The road to a happily ever after in Romanceland is never an easy one. This month, we’re highlighting the dark moments of our favorite romance novels and novellas. Enjoy this excerpt from Forever and Always by Susanne Matthews.
Ballet is the only thing Brandi Alexandra Jameson has ever known. When an accident leaves her dance partner dead and herself unable to dance again, she tries to accept the situation, but some pain goes too deep to be set aside so easily. Lost, alone, frightened, all she wants to do is hide away, but her family has a different idea.
Jarrett Sullivan has been in love with Brandi from the first day he saw her and blacked a kid’s eye for calling her names. Shy, unsure of himself, he stayed in the background, looking out for her, but before he could make his move, she left Victoria for the stage in Toronto. Now that she’s back, he’ll do whatever it takes to win her heart. After badgering her sister, he earns the right to escort the woman he’s always wanted to the event of the year.
When Brandi discovers Jarrett paid an exorbitant amount for an Alexandra Jameson poster, she assumes he’s lied to her and is nothing but another crazed fan. Her heart broken she flees Victoria and ends up in Geneva where she hopes to learn to cope with what’s happened to her.
Can Jarrett find her and explain what happened or will a spiteful woman’s half-truths keep them apart forever?
“Hi, Brandi,” a woman who looked vaguely familiar sat down on the chair beside her. “It’s so nice to see you again.”
“I’m sorry,” Brandi answered, aware of the woman’s barely, suppressed annoyance even if the plastic smile only faded for a second. “I’m afraid I don’t remember you, and I apologize for that. I’ve learned tonight that I missed an awful lot while I was in school.”
“Well, you were always on the go. You had to be otherwise you’d never have made it in the dance world. I’m Celia Miller Larkin, the chairperson of this year’s fundraising committee. I wanted to thank you personally for donating that signed poster.”
“Not a problem,” Brandi answered, sensing an undercurrent in the woman’s tone. Anger? Jealousy? No, it was insincerity, an emotion that after nine years in the theater, she could spot a mile away. While she’d made wonderful friends as a dancer, there were others she’d learned to avoid. Cats were the same no matter where they were. You had to recognize them to sidestep the claws.
“I just wanted to say how much the committee appreciates you spending time with the man who purchased your poster. He’s always been generous, but Jarrett’s donation tonight goes above and beyond. Of course, we all know he’s had a bad case of hero worship for years. He papered his locker with pictures of you in various ballet costumes even in high school. Did he tell you about selling his car so he could afford to buy a ticket to see you dance in that very ballet in Vancouver?”
“No, he didn’t mention it,” she said, keeping her face carefully neutral although the world was reeling around her. It couldn’t be true. If he’d bought the poster, why hadn’t he said so? He’d paid an exorbitant price for it, too, even if it was all for charity. He mentioned he’d seen her dance here, but selling his car? That went way above friendly interest in her career. Foreboding filled her.
“That’s strange. When he came back to Victoria, all he could talk about was the great Alexandra Jameson and your performance… but you must be used to fans by now who’ll do anything to get your attention. So what if he bought your company tonight? I’m sure it’s not the first time you entertained a patron in exchange for a large donation. That’s the way these things work. It’s all for a good cause, and the hospital can really use his money.”
My God, she makes me sound like a whore.
Celia turned and looked at Tom coming toward the table. “Here comes your brother-in-law. Well, if you have any other mementoes from the past you’d like to get rid of, please consider donating them to club’s spring auction, especially if it’s something more personal like slippers or a tutu. I’m sure he’d snap them up.”
“Celia,” Tom said, his tone heavy with sarcasm. “Never a pleasure to see you. Isn’t there a rich man nearby you can fleece?”
The woman scowled at him, not a good look on her overly made up face. “You know what you can do to yourself,” she said before turning back to her. “As I said, it was a pleasure to see you again. I’m glad we had this opportunity to chat. And don’t forget what I said—if you’ve got something truly personal…” She glared at Tom and walked away.
Brandi’s fingers gripped the table and she swallowed, praying she wouldn’t be sick and disgrace herself. What a fool she was. Jarrett was no different than the other star-struck fans who’d followed her around for years. Why hadn’t she seen it? Everything he’d said to her tonight came back to her filtered by this new information. She looked down at the roses on her shoulder. Suddenly, they meant no more than the countless bouquets the cleaning staff had thrown out each evening after the performances.
“So, what did the Victoria Viper have to say?” Tom asked, taking the chair Celia had occupied.
Too hurt to acknowledge how stupid she’d been, she smiled and chose her words carefully. No one could know how deeply this betrayal had upset her.
“Nothing much,” she said, keeping her voice even. She was good at hiding pain. “She wanted to thank me for donating the signed poster.”
“That’s it?” Tom said, disbelief evident in his voice.
“More or less. She added the committee would be pleased to accept any other memorabilia I’d like to donate in the spring, especially something of a more personal nature. It seems the man who purchased the poster is an avid fan of mine. From the look on her face, he’d probably pay a fortune for a pair of my used, ballet tights.”
Tom reddened, about to say something but the others came back to the table, and he sighed loudly obviously considering himself off the hook. So he knew this “date” was payback for the big donation, too. How much more humiliating could this get? How much lower could Jane sink, pimping her out this way? And Jarrett? Wanting to be friends? What would that be? Stalking with permission? Just what payback would he expect when he drove her home? Before he could sit down, Celia snatched him up for a lady’s choice, and Brandi was grateful. She needed to get out of here before he returned.
After a few more minutes of chitchat, smiling so hard her face hurt, she could take no more. When Tom got up to dance with Jane, she stood. “Dad, can you take me home now? I’m exhausted.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to wait for Jarrett?”
“No, he’s having a good time, and he’s done more than enough tonight. Besides, I think I’ll need help getting up the stairs and into bed.” It was a lie but one she knew he’d buy and act on quickly.
About the author:
Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She is of French-Canadian descent. She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but with a penchant for happily ever after romances. A retired educator, Susanne spends her time writing and creating adventures for her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.
Follow Susanne on social media:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SLMauthor
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Susanne-Matthews/e/B00DJCKRP4/
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7009276.Susanne_Matthews
Check back each week for a new Just A Fool In Love post.
List of participating authors: https://sirenallen.com/featured-blogs/
But wait, there’s more.
Enter the Just A Fool In Love giveaway.
CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!