Authors: Jill Sanders
To Katie life was simple, she wanted; a little house in upper Boston, and four kids, fathered by her best friend, who she’s been infatuated with since she was eight. After a devastating family secret is exposed, all she wants now is to escape the media hype that follows her everywhere she turns. Leaving her family, friends, and Jason behind, she travels to places she’s only read about, to find a father she’s never known.
Jason is on a mission and he’s come half-way around the world to complete it. Despite his feelings for Katie, he won’t let her resistance detour him, even if it means she’ll never trust him again. As their world spirals out of control, their relationship will be tested and changed forever. If he can only keep them alive and out of harms way, he may have a chance to make everything right.
Other titles by Jill Sanders
– Pride Series #1
– Pride Series #2
– Pride Series #3
– Pride Series #4
– Prequel to Pride Series #5
Red Hot Christmas
– A Pride Christmas #6
– Secret Series #1
– Secret Series #2
– Secret Series #3
– Secret Series #4
– Secret Series #5
– Secret Series #6
– Secret Series #7
– Secret Series #8
Cowgirls Ride Harder
– Book one Cowgirls Series
Cowgirls Ride Faster
– Book two
Cowgirls Ride Longer
– Book three Cowgirls Series
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 Jill Sanders
Edited by Erica Ellis – http://ericaellisfreelance.com
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
To my extended family.
There are too many of you to list,
but you know who you are…
Katie Derby sat across from Jason and wondered why she had agreed to meet him at the coffee shop. She’d been embarrassed since Lynda’s party several weeks ago when she’d gotten drunk and admitted to him all the years she’d had secret feelings for him. Then she had topped it off with a stupid kiss. One that he had held still through, very still. It had been apparent to her that he didn’t feel the same way about her. Now she sat fidgeting with her napkin in her lap, wishing to be anywhere else on the planet.
“It’s not that… Well, it’s just that… I had never…” He was mumbling and she could tell he was terrified. His beautiful blue eyes were searching her face.
“Jason,” she interrupted him, trying to explain before he said something that would rip her heart out, “I don’t want you to think – well, I was very drunk. It was just a mistake. I don’t want there to be any weirdness between us.” A little part of her heart broke off and floated to the floor when he looked almost relieved.
Before he could respond, her cell phone rang. Seeing her brother’s number, she hit ignore. Not two seconds later, she saw her father’s number and she hit ignore again.
Looking back at Jason, she noticed the fear in his eyes and could already tell the weirdness between them had settled in. She took a deep breath, but wanted to pound her head on the table.
“Katie, I don’t know…” Her phone rang for a third time. Looking down she saw her mother’s number.
“I’m sorry, Jason, I better…” she nodded to her phone.
“Sure.” He looked like he wanted to bolt for the door.
“Hello, Mom, what’s so important?” she answered, stepping away from the table and walking towards the back of the almost empty coffee shop.
“Katie, oh thank God you answered. I wanted to talk to you before you heard a bunch of lies from anyone else.”
Her mother cleared her throat and then continued on. “Well, sweetie, first of all, I wanted to tell you something, because I know it’s going to come out very soon, and I thought you would want to hear the truth instead of the lies that are going around on the news, or hearing something completely false from the police.”
Katie waited, knowing that she wouldn’t be able to interrupt her mother once she had started.
“Twenty-six years ago, after your father and I had a huge falling out, I went to Italy to recover from the pain your father had caused, and … well… I had an affair with a man named Damiano Cardone. We had a son. I left them in Italy to come back and divorce your father, but he… well, we didn’t get a divorce. Anyway, I kept in touch with them, and in a roundabout way, Damiano and I are married. Well, that’s not the important part. Four years later I visited them and when I returned back home, I realized I was pregnant again and … well… this time I had you. Obviously it was too late to keep it from your father, since he had already found out I was pregnant. He was just so happy about it.”
Katie felt herself starting to hyperventilate.
“I just couldn’t break your father’s heart, so I made him believe you were his. Damiano Cardone is your biological father, honey, not Rodrick. I’m sorry I had to tell you over the…” Katie dropped her phone. Her ears were ringing and her vision grayed around the edges. Jason was beside her, yelling at her to breathe. The last thing she saw before she passed out were Jason’s blue eyes, hovering over her.
atie sat in the soft sand on the beach and thought about her life as the sun was setting. A strong and independent woman, she thought she knew what she wanted out of life. But then last year her mother had thrown a wrench into her carefully laid out plans. It had been a year since she’d seen or talked to anyone from her past life. The only thing that she still wanted, and had always wanted, was Jason.
Jason Keaton had been her best friend, and for one wonderful year, her roommate. He was the only man Katie had ever wanted to be with.
Now as she watched the sun setting over the water, she knew she had been naive. She had spent years of her life trusting people, only to find out that they had all been using her. Her friends had quickly turned on her, her mother had lied to her, Jason had even… well, that was more complicated. She didn’t want to think about Jason. She’d tried and tried not to think about him for the last year.
Now she was sitting on a beautiful beach in a foreign country watching the bright colors of the sunset, and all she had to her name was the small backpack of clothes on her back. No apartment, no furniture, no friends, no one to tie her down.
She’d been to more places than she could count since leaving the states, from Paris to Madrid, and Berlin to Athens. She had spent the last year crisscrossing Europe, and enjoying every minute of her venture.
The next day she had plans to meet her biological father, Damiano Cardone, for the first time. She didn’t know who to trust anymore, so she had kept to herself since her mother’s big reveal.
She didn’t know if she would keep her meeting with her real father, or as she liked to call him, her biological daddy, or BD for short. The meeting was scheduled for the next day in his Athens office building. He owned one of Europe’s largest businesses, New Edges. There were even branches of the business in the US run by his son, her biological brother Dante. Katie didn’t quite know what the company did. Export, she thought, but she knew he was as powerful as the man who’d raised her was.
Rodrick Derby, the man she still thought of as her real dad (RD for short) had been just as deceived as she had. Believing his wife had been faithful to him for almost thirty years, he had raised Katie, not knowing the secrets his wife had been keeping.
Turning her thoughts to the other man who’d been lied to for years, she thought of what she could possibly say to Damiano. What could he say to her? They had both been robbed. Robbed of time and knowledge of each others existence by a woman she no longer wanted to call her own flesh and blood.
Just then she heard a noise and quickly looked over her shoulder. The beach had grown darker and she couldn’t see anything or anyone around her. The quiet beach was deserted. She could hear the surf hit the soft sand and enjoyed the mellow rhythm. She sat near the edge of the tall grass and looked to where the noise had come from, behind her, near the tree line. She realized this part of the beach was too far off the pathway for it to be another tourist. It might have been a local, or a deer or some other kind of animal.
She realized she was sitting alone in the dark, so she quickly stood up, dusted the sand from her jeans, and picked up her backpack. She started to walk back towards civilization and a row of hotels that she knew where just inside town. The tall buildings were lined up along the horseshoe-shaped beach and were no doubt full of tourists. Instead of stopping and getting a room when she’d gotten into town, she’d walked by them, straight to the beach, which had called to her. She’d walked right by all the happy families and couples enjoying the warm water and hot sun on the beach until she’d felt satisfied she’d worked out a few things in her mind. She’d ended up on the deserted part of the beach, alone.
She was desperately trying to find some answers to who she was, what she now wanted out of life. It had taken just over a year for her to contact Damiano. He was her biological father, and she was curious to meet the man.
When she had contacted him, Katie had been insistent that she didn’t want her mother, Kathleen, there when she met him, so they had arranged a meeting at his Athens office. Damiano’s voice had been strong, deep, and rich, and even with his accent, his words were easily discernible. He sounded eager for the meeting and she could tell he was just as nervous as she was.
She’d traveled to Athens via train and bus in under a week. But when she’d arrived, she had continued southwest until she’d hit the coastal town of Alimos. It was just a quick twenty minute drive to Athens and Damiano’s office, but she felt a little more level-headed staying outside the larger city, in a smaller, more secluded area.
Walking out of the tall grass area, she hit the soft, smooth sand and heard a twig snap right behind her. When she turned around to look, there was nobody around. Turning and picking up her pace a little more, she tried to keep her mind occupied by remembering the multiple day train ride south she’d taken. It had been a very nervous trip for her.
When she had left Denmark, her heart was light, her pulse pounding with adrenaline and excitement. She couldn’t wipe the eager look off her face. A few days later, by the time she’d reached Greece, her feelings of excitement had been replaced with nervous dread. Her palms were sweaty, her face flushed, and she couldn’t sit still in her seat. The beautiful scenery that passed her by in the train’s large windows just didn’t hold her interest anymore. She would sit and stare out at it, unseeing. Instead, visions of the meeting to come flashed before her eyes. What would he look like? Did she look like him? Would he be kind? How would she greet him? Should she give him a hug? Would he cry?
Several times, she had felt like everyone on the train had been watching her. After all, her face had been on every news channel last year in America. She’d had a hard time going anywhere without people pointing at her. When she’d gone to classes, the kids would make fun of her. Even at the grocery store, people in line would see her face on the tabloids and then look at her. Sometimes she would see a mix of pity and amusement in their faces. It wasn’t as if she’d asked for all the attention, unlike some of the other women she’d seen on those same tabloids. She’d been thrust into overnight stardom thanks to her mother’s infidelity and her family name.
Being the daughter of Rodrick Derby, the second of the prominent New England Derby’s, was big news on its own. But when it turned out that she was actually the daughter of Damiano Cardone, entrepreneur of New Edges, a multimillion dollar company, she became even bigger news.
On the train trip there, she’d thought about getting off and heading someplace else. But she had never chickened out before in life and wasn’t about to start now, so she had continued on her path. She didn’t consider leaving the US as running away; instead she chose to think of it as a necessary break.
She looked back down the beach to where she’d just come from, trying to see if someone or something was following her. She couldn’t see anything except the water reflecting off the dark sky. Since it was a new moon, the clear sky was filled just with stars which, although bright, were not bright enough to light up the dark beach. It was too dark to see if there was anyone around. She felt the cool breeze hit her face and smelled the salt water and sand in the air. Although it was warm, she felt a shiver travel up her spine. She pulled her jacket closed and tried to keep her eyes and mind focused on the bright lights ahead of her.
Maybe there was a journalist following her? After all, the media had been almost unbearable back in the States; she’d been followed, photographed, and questioned every time she’d left her small dorm room back in Boston. They had exploited every detail of her life, including her friends, her party habits, and even the classes she was taking. They especially focused on the fact that she’d been going to school there for five years with no real end in sight. She had felt like her whole life was under a microscope.
The betrayal of her close friends had been immediate. For weeks after, they could be seen on every news station telling her life story and every detail of their friendship to anyone who would pay them enough. Even Brenda, her very best friend since second grade, had been seen on TMZ, exposing Katie’s party habits. She had even told them that Katie didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. But it had taken seeing Jason’s face on the television to make her pack a small bag and buy a one-way ticket to Europe.
That night, she had watched as he exited his car outside his dorm room, his dark sandy hair looking like he’d just run his hands through it. He hadn’t shaved that morning, which always gave him a rough, boyish look Katie loved. He had been walking to the door when a swarm of reporters started yelling questions at him.
“How long have you and Katie Derby been seeing each other?” one shouted.
“When are you and Katie getting married?” another one could be heard.
“What is your relationship with Katie Derby?”
She could tell that the questions had taken him by surprise. Instead of keeping his head down, he looked into the camera. It seemed to take forever for him to start answering. Katie had gotten so upset when she heard his reply.
He had looked so dumb-founded, his blue eyes searching the crowd like he didn’t know what was happening.
“Katie and I are just fr…”
He stuttered, almost as if it had taken all his conscious thought to try and figure out their relationship. She knew what they were, she could easily shout it from every roof top. How hard could it be to say it to a bunch of strangers? They were best friends.
She’d been hurt, so hurt, that when she had slammed off the television, interrupting his statement, she had pushed the button so hard that it had caused the small set to fall off the stand. The set had wobbled at first and she thought about trying to catch it, but then she watched as it fell forward and landed hard, shattering the display in a million pieces. Glass and plastic had fallen all over her black-and-white polka dot rug, and she realized she didn’t care.
Several girls stopped in the hallway and looked at her, then continued on their way, giggling, and no doubt talking about her.
That was the last time she had seen anyone she knew -- her friends, her family. She hadn’t even officially dropped out of school.
She packed her small backpack, leaving everything behind: her new iPhone, her laptop, her designer clothes and shoes, everything. She took a cab to the airport and booked the next flight out, which just happened to be to Paris.
She had spent the last year of her life traveling around Europe, spending her savings, not once touching the credit cards from her old life.
She’d seen places she had always wanted to visit. Even though she kept to the smaller towns, the cheaper hotels, and the inexpensive restaurants, she had still been enjoying herself. And the main thing was, she’d kept her mind off her problems, at least when she’d kept busy.
Every time she had had some downtime over the last year, she had always reverted back to thinking about the betrayal, about her mother, her friends, and most importantly, Jason. She tried not to think about her problems too often. She wasn’t really wallowing in pity, more like taking a break from reality.
Looking around her, she felt a little relieved that she’d hit the main pathway back into town. Here the wood planks of the walkway creaked under her feet. She could barely see the path leading to the lights and safety of the small city and couldn’t even see her own feet in front of her, causing her to stumble a few times on uneven planks jutting out from the path. She thought she heard a board creak behind her and turned quickly to look. Seeing nothing, she quickened her pace. Was someone following her? She felt like she was being toyed with. In all her time being alone in Europe, she’d never felt threatened or scared. Now, however, she would have done anything to have a friend with her.