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Cross My Heart (A Contemporary Romance Novel)

Cross My Heart (A Contemporary Romance Novel)

Titel: Cross My Heart (A Contemporary Romance Novel)
Autoren: Abigail Strom
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    Chapter One
    “I hate you.”
    Michael Stone glanced over at the passenger seat, where his fourteen year old daughter slouched down with folded arms.
    “I know.”
    She shook her head. “You only think you know. This isn’t some teenage drama thing, Dad. This is Count of Monte Cristo hatred.”
    He raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to spend the next thirty years plotting revenge?”
    “I’m just saying I won’t forget this. Ever. And I’ll never forgive you. The day I turn eighteen, I swear you’re never going to see me again.”
    He sighed. “Look, Claire, I know you wanted to go to that summer camp. But I only get to see you a few times a year, and—”
    “The camp is only three weeks long. Why couldn’t I have done this stupid visit in August?”
    Stay calm , he reminded himself. He’d only picked her up at the airport twenty minutes ago.
    “Because I put in for this vacation six months ago. I have surgeries planned around my schedule. I can’t just—”
    “I don’t see why the hospital couldn’t have worked with you.”
    Stay calm.
    “Because you only told me about the camp last week. Maybe if I had a few months notice I could have—”
    “Forget it, okay? Just forget it. I don’t know why I even try to make you understand. Just because you happened to contribute some sperm during the conception process doesn’t mean you care about me.”
    If he said anything to that, he’d regret it.
    They drove for a minute in silence. Then Claire reached out to turn on the radio, scanned quickly through the channels, and settled on a song that sounded as much like music as a bone saw. He put up with it for a few minutes before turning the radio off again.
    Claire didn’t waste words on him this time. She just slouched down lower and turned her head away.
    Their annual summer visit was off to a bang-up start. Thirty minutes of icy silence later, Michael turned onto his street and slowed the car as he approached his house.
    “Oh, my God,” Claire said suddenly, looking out her window.
    Michael followed her gaze as he pulled into his driveway, but he didn’t see anything more startling than his next door neighbor getting the mail. Not that he didn’t find his neighbor startling, but he doubted it was for the same reasons Claire did.
    “What is it?” he asked.
    “That’s Jenna Landry. At least it looks like Jenna Landry. You live next door to Jenna Landry ?”
    “Well, that’s her name. But from the tone of your voice I’m guessing it means more to you than it does to me.”
    Claire turned to look at him, and he was pretty sure he’d never seen such complete contempt in anyone’s face before. “You have no idea who she is.”
    “All I know is that she’s my next door neighbor. She moved in a month ago.”
    He remembered the day perfectly. He’d come home after spending twelve hours in emergency surgery, and all he’d wanted was to take a quick shower and crawl into bed.
    There was a U-Haul in the driveway next door. He didn’t remember seeing a For Sale sign go up, but his neighbors, a middle-aged couple whose names escaped him, hadn’t been around for a few weeks. He glanced over without much interest as he went up his walkway, wondering if they’d moved away.
    That’s when he saw her.
    His eyes locked on her but his body kept moving, and he tripped over his front steps. He barely registered the fall as he scrambled to his feet, continuing to stare at the dark-haired beauty who was talking to two other people with big, enthusiastic gestures and an even bigger smile.
    She had pale, creamy skin and jet black hair, held away from her face with a red headband. Her tee-shirt was red, too, and drew him like a cape draws a bull. He took a step towards her without thinking, bumping into his porch railing and grabbing onto it with both hands.
    Her faded jeans showed off incredible legs. She leaned over to pick up a box, showing off an even more incredible derriere, and when her shirt rode up he could see a tattoo on her lower back. When she turned around again, the sunlight glinted on a silver belly button ring.
    Tattoos and body piercings had never been his thing. His last girlfriend had been elegant and sophisticated and a little on the conservative side. Claire’s mother had been like that, too. He’d always assumed that was his taste in women—stylish, classic, refined.
    So what the hell was happening to him now?
    His heart was pounding. He was gripping the porch railing like
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