Always You by Ruth Roberts
After tragedy strikes, Diana Mathison finds herself back in her home town of Magnolia Falls, sharing custody of her baby sister with her step sister. Reeling from the death of their parents, the three sisters have to learn how to lean on each other and live life without their two pillars of strength. Diana is full of doubts in her ability to raise a little girl and run her father’s law firm. The last thing she needs is to have Zack Connelly back in her life. The last time she let him in she ended up hurt and broken hearted.
Zack has given up on true love. It’s not for him and it’s certainly not with Diana Mathison. He came back to Magnolia Falls to heal after losing his sweet wife and their unborn child at the hands of a drunk driver. Hannah never had a chance at the love and happiness she deserved, therefore neither should he. His life plan is to take care of his sister and niece for as long as they need him, and to be the best veterinarian the town has ever had. That’s enough for him…or is it?
CHOOSE JUST ONE – BEFORE POSTING DELETE THE OTHER 4 as well as this line.
She leaned against the counter and began filling them out. “How much do I owe you?” She asked.
“Dinner,” he replied.
She looked up at him with a raised brow. “Excuse me?”
“You owe me the dinner you promised me ten years ago, with interest I’d say you owe me somewhere around one hundred dinners.” He put his elbows on the counter between them and leaned towards her, bringing their faces close together. “I’m free Friday if you want to start chipping away at that debt.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
She stood up straight and pushed the completed forms toward him. “That should do it.” She gathered up her purse and keys she had set on the counter. “I’ll thank you now for the puppy because at two in the morning when it has me up with its whining and howling, I will be anything but thankful. In fact, I will probably be cursing you.”
She smiled, but it didn’t quite have the same flash as before, and he felt a web of disappointment she hadn’t responded the way he wanted her to. But he wasn’t planning on giving up that easily. “You’re welcome. And if you need any help at two in the morning or just want the satisfaction of knowing I’m not getting any sleep either, call me.”
“I just might do that. See you around, Zack.”
“Sure thing,” he said as she walked through the door.
She stopped, turned around, and leaned against the door jam. A smile touched the corners of her lips. “Dinner’s at seven. Don’t be late.”
The girls ran off. Zack and Diana were left looking at each other. Neither spoke.
“I think I’ll move to a safer area before I get singed by the fireworks,” Jen said.
They turned to look at her. Both had forgotten she was there. “There aren’t any fireworks, Jen,” Diana said, confused.
“Sure there are, hon. You just haven’t seen them yet.” She patted Diana’s arm and walked away.
Diana felt her face get hot as understanding dawned. “She didn’t mean us, did she?”
“Afraid so.” Zack’s lips twitched with barely contained amusement. “If you wanted to ask me out you didn’t have to set the girls up to do it,” he teased.
“I seem to remember you asking me to dinner,” Diana said. Did the man eat testosterone for breakfast? He looked delicious. His khaki shorts made his tan legs look lean and muscular, and with a red, button-down shirt and brown leather sandals, he looked like he was ready for a walk on the beach.
“So how did I end up at your house with you making me dinner?” He winked at her.
“Touché,” Diana said.
“However, you do have the set up part right. But it wasn’t me. It was Jillian who got the girls to set us up on a date.”
“Oh.” She suddenly felt deflated. “You don’t have to go. I can take them. I’m sure you have better things to do with your Saturday night.”
“Better than taking the three prettiest girls in town to a movie? Not a chance. Cassidy and I will pick you both up at six.”
“You do realize it will be me going, not Liz?”
“Of course,” he said, confusion marring his brow.
“You said prettiest, I thought you meant Liz,” Diana said. He stopped walking and looked over at her. She found it hard to hold his gaze. She hated feeling vulnerable, being compared to Liz had always made her feel that way. Slowly he cupped her cheek. “I was talking about you. It’s always been you, never Liz. Got it?”
Had she ever seen that intense look in his eyes? She nodded. Message received all the way down to her toes. Jen had been right. There were fireworks, and she’d just gotten singed.
Diana was losing her patience. “What do you want, Liz?”
Liz didn’t say a thing, all Diana heard was a small sob come over the line. Her heart lurched. “Liz, what’s wrong?”
“It’s mom and dad.” Her voice had become soft. She was speaking past an obvious lump in her throat. “Their plane crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. They’re dead.” The sob coming over the phone felt like a punch in her gut.
Diana’s legs gave out, and she fell into her chair. Her own voice sounded far away as she heard herself ask, “Are you sure?”
“Yes. Dad was flying them out. They were going to spend a week celebrating their anniversary.” Their father had recently gotten his private pilot’s license. It was his latest hobby. “Was Jessica with them?” Diana held her breath as she waited for the answer.
“No. She’s with me. I was taking care of her while they were gone.”
Diana let out a sigh of relief, only to have it replaced by a wedge of pain lodge itself into her heart.
“Where are you?” Diana choked out.
“We’re at home. In Magnolia Falls.”
“I’ll get there as fast as I can,” Diana said.
“Yes. I’ll be there today.”
“Diana, please hurry. We need you,” Liz said, tearfully.
“I’m on my way.”
She heard the click of Liz hanging up yet she still sat with the phone to her ear, staring straight ahead, seeing only images of her father’s laughing face and her mother’s soft, patient smile. She was never going to see them again. The phone slid from her hand and clattered onto the floor. She covered her face with her hands and wept. Heart-wrenching sobs wracked her body, tears streamed down her face and through her fingers. If she cried like this for the rest of her life, there wouldn’t be enough tears to drown her grief. After twenty minutes of giving in to her pain she pulled herself together.
After dinner Zack took her to the falls. There was a long bridge crossing the water. They used to go there all the time as kids. That bridge was where Zack had asked her to Prom. The sound of water falling into the pool of water surrounded them. The moonlight reflected off the water. The night was slightly cool. Zack held her hand as they walked across the bridge. “Do you remember coming here during the summer? We would spend all day in the water,” said Zack.
“What I remember was my preteen antics to get you to notice me.” Diana almost winced remembering all her crazy antics.
“Oh, I noticed, but you were my sister’s best friend. My twin sister. I would have violated the twin code.”
“The twin code, huh. I’ve never heard of it.”
“That’s because only twins know what the twin code is.”
“Right. You know what I think Mr. Connelly? I think the twin code is non-existent.”
There was a breeze, and Diana shivered. Zack stopped them in the center of the bridge. He wrapped his arms around her. “Better?” He asked. Always the gentleman.
“Much,” Diana said. She laid her head on his chest and listened to the steady beat of his heart. In Zack’s arms she could almost forget all the pain and loss she had experienced. He made things right in a world that had gone so very wrong.
“Diana,” he said her name softly as his hand stroked up and down her back.
She lifted her head to look into his eyes. “Yes.”
“Today. That kiss. I’ve been waiting a long time to do that. Now that I have, I don’t think I ever want to stop.” He lowered his head to hers slowly, looking into her eyes. Giving her time to stop him. She leaned up on her tiptoes and met him halfway. When their lips met, it was with tenderness and love cultivated over a lifetime of friendship and shared experiences. This kiss was between two hearts that had long yearned for this very moment. The moment when two hearts would become forever linked as one.
He handed her a glass of red wine then busied himself at the stove with dinner. Diana watched him as she slowly sipped the wine. She enjoyed watching the muscles on his back stretch the fabric of his shirt when he bent over. A perusal of the view further down was even better.
He closed the oven, turned, and looked at her. A smile played on his lips as he slowly walked to her. He had caught her staring at his very sexy backside. “Miss Mathison, I do believe you were checking me out,” he said.
She held his piercing gaze. “And what if I was?”
He wrapped his arms loosely around her waist. “I have absolutely no objections. However, I’d say that entitles me to at least a kiss.”
“That sounds like a fair trade.” She wrapped her arms around his neck. He leaned down and captured her lips in a slow, teasing kiss meant to set her on fire. She was certain that was his goal because she felt herself being slowly consumed by heat only Zack could evoke in her. If he could do this to her with a kiss, she was afraid of what would happen if he made love to her. She’d probably go up in flames leaving a pile of ashes in his bed. That thought made her smile, almost making her laugh.
“Do you find my kisses laughable?” He asked.
“Not even remotely,” she said.
“Dare I ask why you were smiling when I was kissing you?”
She shook her head. “Believe me, you don’t want to know—well, maybe you would. But I’m not telling.”
“Ah, so it was something good. A fantasy that included me perhaps?”
Just then the timer on the oven began beeping. “Saved by the bell,” she said, lifting her glass of wine to her lips.
He shut off the timer and pulled dinner out of the oven and set it on the counter. “You aren’t getting off that easy. I’ll find out. Question is, should I use bribery or coercion?” He asked.
“Go for bribery,” she replied, outrageously.
“In that case—” He lifted a small bite of filet mignon to her lips with his fingers. She took the bite he offered, it tasted better than anything she ever had, possibly because it also had a taste of Zack.
“That is delicious. Anymore of that and you’ll soon have me revealing all my thoughts to you.”
“I want to know your thoughts, especially if they include me. I want to know what’s in your heart, particularly if there is a place for me. Because my thoughts and my heart are filled with you. Only you. Always you.”
Author Ruth Roberts
Romance novelist Ruth Roberts lives in the Big D, where city life abounds but the wide open spaces Texas is famous for are within easy reach. Her books transport readers to the glittering life of high-society, while making the characters normal, fun people we would all like to have as friends. She loves reading, writing and Gilmore Girls. She and her teenage daughter call themselves the real life Gilmore Girls. Her very own romantic hero of twenty years is her greatest inspiration and support.
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