Elizabeth "Lizzy" Shaw has had a rough life. Chased out of town years ago by one of the community's leaders, Lizzy has finally returned. However, living with her virtuous grandmother exercises Lizzy's patience, especially when Lizzy's mother, who was an aspiring actress, tarnished her reputation by changing boyfriends as frequently as her nail polish.
Regardless, Daniel Rivers, the love she left behind, wants Lizzy back. He demands to know why she left town and why she never replied to any of his letters. Lizzy can't let Daniel know her secret, but she can't resist his crooked smile and warm, brown eyes either. Sparks fly between the couple, but Lizzy is determined not to make the same mistake with Daniel. However, when Lizzy is kidnapped by one of her mother’s old boyfriends, it puts life in a different perspective for Lizzy and she realizes she must tell Daniel about his son. Can Lizzy resist the lure of Daniel's touch, the way her body responds to him every time he glances her way? Or will the truth about Daniel’s son tear them apart a second time?
Shock arrived, and for a few moments, the reality of what Elizabeth had committed took a backseat. Slowly, awareness returned, but shame slammed into her like a hit-and-run vehicle.
Rustling fabric and footsteps permeated the haze in her brain. She managed to raise her head and look up at the man looming over her. He shrugged into a jacket and grinned.
"It's been great, but I don't want the baggage that comes with you." He scooped up a few tiny tablets on the coffee table with one hand, and pulled a set of car keys from his designer slacks with the other. He left without a backwards glance and shut the door quietly.
Her gaze swept the immediate area. The room lay in ruin from their reckless sex. Her clothing hung from lampshades and the backs of chairs. Throw pillows lay helter-skelter on the sofa and carpet. Scattered magazines from the coffee table rested on the large area rug. One corner of the room held the shattered remains of a ceramic vase and its silk peonies.
A baby's cry erupted from her bedroom, but to her, it might as well have been a fire siren intensified a thousand times.
She had to get up, but her head weighed a ton. She pressed her cheek to the cool hardwood floor. Occasionally she heard bits and pieces of the neighbor's party upstairs. Her roommates had gone to the party hours ago. Pain bloomed in her skull, an unfurling cloud of torture. The misery in her head continued to crest until it matched the bass that boomed from above her apartment.
If only she had accepted their invitation, she wouldn't be on the floor now, feeling sick and ashamed, sounds heightened to mind-blasting proportions.
Deep down, she knew she was lying to herself. She had been so eager to please Brian, so intent on keeping him in the hopes he'd marry her and support her and the baby. It was difficult living in New York City. Money was scarce, the contents of the kitchen cupboards were usually meager, payment for the utilities bills were often late, and their rent was typically two months behind. Brian had played upon her fears and insecurities, forcing her to give in.
How could I be so weak and desperate to settle for such a jerk? It's hard to get by, but Grams and I always manage somehow.
She groaned at the noise. When she didn't appear, the infant began to fuss louder.
God, if you haven't abandoned me, I need your help. I've made a horrible mess of things, but Alex needs me right now.
Finally, naked and dizzy, she struggled to her feet and stumbled to her bedroom. Her chubby, dark-haired boy stared back at her with innocent blue eyes. He pulled himself up by the crib bars and pointed at a bottle of juice on the floor.
"Mmph." He grinned. One lonely bottom tooth glimmered in the light.
She retrieved the bottle, her senses spinning as if she had just stepped off an amusement ride. Carefully, she laid her baby down and placed the bottle in his fat little hands.
He sucked greedily, and his eyelids fluttered closed.
She staggered into the hall and wobbled along to the bathroom, one hand on the smooth beige plaster to steady herself. Upon reaching the doorway, she lunged for the toilet and spewed the remains of her chicken-fried rice and Lambrusco supper into the porcelain bowl. She'd heard that sometimes people experienced bizarre reactions to Ecstasy, and prayed the physical repercussions didn't worsen.
Satisfied that her belly wouldn't rebel anymore, she nearly fell into the shower and fumbled to turn on the water. He'd been rougher with her than she would have preferred, but his cruel hands seemed loving and gentle, despite what her common sense had told her. As the water slid over the bruises on her breasts, arms, and thighs, she realized that the drug had disguised nightmarish pain as pleasure.
Grams would flip if she ever found out that Elizabeth had taken Ecstasy and slept with Brian. Despite her mother's wild lifestyle, Elizabeth had been raised with an ever-open Bible in the house and Grams always telling her to do the right thing. Even her best friends, Trudy and Victoria, would be so disappointed in her.
Shame revisited her, and she closed her eyes, mentally cursing herself for her stupidity.
Luckily, Grams was gone for the weekend, and their roommates wouldn't be home until late. She would clean up the apartment before anyone returned, sweep up all the glass, and develop an acceptable excuse for the broken vase.
No one would ever know what she'd done.