Release Date: January 24, 2019
Cover Design: Amy Queau - QDesign
Baker Corinna Freeman cut all ties with Colby Hunt when she learned what the handsome military officer really thought about her and her cooking skills. She walked away; heartbroken, pride in tatters, keeping secrets she was far too young to shoulder.Now, a decade later, Corinna’s reputation is legendary — both in and out of the kitchen. This bold woman is determined to live life to its fullest while she can.
There’s just one major problem...
Colby’s suddenly turning up everywhere acting as if nothing has changed between them in the last ten years. It infuriates her because he can still stir her up.
Colby Hunt never understood why Corinna walked out of his life without a word. He’s not letting this chance pass to figure out what happened with the voluptuous beauty who captured his heart. Despite his anger, he’s never really let her go.
But there’s something she’s hiding...
Unlike Corinna’s perfect cakes, secrets fall apart. When they do, they will test the strength and courage of not only Corinna and Colby but the entire Freeman family.
Finally, when she faces me, her face is devoid of the fiery emotion I saw captured on Holly’s camera. “What do you think so far?”
“Of what?” Of our conversation? I think it fucking sucks.
“Of the cake. A teenage football player for the Tigers was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Caught in time, thank God. His parents called because tomorrow’s his birthday. Kids at RHS have been decorating the rocks at Lake Mamanasco in tribute since he was diagnosed. The parents sent me a bunch of pictures. I’m trying to recreate it.” She gestures to the photos blown up and taped to the walls.
I’m intrigued by the idea and blown away by the talent of the woman in front of me. She’s not just decorating a cake; she’s creating a memory. “You were always so brilliant at this,” I murmur as I step forward to get a closer look at the cake and the images.
“At what?” Corinna casually wipes her gloved hands on her pants before she reaches for a bottle of water. Taking a large drink, she lowers the volume on the music.
“Capturing the essence of life in your art. You bring life to things all around you, Cori.” I turn to find her shaking her head at me. A vile look takes over her face.
“Corinna, if you please. Cori is reserved for the people closest to me. People who actually give a shit.” Corinna’s voice is filled with loathing.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how shaken I am at the vitriol in her voice. I step toward her, expecting her to retreat the way she always did back at school. But Corinna holds her ground. “You know that’s not true,” I grit out.
I care. I’ve always cared too damn much.
“Right.” Her drawl is pronounced, taunting me to break through her shell. I want to throw something to break through because I know better.
This heartless woman isn’t my Corinna.
Abruptly, I turn and face the graffiti images taped to the walls. They’re vulgar in their beauty, denouncing the disease that racked this man/child. Words jump out at me, like loyalty, forever, light, and love. In what some would consider the destruction of something beautiful, something even more precious was built. I’ll never understand how, but these kids made it happen. If they can do it, then so can Corinna and I. We can resolve whatever issues we have between us to get back what we had. Because I don’t think I can live without her in my life.
Without turning, I ask, “How much longer will this take you tonight?” I look over my shoulder to see Corinna loading up an airbrush with an almost ink-like substance. Food coloring, I surmise. Knowing the damage she’s done in the past when pissed off and wielding it, I have little doubt she’ll fling it at me if she’s angered enough. I turn back to face the artwork. Loyalty jumps out again at me. For some reason, that word makes my jaw tick.
Where was her loyalty for us?
“At least another six hours,” she says, matter-of-factly.
“Jesus Christ, Corinna!” I turn fully, food color explosion be damned. “That will put you here after midnight. Alone.”
“I’m a big girl, Colby. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this,” she retorts. I don’t miss her subtle emphasis on the word ‘big’. My eyes drop inadvertently to her luscious breasts. She’s big all right. In all the perfect places. She always has been.
Shaking her head in disgust, she mutters, “If this wasn’t the last of this color…”
I can feel the heat climb up the back of my neck. “You’ve always been a knockout,” I admit.
The snort that leaves her lips is full of disdain. “Oh, please. Give me a fucking break and just go. I don’t have time to deal with this.” She waves her hand toward the back door, dismissing me, queen to a peasant.
I might have left her without trying to climb over her walls, but I need for her to know. “I saw you the other day.”
“Unfortunately, I see you a lot these days. You’re going to have to be more specific than that.”
Taking a deep breath, I step closer to the table where she’s just capped off the air gun. I place one hand on top of hers, forcing her to lower it down to the table. Infuriated mud-brown eyes lift up to mine. “Corinna, I had to get a CT scan on my shoulder for work,”
Any antagonism in her features leeches from her face. “No,” she whispers. Her eyes hold mine for a few more seconds before they start darting around the room. Everywhere but at me.
“Yes.” I capture her chin to hold her face steady. “What happened?”
“Nothing you need to worry about,” she immediately responds, trying to yank her face away. I apply the smallest amount of pressure and she stills.
“It’s serious enough to have a sibling-only dinner though? Isn’t it?” My hand leaves her jaw and trails down her neck to trace her collarbone. “Why keep everyone else out?”
“Maybe I want to introduce them to someone,” she snaps waspishly. Corinna has never dealt well with being backed into a corner.
“Princess, the only man you’re ever going to introduce them to like that is me. And it’s high time we both stop playing games and admit it.” I wait for her reaction to my admission of the attraction that’s always simmered between us. The attraction that even her sisters have recently slammed in my face.
It’s not the one I expect.
Corinna stomps over to the back door and flings it open. I’m surprised the crash doesn’t shatter the glass. “After everything you did to me? After everything you said? Do you really think…of course you do! All you fucking men think you need to do is snap your fingers and any woman will drop their panties at your feet. Guess what—not this woman. Not anymore. Now get the fuck out of my kitchen before I tell the rest of the family what actually happened all those years ago to make me hate you as much as I do.”
I’m frozen in shock. Of all the things I expected, this was the very last on the list.
“Now!” she screams.
Woodenly, I move toward her. Her face is turned away. “Corinna,” I whisper imploringly.
“I am not kidding in the slightest. Get. Out.”
Free to Dream - Book 1
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Free to Run - Book 2
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Free to Rejoice - Book 3
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Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/2Uzwv9E
One of Five ARC's for Free to Breathe
About the Author
Tracey Jerald knew she was meant to be a writer when she would re-write the ending of books in her head on her bike when she was a young girl growing up in southern Connecticut. It wasn't long before she was typing alternate endings and extended epilogues "just for fun".After college in Florida, where she obtained a degree in Criminal Justice swearing she saw things she'll never quite believe and never quite forget, Tracey traded the world of law and order for IT.
Her work for a world-wide internet startup transferred her to Northern Virginia where she met her husband in what many call their own happily ever after. They have one son.
When she's not busy with her family or writing, Tracey can be found in her home in north Florida drinking coffee, reading, training for a runDisney event, or feeding her addiction to HGTV.
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