USA Today Bestselling Author
Returning to the town he was raised in was hard, except that Harley can once more see the only golden light of those days. He’d walked away from her because she’d been too young, and he would never be good enough. Harley was back to check on the War Dog Bowser, but Harley can’t help but feel like he never really left. But when Harley snags the War Dog from one of Bowser’s handlers, Harley knows he has to put a stop to this guy forever.
Over all these years Jasmine awaits Harley’s return, but he won’t be happy with the changes she’s gone through. When he shows up out of the blue, she knows only complete honesty will be good enough. But it was rough and meant opening up memories of a horrible time in her life.
Harley’s arrival prompts a hidden truth that someone will do anything to stop from coming out. And Harley will do everything he can to get justice for her …
Harley is returning to his hometown to check on the war dog Bowser. The only bright side is he may get to see the girl he had to leave behind, Jasmine. She’s the daughter of his former foster parents, and when he left for the Navy she was only 16. He stops to see his friend Daniel and have a burger at the Pub and finds out Jasmine has a son and everyone in town thinks he’s the father. Now he needs to know the truth.
Jasmine is shocked to see him, she never expected him to return. Now she’s going to have to tell him what happened after he left.
This is a favorite scene.
As she sat here, a huge black truck drove down the street and slowed in front of her house. She frowned, as she looked at the driver. Something was just so familiar about him. She hopped to her feet, trying to get closer, but she didn’t recognize the truck.
The driver turned the truck around, came back, parked on the opposite side of the road, and stared directly at her. She shook her head, not sure what she saw, but she walked over to the front steps, leaned against the pillar on the porch, and sipped her lemonade.
When the man hopped out of the truck, slammed the door closed, and walked toward her with a rapid but slightly uneven stride, she still didn’t recognize him. When he approached the sidewalk, he looked up at her. “Hello, Jasmine.”
She stopped and stared, and then her heart slammed against her chest. “What the hell are you doing here?”
He gave a small half smile. “Well, it wasn’t for you apparently. I came back to do a job.”
“I knew you would never come back, no matter what you tried to tell me back then.” Her back stiffened, as she leveled a glare at the only man she’d ever loved.
“Maybe,” he said quietly. “But you also knew that, being only sixteen, there was no way I could stay with you until you were an adult.”
“Yeah? And what happened when I hit that age?”
“Doesn’t matter. You found somebody else, either before I left or soon afterward,” he noted in a hard voice. “As rumors say, you have a child.”
“I do.” Her tone was defiant, having heard so much all her life about her single-motherhood status— and most of it unpleasant— she immediately glared at him. “And it’s none of your damn business.”
He slowly nodded. “Well, that’s true because I know it’s not mine. Did you tell everybody it was though?”
She shrugged. “I knew you weren’t coming back, so it didn’t matter what I said.”
“I made a good scapegoat, right? Everybody was more than willing to believe that’s who I was.” He shook his head, as if disappointed in her.
At that, she felt a twinge of remorse. “Honestly I wasn’t thinking very clearly at the time at all. I was only sixteen, as you remember, and about to have a baby.”
“And that’s my fault? Because that’s not fair.”
She hesitated and then slowly shook her head. “No, you’re right. It wasn’t your fault. I would have been happier if it had been your child.”
“Wouldn’t have happened. I told you that I made a promise to your parents.”
“Well, guess what? They didn’t believe me when I told them that the baby wasn’t yours.”
“Did you tell them?”
“I did, but my dad was already in a rampage, thinking it was yours, and I couldn’t dissuade him from that.”
“Did you try?”
He widened his stance, a little on the aggressive side for her liking. But she could kind of see his point. “I did. But he and I were already at loggerheads for him sending you away, and I wasn’t very happy when I found out I was pregnant anyway. And I didn’t tell them until you were long gone and until I was so many months down that pathway that they couldn’t force me to terminate the pregnancy.”
“Did you ever tell him who the father was?”
“No, my father died shortly after Jimmy was born.”
“I’m sorry about that.” Harley frowned.
“Dad was basically a good man, but he was hard.” She sighed, relaxing against the post. “But then you know that.”
“And I tried hard to play by his rules.” He walked up the steps toward her.
“You did, dammit.” She laughed. But she took a long sip of her lemonade. “You haven’t changed much.”
“I’ve changed a lot.”
“So I wonder, if now, present day, would you have left me behind?”
“Because I made that promise? Yes. My word means everything.”
“To even the woman you love?”
“You were a child and underage, and I needed to get away.”
She stared at him, her gaze thirstily on his face, as she studied the man she’d waited for, hoping against hope that he would someday return. “I didn’t sleep at night,” she said quietly, “hoping that I would hear you coming back.”
“I went into the navy.” His tone was harsh. “Coming back would only be when I was on leave. And apparently you were already pregnant with another man’s child, when I was on my first leave.”
“Did you come back here then?”
“No. I didn’t get leave. I ended up doing extra work on base because we had a riot happening,” he admitted. “That seemed to set the pattern for the next few years. I got very little time off. I was supposed to, and I banked it, but every time I thought about coming back here, I figured you’d moved on. And, of course, I was right.”
She stared at him flatly. “When I realized that you had rejected me, I went out to a big party, got drunk, and I don’t remember what happened,” she explained. “I somehow got home. Woke up the next morning, and my clothes were a bloody mess, and my body was bruised. I felt fine but sore, and I found out I was pregnant a few months later.”
He stopped and stared. “Seriously?”
She nodded mutely. “And there was not one damn person I could tell who would listen. I don’t know who my son’s father is. But whoever it is, as far as I’m concerned, raped me that night.”
“Were you drugged?”
“I didn’t get tested,” she murmured. “I tried telling the sheriff. Nobody believed me. I hid in shame, until I couldn’t hide it from parents any longer.”
He stopped, closed his eyes, and swore.
She nodded. “I did plenty of that too. And then I figured that, even if you did come back, you’d take one look at me, and you’d run away.”
“Not because of that. Daniel just told me that I had a child. It was a bit of a shock. Because, of course, I knew I didn’t have one.”
She nodded slowly. “And I wouldn’t have passed it off as yours, except that nobody would believe me. Everybody insisted that you were the father, no matter what I said.”
“Of course. I made a great scapegoat. Did you ever tell your parents what really happened?”
“No,” she admitted slowly. “At the beginning, I was just too upset and confused. Figured that I deserved whatever had happened because I went to the party and because I was drinking. As you well know, I couldn’t handle alcohol very easily. Still can’t.”
“No. You never did do very well with that, and you were so young that it made sense.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter because I certainly drank as a way to try to forget that you had left me.” She shrugged. “I went wild once you were gone.”
“To be expected. A little bit of rebellion never hurt anybody.”
“Until she wakes up the next day, not remembering anything, with a massive headache, and finding out a few months later that she’s pregnant.” Her voice was harsh. “And you want to talk about feeling alone? Yeah, that was me then.”
“And, of course, your parents would never have accepted my child either.”
“But neither could they afford to send me away, which was their alternative answer for their shame.”
“I’m sure they relied on the church to make their decisions. and I’m sorry for whatever happened to you.”
She lifted her gaze above him and shrugged. “So am I in many ways, … but, once I realized I would be a mom, I still hoped for the longest time that you’d come back here, and then I gave up hope, and I started living again. But I didn’t get a chance to live much, what with my father’s sudden death. In that way, my mother became very dependent on me and very quickly ended up with Alzheimer’s, and I still don’t know if it was all related.”
“If it’s possible, I’m sure it was. Your parents were very interdependent.”
“That’s a good way to put it.” She laughed, then looked at him. “And why are you here now?”
Dale Mayer. Harley (Kindle Locations 349-415). Valley Publishing Ltd..
Right off the bat we find someone isn’t happy Harley is back. So, Harley is going to stay close to Jasmine, her son and mother. He has to check on the dog, and get him away from that illegal drug group. Then solve the mystery of who actually drugged Jasmine and got her pregnant.
He can’t help but like her son Jimmy and he finds himself falling for her all over again.
I couldn’t put this book down, there is a lot of suspense and danger. I loved all the interactions with the dogs and Jimmy.
I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Dale!
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Dale Mayer is a USA Today bestselling author best known for her Psychic Visions and Family Blood Ties series. Her contemporary romances are raw and full of passion and emotion (Second Chances, SKIN), her thrillers will keep you guessing (By Death series), and her romantic comedies will keep you giggling (It’s a Dog’s Life and Charmin Marvin Romantic Comedy series).
She honors the stories that come to her – and some of them are crazy and break all the rules and cross multiple genres!
To go with her fiction, she also writes nonfiction in many different fields with books available on resume writing, companion gardening and the US mortgage system. She has recently published her Career Essentials Series. All her books are available in print and ebook format.