have the best grilled rabbit with black olive polenta. David would be disappointed if I didn't stop here and make sure you tried it. It's his favorite."

Catarina's stomach turned at the thought of eating rabbit anything. "Are you sure? I've never had rabbit and to tell you the truth I'm really not all that keen on the idea."

Jax laughed. "Trust me, you'll love it."

She shrugged and smiled, thinking, when in Rome … She took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm going to trust you, but if I don't like it, then you owe me a burger in town."

"It's a deal." Jax ordered for them both.

When their glasses of ale arrived, Catarina quickly drank hers and waited for the waiter to refill her mug. "There aren't many people here. Is it not well known?"

"Actually it caters to a select group of elite. If you're into people watching, this is the place to be. You'll find more royalty or stars stopping here for a peaceful luncheon than in the city. As you see it's secluded so the public isn't crashing in on them."

"I see what you mean. I know I couldn't make it back out here if I wanted too. I have no idea where we are." She smiled and looked around at the velvet tapestries lining the walls of the charming, mahogany paneled chateau. She could picture gentlemen standing against the walls drinking brandy and talking over the day's events. A large crystal chandelier hung at the center of the room and she could see where chairs could easily be pulled away for dancing.

The waiter soon arrived with their rabbit and Catarina prayed it wouldn't make her sick. It looked marvelous, no beady little eyes staring back at her. She hesitantly picked up her fork and tore a piece of the meat away from the steak. She took a bite and closed her eyes trying not to picture a happy little rabbit hopping over the green grasses of Great Britain. "Mmm, delicious." She opened her eyes and smiled. "You were right."

Jax laughed. "I always am. Eat up, it may be a while before you get to enjoy a meal as wonderful as this again."

"More like never again." Catarina took another bite and savored each flavor. "Delicious."

After they finished the rabbit, they were served hot apple crumb pie and snifters of brandy. Catarina enjoyed the meal and conversation. Jax was really a wonderful person. He didn't ask questions too personal, just the basics-- how long she was staying, what her plans were and so forth. Soon, the meal was over and Jax insisted on paying the bill. Catarina wasn't about to argue, not having a clue of how much a meal in a restaurant like this would cost.

Before they left, Catarina asked the waiter to take a photo of her and Jax. He was more than willing and afterwards wished them lucked with their happy marriage. They both laughed, but when Catarina started to correct him, Jax stopped her and shook his head not to bother. She complied and followed him back to the car.

Soon, they were speeding on their way to the Blakely. Catarina had enjoyed the afternoon with Jax and wished it didn't have to end. She was thankful for his help and didn't want to impose, so didn't mention about possibly doing it again. As they pulled up to the front of the hotel, the valet opened her door. Catarina expected Jax to waive and pull away, but instead he jumped out and threw his keys to the boy. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

Catarina smiled and walked into the lobby with him. She was a little apprehensive about him following her into the hotel. She wasn't about to invite him up to her room, but didn't want to sound priggish. "Jax, I've had a wonderful day, thank you so much for everything."

Jax took her hand. "You don't have to thank me. I had a great time, too. May I pick you up later and take you out to a couple of nightspots in the areas I know? You mentioned earlier you wanted to experience the night life of London."

Catarina didn't know what to say. He was asking her out. "You don't have to do that. If David or Marilyn told you to baby-sit me, you don't have to. I'm a grown woman and can take care of myself."

He tightened his hold on her hand a bit. "David isn't big enough to make me do something I don't want to do. I'm asking you out to the pubs because I'd like to spend more time with you. I thought perhaps you wanted the same."

Catarina knew this was the time to break the tie before she got in too deep, but she couldn't--or maybe it was she didn't want to. "Are you sure?"

"Of course, but if it's that you don't want to go out with me, then just say so."

"No, no, it's not that. It's just that I don't want you to think you have to ask me out. Today was wonderful."

"Catarina, I don't have to do anything. Now, do you want to go or not?"

"I'd love to."

"Good." Jax looked at his watch. "It's already six, how about I pick you up at nine?"

"That would be fine. I can rest a bit and take a nice bath. Nine's perfect."

"I'll see you then. Wear something loose but warm. It gets a bit nippy at night."

"I have just the thing."

Jax lifted her hand to his mouth and kissed her fingers. "I'll see you at nine." He released her hand, turned, and exited the hotel.

Catarina's knees were shaking. She was afraid if she didn't walk to her room now, she wouldn't be able to make it. "Cinderella and the prince." She shook her head to clear it. As she walked to the lift, she felt as though her feet barely touched the floor.

A CHANCE WORTH TAKING is available for purchase from DiskUs Publishing and also in Rocket format for your Rocket eBook from Barnes and Nobel online and Powells Books.


About the Author

Kimberly Roberts lives in Grand Prairie, Texas between Fort Worth and Dallas. She's been an avid reader of many genres, especially romance, since she was young. Her favorite authors were Jane Austen and Janette Oke. Kimberly enjoys writing romance, young adult, and inspirational books. Everlasting is her first romance novel and A Chance Worth Taking, the sequel, is her second published book. She's thrilled to have these books published in the ebook Industry through DiskUs and Wordbeams.

Kimberly reviews books for several authors and publishing companies. "It keeps me on top of the publishing industry and I see what the publishing houses are looking for," Kimberly said. Marilyn Nesbitt of DiskUs was the first to ask Kim for a review and it started growing from there. Recently interviewed by Peter Gumble of "The Wall Street Journal", Peter wrote, "Kim is a revolutionary arbiter." http://kimgaona.com

Foremost in her life are Kimberly's husband, Richard, and her two children, Richie and Kristen. Richard has been a wonderful supporter of Kim's work. When she needs time to write, he gladly spends time with the children and allows Kim whatever time is needed. Her children think it's "Cool!" that she's published.

Readers can email Kimberly at kim@kimgaona.com and visit her homepage at http://kimgaona.com