Leyla Brand has one perfect day in her life: the day she meets rock singer Arran Lake at the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville. They have so much in common, Leyla is sure they are soulmates and will have a future together.
The very next morning, when Arran receives the call to hit the big time, he vanishes into the world of California rock and roll to become an international star, leaving her behind. Only a few phone calls keep them in touch — until his phone is disconnected. After that, all she has of him is every new song that hits the charts.
Five years later, she gets a message on the Internet from an unfamiliar address. Someone wants to know if she’s the Leyla of Bele Chere. Should she open that door and discover who this might be? Who else could it be? And if it is Arran, why does he want to contact her now, after all this time? Will he just break her heart again?
This excerpt has a personal connection for me– at the time I wrote it, my daughter was working as a pastry chef at the Stable, at the Biltmore–and I included her very own strawberry and lemon custard pie in the story!!
As the first colors of twilight painted themselves onto the clouds overhead, Leyla and Arran walked through the rose garden at the Biltmore’s botanical gardens, hand in hand. She could hardly believe this was happening. She’d hoped for a simple meeting, a conversation. Instead, he’d swept her off her feet.
They’d lingered over a late lunch of roasted vegetable panini, followed by strawberry-and-lemon custard pie at the Stable, a casual restaurant built on the site of the former stables of the estate, the booths constructed from the wrought iron and solid wood of the old stable panels. When the staff politely eased them out at closing, they’d left the restaurant and strolled the gardens.
She learned that he refused to wear the glasses he’d been prescribed in junior high, because he thought they made him look old; that she’d been right that he didn’t drink, since he came from a family of alcoholics; and that his fear of needles had kept him from getting the typical rock star tattoos. She shared that her mother had left just before Leyla went to kindergarten, that she’d always thought cats sucked the breath out of people while they slept, which is why she wanted a cocker spaniel puppy, and that science fiction shows had always been her favorite.
“So you grew up fast,” Arran observed, reaching out to gently touch one of the tea roses along the walk.
“Had to. My dad worked all the time, and I kept house, cooked, you know, all that.”
She walked beside him, close but not touching, noting others’ glances at them. People stared. Did they recognize Arran, or was it the smile on her face, the one she couldn’t control, her delight warm and shining through?
He laughed, but it wasn’t an amused sound, more a bond of understanding. “My parents really quit keeping track of me about the time I turned fourteen. They spent more time finding the bottom of their bottles.” He hunkered down to examine the leaves of a plant. “So it seems like we both had to grow up on our own.”
“Well, kind of.” She didn’t feel sorry for herself. She really didn’t want him thinking she was just another loser. “I had plenty of friends, too. So I got out of the house a lot. Spent a lot of time running from reality, actually.”
“Oh, I know. Me, too.” He grinned. “Some pretty bad years there, about age fifteen, sixteen. I’m surprised I’m still alive, actually.”
She wondered what he’d done that was so bad. She knew her own sins. She’d bet everything in her wallet that they’d echo each other. We’ve got time to discover all our shadows. “Amazing,” was all she said.
THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, from the Wild Rose Press in ebook format–costs less than a cup of coffee. Give it a try!
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