Excerpt Monday Back to McGuffey’s by Liz Flaherty

I am so excited to have a new book out. Well, it will be out October 1, but go ahead and pre-order–I’ll wait. http://www.amazon.com/Back-McGuffeys-Liz-Flaherty-ebook/dp/B00JZFL4LA or http://www.harlequin.com/storeitem.html?iid=54433 or http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/back-to-mcguffeys-liz-flaherty/1119355585?ean=9781460341346

It’s Number Nine (sounds like the Beatles Revolution-ing, doesn’t it?) and I swear it gets photomore exciting every time!This is my first time with Harlequin Heartwarming and I am so happy to be there. Isn’t that a snazzy cover?

Here’s the blurb:

The one that got away

Could Kate Rafael’s day get any worse? First she lost her job, then her house burned down and now her ex is back in town. Apparently, Ben McGuffey’s taking a break from being a big-city doctor to help at his family’s tavern and reassess the choices he’s made for his career. Ben ends up giving Kate a hand…then giving her kisses…and finally, a second chance. But when a local teenager shows them both a glimpse of what it means to be a family, Ben wonders if having kids in small-town Vermont would clash with his ambitions. Or can he truly come home again…to Kate?

And here’s the excerpt. I hope you like it

She put down the pizza, drawing a new realization from his words. She felt almost the same way she’d felt that night thirteen years ago. They’d sat at what had always been their table in McGuffey’s and he’d said, “I think we need to give ourselves a break.” She’d agreed, because it had been hard for both of them right then to maintain a relationship. But she’d known It Was Over, capital letters included. She’d even written in her journal that night, “It Is Over.”

She wished she hadn’t eaten the pizza so fast, no matter how hungry she’d been. It was sitting in her stomach like lead. If it rolled over, she was going to have to make a mad dash for the bathroom. Because it wasn’t going to stay down. Gluttony, she remembered a little late, is one of the seven deadly sins.

“You’re going back now, aren’t you?” she said when the words would come out. They sounded strangled. “Back to Boston for keeps, not just a day or two a week.”

He didn’t look at her. “It’s time. My partners in the practice have been extremely patient, but they’re ready for some time off themselves. It’s hard to work around someone who’s only there a day or two a week.”

“I’m sure it is.” She scheduled people to cover situations like that—she knew how hard it was. One of the pleasures of running A Day at a Time was calming the hysterical voice of the person who called her when every employee they had seemed to have caught the flu at the same time.

Ben’s partners and their spouses had been at Tim’s funeral and the wake afterward. They were all nice people, though even Jayson had noticed the differences. “They’re not from here. They dress funny.” They had all worn dark, somber colors, unlike the people who’d known Tim best, who’d worn every color in the rainbow and all the ones in between.

“Have you talked to Jayson?” she asked.

Ben went into the kitchen, coming back with more soda for her and a beer for himself. “Not yet. I don’t know how to make him understand. He doesn’t get it yet that Pop’s gone, don’t you think?”

She’d held Jayson when he cried at the funeral. She’d talked to him about heaven and how Tim felt better now. She’d told him Tim wouldn’t be lonely and could ride a bicycle any time he wanted to. He’d picked flowers they’d had to take out to the cemetery right that minute even though it was raining and cold. He’d been so distraught he’d turned corners on his bicycle without thought. When he’d realized what he’d done, he’d promptly fallen off. Oh, yes, he got it.

He would get that Ben was leaving him, too. He would grasp quickly that coming back weekends sometimes wasn’t the same as living in the suite over the garage. He would know Ben didn’t have time to teach him to play pool or ride with him for aimless hours.

Jayson’s memory was selective and he could be temperamental. His speech was sometimes difficult to understand. He was hard on one’s patience. But he was loving and kind and he felt things with every bit as much intensity as someone who didn’t have Down syndrome.

He would know Ben was leaving him. He would get it.

So did Kate.

“You’ll just have to tell him.” She sipped from her soda. Her eyes felt dry, as though she’d taken an allergy pill when she didn’t need it, and she tried to blink moisture into them. “He’ll understand after a while. It’s just a lot of loss for him to grasp all at once.”

For her, too. Walking into McGuffey’s without Tim there still felt like a biting gust of cold wind. The black vest he’d always worn over his spotless white shirt still hung near the end of the bar. No one had been able to move it yet.

“I’ll miss you.”

Ben’s words lay between them like the pieces of pizza crust. She thought at first he hadn’t really said them, that maybe she’d just wanted to hear them.

As though he knew what she was thinking—he probably did know—he said, “I will. I’ve always missed you.”

“I’ll miss you, too.”

She would miss him as she always had before this summer, deep in the place in her heart she kept closed. It had opened for a while over the previous months. Aired out. Old love had become new and valued friendship. It had become more than that, but she wouldn’t think about that part right now.

They were good at being friends and she would treasure that. They’d be able to have long telephone conversations, dance at McGuffey’s on the weekends he came to visit his mother and maybe even attend a few Celtics games if she could get away from A Day at a Time long enough to make the trip to Boston.

“We used to talk about that.”

Only when he said, “About what?” did she realize she’d spoken. Good grief, where was her mind? First she wasn’t sure he had said something and now she was saying things she didn’t mean to.

“Um…I don’t remember.”

Because if she told him, he’d feel obligated to invite her down to go to a Celtics game with him, and that was more than she could bear. Friendship was fine—obligation was not.

“Do you remember when Penny got pregnant our senior year and she and Dan snuck off and got married during spring break?” she asked suddenly.

He snorted. “Of course I remember. We snuck off with them to be their witnesses. We were in such deep trouble when we got home that we said we might as well have been the ones who got pregnant.”

“Do you ever look at Samantha and wish we had?” She did, almost every time she looked at their beautiful goddaughter, but it wasn’t her she was talking about now. It was him.

Ben hesitated. “Not that, no. Do I look at her and wish things between us were different? You bet.” He clasped Kate’s hands and looked into her eyes. “But I was all about me then, about skiing in the Olympics and maybe eventually becoming a doctor. You remember that—Dylan was a better boyfriend after I went to UVM than I was.” He frowned, looking as though he wanted to say something else—something different. But then his face changed, the expression lightening. “If we’d gotten pregnant, we wouldn’t have been the statistic Penny and Dan are. We’d have been the other one, the ones that end up divorced and hating each other before they’re old enough to drink. Not because of you, Katy, but because of me.”

She knew what he meant. If there’d been a little McGuffey on the way, Ben would have “done right by her.” They’d have gotten married, but it would have been because he felt obligated. Though she still believed they had loved each other, marriage and parenthood would never have worked. Even then, combined with love, obligation wouldn’t have been fine. It wouldn’t have been close to enough.

“You’re not all about you now.” It was almost begging. She knew that. And she hated that she was saying the words, but it didn’t stop her. We could still be parents. Good parents. Even if we’re not in love anymore, we’re friends and we’re good at it. And we’re more. I know we’re more.

Regret reset the lines of grief that had been in his face when he arrived, the ones that made him look weary and every minute of his age. “I’m thirty-nine, getting scary close to forty. I don’t want to be a dad with a baby who’ll graduate from college after I retire. Maybe that’s selfish. Maybe I am still all about me and just don’t want to see it. But I know fatherhood’s a ship that’s already sailed for me.” He lifted her hands to his lips, kissing her fingers. “I’m sorry. One more time, I’m sorry not to be who you need. Who you deserve.”

All that was missing, she thought later, staring through the skylight that was over her bed, was the music in the background and the passionate good-night kisses and half promises that the breakup was only temporary.

She’d wept after he left with his usual request that she lock the door after him, quiet tears that made Sally climb into her lap and pat her face with a sympathetic paw. “I’ve cried more in the past two weeks than I have in the past two years,” she told the cat.

She even wrote in her journal as she had thirteen years before. It Is Over.



Excerpt Monday Back to McGuffey’s by Liz Flaherty — 6 Comments

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