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- Secret Child
- Single Mom
- Step-Sibling Romance
- Second Chance Romance
Sometimes the only way forward is to go back home.
Alana loves her job as the reporter for the local newspaper and she's made a life for herself despite big odds. The last thing she expects when she walks into the newspaper office one rainy afternoon is to find her nomadic ex-boyfriend Kyle in the head photographer's chair.
Kyle has never forgotten the girl he left behind when he started working as a freelance photographer. Now he's ready to settle down and reconnect with his family—and to see if there's still a spark between him and Alana. He’s not prepared for the secret she’s been hiding from him all these years.
Intro into Chapter One
Intro into Chapter One
“Whoever made up the rhyme about April showers didn’t live in the Rockies.” As she emerged from her car, Alanna Jenkins yanked up the hood of her coat to protect her hair from the swirling snow flakes in the newspaper parking lot. A cold breeze blew down her neck and made her shiver. After a long winter, she always wondered why she had chosen to settle back home in Juniper Ridge instead of near a beach in California. This was no exception.
Others were returning from lunch breaks and Alanna grimaced at her tardiness. Her editor, Doug Casell, would want to know where she’d been all morning. If she hadn’t left her cell phone charger at work the previous evening, she would’ve been able to check in with him.
She greeted the editorial department’s office manager, waved to the ladies in classifieds, and avoided making eye-contact with Bob in advertising.
Alanna slid into her desk and plugged in her cell. With any luck, Doug would remember her morning’s appointment. That was probably too much to hope though.
The phone on her desk rang. “Chronicle, this is Alanna, how can I help you?”
“So you decided to come in?” It was Doug’s voice on the line.
“I’ve been in interviews. I told you where I’d be.”
“Yes, but you didn’t mention you were going to be incommunicado.”
“Sorry. My cell died. It’s charging and I’m writing the story now.” She made clicking noises with her keyboard to solidify the excuse, even though it hadn’t finished booting up yet.
“Good, I’ll expect it by day’s end. I have the new head photographer in here. He’s going to shoot your appointment this afternoon. Would you join us?”
Alana was relieved. The newspaper’s head photographer had quit without notice several weeks earlier and the remaining two had been spread pretty thin. Alanna had learned a thing or two about taking pictures when she was in college, but she was no expert. “Terrific, I’ll be right there.” Alanna adjusted the lapels on her lavender suit jacket, finger-combed her hair to make sure it wasn’t sticking out in odd directions, and tried to look confident as she walked around the cubicles to Doug’s office.
“Alanna, how are you doing today?” Bob greeted her as she rushed around a corner and nearly knocked into him. He wore an expectant smile.
She rushed past before he could try to ask her out. “Great, busy, busy. Doug’s waiting on me.” Alanna waved over her shoulder at the advertising manager and shot toward the glass doors enclosing Doug’s office. Two steps into the room her expression froze and her last step faltered. It had been a long time since she had mistaken someone else for him, but she still had to take a second, long look before she was sure.
What is he doing here? She couldn’t breathe when she looked into his dark eyes, saw the rough angles of his face, and the shock of red hair she’d loved against all sense—red hair had no right to be so sexy on a man. It was probably good she stopped breathing since the words running through her mind were definitely not office appropriate. She had the urge to step back and protect herself, or to drive him off now while there was still time.
Kyle was completely at ease, however, and smiled as if no time at all had passed since they’d seen each other instead of the years and betrayal that spanned between them. “Hey, Ahnna. Long time, no see.”
The jerk. How could his British accent and smooth baritone still do funny things to her stomach?
Doug stepped into the breach and clapped a hand on Kyle’s shoulder. “I understand you know Kyle.” A massive understatement, though he couldn’t possibly know the whole truth. “We’re very lucky he wanted to settle down for a while and was willing to come here. He said he can start this afternoon. Do me a favor and show him around.”
Alanna’s tongue started working again. “What do you mean?” Her gaze shifted from Kyle, where it had been glued, to her boss. “You can’t honestly be saying he’s the new head photog?” Panic rushed through her. He couldn’t stay; how was she supposed to keep her secret if he stayed?
“Surprise.” Kyle’s voice was dry, but he looked amused.
It didn’t make sense. Kyle had been out taking photos in Tanzania or something last time she’d heard—which had been a while, admittedly, as she didn’t make a habit of asking about him. His pictures were sought after by the biggest magazines and he’d even been a major contributor to a couple coffee table books. Why would he choose to move to the middle-of-nowhere? “Why?”
Doug answered for him, “He says he wants to spend more time with family—but you probably know all about that.”
Alanna thought Doug was an amazingly unobservant man for a newspaper editor if he’d missed the tension in the air. “Right. Of course.” She stared Kyle down. He hadn’t said a word about relocating—not one word—and if his father had known he was coming to town, surely he would have told her.
“Great, he’s going with you on your assignment this afternoon. Now, skedaddle. I have some calls to make.” Doug circled behind his desk, “Oh, and Alanna, try to keep your phone charged.”
“I’ll do better.” Alanna’s mind swam as she turned into the hallway. Her head was bursting with images of the last time she’d seen Kyle, of the sadness on his father’s face when Kyle’s name came up—an event which happened with less frequency as time passed. This despite the fruit of his labors always being in prominent display on the coffee table. She blinked and mentally wiped at the memories, pushing them away for now. Focus. ”We’ll do a brief tour and I’ll let you get to work. Things have been a bit out of sorts since Ben quit.” She kept in the half laugh that wanted to escape when she realized Ben quit this job to freelance while Kyle gave up a successful freelancing career to take the position at the newspaper.
“I’d appreciate it.” Kyle followed without pushing her for conversation as she pointed out the different departments. His easy grace and British accent charmed everyone he met, but she had to grind her teeth to keep from saying anything she shouldn’t.
Alanna didn’t meet his eye, didn’t even look his way if she could help it as she made introductions to Carla, editor of the sports department, and Vaughn in composing. She ended at his desk. “Here’s your computer. If you’ve already had your papers processed for the job, you can probably pop over to George’s office to have him set up your account.” She gestured to the IT office two doors down.
“Thanks. I will.” He slid his hands into the pockets of his dress pants and studied her with a familiar warmth in his eyes.
“Good.” She picked up a paperclip from his desk and fiddled with it so she’d have something to look at besides him. “My appointment with the city councilwoman and the hotelier is at three. Meet me at a quarter till.” She turned and strode toward her desk.
“Ahnna.” Kyle’s voice was a soft protest.
She ignored him and continued on, swinging by the bathroom first so she could have a private moment. Alanna barricaded herself in the closest stall and squeezed her eyes shut, releasing the hot tears which had been burning to get out for the past twenty minutes. How could Kyle do this—now of all times? How could he show up as if nothing had changed? Did he expect all would be forgiven?
She couldn’t pretend her worry was for his father and how he would feel to have his wandering son return without notice—Mark would be thrilled, as he should be. All of her concern was for herself—her and Danyella.
Last time Kyle had stayed for more than a week he had ripped Alanna’s heart to shreds. Though he was her stepbrother, they hadn’t been raised together, and since before she was old enough to know what hero worship was, he’d been her idol. Then they’d become friends and her admiration had grown. And finally, after years of loving him and dreaming of an improbable future, they’d become much more than friends.
In the end he’d left and never looked back.