Title: Surviving Faithful
Author: Anna Bishop Barker
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Release Date: December 10, 2020
Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.
Can a broken, former bad boy and a lonely small-town vet really work?
Kyle Valentine left Faithful, Tennessee because there was nothing for him there. In one nightmarish moment, all he had was taken.
But Faithful never left him. It was as much a part of him as the marrow in his bones.
He spent three years on the water and on the run from his grief.
Then this dead wife told him to go home.
Veterinarian Olivia Hudson was just a small-town girl with simple needs. She had the prerequisite three wishes.
She wanted a makeup that covered her freckles. She needed people to stop feeding their dogs chicken bones. She craved a decent man who would love her, only her, beyond all reason and rational thought.
None of those wishes was coming true.
Until a mountain of a man with tattoos and a deliciously dirty mouth landed at her front door, and things started looking up.
But who was leaving the dead cats on her lawn?
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Row Seventeen, Plot Forty-Two, Under The Big Oak Tree
He sat with his back propped up against the headstone. The sod under him was freshly laid and felt lumpy and hard under his ass. It was quiet, especially this early in the morning when the sun was barely a promise on the horizon. It had been pitch dark with no moon when he got there, and he had to use his big industrial flashlight to find his way. He had been there every night for the last two weeks, so he was vaguely surprised that he still needed any light to find them.
They had been gone for eighteen days. She had been gone for eighteen days. The baby had been little more than a promise that had been broken.
A girl, they had told him. The ultrasound that would have given them that news had been scheduled for tomorrow morning.
No need for it now, of course.
Now Aponi and their baby girl lay six feet and a few inches of frozen ground away from him.
He rested his head back against the cold, hard marble and closed his eyes. Did it make him a coward that he wanted to die too, but didn’t have the guts to make it so? Survival was a concept that he was intimately familiar with. Grief was not, and his mind was exhausted trying to reconcile the two. What had the preacher said?
“Someday you will understand God’s plan, Kyle.”
Why did they say shit like that? Because that is what it was – utter fucking, dog pile bullshit.
They all meant well. Were his heart still alive, he would have loved them for it. But the more his family and friends tried to do something, anything to help him, the less he felt capable of living. He wanted to lie down here, pull up the dirt over him, and sleep with them forever.
He wanted it, but he didn’t do it, and with every day that passed he wondered why not.
As Kyle Valentine sat on the cold dirt that covered the fresh grave of his wife and unborn daughter, he didn’t see her sitting on the ground just outside the iron fencing. He wouldn’t have recognized her if he had seen her.
Olivia couldn’t say exactly why she had followed him. She had heard the Harley pass her house every night for the past two weeks. It was hard to miss. There weren’t many Harleys in Faithful. She knew it was Kyle, and she knew where he was going. Everyone in town knew where Kyle Valentine was spending his nights.
Something had made her walk to the cemetery tonight, and she hadn’t brought Snape. The same force had her follow the man, made her sit down to watch him. She knew she was invading a scene she should not be witnessing. But something kept her there. So she sat on the concrete, shivering occasionally, until the big man finally got to his feet and walked the opposite way to where his motorcycle was parked.
And somewhere in the cosmos, something stirred in the stars.
Nineteen Rows Back and Fifty Feet to the East, Row Thirty-Six, Plot Two
Dr. Wilbur Hudson was buried next to his wife, Marlene. Olivia hadn’t been there since she buried her father seven months earlier. But since she had been at the cemetery, it seemed wrong not to go visit. Now she stood in the cold January air, gloved hands shoved into the deep, sheepskin-lined pockets of her coat. Her breath released in frosty puffs that drifted around her face.
She hadn’t visited her mother’s grave on any regular basis since she left for college, but there had been a time when she had ridden her bike there nearly every day. Marlene Hudson had passed away from the cancer in her breast on a lovely spring day when Olivia was twelve years old. Eight months later Olivia got her period. She had ridden to this very spot and stood on the grass that covered her mother’s remains. She had screamed out her anger that Marlene Hudson had not been there to tell her what to do, what she needed. She had stood on this very spot and told her mother about the crush she had on Kyle Valentine in eighth grade. Sobs had rocked her teenage body when she asked her mother why Kyle didn’t like her back.
There had never been any answers. No words of wisdom, love, encouragement, or understanding.
Olivia had stood beside Marlene Hudson’s tombstone the day she was awarded the scholarship to UT. The silence was deafening. It always was. There were no words of pride, no doting smiles, no adoring arms. After that, she rarely visited. She thought about visiting, planned to visit. Something always came up. She never asked her father if he visited, and they had not once come together, not in all the years since.
Marlene Hudson’s death defined Olivia’s connection with her father. The life they led, the life her father had settled for, the foundation of the shaky relationship they had maintained, the bone-deep guilt that she now felt, all of it had it’s roots here, in the cold Tennessee dirt. These two narrow plots of land had made Dr. Olivia Hudson who she was. For better or worse.
“I’m so sorry, Dad.”
The tear was warm on her face for a moment.
“I’m so, so sorry.”
The stirring in the stars intensified.
I was born in Kentucky and raised in Florida, so I am a southerner through and through. Since I was old enough to pick up a book, I have been a voracious reader. I wrote the usual poetry and short stories in high school, and I kept the dream of writing in the back of my heart until opportunity and encouragement helped me to realize that dream.
I live in Tampa with my kids, grandkids, dogs, various other livestock, and way more books than is strictly healthy.
Humor & heart.
Grown-up stories for grown-up people. This is what I write. There’s also food, music, dogs, the occasional geek reference, and quite possibly an inappropriate joke. There will likely be dead bodies as well. Three random facts about me:
1. I was bitten by a shark when I was 14.
2. I have read War and Peace. (When I get to the afterlife, I am demanding that week of my life back. Sorry, Tolstoy.)
3. It is my sincere belief that any situation can be improved by eating some cheese.
My life philosophy is guard your inner peace and read dirty kissing books.