Happy Sunday and welcome to Behind Closed Doors! Today I have the next installment from Karma In Blue Jeans for you to read. This week you get to meet a few more of Karma’s charges. Brighton Alderidge is the former BFF of Evangeline’s and the victim of her climb to the top of the publishing world. How will she handle the news of Evangeline’s fall from “grace”? Charlotte and Joe have lived the last few years of their lives numb with grief. The loss of their spouses has them spinning out of control…until Fate and Karma step in.
If this is the first time you’ve visited, you’ll want to catch up with the story from the beginning. Click on the links to take you to each post and then come back to continue the story. I hope you enjoy the book so far. It’s become one of my favorite projects to write. I’m sure you’ll understand why…
Brighton stared at the television, stunned by the news. Sure they had their differences and even all out wars but she’d never wish upon anyone what Evangeline Cross was facing now. Did she deserve to fall from the top? Hell yes, but to suffer a debilitating stroke on top of it was more than anyone should have to bear.
She snatched her cell from the coffee table in front of her and hit the button that connected directly to her publisher at Bliss.
“Hey doll. It’s Brighton Alderidge. Got a minute?”
“For you? Of course. What’s wrong? You don’t sound like yourself.”
“Have you seen the news about Evie?”
The woman on the other end of the conversation snorted. “Besides putting out all the fires she started around here, I haven’t heard anything more. Why? What’s she done now?”
“She’s in the hospital. Dallas held a press conference just now. Apparently she’s had a stroke.”
“Holy shit. Well, Karma’s a bitch—“
“You of all people should be dancing in the streets to see her finally get what’s coming to her. She put you through the ringer and her nut job fans were more than happy to go after you too.”
Brighton cringed as the memory of the worst time in her life came back to her. She’d been accused of plagiarism by an obscure, unknown person on Wattpad. Come to find out, the accuser was a uber fan who wanted to take her down so Evangeline’s book could then be at number one. Two years of legal battles and thousands of dollars in legal fees later, she’d been cleared. Her love of writing didn’t survive. Writer’s block had paralyzed her through the entire process. It had only been within the last six months she’d been able to jump back in with a tell all memoir that shot straight to the top of the nonfiction best sellers lists. A month ago she’d been approached by the local talk show to see if she’d like to be a regular on their panel. Life had turned out great for her—much to Evangeline’s chagrin.
Even after all this time, Evangeline continued to claim ignorance of the whole mess, but screen shots from her private Evie’s Angels Facebook group told a different story. Brighton hadn’t wanted to believe her once best friend would have encouraged the horrible attack, but there it was in black and white. While the betrayal had crushed her, it had also opened her eyes to the backstabbing, mean girl mentality swirling around the publishing world.
Gone was the wide-eyed, naïve Midwestern girl. In her place stood a stronger, more determined street smart woman ready to put her past behind her and move on. She’d vowed to never forgive Evangeline for orchestrating the mob that had ripped her apart and called her a thief.
And yet, her heart ached for the friend she used to be.
No one deserves to be struck down in her prime even if she is the biggest bitch of the century! “I know. I should be dancing over this but I feel awful for her and her family.”
“I understand what you’re saying, but save it. She could care less about your sympathy. She’d think you had ulterior motives by offering her any help.”
She sighed. “I know you’re right but I’m still going to stop in and check in on Dallas and Marissa.”
“My advice? Don’t do anything in public. She’ll only turn it against you.”
“Thanks Jess. I promise I’ll be careful.” She made her way to the kitchen and then dropped her cell phone into her purse and retrieved her keys. She scribbled a quick note for her husband and then headed out to her car. We had been so close. I miss that Evie. Maybe this is my chance to get her back.
* * * *
A crash echoed throughout the cafeteria followed by the sound of breaking glass and china. All eyes turned toward Charlotte as a man with the most amazing blue eyes helped her from the floor.
“Oh my god! Are you all right? I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
Her head swam and she found it hard to catch her breath after her collision with the wall of muscle standing over her. “I…I…I think I’m okay but my lunch has seen better days.” She looked down at her smock and groaned. I can’t believe this is happening to me today of all days.
He crouched next to her and proceeded to help her pick up the mess of food and broken dishes. “Please. Allow me to buy you another meal and pick up the dry cleaning tab for your clothing.”
She shook her head and smiled. “That’s not necessary. You weren’t the only one with their head in the clouds. I’ve been preoccupied today and this is just as much my fault as it is yours.”
“Nonsense. I insist.” He glanced at her name tag and smiled. “Charlie? Are you the one the kids chant for every morning?”
She couldn’t pull her eyes from his. Something about him seemed so familiar to her. She nodded. “That’s me. They love their story time. I’m sorry, but do we know each other? You look so familiar. I can’t place it, but…”
He helped her removed the soiled smock and accompanied her back to the food line. “Don’t think so. I would remember someone as beautiful as you.”
She laughed. “I bet you say that to all the girls you crash into.”
He stopped and raised his right hand with three fingers up. “Nope. Scout’s Honor. You’re the very first.”
Her spine tingled.
Scout’s Honor. Darrin had said that to her all the time.
He smiled. Not just any smile but a slow Cheshire cat grin she thought she’d never see again.
“Wha…what did you say your name was?”
He leaned close and took her hands in his. “It’s Joe. Are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
She squeezed his fingers and asked again. “Have we met before?”
He nodded. “In each and every lifetime. Our names are different but our hearts always find each other.”
She swallowed back the lump that had formed in her throat. “It can’t be. Today is…”
“The anniversary of the day we had to part.”
“Darrin?” Her voice cracked and she berated herself for sounding like a lost little girl.
“I don’t understand it either, but seems we’ve been given a second chance here and now. I didn’t realize what was going on until I heard your voice singing to the kids. All of it came back to me. What do you say we grab our food and get reacquainted?”
Too stunned to do anything but take his arm, she walked back through the line and let him fill her tray with all of her favorites.
* * * *
It took all he had to keep calm and not throw his arms around her and never let go. Three years ago his wife of twenty years had lost her battle with breast cancer and he’d lost his will to live. Now here in front of him she appeared to be living again in the body of another, with the voice of an angel—an angel who’d given up on life and wished to be reunited with the love of her life.
Just as he’d done the night before.
Today was the anniversary of his wife, Carrie’s death. Now here she was sitting across from him as if the last three years had never happened. Her laughter tickled his ears and set goosebumps up and down his spine. It wasn’t the fact she was his Carrie that gave him the sense of déjà vu. He remembered his life as her husband, Darrin. Every single moment of it flooded back to him.
She reached across the table and placed her hand over his. “Now you look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
She nodded. “I think so. I can see a wedding on the beach.”
“Darrin and I were married on Maui, but the memory I’m having now is of me walking across the sand to you.”
“The memories are swirling around each other in your head and combining into one?” Please let her say yes and not think I’m out of my mind.
She exhaled. “Thank God! I thought I’d smacked my head on the floor when you knocked me to the floor.” She smiled and the color in her cheeks turned a rosy pink that made the freckles all the more adorable.
“I’ve been drawn to you for the last couple days and I didn’t know why. Something compelled me to have lunch here today instead of running up the street to the diner.”
He nodded. “Yeah. It’s my favorite spot here in the city. They have the best mac and cheese around. My wife used to try to duplicate it and she came damn close.”
“Same here! I’m thinking they use a special blend of cheeses but I have yet to match it.”
He turned his hand over and laced his fingers with hers. “Charlie, I think we’re supposed to find each other here, today.”
Tears filled her eyes and her grip around his fingers tightened. “I’ve all but given up and asked to be reunited with my Darrin again. I don’t want to go on without him.”
“You don’t have to. We can have our second chance. All we have to do is believe.”
“Do you? I’m afraid to let my heart feel again.”
“If you would’ve asked me last week, my answer would have been a resounding hell no. I can’t believe in anything that could take away my heart and soul. But now, sitting here with you I want to believe. I need to believe this is the answer to our prayers.”
“Before you get excited, I should tell you I’ve been diagnosed with stage four.”
His stomach tightened and the room spun. No. No. NO!
“I refused treatment but now…”
“You’ll give it a try? I mean, I’ll be there with you every step of the way. I won’t let you go through this alone.”
“This is all so overwhelming but somehow it feels right. Promise me this isn’t a dream. You’re really here?”
“Yeah. I’m really here. Time for my confession.”
She wiped the tears from her cheeks and tilted her head to the side. She winked and then smiled.
“I was going to go home tonight, close up the garage and let the car run. Like you, I wished to be with my one true love and thought the one way was to leave this world.”
She shook her head and then got up to join him on his side of the table. She wrapped her arms around his neck and then sobbed. “Then it’s a damn good thing we’re both klutzes.”
He chuckled and pulled her close. He rested his cheek on the top of her head and rocked her until her tears slowed. “We’re two peas in a pod. Someone’s been looking out for us, that’s for sure.” My prayers have been answered. Please don’t take her away from me again.
* * * *
Justice smiled. “Now there’s a couple I wouldn’t have seen together in a million years. He’s really robbing the cradle with Charlie.”
Karma put her head on his shoulder and kept her eyes on her new project. “Both are old souls. He may be two decades older that she is in this life, in their hearts they’re the perfect match. His wife died exactly one year before her husband. The stars and worlds were aligned perfectly the moment they collided today so they could reunite.”
“Their heads must be spinning with all the déjà vu going around.” He draped his arm over the back of her chair and twirled her hair between his fingertips. Even in human form her tresses reminding him of the silk spun by the nimble hands of the Faery folk. His cock stirred against his scrub pants with the thought of having her in his bed tonight and every night for as long as The Three allowed her to be with him. Sure she still had to perform her duties, but at least he could play a greater role in her life other than to satisfy her carnal urges.
Not that he was complaining. He’d be an idiot to turn down any moment with her, but he’d be lying to himself if he said he didn’t long for more from the woman he’d loved for centuries. If only she felt the same.
As a demigod, he could never ascend to her status of immortality. Eventually he would leave this realm and have to wait for his next life cycle. Karma would live forever unless she did as Lucius and gave up her status as a goddess.
Something he’d never allow her to do.
“What’s wrong, love? I thought seeing the two of them reunited would make you happy. Instead it’s had the opposite effect.”
He kissed her forehead and then stood up. “Nothing. It’s been a long day with Evangeline and your surprise in the on call room. How about we head over to my—our house and get you settled in?”
She pouted and took the hand he offered. “I don’t think I like not being able to read your thoughts in an instant.”
“Get used to it. You’re the one who wanted the human experience.”
“Don’t remind me.” She turned for one last look at Charlie and Joe and smiled.
“Is she really going to beat stage four?”
“It’s in their hands now, but yes. She will and the two of them will have their happily ever after. They’ve taken the first leap of faith. The rest will be a piece of cake.”
She continued to rattle on about a few of the other cases she had to handle over the never few weeks, but he didn’t hear a word. Instead his mind wandered back to Evangeline strapped to the hospital bed. She’s one of the worst cases I’ve ever had to deal with and I’m not sure if she’s redeemable. Maybe it would be better just to cut her loose and let her completely self-destruct.
* * * *
Next week: Chapter 6
Brighton visits Evangeline
Charlie and Joe get to know each other again