In The Pendant's Promise by Judythe Morgan, a teenage girl fabricates a marriage and widowhood because her baby's soldier father is MIA in North Vietnam, but when he turns up twenty years later at her daughter’s wedding, the fiction shatters her comfortable world.
Can a love, sidetracked by war, be rekindled when the child born from that love feels betrayed? Or, will Lily’s original, well-intended lie mean losing her daughter and the only man she’s ever loved?
From the night of her daughter’s engagement party, Lily’s gone out on the veranda to escape the crowds and gather her wits after seeing Ace for the first time in twenty years…
Closing her eyes, Lily saw Ace that night in 1966, the perfect model of military grandeur in his custom-tailored dress blue uniform. The gold band of color down the trousers accentuated his long legs. His service and medal ribbons, “fruit salad,” testifying to his bravery. Even now, the image sent heat through her body.
Other remembrances winked brightly in the starry backdrop of the night sky. Ace driving her the sixty-five miles to U.N. Village from Walker Hill. Stepping out of the vehicle and the heel of her shoe catching on the jeep’s raised frame. Falling against his chest with a thud. His arms had tightened around her. She circled his neck, pulled his lips to hers for a kiss full of promise and passion. Cocooned in the crook of his arm as they walked toward her apartment, she’d wanted to stay forever.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Alex’s voice hurled her back to the present. With his hand braced on either side of his hips, he leaned against the ornate concrete railing that edged the long rectangular veranda, dominating her view.
Lost in that other time, she hadn’t noticed he followed her outside. Like a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, she raised her eyes. “Really?”
He moved forward, slowly, deliberately, the smile on his lips spread to a sensuous flame in his eyes. When his shoes almost touched her bare toes, he hesitated a moment before he bowed, as if he thought she might jump up and run back into the house—or perhaps giving her the opportunity.
Lily remained frozen, caught in the swirling emotions of the past and the present.
He fanned her hair through his fingers. Then slid his index finger under her jaw and tilted her face up toward his. Slowly he lowered his chin, offering her another chance to scoot away if she’d wanted to.
She parted her lips slightly, taking in a small breath as his mouth touched hers. She thought he’d end it there, but she was wrong. He sat beside her, cupped his hand at the back of her head and let his lips play against hers.
Her body turned liquid. He kissed her once more, fiercely, before he straightened, resting his forehead on hers. “I’ve waited a long time to do that.”
She lifted her hands and pushed him away. Fighting for control, she toed into the shoes she’d removed, and slid sideways off the marble top bench to stand with her back to the porch railing as he had done. She hoped the distance would clear her clouded head.
He studied her. “Same bombshell as that night in the parking lot of your U.N. Village apartment, wasn’t it?”
Because he was right, she determined to keep her tone and her attitude light. “As kisses go, it was good. But it was, after all, just a kiss.”
“Like hell it was.” He grasped her upper arms. His bare hands on her flesh sent a tingle racing up her arm. “Don’t deny it.”
Lily wanted to move away, but her feet remained as though set in the cement floor. She fought the urge to sway into his chest. “Okay, maybe I’d give it a nine point five rating.”
He didn’t smile. His hands slipped up her arms and drew her closer. “Felt like a ten to me. Perhaps I need to try again.”
As his head lowered, Lily caught a brief glimpse of Margaret Cabot in the open French doorway. “Your mother’s over there. I think we’re being summoned.”
Alex groaned, but dropped his hands.
When they turned to walk back inside, Mrs. Cabot was gone.
His attention the remainder of the evening was charming and disorienting. He toyed with her determination to avoid contact by frequent touches—a guiding hand in the small of her back, long, warm fingers wrapping around her forearm or clasping hers. Each touch sent tiny electric charges reminding her of how it had been and hinting of what could be.
Lily strained to stay focused as he escorted her through the engagement party crowds, introducing his friends. When he went for drinks, she considered escaping, but he’d only find her, so she waited.
Once the truth came out, he wouldn’t want to find her.
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