Title: Burning Bridges
Author: Anne Krist
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Winner! Coffee Pot Book Club awarded Burning Bridges the Gold Medal for Best Romance 2020!
Not your typical “secret baby” book! This Southern romance packs in the emotion.
Consider the role of strangers in our lives. An unknown postman in Virginia hides a bag of mail one day. His simple action set in motion untold consequences for many others—strangers—all over the country. How many bridges were burned in that forgotten mail pouch?
Sara Richards’s world is rocked when three love letters from 1970 are delivered decades late. The letters were written by Paul Steinert, a young sailor who took her innocence with whispered words of love and promises of forever before leaving for Vietnam. Sara is left behind, broken hearted and secretly pregnant, yearning for letters she never received.
Then Paul died.
Now, years later, she discovers the betrayal wasn’t Paul’s, when her mother confesses to a sin that changed their lives forever. How can Sara reveal to Paul’s parents that they have a granddaughter they’ve missed the chance to know? Even worse, how will she find the words to tell her daughter that she’s lived her life in the shadow of a lie?
Picking her way through the minefields of secrets, distrust, and betrayal, Sara finds that putting her life together again while crossing burning bridges will be the hardest thing she’s ever done.
Setup: High school seniors Sara and her friend Cindy had gone to a concert where they met Paul Steinert and his friend Mitch. The concert has just ended.
“Okay, I’m going to the bathroom.” Cindy craned her neck to locate the ladies’ room.
“I’ll wait over there by the window.”
Moving out of the way, Sara let her mind wander as she watched people leave the building and cars jockey for position. A few minutes later, she saw the Corvette maneuver around the line and pull away. That was it, then. He was gone. Good. So why did it feel like a punch to her stomach?
Nothing good would come from seeing Paul again. The first encounter was an accident and could be brushed away; a second would be from desire.
Desire. The very word sent a rush of heat through her. Heat like she’d known from Paul’s smile, a crook of the lips that everyone did but no one did like him. How could she feel this for someone she didn’t know? One glance from him and her heart raced. Rational thought evaporated. She wished for less knowledge of math and more cleavage. No, it wouldn’t do to spend time with a man who filled her with surging warmth.
“A penny for your thoughts.”
Startled, Sara spun around. “Paul!” She looked at him and then back at the parking lot. “I thought… But I saw the Corvette leave. Where’s your friend?”
“He’s gone. With your friend, as a matter of fact.”
“What?” This time Sara pushed past him to scan the rapidly emptying lobby for any sign of Cindy. There was none. “What are you talking about? She’s just gone to the restroom.”
“She was coming out of the ladies’ room when we saw her,” he explained. “She said you’re going to dinner and invited us to join you. When Mitch offered to drive her in the ‘Vette, Cindy said I could come with you.” He smiled, keeping his distance and his hands in his back pockets. “You don’t mind, do you? Like I said earlier, I don’t bite.”
“I do mind.” Sara paced angrily. “How could she do this? For heaven’s sake, she just jumps into a car with a perfect stranger?” She stopped to glare at Paul as though through him she could make Cindy feel her irritation.
“With all due respect, I’ve known Mitch for weeks. He might be a stranger but he’s not perfect. I, on the other hand…”
His smile widened, making the situation worse as far as Sara was concerned. Hadn’t she just come to the conclusion that he was poison to be with? And mostly because his damn smile made her want to be with him? She’d kill Cindy, no two ways about it.
“Sorry,” he said, his expression sobering. “Just trying to lighten the mood.”
“It didn’t work.” She bowed her head. “Look. I’m sure you’re a very nice man, and your friend seems nice, too. But as Cindy said, I’m cautious, and I’m not comfortable with this situation at all. Not to mention the fact that my dad will kill me if he finds out.” She looked up at him. “And trust me, my dad always finds out. This will do nothing but get me in trouble. And it’s not even my fault.” The last came out as a whine, but she couldn’t help it.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize this would be such a problem.” He thought for a moment. “Tell you what. You head over to the restaurant. I’ll catch a cab and then Mitch and I will shove off. Okay? It’ll be all right.” He reached out and squeezed her shoulder.
It was nothing, a throw-away gesture. The kind of thing a guy would do to his kid sister. But his touch sent shock waves through Sara’s body.
Her eyes widened and she gasped. In a daze, she saw his eyes darken, revealing an emotion that hadn’t been there a moment ago. She couldn’t put a name to what showed in his features, but instinctively she knew it wasn’t something one would see in a brother. His hand still rested on her shoulder, branding her with the outline of his fingers and the circle of his palm.
She stepped back and his hand fell to his side. Neither spoke for a second or two. Then, “Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your understanding.” Fumbling with her purse, she turned and practically ran for the door and then for the car. When she reached it, she looked back. He stood watching her.
She climbed in and started the engine, letting its consistent hum work to calm her. Shivering, she turned the heater on full blast. Cold permeated her body—all except her shoulder where Paul left his searing imprint. Dropping her head on the steering wheel, Sara silently implored the little engine to flood the car with warm air so she would stop shaking.
Finally, hot air blasted from the heater vents. Still she trembled. It was then she knew she shivered not from the cool air, but from the heat of his touch.
And she wanted his touch again. His touch and more. The concert, which for weeks had been at the center of her thoughts, devolved to an interval of white noise sandwiched between Meeting Paul and Being With Paul.
She’d never wanted anything so much in her life, nor had she ever risked so much. If her parents found out, she’d be grounded until they sent her off to William and Mary in the fall. She knew in her heart he was worth the gamble.
The parking lot had emptied. She swung the car around to the door and strained across the gearshift to see if Paul was still there. Her heart sank. He was nowhere. Not inside the door or at the window where she’d left him.
Sara heaved a sigh. Her head fell against the headrest and she closed her eyes, wondering if she was more relieved or disappointed. Then she jumped at a tap on the passenger window.
Opening her eyes, she saw Paul looking at her expectantly. She reached over to unlock the door.
“Hi.” It was too simple, but all she could manage. Her heart was in her throat and her pulse raced. She was both scared to death and exhilarated.
“Hi.” He settled in the seat and turned to face her. “I was about to call a cab when I saw you out here. Were you waiting for me?”
“Yes. Yes, Paul, I’ve been waiting for you.” The words hung there, the double meaning clear to both of them.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon Kindle Unlimited http://mybook.to/BurningBridges
Why is your featured book a must-read?
Burning Bridges just won the Gold Medal for Best Romance 2020—for which I'm very grateful! The book is packed with emotion and lots of romance. It's set during the Christmas season, so the timing is perfect for a holiday treat!
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 19 books featured in the Best Books of 2020 Bookish Event:
Runs December 28 – December 31, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on January 4, 2020.
A few years ago, Dee S. Knight began writing, making getting up in the morning fun. During the day, her characters killed people, fell in love, became drunk with power, or sober with responsibility. And they had sex, lots of sex.
After a while, Dee split her personality into thirds. She writes as Anne Krist for sweeter romances, and Jenna Stewart for ménage and shifter stories. All three of her personas are found on the Nomad Authors website. And all three offer some of the best romance you can find! Also, once a month, look for Dee’s Charity Sunday blog posts, where your comment can support a selected charity.
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