Read Back to You Online

Authors: Natalie-Nicole Bates

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Back to You

Excerpt from Back to You:

“And take off that wedding ring.”

Nick Lincoln never thought much about the gold band that still gleamed on his left hand. His wife died more than a year ago, and with no prospects of a relationship anytime in the near future, he didn’t remove it.

But now, it didn’t seem as though he had any choice in the matter when his sister twisted the ring from his finger. When she had it safely enclosed in her fist, she smiled in triumph.

“When Lovely Lynsey gets here, the first thing I want you to do is to take her into your arms and give her a big kiss. Then take her to a romantic dinner.”

His blond brow furrowed. “Lynsey hasn’t come home to Unity for me to put any moves on her. All I’m doing is providing a roof over her head until her new house is ready.”

Suzy’s blue eyes turned serious. “Listen, Nicky, this may be your last chance with Lynsey. I want you two to fall madly in love. I know she’s getting restless; she wants to settle down and have babies. If you don’t make your move, someone else will. It’s September now, and I predict she’ll be married before the end of this year.”

He certainly didn’t want to talk about his love life—correction, his non-love life—with his little sister. “Lynsey’s not interested in a man like me. She needs some educated and wealthy. Even if I am interested, which I am not, I’m just a street cop. I’m more of a big brother to her.”

Back to You

Natalie-Nicole Bates

Back to You

A Books to Go Now Publication

Copyright
©
Natalie-Nicole Bates
2013

Books to Go Now

For information on the cover illustration and design, contact [email protected]

First eBook Edition March 2013

Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.

If you are interested in purchasing more works of this nature, please stop by

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Look for Other Stories by Natalie-Nicole

Antique Charming

Remember the Stars

Dedication

To Ike,

For keeping it real

Chapter One

“And take off that wedding ring.”

Nick Lincoln never thought much about the gold band that still gleamed on his left hand. His wife died more than a year ago, and with no prospects of a relationship anytime in the near future, he didn’t remove it.

But now, it didn’t seem as though he had any choice in the matter when his sister twisted the ring from his finger. When she had it safely enclosed in her fist, she smiled in triumph.

“When Lovely Lynsey gets here, the first thing I want you to do is to take her into your arms and give her a big kiss. Then take her to a romantic dinner.”

His blond brow furrowed. “Lynsey hasn’t come home to Unity for me to put any moves on her. All I’m doing is providing a roof over her head until her new house is ready.”

Suzy’s blue eyes turned serious. “Listen, Nicky, this may be your last chance with Lynsey. I want you two to fall madly in love. I know she’s getting restless; she wants to settle down and have babies. If you don’t make your move, someone else will. It’s September now, and I predict she’ll be married before the end of this year.”

He certainly didn’t want to talk about his love life—correction, his non-love life—with his little sister. “Lynsey’s not interested in a man like me. She needs someone educated and wealthy. Even if I am interested, which I am not, I’m just a street cop. I’m more of a big brother to her.”

Suzy rolled her eyes. “Cut it out, Nicky. I think that all those years ago, the two of you were way more involved than you’ll ever admit. I think you both took some kind of blood oath never to speak about what really happened before you walked down the aisle with someone else.”

He opened his mouth in protest, but Suzy held her hand up to stop him.

She paced the length of his kitchen as she droned on. “I believe that Lynsey only accepted that scholarship and took off for Switzerland because you broke her heart when you married Kelly. If you don’t want to admit it, fine. Be stubborn, I don’t care. There are a lot of men out there who would kill to marry Lynsey. She’s the total package—she’s got a beautiful face and a killer body, not to mention she’s smart and successful. Yep, some lucky guy will snap her up fast.”

Her sermon caused his head to throb. “Suzy, just be happy that your best friend came home for good. Don’t worry about finding my next wife.”

She checked her watch. “I’ve got to go before the kids get home from school. Doug is away this week.”

“Again?” he asked. Suzy’s husband seemed to be away from home more and more over the last few months. Even when he was home, Nick rarely saw his brother-in-law.

“He’s making money. Anyway, big brother, ask Lynsey to give me a call when she’s settled in.” She dropped a kiss on his cheek. “And, you’re not getting this back.” She winked and held up his wedding ring.

“I don’t want it back. Take it to the pawn shop and sell it, then buy something for the kids.”

Although he felt more than a bit annoyed at his sister for forcing the wedding ring off his finger, he had to admit to himself that Suzy forced him into a change he’d put off way too long. The wedding ring was just a reminder of a marriage that died long before his wife’s death.

***

Nick lay back on the hammock in his backyard, closed his eyes, and let the sun warm his body. Lynsey would arrive at any time.

He had so many mixed-up emotions where Lynsey Reznor was concerned. His sister had been right. There had been a whole lot more between them all those years ago.

His life seemed settled until his little sister’s best friend matured before his eyes. Even though he was engaged, he knew Lynsey was the one. But when he realized it, he already belonged to someone else. It was never his intention to fall in love with Lynsey, but when it happened, he felt powerless to stop it.

When Nick made the decision to end his engagement to Kelly, he knew he needed to break the news gently. Kelly had been struck by Lupus as a child, and bordered most of the time on sickly and frail.

Kelly was upset, and alternated pouting and crying. That evening, her parents turned up on his doorstep. But instead of accomplishing what he’d set out to do, he allowed them to browbeat him into changing his mind. Their daughter was ill, they said, and if he broke her heart it might very well kill her. Did he want her premature death on his conscience? Besides that, wedding plans had been made, dresses bought , checks written to the country club and the caterer. And they had an early wedding gift—more of a bribe, really— down payment on a home.

He convinced himself that marrying Kelly was the right thing to do. He made a commitment to her by proposing, and he needed to see it through. His life would become settled. Lynsey was far too young to be deeply involved in a relationship. He was twenty at the time with no money and nothing to offer her but love, and they could not live on love. She was also brilliant, sixteen and already a high school senior. She deserved a chance to leave Unity and become a success.

And she did.

In the end, he’d traded his happiness for duty. In the ensuing years, his marriage had never been wildly passionate, but he and Kelly somehow forged a reasonable relationship that lasted for nearly twenty years until her death.

Now Kelly was gone, and Lynsey returned. Although once upon a time he loved her, he knew that now they were destined to be nothing more than good friends.

Nick was sure he was dreaming when he felt the caress of fingertips on his face. All he could think was:
Please don’t stop touching me
. When he opened his eyes, the most beautiful pair of brown eyes came into focus.

“Hello, my friend.”

“Ah, Lynsey,” he mumbled. “I must have fallen asleep.”

“It’s okay.” She smiled and continued to stroke his face. “I’m going to unpack. We’ll have a proper hello later on.”

He couldn’t break his stare. Lynsey Reznor was still the most beautiful, most breathtaking woman he had ever known. Why did he let her go all those years ago? How would he live under the same roof with her?

***

It was the ugliest bedroom she had ever been in, Lynsey Reznor decided as she unpacked her last suitcase of clothes into the chest of drawers.

The room was a garish pink with gingham borders— a dollhouse for a little girl who never grew up. No matter, she was home again. Flopping down on the bed, she fingered the pink, satiny bedspread as a wave of exhaustion washed over her. It had been a long, three-day drive from Miami to Unity.

Miami had once been a paradise realized. Lynsey lived there for ten years and honed a successful career as a true crime writer. But lately, Florida had lost its shine.

Until recent months, she had been romantically involved with Quinn Michaels, the wildly successful progressive rock star. It started like dream. When they met, she actually believed Quinn was someone she could marry, until she found out that he already had a wife.

Heartbroken and humiliated, she confronted Quinn and broke off the relationship.

Of course he had all the answers—the marriage hadn’t been going well for some time; they were actually separated; his wife was filing for divorce any day.

Lynsey refused to hear any of his weak excuses, and cut off all communication with him. Yet, Quinn, a man who refused to lose, continued to pursue her. One night he showed up at her beachfront condo with a custom-made sapphire and diamond ring and first class plane tickets to Paris.

It was a pre-engagement ring, he explained, he would replace with an engagement ring when his wife filed for the divorce. As soon as he was officially a free man again, he would shout the news of their upcoming nuptials to every paparazzo with a microphone and a camera.

As she looked at this beautiful man with his blond ponytail and jade eyes, kneeling before her in her kitchen, she wondered just how long it would be until he gave this speech to the next mistress in his life. If he could so callously flaunt his indiscretions under his wife’s nose, when would he become bored again?

She hurried him out of the condo, but he refused to take the ring, or take no for an answer. Later, he returned after midnight, screaming obscenities and beating his fists and feet against her door, full of rage and fuelled by alcohol. A neighbor telephoned the police. The officer didn’t arrest Quinn, but advised her to seek a restraining order.

Quinn called the next morning full of remorse, but it was too late. Too much damage had been done to salvage their relationship.

Afterward, Lynsey finally convinced her mother to sell her home in Unity and move to Miami. But only a few months later, her mother was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer. She hadn’t lived long enough to see her only child married or become a grandmother.

Nick arranged for Suzy to fly down to Florida and support her during the funeral. She would always be grateful to him for sending her best friend when she needed her the most.

After the funeral, Suzy mentioned the new subdivision in Unity. Lynsey’s career was portable; she could write from practically anywhere in the world. And since she had no family, moving back to Unity seemed like the ideal solution to Lynsey.

Now, she hoped she had made the right decision. She rose from the bed and looked out the window. Nick still slept on the hammock. He wasn’t just her friend or Suzy’s big brother; he was Lynsey’s first love, and the first man who ever broke her heart. Years ago he told her he loved her, and she spun a whole fantasy that he would marry her. But he married another.

Now he was free again.

But much like with Quinn, their time together, and their love, was a thing of the past. She needed to remember that.

Nick was on his way into the house just as Lynsey came down the stairs. Blond and blue-eyed, he still made her heart palpitate.

“So, can I have a proper hello?” He held his arms out to her.

She needed no further prompting, and vaulted into his arms. Their lips met, but Lynsey decided it was nothing more than a kiss between two friends who still cared for one another. But as she slid down his body to her feet, the delightful friction between them sure felt like a lot more than friendship.

“When you’re all settled in, I’d like to take you out to dinner to celebrate your return to town. Suzy wants to hear from you too.”

While she definitely wanted to speak with Suzy, going out to dinner with Nick seemed like a less than perfect idea. If she spent time with him, it would be too easy to fall in love with him all over again. The first time had been hard enough to get over. Although she would enjoy his hospitality in opening up his home to her for a few weeks, she was too bruised from her mother’s recent death and her breakup with Quinn to risk her feelings any further.

“Thank you for offering, Nicky, but I’m really exhausted. Rain check, okay?”

“Of course. You get some rest and settle in,” he said with an easy smile. He caressed her cheek with the back of his hand and walked away.

Yes, she realized, it would be a very difficult few weeks.

***

The warm evening air lulled Lynsey into an early sleep. When she awoke the next morning, she felt a sense of inner peace that eluded her for so many years. She made the right decision by returning home.

The house was quiet. Nick probably already left for work. She got out of bed and headed for the shower. Now that she slept well and her head was clear, she realized how foolish she had been to turn down Nick’s offer of a celebratory dinner.

Today she was meeting Suzy in town at the Cozy Corner Diner for lunch. She slipped into a rose-print dress, brushed out her shoulder-length black hair, and dabbed on passion fruit lip gloss.

At noon, she parked her car in the town lot, deposited two quarters into the meter, and made her way up the main street. Nothing much had changed over the years. A bank occupied one corner. There was a grocery store that changed ownership often, as well as a post office and a bakery along the main street. But with the plethora of new homes under construction, change was coming to Unity.

When she arrived at the Cozy Corner, Suzy waited for her at a table near the front window. As Lynsey embraced her dear friend, joy bubbled up inside her. Now they could resume the close friendship they’d had in high school.   

“You look absolutely gorgeous!” Suzy gushed.

“Thank you.” Lynsey smiled. She slid into a chair across from her friend.

She wished she could return the compliment. Suzy had always been slim, but she had lost a considerable amount of weight since Lynsey saw her just a few months earlier at her mother’s funeral. She looked positively brittle.

Maybe a diet explained part of it, but Suzy’s clothes were rumpled, and her nail polish was chipped. Her blonde hair hung limp against her shoulders. Still, Suzy was a wife and mom to four school-aged children. Perhaps she was too busy to notice.

“So, how was your first night back? Did Nicky take you out to a nice romantic dinner?” Suzy asked.

A waitress appeared and took their orders.

“He asked, but I was too tired,” she answered. “Plus, I don’t think that Nicky has a romantic bone in his body.” She giggled.

Suzy stiffened. “What does that mean?”

“Nothing, nothing at all. Your brother is an absolute doll.”

“I know my brother is thrilled to have you back in town. Now that you’re both free, I hope you two fall madly in love again. We could sure use a nice Christmastime wedding around here.”

Lynsey averted her eyes. “Marry your brother?”

“Are you going to keep up this charade after all these years? I wasn’t blind back then, Lynsey. I know there was a whole lot going on between you and my brother before he caved in and married that witch who ruined his life.”

Lynsey definitely didn’t want to talk about this subject. As much as she loved Suzy, she made up her mind a long time ago that she would never disclose what happened that summer between her and Nick. It was their personal, private business. Besides, it was old news. It served no one to admit it now.

Suzy practically demanded an admission. Well, maybe she could give her a little something.

“All right, Suzy. I had a little crush on your brother back then, that’s all. It could go nowhere—he was engaged. He made the decision to marry her.”

Her tone was a bit stronger than she’d intended. Hopefully Suzy hadn’t noticed. Mercifully, the waitress appeared with their drinks. It was time for a change of subject.

She rubbed her hands together in anticipation. “So, Suzy, give me a list of all of the eligible men that you know. If any of them are divorced, I want to see the decree and three sworn statements to that fact.”

“Single men? Gee, I don’t know. All of Doug’s friends are married or oh-so-wrong for you.”

She blinked. “What does that mean?”

“It means that I just can’t see you involved with some forty-something, balding, overweight guy who sells chain-link fences for a living, that’s all.”

Her brows shot up. “Are you saying I’m shallow?”

“No, not at all.” Suzy chuckled and reached over to pat her hand. “Lynsey, you’re oblivious to the commotion you cause around you. As you walked up the street, there were nearly two car accidents caused by men who turned around to look at you. I swear that one guy on the street stared so hard at you he nearly dropped into an open manhole.”

Lynsey took a sip of her iced tea, feeling a blush creep up her cheeks. She wasn’t sure she believed her longtime friend, but she took her teasing good-naturedly. When the waitress brought their salads to the table, she decided to approach the subject in a different manner. “What about Evan Monroe? We email from time to time. I know he split with Karen Elroy after his accident.”

She was curious about Evan. He had been engaged when he was nearly killed in an accident and his fiancée bailed on him. About Nick’s age and unmarried, he had always been a friendly, good-looking, quirky kind of guy, and now, available again. In other words, Evan was perfect potential husband material.

“Evan?” Suzy stirred sugar into her iced tea. “I believe the only women he’s interested in these days wear nurse’s uniforms. I think he’s still pretty banged up from his accident. I know that he just recently had another major surgery on his leg.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.” She frowned. “I got the impression from Evan’s emails that he was well on the mend.”

“I don’t know.” Suzy shrugged her thin shoulders. “You should ask Nicky. They’re very close.”

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