This Wicked Wednesday’s treat is an excerpt from my upcoming December release from Silhouette Romantic Suspense – SOLDIER’S SECRET CHILD.
Macy Ward, the heroine, is the mother to troublesome teenager TJ Ward. TJ’s a good kid, but he’s still not handling the loss of his father from cancer six years earlier. The hero, Fisher Yates, is a decorated Army Captain who is at a cross roads at his life. He has the choice of going back for another tour of duty in the Middle East or teaching at West Point. He’s not really considering the latter since he doesn’t picture himself as a family man . . . until Fate brings him back together with Macy Ward. Together Macy and Fisher must not only work out their differences and rediscover love, but also deal with a threat to TJ.
Today’s Wicked Wednesday excerpt is a tidbit from the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it!
Macy Ward had never imagined that on her wedding day she would be running out of the church instead of walking down the aisle.
But just over a week earlier, she had been drawn out of the church by the sharp crack of gunshots and the harsh squeal of tires followed by the familiar sound of her fiance’s voice shouting for someone to get his police cruiser.
Her fiance, Jericho Yates, the town sheriff and her lifelong friend. Her best friend in all the world and the totally wrong man to marry, she thought again, her hands tightening on the steering wheel as she shot a glance at her teenage son as he sat beside her in the passenger seat.
“You ready for this, TJ?”
He had been listening to his Ipod, but at the sound of her voice, he pulled out one earbud. Tinny too loud music blared from it as TJ asked, “Did you want something?”
It was impossible to miss the sullen tones of his voice or the angry set of his jaw.
She had seen a similar irritated position on the face of TJ’s biological father, Fisher Yates, as he stood in his dress Army uniform outside the church with his brother — her fiancé. Fisher had looked far more attractive than he should have. As she had raced out into the midst of the bedlam occurring on the steps of the chapel, her gaze had connected with Fisher’s stony glare for just a few seconds.
A few seconds too long.
When she had announced to Jericho that it was okay for him to go handle the incident and that they could postpone the wedding on that day, she had seen the change in Fisher’s gaze.
She wasn’t sure if it had been relief at first, although that was what she had thought that it was. But the emotion that followed and lingered there far longer had been something possibly more dangerous.
There was no relief in TJ’s gaze as he glared at her. Just anger.
“Are you ready for this?” she repeated calmly, shooting him a glance from the corner of her eye as she drove to the center of town.
The loose black t-shirt TJ wore barely shifted with his indifferent shrug. “Do I have any choice?”
Choice? Did anyone really have many choices in life? she thought, recalling how she would have chosen not to get pregnant by Fisher. Or lose her husband Tim to cancer. Or have a loving and respectful son turn into the troublesome seventeen-year old hellion sitting beside her in the car.
“You most certainly have choices, TJ. You could have failed your math class or gone to those tutoring sessions. Coach Wilson could have asked that you do time in juvie instead of community service. And now — ”
“I’ll have to stay out of trouble by working at the ranch since you decided not to marry Sheriff Yates.”
It had been Jericho who had convinced the man who had been both his and Tim’s old baseball coach to spare TJ a juvenile record for the incident which had resulted in rolls and rolls of toilet paper all over his prized landscaping and a mangled mailbox which had needed to be replaced.
“After postponing the wedding, I realized that I was getting married for all the wrong reasons. So, I chose not to go ahead with the wedding and I’m glad that I did. It gave Jericho the chance to find someone he truly loves,” she said, clasping and unclasping her hands on the wheel as she pulled into a spot in front of the post office on Main Street.
“I told you before that I don’t need another dad,” he said, but his words were followed by another shrug as TJ’s head dropped down. “Not that Jericho isn’t a nice guy. He’s just not my dad.”
Macy killed the engine, cradled her son’s chin and applied gentle pressure to urge his head upward. “I know you miss him. I do, too. It’s been six long years without him, but he wouldn’t want you to still be unhappy.”
“And you think working at the ranch with some gnarly surfer dude from California will make me happy?” He jerked away from her touch and wagged one hand in the familiar hang loose surfer sign.
She dropped her hands into her lap and shook her head, biting back tears and her own anger. As a recreational therapist, she understood the kinds of emotions TJ was venting with his aggressive behavior. Knew how to try to get him to open up about his feelings.
But as a mother, the attitude was nevertheless frustrating.
“Jewel tells me Joe, Jr. is a great kid and he’s your age. Maybe you’ll find that you have something in common.”
Without waiting for his reply, she grabbed her purse and rushed out of the car, crossed the street and made a bee line for the door of Miss Sue’s. She had promised her boss, Jewel Mayfair, that she would stop to pick up some of the restaurant’s famous sticky buns for the kids currently residing at the Hopechest Ranch.
When she reached the door to the restaurant, however, she realized he was there.
Decorated soldier, Jericho’s older brother and unknown to him or anyone else in town, TJ’s real dad. Only her husband Tim had known, but as honorable as he had been, he had kept the secret to his grave.
The morning that had started out so-so due to TJ’s moodiness just went to bad. She would have no choice but to acknowledge Fisher on her way to the take out counter in the back of the restaurant. Especially since he looked up and noticed her standing there. His green-eyed gaze narrowed as he did so and his full lips tightened into a grim line.
He really should loosen up and smile some more, she thought, recalling the Fisher of her youth who had always had a ready grin on his face for her, Tim and Jericho.
Although she couldn’t blame him for his seeming reticence around her. She had done her best to avoid him during the entire time leading up to the wedding. Had somehow handled being around him during all the last minute preparations, being polite but indifferent whenever he was around. It was the only way to protect herself against the emotions which lingered about Fisher.
In the week or so since she and Jericho had parted ways, it had been easier since she hadn’t seen Fisher around town all that much and knew it was just a matter of time before he was back on duty and her secret would be safe again.
She ignored the niggle of guilt that Fisher didn’t know about TJ. Or that as a soldier, he risked his life with each mission and might not ever know that he had a son. Over the years she had told herself it had been the right decision to make not just for herself, but for Fisher as well. Jericho had told her more than once over the years how happy his older brother was in the Army. How it had been the perfect choice for him.
As much as the guilt weighed heavily on her at times, she could not risk any more problems with her son by revealing such a truth now.
TJ had experienced enough upset in his life lately and he was the single most important thing in her life. She would do anything to protect him. To see him smile once again.
Which included staying away from Fisher Yates no matter how much she wanted to put things to right between them.
Check out the video trailer for SOLDIER’S SECRET CHILD
Available December 2006 from Silhouette Romantic Suspense