Keren Joel has a phobia and, without realizing it, she's passed it on to her son, forcing her to seek professional help. What she doesn't expect to find is the man who'd been her best friend, twenty years earlier, and his shrine to a moment that forever changed the adults they became.
Some people smoked when stressed—Jared gnawed pencils. He’d just rid himself of his last casualty but, in light of Keren’s question, his fingers inched toward the top desk drawer where he kept a cupful of sharpened pencils.
However, he caught himself before he allowed his nerves to rule his actions.
Why had he called the main character of The Gingerbread House Kizzy?
At the time, when he’d been writing down ideas for the Gingerbread House script, the name Kizzy seemed appropriate for the precocious star of his play.
“Never mind,” Keren said, giving her head a quick shake, backhanding the air as if to cancel the question. “It’s none of my business.”
“But it’s raised your curiosity,” he said, pointing out the obvious. He watched as she rubbed her cheekbone, a trait he’d forever associate with the girl he’d known years ago.
“Well, you see…” She swallowed and then smiled, as if to cover her nervousness. “That was the nickname my best friend gave me a long time ago. Kizzy.” She repeated it, sounding puzzled. “In fact, a lot of things about this room remind me...”
Jared held his breath as she glanced about his office. He didn’t need to look around to know what she’d see—things like the model train set. It was the same one she’d helped him put together one Christmas, and now it sat on the shelf beneath his window. The alphabetized bug collection they’d spent one summer garnering bumps and scrapes to assemble. He still carried the scar on his elbow from the time she’d dared him to net what turned out to be a hornet.
And her purple and pink polka-dotted safari hat. Not even Peggie touched that last item—no matter how much she pleaded.
Her gaze settled on his face again, her china-blue eyes wide with shock, before she reached for the pile of business cards resting on the desk between them. She took one, read it, and then returned it. The only change in her face was her color. She’d paled. Her freckles stood out in stark contrast to the white of her flawless skin.
“You’ve changed your last name.” It wasn’t a question.
“Can you blame me?”
When he’d first started writing the script, he’d imagined the different ways she might react to his pet project.
Project? He’d built a shrine to the one moment in time that had driven a wedge so completely and thoroughly between them. The agony of the memory made him catch his breath every time he thought about it.
He’d anticipated her initial hostility, and then, later, tears of regret that they’d lost touch. However, shadows shifted through her blue eyes. Her remote and stony coldness hadn’t been on the list of probabilities. The Kizzy he’d known never reacted with anything less than raw emotion.
Guess things changed.
“Well, Dr. Jared Oath,” she said in a tone he’d heard only once before—and back then it’d felt like a punch in the gut. “Aren’t you going to give me a tour of your theatre?”