All my love to my readers everywhere today! I can’t believe it’s Valentine’s Day already. I hope yours is filled with the best, sexiest love stories of all: our own. And to add some to that love, here are two little gifts for you: 1) A teaser for the sequel—Ninety Days; and 2) A Giveaway that I’m running with my publisher, Samhain. Two $5 Amazon gift cards, for two winners. All you have to do is tweet today and tomorrow what Aiden should get Elisa for Valentine’s Day today, and use the hashtag #thirtynights. Copy me, and voila! I will enter you to win the card so you can discover even more love stories. Enjoy playing and reading! See you soon (I’m in a wee bit of a rush because I have to finish a sequel chapter today and cook with hubby-two loves in one.)
(This chapter has not been edited. It may appear in a different form in the published novel)
Every airplane hurtling across the sky carries goodbyes. Some for days, some for life. Then there is mine—the unknown kind.
I stare out of the Plexiglas window into dense darkness. It’s midnight back in Portland. Did Reagan make it home safe? Is she curled up on my bed, still crying? And Javier—does he even have a bed in his jail cell? Or is he slumped on the floor, staring at darkness just like me? I leave the hardest person for last . . . him . . . Aiden Hale, I force myself to think the name. Is he awake? Or finally asleep—relieved to have me out of his life?
A burning pain—part rage, part agony—flares like a livid wound between my lungs, and I close the window shade. The businessman next to me is snoring softly. I avoid looking at his charcoal suit—so similar to Aiden’s when they hung closely with my dresses. The wound throbs again, and I gaze at the crumpled note still in my hand. Aiden’s right-hand man, Benson, scribbled it on a torn piece of paper like he was out of time.
I am breaking Mr. Hale’s rules by giving you his letters in hopes that they will lead you to the man you know, not the one you heard today.
Don’t make a mistake you will both regret for life.
I have the words memorized, but they still seem scrambled. Alone they make sense, but together they mean nothing. What does Benson know about my mistakes? About our regrets? What rules is he breaking? Why? What’s the difference between the man I know and the one I heard today?
I know the answer to that last one. Aiden Hale—the man I thought I knew, the man I loved—would have never reported Javier to the immigration police. He would have never ruined my little family. He would have never hurt someone I love. But the man he truly is—the man I saw today with finally clear eyes—did all of that, and admitted it three times.
The burning ache rages up my throat, constricting it until I can’t breathe. I loosen my scarf, searching for air. It blows in a steady gust from the airplane vent. Straight into the center of my forehead. Where Aiden’s lips rested last. Where my father’s lips rested always.
I lift my face toward the vent and draw a huge gulp of pressurized air. In, out. Hydrogen, atomic weight 1.008, helium, 4.002, lithium, 6.94—
“Miss? May I get you anything?” A hushed feminine voice murmurs next to me.
I turn to the flight attendant, trying not to look at her Union Jack scarf that reminds me of Reagan and her obsession with all things British. “Some coffee, please,” I whisper.
Her eyebrows arch—coffee is not the drink of choice at this hour—but she scurries back to the galley for the pot.
I know this is a mistake. I know I should try to sleep. It would be easier to shut down, drift into a different place, a different time. Perhaps I would be back in Portland again. On the couch with Reagan, listening to Lana Del Rey. Or in Javier’s studio, looking at his paintings. Or perhaps in a rose garden, tangled under the blooms with the Aiden I loved, not the one I discovered today.
Yes, it would be easier to sleep, but I cannot. Because if I sleep, this day will be over. If I sleep, this will be the last day in my home, the last time I saw my family, the last time I held my best friend, the last time I was in love. And when I wake up, everything I have will be yesterday. It will be the past.