Monday, September 15, 2008

Jake's Return a Finalist in the NJRW Golden Leaf Contest!

Hello and Happy Monday! Guess what? Last night I got a call. Jake's Return is a finalist in the New Jersey Romance Writers Golden Leaf Contest -- the same contest Thin Ice won an award in last year! Here's a blurb and excerpt to celebrate!

The last person small town bad boy Jacob Donovan expects to find when he returns home in disgrace after serving time is Rebecca Reed, head librarian. Rebecca had always had much bigger ambitions. Jake hadn’t wanted to stand in her way, so after one night of passion with his former best friend, he’d hit the open road.

Rebecca refuses to believe Jake is guilty of murder. The boy who’d been her friend and protector when they were town outcasts together could never have killed a woman. Not to mention the tender, loving man who’d given her their daughter, Katie.

But who is Jake now? That’s what everyone wants to know, including the town council chairman, who is determined to send Jake back to prison, by any means available.

Jake’s been running from love for all of his life. Will he find the courage to defeat his demons and stay this time?

Excerpt:

Rebecca Reed would never forget the sound of Jacob Donovan walking back into her life. The sharp hiss of startled gasps that suddenly swept across the town library’s main reading room was enough to grab anyone’s attention. She frowned and straightened from where she was shelving books in the children’s section, looked to see what had happened, and felt her heart stop.

Omigod, she thought. He’s here. He’s really here. In Warner.

Her heart jerked to a start again, and she was sure every soul in the building could hear its wild, erratic beat in the shocked silence that had settled over the room.

Jake stood at the front desk, his left profile turned toward her and the rest of the main reading room. He looked tall, dark and rangy in faded denims and a black T-shirt that matched his windswept hair. The clerk behind the desk finished checking out a patron with two small children. A short, stout, no-nonsense woman who had never married, Eunice Lee Larmer had been with the library for as long as most of the town could remember. She looked up at Jake and froze, her eyes rounding with recognition. Her face two shades paler, she stepped back carefully.

The sight of Eunice’s fear sparked a surge of protective anger in Rebecca, taking her by surprise.
Damn. She’d thought she was prepared for this.

Obviously not. Telling herself she was rescuing the situation—not Jake—Rebecca started forward just as Jake turned her way. His expression stopped Rebecca in her tracks. He looked completely out of place. Completely unapproachable. A lone wolf barely tolerating the trappings of civilization.

An eternity passed as she bore the weight of his sharp scrutiny from across the now suffocatingly silent room. Rebecca would have sworn she actually felt his cold, dark gaze move from the top of her French twist to the tips of her navy pumps.

She shivered.

Sounding as if it were right next door instead of three blocks away, the daily noon wail of the firehouse siren pierced the unnatural silence. The familiar sound seemed to nudge everyone back to life. Rebecca swallowed hard and braced herself to meet Jake again, to speak with him for the first time in eight years.

The first time since the night he’d given her Katie.

Amid a rising tide of rustles and scandalized whispers, Jake seemed to recall why he’d come to the library. As he slowly wended his way across the crowded reading room to where Rebecca
stood, neither of them smiling, a paralyzing thought struck her.

What if he still doesn’t want anything to do with us?

She beat back her own wave of fear, and focused on Jake. He was leaner now, harder and tougher-looking than she remembered. True, he’d always looked tough, but his toughness as a teenager had been a fa├žade. One she’d seen through from the start. But this was different. This was no small town bad boy trying to make the best of his messed-up life alone. This was a grown man who’d spend most of his adult life in hell.

With a sinking sense of dread Rebecca realized she’d made a mistake. She was staring into the face of a stranger.

“Hello, Rebecca.”

His voice was rougher, deeper than she remembered. Deep enough to send a shot of awareness down her spine. “Jake.”

“Been a long time.”

Rebecca knew exactly how long it had been. Counting Jake’s four-year stint in the army, with the exception of those few unforgettable hours they’d shared in Pittsburgh eight years ago, they’d been apart for almost twelve years.

Before that, they’d been the town outcasts together.

“You’re looking good,” he said quietly.

“Thank you. You look...fit.”

He arched a dark brow. “Considering I spent the last eight years locked up, you mean?”

Rebecca flushed. A nearby cough reminded her everyone within earshot would shamelessly repeat anything she or Jake said, first chance they got. A town like Warner had precious few secrets, and Jake obviously didn’t intend to play down his recent parole from prison.

She squared her shoulders and offered Jake her most professional smile. “Would you like a cup of coffee? My office is right behind the desk.”

“Your office?” He looked blank, then over his shoulder at the checkout desk, the open door that led to the tiny office behind it. The eavesdroppers’ expressions ranged from indignant to shocked. Frowning, Jake turned back to Rebecca. “You’re head librarian?”

She understood his confusion. She wasn’t even supposed to be in Warner, much less working at the library. The last time he’d seen her, she’d had much bigger plans. “For three years now.”

Jake stared at her a moment longer, then ran a slow, speculative gaze over her short-skirted navy summer suit and heels. Just as slowly, he smiled. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

Rebecca’s knees nearly buckled. His smile was vintage Jake. Reckless, unrepentant, and sexier than black satin sheets. Her heartbeat soared, her palms broke into a sweat. With what she considered an amazing amount of grace, given the state of her nerves, she managed to smile back neutrally and avoid tripping over anything as she led Jake past their astonished audience, and into her office.

Once inside, she made a beeline for the coffee pot, then forced herself to take a deep breath before she handed Jake a steaming mug of coffee. “Black still okay?” Her hand only trembled a little.

His slow half-smile hovered between some private amusement and pleasant surprise. “You remembered.”

3 comments:

Ellen said...

Just totally awesome, Liana! It sounds like a wonderful story and I adore your opening line. Serious good luck vibes from me to you :))Ellen

jodi said...

It is totally awesome. :)

liana laverentz said...

Thanks, ladies!