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It is said that the spaces between the notes make the music.  In the same way, the longing between separated lovers makes the story of their love.

Batumi  is a seaside city and the capital of Adjara, an autonomous republic,  in southwest Georgia.  There, at the edge of the Black Sea, Georgian artist  Tamara Kvesitadze  has created the 26-foot tall, moving sculpture called “The Statue of Love.” Her steel creation is based on the tragic love story of Ali and Nino, a Muslim boy and Georgian Christian girl who were separated by the coming of World War I and the Russian Revolution. Nino fled to Paris with the couple’s child while Ali joined the defense of Azerbajan and was killed when the Red Army invaded in 1918. The novel by Kuban Said, a Dr. Zhivago– style epic, was published in 1937.

At seven p.m. each evening, the computer-controlled statues move slowly toward each other in a spectacular light show, They join briefly in a passionate kiss, and then pass through each other,  leaving the beloved behind.  When I saw this video, I wished I could send it to Unhappy Reader, whose dissatisfaction with Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks, I explained in my last post.   Perhaps viewing the video of “The Statue of Love”  would explain the story of Carrie Moon and Stan Benedict to Unhappy Reader in a way my words apparently failed to do.

At the beginning of Ride, an invisible force seems to draw Stan and Carrie toward each other evening after evening in Jazz By the Bay, just as the statues move toward each other in the twilight by the sea in Batumi.  Carrie thinks she is drawn toward Stan and his artistry as a musician without realizing her obsession stems from her need to recover her own inner artist and musician, the persona she left behind when she became a lawyer. Although Stan fights his attraction to Carrie because he thinks love never lasts for him, her unconditional support shines like a beacon in his emotional darkness and draws him closer and closer, just as the computers driving “The Statue of Love” move the lovers irresistibly toward each other in the twilight.

Stan and Carrie meet in a passionate embrace, like the the lovers in the “Statue of Love.” But they, too, literally pass through each other, as the pressure of their very different lives drives them apart.  Stan’s insecurities lead to muffing his chance  to become a big name musician in Los Angeles.  Carrie finds she cannot sustain the pressure of her legal career and the demands of wife and soon-to-be mother.

Tragedy strikes, moving Stan and Carrie apart, like the moving figures in the “Statue of Love.”  Years pass like the hours that pass before the computer activates the moving figures in Batumi once again.  And then, just as the computer switches on at the appointed time, the Universe moves Carrie and Stan toward each other once again, this time to learn love’s greatest lesson of all.

To view the magnificent spectacle of the “The Statue of Love” at twilight go here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ds9fE0tnzE

To purchase a copy of Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks, click the link on the side bar of this website.  And let me know if you agree or disagree with Unhappy Reader.

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This week I heard from a reader. I do not often hear directly from readers, but the ones who have written up until now have sent good news: they enjoyed Dance for A Dead Princess or Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks. Until this week, the ones who didn’t like my books, either left words to that effect in Amazon reviews, or remained silent. No one took me to task in a long, personal email.

But this week, a reader not only left a negative review on Amazon, she wrote me a long email outlining everything she thought was wrong with Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks. And I could immediately tell that she didn’t “get” the story. She had received a free copy as part of a Read and Review program, and I’m sure she was under the impression that Ride was a formula romance novel. And, reading between the lines, she was upset, outraged might be a better word, because there were no explicit sex scenes in Ride and because Ride is an honest look at how difficult love can be and how we sometimes find lost pieces of ourselves in the people we believe we love and hang on at all costs. Ride is a complex book. It does not say hot sex equals undying love. I know that is theme of formula romance. But I was not writing formula romance in Ride, to the chagrin of Unhappy Reader.

I have come to feel that, as a female writer, all of my work has to overcome the presumption that because a woman wrote it, it is formula romance. When I set up promotions on the various ebook promotions sites, I often have the Hobson’s choice between “Romance” and “Contemporary Fiction.” I consider both of my books to be “Women’s Fiction” although even that label does not immediately remove my novels from the formula romance presumption. While Dance for a Dead Princess does have some elements in common with formula romance, as Diane Donovan of the Midwest Review observed, it goes far beyond formula fiction.   In my day job, as an attorney, I deal with the presumption of innocence, which, frankly, is more akin to a presumption of guilt. And I have come to feel, in my night job, as a fiction writer, that any book for a female audience carries the formula romance presumption.  And when it doesn’t live up to that presumption, some readers, like Unhappy are, to put it frankly, outraged.  Hence her personal email critique.

What is formula romance, you are asking at this point. Good question. The roots of formula romance have impeccable literary credentials. The unforgettable Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and the equally charming Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin are the ancestors of the modern romance novel. In both books, a heroine of little fortune marries a man of means for love and not for pure social advantage.  In archetypal terms, the Cinderella trope.   The plots of both books center around the barriers between the hero and the heroine and how these are ultimately resolved. Jane Eyre attempts to resolve a moral issue, a married man in love with a young women of little means but great love and virtue. Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners, poking subtle fun at the mating conventions of the day. The hero overcomes his pride of position to marry the young woman of great love and virtue but little fortune. From these outstanding beginnings, modern-day formula romance has evolved (or devolved) into predictable plot lines, which are resolved in fifty-thousand words or less. (Unhappy complained that Ride, at 100,000 words was just too long, and she was sooooo bored. My advice: if a book bores you, stop reading it.  It’s like  hitting yourself in the head:  it feels so good when you stop.)

In the modern formula romance, Hero, with six-pack abs, which he miraculously unveils within five pages of the opening, (and which are always on the cover), has sex with Heroine in Chapter One. Notably, they are both strangers. By Chapter Two, the glow of orgasm has faded, and they realize they have made a huge mistake. Like two mature adults, they immediately fight and vow never to see each other again. Then, for twenty-something more chapters, the two vacillate between their determination not see each other and their determination to have more sex, which is described in excruciating detail in alternating chapters. Fight a chapter, F– a chapter. (You get what I mean.)

On this solid and mature foundation for a marriage, Heroine winds up with a very large diamond on her finger, since Hero not only has that six-pack, but he is also great hubby material because he is good in bed and, more importantly, he has revealed he is not a simple ranch hand but the owner of most of Texas (or is a prince of a European state determined to restore its monarchy). Formula romances  close with a wedding or an epilogue showing a happily pregnant Heroine.

These books sell well to readers like Unhappy, so Clever Author multiplies this storyline like rabbits, varying the setting and the characters’ names, but never the plot. And if Author is even More Clever (or Diabolical, you decide) the original book will have a Heroine or Hero with ten brothers and sisters, each of whom will star in a subsequent formula romance. These books are easy to spot on the ebook promo sites because, in addition to male six-packs on the cover, they all have titles that include the word “Series” or “Chronicles.” “Book One of The Thornton Family Chronicles” Or “Book Three of the McLaren Brothers’ Brides Trilogy.” Or “Book Twenty-five of the Sisters of Seven Corners Series.” You’ve seen them. You know what I mean.

Not to be rude, but I run from these cookie-cutter books like the plague. They remind me of those clear plastic sleeves of chocolates that you can buy at Costco at Christmas. Year after year, the blue ones are milk chocolate with Kahlua centers, the pink ones are dark chocolate with an unidentified green cream inside, and the gold ones contain an unknown liqueur that might be brandy. Might. Many of these literary formula offerings have no ending, so that if a reader wants to know what happened to Hero and Heroine (does tragedy strike? does he lose that six-pack and therefore the girl? does he become King Travis the 25th of MoldyDisheveia), she has to buy “Books Two through Thirty of the Hot Brothers of MoldyDishevia Series.” And Extremely Clever Author laughs all the way to the bank. And gets featured as an Amazon Bestselling Extremely Clever Author in the Amazon Newsletter. (Read their newsletter if you don’t believe me.) Oh, and the piece de resistance, Author gets a lifetime guarantee of ads on the obnoxious Book Bub, which mainly features trashy formula romance with those hot-sex covers. But that is another blog post.

At any rate, I have come across a beautiful video that explains visually what Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks is all about. I will explain in my next post and show you the video to see what you think. Is there room in the world for a woman writer to write a book that is not formula romance?   In the meantime,  my deepest thanks to my readers who did “get” it, and my undying gratitude to those who left reviews explaining exactly what they “got.”  I am forever in your debt and humbled by being allowed to entertain you in 100,000, I promise, well-chosen words.

And now, one last word to Unhappy. Despite your email statement to me making light of the loss of a child, losing a child is one of the most tragic events of anyone’s life. It is a tragedy that no one completely recovers from. The only thing offensive about you email, was your statement that “losing a child is no big deal.” Wrong, Unhappy. Very, very wrong, on that one. Formula romance books are fungible. Children are not.

Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks is not a book for every reader. It is a book for anyone who wants to laugh and cry,  for anyone who is willing to be frustrated by characters that life has broken and healed and broken again,  and for anyone who is willing to look inside and love your own, beautiful and utterly unique soul. Ride is a challenge that not everyone will want to meet. But that’s just fine by me.

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Even before the name of the new little princess was announced, I, like many others, wondered if she would be called after her grandmother, Diana. Diana was thrust onto the world stage at age nineteen, a bit gawky, a bit naive, but utterly charming and sincere. By age twenty-three, she was the mother of two children, one a future king. By the time she died in Paris, at age thirty-six, she had grown into a beautiful, compassionate woman, anxious to be a healing and unifying influence in the world.

After Diana died, I found I missed her although we had never met. While she was living through her disastrous marriage and divorce in the glare of world wide publicity, I was living through my own marriage and divorce nightmare on a smaller, but nevertheless, public scale. On the days when I had to wait to check-out at the grocery story, I used to read the tabloid headlines written by Prince Charles’ supporters, accusing Diana of mental illness and instability; and I would comfort myself with the thought that at least no reporters were sitting in the courtroom to hear the man I’d married say exactly the same things about me. Although it was a public courtroom and anyone who walked in could have heard how, by having three children whom I loved more than life itself, I had maliciously morphed from an academic over-achiever who graduated Number Two in her law school class into a dangerous, crazy, lying freeloader. I felt a bond with Diana, although I was unenviably poor and she was enviably rich, because I realized that access to all the money in the world could never make up for the pain of having the father of your children heap lies and disrespect on you in a public forum.

When Diana died, I felt as if I’d lost a friend. And as the years passed and Charles and his publicists pushed Diana and her memory farther and farther into the background to replace her with Camilla Parker-Bowles, I wondered how many people remained who, like me, thought of Diana, not as a clothes horse or as a Royal Highness, but as a beautiful, loving woman, unfairly used and demeaned by a powerful and wealthy family.

My first novel, Dance For A Dead Princess has many themes, but one of the most prominent is the power of an aristocratic family to control its members. Nicholas Carey, the heredity duke, who is the hero of Dance for A Dead Princess, was forced to return from America when he was only sixteen to assume the position of heir to the dukedom, although given his choice he would have gladly remained in New York and studied to become a concert pianist like his mother. Diana was also affected by the power of her aristocratic family at a very young age when her father wrested custody of his children from their mother, leaving Diana and young Charles to be raised by nannies at Althorpe while grieving their mother’s loss.

Another central theme is the toll an unhappy marriage takes on the individuals involved. Having been unhappy in childhood, marriage for both Nicholas and Diana represented the chance to form happy unions of their own. For them, marriage was a chance to love and be loved rather than to be used as pawns on their aristocratic families’ chessboards. But Nicholas and Diana’s hopes were dashed yet again. Nicholas’ wife, Deborah and Diana’s husband, Charles, turned out to be powerfully in love, but not with their spouses. For Nicholas and for Diana, having lost the chance at a happy childhood, the loss of the opportunity to have a happy marriage was a second and even more powerful blow.

Some readers interpret Diana’s presence in Dance for a Dead Princess as an attempt to make believers out of the conspiracy theory of Diana’s death or as a crass attempt to sell books because her name is in them. But neither was ever my intention. I brought Diana into the book to keep her memory alive and to remind the world of the tragedy of her life. She was a beautiful, loving woman who was denied the thing she most longed for: the chance to create a loving family for herself, her husband, and her children. At one point in Dance, Nicholas observes how unfair it was for Diana to be called unstable and mentally ill all because she wanted what every wife wants, to have her husband to herself.

The haunting tragedy of Diana’s life was what I hoped every reader would take away from Dance. In the Prologue, the reader encounters Nicholas in Paris where he is grieving the loss of his beloved friend and the mutual support and companionship they offered each other in their isolated, unhappy lives. Nicholas stares down at the Place d’Alama Tunnel, thirteen years after that fateful August night, deeply longing for one more chance to talk to Diana. “How many nights had he spent talking to Diana about his marriage, about her marriage, about his guilt over Deborah and about the impossibility of being in love?” And he wonders how his friend felt as death approached. “ . . . What had she felt as she slipped away from everyone who loved her? Had she struggled against it, as Deborah had? Or had her torn and broken heart quietly accepted her fate? No, he doubted that. She’d have fought to stay with her boys.”

Whether or not there was a historical conspiracy to assassinate Diana is not the point of Dance. The role of the conspiracy in the plot is to give Nicholas an opportunity to express his unbearable grief over the loss of both Diana and his wife. Aching from all that loss in his life, Nicholas vows to expose Diana’s assassins, not as an act of vengeance, but as means of expressing his soul crushing sadness. And ironically, through this one, last powerful expression of grief, Nicholas meets Taylor Collins, the one woman who has the power to give him what he has always longed for, but has never had.

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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

December 25, 2007

On Christmas afternoon, at around two thirty, Karen pretended to believe Howard’s claim that he had left some important documents at the office. As soon as he had departed, no doubt to deliver the same diamond bracelet to Meg Atkins he had handed to her over brunch, she hailed her own cab and headed to Julliard at Lincoln Center. The day was overcast and cold, and the stars and musical notes that adorned the gigantic Christmas tree in Milstein Plaza had already been lit.

Karen walked around the Plaza pausing successively at the long white Julliard building, at Avery Fisher Hall, and at the Metropolitan Opera House. She wandered back to Julliard and stood in front, taking in every detail. “I could have been here,” she thought. “I should have been here.”

She found a place to sit. Even if it was cold and dreary, she wanted to be where music was learned and performed on this day when she felt as if she were the most alone person on earth.

* * *

November-December, 1994

He had come to her. As warm November lazed, day by day, under the autumn California sun toward mild December, Carrie marveled at the miracle of his presence in her world. At the office, she lost focus as she tried to read the dry documents that were her professional life.

At night, after hearing his last set at the club, they would talk and make love in his loft so late that she would sleep through the alarm. She would wake to the heavenly smell of eggs and bacon and the realization he would be hurt if she didn’t stay for breakfast although she was already hours late for work; and she knew Alan was waiting impatiently in front of her empty office.

She avoided what was staring her in the face: the natural rhythm of his life was far different from hers. He worked when she slept and slept when she worked. When he pulled her back into bed on weekdays for more lovemaking, she was painfully aware of putting her career in jeopardy. But she took the risk. Her need for Stan ran like fire in her veins. Her entire waking day was consumed by measuring the minutes they were apart.

Karen looked around Milstein Plaza in the gray December afternoon light and thought of how, in those early days with Stan, she had struggled to find time to practice flute. Being with him had awakened the music of her soul, and she longed to play for hours on end the way she once had.

But time squeezed her dry. She struggled to keep up her billable hours and be with Stan as much as possible. Every night, she counted the minutes until she could leave the office and slip into her usual place at the club. She knew he was waiting for her. She had to be there. She wanted to be there. She couldn’t let him down. And so, playing her own music, once again slipped down the priority list in her life. After all, he was the real musician. By her decision, she had made herself the amateur. Being close to Stan would simply have to be enough to fulfill her own creative needs. She didn’t have time for more.

They had spent their first Christmas tucked away in a cozy blue and white suite at Aynsley House, an exquisite bed and breakfast in an old Victorian gingerbread in Napa. Karen had wanted to give Stan a memorable Christmas gift that would take them out of their ordinary routines. They arrived on Christmas Eve to find two iced champagne flutes next to a huge four poster where rose petals had been scattered in a heart on the blue and white comforter. For those four days, she and Stan had dressed only when they went to the dining room for dinner. The rest of the time they made love – in the four poster, in the gigantic oval Jacuzzi tub, or in front of the fire. Stan’s craving for her seemed insatiable. On Christmas morning, he gave her a small gold trumpet on a fine gold chain.

At the time, Carrie Moon had seen nothing amiss in those four days, and she had wanted them to go on forever. But twelve years later, Karen Morgan at Milstein Plaza, eyes fixed on Julliard, knew the warning sign she had missed. A cloud had crossed Stan’s face on Christmas Eve at check-in at Ansley House when she had pulled out her American Express card to cover the bill.

* * *

A week later, on New Year’s Eve the club was full, not only with couples, but with an array of gorgeous women in gold, silver, and black sequined gowns. One group in particular that Carrie dubbed the Table of Eight waved and smiled and blew kisses to Stan all night long. And as the evening wore on, he never took his eyes off them. He seemed to be playing just for them.

Harry had reserved her usual spot close to the stage, and when Kristin wasn’t singing, she joined Carrie. As the second set began, Kristin leaned over and whispered, “Is everything ok with you two?”

“I thought so when we left home,” she whispered back. She wished Kristin hadn’t said anything, so that she could have gone on pretending Stan’s attention to the other women was just her imagination. He was an entertainer, she reassured herself; he was merely playing to his audience.

But something worse than flirtation appeared at eleven thirty. Carrie felt the cool rush of air as the back door opened, and she turned to see Lara Beaumont in body-hugging cobalt blue, one-shouldered satin. Stan’s eyes riveted on her face. She smiled and waived slightly as she looked around for a table. The only empty spot was at Carrie’s, so she slid into that seat, whispering, “I hope you don’t mind. Stan said to come by if I finished early at the Hyatt.”

Stan said to come by. The words hit Carrie’s heart like five lead bullets. He’d been talking to Lara. When? Not while she’d been at the loft; but she was at work a good part of every day.

Lara had just barely sat down when Stan summoned her to the stage to sing with him. Carrie saw Harry frown slightly at Kristin, who shrugged in return.

For the next half hour, she worked to keep a pretend smile on her face, masking her disappointment as Stan and Lara worked their way through “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Memories,” “I Can’t Get Started,” and “New York, New York.” Carrie watched the approach of midnight uneasily. Lara was all over Stan. If he gave her the first kiss of the New Year, Carrie knew her heart would break.

As the giant clock Harry had placed on stage began to chime midnight, he began “Auld Lang Syne” at the piano. Stan played along, while Kristin and Lara sang. The entire audience joined in. Carrie held her breath when the song ended. Kristin leaned over the piano to kiss Harry; and predictably, Lara reached for Stan. But he turned away, his eyes on Carrie in the audience.

She was so relieved she couldn’t stand up for a few seconds. Stan left the stage and came down to give her a kiss. “Happy New Year,” he smiled. Behind him, she could see Lara’s deeply disappointed face.

“Happy New Year,” she said and added one more kiss of her own.

The entire ebook of Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks is available for purchase at Amazon. com, http://www.amazon.com/Ride-Your-Heart-Til-Breaks-ebook/dp/B00RDJQB8Q. Deborah is also the author of the award winning novel,Dance For A Dead Princess, http://www.amazon.com/Dance-For-Dead-Princess-ebook/dp/B00C4HP9I0

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

December 2007

Don’t screw up. Alan’s words echoed in Judge Karen Morgan’s head twelve years later on Christmas Eve as she stared at Central Park from the window of her suite at the Plaza. Don’t screw up. Don’t try to find Stan. Carrie Moon is dead, and you can’t bring her back. Being the Honorable Judge Karen M. Morgan a/ka/Mrs. Howard Morgan is safe. Being Carrie Moon is certain death. Be safe. Don’t die. Don’t screw up.

“What if I don’t want to be safe?” she asked the empty room because on Christmas Eve, Howard was ensconced with his junior associate at the firm’s New York office, obsessively preparing for his trial to begin again on January 2.

“What if I want to screw up?” She demanded of the winter-bare trees across the street. And then, the most horrific question of all, “What if I want to die? What if I’ve wanted to die every day for twelve years?”

* * *

November 1994

But she hadn’t wanted to die that Wednesday. She could barely keep her mind on the Burnett file that morning. All she wanted was for night to come and to be back in Stan’s arms.

Around noon, she finished correcting the documents, left them with her secretary, and headed home to her condo to shower and change. She felt the first trace of unease when she looked at her answering machine and realized Stan hadn’t called. She had thought he would to ask her to come to the club that night. Was he angry because she had to leave so abruptly that morning?

She grabbed her black Nordstrom’s cocktail dress and a change of clothes for the next day as she headed out the door to return to work. She wasn’t going to show up on Thursday in Wednesday’s clothes. She would make sure she was at the club no later than ten. Surely as nervous as the Burnett accountants were about the sale of the securities to the public, they wouldn’t send her yet another set of numbers that night.

Carrie’s apprehension grew all afternoon as her secretary put through call after call. None from Stan. Most were from the Burnett accountants, questioning the numbers they had already provided.

But they didn’t send her any new ones, so she was able to take her clothes and slip away happily at seven to go home once again and dress for the club. She was glad she didn’t have to change in the Warrick, Thompson ladies’ room after all because she wanted to look her best for Stan.

The set was just beginning when she hurried to her usual table. Harry brought her wine without even taking her order. Carrie caught her breath at the sight of Stan on stage in his white dinner jacket. She waited with joyful anticipation for the first moment when his eyes would seek hers across the distance that separated them.

But that moment never came. Like the previous evening, he stood on stage so that he never directly faced her. When he made eye contact, it was with a stunning, sapphire-eyed brunette, cleavage spilling out of sliver lame at the Table of Five. Carrie had never seen her before.

She sipped her wine carefully, feeling her heart sink with every sip. As she listened to Stan play, she slowly began to understand that what she had thought was the beginning of all her dreams coming true had been only a one-night stand.

When the band broke at eleven thirty, Stan went straight to the Table of Five with his scotch. He aggressively sought the place next to the brunette, and they all laughed and joked together until the break was over.

Carrie was so stunned by his rejection that she couldn’t summon the strength to leave even though she wanted to. She felt Harry Rich’s sympathetic eyes on her; but she knew if she met his gaze, she would burst into tears.

When the break ended, around eleven twenty, Stan proceeded to the stage with the brunette in tow. Harry, who was at the piano, and Kristin, who was also on stage ready to sing, gave him surprised looks.

Stan kept the broad grin on his face that he had worn since the minute he sat down by the brunette. He motioned for Kristin to give him the microphone, and she obeyed.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I asked a special singer and friend, Lara Beaumont to come down tonight to help me with this song.”

Carrie was now transfixed by her hurt and humiliation. She watched in agony as Stan made his careful mouthpiece placement, breathed deeply, and sent the first haunting notes of “I Can’t Get Started” into the audience. Instead of Kristin doing the vocals, Lara sang the lyrics, gazing at Stan with wide blue eyes.

It was one of the most horrible moments of her life. Carrie placed her half-finished second glass of wine on the table and tried to stand up. She wasn’t in the least drunk. She was completely overcome with hurt and despair.

Stan had known exactly what he was doing when he asked Lara Beaumont to the club. He knew Carrie would come back, eagerly anticipating another night with him. And he was sending her the message to go away.

Forever, she thought miserably, as she finally managed to get to her feet. She noticed that Harry’s worried eyes were riveted on her from the stage, and she remembered his words, “Stay around. Show him he can’t drive you away.”

I can’t do that, she thought, as she struggled to breathe. Disappointment sat on her chest like a fifty pound weight.

Even though the tune hadn’t ended, she turned and walked toward the exit, trying to keep an even pace so it wouldn’t look as if she were fleeing. With her back to the stage, she could no longer control her tears. By the time, she reached the outer lobby, she was sobbing long deep sobs that shook her whole body.

She almost ran to her car. She sat in the driver’s seat with the window down, listening to the rest of the tune. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Huge applause followed when it ended.

She did not know how long she would have sat there if she had not seen Harry Rich crossing the parking lot to find her.

“Carrie? Are you ok?” Then he saw her tears. He opened her door and held out his hand to her. “Come, tell me about it.”

She got out and leaned against the car, trying to regain enough composure to talk.

“Want to go walk by the bay for a few minutes?”

She shook her head. “No, here is fine.”

“Something’s happened between you and Stan.”

She nodded and told him about the night before. His dark eyes were full of sympathy as the story unfolded. “I did what you said, Harry. I fought for him. I went after him. But what can I do about tonight? I can’t fight this.”

Harry sighed. “Stan’s never been one to know what’s good for him. Lara Beaumont isn’t.”

“Are they – involved?” Karen could barely make herself utter the question.

“Off and on, after Deanna. She was a friend of hers. But Stan and Lara never last. They wind up fighting.”

Jealousy ripped through her as she thought about the two women Stan had let into his life.

“So what is tonight about, then?”

“Stan’s usual behavior. He got close to you last night, and now he has to push you away.”

Karen leaned against the car and closed her eyes for a moment, trying to steady herself against the waves of love and jealousy tearing through her. When she opened them, she looked straight into Harry’s deep concern.

What am I supposed to do now?”

He shook his head. “Give Stan some time to process all this. When he’s thought about it, he’ll wish he hadn’t done it.”

“But he looked so happy on stage. Triumphant, even.”

“That’s Stan. Proving to himself he can drive you away. Go home now and get some sleep. I don’t think you’ve had much for the last twenty-four hours.”

He opened the door, and she got in. She smiled and waved as she pulled out of the lot. Harry was a good man, and he had deserved her help.

San Diego’s streets were deserted at eleven forty-five. Karen felt as if she were the only person left on earth. By the time she reached the first red light, she realized she had no idea where she wanted to go.

If she went home, she’d cry all night. But she wanted to avoid feeling the pain because if she let herself feel it, she would be overwhelmed. Work, she thought. If I go back, I’ll be so occupied I can’t feel anything.

* * *

Alan Warrick walked into her office at nine the next morning.

“Karen, are you all right? You haven’t been home!”

She looked up at him calmly from the stack of documents she was proofing. She didn’t care that she was still wearing the black dress or that her hair was loose around her shoulders, or that her face was still marred by tear tracks. “I’m fine, Alan. I’m just making up for night before last. No big deal.”

She could tell he was far more concerned about this disconcerting display of raw emotion than about her personal well-being. A tear-stained face and the previous night’s cocktail dress were completely unacceptable in Alan’s world.

She had to erase all traces of emotion. She leaned over, picked up the phone intercom, and buzzed her secretary. “Alice, I’m heading home now to shower and change. I’m leaving the Burnett documents on my desk with some corrections for you to make. I shouldn’t be gone long.”

She gave Alan a confident smile as she gathered her brief case and headed for the door. She didn’t feel confident about anything, but she knew acting that way would dispel Alan’s concern she intended to make a habit of showing up at work with her heart on full display.

* * *

Her condo was dark and had the musty smell of a closed house. She had left last night, excited about the prospect of another evening with Stan. Now she felt she was crawling back in defeat.

She opened the drapes covering the sliding glass doors to the deck that overlooked the Pacific and pressed her forehead to the glass. She watched the steady rise and fall of the waves in the morning sun. Their rhythm reminded her of Stan’s love making and the rise and fall of their joined bodies, releasing that strange, almost frightening wild energy that had permeated every pore of her being.

She couldn’t bear the thought of Lara Beaumont in her place in Stan’s bed. The tears she had held back through the wee hours so that she could read the Burnett accounting files now formed and overflowed. The pain of disappointment and lost love tore through her chest, and settled around her heart.

Impulsively she turned from the window and hurried to her bedroom. She opened the closet door and stared at the dull rows of navy, gray and black business suits. After a few minutes, she reached up and pulled the long leather case from the top shelf.

She went to the bed, sat down, and opened it. Her fingers caressed the flute’s cold silver. She quickly twisted the joints together, held the instrument to her lips and let her breath warm the metal for a few moments before she blew the first note, low deep and pure. The ice around her heart began to thaw.

She ran through the major and minor scales, playing them faster and faster as if speed would purge the pain in her soul. Her fingers were surprisingly nimble, despite not having played for a long time. But her lips and tongue lasted only through half the scales she wanted to play. Defeated, she held the flute tightly to her chest and wondered how she had lost her own soul. 

She closed her eyes and imagined the backstage smell of every concert hall she had ever played in. She breathed in the blend of old fabric, cork grease, and valve oil. She remembered what it was like to be surrounded by dozens of violin and viola bows, moving restlessly up and down over the ever-changing twang of tuning strings while, unperturbed, clarinets, oboes and flutes ran dizzy ladders of major and minor warm-up scales. Low brass blatted pedal tones. A French horn brayed a hunting call into the chaotic cacophony. She smiled. And then there were the trumpets, the pure egos of the music world. She imagined their high, clear notes cutting through every other sound.

She had been alive then, always on the edge of nerves, yet enthralled by rush of adrenalin that gave her the performer’s high. Being near Stan brought it all back, and let her relive those clear, pure moments when she had been doing what she had been born to do. She wanted to cling to him to avoid losing forever that lost part of herself.

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The entire ebook of Ride Your Heart ‘Til It Breaks is available for purchase at Amazon. com, http://www.amazon.com/Ride-Your-Heart-Til-Breaks-ebook/dp/B00RDJQB8Q. Deborah is also the author of the award winning novel, Dance For A Dead Princess, http://www.amazon.com/Dance-For-Dead-Princess-ebook/dp/B00C4HP9I0

And check out Deborah’s latest book review at Deborah’s Book Reviews, http://deborahsbookreviews.com

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