February 8, 2009

Rekindled by Jenni Holbrook

February 13, 2009
The Wild Rose Press

For the last nine years, Kalee Mead has been running from her past. Now she's running for her life. Her only chance at survival is to return home and patch things up with her father. When she returns to her home in Thief Lake, Minnesota, she finds her father dead and herself becoming the cop's best suspect for his murder. Assistant Police Chief Blaine Walker has been trying to put his ex-wife out of his mind for years, but when he finds her hovered over her father's body, he knows that battle is lost. She becomes his only suspect in a case that doesn’t make sense. He vows to find the answers and then hopefully rekindle the flame that has never quite died out in his heart.


“You don’t still live here, do you?” Kaylee asked as she looked to the staircase going up to Blaine’s parents’ garage apartment. The one they’d lived in
together during their short marriage. Puffy dark clouds floated across the sky, partially covering the half-moon. The rain had let up some, but the cold,
crisp air chilled her skin. “You don’t live in the house? Or in town somewhere?”

“I wanted to be close to Mom when Dad died, but I didn’t want to live with her.” He glanced over his shoulder with a scowl, like she should know all this.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” She wanted to reach out and touch him. He’d always been close to his father. “How?”

“Car accident.” He turned. “A lot has changed around here.”

A loud clicking noise echoed as he unlocked the door at the top of the stairs and pushed it open. The familiar, small space did nothing to ease her growing discomfort and Blaine’s physical effect on her only added to her confusion. She stepped in and glanced around. He wasn’t kidding when he said a lot had changed. The apartment she remembered had bare walls, an old blue matted down carpet and a sagging couch. He’d
always been good with his hands, but the new galley-style kitchen she stared at was beyond anything she remembered he could do.

“You do all this work yourself?” She slid her fingers across the log-style chair-rail that set off the soft blue walls in the main room.

“Gives me something to do when I’m not working. You should see the kitchen in Mom’s house. Took me nearly three months.”

“I’m sure it’s beautiful.” A chocolate-colored leather sofa sat in front of a wood-burning fireplace. A bearskin rug hung on the wall. “You have great taste.”

He shrugged. “Can I get you some hot chocolate?” He kicked off his boots and made his way into the kitchen. “I think I’ve got marshmallows.”

“Marshmallows?” As a little girl, she had loved to go out and play in the snow, and then when she’d come in all wet and cold, her father would meet her in the kitchen with hot chocolate and marshmallows. The big ones. She’d poke at the white puffy object floating in a sea of steaming milk chocolate, making sure the marshmallows were totally saturated. That had been the best part.

The realization that her father was actually gone forever sent tears streaming down her cheeks. “Sure,” she managed through choking sobs. Her eyes were already puffy from hours of crying over the past few weeks. At twenty-eight, she’d made nothing
but one pathetic mistake after another. Now she was alone.

“Kaylee, sit down.” Blaine’s strong hand pressed gently against her lower back and helped her to the couch.

The soft leather formed to her body. “Please tell me this is all a bad dream.” She clung to his strong frame for support, something she hadn’t felt in years. “Please tell me my father didn’t die before I had a chance to fix all the wrongs between us,” she cried, wrapping her fists in Blaine’s T-shirt.

“Kaylee, it wasn’t just you, honey,” Blaine whispered, stroking his fingers through her hair.

Being in his embrace brought back memories she’d been trying to pretend didn’t exist. She’d barely gotten used to the idea of coming home, and to be reminded of what could have been, what had been taken from her, was more than she could

A sense of dread engulfed her as she took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.” She pushed herself from his welcoming arms. “I’m just tired.” She reminded herself the comfort he offered wasn’t real. Never was.

“When did you decide to come back to town?”

Dropping her head back on the sofa, she closed her eyes. If he only knew the half of it. “I called him two weeks ago.”

“You called him?”

She nodded. She’d give Blaine what little information she could, without getting herself into trouble. She knew him well enough to know he’d use whatever information he could pump out of her to get the bad guy. Right now that could mean her. “We’d been in touch a few times over the last few years. We both wanted to put the past behind us.”

He ran his hand across his face, then through his jet-black hair. “I’m stuck between a rock and hard place here.”

She looked directly into his stubborn dark eyes. “Do you honestly believe I could kill my father?”

“Not intentionally.”

Anger surged through her blood, but before she could leap from the couch, he grabbed her arm. “Let me go.”

“Kaylee, I want to help you.”

“By accusing me of something I didn’t do?” She yanked her arm free of his grasp and stood. “I should’ve known. You’ve always held me responsible for what happened.”

“Damn it!” His fist smacked the pillow and he bolted upright. “I’m a cop. It’s my job to find out what happened to your father. A job I take very seriously, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re still my wife.”

“I haven’t been your wife for a long time. And you never loved me anyway.” A thick lump formed in her throat. Her own father had offered her husband money to divorce her and her husband had taken the bribe. That was proof enough for her.

“Touché.” He turned, uttering a few choice curses and then ducked his head into the
refrigerator. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I saw the check.” She swallowed. “You took my father’s money and never looked back.”

A swishing noise filled the room when he opened a soda can. She couldn’t take her eyes off him while he gulped down his drink. The pain in her chest thumped with every beat of her heart as he took small steps until he stood right in front of her.

“I never took a dime from your father.” He narrowed his stare. “And, I might add, you’re the one who filed for divorce.”

“Can you deny you had the check?” she asked.

“No.” He chugged his soda and then sat back down on the couch.

“Then you took my father’s money.” She folded her arms across her middle.

“I ripped it up when he had the audacity to blame me for our son’s death.”

“Deslin,” she spoke his name softly. Her pulse flared and her hands trembled. No matter how much time had passed, the pain never subsided. Unable to carry her own weight, she sat down. “You blame me for Deslin’s death.”

“And you blame me.” The hardness in his face matched the tone of his voice.

No point in arguing. Nothing had changed. Even if Blaine never cashed the check, her father had given it to him and he’d contemplated it. And their son was still dead.

A roll of thunder rumbled outside. Lighting flashed in the sky, illuminating the room for one brief second. The rain began to fall so heavily that it sounded like deer running across the roof. A slight flicker of the lights made her gasp.

“We both hurt,” he whispered. “But you walked away without a word.”

For years, she’d dealt with the pain of losing her only son in a silent hell. “This has nothing to do with my father’s death.” She stretched, letting out a good
fake yawn. Dwelling on the past wouldn’t help her present situation and it had nothing to do with her future. If she had one. She needed to get out of this
mess and get out of town…fast.

He appeared to study her before standing. “You can take the bed,” he offered.

“I’ll sleep on the couch.” She slapped the cushion. “And only for tonight.”

“You can’t go to the house until I clear it.”

“I’ll stay at the motel in town.”

“No.” He glanced at his watch, dismissing her. “I’ve got to be to work early.”

“But didn’t you just work half the night?” She blinked, trying to ignore the soft caress of his hand on her back.

“I’m on call every second I’m not on duty.” He gave her a nudge toward the few steps that lead to the loft-style bedroom and then pulled his hand away.

She followed him up the five short steps into his bedroom. When they had first married, she had complained they didn’t have a bedroom and had to sleep in the middle of the family room, so he raised the roof and built the loft. She glanced at his strong hands. Back then, she thought he could do anything. The memories bombarding her mind confused her.

She took a deep breath, filling her nostrils with a fresh pine scent. “I hate incense.” Actually, she missed it. She missed him and that made no sense. She glanced around the loft. An Indian painting hung over the same wood bed that had been their bed, but thankfully, he’d gotten a new maroon bedspread.

“It’s not incense.”

“It’s stuff that smells.” She shifted her gaze toward the small window overlooking the yard. This was all too familiar and shouldn’t make her feel like
she’d just come home. She had no home.

“It helps with my headaches.”

“You still get them?” She took the T-shirt he offered. Those so-called headaches could cripple him. She ran her fingers across his forehead like she’d done a million times before. His skin was still soft, but this time he furrowed his brow and took a step back.

“I’ve actually gone to see a real doctor about them. He put me on some beta blocker thing.”

“Is it working?”

“I’ll take the fifth.” He gave her a slight smile before his face turned serious as he cupped her chin. “I have a job to do. You might not like some things I say, but know one thing.” He tightened his grip. “I don’t believe you could kill anything, much less your father.”


Mary Ricksen said...

She lost both her son and now her father. Talk about conflict. This is one great book if the excerpt is an indication. Good stuff! I didn't want to stop.