Heart & Soul
Perfect Bound Softcover
It’s a time when social connections are as important as wealth, and society scorns anything it deems improper. Lara Quinn has built strong walls to keep her secrets well hidden from the world. However, her quiet life is threatened upon the death of her cherished aunt, and Lara must leave her Savannah sanctuary to claim her inheritance—an inheritance with strings attached. The conditions of her aunt’s bequest to her are unorthodox, and Lara finds herself bound to the man she’s been trying for years to forget.
Kyle Garrett Harrison is all a young woman could long for in a soul mate, but Lara is not like any other. Unable to forget, and not sure she can forgive, Lara wants nothing to do with the man who had shattered her heart so completely, the same man who now threatens to ruin her world. Needing to keep her life secure, stable, and respectable, Lara struggles to come to terms with her past, and deal with Kyle in the present. To claim her inheritance, Lara will have to risk everything that matters, including what’s left of her Heart & Soul.
The following excerpt was taken from Chapter One:
“Is there anyone I need to ask for permission to marry you?”
Lara paused. The time had come and she knew she had to choose her words carefully. There was something Kyle needed to know, but she had not been brave enough to broach the topic. Now she knew she had to come out with it. “I suppose you should ask Aunt Lyddie, but she’s going to love you the moment she lays eyes upon you. Just like I did!”
Kyle played with a lock of her hair for he liked how the glow from the fire set alight the reddish hues of her long, brown tresses. “Is this the same aunt you’ve talked about before?”
“And where would I find this Aunt Lyddie of yours?”
Lara hesitated, taking a deep and silent breath before speaking. “Aunt Lyddie lives in Charleston. Her name is Lydia Randall.”
Kyle’s abrupt shift in position forced Lara to sit up from her snug position. “You must be joking!” His voice was distinctively cool and she felt him withdraw from her.
The happiness Lara felt only moments ago began to vanish. “You’ve heard of Aunt Lyddie?” But she didn’t need to wait for his reply. Lara already knew his answer for there was no mistaking his reaction. He knew exactly who and what Aunt Lyddie was!
“Everyone in Charleston knows Lydia Randall! Why didn’t you tell me she was your aunt?”
“I’ve spoken of Aunt Lyddie before.”
“Yes, but only in passing and nothing of consequence. You come from Savannah. Isn’t that how Adam and Irina introduced you? There has been nothing to even hint that your Aunt Lyddie and Lydia Randall is one and the same person.”
“I was born in Savannah and lived there until I was eleven years old,” Lara confirmed. “I was sent to live with Aunt Lyddie in Charleston after the fever overran the city. My times there were always short for Aunt Lyddie arranged for my schooling here in New York.”
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? How could you keep this from me?”
“There was no reason to tell you about Aunt Lyddie,” Lara answered. She could feel the churning in her stomach and it was increasingly difficult to remain calm and composed. “Not until now. And why should it matter so?”
Kyle stared at her in stunned disbelief. “Mack, how can you ask that? Of course it will be a discerning factor! I have accepted the position as manager at the Bank of the State of South Carolina. This is a tremendous opportunity for me. For both of us. Social status, connections and appearances are vitally important, more so now than ever before.”
“I see,” Lara muttered. With her fears soaring, she rose from the couch. Her hopes suddenly dashed. She should have known to expect the worst. Thrice before she had been rejected immediately after her beaus had discovered the truth about her aunt. Now the same as those other times, she was suddenly no longer “acceptable.” It didn’t matter how intelligent she was, or what skills and talents she possessed. All that mattered were her lowly connections that could bring nothing but dishonor to anyone associated with her.
Lara remembered those torturous feelings only too well. Each time it had taken what seemed an eternity for her tender heart to stop aching. Although the wounds had healed, the scars remained and she had learned to build and strengthen her walls in protection of her heart. Introductions and invitations had been declined over and over again as she opted to share little of herself when it came to forming new friendships with men. To be so prudent would keep her heart safe. With Kyle, however, she had somehow convinced herself that he was different from the others and that it wouldn’t matter to him about Aunt Lyddie. How could she have been so foolish and so very wrong?
Kyle rose, too. He reached out and caught hold of Lara’s hand. With his gentle strength, he pulled her to him, but she remained stiff in his arms.
“I’m sorry, Mack. I’m surprised, that’s all. It doesn’t change how I feel about you.” His next words were soft in her ear. “I love you and I want to be with you always. We’ll go home to Charleston together. We’ll find you a nice room until we’re married.”
Lara unwrapped his arms from around her waist and stepped away from him. She looked down at the sparkling gem on her finger then closed her eyes in an effort to control the ache growing inside of her. “Why would I need a room?” she asked, her voice melancholy with disappointment. “I’ve always stayed with Aunt Lyddie.”
“Lara, you can’t be serious!”
His disbelief was obvious. Standing aloof and hurt, she couldn’t listen to any more. “What are you trying to say, Kyle? Do you want me to turn my back on Aunt Lyddie? Do you want me to pass her on the street and not acknowledge her existence? Aunt Lyddie has been everything to me since Mama and Papa died. I can’t do that to her. I won’t! How can you even ask that of me?”
“Mack, be reasonable. Think of our future and what we could have together.”
His last words echoed loudly in her ears. Her anger flared as she listened to his stinging words. How could he accuse her of being unreasonable? Wasn’t he the one being unfair and irrational? He had already made up his mind about Aunt Lyddie without first meeting her. How could he make such preconceived judgments based upon malicious gossip and stereotypes? He didn’t know the “real” Lydia Randall and how generous and loving a person she truly was.
“We’re both wrong, Kyle.” Lara’s voice trembled low, betraying her hurt and disappointment. “We barely know each other at all.” Lara wanted desperately to run from Kyle. She didn’t want him to witness the tears that were about to stream down her face. Inside, her heart was breaking, shattered like shards of a crystal vase smashed to the floor. She slipped his ring from her finger and held it out for him. “I can’t wear this ring. I can’t be the Mrs. Lara Mackenzie Harrison that you want.”
Kyle stood motionless, stunned by the sudden turn of events, refusing to take back the ring.
Unable to stand much more, Lara closed her eyes. Be strong, she told herself. She opened her eyes again to meet his gaze. “I’m not the woman for you,” she declared, her attempt at a brave front came across only as a weak façade. She placed the diamond solitaire in his hand and flew to the parlor door. Still she was not fast enough. Kyle’s strong arm flashed in front of her and braced the door closed.
Lara summoned whatever courage and determination she had left, hoping it would be enough. She turned to face him. Her glistening eyes flashed the turmoil of emotions simmering within her.
“Mack, please! I love you! I know we’re meant to be together. We can work this out,” Kyle pleaded in desperation.
Lara shook her head. “No, Kyle. Your mother’s ring demands too high a price! You’re forcing me to choose between you and Aunt Lyddie. She’s my only family,” Lara choked. Her voice softened. “I have no one left in this world, but her. If you love me true, you wouldn’t ask this of me, you couldn’t!” She stopped to take a deep, calming breath. With a quick stroke of her hand, she brushed away the tears rolling down her cheeks. “Well, you can go home to Charleston and have your precious career, but I won’t be going with you!”
Brenda still has the `small town girl` in her despite having now lived in the Greater Vancouver Regional District for more than 20 years. Born into a Chinese immigrant family and raised in the little town of Cache Creek, British Columbia, she left to earn a degree at the University of British Columbia. Her studies in economics landed her a position within the life insurance industry. Having worked in customer service, later in information systems, and more recently in administration, she currently enjoys the pleasures and challenges of meeting audit and compliance requirements for a division within one of Canada`s largest insurance companies. Other Novels by Brenda Meister: * A Love Unforsaken
Perfect Bound Softcover