Unbroken, page 1
Table of Contents
By the Author
About the Author
Books Available from Bold Strokes Books
Therapist Kayla McCormick is the quiet, sensitive type who prefers her life orderly and predictable. Kayla has an open heart, but the pain of loss has taught her to avoid risks that could get her hurt. She dreams of family and forever but no longer believes she’ll have her own happy ending.
Jackie Phillips hides her fear and hurt behind fierce independence and impulsive behavior. Raised in an atmosphere of abuse and neglect, she is haunted by the disappearance of her mother when she was a teenager. Determined not to need anyone, she has closed her heart and lets lust drive her encounters.
When their lives converge in a classic case of opposites attracting, will Kayla and Jackie have the courage to embrace love and rewrite their own stories, when that might mean risking all?
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© 2017 By Donna K. Ford. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN 13: 978-1-62639-922-8
This Electronic book is published by
Bold Strokes Books, Inc.
P.O. Box 249
Valley Falls, NY 12185
First Edition: May 2017
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
Editor: Ruth Sternglantz
Production Design: Susan Ramundo
Cover Design By Sheri ([email protected])
By the Author
Writing Unbroken was a long undertaking. Although the story was mostly finished, these characters allowed me to take a year away from them to write Love’s Redemption. The time away was well spent, and I can say this story was worth the wait.
I would like to offer a special thank you to my dear friend Kellie. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I am so proud of your strength to overcome the past and the courage to build an amazing life with your own happily ever after.
This has been a very special year for me for many reasons. It has been marked with tragedy and joy, both of which have changed my life forever. I said good-bye to my dear daddy this year. That is a heartbreak that will never heal. But I know he was proud of me and this work, and I know he loved me. What more could I ask? This was also the year my girl and I said I do. She is my best friend and my forever person. Thank you, Keah, for being my world, my love, and my partner. I want to offer a special thank you to my dear friends D. Jackson Leigh and Sheila Causby for standing beside us as our best persons, and to Hilde Phipps for her unconditional love and beautiful words of union. It was wonderful to have the blessings of so many family and friends surrounding us.
So much more goes into writing a book than the hours spent plotting, writing, and editing. It takes the support and patience of those we love and those who work to get our stories to our readers. As always, I am grateful to Bold Strokes Books for making this dream possible. I am especially thankful to my editor, Ruth Sternglantz, for her amazing support, patience, and understanding. She is a great teacher. And last, I don’t know what I would do without my beta reader Brianne. I hope she knows how special her friendship is to me and how thankful I am for her work.
For Keah, forever is a good start.
In memory of Donald E. Ford, the strongest man I’ve ever known. I miss you, Dad.
Jackie fell back against the bed breathing hard, her sweat-soaked hair clinging to her neck and cheeks.
“Oh my, you are something special,” the woman beside her cooed.
Jackie rubbed her face. Despite the hours she’d just spent having sex, she was empty and detached. Normally when she felt this way she could blow off her tension with a beautiful woman for a night. And Heather was beautiful—she practically oozed sex. Everything about the way she talked and moved was designed for luring women to her bed. She was the kind of woman that made Jackie’s fever boil. But tonight something was different. She hadn’t wanted to be touched. Every time Heather tried to claim her, she had turned the attention around until Heather had collapsed, sated and physically exhausted.
“I don’t think I can move another muscle after that. Whatever it is you needed to work out tonight, I hope it comes back. I’d love to do seconds sometime.”
“Hmm.” Jackie mumbled noncommittally, staring at the odd patterns on the ceiling. She leaned up on one elbow and looked at the clock. It was four in the morning.
Jackie pressed a quick kiss to Heather’s lips. “I have to go.”
“So soon?” Heather moaned and rolled onto her stomach.
When there was no answer, Jackie climbed out of bed, gathered her clothes, and left. She didn’t get it. Why hadn’t she been able to get into things with Heather? She was attractive, willing, very responsive, and almost insatiable. What was the problem? Jackie sighed as she slipped her hands into the pockets of her jeans and hunched her shoulders under the weight of her unrest.
She wouldn’t see Heather again. Maybe she needed to take a break from the one-night stands and the occasional couplings with a few acquaintances she sometimes met up with for short rendezvous.
Jackie was barely aware of the changing lights along the Henley Street Bridge as she crossed the Tennessee River on her way home. A light rain misted against the windshield as water slushed beneath the tires. The streets of Knoxville glistened as the lights of the city illuminated the wet roads with a kaleidoscope of color. The wipe-wash sound of the wiper blades stuttering across her windshield counted out time like a metronome, hammering the nail of disappointment deeper into her mind.
She opened the door to her apartment and tossed her keys on the small table by the door. She couldn’t wait to get a shower and wash away the smell of sex and the feel of Heather’s hands on her skin. She stood with her head bowed beneath the spray letting the water beat against her shoulders and stream down her face. But no matter how long she stood there, and no matter how hot the water, the emptiness seeped deeper into her bones.
She rubbed the towel back and forth over her head to soak up the water as she walked to her bedroom. She stopped in front of the dresser and stared at the framed black-and-white photo of a strikingly beautiful woman with windblown hair, her face turned to the sun, eyes closed, and a hint of
Jackie rubbed her hand across her face and sighed in resignation. If she had to describe her feelings, she would say she was lonely. But that couldn’t be right—she didn’t get lonely. She didn’t need anyone. It had been years since she had allowed anyone close enough to her to cause that kind of need. She touched her finger to the frame. Maybe this was what had her out of sorts. She always missed her mother this time of year.
Well, whatever it was needed to work itself out soon. She climbed into bed, letting the cool sheets and heavy comforter cradle her. She sighed. Friday night would be as good a time as any to shake things up a bit. Going out with the crew from work would settle her down and put things back on track. God, she hoped so, because this restlessness was beginning to wear her down.
She peered through the shadows and the glow of moonlight at the picture on the dresser. What happened to you? Where did you go?
The image of her mother smiled back at her as if she should know the answer. Jackie pulled the covers up under her chin and turned away from the memory of her mother and the loneliness that tethered her to the past.
The sound of the intercom was like an alarm blaring inside Kayla’s head. She rubbed her already throbbing temples to soothe the incessant pain. She looked at the clock, thankful to see it was already six thirty. She blew out a sigh of relief that the torturous day was finally at an end and she had made it through another week of back-to-back clients. Miraculously, she had somehow kept up with all the paperwork that went along with the caseload. Kayla closed the last file on her desk, already looking forward to a long hot bath, a glass of wine, and some quality time with a good book. A gentle tap at her door drew her attention. She looked up, surprised to see her friend and colleague at her door.
“Hey, do you have a minute?” Jen asked.
Kayla took in the hollowed look in her friend’s eyes and her heart sank with dread. She knew by the tremor in Jen’s voice that something was wrong.
Kayla raised an eyebrow and cocked her head to one side. “Are you kidding?” she said sarcastically.
“Busy day, huh?”
“That’s an understatement. I feel like my brain has been through a blender.”
“Yeah. You kind of look like it too,” Jen said with a teasing smile.
“Thanks.” Kayla grimaced. “What’s up, Jen? All kidding aside, you look like you need to talk.”
Kayla had worked with Jen for two years. They had started out on a community project together and although their work had taken them in different directions, the bond between them was strong and they were each other’s inner office voice of reason.
Jen cringed. “Is it that obvious?”
Kayla shrugged. “To me it is.”
Jen smiled but dropped her gaze.
Kayla could see Jen was hurt and that could mean only one thing. “What did he do this time?”
Jen brought a trembling hand to her lips as she looked up at Kayla. All the worries of the day suddenly faded when Kayla saw her friend so fragile. She shut her office door and handed Jen the box of tissues she kept on the edge of her desk.
Jen took a deep breath and looked up at Kayla, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “He stayed out again last night. I even went to the bar and tried to make him come home with me. He just laughed at me. He told me I was a buzzkill and he was going to go find someone who wanted to have a little fun. I found him passed out on the couch this morning, soaked in his own urine.”
“Oh God, Jen, I’m so sorry.”
Jen shook her head. “No, that’s not even the worst of it. He called me this morning and said he wants me to leave. He wants a divorce.” Jen closed her eyes as if she could shut out the pain. Her hand shook as she toyed with the tissue.
Kayla reached for her friend and tried to console her in the best way she could, but inside she was secretly jumping for joy. She never wanted to see Jen hurt, but she hoped that if Jen would finally divorce Mike, she could break free of his abuse and be happy.
“Can you believe it? He wants to divorce me!”
Kayla shook her head. “What a loser. You know, if he can’t see what he has, he doesn’t deserve you.”
Jen sniffed. “I’ve cried all day. I just felt so hurt. Then he called a few minutes ago and wants me to put money into his bank account. Can you believe that?”
“Please tell me you didn’t do it.” Kayla said with a groan.
Jen sighed with resignation. “I did.”
“That’s the last time, I swear. I just couldn’t let him go all week at work without food.”
Kayla clenched her teeth and tried not to growl. “Yeah, we both know that’s not what he’ll be spending the money on.”
“I know.” Jen sniffed again. “Maybe I should just go ahead and file for the divorce.”
Normally Kayla would keep her opinion to herself, but this was not a client, this was her friend. “Yes. Yes, you should. Enough is enough.”
“Where would I go? I just can’t move back in with my parents—I already feel like a failure. I don’t have enough money to start over. He’s drained the bank account and what little I have saved just isn’t enough.”
Kayla considered her answer carefully before responding. “You could stay with me until you get your own place.”
Jen looked up suddenly, her eyes wide with surprise. “Really?”
“Of course. What are friends for, if not to help you get out of a tough spot and help trash the guy who is…well…being an ass?”
Jen’s smile was real this time. “So does that mean you’ll also go out with me tonight?”
Before Kayla could protest, Jen put up her hand, effectively halting Kayla’s words before they even left her mouth.
“I just can’t sit around wondering where he is or what trouble he’s getting himself into. I need a distraction. Come on, Kayla, it’s Friday night, and Tennessee doesn’t have any games going on so you can’t use that as an excuse to avoid going downtown. Let’s go out.”
Kayla wanted to argue. She always felt weird when she went out with Jen. She felt out of place in the straight clubs. She just wasn’t girly enough and the guys either gave her a hard time or she was ignored completely. She tried for a compromise. “How about we just hang out at my place? The beer and wine are cheaper and we don’t have to worry about cab fare.”
Jen shook her head. “Come on, Kayla. Please?” Jen pleaded.
“Oh, crap.” How could she say no? Jen was just too damn cute and vulnerable and…well…cute. “Okay. Where are we going?”
Jen threw her arms around Kayla. “Thank you.”
Kayla sighed and hugged her friend. She knew it would be a long night, but if it helped Jen find a reprieve from her hurt, it would be worth it.
The moment they walked into the bar, Kayla knew she had made a terrible mistake. It wasn’t the painted-on Wrangler jeans everyone wore, or the crunch of peanut shells under her feet. It wasn’t even the looks they got from the men lined up at the bar as they entered. It was the mechanical bull wildly bucking and thrashing in a small roped-off area to the left of the entrance that filled her with dread. To Kayla’s amazement the bull cast off its rider, who flailed around like a rag doll flung into the air. Kayla jumped back as the rider landed at her feet with a sickening thud.
“Oomph,” the rider grunted.
Cheers erupted from the crowd as Kayla reached down to help the stranger up, hoping no bones were broken.
“Thanks,” the rider said, grasping Kayla’s hand t
“It looks like it hurts now,” Kayla said, shocked that the rider was a woman.
“Maybe a little bit, but don’t tell anyone I said that.” Out of nowhere she quickly leaned in and kissed Kayla on the mouth.
Cheers erupted again from a circle of men on the opposite side of the bull. “Excuse me,” the woman said as she withdrew her lips from Kayla’s. She flashed Kayla a devilish grin and rushed back to the bull.
Kayla stood rooted to the spot, stunned. Her eyes were riveted to the long lean body, taut muscles, and firm ass. What on earth just happened?
A fierce pinch on the back of her arm made her flinch. “Ouch.” She spun around and glared at Jen with her best What the hell? look.
Jen had her hands on her hips and wore an incredulous expression. “I can’t take you anywhere. We’ve only been here five minutes and you’ve already kissed a girl.”
“I didn’t kiss her,” Kayla protested, still not believing what had happened. “She kissed me!”
“That’s just a technicality. The point is, your lips were on hers.”
“At no fault of my own. I didn’t do anything, I swear. And why isn’t anyone freaked out about it…besides you, of course?”
“Kayla, this is a gay bar. Haven’t you noticed?”
Kayla looked around, seeing the men at the bar in an entirely new light. “You’ve got to be kidding me. You brought us to a gay bar?”
“Yeah. I know it can be hard on you when we go out to some of the straight clubs, and I’m not in the mood for the male drama tonight. So I decided to try things your way.”
“My way?” Kayla said, arching her eyebrows.
“You know what I mean. I wanted us to have fun. That means going to a place where we can both relax and enjoy ourselves.”
by Donna K. Ford have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes