|DiDi’s review – A FOREVER KIND OF GUY|
When I began writing A Forever Kind of Guy I began to wonder if young women still believe in the concept of “forever.” Was I out of step and out of touch with today’s twenty- or thirty-something readers? My son’s then girlfriend assured me that I was not. She claimed to still believe that if and when she got married it would be forever. I felt a bit better, but then I thought, doesn’t everyone believe that they’ve found lasting love when they say “I do?” Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t.
The Kim Kardaschians and Chris Humphries’ of this world certainly give evidence to the contrary. I don’t think anyone on the planet expected that union to last and if you placed your bet on an under 90-day marriage, you win. Like so many celebrities “life” partners are easily discarded and rarely mourned. The words “To love, honor and cherish for as long as you both shall live” are made a mockery of by a throw-away society.
Lucky for me, I write contemporary romance novels and contained therein is an element of a fantasy that might actually come true. Love does exist, there are faithful men and women out there in the world, and sometimes commitment sticks. That’s what I want to believe. I think that’s what romance readers want to believe.
This past weekend my twenty-something daughter married a man she met when they were both fifteen. Their high school romance ended, but they reconnected three years ago and they were both mature enough by then to realize that “first love” was the real thing. Parents on both sides have been together thirty-plus years and the mindset of this particular young couple is that they will stick it out with each other as well.
In A Forever Kind of Guy, both Hayley and Ray thought they once had a forever relationship with someone else, but they didn’t. Luckily, they find “forever” again with each other.
Forever isn’t easy. No one hands it to you. It’s a decision you make that you won’t walk away when the going gets tough and if you’re very lucky, you find a life partner who feels the same way. When you do, hang onto it with both hands. Because as we’ve seen, it’s easy to let “forever” slip away.
Excerpt from A FOREVER KIND OF GUY
Why do I bother? she silently asked her reflection.
Her plan for the future dangled just out of reach like a rabbit in front of a greyhound. She wanted to race forward, shake the Florida sand off her feet and arrive in Los Angeles ready to start her life over, but something always held her back. Ten years ago it had been a man. Though she’d vowed never to sacrifice her dreams for a man again, she hadn’t counted on a little boy getting in the way of her second chance.
Just a few short months ago she’d been ready to escape Jacksonville and the life she’d once had with Trey. Her bags were packed. An airline ticket awaited her. She’d planned to step off the plane in L.A. and never look back.
Marriage to Trey derailed her plans the first time. Now she’d allowed her semi-orphaned, step-nephew Fletcher to block her path. But she hadn’t had a choice, had she? With his mother OD’ing on heroin, dying in her arms, begging her to take care of him, to protect him from his violent father, what was she supposed to say? “No, Steffie, sorry, I’ve got a new life in L.A. waiting for me”? Everyone else had turned their backs on Stef and for good reason. Hayley couldn’t. She’d made a promise to watch over Fletcher without realizing what it would mean.
The other options were to leave Fletcher with strangers, or worse, at the mercy of his father Carlos, should he ever get out of jail. She shuddered at the thought that Carlos might make good on his threats against her. That he’d hurt his own son in the process. The poor kid had been traumatized enough in his young life. While she knew she wasn’t the ideal candidate to take custody, at least Fletcher knew who she was, though they’d hardly bonded in the few months she’d had him. They probably never would.
As long as he was with her, Hayley knew Fletcher wouldn’t be mistreated and he’d be kept away from his father. With any luck at all, he’d be adopted by the kind of family Hayley herself had always dreamed of. A mother and father. Siblings. There’d be a big backyard with a swing set. Dinner on the table at six every night. Maybe even a dog.
Sure it was a dream. It hadn’t come true for her, but maybe she could make it come true for her stepsister’s son. If Carlos ever came looking for Fletcher, he’d be long gone, absorbed into the system with a new name, a new family and tightly sealed records. Somehow she’d make that happen. And afterward she’d move forward with her own plans. She and Fletcher would both be free of their pasts.
She stowed the lip gloss and mascara in her makeup case and stared at her reflection once more. What was the point in wearing makeup or making an attempt with her hair? Why did she bother putting cute workout clothes on?
“L.A. Someday. Soon,” she promised herself as she did every morning.
She sat down on the closed toilet lid to wrap the Ace bandage around her swollen ankle. Giving in to a burst of exuberance after teaching one of her aerobics classes yesterday had been a mistake. Her professional cheerleading days were several years behind her, and she was getting too old to do back flips. She should have known better.
Life as she’d known it was over, she reminded herself. Some days there seemed no point to anything.
The doorbell rang. She heard Fletcher move away from where she’d left him on the sofa watching cartoons.
“Don’t open the door, Fletch,” she called. “I’ll be right there.”
Quickly she finished wrapping her ankle, making sure the self-securing bandage would stay in place. Who could be ringing her doorbell? She knew virtually no one in tiny Perrish, Florida. Oh God, she hoped it wasn’t more bad news. Bad news had been following her for too long, showing up when she least expected it. Maybe the ringing of the doorbell heralded a change in that pattern.
She grabbed the despised crutches and maneuvered her way out of the bathroom, wincing when she bumped her injured ankle with the tip of the crutch. She’d needed the crutches for less than a day but it was long enough to know she hated them.
Four-year-old Fletcher stood to the left of the front door, his attention focused on whatever was on the other side of the slender pane of sidelight glass. Hayley moved closer to see a man hunkered on the other side making funny faces at Fletcher. She glanced down to see Fletcher’s reaction. His expression was the one he usually wore of serious concentration, but a ghost of a smile played around his lips. At least Hayley wanted to think he might be close to a smile. It’d been a long time since he had.
There was no chain on the door, so Hayley debated for a moment about whether to open the door to a strange man. It was broad daylight and he looked harmless enough. He straightened when he heard the deadbolt slide back.
They stared at each other for what was probably a split second but felt like a lifetime. Hayley felt the ripple run through her. She’d experienced the ripple effect twice in her life. Once with her ex-husband and the first time with—
“Hi, I’m Ray Braddock,” he began.
—Ray Braddock when she was fourteen. She’d been a brand new student, a freshman at Jannings High School. He and his twin brother Rick had been the hottest boys in the junior class. She’d worshiped Ray from afar, though she’d never actually met him. But every time she saw him, the ripple effect slammed her full force.
Okay, she told herself. You can do this. You are not attracted to him. The last thing you need is a man in your life. Men are bad news. Men cause pain. Men mess up your plans. The ripple effect means nothing. The ripple effect is evil.
“Hayley Christopher.” Good. That’s good. She remembered her manners. She remembered her name. Now if that excitement fluttering in the pit of her stomach would cease and desist, she’d be fine.
Her radar shot out a warning. “You know? What do you mean, you know? How would you know my name?”
“From the property management company. I—”
“Oh? I can’t believe they gave out my name. They have no right. Who I am and where I live is my business and no one else’s. There must be some kind of law—”
“Whoa. Slow down there. I hired the property manager. I’m the owner of the property. I live in the other unit.” He nodded toward the other half of the duplex.
“You—own—wait a minute. What?” The other half of the duplex had been vacant during the short time she’d lived there. Or so she thought.
As if sensing her distress, Fletcher moved closer to her, wedging himself between her leg and her crutch and clutching her thigh. He sent out one of his trademark, almost inaudible whimpers of inquiry. Awkwardly, she patted his shoulder. “It’s okay, sweetie.”
Ray rescued her from her confusion. “I was out of town for a while. So I hired the property manager. But I’m back. Starting next month, you can pay your rent directly to me.”
“What happened to you? Do you need to sit down?” Ray gestured at the crutches and Fletcher hanging onto her. “Want me to come in for a minute?”
Hayley couldn’t take her gaze off her landlord. He’d been good looking as a teenager and he still was. But his handsome face had more character now. Tiny lines radiated from the corners of his eyes. As she recalled, he’d been leaner than his brother, and that hadn’t changed. He looked tanned and strong and capable. But he also looked sad. And a bit lost.
Maybe that’s what I look like too. It was certainly how she felt most days. Giving herself a mental shake, she tried to regroup and say something reasonably intelligent.
Inviting him into her personal space was out of the question. “No. That’s okay. I’ll make the rent checks to you from now on. Was there anything else?”
“Is everything all right with the place? Appliances? Plumbing? Air conditioning?”
“Everything works. I’m not crazy about some of the decorating choices, but it’s nothing critical.” Except the bathroom wallpaper, she added silently. It’s hideous. She’d seriously considered doing the next tenant a favor by ripping down the wallpaper in the bathroom. Bare drywall would be an improvement over the garish flowered foil.
“All right, then. Here’s my phone number.” He handed her a plain white business card on which he’d written his name and the number. “Let me know if you have any problems.”
She took the card. Her fingertips touched his. She ignored her reaction.
When not writing fiction, Dr. Seuss-like poetry or song lyrics, Barbara Meyers can be found at the local Starbucks culling story ideas from customers while masquerading as a shift supervisor. A native of Southwest Missouri, Meyers has called