by Laura Trentham
Cottonbloom Book One
A river divides Cottonbloom in two: the upscale enclave on the Mississippi side and the rundown, rough and tumble side in Louisiana. They’re worlds apart—but nothing can build a bridge like love…
Cade Fournette never had it easy Cottonbloom. He stuck around long enough to raise his orphaned siblings and then hightailed it out West—and never looked back. Even though he’s made a success of himself in Seattle, Cade never lost the toughness and the angry edge that helped him survive down South. His only weak spot: the girl he left behind…
Monroe Kirby came from the wealthy side of town, but that didn’t protect her from her mother’s drinking—or her mother’s boyfriend. It was Cade who did that, on a long-ago hot September night, before he disappeared…along with a piece of her heart. Now Monroe is a physical therapist who can fight for herself, and it’s Cade who could use some conditioning when he makes an unexpected return back home. Will he and Monroe pick up where they left off and finally explore their mutual passion—or will the scars and secrets of the past divide them once more?
Genre: Contemporary RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon IndieBound BAM iTunes Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Small Town, Humor, Second Chance
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Excerpt & More
Standing at a high counter, Monroe Kirby made notes in her last client’s chart and rotated her ankles. It had been a long day. Ms. June, the office scheduler, bustled over, her nursing clogs squeaking. “I have a walk-in patient. Can one of you take him?”
Monroe propped herself on her elbows and massaged the back of her neck. “It’s nearly five, and I have to meet my girls at the gym. Can you take him, Bart?”
Bartholomew Jones, rubbed a hand over his cropped afro and smiled one of his 120-watt smiles. “I would, Monroe, but it’s Dana’s birthday. If I’m late, I’ll be one of your clients tomorrow. With a wrung neck.”
Monroe returned his smile in spite of the inconvenience. No matter how stressful or busy they were, Bartholomew brightened everyone’s day and made working as a physical therapist at Cottonbloom Therapeutics fun. It was his gift, and she’d never regretted coming back home to join his practice. She was tired, but any client deserved to be put through their paces with a smile on her face and encouragement in her voice.
“I’ll shoot Tally a text and let her get the girls started. Hopefully this guy is cooperative. Records?”
“Doesn’t have any.”
“He’s filling it out in room two. Although he didn’t look happy about it. Mr. Fournette brought him in, and they were arguing like two polecats in a sack.”
“Was it a work related injury?”
Sawyer Fournette managed an auto-parts manufacturing plant over the state line in Louisiana. If the injury had happened on the job site, there were government mandated regulations to follow.
“Didn’t mention it, and I can’t imagine the kind of language they were using is appropriate for the workplace.” Ms. June’s ruddy cheeks shaded darker. “If I had to hazard a guess I’d say they were related. Does Mr. Fournette have a brother or cousin?”
Monroe’s heart ramped to sprint-like levels even though she hadn’t taken a step. Her mouth dried and every nerve ending seemed sensitized. She walked past Bartholomew and Ms. June without another word.
Had her stomach dived to the floor in nerves or anticipation? She hadn’t felt like this since her first week practicing. Could it be that Cade Fournette had stepped foot back into Cottonbloom?
The last time she’d seen him had been during her freshman year of college. Ten years ago. She’d gone to a second-hand clothing store on the Louisiana side of the river to look for a party costume. The theme was white trash wedding—not her choice.
Her social circle assumed the store would be bursting with overalls and daisy dukes. Giggling and teasing, they’d flipped through racks of flannel shirts and indestructible work pants. She’d separated from the group, embarrassed at their behavior although she couldn’t pinpoint why.
That’s when she saw him. Standing not a dozen feet away with two shirts draped over his arm and staring right back at her. Internally everything kicked into a higher gear yet she was frozen with her hand still on the shoulder of a shabby corduroy jacket.
She hadn’t seen him for months. Not since the end of her senior year of high school. He’d been distant that night, wishing her luck in college and brushing a kiss across her cheek. The first time he’d ever done such a thing, and when the darkness swallowed him, she’d sensed a door closing. Sure enough, he hadn’t come back to their tree even though she’d waited every full moon.
Something had happened to him over the recent months. A new hardness around his eyes made him look even older than twenty-three. A spark of something flew across the short distance. He nodded once. An uncontrollable urge to wrap her arms around his waist and lay her cheek against his chest came over her. She’d missed him.
She’d taken a step in his direction, but he’d set the shirts down and walked away. The door at the back of the store jangled and made her flinch. In the seconds that followed, she wondered if she’d imagined the brief electric connection or if she’d even imagined him. Then, her best friend, Regan Lovell, had snaked an arm around her waist and pulled her back into the giggling fold of girls.
He had moved to Mobile, Alabama by the time she’d come home for Christmas break a few weeks later, and if he’d set foot on either side of Cottonbloom since, she hadn’t heard. And, as attuned as she was to news of him, she would have heard.
Anxiety bubbled under her nerves. Was it even him? Some instinct—maybe closer to hope—told her it was. What had happened to him? How badly was he hurt? She rubbed her lips together, peeled them into a fake smile, and opened the door.
The man who sat in the chair seemed too big for the small exam room. Not overweight or even bulky, it was his energy that seemed to press outward, seeking an escape. Her gaze skated down his body, her mind trying to take in and process everything at once. The air around them seemed to vibrate.
He registered as a stranger yet her gut twisted with a strange familiarity. Big, callused hands twirled a scarred, wooden cane between his knees, rubber-soled, lace-up boots were on his wide-set feet. His thick black hair was in need of a cut, and at least two week’s growth of dark beard was flecked with wiry steel. His shoulders were broader and his chest thicker than she recalled. His eyes transfixed her. Dark green and intense and holding all her secrets.
“Good Lord. Kirby. Monroe Kirby. All grown up.” His deep voice had acquired a rough edge as if the years had chipped at it. His gaze was as busy as hers, and she adjusted the lapel of her white coat.
“You remember me.” God, she sounded like a star-struck teenager. She’d followed his exploits as best she could. The last splash he’d made was in a business magazine highlighting successful entrepreneurs, but the article had focused on his thrill-seeking adventures as much as his engine design company.
“Hard to forget a damsel in distress on a hot September night.” His eyes narrowed as if trying to dissect her.
Did he remember every moment they’d spent together over the years as she did? Probably not. His life was bigger and more exciting than anything she could imagine in Cottonbloom. Now that it was obvious he wasn’t seriously injured, perhaps she should mimic the tease in his voice. Pretend his return wasn’t rocking her world.
“Well now, Mr. Fournette, what brings you back to Cottonbloom?” Instead of a friendly tease, a defensive edge snuck into her voice. The loneliness of waiting under the cottonwood tree for him night after night made an unexpected appearance.
“Insanity,” he said dryly and looked toward the window where drooping pink crepe myrtle flowers blocked the view of the parking lot.
Purchase link(s): Amazon IndieBound BAM iTunes Kobo B&N
Other titles by Laura Trentham:
in the Touch
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Laura Trentham Goodreads author page
Laura Trentham Amazon author page
More Laura Trentham on Cover Reveals
Be on the lookout for Laura Trentham's future release(s): Then He Kissed Me coming June 2016 and Till I Kissed You coming August 2016
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