Check out this excerpt from #1 NY Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy’s first book in the Callaway family series…Excerpt is courtesy of Novel Publicity Tours.
Her father stared back at her, his eyes dark and unreadable. “Why are you here, Sara?”
“I wanted to be here for your birthday. It’s been a long time since we’ve shared more than an email. We should talk, catch up with each other.”
“Why on earth would you want to talk to me?”
The confusion in his eyes made her realize just how far apart they’d drifted. “Because you’re my father. You’re my family. We’re the only ones left.”
“Do you need money?”
“This isn’t about money. Mom would not have wanted us to end up like strangers. We need to improve our relationship.”
He stared back at her for a long moment, then said, “There’s nothing left for you here, Sara. I wish you well, but we both need to move on. If you stay, it won’t go well. We’ll only disappoint each other.”
Her chest tightened, the finality of his words bringing pain as well as anger. Her father was like a brick wall. She kept throwing herself at him, trying to break through his resistance, but all she ever achieved was a new batch of emotional bruises.
“You’re a grown woman now,” he added. “You don’t need a father.”
“Not that I ever really had one,” she countered, surprising herself a little with the words. She was used to holding her tongue when it came to her dad, because talking usually made things worse.
“I did my best.”
A tickle caught at her throat and her eyes blurred with unwanted tears. She had not come here to cry. She sniffed, wondering why the air felt so thick. It took a minute to register that it was not her emotions that were making her eyes water, but smoke.
The same awareness flashed in her father’s eyes. “Damn,” he swore. “The kitchen—I was cooking—”
He ran out of the room, and she followed him down the stairs, shocked by how thick the smoke was in the entry.
She was on her dad’s heels when he entered the kitchen. The scene was unbelievable. Flames shot two feet in the air off a sizzling pot on the stove. The fire had found more fuel in a stack of newspapers on the counter that had been left too close to the burner, those sparks leaping to the nearby curtains.
Her father grabbed a towel and tried to beat out some of the flames, but his efforts only seemed to make things worse. Embers flew everywhere, finding new places to burn, the heat growing more and more intense. Moving to the sink, she turned on the faucet and filled up a pitcher, but it was taking too long to get enough water. She threw some of it at the fire, but it made no difference.
“Move aside,” her dad shouted, grabbing two hot pads.
“What are you doing?” she asked in confusion.
He tried to grab the pot and move it to the sink, but she was in the way, and he stumbled, dropping the pot in the garbage. She jumped back from an explosion of new fire.
“We have to call 911,” she said frantically. But there was no phone in the kitchen, and her cell phone was in her bag by the entry. “Let’s get out of here.”
Her father was still trying to put out the fire, but he was getting nowhere.
“Get out, Sara,” he said forcefully, then ran into the adjacent laundry room.
“Wait! Where are you going?”
“I have to get something important,” he yelled back at her.
“Dad. We need to get out of the house.” She coughed out the words, but she might as well have remained silent because her dad had vanished through the laundry room and down the back stairs to the basement. She couldn’t imagine what he had to get. There was nothing but gardening tools and cleaning supplies down there.
She started to follow him, then jumped back as the fire caught the wallpaper next to her head, sizzling and leaping towards her clothing.
“Dad,” she screamed. “We need to get out of the house.”
A crash echoed through the house. Then all she could hear was the crackling of the fire.
Sara ran through the flames and down the stairs into the basement. A single light bulb dangled from a wire over the stairs, showing her father in a crumpled heap on the cement floor.
She dropped to her knees next to his still body. He was unconscious, blood under his head, and his right leg was twisted in an odd position. She put a hand on his chest. His heart was still beating.
“Dad,” she said. “Wake up.”
He blinked groggily. “Sara?” he asked in confusion. “What are you doing here?”
“The kitchen is on fire. We need to get out of the house.” A glance back over her shoulder revealed smoke pouring through the open door at the top of the stairs. There was no way out of the basement without going through the kitchen.
Her father tried to sit up, but quickly fell back, groaning with pain. “My leg is broken. You go.”
“I can’t leave you here. That’s not an option.”
“You can’t carry me. Go. Get help.”
“I’ll be right back,” she promised.
She ran up the stairs, shocked and terrified when she saw how much worse the fire had gotten in literally minutes. The heat was intense. She could barely breathe, and there was a wall of flames between her and the only way out. She couldn’t afford to be scared. Grabbing a towel off the top of the nearby washing machine, she covered her nose and mouth, and prepared to make a dash for it.
Before she could move, a figure appeared on the other side of the flames—a man.
A wave of relief swept through her. Help had arrived.
He barreled through the fire and smoke, batting away the flames as if they were troublesome bees. When he stopped in front of her, her heart jumped again.
“Aiden?” She lowered the towel from her face. He was the last Callaway she wanted to see.