After failed fertility treatments lead to a bitter divorce, high school math teacher Laura Daniels escapes to her best friend's beachside estate, Tranquility, for the summer to heal her wounds.
Meeting gorgeous Adam Black, a widower and the other summer guest at Tranquility, their shared loss quickly leads to undeniable passion. After three months of stolen moments and awakening sensuality, Adam leaves abruptly ending their affair.
Heartbroken, Laura returns to teaching and discovers she is pregnant. Desperately in love with Adam, Laura vows to find him and tell him about his child. One little problem stands in her way; she doesn't know where to look.
In her quest to find him, she discovers that he is an international hotelier who travels the world. Meanwhile, Laura's ex-husband Leland will stop at nothing to win her heart and claim the child as his own.
Laura Takes a Lover 80,000 words, Series Contemporary
2010 Golden Heart Finalist, Romance Writers of America
Adam Black would never allow himself to fall in love again. Since he’d made the decision several months earlier, he’d felt better. The weight in his chest, where his heart once resided, seemed to lessen.
But one quick glance to the shoulder of the road silenced every desolate thought, as his jaded heart fluttered wildly to life and issued a warning that couldn’t be ignored.
The woman was breathtaking as she leaned against the bumper of an old, silver BMW with a flat tire. She was looking down at the raging ocean in the notoriously evil cove known as Devil’s Punchbowl. Her shoulder length blonde hair whipped around her face in the warm wind, but she did nothing to stop it, just stared, perhaps mesmerized by the crashing waves as they hit the rocks below.
Pulling off the road, he coasted the pickup to a stop a safe distance away.
Glancing toward him, she lowered her big, black sunglasses, her expression a mix of curiosity and apprehension. She was crying. Not a few tears, he realized, but a torrent. He surmised that this was about a lot more than a simple flat tire.
“Aw hell,” he muttered, getting out of the pickup and lifting his hand in a friendly greeting. He knew how he looked. He’d spent the better part of the day digging up dead pine trees. A once clean white t-shirt and jeans were covered with a mixture of dirt and debris. She, on the other hand, was elegant in a crisp white blouse and black wraparound skirt, which alluded to a lush, curvaceous figure.
“Hello,” he greeted, above the roar of the ocean. “Do you need some help with your tire?”
She nodded and held up a cell phone. Her voice cracked as she said, “I can’t get cell service.”
“No problem, I can help you. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” she replied, with a sob she’d tried to stifle.
Adam’s chest automatically tightened in empathy. “I can tell you’re upset.”
Bright blue eyes, rimmed in red, stared at him as her lower lip quivered.
Articulate by nature, he faltered. Best to get on with the business at hand. “Do you know if you have a spare?”
At his words, she hugged herself, bent forward and sobbed uncontrollably. He took a tentative step toward her. She hesitated for a moment, and then toppled against him, her cheek coming to rest against his dirty shoulder. Wrapping his arms around her, he felt her relax as he rocked her. He was getting her dirty, but neither one of them made a move to let go. Minutes passed as hot tears dampened his t-shirt, her sobs eventually subsiding.
Trying not to think about the acutely feminine body in his arms, or the subtle perfume reminiscent of roses that infused the air between them, masking his own scent of working male, he asked, “Would you like to talk about it?”
She pulled back and lifted her gaze to meet his. Beautiful cornflower blue irises seemed to glow as they searched his face. She’d been crying for a long time, her lids swollen, and he guessed, burning from the irritation. Waiting for her to begin, he fought the urge to comment on the beauty of her eyes.
She blurted out: “My husband left me for another woman.”
Adam said the first thing that entered his mind. “Your husband is an idiot.”
“It’s my fault. I let myself go. At least that’s what he used to tell me,” she answered softly.
The woman was lovely despite the grief and smeared makeup. He sighed, placing his hands on her shoulders, hoping she would believe him, when he said, “If your husband were here, right now, I’d punch him for making you feel so bad about yourself. You’re beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she said and smiled, but he could tell she didn’t quite believe him. Her gaze fell to the gold band he still wore on his left hand. “Your wife is a very lucky woman.”
“I was the lucky one to have found her,” he corrected. “Let me help you with that tire.”
“You’re very kind, I’m sorry about falling apart,” she said, smiling a little and stepping aside as he reached for her trunk latch.
He used to be kind. “Don’t worry about it.”
In the eleven months since he’d lost his wife and son to a drunk driver, he’d lost every emotion but grief and anger.
The trunk was filled with luggage, which he pulled out and set on the ground. He made quick work of the tire, jack and lug wrench as she watched.
“Don’t go back to him. You deserve someone who adores you,” he said in a tone that conveyed it was more of an order than a suggestion, as he began tightening the nuts on her wheel.
“As of ten a.m. this morning, I’m divorced,” she said, and he thought she might start crying again.
“Good. He wasn’t worthy of you.” Finished, he stood and looked down at her white blouse. He couldn’t help but notice the lacy outline of her bra through the once pristine fabric. Guiltily, he stepped back and apologized, “I’m sorry, but it seems I’ve covered you in dirt.”
“It’s a fair trade. You’re covered in my tears and lipstick,” she said, pointing to his t-shirt where a perfect red lip print was emblazoned next to several damp spots.
They both smiled tentatively and she reached out, her small hand gently touching his arm. “Thank you,” she said with heartfelt sincerity. “I’m so glad you stopped, not for the tire, but what you said. Thank you.”
Placing his hand on hers, he asked, “Will you be okay?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I’m not far from home.”
He smiled one last time and turned away, walking swiftly back to his pickup. It was harder than he thought, leaving this woman he’d only known for a few minutes, but he’d served his purpose and it was time to move on. Getting back in the truck, he gave her one last smile and was rewarded with a wave, which he returned, before driving away.
The lacy wrought iron gates of Tranquility, which guarded admittance to the large seaside estate, swung open to welcome Laura Daniels. The journey had taken four months. In as much time, she’d divorced her cheating husband, moved out of their beautiful home and adding insult to injury, come to terms with the harsh reality she would never be able to conceive a child of her own. If she ever needed the solace Tranquility and its occupants could offer, it was this lovely day in June.
The butter yellow and white palace rose up to greet her as she pulled her eight-year-old silver BMW into the circular drive. By now she was a frequent houseguest, visiting her oldest and dearest friends, Hollywood power couple Katrina and William Russell.
Four months earlier, after discovering the depth of her husband’s deception, she’d packed her bags and filed for divorce. Had it not been for her teaching position, she would have driven to the security of Tranquility then. Instead, she’d put her belongings in storage, slept on a fellow teacher’s couch, and continued to teach as her world fell apart.
Today, she’d turned in her final grades minutes before a messenger delivered the last documents for her ultra smooth, ultra fast divorce. Fast was the only perk, Laura conceded, of being married to a divorce attorney. Red tape in the form of mandatory waiting periods simply disappeared.
Picking up the large envelope containing the documents of her freedom, she’d locked her classroom and left San Francisco, vowing not to return until the week before school started in September. After a week or two with William and Kat, she would hit the road. Where she would go, what she would do, she did not know. She had three months to fill before she moved into her new apartment in an old Victorian brownstone near the high school where she taught.
Driving along the coastline, she’d counted down the miles, wanting, needing to get to the welcoming arms of her friends. For months she’d held her emotions together, never allowing the pain to overtake her.
Turning off the engine, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the rearview mirror. Dark circles and puffy lids surrounded her large blue eyes, telling the story of pain so deep that it was hard to remember when she hadn’t seen sadness looking back.
Kat appeared at a set of large, open French doors. Seeing Laura, she gracefully glided down the Travertine front steps, waving as she did so. A tall, raven-haired beauty in a wild multicolored silk outfit, which matched the colors of the setting sun, Kat was every inch the glamorous movie star. Laura felt dowdy and inadequate just at the sight of her. It had been this way since they were kids. They were exact physical opposites. Kat was willowy and trim, while Laura was short and curvy. Most of all, Kat was startlingly beautiful, while Laura’s beauty was uncomplicated, so uncomplicated as to be bordering on nonexistent. Superficial qualities aside, their friendship endured.
Jumping from the car, Laura ran to the waiting arms of her best friend. Kat held her in a tight embrace and then put an arm around her shoulders and led her inside, handing her car keys to a khaki attired member of her staff.
“Thank you,” Kat offered softly and then turned to her friend, concern in her voice. “You’re covered in dirt. My god, did you and Leland sling mud at each other?”
Leave it to Kat to find a way to make her laugh when she’d wanted to cry. “No, but it’s a long story, strange and surreal…”here.