Title: Burning Bridges
Author: Anne Krist
Letters delivered decades late send shock waves through Sara Richards’s world. Nothing is the same, especially her memories of Paul, a man to whom she'd given her heart years before. Now, sharing her secrets and mending her mistakes of the past means putting her life back together while crossing burning bridges. It will be the hardest thing Sara’s ever done.
Beaufort, South Carolina – November 2005
The brown mailing envelope lounged against the back door, appearing deceptively like a friend passing the time. Sara Richards snatched it up with one hand while fitting the key in the lock with the other. A quick glance showed the addressee to be Mary Ellen Noland, her mother. Tape held the flap end closed and her mother’s scrawl crossed the other end. “Call me when you’ve read this.”
Strange. She hung up her keys and dropped her purse on the table, examining the return address. Department of the Navy. Her father had been dead over ten years. What would the Navy be sending her mother now?
She loosened the tape and pulled out a letter then spilled a second envelope onto the table. The smaller pouch was addressed to her, Sara, from the U.S. Postal Service and had been forwarded to the Navy. Frowning, she skimmed the letter: Recently recovered bags of mail…a storage shed in Virginia Beach…enclosed FPO letters sent to Sara Noland…forwarded from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story to the Department of Navy…sent in care of Mrs. Mary Ellen Noland for Sara Noland…
Boneless, she dropped into a chair and stared at the USPS envelope. 1970. So long ago and yet like yesterday. Only one person would have written her from overseas, and he hadn’t sent any letters. In fact, he’d disappeared, forgetting she lived and leaving her to face the disastrous months following their separation alone.
Then he’d died.
No, these letters couldn’t be from Paul Steinert.
But who else?
Sara’s Siamese, Pi R Squared, rubbed his head against her ankle and pled for food, but she ignored him. With surprisingly steady hands, she opened the postal service pouch. Someone—her mother?—had slit the end of this also, and then taped it closed. Three smaller envelopes fell out. She’d seen his handwriting only once but recognized it immediately. Her hand flew to her mouth. Blood roared in her ears, blocking Squared’s plaintive meow.
An image filled her mind. Not how he looked the first time she’d seen him, but after they’d been meeting for several weeks. The wind off the ocean ruffled his short blond hair and love filled his eyes, eyes bluer than an autumn sky. That was Paul as she dreamed him after he left and later, when she damned him for forgetting her. When she heard he’d been killed in action and all during those interminable months when she longed for one last chance to hold him, she pictured him there, on the beach at Sandbridge.
For the first time in years, the pain of his death crashed over her. Her grief now was nothing compared to the agony when she’d first heard, when she’d wanted to die, too. Worn down over the years, his memory was a dull ache, familiar, expected, almost like a photo she could pull out on demand and examine.
She picked up one of the small envelopes. On a back corner, he’d noted it as number twenty-nine. Checking the other two, she saw a twenty-eight and thirty. He’d written thirty letters? How could that be? She hadn’t received even one. Thirty letters couldn’t have been lost due to a foul up in the mail.
Mechanically, she dumped a packet of dry food in Squared’s dish and then called her mother.
“I thought it would be you. Have you read the letters?”
“No. What happened, do you know?” Scattered on the table, the three packets drew her gaze and she stared as though trying to read their meaning through the sealed paper.
“Only what the Department of Navy letter said. Some bags of mail were lost. I suppose if I weren’t still receiving part of Dad’s retirement, they wouldn’t have found me.”
Sara closed her eyes and leaned against the wall. “I mean, do you know what happened to the rest of the letters?”
“What?” There was no mistaking the naked fear in her mother’s voice.
“The envelopes are numbered. I have twenty-eight through thirty. What do you think happened to the others?” Tension radiated through her shoulders and neck. Her mother was about to say something she didn’t want to hear, she knew it.
“Sara, you have to understand, Dad and I only wanted what was best for you. You were a child, a high school senior with a wonderful future in front of you. You’d been accepted at William and Mary. The last thing you needed was to get mixed up with a sailor who would love you and leave you. Which, I might add, is exactly what he did.”
Sara could barely suck air into her lungs. Her fingers whitened with the hold she had on the phone cord. “What did you do, Mother?”
“More than anything, we didn’t want you hurt.” Moments passed. “Your father made the decision, but I was in favor of it, I want you to know that. He’s not here, so if you’re going to get mad, I suppose it will have to be at me.” She ended with a sigh. “After—that man—left Virginia Beach, we determined it would be best for you to make a clean break. We never had any doubt that he was wrong for you. So, we intercepted the letters.”
The blood drained from Sara’s face and she pulled over a chair. If she didn’t sit she’d fall. “You did what? How could you do that?” Her voice broke.
“You put your letters in the mailbox and I took them out after you left for school. And his…”
All too well, Sara remembered days of rushing into the house to sort through the stack of mail on the hall table, never finding a letter from Paul. Each day with no news added a stone to her wall of doubt that he loved her and depleted her store of faith that he’d stand by her.
Sara moaned. “Do you know what you did with your meddling?”
Amazon KU http://mybook.to/BurningBridges
Why is your featured book a must-read?
It took me a long time to find the courage to write about Vietnam, in any way. Such a painful time! When I finally decided to include it, I added it as a backdrop to the romance between Paul Steinert and 17-year-old Sara Noland. During the years of Vietnam, my dad was in the Navy and we lived in Virginia Beach, just as Sara did when she met Paul. I knew Little Creek (where he was temporarily stationed) and Sandbridge where they spent their time, walking the beach. In so many ways, this was a story I lived. That’s one of the reasons Burning Bridges is a book of my heart. The emotion is high in this book—have tissues nearby when you read the end! (I still have to—and so does my husband, even knowing the end!) I love this book and I hope you do, too!
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 26 books featured in the Celebrate Mothers Bookish Event:
Runs May 7 – 10, 2020.
Winner will be drawn on May 18, 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. Also, once a month, look for Dee’s Charity Sunday blog posts, where your comment can support a selected charity.
Anne Krist is the “sister” to erotic romance author Dee S. Knight. She is quieter, more reserved, and certainly more circumspect about S-E-X than her wild and crazy sibling. Thus she’s more comfortable writing sweet(er) romance, where there might be a few sensual scenes, but no more than that. One thing about Anne: she’s not more romantic than Dee. They both write in happily ever after and share the solid belief that love can last forever and beyond!
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