One day Nick Donovan has it all; a beautiful, pregnant wife, a nice house, a great job. The next day he is on his own, starting from scratch with nothing but a few suitcases and his old truck.
Nick flees to the opposite coast of Florida, trying to leave his ex-wife and the memories behind. But that couldn’t happen. Soon Nick finds that he is tied to Shelley in a way that he hadn’t expected. And, in her bitterness, she does everything she can to ensure his misery.
Brandy is Shelley’s opposite; wild, sensual, free-spirited. With Brandy, Nick is able to rebel against all that Shelley stands for. Brandy quickly leads Nick into a world of sex, drugs, and cash. And now Nick finds himself caught between the two worlds, desperate to stay afloat.
Excerpt from Miami Snow
Nick Donovan’s feet became lead weights as he forced them down the silent hallway. The smell irritated his nose. His breathing was shallow, his chest constricted. The knot in his stomach pulled tighter.
He spotted the room ahead on his right and his steps slowed. The door stood open, inviting him in.
The silence mocked him. Eight years of silence. This was not the ending he had envisioned.
He stepped inside, his breath catching in his chest. Machines buzzed. Tubes dripped liquids into her veins. He swallowed hard, bit his lip. She looked nothing like he remembered. Not that he’d expected her to.
Red welts splattered over her exposed skin. Her closed eyes sat deep in dark sockets. The body that had once been so full of life had become a fragile shell.
Nick forced himself to breathe. Silently he thanked a god he wasn’t sure he believed in that she was asleep. Or unconscious. He had no idea how he would handle looking into her eyes.
A nurse stepped in. She spotted him there, blinked in surprise and smiled. “I see we have a visitor?”
He nodded, not trusting his voice.
“Are you family?” the nurse asked.
Nick choked out a reply. “I’m… an old friend.”
The nurse watched him a moment, then moved to check the machines keeping her alive. “She’d be pleased to know someone cared enough to come.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s had no visitors since she was transferred here.”
The nurse smiled sadly. “No one until you.”
He looked at her still body. His eyes watered, despite his attempt at control. “Is she in a lot of pain?”
The nurse eyed him carefully, her eyebrows knitted tightly together. “You do know she’s in a coma?”
Nick tried to swallow, but the dry lump in his throat wouldn’t budge. “No, I didn’t know.”
The nurse moved away from the bed. “I’m sorry. She’s not expected to pull out of it.”
He stared at her closed eyelids, shook his head, shivered. The nurse touched his shoulder and said, “But I believe she knows you’re here. And that would mean a lot to her.”
The nurse left. Nick stood frozen, the flood of emotions causing physical pain. Finally, he pulled a chair beside her bed. He took her bony hand in his. And he remembered.
Nick Donovan drove the toe of his size eleven sneaker into the side of the empty cardboard box. It sailed through the air, hit the blank wall, and fell on top of a stack of more cardboard boxes. A dozen curses raced through his mind. He didn’t voice any of them. What difference would it make? No one was around to hear him.
More than a week had passed since he’d had any sort of human contact, unless he counted the pizza delivery guy. Sixteen days ago, he’d walked out of the Brevard County courthouse, newly divorced and damn near broke. He’d gotten into his beat-up pickup truck, alone. Shelley had gotten into the passenger side of the Lexus that belonged to the man who used to be his best friend. He had traveled 125 miles to Tampa, to the hole-in-the-wall apartment he now called home. She’d traveled a few miles back to the seven-room, 2,500 square-foot ranch they had once shared.
And here he had sat, brooded, and raged. He’d left his job, his friends, his life behind. Thirty-one years old and he was starting all over again. He just didn’t know where or how to begin.
With a heavy sigh, Nick grabbed his wallet and stepped out into the musty hallway. He imagined Shelley sitting in the Jacuzzi, sipping champagne and laughing. He barely restrained himself from putting his fist through the glass pane of the outer door. He had to stop torturing himself and move on with his life.
Nick shuffled along the busy street. Everyone had a purpose, a direction. What did he have besides images of his best friend banging his wife on their brass bed?
He bought a Tampa Tribune from a newspaper machine outside the Bunker I. He stepped inside and sat at a corner booth, the noise around him a welcome change from the silence of the apartment. He ordered coffee from a chatty waitress, spread the classified ads out in front of him, and started circling job possibilities. A new beginning.
Within half an hour, he’d managed to circle five ads and polish off three cups of coffee with a cranberry muffin. He left the waitress a generous tip taken from the last of his grocery money; eating regular meals was overrated. Then he stepped into the scorching sun and walked the two blocks back to his apartment.
Nick told himself to keep moving. Just act. Don’t think. Four phone calls later, he had a job interview at Verizon, in the tech support division for their DSL customers. Not exactly what he’d wanted, and nowhere near the pay he’d been used to. But he was qualified. And it was a paying job.
He cast a glance at his laptop and frowned. In two hours, he had that interview at Verizon, which was located in a building he wasn’t familiar with, at an address somewhere in Tampa. He couldn’t afford an Internet connection. Hell, he couldn’t afford to breathe, if he thought about it. The laptop, therefore, was useless to him. Googling the address for directions wasn’t going to happen.
Once upon a time, he’d been an IT tech, working on the fastest and best computers available. He’d maintained a fleet of them for Cape Canaveral Hospital on Cocoa Beach. Now he couldn’t even Google a damn address.
Nick trudged out to his truck and grabbed the map from the glove box. Between the truck and the map, he felt like he’d stepped into a time warp. Nothing modern in his life.
Back in his living room, Nick spread the map out on the brown carpet. The landlord had probably chosen the shit brown color so it wouldn’t show the years of dirt imbedded in the old fibers. The map was one of those cheap folding things, the kind you can buy at a gas station and you can never refold. His one consolation was that he had plenty of space to spread it out. Not because the room was large, but because he had no furniture.
He found the address and estimated about a twenty-minute drive, providing he didn’t get lost or stuck in traffic. Instead of sulking in this miserable apartment for the past week, he really should have been learning his way around.
A shower would probably be a good idea. Make himself presentable. The water hadn’t even warmed up by the time Nick turned it off. He managed to shave without mangling his face. He’d wisely hung his better clothes in the tiny closet. The rest of his clothing either remained in his suitcase or was scattered around the bedroom floor, dirty or wrinkled. He had no dresser and hadn’t been all that interested in doing laundry.
Black slacks and a white tailored shirt from Brooks Brothers seemed a wise choice for the day. He tugged on his shoes and grabbed the map off the floor. He improvised on the folding and stuffed it into his pocket.
As Nick stepped into the hall, he nearly collided with a woman walking past. Her long, sun-bleached hair slid past tan shoulders. She wore faded jeans that hugged every perfect curve. Nick stepped back, trying not to stare at the nipples poking through her tight white tank top.
“Hey there,” she said. “You must be my new neighbor. I was beginning to think you were a hermit or something.”
She offered Nick a brilliant smile. He found himself smiling back. It would have been impossible not to. “I’m Nick Donovan,” he said. “And I guess I was a hermit for a while there.”
“My name’s Brandy Alexander. And, before you ask, my father was a bartender and thought it was cool to name me after a drink.” She flashed him another brilliant smile as her eyes moved over him, head to toe. “Going somewhere special?”
“Your father was right,” Nick said. “Your name is very cool. And, yes, I’ve got a job interview.”
“Ahh. Cool tie.”
Nick reflexively glanced down at his tie, featuring Bugs Bunny chomping on a carrot. He said, “Got to liven up the business attire somehow.” As he spoke, he remembered Shelley had given him the tie on his last birthday. Maybe he’d use it to wax his truck.
Brandy twisted a strand of blond hair around fingers adorned with funky silver rings. Her deep blue eyes were surrounded by dark, thick lashes. Those eyes managed to hold him still and turn him on at the same time.
“A few friends are dropping by tonight,” Brandy said. “You want to join us, kick back for a while?”
“Sounds good.” His gaze dropped to her full glossy lips. Maybe the life of a recluse wasn’t for him after all.
“Seven o’clock. Good luck with the interview.”
Nick climbed into his truck, smiling and happy for the first time in months. Okay, sort of happy. Definitely aroused. He’d met a beautiful woman. And, unless he’d completely lost his ability to read signals, she was interested in him. Of course, she could be engaged to a linebacker for all he knew. And he was still broke.
His smile lingered. Damn, she was sexy.