Eight years ago, Glory Parsons had been forced to flee her hometown--and leave behind her first love. And Jesse Bainbridge would never know the heartbreaking price she'd paid--or about the child born of their fiery union....
Jesse had once wanted Glory with all the passion in his soul--until she walked out on him. Now she was back with shocking news that would change his life forever. Could he trust the woman who'd betrayed him--the only woman he would ever love?
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Glory, Glory by Linda Lael Miller
Glory Parsons's gloved hands tightened on the steering wheel when the familiar green-and-white sign came into view. Pearl River, Oregon. Population: 6710.
All it would take was one U-turn, and she could be headed back toward Portland. She'd find another job, and she still had her apartment. Maybe she and Alan could work things out....
She swallowed hard. She would be in Pearl River three weeks at the outside, then she could join her friend Sally in San Francisco, get a new job and start her life all over again. As for Alan, she hoped his teeth would fall out.
The feed store was festooned in lights and sparkling green garlands for Christmas, like the five-and-dime and the bookstore and the newspaper office. The street was thick with muddy slush, but fat puffs of new snow were falling.
Glory passed the diner and smiled to see the cheap plastic Santa and reindeer perched on the tar-paper roof. She touched her horn once, in a preliminary greeting to her mother, and drove on.
The cemetery was on the other side of town, overlooking the river. Glory parked outside the gates, behind a green police car, and made her way up the curving driveway. She left her purse in the car, carrying a bouquet of holly she'd picked along the roadside earlier in the day.
A crisp breeze riffled the drifting snowflakes and Glory's chin-length silver-gold hair. She pulled up the collar of her long woolen coat, royal blue to match her eyes, and made her way carefully along a slippery walk.
Dylan's grave lay beneath a white blanket of snow, and Glory's throat thickened when she came to stand beside it. "Hi, handsome," she said hoarsely, stooping to put the holly into the metal vase at the base of his headstone. Her eyes filled with tears, and she wedged both hands deep into her coat pockets and sniffled. "You had your nerve, dying at twenty-two. Don't you know a girl needs her big brother?"
She dusted snow from the face of the stone, uncovering Dylan's name and the dates of his birth and death. He'd perished in an explosion soon after joining the air force, and Glory didn't want anyone to forget he'd lived, even for the space of an afternoon snowfall.
She drew a deep breath and dried her eyes with the back of one hand. "I swore I'd never come back here," she went on miserably, "even to see you. But Mama's getting married, so I had to come to her wedding." She took a tissue from her pocket and dabbed at her nose. "I got myself hooked up with a real jerk back in Portland, Dylan. If you'd been around, you probably would have punched him in the mouth. He pretended to love me, and then he stole my promotion right out from under me."
She paused to look up at the cloudy sky. The bare limbs of maple and elm trees seemed to splinter it.
"I quit my job and had my furniture put in storage," Glory confided to her brother, gazing at the marble headstone again. "And after Christmas and Mama's wedding, I'm going to San Francisco to make a life for myself. I don't know when I'll be back to see you again."
A swishing sound in the slush alerted Glory to someone's approach. She looked up, and her blue eyes went wide.
He was standing on the other side of Dylan's grave, dressed in the standard green-and-brown uniform of the sheriff's department. He wore no hat, and his badge, pinned to his jacket, gleamed in the thin winter light. Like Glory, he was twenty-eight years old.
His caramel eyes moved over her frame then swept back to her face. "What are you doing here?" he asked, as though he'd caught her in a bank vault after-hours.
Glory had known she couldn't come back to Pearl River without encountering Jesse--she just hadn't expected it to happen this soon. Her temper flared, along with an old ache in a corner of her heart she'd long since closed off, and she gestured toward Dylan's headstone. "What do you think I'm doing here?" she retorted. "I came to see my brother."
Jesse hooked his thumbs through the loops on his trousers, and his brazen brown eyes narrowed slightly. "It's been eight years since the funeral. You were really anxious to get back."
Eight years since the funeral, eight years since Glory had laid eyes on Jesse Bainbridge.
Pride forced Glory to retaliate. She took in his uniform and then said, "I see you've been promoted to sheriff. Did your grandfather buy the election?"
His jawline tightened for a moment, but then he grinned in that wicked way that had broken so many hearts in high school. "Why not? He bought you, didn't he?" Like everyone else in Pearl River, Jesse probably believed old Seth Bain-bridge had paid her to leave town; Glory was fairly certain he'd never learned about the baby.
Without waiting for a reply, Jesse settled his hat on his head and walked away.
Glory barely resisted the urge to scoop up a handful of snow and hurl it at his back. Only the awareness of where she was kept her from doing just that.