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Breathe [MultiFormat]
eBook by Donna Alward

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: The first time they broke each others' hearts. Now they have a second chance? Doing what was expected didn't get Anna Morelli anything but a bad marriage. Now that her life has fallen apart there's only one place she can think of to regroup and figure out what comes next. Two Willows, the winery owned by the only man she could ever rely on. Her oldest friend. And her worst mistake. Growing up as the poor boy didn't stop Jace Willow from falling for Anna one hot, sultry summer. Back then, his best efforts to prove himself worthy of the Morelli standard fell just short. While it killed him to see her marry someone else, he made beating the Morellis at their own game his life's work. And he's excelled at it. When Anna shows up on his doorstep, their painful history pales in the face of her need for a roof over her children's heads--and some peace. The heat of their renewed passion is healing, but it burns away layers of hard-won emotional distance, reopening old wounds. Threatening their one last chance to rebuild their love on the shattered pieces of their broken hearts? Product Warnings Full-bodied, rich bouquet with sexy overtones. Decant, breathe, and enjoy. Copyright 2010 Donna Alward All rights reserved -- a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication "Mama, are we there yet?" She couldn't help but smile softly at the plaintive question. She slowed the car and peered over her shoulder at Matteo, strapped into a car seat and blinking his round eyes at her. "Yes, we're here. Just a moment, and I promise you can get out and run around." She pulled out of the trees and into a small parking area that held one other vehicle. A shiny, silver Porsche 911 Carerra. Jace's car. Leave it to Jace to drive a two-seater bullet. She shouldn't be surprised. He'd always been one for toys. The flashier the better. It seemed nothing had changed. He had always been hungry for things. Briefly she wondered if all men thought of their value as the sum of their possessions. Certainly Stefano had. She remembered the sailboat he'd bought. In the end it had been his worst mistake. Anna knew better than most that things were just that. Material possessions. Certainly not enough to build a life on. She'd tried explaining that to Jace once, but he hadn't wanted to listen then either. The memory touched a hollow part within her. The parking area was just below a large house, more like a lodge than a regular dwelling, built of reddish-stained logs. As she pulled to a stop, Jace stepped out of a line of vines to her right. He halted and stared, his lips flattening with surprise at seeing her behind the wheel. No smile. No wave of greeting. And her stomach tumbled over itself. She'd known him for so long she'd nearly forgotten how imposing he could be. His tall frame was lean and muscled, not overly large but exuding a confidence and power she'd always admired. But at this moment, the charming smile and manner she'd come to expect were absent. He almost looked angry now, mingled with surprise at her turning up so unexpectedly. She wrinkled her brow and glanced in the backseat. Matteo was already attempting to undo his seatbelt. And with a stroke of perfect timing, Aurelia woke at the sudden lack of motion and started wailing at the top of her tiny lungs. Anna unbuckled her seatbelt. She slid out of the car, avoiding Jace's severe gaze, opened the back door, scooped the crying baby from the seat and reached over and released Matteo from his own restraint. She held her daughter close to her shoulder, her son by the hand and wished quite irrationally that she'd had time to do something about her hair before trying to convince Jace to take them all in. "Anna." Jace strode over, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that was dirty in several places. His boots were brown with dried mud and there was a smudge of something across one cheek. His hair, however, was perfect, slightly longer than it had been last time she'd seen him, the shaggy tips giving him a sexy, roguish look. She pursed her lips. She hated being at a disadvantage. She'd spent so many years exuding the perfect image it was difficult to allow herself to be anything less than perfect now. "What on earth are you doing here?" That was it for a greeting? No smile? No nothing? She rubbed Aurelia's back, trying to quiet her, but she knew what was wrong and standing around wasn't going to fix it. "I know I should have called first?" Jace frowned. "Called first? It's not like you live moments away. You've come all the way from the Island?" Matteo had pulled his fingers away and Anna rested her hand on top of his head. Oh, the man made it sound like she was the dumbest woman in the world. Didn't he know about Stefano? Didn't he know what a shambles her life was? Was there really that much distance between them now? He made Vancouver Island sound like it was oceans away. "I didn't have anywhere else to go. And you did say I was always welcome." As soon as she said the words, her eyes stung sharply and her breath caught, painful and thin in her lungs. All through the trip--packing, the flight, even the drive here--she'd been fine, but now it all caught up with her. It was hopeless. She was pathetic, running away from her problems. And knowing it, tears glimmered and slipped down her cheeks. "Anna." Jace's face softened, his eyes dark with concern. "Anna, what's happened? Don't cry. Please." He gripped her upper arms, the fingers strong around her biceps. Suddenly it was all clear. Stefano was gone. Her father was furious. Alex was wrapped up in Melissa and their first pregnancy. She was alone, and she'd made so many mistakes, ending with the latest--coming to Jace. "I?I?" "Mama?" Matteo stood firm beside her left thigh, and she let her fingers trail along his dark head, attempting to allay the worry she heard in his little voice. Aurelia's crying increased. "What's wrong with her?" Little Matteo stepped forward from beneath his mother's hand, brown eyes blazing. "My sister is hungry and needs to be changed." A smile twitched at the corners of Jace's mouth as he turned his attention to Matteo. He lifted his brows in a way that said he was clearly indulging the boy. "Is that right?" Anna tried to smile, gathering herself together. Matteo was trying so hard. She hated how her son saw her sad more often than not these days. Jace was as infuriating as ever, though normally he wasn't mean about it. The friend she knew would have been teasing, or concerned. Instead he was sharp and annoyed. Maybe she'd overestimated the power of their past friendship. Jace didn't usually do things to be polite, but maybe he'd casually thrown out the offer thinking she'd never take him up on it. She hadn't thought things through. Again. Somehow she had to make it right, to convince him they should stay. "I don't want to inconvenience you, Jace. Perhaps you could point me to the guesthouse and we'll be out of the way." "The guesthouse isn't equipped for guests. You'll have to stay at the main house. With me." Anna was in no position to argue. Aurelia was at her limit and from the stubborn set of his chin, Matteo wasn't far behind. Right now she had to get them settled somewhere. She hadn't planned on taking over his home. The website Jace had set up for Two Willows had distinctly described the winery as having a main house and a guesthouse. It was on that basis she'd made the decision to come. Doubt flickered once more, but then Aurelia's wail pierced the air again and she knew she'd have to deal with the rest later. "Mama, I have the bag." Matteo had gone to the car and retrieved the diaper bag, hefting it on his slim shoulders. He glared up at Jace with as much of a withering look a boy of nearly four could muster. Anna's heart smiled. Her baby boy tried to look after her as much as she looked after him. After Stefano's funeral, her father had told Matteo to watch over his mama. And here he was, bless his heart, trying to make life easier in the only way a four-year-old knew how. But it wasn't his responsibility, and it grated that her father had put the responsibility of the family on a child's shoulders--even figuratively--when it belonged squarely on her own. But then--when had her wishes counted? Anna lifted her nose at Jace so that he wouldn't see the glimmer of tears again. She spun away, carrying Aurelia with as much dignity as she could, considering the wails that erupted from the tiny lungs. Matteo trailed slightly behind, tipped a little sideways as he lugged along the bag. "Come, Matteo. We'll go up to the house." It took Jace a moment to realize what was happening. Then, as he caught sight of her swaying hips, he strode forward, his jaw tight. Who did she think she was, waltzing in here and looking at him as if everything was his fault? He reached the door before she did and wrenched it open, the movement having little to do with chivalry and more to do with the fact that it was his door. And damned if she didn't sweep by him with her nose still in the air. His sweet Anna. They'd gotten off on the wrong foot. That was all. She was used to having a nanny, and now was dealing with her children alone. He wasn't totally insensitive to what she'd been through. She'd lost her husband. And Jace hadn't even gone to the funeral. He'd heard about it from his vintner, who had heard it from a fellow vintner at a winery near Morelli's. He'd felt like a coward ever since. He'd called Alex for the details and then sent flowers. He should have known she'd be struggling. He should have offered her a place. The proud Anna he remembered would never have shown up out of the blue. She wouldn't have cried either. She'd changed, and he'd been too blind to see it. But seeing her now was a blow to the gut. The same way it had been when he'd visited her last in the hospital, when Aurelia had been born. A reminder of what could have been. A reminder that she was untouchable. Just as she was now. This was why he stayed away. Being near her reminded him of too much. He couldn't take away the hurt of the past.

eBook Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd., Published: 2010, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2010


3 Reader Ratings:
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"Mama, are we there yet?"

She couldn't help but smile softly at the plaintive question. She slowed the car and peered over her shoulder at Matteo, strapped into a car seat and blinking his round eyes at her.

"Yes, we're here. Just a moment, and I promise you can get out and run around."

She pulled out of the trees and into a small parking area that held one other vehicle. A shiny, silver Porsche 911 Carerra.

Jace's car.

Leave it to Jace to drive a two-seater bullet. She shouldn't be surprised. He'd always been one for toys. The flashier the better. It seemed nothing had changed. He had always been hungry for things. Briefly she wondered if all men thought of their value as the sum of their possessions. Certainly Stefano had. She remembered the sailboat he'd bought. In the end it had been his worst mistake. Anna knew better than most that things were just that. Material possessions. Certainly not enough to build a life on. She'd tried explaining that to Jace once, but he hadn't wanted to listen then either. The memory touched a hollow part within her.

The parking area was just below a large house, more like a lodge than a regular dwelling, built of reddish-stained logs.

As she pulled to a stop, Jace stepped out of a line of vines to her right. He halted and stared, his lips flattening with surprise at seeing her behind the wheel. No smile. No wave of greeting. And her stomach tumbled over itself.

She'd known him for so long she'd nearly forgotten how imposing he could be. His tall frame was lean and muscled, not overly large but exuding a confidence and power she'd always admired. But at this moment, the charming smile and manner she'd come to expect were absent. He almost looked angry now, mingled with surprise at her turning up so unexpectedly. She wrinkled her brow and glanced in the backseat. Matteo was already attempting to undo his seatbelt.

And with a stroke of perfect timing, Aurelia woke at the sudden lack of motion and started wailing at the top of her tiny lungs.

Anna unbuckled her seatbelt. She slid out of the car, avoiding Jace's severe gaze, opened the back door, scooped the crying baby from the seat and reached over and released Matteo from his own restraint.

She held her daughter close to her shoulder, her son by the hand and wished quite irrationally that she'd had time to do something about her hair before trying to convince Jace to take them all in.

"Anna."

Jace strode over, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt that was dirty in several places. His boots were brown with dried mud and there was a smudge of something across one cheek. His hair, however, was perfect, slightly longer than it had been last time she'd seen him, the shaggy tips giving him a sexy, roguish look. She pursed her lips. She hated being at a disadvantage. She'd spent so many years exuding the perfect image it was difficult to allow herself to be anything less than perfect now.

"What on earth are you doing here?"

That was it for a greeting? No smile? No nothing? She rubbed Aurelia's back, trying to quiet her, but she knew what was wrong and standing around wasn't going to fix it.

"I know I should have called first..."

Jace frowned. "Called first? It's not like you live moments away. You've come all the way from the Island?"

Matteo had pulled his fingers away and Anna rested her hand on top of his head. Oh, the man made it sound like she was the dumbest woman in the world. Didn't he know about Stefano? Didn't he know what a shambles her life was? Was there really that much distance between them now? He made Vancouver Island sound like it was oceans away.

"I didn't have anywhere else to go. And you did say I was always welcome."

As soon as she said the words, her eyes stung sharply and her breath caught, painful and thin in her lungs. All through the trip--packing, the flight, even the drive here--she'd been fine, but now it all caught up with her. It was hopeless. She was pathetic, running away from her problems. And knowing it, tears glimmered and slipped down her cheeks.

"Anna." Jace's face softened, his eyes dark with concern. "Anna, what's happened? Don't cry. Please."

He gripped her upper arms, the fingers strong around her biceps. Suddenly it was all clear. Stefano was gone. Her father was furious. Alex was wrapped up in Melissa and their first pregnancy. She was alone, and she'd made so many mistakes, ending with the latest--coming to Jace.

"I...I..."

"Mama?" Matteo stood firm beside her left thigh, and she let her fingers trail along his dark head, attempting to allay the worry she heard in his little voice. Aurelia's crying increased.

"What's wrong with her?"

Little Matteo stepped forward from beneath his mother's hand, brown eyes blazing. "My sister is hungry and needs to be changed."

A smile twitched at the corners of Jace's mouth as he turned his attention to Matteo. He lifted his brows in a way that said he was clearly indulging the boy. "Is that right?"

Anna tried to smile, gathering herself together. Matteo was trying so hard. She hated how her son saw her sad more often than not these days. Jace was as infuriating as ever, though normally he wasn't mean about it. The friend she knew would have been teasing, or concerned. Instead he was sharp and annoyed. Maybe she'd overestimated the power of their past friendship. Jace didn't usually do things to be polite, but maybe he'd casually thrown out the offer thinking she'd never take him up on it. She hadn't thought things through. Again. Somehow she had to make it right, to convince him they should stay. "I don't want to inconvenience you, Jace. Perhaps you could point me to the guesthouse and we'll be out of the way."

"The guesthouse isn't equipped for guests. You'll have to stay at the main house. With me."

Anna was in no position to argue. Aurelia was at her limit and from the stubborn set of his chin, Matteo wasn't far behind. Right now she had to get them settled somewhere. She hadn't planned on taking over his home. The website Jace had set up for Two Willows had distinctly described the winery as having a main house and a guesthouse. It was on that basis she'd made the decision to come. Doubt flickered once more, but then Aurelia's wail pierced the air again and she knew she'd have to deal with the rest later.

"Mama, I have the bag." Matteo had gone to the car and retrieved the diaper bag, hefting it on his slim shoulders. He glared up at Jace with as much of a withering look a boy of nearly four could muster. Anna's heart smiled. Her baby boy tried to look after her as much as she looked after him. After Stefano's funeral, her father had told Matteo to watch over his mama. And here he was, bless his heart, trying to make life easier in the only way a four-year-old knew how. But it wasn't his responsibility, and it grated that her father had put the responsibility of the family on a child's shoulders--even figuratively--when it belonged squarely on her own.

But then--when had her wishes counted?

Anna lifted her nose at Jace so that he wouldn't see the glimmer of tears again. She spun away, carrying Aurelia with as much dignity as she could, considering the wails that erupted from the tiny lungs. Matteo trailed slightly behind, tipped a little sideways as he lugged along the bag. "Come, Matteo. We'll go up to the house."

It took Jace a moment to realize what was happening. Then, as he caught sight of her swaying hips, he strode forward, his jaw tight. Who did she think she was, waltzing in here and looking at him as if everything was his fault? He reached the door before she did and wrenched it open, the movement having little to do with chivalry and more to do with the fact that it was his door. And damned if she didn't sweep by him with her nose still in the air.

His sweet Anna. They'd gotten off on the wrong foot. That was all. She was used to having a nanny, and now was dealing with her children alone. He wasn't totally insensitive to what she'd been through. She'd lost her husband. And Jace hadn't even gone to the funeral. He'd heard about it from his vintner, who had heard it from a fellow vintner at a winery near Morelli's. He'd felt like a coward ever since. He'd called Alex for the details and then sent flowers. He should have known she'd be struggling. He should have offered her a place. The proud Anna he remembered would never have shown up out of the blue. She wouldn't have cried either. She'd changed, and he'd been too blind to see it.

But seeing her now was a blow to the gut. The same way it had been when he'd visited her last in the hospital, when Aurelia had been born. A reminder of what could have been. A reminder that she was untouchable. Just as she was now. This was why he stayed away. Being near her reminded him of too much. He couldn't take away the hurt of the past.


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