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If I Fall (ebook)

If I Fall (ebook)

Sweet n Steamy Romance

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He has no intention of falling for anyone - he's duty bound.

Sully, Special Agent James Sullivan, to give him his full title, is on his way to Hope Falls. He's going to visit an old friend, but he couldn't tell you why. If pushed, he'd say that he had some time off after his boss and friend died, and he didn't know what else to do with himself. He probably wouldn't tell you that Patrick's death has left him wondering if there shouldn't be more to life than his FBI career.

She has no intention of falling for anyone - she's carefree.

Jess Archer lives in her motorhome and travels the country as a freelance photographer. She can wander as she pleases and she loves that. There may be no one in the world who knows or cares where she is from one day to the next, but that's a good thing, not a sad thing. Or so she tells herself. Still, she's thrilled at the chance to visit someone who does care about her, her old friend Tessa.

When Sully and Jess meet sparks fly, but will the magic of Hope Falls be enough to bring together two people who have no intention of falling in love?

WARNING: This novella was originally published in Melanie Shawn’s Hope Falls Kindle World. Elements of the world, including characters, are used with permission.

Available to Read on Kindle, Nook, iThings, Kobo, Phone, Computer, Tablet, Etc! Your eBook will be delivered to your provided email address by BookFunnel. 

Chapter One Look Inside

Chapter One

It was a beautiful early fall day in Sacramento. The sunlight streamed in through the stained-glass windows. It felt wrong. So very wrong, in fact, that it was pissing Sully off. Big time. Why was the sun still shining? Didn’t it know? Didn’t it care that the greatest man Sully had ever known was lying in a casket at the front of the church? Didn’t it understand that this was a solemn occasion, a sad, sad day for so many? If he were given to grandiose thoughts, Sully would say that it was a sad day for America—for mankind even.

Patrick Palmer was gone. The world had lost a great man. The Palmer family had lost a great husband, a wonderful father. The FBI had lost one of its best. And Sully? Well, dammit, he’d lost his boss, his mentor, his best friend; and on top of all that, he’d lost his conviction, lost the belief that he was doing what he was supposed to be doing with his life.

He observed the mourners as they gathered in the rows ahead of him. He’d slid into the last row with the intention of being able to slide back out again just as soon as the service was over. Jane and the girls were up at the front. Of course, Jane was holding up; she was the gracious widow, holding it together for the sake of her daughters and the sake of the Bureau. In all the years Sully had known them, Jane had been the perfect, supportive wife. She’d spent all those years waiting patiently. Patrick had always promised her that just as soon as he retired, they’d go travel, just like she wanted to. They’d see the world; they’d visit their daughters; they’d visit all the places Jane had been adding to her wish-list for years. Just as soon as he retired.

Sully’s jaw clenched, and he shook his head slightly at the injustice of it. Patrick had retired three weeks ago. Now he lay in a casket at the front of the church. He’d retired thinking he’d given the best years of his life to serving his country. It turned out he’d given all the years of his life. Sully sighed. It just wasn’t fair. If anyone had earned a long and fun-filled retirement, it’d be Patrick. But then life wasn’t fair, was it? And expecting it to be only set you up for bitter disappointment. Sully already knew that much.

He looked up as a familiar figure slid into the pew beside him.

“What are you doing back here?” asked Manny.

Sully shook his head. “More than I thought I’d be able to make myself do. I didn’t want to come at all.”

Manny nodded sadly and grasped his shoulder. “I know, son.”

Sully had to swallow—hard. The sadness in the older man’s eyes somehow reached out and ignited all the emotions he’d been trying to keep at bay. Until that moment he’d managed to allow himself to feel only anger, but seeing tears in the eyes of the hardass Assistant Special Agent in Charge brought everything up to the surface. His gaze locked with Manny’s. He didn’t trust himself to speak.

Manny nodded slowly. “Jane wasn’t expecting you to be here. She understood.”

“I know, but I couldn’t stay away.”

Manny nodded again. “I’ll tell her you were here.”

Sully smiled gratefully. “Thanks.” Manny was pretty good at spotting his intended next move. Sully was grateful that he wasn’t trying to talk him out of slipping away unseen.

“Are you going to get away?”

Sully shrugged. He had no clue what he was going to do with the next three weeks of his life. Up until last Thursday, he’d thought that he was going to be spending at least a couple of them in Hawaii, on the beach with Anna. That had all changed when he got the phone call that Patrick was gone. Anna had thought they should go anyway. So he’d sent her off with a girlfriend and a goodbye. Hell, the realization that she didn’t care about his grief—and even more so the realization that he didn’t want to share it with her anyway—was reason enough to get out of a relationship they both knew wasn’t going anywhere.

Manny gave him a long hard stare. “Get out of town, son. Why don’t you go home?”

Sully raised an eyebrow. Home? He didn’t consider himself to have one of those. At least not the warm, loving kind of place that the word conjured up. He could go to his mom’s, or his dad’s. He could take a break from reality in either of their opulent worlds. But he didn’t have a loving family or a hometown and history he could turn to. A picture of his old college roommate Eric flashed before his eyes, bringing a small smile to his lips. He didn’t have a Hope Falls. That was Eric’s hometown. In Sully’s mind, Hope Falls was this mythical, wonderful place—quintessential small-town America, where everybody knew everybody; everybody cared and looked out for each other. It was more Mayberry than Mayberry. He shook his head to clear it.

“Is that a maybe you will go home?” asked Manny, who’d been watching his face intently.

Sully shook his head. “No, but you gave me an idea. I might go visit an old friend.”

Manny smiled and got up. “You should. It’d do you good.”

Maybe it would, but not in the way Manny thought. If he went to visit Eric and to finally see the mythical Hope Falls, it wouldn’t be to soak up some small-town atmosphere while he dealt with his grief. No. It would be to dispel the myth. The fact that kind of place still existed, that people had a home town that they still cared about, a place where they were known and accepted and loved—it was no doubt not a fact at all. It was more likely some bullshit story that people liked to believe. Just as they liked to believe that if you worked hard all your life and did what was right, you’d be rewarded with a long and happy retirement where you finally got to spend time with the people you loved and do the things you’d been putting off for decades. Looking around the now packed church, he shook his head. Bullshit!

~ ~ ~

Jess sat on the step of her motorhome taking in the sounds and smells of the park. It was such a beautiful evening, such a beautiful place. She’d driven out to the quieter tracks to catch the last glow of the sunset over the meadow. She didn’t want to leave. She’d almost decided that she’d just sleep right here tonight. She shouldn’t, but she could. She’d be awake with the dawn and could get some great shots of the sunrise before deciding where to go next. She smiled, loving the knowledge that she could do exactly as she pleased. She was answerable to no one. If she wanted to look at it in a less rosy light, the knowledge that no one in the world knew or cared where she was might feel a little lonely. But no. Her rose-colored spectacles were firmly in place, thank you very much, and she did not intend to take them off anytime soon.

She was free. Free to wander, free to do as she pleased. Free to take her camera and roam around Yosemite at will. She could stay the night if she chose. Stay another day, or the whole week. There was no one for her to answer to. No one to worry, no one to care. She reached up and touched the bridge of her nose, securing her imaginary spectacles more firmly. She’d given it a go. She’d tried being in a relationship while she was in Tucson. She wasn’t cut out for it apparently. Okay, so maybe she had liked it that Simon used to check on her whereabouts so much. At least she had until she’d realized his motivation for doing so. It wasn’t, as she had believed, that he wanted to know where she was and that she was okay while she wandered the desert taking photos. It was because he was either on his way to, or already at her apartment. In bed. With her roommate, Rose!

Jess shook her head. Damn, she was a fool. She’d tried once more to settle down in a place, to make friends, to have a real relationship with a guy. And look where she’d ended up. Rejected and deceived by them. Oh, well. She just wasn’t cut out for a normal life. The most enduring relationship she’d ever had was with her camera. It did what she wanted it to. It went, uncomplainingly wherever she wanted to go, whenever she wanted to go. It didn’t mind getting up at the crack of sparrow-fart to catch a sunrise with her. Didn’t mind hiking for days in the backcountry. It didn’t even get seasick when she’d taken it out whale watching off the Oregon Coast. Her camera was the only thing in her life that had never let her down. How sad was that?! She liked to believe it wasn’t sad at all. She preferred to think herself luckier than most. How many people had misguided faith in their partner and their friends? And how many of them were blissfully unaware of how wrong they were? At least she knew the score. She only put her trust into an inanimate object—and if ever it did let her down, it wouldn’t be because it chose to.

She looked up at the sound of a vehicle approaching. Headlights bounced down the track in the dusk. She shuddered at the sound of loud music blaring, slicing through the peace of the evening. As the headlights drew closer, she could see three guys sitting in the back of the pickup truck and three more in the cab. She got up and pulled the door closed behind her before hurrying over to the driver’s seat. There went her plan to sleep out here. She might be a free spirit, but she also had pretty strong self-preservation instincts, and the guys in the truck had the hairs on her arms standing up. It might be liberating and fun to live the way she did, but it could also be dangerous. She was under no illusions about that.

She started up the engine and headed back toward the east entrance. Maybe she’d spend the night by Mono Lake; there were a few campgrounds dotted around Lee Vining.

When she did get settled into a spot at a quiet RV park, Jess made herself some supper and broke out her laptop. She was thrilled to find an email from her old friend Tessa. Of all the friends she’d made over the years, Tessa was one of the very few she’d kept up with. She was a hugely talented photographer who had worked for Time magazine for a few years. Jess had lost track of her for a while, but she knew that she was now living in a little town in the Sierras…What was it called? Hope Falls, that was it. It sounded so quaint. Tessa was apparently living her happily ever after, having married the love of her life. It was hard to imagine the Tessa she’d known as a mother, but apparently she even had a couple of kids. Her email was full of news about another photographer they’d both known in New York. Gina Delaney. Jess adored Gina, even if the two of them hadn’t kept in touch much; Gina was getting married and wanted her to come to the wedding. Jess grinned. The wedding in Paradise Valley, Montana! Which was just outside of Yellowstone. Perfect. She could see spending some time up there with her camera.

Jess opened Google maps and started checking out how long it would take her to get up there. The wedding wasn’t for a while yet, but the thought of visiting Yellowstone was an appealing one. As she looked at the route laid out on the map, she clasped her hand to her forehead. What kind of dipstick was she? It’d take her a couple of days to get up to Gina’s neck of the woods, but Tessa? Tessa couldn’t be more than four hours away! It’d be awesome to see her old friend. She smiled as she tapped out an email. Tessa and Gina were two of the very few people on earth whom she trusted enough to let into her life on more than just a passing basis—and now she was going to see both of them soon. Hopefully very soon, in Tessa’s case. She sent the email and closed her laptop with a big smile on her face.

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