Dawn Temple.

To Have And To Hold






To Have and To Hold

Dawn Temple


www.millsandboon.co.uk

Infinite thanks and love to Sandra K. Moore,

Ann Peake and Sandy Thomas for teaching me the true meaning of conflict.

To my guys, Doug, Jacob and Jeremy. Thanks for

the underwear dance. I am so proud of you.

Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter One

A soft purple glow drew Lindy Lewis Monroe from the solitude of the barns dark interior. She slipped outside the wide double doors and stopped suddenly, awestruck. Before her, dawn painted the East Tennessee sky with hope and renewal, a visible reminder that life goes on.

Beautiful day for a funeral, huh, Pops?

She had a ton of things to do before burying her grandfather this afternoon, yet she stood in the barnyard for several minutes, watching the sun break over the horizon, sharing a final sunrise with the one person whod always been there for her.

Goodbye, Pops. I love you. Her raspy voice gave testament to the buckets of tears shed cried during the past few days.

A chilly spring breeze drifted across the barnyard. Goose bumps spread over Lindys skin beneath her dew-dampened clothes. Her teeth chattered, disturbing the barnyards unusual tomblike silence.

Quit standing around like a bump on a log, Lindy girl.

Popss gentle reminder whispered through her brain, part memory, part wishful thinking.

Heeding her grandfathers advice, Lindy turned her back on the glorious sunrise and hotfooted it to the house. Thanks to mid-Aprils near-freezing overnight temperatures, her damp jeans grew colder and stiffer with every step.

The screen door squeaked as she entered the mudroom and toed off her boots, then quickly freed the button on her jeans, shimmying her lower half until the clingy, wet denim peeled from her hips.

The damp tails of her oversize shirt slapped against her bare thighs, causing more gooseflesh. She removed Popss old red-and-black checkered work shirt and lifted it to her nose. His Old Spice scent still clung to the soft flannel. She hated the idea of laundering away that familiar smell.

Burying her face in the fabric, she wiped away a tear and let the shirt fall to the floor. Cold air enveloped her arms. She shuddered. Her T-shirt, which shed pulled on without a bra, offered little coverage. Or warmth.

Leaving her wet clothes heaped on the floor, she stepped into the kitchen and paused for a heartbeat, letting the familiar warmth surround her, that blanket of welcome that engulfed her every time she stepped foot inside her childhood home.

All her life, shed dreamed of sharing that warmth with a family of her very own.

Not all dreams come true. Shed taken her shot at happily-ever-after and lost everything: her husband, her baby, her heart. Never again would she trust her dreams to someone else.

Dont rehash the past. Focus on today. She inhaled deeply, a cleansing breath to wash away her maudlin thoughts. The welcome aroma of her favorite Colombian brew filled her senses.

Shouldve known Alice would show up this morning.

Alice Robertson had been friend, neighbor and part-time housekeeper to the Lewis family for more years than anyone cared to remember. Having her here, today of all days, felt right, Lindy thought, heading for the coffeepot. A mug prefilled with half-and-half waited on the countertop.

Such a sweet woman. For the first time since leaving the hospital three nights ago, Lindys lips curled into a halfhearted smile. Wondering why Alice hadnt stuck around for coffee, she turned away from the cabinet and came face-to-face with the past shed just been trying to forget.

Travis Monroe.

Her breath backed up in her throat. She clamped her eyes shut, waited a long second, then slowly reopened them. He hadnt moved a muscle.

The man she hadnt seen in almost a year leaned against the doorjamb, steaming cup in hand. His thick black hair was ruffled, no doubt from his own agitated fingers. Dark stubble covered his angled jaw. His Brooks Brothers suit was wrinkled. He looked haggard. And fantastic.

His eyes, a sexy starburst of green and gold, were riveted to the thin cotton clinging to her breasts.

Oh, great. Travis shows up unexpectedly, and Im parading around the kitchen in my undies.

Despite her near nakedness, Lindy refused to cross her arms in some virginal attempt to cover what he already had intimate knowledge of. What are you doing here?

Her abruptness seemed to snap him out of his stunned stupor. His eyes lifted to her face. The desire and anger she saw there made her take a step backward.

What happened to your legendary Southern charm?

Her chin tilted up a notch. Manners are for friends and invited guests. You are neither.

No, Im just your husband. Travis pushed away from the doorway that separated the kitchen from the family room. His firm lips fell into a frown. She knew how warm and soft theyd feel pressed against her own.

Dont go there.

Howd you get in here? Surely Alice hadnt let Lindys estranged husband in and then left without warning her.

Your front door was unlocked.

Unlocked? She wrinkled her brow, momentarily puzzled until her brain connected all the dots. Pops had always taken care of locking up at night. Another sad twinge plucked her heart, but she determinedly tucked her grief deep inside. Later, when she was alone, shed let it out and allow her tears to flow.

Right now, she propped her hands on her hips, pretending she wore her favorite denim overalls rather than see-through cotton. For the most part, the only doors we lock in Lands Cross are on the henhouse. Thats generally the place we have problems with unwanted varmints.

Traviss knuckles whitened against his coffee mug. Sounds like a great slogan for the chamber of commerce.

A shameful heat warmed her cheeks. Why was it so easy to shuck her normal kindness and stoop to rudeness with Travis?

She knew the answer to that one. Because no one else had ever hurt her like he had.

Ill be sure to pass your suggestion along. Coming from such a career-driven person, Im sure the chamber will give it all the attention it deserves.

I see your tongues as razor sharp as ever. Still standing in the doorway, he lifted his coffee and took a slow sip. Over the mug, his eyes captivated hers. Although, I remember times when your only response was a purr. Or a moan.

Heaven help her, she also remembered those times. Remembered them too well. Too often. But that was her own dark secret. Travis didnt need to know how often he played the starring role in her memories, both during daylight hours and dark.

I hate to disappoint you, Travis, seeing as how youve come all this way to stroll down memory lane, but my schedules pretty tight today. And we both know what a busy man you are. Why dont I give your secretary a call later? Perhaps Marge can squeeze me in between your more important commitments.

He stepped toward her, all desire gone from his eyes. You think I want to be here? The muscle in his clenched jaw jumped.

Then why are you? I didnt ask you to come.

No, you sure didnt, he said bitterly. Youve made it clear where your loyalties lie.

A rusty sound erupted from her throat. My loyalties! Her hands began to shake, making her wish for pockets to hide them in. Why hadnt she waited to take off Popss huge shirt? She felt as vulnerable on the outside as she did on the inside.

Youre one to talk about loyalties. How many times had Travis rushed off to rescue his real family, often not bothering to tell her where hed gone or when hed return?

Youre the one who ran off. Traviss voice was colder and tighter than the jeans shed left crumpled on the mudroom floor. Until I read that damned note you left, I never pegged you for a coward. You always bragged about being strong Lewis stock.

Strong Lewis stock. That had been Popss motto, his answer to all lifes problems.

How dare you throw my grandfathers words in my face! She kneaded her fist against the ache in the pit of her stomach. You must be spending too much time with your brother. Thats the kind of cruel remark Id expect from Grant.

Hurt flickered across his features. Lindy hardened her heart. She wouldnt let her softer emotions distract her. You obviously came here to upset me. Youve succeeded. Now you can leave.

Leave? Travis spit the word out. Is that your only answer? When things get sticky, pack up and crawl home.

What choice did I have? Did you ever give me a reason to stay? Lindys voice rose, but she didnt care. She couldnt keep her feelings bottled up any longer. You worked twenty hours a day, seven days a week. On the rare occasions you came home, it was just for a quick napin the guest room for Gods sake. Do you have any idea how demoralizing that was for me? Being tied to a man whod rather fold himself onto a bed too short and too narrow to be the slightest bit comfortable than share a king-size bed with me?

She paused, sucking air deep into her burning lungs. Even a year later, the idea of being no more than an obligation to Travis caused her heart to spasm.

He straightened from the door frame. I never meant to hurt you. I didnt know what you wanted. What you needed.

You couldve asked. Shed desperately needed words of comfort from him. All shed gotten was his silence. His absence.

I figured I had time. I wanted to wait until youd fully recovered before His shoulder shrugged. Before I broached such a sensitive subject. Our relationship was rocky enough.

What little relationship we had died that night. Her voice hitched, as it always did when she remembered the car crash that had wrecked their lives. Her hands again covered her stomach. If their son hadnt died, would their marriage have survived?

This time, Traviss hurt was more than a flicker. It was a beacon. Shed never doubted the sincerity of Traviss grief. Unfortunately it was their only common emotion.

Id give anything to change what happened, Travis whispered, the warm timbre of his voice washing over her raw nerves, once more weakening her resolve.

In self-defense, she resorted to rudeness. Well, not even you can fix the past. And I have a funeral to attend today.

She turned to leave, desperate to escape before the tears burning her eyelids broke free.

Traviss warm touch halted her getaway, his thumb gently stroking the tender flesh just south of her underarm. I was sorry to hear about Lionel. I know how much he meant to you.

She knew the tingles coursing through her were wrong. For goodness sake, in a few hours she would bury the only real family shed ever had. So why did Traviss touch feel so right?

She looked pointedly to where his tanned flesh intersected with her pale skin. Knowing he couldnt miss the skip in her pulse, she played her reaction as anger, lifting her gaze to his and arching her brow.

The left side of his mouth twitched slightly. He wasnt fooled. Whatever problems she and Travis may have had, chemistry was never one of them. Every time they came within five feet of each other, they spontaneously combusted.

Lindy sighed sadly and tugged her arm free. More than anything, that explosive attraction explained how they had ended up in this mess.

Do us both a favor, Travis. Go back to Atlanta where you belong.

Travis stood under the shade of the oak tree centered in the rural cemetery and studied Lindy from behind the protection of his sunglasses. She stood as rigid as a soldier, looking strong and composed. But her hands, wrapped in a death grip around a handkerchief, trembled.

If she doesnt bend soon, shes gonna break.

Even with an iron rod down her back and that damned chin of hers aimed to the heavens, she looked stunning. Shed tamed her blond curls into a sophisticated little knot resting on her nape. A classy black suit hugged her body, showcasing the fullness of her breasts, the curve of her hips.

She wore no sunglasses, facing the suns glare and the crowds speculation directly. Purple smudges tinted the skin under her blue eyes and lines formed around her tightly clenched lips. Even her nostrils flared at regulated intervals.

Against his chest, Traviss cell phone vibrated for the third time in half an hour. He slipped his hand into his suit jacket and turned it off. Monroe Enterprises, more specifically, his brother and father, would have to get along without him for a couple of days.

He wasnt going anywhere until he figured out what was going on here, why hed been summoned to Lionel Lewiss funeral. Not that he wasnt sad to hear about Lionels passing. They may not have seen eye to eye where Lindy was concerned, but Travis had respected the old man. In fact, he admired the way Pops had always put his familys happinessLindys happinessfirst.

Let us not focus solely on our loss, the minister said. Rather, let us remember the joy Lionel brought into our lives.

The words buzzed into Traviss consciousness, but his gaze remained focused across the crowd of mourners, where Lindy stood beside her grandfathers flower-draped casket.

His eyes flicked to the hulking Jethro reject hovering at her elbow. He recognized the bastard. Hed never forget the image of his wifes arms wrapped around this overgrown hick.

After reading Lindys Dear John note last year, hed raced to Tennessee to lay it all on the line, and what did he find? Lindy dancing the night away in the town square with some farm boy. Travis had stormed out of town without learning the mans name. Once back in Atlanta, he spent the evening spilling his guts to Jack Daniels.

He knew the mans name now. The old lady who ran the boardinghouse that passed for a hotel in this one-horse town happily supplied the mans identity over lunch.

Thank goodness for Danny Robertson, shed cooed. Lindy needs a strong man to lean on during these hard times. And Dannys such a great boy.

His hostess, diligently thorough in her gossip, spared no detail about Lindys longtime friendship with the CEO of the local Feed and Seed.

How can these people stand to live in this fishbowl?

Around him, the funeral crowd began reciting a hushed version of the Lords Prayer. Lead us not into temptation

Temptation. Yeah, right.

Shifting under the heat of the sunand his rising angerTravis watched Lindy mutilate her handkerchief. Was it possible she didnt know her attorney had called him yesterday, giving him all the details of Lionels funeral as well as the meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon?

Shed seemed genuinely surprised by his presence this morning. And not just because hed caught her practically naked. Coming face-to-face with a barely dressed, smiling Lindy had thrown him for quite a loop. But even through his own surprise, hed noted the shock on her face.

The seductive vision of his wife wearing nothing but two strips of white cotton filled his brain. He couldnt remember the last time hed seen so much of her creamy-white skin.

It had been even longer since hed seen her smile.

His focus had been so riveted on Lindy, he didnt notice Robertson move closer to her side until the grizzly-size man lifted a paw and rested it on her shoulder.

Travis waited for Lindys shoulder to shrug, knock the paw off, refuse the mans affection. Instead her hand lifted, touched the fingers resting on her shoulder. She craned her head, relaxed her lips, favoring him with a small smile.

The big man seemed to swell under Lindys attention. Traviss stomach twisted, along with every other muscle in his body.

Fists clenched, he stepped forward.

Luckily common sense prevailed. He couldnt very well strike the man at Lionels funeral. Forcing his muscles to relax, he fell back in line and tried to pay attention to the service.

Lindy smiled and greeted well-wishers until her cheeks ached. Unshed tears burned the backs of her eyes. Seemed like the entire population of Lands Cross had shown up to pay their respects.

Guilt washed over her. So many people, most shed known her entire life. Yet all afternoon, one guest had monopolized her thoughts. Travis.

Why was he here? Shed give anything to find out hed come to support her, to finally be there in her time of need. Her pride and her memory squashed that thought.

Would the frivolous hope lurking inside her ever accept the truth? During their brief marriage, Travis had shown over and over again that she was not his number one priority. Heck, as his wife and the future mother of his child, she hadnt even rated second best. Shed come a distant third. Far, far behind his family and his precious Monroe Enterprises.

Whatever his reasons for being here, they certainly had nothing to do with comforting her.

Since most of the mourners had already headed to the farm, she dropped her forced smile. Gritting her teeth, she watched Travis stride confidently across the grassy cemetery. Hed removed his sunglasses. His incredible eyes locked on to her, keeping her in his sights, never sparing a glance for the people or grave markers littering his path. He maneuvered through the obstacles without faltering, with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile, she his target.

A shudder quaked through her, from the inside out.

Beside her, Danny touched her shoulder and bent close to her ear.

You hanging in there? he whispered.

Theyd been friends since their diaper years, and she knew what he really meant. Let me know if you need to cry and Ill carry you out of here so quick no one will see a single tear. Danny had always been good as gold.

She managed a silent nod in answer to his question, but her gaze remained glued to Travis. He continued his approach, seemingly in slow motion. She pressed her right hand against her breastbone and forced a ragged breath into her lungs. A good twenty feet separated them. Still, Lindy felt blanketed by the pure physical force of his presence.

It was a new sensation. More than chemistry. Almost like

Her thoughts broke when Travis cocked his head to the left, releasing her from his visual grip. Noticing movement in her periphery, her eyes rotated, blinked several times. Shed been so wrapped up in Travis, shed forgotten where she was.

Her focus now shifted to the man who stood before her. Chester Warfield studied her, his pale blue eyes narrowed against the afternoon sun. Chester had been Popss best friend for more than sixty years, his attorney for almost fifty. Tears filled her eyes and her tense lips quivered into a weak smile.

The stout man answered with a solemn nod and spread his arms wide. She didnt hesitate, just buried herself in his hug. His familiar scent of lemon drops and arthritis rub engulfed her. For a split second, Lindy allowed herself to pretend everything would be okay.

Then Travis cleared his throat.

Who was she kidding? Her life would never be okay again.

After a few more pats on her back, Chester released her and turned to face Travis, extending his right hand. You must be Mr. Monroe. Im Chester Warfield. We spoke yesterday?

Travis dipped his head slightly in acknowledgment and accepted the older mans hand.

Good to finally meet you in person, Mr. Monroe, even under such sad circumstances.

Lindy studied both men, Travis with his veiled expression, Chester with his odd smile. You two know each other?

Not exactly. Chesters gaze settled somewhere near her earring. The tiny hairs on the back of Lindys neck snapped to attention.

Chester cleared his throat before continuing. As your attorney, it was my legal obligation to contact him.

Lindy shook her head, trying to make sense of Chesters words. Dannys body brushed against hers as his large hand cupped her elbow. Shed forgotten he was there.

You ready to go? he asked softly.

No, she answered, stepping away from Dannys grasp. Back up, Chester. What do you mean, legal obligation?

Lindy felt a moments panic when Chesters face flushed and his finger dug into the neckband of his shirt. Popss face had turned that same shade of purple moments before his heart attack.

But upon closer inspection, she realized Chester wasnt having a heart attack. Rather, he suffered from an acute case of youre not going to like what I have to say.

Lindys internal warning siren began to hum. Her gaze snapped back to Travis. His face gave no hint of his thoughts.

She returned her attention to her perspiring lawyer. Her finger poked the center of his chest hard enough to force him back a step. Spill it.

Chesters eyes flicked to Danny. This is a family matter.

What a crock.

Lindy recognized the old mans stall tactic. Still, even though Danny was practically family, a little privacy sounded like a very good idea. Fewer witnesses.

Danny, would you mind excusing us?

Sure. Ill just wait by the truck and take you home when youre done.

That wont be necessary. Travis spoke for the first time. After the family details are dealt with, Ill see my wife home.





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