Within This Circle [Brighton Series Book 2] [Secure]
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by Deborah Raney
Description: After a tumultuous courtship, John and Julia Brighton have a second chance at happiness! With tragedy behind them and their children grown, they're looking forward to a new and promising era in their lives. Only, such a promise is never guaranteed. And life can change in a moment. The Brightons' lives are turned upside down when John's daughter Jana abandons her husband, Mark, and three-year-old daughter. John and Julia reach out to young Ellie, to give the young couple time to heal, but how can they help this child, so confused and longing for Mommy? And how much sorrow and stress can both fledgling marriages endure? Two very different couples, each with only their love and faith to guide them, can only pray that it will be enough.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Steeple Hill,
eBookwise Release Date: November 2007
Available eBook Formats [Secure - What's this?]: OEBFF Format (IMP) [404 KB]
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The sharp blare of a horn jolted Jana McFarlane from her chaotic thoughts. She peered up through the windshield of her little white Ford Escape at the traffic light swinging in the wind overhead. Green for some time, judging by the chorus of honks that swelled behind her on South Michigan Avenue.
"Okay, okay, give me a break." Muttering under her breath, she glanced both ways and eased through the crowded Chicago intersection. She stole a glance in the rearview mirror, checking on Ellie in the car seat. Her daughter's thumb was in her mouth, eyelids drooping, head listing to one side.
Great. If Ellie fell asleep this late in the day, she'd be up wanting to play at 4:00 a.m. again. Weren't kids supposed to sleep through the night by the time they turned three? She sighed. So much for that hot-bath-and-early-to-bed-with-a-book fantasy she'd entertained all day.
She merged onto I-55 as the clock on the minivan's dashboard flipped to triple fives. She was late. Again. They were supposed to meet with the investors in Mark's restaurant in an hour. He would be furious. Well, he'd just have to get over it. It wasn't as though he was winning any husband-of-the-year awards lately, either. And hey, this was Wednesday night. Whatever happened to the Wednesday family nights Mark had designated? Ever since he'd opened the restaurant last September—almost a year now—their life had been one big, not always fun, roller-coaster ride. It only promised to get worse and her fear that her mind was slipping, that something was off-kilter, made the ride that much scarier.
The news she'd learned at lunch today hadn't helped her mood any. Her thoughts returned to her encounter with Sandra Brenner at Buca di Beppo. Jana and a coworker from the museum had gone out for a late lunch. She'd been surprised to run into Mom's old friend on the way out of the restaurant. She hadn't seen Sandra in almost four years. At Mom's funeral. She swallowed hard. It still seemed impossible that her mother was really gone.
But what Sandra had mentioned so casually as they chatted on the sidewalk outside the restaurant shook Jana to her marrow. All afternoon, she'd tried to fabricate a way that Sandra could be mistaken. But the more she thought, the more it all added up too neatly. Why hadn't she seen the truth all along? In her mind, she'd confronted her father fifty different ways. Would Dad defend himself when she told him what Sandra had revealed?
An aching sadness simmered inside her, and with every mile, the grief and disappointment boiled until it resembled something closer to rage. She clenched her jaw and pounded the steering wheel with the heel of her hand.
She had tried to embrace her father's new wife. Even though Jana and her brothers had thought things moved a little too quickly with Dad and Julia, they'd all agreed he deserved some happiness after everything he'd been through. It wasn't as though Mom were coming back.
She bit the inside of her cheek. Why hadn't she seen it before? Dad's friendship with Julia had begun while Mom was still alive. Sandra implied they'd had…an affair. Jana could scarcely make herself think the words, much less believe them.
The emotions of those excruciating months before her mother died pressed in on her. And the more she remembered, the more doubt crept in and found footing amid the painful memories. She remembered her brothers commenting about how much happier Dad seemed after admitting Mom to Parkside. Brant and Kyle assumed it was because the burden of Mom's care had been taken from Dad's shoulders. At the time, it confirmed for them that Dad had done the right thing.
Jana's focus sharpened. Dad's happiness hadn't been caused by the relief of his burden at all. It had been Julia. He'd been seeing someone else! No wonder he'd wanted Mom put away.
How could he? Fury boiled up inside her. She—they all—had put John Brighton on a pedestal for his long-suffering devotion to Mom. And he'd smugly perched there, letting them think he deserved the adoration they'd showered on him. Her stomach churned and heat flushed her face, as if the shame were her own.
Julia was no innocent in all this, either. She'd had to know about Mom. Know that Dad was still married. Jana shook her head. Had everything she'd ever believed about marriage been a sham? If Dad hadn't been able to remain faithful to Mom, where was there any hope?
Somewhere a horn blared and Jana tried to focus on the congested highway. The Jeep in front of her merged left and Jana sped up, glad for a little space. But when the car behind her swerved into her blind spot, she saw the reason for the lane changes. A construction barricade loomed mere yards in front of her. Her brain registered the speedometer inching past sixty. She slammed on the brakes.
The squeal of tires echoed a shriek from the backseat. Something smashed hard against the back of her seat, then tumbled beside her between the bucket seats. Ellie!
The Escape lurched, bucking forward as her foot slipped off the brake. She tried to move her right arm, but it wouldn't obey her brain's command. Gripping the steering wheel with her left hand, she watched her knuckles pale from pink to white.
She stomped the air wildly, searching for the brake pedal. She finally connected with a force that caused the vehicle to tilt, then come to an abrupt halt inches from a low wall of cement.
Everything went silent except for the whoosh whoosh of cars zipping by on the freeway to her left. The Escape rocked and swayed in the wake of passing traffic.
Copyright © 2007 by Deborah Raney.