First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage...
For Billy Culver and Erin Griffin, first came three amazing days and nights in Hawaii before Erin slips away in the early hours of the morning. She made the mistake of listening to the little, annoying voice in her head that insisted she could never be anything to Billy but a vacation distraction.
Until she has to accept he is so much more.
Billy couldn't get Erin out of his head, and tried for two months to find her before she shows up out of the blue at his construction site, just as beautiful as she had been under the Hawaiian sun. Perhaps even more beautiful, and she still pulls at him like no woman ever has.
What will it take for Billy and Erin to take a chance and admit their love? Then tragedy strikes and they have to find strength in each other... for the love of their child.
She was gorgeous as sin.
"Have I come at a bad time?" she asked, breaking his hypnotic trance.
Billy straightened up and leaned back in his chair, bringing up one foot to rest his ankle on the other knee and laced his fingers together at his waist. He tried to exude confidence and calm, but his insides raged and bubbled like molten lava.
"Just a typical day," he answered. "It's busy here from sun-up until sundown. I'm surprised to see you."
She stepped into the room and closed the door, keeping her hands behind her, and leaned back against the hollow wood.
"I thought you would be."
"I'm surprised you were able to find me, since we didn't really have time to share much personal information. I mean, all I know about you is your name -- I think. I know damn well you're not from Loveland, Illinois."
He saw something spark in her eyes, and they rounded slightly. Now she was the one surprised. Billy stood up, using his height to his advantage over her petite frame even though the desk sat between them.
"You know how I know? Because I called every Griffin in Loveland, Illinois -- in fact, I called every Griffin within a hundred miles of Loveland -- and not one of them knew who you were. I found that fascinating."
"I'm sorry I lied to you," she said, stepping away from the door.
"Well, at least you admit that. Is your name really Erin Griffin?"
She looked away for a moment, her eyes darting down to the mess on his desk, but when she looked up again, the strength of her stare snatched his breath.
"Yes," was her simple answer.
Billy drew in a hard breath through his nose, setting his hands at his waist. "So, how did you find me?"
"You told me you lived near Portland, and that you built houses. I didn't realize it was your own business, but it made you easier to find."
"I guess I shared more than you during those three days in Maui, huh?"
That hurt. He knew it hurt. Billy saw it in her eyes. She crossed her arms over her body, effectively pressing her breasts upward and revealing even more of her bare stomach. The tiny gold ring in her navel seemed to wink at him.
"Are you going to let me speak at some point? Or should I just come back when you're done so I can say something?" she asked with a tilt of her head.
Billy matched her stance by crossing his arms over his chest and spreading his feet apart. "By all means. You obviously have something to say. Maybe you can start by telling me why you left that morning without a word?"
She glared back at him and shifted, cocking one beautiful hip. Billy bowed his head and flipped a hand at her, silently asking her to proceed.
"I don't suppose it means anything to you that I came looking for you all the way from --"
"From where? Not Illinois."
"Oh, well, that is a hike from North Carolina to Maine," he ground out.
"Will you just shut up and listen to me," she snapped.
Billy clenched his jaw together, pain shooting down his neck, to keep himself from speaking. Or worse yet, from flattening her back against the wall and kissing her until they both were senseless.
They stared at each other across the tiny space and Billy waited to breathe. He caught the glisten of welled-up moisture in her eyes, and something inside him seized. For a moment, he forgot everything and desperately wanted to know why she had tears.
Before he could decide against it, Billy moved around the desk and stepped to her, putting his hands on her arms. Heat and electricity shot through him when his palms touched her cool skin. She looked up at him and he caught the slight quiver in her lower lip.
"Why are you here?" he asked, trying to keep the edge from his voice this time.
She blinked, and one single tear escaped from the corner of her eye to slide down her cheek. Erin cleared her throat and one hand came up to just barely touch his tee shirt. Billy's abdomen clenched and tightened at the near-caress.
God, she'd better talk fast!
"I'm sorry I took off like that. I just -- I just wanted to be the first to leave."
"What do you mean?"
"It was a fling, Billy. A vacation affair. I knew it didn't mean anything to you."
"Oh, you knew that even if I never said a word to that effect?" Despite his promise not to yell, Billy felt his anger spew up again.
"It was incredible, but I knew it had to end."
He dropped his hands from her arms and leaned back into the edge of his desk, crossing his ankles. "I'm amazed at just how much you knew about all this, because apparently I knew nothing at all."
Posted by Sabine Tyson on 22nd May 2013
I purchased "Tender Hearts" because I had read in an interview that the author wrote it based on person experiences -- namely, the premature birth of her youngest child. That moved me, so I sought out the book.
Wow... I wept through much of this book, not out of sorrow but out of the intensity of the emotion evoked from the story. It is so real, so raw, so pure... so simply love.
Love of a woman. Love of a man. Love of a child. Even now, recalling certain chapters brings tears to my eyes. But in all the best ways.
This book will stay with me for years to come. If someone asks me "What book have you read that moved you?", my answer, unequivocally, will be "Tender Hearts" by Gail R. Delaney