And Then There Was You by Nancy Naigle (Excerpt)


Chapter One

NO MATTER how wonderful the vacation, there’s nothing better than getting home and sleeping in your own bed.

That was the exact sentiment on Natalie Maynard’s mind as she stared out the window at puffy white clouds from the back of the taxi. The clear blue skies in Cancún the last two weeks had been picture perfect; she’d almost forgotten how beautiful feathery clouds could be.

Missing Marc, who’d had to leave two days early because of a business issue, she couldn’t wait to thank him for insisting she stay. He’d even scheduled spa appointments to make sure her vacation ended on a high note. He always thought of every tiny detail.

It’s only been two days. To think she’d sworn she’d never get serious with anyone after losing Jeremy following fifteen years of blissful marriage; it still surprised her that things moved so quickly after meeting Marc. As it turned out, her heart had a mind of its own.

Jeremy had been a Monday-through-Friday, nine-to-five kind of guy. Now, being with Marc, she realized she’d underappreciated the time she had with Jeremy. Nights, weekends, were all spent together with him. It had taken some getting used to Marc being gone days on end and working late more often than not.

Change. It wasn’t something that had ever come easy to her.

But after being widowed for two years, she’d gotten used to her own company, which probably had made it easier to accept when Marc was called away for work.

Her life with Marc was practically the opposite of her marriage. She and Marc attended fancy parties, ate at the best restaurants, and there were often unexpected surprises, like this trip.

The last two weeks they’d stayed in a swanky all-inclusive resort with shiny marble floors and upscale dining. Morning walks on soft white sand and romantic nights dancing in Marc’s arms had been magical. Somehow, he’d even arranged private time with the hotel biologist to release baby turtles into the ocean under a starry moonlit sky. Bucket list stuff.

There was no comparing Jeremy and Marc, and maybe that’s why it worked.

I’m almost home, Marc. What will you surprise me with tonight?

Wearing the sundress Marc had insisted on buying her at the resort boutique when they first arrived, her insides tingled in anticipation of the way his eyes would twinkle when he saw her. The soft fabric flowed around her body like a whisper, fancier than any outfit she owned.

Life had changed a lot over the last couple of years.

Two years, nine months, and three days. That’s how long Jeremy had been gone, and as happy as she was now, she still missed him. A scar that would forever be a part of her.

She reached for her heart. The familiar ache pressing on her. Some days it felt like yesterday.

The phone call.

The accident.

No chance to say goodbye.

The flurry of funeral arrangements that left me unable to process reality until weeks later when autopilot shut down. The day I broke down. Thank goodness Sheila was there that morning.

Leaning back against the vinyl seat, she crossed her legs, settling in for the ride home. Concentrate on today. On the good things.

Finally, thirty minutes later, the taxi driver entered the gated community where she now shared a house with Marc. The high-dollar home had been going into foreclosure when Marc told her he was looking for a partner on it, it had been too good of a deal to pass up. Plus, he knew someone who’d rent her house for more than the mortgage. Profits all the way around. Marc was good with money and the deals had all come together as easy as their own relationship.

Meant to be.

The driver pulled the taxi into the driveway. “Here we are.”

“Feels good to be home.” Out the window she could see that Marc had found the time to finally neaten up the flower beds, even raising the profile of the front trees like she’d been asking him for weeks. The tired-looking pine straw that had once covered the flower beds had been replaced with fresh beautiful hardwood mulch. She’d never been a fan of pine straw.

Her heart danced. He understands my love language. Gifts of service.

“Forty-two fifty.” The driver pressed the button on the meter. “Need a receipt?”

“Oh. Yes.” She tugged her credit card from her wallet and handed it to him. The ruby ring on her finger reminded her that his love language wasn’t all that bad either.

The driver pushed the card into his handheld device, then shook his head. “Didn’t go through.” He handed her card back.

“Do you mind trying again?”

He shrugged and did so, but with the same results. “Sorry, ma’am. You have another card?”

Copyright © 2023 by Nancy Naigle