One Night Forsaken
★★★★★ “You can't help but fall in love with them [the characters]. The spark is undeniable and sexy. I love the suspense the author added to the story.”Danielle Lynn Reads
★★★★⭐︎ “This was such a sweet, endearing read with medium spice and some suspense. Braydon’s definitely a cinnamon roll kind of alpha…caring, supportive and growly possessive at the same time. This story was beautifully written by Persephone, quite poetic in places. The descriptions of Lake Lavender just makes me want to be transported there big time! It sounds utterly charming.”Katherine
★★★★★ “Emotional and beautiful moments that give all the feels. The characters are warm and inviting and truly capture your heart on their journey. A great story that will have you hooked from the very first page.”Carmela
★★★★★ “These two are drawn to each other and can’t stop the insane chemistry between them. This is a well layered story with a lot going on. Between the small town drama, Braydon and Alessandra evaluating their feelings we had some great story lines. The characters are well written and had great depth. This was a cute story and I really enjoyed it.”Reading in the Red Room
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One night. No names. No romance. Just fun.
Alessandra Everett has no time for love. No time for romantic relationships. Owning the town’s most beloved coffee shop is her greatest accomplishment. A dream brought to life where she dedicates most of her waking hours. Aside from girls’ night and the occasional day off with her besties, Alessandra is a bona fide workaholic.
Then she meets him. The handsome magazine journalist from out of town. The man with flirty amber eyes and an addictive smile. All it takes is one kiss, one steamy night, and he lives rent free in her memories.
Braydon Harris spends most of his days on the road or writing stories for his family’s travel magazine. Devastated by a relationship gone sour, he elects to live the bachelor life. In his eyes, attachment equals serious. And serious equals heartache. For years, his mantra stuck. Until her…
When Braydon returns to Lake Lavender, his one night with her turns into two… and beyond. And with each passing night, they break their own rules. Give into what they feel. Until the last night, when rejection strikes hard.
She has sworn off commitment. He vows to never love again.
But the more they fight it, the more life brings them together.
Release date: March 7, 2023
Publisher: Between Words Publishing LLC
Print pages: 318
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One Night Forsaken
Nothing like whirling around in speedy, dizzying circles for two minutes then stumbling to walk in a straight line. The cherry on top… I am not alone in my alcohol-free wobbly walk. Dozens of others walk on unsteady legs with their arms outstretched as they try to find balance. All in the name of fun.
How often do we have festivals in Lake Lavender? At least one per season, if not two. But after this centennial celebration, it wouldn’t surprise me if smaller carnivals or jamborees pop up.
I trail behind a couple and warm as I watch them. The way he laces his fingers with hers and strokes her thumb with his. The sporadic giggles as he leans in and kisses beneath her ear or nips at her earlobe. Their obvious love is coveted and adorable.
Deep in my bones, part of me wishes for romance. A love story of my own. For sweet kisses and morning cuddles. Someone to hold my hand and heart. To be my greatest cheerleader but also the one who picks me up when I fall.
In the same breath, I can’t picture it. Can’t fit these pieces into the busy puzzle I call my life. Love doesn’t seem to be in the stars for me. And over time, I have accepted this fact. Or so I keep telling myself.
No romance. Just fun.
Shifting my gaze from the couple, I steer toward the next form of amusement. And for the next fifteen minutes, I wander—and get lost—in the house of mirrors. Exiting, I peer over my shoulder at the tiny building and wonder how the hell I got disoriented in such a confined area. Maybe the inside is bigger than it appears.
After a handful of rides, I aim my feet toward my favorite part of the entire festival. The food tents and trucks. Not only am I eager to try one of everything, but I’m also excited at what ideas the fair foods will give me for Java and Teas Me.
I tug my jacket tighter as I peruse the onslaught of menus. Fried pickles, several types of flavored pretzels, chocolate-covered bacon, fried macaroni and cheese bites, corn fritters, kettle corn, every type of dessert imaginable—deep fried to perfection—and more.
Gah! I want to try one of everything. Damn, I should’ve brought a bag. If I had a bag, I’d fill it then take everything home to gorge in privacy.
As I survey the lines at the nearby tents, I spy a man at the fresh-made churro tent passing out bags to the customers after purchase. “First stop, the churro tent,” I mutter to myself as I shuffle toward the line.
I read the long list of flavors as the line inches forward. By the time I reach the vendor, I order three specialty churros. For myself. Although they’d taste best fresh out of the fryer, I plan to do my taste test at home.
Is it weird that I ask the vendor for an extra bag? He cocks a brow, subliminally asking why I need two large paper bags for three churros—which barely take up space in a single bag. I give a sheepish grin and he concedes with a shrug. Maybe he knows the method to my madness.
By the time I reach the last tent—number twenty, hence my need for an extra bag—my arms are weighed down with countless sweet and savory confections. A mountain of fried deliciousness. Enough to last more than a week and make me sick to my stomach just as long.
I couldn’t be happier.
When I reach the front of the line, I order the batter-fried corn on the cob and an octopus dog (basically, french fries stuck to a battered hot dog and deep-fried). I shimmy off to the side so others can order while I wait. But when the woman behind the table goes to hand me my order, life shifts into slow motion.
The bag in my hand slips. I lunge forward in the hopes of rescuing it while trying to simultaneously secure my order. It all happens so quick. As I watch the bag fall, the backs of my eyes sting. What a waste, I think as I witness this fried food catastrophe. On the cusp of tears, I prepare myself to break down in front of hundreds of festival attendees.
But my tears vanish when I glimpse him. The man crouched inches in front of me, rescuing my bag from certain death.
“Got it,” he states as he rights the bag and rises to his full height. His eyes widen as he peers into the sack. “Wow. Did you buy one of everything?” he asks as he hands over my goodies.
“Thank you.” I take the bag and add my recent order. “And no. I did order from each tent, though,” I add. Heat spreads across my chest and crawls up my neck. I clutch the bags closer, hoping to conceal my flush.
He steps to the side with me, smiling as I fumble to reorganize my bags. As I tuck the corn cob between the fried s’mores and Mexican street tacos, a thought pops in my head.
Should I offer him one of my confections as a thank-you? He did prevent tears. Plus, he lost his spot in line.
“Want to share my octopus dog and fried corn?”
The right side of his mouth kicks up in a half smile. The brow on the same side mimics the action. Heat flushes my skin as my eyes roam his expression. As his brow inches above his black-framed glasses, I notice he has a scar above his eye.
“Sure. But maybe we should sit,” he suggests then points to a cluster of picnic tables nearby.
He takes one of the bags and we wander toward the table. Every other step, I spy him peeking in the bag and inventorying the goods. He remains quiet, a soft smile tugging at his lips, and follows in my wake.
With the bags on the table, I open the packages from the last tent and inhale. No way any of this is heart healthy. Right now, I don’t care. I only eat like this during special occasions—birthdays, milestones, anniversaries, and town celebrations. And there is no shame in eating what you love.
Sharing the hot dog turns out simple after an uneven tear down the middle. The deep-fried corn cob, on the other hand, not so much. Inevitably, we take turns nibbling rows. It’s offbeat to be so intimate with a stranger, to feel the whirl of thrill beneath my diaphragm.
And when he looks away, I ogle him more than is appropriate.
“Haven’t seen you around town before. Do you live in Lake Lavender?” The town isn’t the smallest of small towns, so it is possible to not know everyone.
He shakes his head and swallows his bite. “No. Just in town for the festival. I live in Seattle.”
Out-of-towner and easy on the eyes. Perfect.
“They mentioned our small town festival in Seattle?”
“Not sure. I’m a journalist for Washington’s Hidden Gems magazine. We’re always searching for something new to publish. Fun events and places to see.”
Out-of-towner, easy on the eyes, and he travels. Even better. The likelihood of us bumping into each other again is slim. If he is only here for the festival, his chances of returning are minimal.
“Well, I hope you get lots of juicy tidbits while you’re here.”
He eyes me for a beat and I get lost in the carnival lights reflecting on his lenses. No, not the lights. It’s more than the lights. Behind his lenses, I spot something else. Something magnetic and captivating. A hint of his amber irises. Swallowing, I blink a few times and focus on him.
“So far, tonight has been the best yet.”
Is it the best because of the festival? Or is there another reason? Like me.
Knowing my luck, I misinterpreted him. In general, I read people well. Pick up on words left unsaid. In this instance, my hormones may override my foresight. Just because I feel something doesn’t mean he does too. Only one way to find out.
“Yeah. Big carnival junkie?”
He subtly shakes his head. “Not so much. Honestly, heights and I aren’t the best of friends.” He points to the scar hidden behind his glasses.
“What’s made it so great then?”
He cocks that right brow again as if I’m being daft. “Maybe it’s this blonde I spotted near that tent.” He points to the tent where I almost lost my precious fried foods. “She has a killer smile and offered to share her food as repayment for saving her twenty pounds of carnival delights.”
When was the last time a man flirted with me? Truly flirted. Most just let on to what they want and the deed gets done. But this man, his flirting… a flush spreads across my skin. I fight to disguise the quiver of my body.
“Yeah, think I saw her. What a klutz. You like her smile?”
He clamps down on his lips, fighting a smile, and nods subtly. “Caught my eye.”
Minutes pass with nothing more than silence and smiles. We finish eating and he tosses the trash in the bin nearby. When he returns, I hoist one of the bags on my hip like a toddler as I reach for the other.
He jogs up and takes the second bag. “Here, let me.”
We head for the car lot and I feel his gaze on my backside. Heat rolls up my spine and spreads to my limbs. All without a single touch or word spoken. Our walk is blanketed in silence, but his proximity speaks volumes. Calls out to and beckons me closer.
At the car, I stow the bags in the passenger seat—half tempted to buckle them in—then close the door. I spin to face him and stop short, my breath caught in my chest. I swallow but don’t dare move otherwise. Not with his lips right there, mere inches away. They are all I see—that and his tongue as it darts out to moisten his lips.
I want to taste them too.
I push up on my toes and lean into him. Feel the heat of his breath dance over my skin. Smell the sweetness of honey as it spills from his lips. Hear the slight hiccup as he watches me stare at his lips.
Without hesitation, he presses his lips to mine. Soft yet intense. Gentle. Needy. Hungry. His lips caress mine in an all-too-familiar dance. It isn’t until a moment later, when his hands grip my hips and drag me closer, that I lose all sense of gravity.
His lips leave mine and trail along my jaw. Nibble my ear. Suck the lobe. Make me gasp as my legs become jelly. My legs give out and he catches me. Pins me to the car and continues tasting my skin.
His lips trail down the column of my throat as I hear giggles nearby. Pressing a hand to his chest, I push back and stop him.
“Maybe we should take this somewhere else?”
I don’t know this man. Don’t know if his thoughts have veered down the same path as my own. But if they have, sex in the parking lot of the centennial festival is far from appropriate. Not that I am opposed to parking lot sex. Been there, done that.
But there are too many eyes here. With half the Lake Lavender police force here, the likelihood of getting caught is high. Not to mention the possibility of having our photo taken—semi-naked and gasping—and splashed across the internet.
Wouldn’t that be great for business. No. No, it wouldn’t.
He inches back, his eyes darting between mine. “If you’re okay with that.” His voice is filled with uncertainty. Not at the idea of more, but at the invitation I handed him.
I don’t know him, but I have no reservations. I hold his gaze and nod. “Did you drive here?” He nods. “Follow me.”
He jogs off, jumps in his car and follows me out of the lot.
Every other minute, I peek up at my rearview mirror to make sure this isn’t a dream. That I didn’t just imagine meeting him. That I didn’t dream up this irresistible, sweet guy who is now following me. To my home. For a one-night stand.
No romance. Just fun.
The motto jingles in my head as I park the car and exit. He helps me haul the bags up the stairs and inside. Once they hit the counter, the night turns into a lust-hazed blur. One I will never forget.
“Son, I need more of your magic.”
I peer over the top of my computer as Dad enters, his large frame taking up what little space my office has left. The forty-nine square foot room is swallowed by the massive oak desk and credenza Dad insisted I needed. Half the drawers sit empty, while a quarter house old issues of Washington’s Hidden Gems. And let us not forget, I barely have room to walk around either side of the desk to get to the door.
But the small space houses everything I need to do my job, so I guess that counts for something.
He narrows his eyes but can’t disguise the smirk on his lips.
Edward Harris. My father. Owner and founder of Washington’s Hidden Gems magazine. Not a great user of words, but always good with people. And one of the best people in my life.
“Yes, son. Magic.” For emphasis, he lifts his hands in front of his face then parts them to shape a rainbow. “Or whatever you want to call it. Whatever magic you found in Lake Lavender; you need to conjure more. That piece has us selling more copies than any previous issue.”
At the mention of Lake Lavender, my body heats. Tingles wrap around my spine… and lower. Flashes of one of the best nights of my life resurface. The Lake Lavender Centennial Town Festival. And her… the striking blonde with a smile I will never forget. Or the night I spent between her sheets.
Quickly as the memory appears, I squash it down.
It was one night. Six months ago. I never got her name. She never got mine. And that is how it will stay.
“Dad, I didn’t conjure up anything,” I say, chuckling. “The town has its own magic. Not me. I just took pictures and wrote a story. Nothing more.”
He plops down in the chair on the opposite side of the desk. The only other chair in my office because the door won’t close without a fight if I add another. For a beat, he studies me. Presses a finger to his lips and stares with narrowed eyes. Keeps his lips sealed.
But I know this tactic all too well. I grew up under this tactic. The one where he waits for me to crack under pressure and spill facts left unsaid. Good luck. I’ve had years to master not word vomiting truths to my father. Not because we keep secrets from one another. If it is important, Dad knows. But everyone should have a secret or two. Something no one ever knows about them.
What happened in Lake Lavender… is one secret I refuse to share. With Dad or anyone else.
The single word has an edge. A sharpness that tells me he knows something happened during my journalism trip to the small town a little more than an hour south of Seattle. And the fact I am unwilling to share has him more curious.
“Really,” I answer with a nod.
A wide smile slowly stretches his face. His eyes on mine shine as if he knows something I don’t. I swallow past the expanding nervousness in my throat. My knuckles bleach as I squeeze the chair arms.
This cannot be good.
“Alright then.” He rises from the chair and walks way too leisurely to the door. A door less than three feet away. I exhale as one foot steps past the threshold but hold a new breath when he spins to face me again. “Well, since there was no magic, yet you wrote the best article of your career”—he pauses and I cringe at what is undoubtedly coming next—“I’m sending you back. Different season, different perspective on the town, different story.”
How did I not see this coming? Hell, I set the trap. He knows I intentionally omitted something. So by sending me back, he assumes I will confess my secrets.
Wrong. Better luck next time, old man.
“Sure, I’ll go back,” I tell him with a smug smile on my face. “What should I write about?”
He shrugs. “Last time, it was the start of fall. The time of year for pumpkins and sweaters and outdoor fires. Now, people are shedding their sweaters for short sleeves and sandals. Show me what happens in Lake Lavender this time of year. Maybe they have spring or summer festivals. Meet the townspeople. Make nice with the shop owners. Give me a feel-good story.”
“A feel-good story?”
“Yes. Something that will make Washingtonians eager to visit.”
“And when do you suggest I make this visit?”
He glances down at his watch as if it has a calendar instead of an analog face and studies it too hard to be checking the time. “The sooner, the better. Have dinner with us tonight and take tomorrow to book your stay. Two weeks should be a sufficient amount of time to get another whirlwind of a story.”
“Two weeks?” I all but squeak out.
The corner of his mouth tugs up. “Yes, two weeks. Not like you don’t have the time.” That well-known fact twists a knife in my heart. “And the weekend doesn’t count, but spend it there anyway.”
Why does it feel as if I’m in grade school all over again and Dad is sending me to summer camp?
I remember those days. When summer camp included weeklong camping excursions. Just the group of us, coolers of food, tents and sleeping bags, and nature. I didn’t want to go, but Dad swore I would enjoy it, that being with my peers in the woods is an adventure every child should enjoy.
Though I love the outdoors now, I remember coming home from the trip with itchy red rashes on my skin from the poison ivy I trekked through unknowingly. Let’s just say I memorized the “leaves at three, let it be” phrase really quick.
“Anything else?” I ask with a hint of sarcasm.
He spins on his heel and all but skips away from my office. “No. See you at dinner.”
Everything looks greener. Brighter. More abundant.
On my previous drive along this highway, I remember more buildings through the thinning trees. Signs to lure passersby to mouth-watering restaurants, fun tourist traps, and quirky shops. Vendors on the side of smaller roads selling farm-fresh produce. Easygoing residents with friendly smiles. The air thickly scented by the rich earth and piney evergreens.
In the city, the view is filled with tall buildings. The streets packed with cars. The distant skyline a mix of tall trees and mountains. The air a blend of salt and pine and exhaust.
Taking the next exit, I steer the SUV east and drive toward Lake Lavender. With each passing mile, the forestry grows thicker, lusher. Tall mountain hemlock trees line either side of the road, partially shading the street from the early afternoon sun. I roll down the window, inhale deeply, and sag into the seat as the crisp, piney air fills my lungs.
In no time, I have grown addicted to the air outside the city. How each breath smells better than the previous. How each pass of the breeze feels on my skin; cool and invigorating and full of promise. Every now and again, I question why I still live in Seattle. Question why I haven’t moved away from the noise.
My eyes rove the forestry as my wheels eat up the miles, and it isn’t long before the town welcome sign comes into view.
Welcome to Lake Lavender, Washington. Established 1919.
Lake Lavender is a populous town but not clouded by racket and congestion. Life is simpler. Residents travel on foot or by bicycle often. Strolling down the sidewalk and peering in shop windows. Pedaling in the bicycle lane on the main road, head bopping as they listen to music through earbuds.
Everyone here is just… happy.
I drive down Main Street until I reach Lavandula Lane, then turn right. Half a mile down the street, I steer into the lot of the Lake Lavender Bed and Breakfast.
Most B&Bs I’ve lodged at are small and quaint. A handful of guest rooms with one or two communal areas.
Not the Lake Lavender Bed and Breakfast. This place is huge. Closer to a resort than what most people call a bed-and-breakfast. In this small town, I suppose they need space for more than five to ten visitors, considering it is the only place for guests to stay.
Perhaps this posh bed-and-breakfast existed on a smaller scale in the early days. Perhaps I should add its history to my list of places to research for my story.
I wind through the lot in search of a place to park, finding a spot on the third row. I cut the engine, hop out, and stretch my limbs. Ambling to the rear, I open the hatch and fetch my suitcase, pop up the handle, and shoulder my camera bag. After a press of the fob, I head for the B&B entrance with the suitcase gliding at my side.
Everything looks identical to my last visit, only brighter. Same tall gable roof. Same cream-painted wooden shake siding, cobblestone, and plastered exterior. And so many windows. Trees line the sidewalk, the drive, and the back of the property—which butts against the town-named lake.
It all looks the same but doesn’t.
The change isn’t seasonal. Not the brilliant greenery on the lush spruce trees nor the colorful blossoms on the flowering shrubs. Not the picturesque blue sky nor the lively chirps of nearby birds. And not the scents of the season; cherry blossoms in the distance and blooming lavender much closer.
Rather, it’s more like a new perspective. Seeing the town with new eyes. As more than another story. Which is odd since a story is why I am here. Again.
Nervous energy builds in my chest. Swirls and expands. Like when I was a child and I went too high on the swings. The excitement of defying gravity for a second here and there, followed by the anxiety of falling.
The last time I felt this familiar buzz in my chest, it didn’t end well. Hell, it broke me. Made me see most people as dishonest and artificial. Devious. And I refuse to go down that road again. Not for anyone.
Wheeling my suitcase through the lobby, I approach the reception desk.
“Welcome to the Lake Lavender Bed and Breakfast. How may I help you?” the man asks, a glowing smile on his face.
“Checking in.” I dig in my back pocket for my wallet and hand him my identification. “Braydon Harris.”
Tapping fills the momentary silence as he looks up my reservation. Tucking my license back in my wallet, I sign for my stay and he hands me the key to my room. I stare down at the key card hooked to a blue-and-white tag, the bed-and-breakfast name and a sprig of lavender etched in the metal. And for two breaths, memories from my last visit flit through my mind.
Shake it off, Harris.
“Take the stairs to the second level”—he points to the staircase—“turn right at the top and follow the hall. Your room is three doors down.”
Before I step away, he gives me the rundown on meal times and hours of the pool area, circling them in a brochure before handing it over. I thank him, wrap my fingers around the suitcase handle, and head for the stairs. Several stairs and lengthy strides later, I locate my room.
The lock beeps after a swipe of the key card. I open the door, cross the threshold and come to a stop. My eyes widen as I survey the room. One look and my last stay here dwarfs in comparison. During my fall visit, the better rooms were obviously unavailable. This room is easily the size of my bedroom and living room combined—maybe bigger—not including the bathroom. A definite upgrade.
Bold blues, creams, and subtle earthy tones draw you in. A cobblestone fireplace at one end of the room with a television mounted above. The king bed and pillows dressed in white-and-blue linens, a bold blue floral print quilt at the foot and matching decorative pillows at the head. Opposite the bed, a wall of windows with white wood plantation shutters brightens the room and grants the perfect view of the lake and forestry. Beneath the window ledge is a six-drawer dresser, a vase of dried lavender sprigs in the center and a television remote beside it. Nightstands sit on either side of the bed with glass-based lamps topped with a cream shade.
Two wingback wicker chairs with matching footstools sit near the fireplace, a small wooden side table between them. At the far end of the room, on one side of the fireplace, is a small nook with a desk. On it, a coffee maker, landline phone, lamp, and guides for the area. A small fridge and microwave hidden on the right wall. On the opposite side of the fireplace is the entry to the bathroom and closet—which seems far too large for a nonpermanent residence.
I wheel my suitcase to the bed, toss it on top, and start unpacking my things. Seeing as I will be here two weeks, it’s best I don’t spend my days living out of my suitcase. Until I return to Seattle, this is my temporary home.
Once my clothes are stowed and toiletries added to the posh bathroom, I pluck the guide from the desk and start surfing the list of things to do in this quaint town. Lake Lavender may be small in comparison to Seattle, but it has plenty of options to keep tourists and residents busy.
According to the guide, gatherings or festivals happen each month. Some are themed by the time of year or holiday, while others are just for fun. Parades and food contests and several annual fundraisers for local schools and food banks. Summer barbeques, fall bonfires, winter snowmen, and spring walks through lavender fields. Music concerts and film fests and local beer and wine tastings. Not a single month is vacant.
From the desk, I grab the bed-and-breakfast logoed pad of paper and pen. After perusing the guide a little longer, I jot down several sites, shops, and restaurants I want to visit during my stay. I strategize my time in Lake Lavender with all the places listed, noting I should just wander the town with no agenda for a day or two. Observe the residents and tourists. Get a true feel for the town.
Perhaps today, I meander the streets. Just me, my camera, and pen and paper. With the sun still high, I should get some great day shots of Main Street. And as the sun sets, shots near the lake will be gorgeous.
I tear the paper from the pad, shove it in my pocket, and snag my camera from the closet. Donning a hoodie, I loop the camera strap over my head. I forgo the pad of paper and simply take a few extra sheets and the pen, stuffing them in my front hoodie pocket.
Double-checking I have my room key, I exit and head for the stairs. Less than ten strides after I hit the bottom floor, I step through the front door of the bed-and-breakfast, out into the spring sunshine, and walk down Lavandula Lane the way I came.
Not sure what it is about this place, but a frenetic energy exists in the air. Stirs me to life. Revitalizes the blood in my veins. And for the first time in almost four years, I breathe easily.
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