By Jemma Ryken
Everyone has secrets.
Claramae Howards is no exception. Her secret is seven years old and starting to ask about
his dad—the love she could never get over. Pursuing her love of art brings her a world of
surprise and heartache…otherwise known as Julian’s father.
Reid Nyte gave up his heart for a chance at the Majors, but a shattered knee sends his
future down the drain. Now he’s taken over the family business, putting him on a path
back to Claramae.
Not everyone is happy that the old flames have found their way to each other again, and
dormant threats turn deadly. Claramae and Reid struggle to work through their past while
protecting their present and building a future.
Fate brought the couple back together, but will the threats looming over them tear them
Excerpt: Claramae wore a pink ruffle t-shirt and black knee-length skirt paired with black
heels. She disposed of her blunt roach in a nearby ashtray, crossing the road when her
playlist melded into the next song. That song. Claramae smashed the skip button, but
it was too late. Memories flooded back, causing her steps to falter. This is a mistake. What was
she doing trying to rent from his father? Jason Mraz may not have given up, but he most
Claramae willed herself to continue walking and stepped into the quaint family
restaurant chosen for the meeting, grateful to be out of the heat. She gave her name
to the host and butterflies took up dance lessons in her stomach, a faint buzz ringing
in her ears. Her palms started to sweat, her heart beating wildly as the host led her around
the corner and into the casual dining area.
Their eyes met, and suddenly they were alone in the room. Seven more years could have
gone by, and she would still recognize him in seconds.
What the fuck is he doing here?
Seeing him sitting there, after all this time, Claramae realized her dreams hadn’t done
him justice. He was a knockout, with an air of effortless confidence and indifference
surrounding him. His demeanour screamed yes, I’m hot as hell but complicated as fuck. And
just like when she was a teenager, he drew her in without so much as a word.
His blond hair was shorter and stuck out at the ears. Her gaze zeroed in on a small scar
over his left brow that hadn’t been there the last time they were together. Reid’s eyes
were as green as a lush forest. She watched them darken with an emotion she couldn’t
focus on, her head too busy spinning.
When did he come back? Did Mom know? Horror gripped her heart like a vice. Julian. Eyes
watering, she fought to keep her composure, but the tears broke through. She turned and
ran back out the door, bumping into a few patrons along the way.
Guilt slammed through her like a Mack truck. The last time she’d seen Reid was the night
before graduation. Reid never showed up for the ceremony, and she left shortly after
the celebration concluded, not feeling much like socializing. Claramae shuttled off to
college—not yet aware she was pregnant—questioning her decision to leave. She had
wanted to talk to Reid about it but never got the chance. Who ditches their own graduation?
Rounding the corner into an alleyway, she braced her hands against the brick wall.
Claramae heaved, but nothing came up. Tears continued down her cheeks. Is this what
dying feels like? Strong hands gripped her shoulders and heat soared down her arms,
the pressure of his body against hers sending tingles throughout her whole being.
Claramae’s head snapped up as she turned and stared at him, open-mouthed. She
hadn’t been called Mae in what felt like a lifetime. Seven years, to be exact. Her breath
caught, and her heart skipped a beat. She gripped his arms, needing to convince herself
that he was real while ensuring she wouldn’t fall on her face.
“Hi,” she squeaked. How did he still have this effect on her?
“Are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
The weed mixed with her emotional state caused her to titter humourlessly, unconvinced
she wasn’t dreaming. Maybe he is a ghost. Claramae laughed harder, studying every hard
line of his face. His nose was crooked from one too many fights, his face covered in a light
layer of scruff, round lips parted, his cheeks puffing rapidly and flashing his dimples.
Claramae imagined the drool hanging from the side of her mouth. His dimples still did
things to her. Reid had certainly beefed up in the past years. His crisp white dress
shirt looked ready to burst at the seams, and his black slacks bunched around tight, hard
muscle. Damn. He looked just as rugged and mouth-wateringly sexy as she remembered.
All six-feet-four of him.
“I think I have,” Claramae whispered when she’d calmed down enough, tearing her gaze
away from his kissable lips up to his intoxicating eyes.
Reid frowned. Wrapping a hand around her wrist, he ran his thumb along her bracelet.
“Let’s get you back inside. You’re really pale, cupcake.”
Claramae clung to him, basking in the tingling warmth she dreamt of experiencing again.
Inhaling his natural scent of mint and citrus, she sighed and stepped away, not expecting
the loss that rolled over her, or the magnetic pull to walk right back into his arms and stay
there forever, shutting out the world around them. It was almost like no time had passed
at all. Almost.
Reid flashed a dimpled grin and extended his hand to her, palm up. She took a deep
breath and held on, secretly grateful for the additional balance and the warmth that
spread its way down to the tips of her toes. He led her to their table, where a glass of
water sat next to a half-filled glass of white wine at each place setting.
She sat across from him, unable to tear her gaze away from his leaner jawline and alluring
lips. She drank in deep green eyes, eyes she knew all too well. They were Julian’s eyes.
Not the colour, of course, but they both appeared to have the ability to look straight
through a person. God, she missed those eyes, missed the burning intensity she felt
whenever they were directed at her. Claramae missed his hands on her, his lips kissing
every inch of skin. She hadn’t wanted another man since Reid, and right now, all she
wanted to do was jump him.
“Is this real?” She slapped a hand over her mouth, heat creeping up her cheeks. She did
not just ask that.
Jemma Ryken began her voyage into writing at a young age. She often has her nose in a book
or her head in the clouds. After taking courses in journalism, she came to the realization that
writing about soul mates and unbridled desire is her true purpose.
Jemma leads a simple and wonderful life. She’s a mother to a very curious little boy and has
lived in Ontario, Canada, her whole life.