Hi all! So I was putting up an excerpt for The Hometown Hero Returns on its page, and I thought I’d put it up here as well. So, here it is…the prologue from this March 22 release.
The Hometown Hero Returns
By Beth Kery
He’d followed her for three blocks, undecided whether he would call out or just fade back into the shadows of their mutual memories. The weight of the past had locked his vocal cords, but the sight of her graceful figure drew him like a magnet.
He repeatedly told himself there was no reason for so much trepidation. There was nothing between Mari and him now. The common ground they once shared was shadowed by his shame for his father’s actions as well as the bitterness he felt toward Mari for refusing to see or speak to him for half a lifetime.
He nearly did a complete turnabout in the revolving doors of the Palmer House Hotel, telling himself it would be best to just walk away. But at the last minute, impulse drove him to say her name.
She glanced around.
Mari’s eyes—God, he’d forgotten their power. The sounds in the bustling, luxurious hotel lobby faded as the color washed out of her cheeks. He felt a stab of regret. It’d been the sight of her breathtaking face that’d compelled him to pull up short and call her name.
For a few seconds they remained motionless. The single word he’d uttered had been the first shared between them since they’d both lost loved ones in one cruel swipe of fate’s hand.
“Marc,” Mari mouthed.
“I was at your performance and I followed you,” he explained rapidly. When she continued to stare at him, her expression rigid with shock, he realized how strange that sounded. “I just wanted to say, you were wonderful.”
She set down her cello case and straightened, seeming to gather herself. Her small smile seemed to give him permission to step closer. “Since when does Marc Kavanaugh listen to anything but rock music?”
“Give me some credit, Mari. A lot can change in fifteen years.”
“I’ll grant you that,” she replied softly.
He couldn’t stop himself from visually devouring a sight that had been ripped away from him so long ago. She wore the black dress that was standard apparel for a symphony member. The garment was simple and elegant, but it couldn’t hide the fact that womanhood had added some curves to Mari’s slender form.
In all the right places, Marc acknowledged as his gaze lingered for two heartbeats on her full breasts. He glanced down at her hands, noticing she twisted them together, betraying her nerves. Mari was a cellist—a brilliant one. She had the hands of musician—sensitive and elegant. Even though she’d been young and inexperienced when they’d been together so long ago, she’d had a magical touch on his appreciative skin.
“Look at you. Mari Itani, all grown up.”
Maybe it was his imagination, but her lowered glance seemed almost as hungry as his inspection of her had been. She returned his smile when she looked into his eyes. “Every inch the newly elected Cook County State’s Attorney.”
“How did you know about that?”
She shrugged. “I read about it. I wasn’t surprised. It was a foregone conclusion you’d excel at whatever you did. You always got what you wanted, once you made up your mind about it.” She swallowed and glanced away. “I was sorry to hear about your divorce.”
“I’m sure that didn’t make any headlines. How did you know about that?”
She looked uncomfortable. “I still have a few contacts in Harbor Town. I keep in touch.”
Not with me though, Mari. Fifteen years of silence. Marc banished the flash of frustration, knowing how fruitless the emotion was.
“Right,” he nodded, understanding dawning. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Walt Edelmann over at the Shop and Save was the first person to know about my divorce outside of Sandra and myself. It’s almost supernatural the way that man acquires gossip.”
Her radiant smile made a dull ache expand in his chest. “Do you think Walt still works at the Stop and Save?”
“I know he does. I don’t go back to Harbor Town often, but when I do, I always see Walt. He’s a standard fixture. He and my mother chat almost every day, which is code for exchanging juicy news.”
Her glance ricocheted off him at the mention of his mother. The light from the lobby chandeliers made the dark gold highlights in her brown hair gleam when she lowered her head. “Well…you know how small towns are.”
“Yeah, I do,” he replied gruffly.
She stirred beneath his stare. The moment wasn’t as much awkward as it was tense. Charged. He waited, wondering what she would say. He was having trouble finding the words himself. He and Mari were almost strangers to each other now. It was odd, the paradox of connection and distance he felt with this woman, as though they each stood on the opposite side of a great chasm of grief, joined only by a thin, ephemeral thread.
Still, that cord was strong enough that it had tugged at him this afternoon when he’d seen the newspaper article about the San Francisco Orchestra playing at Symphony Hall; it had made him ask his administrative assistant to buy him a ticket to the performance. It had fueled his impulsive decision to follow her to her hotel.
He nodded in the direction of a crowded lounge. “Can I buy you a drink?”
She hesitated. He was sure she was going to say it wasn’t a good idea. He might have agreed with her five minutes ago, before he’d been stunned by the visceral impact of standing so close to her…of seeing her face.
“I have a suite. There’s a separate room where we could have a drink and talk. I mean…if you’d like,” she added when he didn’t immediately respond.
Seeing the sight tremble in her lush lips had mesmerized him.
He blinked, wondering if he was seeing things he wanted to see, not reality. He saw the glow of desire in eyes that reminded him of rare cognac, a heat that hadn’t been entirely stamped out by the weight of tragedy.
“That sounds like a great idea.”
She nodded, but neither of them moved. The bond he’d shared with Mari since they’d been sunburned, carefree teenagers in Harbor Town–a bond formed by love and battered by grief—chose that moment to recall its strength and coil tight.
He stepped forward at the same moment she came toward him. He enfolded her in his arms. A convulsion of emotion shook her body.
“Shhh.” His hand found its way into her smooth, soft hair. He fisted a hand full of it and lifted it to his nose. Her scent filled his head. Desire roared in his blood.
“Mari,” he whispered.
He pressed his mouth to her brow, her eyelid and cheek. He felt her go still in his arms when he kissed the corner of her mouth. Her lips were parted and warm. She turned her head slowly, her mouth brushing against his. Their breaths mingled. A powerful need surged up in him, the primal quality of it shocking him a little. He possessively covered her mouth.
When he lifted his head a moment later and saw the way she panted softly through well-kissed lips, he knew he’d succeeded in easing her doubts.
“I can think of a thousand reasons we shouldn’t do this,” she whispered.
“I can only think of you. Lead the way, Mari.”
She put her hand in his and they headed toward the elevators that led to the rooms.
Look for The Hometown Hero Returns March 22, 2011 from Harlequin Special Edition