One day Nick Donovan has it all; a beautiful, pregnant wife, a nice house, a great job. The next day he is on his own, starting from scratch with nothing but a few suitcases and his old truck.
Nick flees to the opposite coast of Florida, trying to leave his ex-wife and the memories behind. But that couldn't happen. Soon Nick finds that he is tied to Shelley in a way that he hadn't expected. And, in her bitterness, she does everything she can to ensure his misery.
Brandy is Shelley's opposite; wild, sensual, free-spirited. With Brandy, Nick is able to rebel against all that Shelley stands for. Brandy quickly leads Nick into a world of sex, drugs, and cash. And now Nick finds himself caught between the two worlds, desperate to stay afloat.
Donovan’s feet became lead weights as he forced them down the silent hallway.
The smell irritated his nose. His breathing was shallow, his chest constricted.
The knot in his stomach pulled tighter.
spotted the room ahead on his right and his steps slowed. The door stood open,
inviting him in.
silence mocked him. Eight years of silence. This was not the ending he had
stepped inside, his breath catching in his chest. Machines buzzed. Tubes
dripped liquids into her veins. He swallowed hard, bit his lip. She looked
nothing like he remembered. Not that he’d expected her to.
welts splattered over her exposed skin. Her closed eyes sat deep in dark
sockets. The body that had once been so full of life had become a fragile
forced himself to breathe. Silently he thanked a god he wasn’t sure he believed
in that she was asleep. Or unconscious. He had no idea how he would handle
looking into her eyes.
nurse stepped in. She spotted him there, blinked in surprise and smiled. “I see we have a visitor?”
nodded, not trusting his voice.
you family?” the nurse asked.
choked out a reply. “I’m… an old friend.”
nurse watched him a moment, then moved to check the machines keeping her alive.
“She’d be pleased to know someone cared enough to come.”
do you mean?”
had no visitors since she was transferred here.”
nurse smiled sadly. “No one until you.”
looked at her still body. His eyes watered, despite his attempt at control. “Is
she in a lot of pain?”
nurse eyed him carefully, her eyebrows knitted tightly together. “You do know
she’s in a coma?”
tried to swallow, but the dry lump in his throat wouldn’t budge. “No, I didn’t
nurse moved away from the bed. “I’m sorry. She’s not expected to pull out of
stared at her closed eyelids, shook his head, shivered. The nurse touched his
shoulder and said, “But I believe she knows you’re here. And that would mean a
lot to her.”
nurse left. Nick stood frozen, the flood of emotions causing physical pain.
Finally, he pulled a chair beside her bed. He took her bony hand in his. And he
Donovan drove the toe of his size eleven sneaker into the side of the empty
cardboard box. It sailed through the air, hit the blank wall, and fell on top
of a stack of more cardboard boxes. A dozen curses raced through his mind. He
didn’t voice any of them. What difference would it make? No one was around to
than a week had passed since he’d had any sort of human contact, unless he
counted the pizza delivery guy. Sixteen days ago, he’d walked out of the
Brevard County courthouse, newly divorced and damn near broke. He’d gotten into
his beat-up pickup truck, alone. Shelley had gotten into the passenger side of
the Lexus that belonged to the man who used to be his best friend. He had
traveled 125 miles to Tampa, to the hole-in-the-wall apartment he now called
home. She’d traveled a few miles back to the seven-room, 2,500 square-foot
ranch they had once shared.
here he had sat, brooded, and raged. He’d left his job, his friends, his life
behind. Thirty-one years old and he was starting all over again. He just didn’t
know where or how to begin.
a heavy sigh, Nick grabbed his wallet and stepped out into the musty hallway.
He imagined Shelley sitting in the Jacuzzi, sipping champagne and laughing. He
barely restrained himself from putting his fist through the glass pane of the
outer door. He had to stop torturing himself and move on with his life.
shuffled along the busy street. Everyone had a purpose, a direction. What did
he have besides images of his best friend banging his wife on their brass bed?
bought a Tampa Tribune from a
newspaper machine outside the Bunker I. He stepped inside and sat at a corner
booth, the noise around him a welcome change from the silence of the apartment.
He ordered coffee from a chatty waitress, spread the classified ads out in
front of him, and started circling job possibilities. A new beginning.
half an hour, he’d managed to circle five ads and polish off three cups of
coffee with a cranberry muffin. He left the waitress a generous tip taken from
the last of his grocery money; eating regular meals was overrated. Then he
stepped into the scorching sun and walked the two blocks back to his apartment.
told himself to keep moving. Just act. Don’t think. Four phone calls later, he
had a job interview at Verizon, in the tech support division for their DSL
customers. Not exactly what he’d wanted, and nowhere near the pay he’d been
used to. But he was qualified. And it was a paying job.
cast a glance at his laptop and frowned. In two hours, he had that interview at
Verizon, which was located in a building he wasn’t familiar with, at an address
somewhere in Tampa. He couldn’t afford an Internet connection. Hell, he
couldn’t afford to breathe, if he thought about it. The laptop, therefore, was
useless to him. Googling the address for directions wasn’t going to happen.
upon a time, he’d been an IT tech, working on the fastest and best computers
available. He’d maintained a fleet of them for Cape Canaveral Hospital on Cocoa
Beach. Now he couldn’t even Google a damn address.
trudged out to his truck and grabbed the map from the glove box. Between the
truck and the map, he felt like he’d stepped into a time warp. Nothing modern
in his life.
in his living room, Nick spread the map out on the brown carpet. The landlord
had probably chosen the shit brown color so it wouldn’t show the years of dirt
imbedded in the old fibers. The map was one of those cheap folding things, the
kind you can buy at a gas station and you can never refold. His one consolation
was that he had plenty of space to spread it out. Not because the room was
large, but because he had no furniture.
found the address and estimated about a twenty-minute drive, providing he
didn’t get lost or stuck in traffic. Instead of sulking in this miserable
apartment for the past week, he really should have been learning his way
shower would probably be a good idea. Make himself presentable. The water
hadn’t even warmed up by the time Nick turned it off. He managed to shave
without mangling his face. He’d wisely hung his better clothes in the tiny
closet. The rest of his clothing either remained in his suitcase or was
scattered around the bedroom floor, dirty or wrinkled. He had no dresser and
hadn’t been all that interested in doing laundry.
slacks and a white tailored shirt from Brooks Brothers seemed a wise choice for
the day. He tugged on his shoes and grabbed the map off the floor. He
improvised on the folding and stuffed it into his pocket.
Nick stepped into the hall, he nearly collided with a woman walking past. Her
long, sun-bleached hair slid past tan shoulders. She wore faded jeans that
hugged every perfect curve. Nick stepped back, trying not to stare at the
nipples poking through her tight white tank top.
there,” she said. “You must be my new neighbor. I was beginning to think you
were a hermit or something.”
offered Nick a brilliant smile. He found himself smiling back. It would have
been impossible not to. “I’m Nick Donovan,” he said. “And I guess I was a
hermit for a while there.”
name’s Brandy Alexander. And, before you ask, my father was a bartender and
thought it was cool to name me after a drink.” She flashed him another
brilliant smile as her eyes moved over him, head to toe. “Going somewhere
father was right,” Nick said. “Your name is very cool. And, yes, I’ve got a job
reflexively glanced down at his tie, featuring Bugs Bunny chomping on a carrot.
He said, “Got to liven up the business attire somehow.” As he spoke, he
remembered Shelley had given him the tie on his last birthday. Maybe he’d use
it to wax his truck.
twisted a strand of blond hair around fingers adorned with funky silver rings.
Her deep blue eyes were surrounded by dark, thick lashes. Those eyes managed to
hold him still and turn him on at the same time.
few friends are dropping by tonight,” Brandy said. “You want to join us, kick
back for a while?”
good.” His gaze dropped to her full glossy lips. Maybe the life of a recluse
wasn’t for him after all.
o’clock. Good luck with the interview.”
climbed into his truck, smiling and happy for the first time in months. Okay,
sort of happy. Definitely aroused. He’d met a beautiful woman. And, unless he’d
completely lost his ability to read signals, she was interested in him. Of
course, she could be engaged to a linebacker for all he knew. And he was still
His smile lingered. Damn, she was sexy.