Authors: Beverly Preston
~A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime~
This book is a work of fiction. All characters,
organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2013 by Beverly Preston
All rights reserved.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This
ebook may not be re-sold
or given away to other people. If you would like to share
this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each
recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to the retailer and purchase
your own copy.
Cover image by Rob Lang.
Cover designed by Linda Boulanger
Visit Beverly Preston at
Richard, my Tommy, my John
I love you
To Don, my husband
who loves me endlessly, thanks for cooking more often, putting up with a messy
house and sacrificing a few date nights while I took the time to write.
daughter, thank you for making wonderful dinners, you may truly be a chef one
My four kids, thanks
for allowing me to bounce questions off of you, no matter how absurd. Your
input proves to be invaluable to me.
Caylee, my oldest
daughter, words cannot express the gratitude I have for all of the time spent
helping me with final line edits. Even though the hours proved to be grueling,
I absolutely loved every minute. You are awesome! You are my rock, my best
To my family and
friends who supported me in my endeavors, gave me words of encouragement and
showed up with wine at the perfect time, your support and friendship are
priceless. Sandy Mohn, Sherrie Lee, Karen Collins, Jewel Peck, and Lynette
Owens, thanks for your support ladies!
Rob Lang and Linda
Boulanger for providing the photograph and design work to create a gorgeous
Paul Rega, thank you
for enlightening me in the art of self-promotion. Go team Pay It Forward!
I would also like to
thank Natascha at SPJ Editing, my friend and editor.
Ellen DeGeneres, I
hope you read this someday; without you there would be no dream.
To everyone who is
falling in love with The Mathews/Clemmins Family, I cannot thank you enough for
your patience, support and words of encouragement.
Clumps of firmly
packed sand fell from Shayla’s feet, leaving a trail of wet footprints across
the parking lot. Droplets from her ponytail and wetsuit evaporated on contact
with the warm concrete sidewalk.
Shayla reached back,
tugging on the zipper pull at the nape of her neck, exposing her bare shoulders
to the warmth of the California sunrays slipping through the morning haze.
Stopping to adjust her surfboard, she gave a cordial nod to the group of
hard-bodied surfers changing beneath the towels wrapped around their waists.
November temperatures rejuvenated the typically tranquil morning into a
bustling day at the beach. Families loaded down with bulky coolers, beach
chairs, floppy hats and SPF 50 rushed to stake a claim on a blanket size piece
of prime Malibu beach real estate.
Every day at 10:00am
came the changing of the tide; big swells that drew the early morning line-up
of surfers mellowed, leaving ideal waves for body boarders to enjoy.
Shayla trekked up
the hill heading for home. Sounds of the weakening surf grew faint, replaced by
the croon of mocking birds taking up residence in the giant palm trees that
lined the quaint, established neighborhood. She extended neighborly hellos to
the routine dog-walkers and exercise enthusiasts out for their morning run.
Shayla rounded the
corner, and a surprised smile etched across her lips as she caught a glimpse of
the familiar silver sedan parked in her driveway. Her pace quickened and she
anxiously trotted down the pavestone driveway. Shayla hadn’t seen Mat in over
two weeks, other than dropping by campaign headquarters to deliver lunch and a
quick peck on the cheek. He’d barely found time to answer her goodnight phone
one-handedly with the latch on the redwood gate. Propping her board against the
house, she ducked into the outdoor shower hidden within the lush foliage at the
back of her house. Shimmying out of her wetsuit and bikini, she impatiently
washed off the remainder of gritty sand and saltwater, replacing it with the
sweet scent of honeysuckle body-wash and shampoo.
Mathew Huntston was
the son of Margret Huntston, Mayor of the affluent city of View Point. After
two terms as acting Mayor, she set her sights on bigger and brighter lights:
the Governorship of the state of California. She had the reputation of a
feminine liberal, but many perceived her as cold and ambitious. Shayla simply
thought of her as the potential intimidating future mother-in-law from hell.
Mat hadn’t popped
the question, but he’d brought up
on more than one
occasion. At the moment, Shayla was simply more interested in
She hoped to take advantage
of a private moment whenever they got the chance. November marked the beginning
of a yearlong campaign. The grueling schedule and highly publicized campaign
would be daunting.
Shayla wrung the
excess water from her long blonde hair and wrapped a towel around her. The
mouthwatering aroma of breakfast hit her before she even made it through the
Mat stood in front
of the stove dressed in grey slacks and a light blue dress shirt. Steam drifted
from a kettle as he poured boiling water into her favorite mug on the counter.
“Hey.” She padded
barefoot behind him resting her hand on his firm shoulder. “This is a nice
Mat turned to face
her, placing a kiss of affection on top her head. “Me or the breakfast?”
“Both,” she simmered. Shayla teetered on
her toes, raising her lips toward his. Slipping her fingers into the folds of
the towel, she began to disrobe. “I didn’t expect to see you until tonight.”
Mat briefly pressed
his lips to hers before clasping hold of her delicate hands and drawing them to
his lips. “I can’t stay. I have to get back to work.”
Her hopes of
spending the morning in bed squashed, she slumped, resting her forehead against
to his chest in disappointment.
arrangement of vibrant lilac iris and sweet-smelling magnolia blossoms beaconed
from the center of the breakfast nook table. “He seems to have outdone himself
Shayla twisted her
neck, following Mat’s gaze to the stunning bouquet. Shayla’s uncle made a
thoughtful habit of sending her flowers for any and all special occasions.
“They are beautiful and they stand for good luck.”
“And I just bet they
smell good too.”
“You know, it’s not
“I’m just glad I
brought you breakfast instead of flowers.” He cupped her chin, flashing a
charade of a smile. “And I have something for you to wear tonight.”
“I’d rather just
wear you tonight.”
Mat personified the
term Classic Male Americana; everything from his sandy blonde hair and trim
defined physique, to the predictable turtleneck sweater he’d wear that evening.
He could lavish her with extravagant gifts, but all she truly yearned for was
quality time spent together as a couple.
He pulled a white
box with the initials HW from his pocket and set it in her hand. “I thought
these would be the perfect accessory for you to wear at the gala.”
Mat lifted the lid,
exposing a pair of gorgeous drop earrings.
Shayla traced the
tip of her finger over the delicate strand of brilliant diamonds and rubies
linked to form the shape of a heart. She smiled, touched by his attention to
Have a Heart Foundation
Shayla’s favorite charity and tonight was the
Bare Your Soul
she whispered softly, wrapping her arms around his waist.
Mat stood aloof,
patting her back mechanically.
a big hugger. Displaying emotion
through the warmth of physical connection of any kind seemed unacceptable in
the Huntston family. Shayla suspected Mrs. Huntston thought of sentiment as
weakness, a politian’s Achilles’ Heel. Every time she greeted Mat or his family
with even the slightest embrace, it was like wrapping her arms around an
ironing board. She learned quickly to abandon her typical greeting of a comforting
hug, replacing it with a proper handshake or civil nod of the head.
Peering down at the
gift, she narrowed her eyes as a foreseeable notion climbed into her head. “You
still coming to the gala with me
tonight, aren’t you?”
“Of course.” He
scoffed as if she were acting impractical, resting his hands firmly on both
shoulders. “Tonight is one of Los Angeles’ biggest social events of the year.
I’d never miss it.”
“Of course,” she
repeated disheartened, dropping her arms at her side. “Voters. And here I
thought maybe you were attending the gala to raise awareness for heart
He wiggled the
breakfast-to-go box with LocoMoco written across the top as if it were a peace
The delicious aroma
of her favorite breakfast, a LocoMoco surf bowl, eased her irritancy when
hunger took over. Sounds of appreciation swelled from her throat.
“Yumm.” She pulled
out two forks and handed one to Mat, eagerly digging into the layers of brown
rice, turkey burger, salsa, three egg whites and a pinch of sprinkle cheese.
he shook his head, passing on breakfast and setting his fork back on the
important meeting, a dinner meeting, so I’m going—”
“What?” She choked
on a mouth full of food. “Seriously, Mat?”
Unable to mask her
anger and disappointment, Shayla nearly lobbed the bowl on the counter. “I’m
announcing this year’s recipient of the Humanitarian Award! Tonight’s a huge
honor for me! Why—”
“I’ll be there. I’m
simply going to be a little late. Cecil Marsh is one of our biggest
Her mouth dropped
open. “Cecil is one of your mother’s good friends—”
until he had no choice but to
walk away after my father’s affair became national news. His support is
essential for my mother’s campaign. We’ve already leaked it to the media and my
presence shows a strong united force.”
arranged for a car to pick you up. I promise to make it up to you after the
gala.” He flashed his infamous smile known for soothing her irritancy.
Her gaze shifted out
the window toward the ocean. They’d already had this discussion several times.
She understood the campaign would be his number one priority, but he’d promised
to support her at the
Have a Heart
Each of them had
busy careers, which required unwavering loyalty. Shayla worked diligently as
her uncle’s personal assistant for six years, not including the four years he
spent coaching her for the position while attending college. Her job was most often
filled a forty hour plus work week, but at times required her attention twelve
hours a day seven days a week.
Shayla admired Mat’s
steadfast devotion to his family and job. However, her uncle would never
purposely sabotage an important event to drive a wedge between her and Mat.
She released a heavy
exhale, calming her frustration while she collected her thoughts.
Mat jiggled her
fingers, waiting for a response.
“You don’t need to
send a car. I’ll just drive. I should get there early anyway.” She didn’t need
to arrive early, but it rolled out of her mouth, wanting to keep the peace and
her agitation from boiling over. The last thing she needed today was another
round in the on-going debate about how little time they spent together. “Thank
you for the earrings.”
“I’ll be there,” he
assured, heading toward the front door.
“I hope so,” she said
somberly, reaching for the doorknob. “I make the announcement at 9:30pm.”
“I won’t be late.”
Mat kissed her cheek and jaunted down the front steps.
Traipsing into the kitchen, Shayla dug
into her surf bowl. Daydreaming out the window, she wondered if he’d really
show up on time. Judging past performances, Mat would be late. She believed in
being perpetually punctual and Mat was always fashionably late.
The buzzing of her
cell phone brought her into reality. Seeing her best friends face flash across
the screen, she answered, “Hello?”
“Hey! I’m so glad I
caught you,” Carrie Ann babbled anxiously on the other end of the line. “I
figured you’d be on your board this morning.”
“I just walked in
from the beach a few minutes ago. How’s set up going?”
I’m not there. I left the other members in charge so I can finish the calendar
shoot. Which is why I’m calling,” Carrie Ann spewed in a caffeine-fueled rush
of words. As a member of the Advisory Board to the
Have a Heart Foundation
, Carrie Ann created the
Bare Your Soul
calendar. “I was
thinking, you should come over here and get your hair and makeup done for
Shayla didn’t spend
much time on her hair, keeping it all one length and naturally blonde. She
dreaded the extra fuss of hair and makeup that came with attending charity
events, movie openings and any other red carpet extravaganzas requiring more
than a blow-dryer and flat-iron. “Are you sure? That would be awesome!”
“Ha! I knew you’d be
happy. You owe me.” Playful sarcasm filtered through her amusement.
“Would you prefer
your traditional rich creamy vanilla latte or the holiday favorite, pumpkin
spice?” Shayla mocked in her best sales pitch voice. “Whip? Or no whip?”
“No more coffee for
me. I’ve drunk enough caffeine to organize three charity events. I’ll be
switching to Vodka if my day gets any worse,” Carrie Ann taunted with a
“What’s the problem?
Too many creative thinking caps in one room?”
that. Hurry up and get over here so I can vent in detail.”
“Try to hold off on
the Vodka until after dinner.”
Ann teased doubtfully, her tone sounding calmer already. “Speaking of dinner.
What time are you and Mat arriving tonight?”
“I take it back,
I’ll bring the shaker and glasses. Let’s start now.” Shayla’s humor soured and
she cleared the agitation from her throat. “I’m flying solo.”
“Oh boy,” Carrie Ann
finally said. “Bring your gown. We’ll go together.”
Her spirits lifted.
“That sounds like a fantastic idea. I’ll be there in a half hour.”
The extreme beach
house Carrie Ann borrowed from her real estate acquaintance for her photo shoot
left Shayla speechless as she pulled up to the grand driveway.
She entered the code
Carrie Ann gave her and the regal iron gate creaked open with grandeur
slowness. Following directions, she parked her car in the garage and gathered
her things. Carrying a small overnight bag and her dress, she stepped into the