Title: If Only
Author: Christie L. Kraemer
Genre: Contemporary Romance
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Widow Barbara Langley, sporting a refreshed look, and her best friend, go to Tampa, Florida as she had promised. Along the way she encounters an old flame and new temptation.
Widow Barbara Langley, and best friend, Rachel, journey to Tampa, Florida. Barbara left broken-hearted years earlier and returns with her newly surgicized body to mend her grieving spirit. Can she juggle an old love who reappears and the younger man who desires her or will she choose to return to the Northwest still single?
"You are the one my cards have foretold to me." She nodded at Rachel who stood behind Barbara, her mouth gaping.
"I beg your pardon?" Barbara moved back stepping on Rachel's toe.
The blonde women stopped before Barbara, tossing a fearful look in Rachel's direction, before reaching out and gently lifting Barbara's hand to her, palm up, and peered at the opened extremity. She took a bejeweled, ruby-tipped finger and traced the lifeline. Her dark brown eyes peered deeply into Barbara's.
"You have recently suffered a great personal loss."
Rachel harrumphed behind Barbara.
Ignoring Rachel, she continued, "You have come home seeking a glimpse of the past to answer questions of old. You will have to make a decision between two—brothers?—which will change your living arrangements as well as your life..."
Before she could continue, Rachel grabbed Barbara's elbow and propelled her toward the front door, muttering under her breath, "Any fool can see the white circle where your wedding ring used to be and, of course, you're seeking something. You came into this bloody shop. What a fraud."
The blonde turned and softly called to the retreating backs of the two friends, "By the way, Dylan says you are headed in the right direction, and he wants to thank you. Now he can rest."
Barbara's planted her feet to the floor. She whirled and, grasping her throat, whispered, "Dylan?"
The blonde approached warily, glancing at the furious face of Rachel looking over the head of her friend.
"Yes. He said you"—she pointed at Rachel—"would not believe me, but he was finding it difficult to get a message through to you. Barbara, he wanted very much for you to know the quest you have taken is the first step to setting him free. He knew he was your second choice."
Barbara gasped, tears welling in her eyes, "He never said a thing."
"He has told me to thank you for all the years of love you gave to him, and says he wants you to find your first love who also searches for answers."
Rachel growled behind Barbara, "Let's get the hell out of this place." She turned Barbara around and shoved her out the door. Glancing back, she spotted the blonde peeking from the door as they escaped to the car.
"Barbara, you're not going to believe that garbage, are you?" Furrows creased Rachel's brow.
"Well, normally, I would've laughed in her face as we walked out, but she did mention Dylan by name. I mean, how could she know the name of, of... well, you know." Barbara had stopped on the sidewalk and was looking up at her friend.
Pulling Barbara close to the building, she tenderly grasped her friend's hand in hers.
Barbara's eyes widened.
"Yeah, I know about your pet name. He told me once when I'd just read him the riot act about his drinking and how it would end your marriage if he didn't get himself together. I hate to dump ice water on your hope but... we were talking about Dylan in there, remember?"
Rachel watched her friend's shoulders droop and the hope flicker and die from her eyes.
"Yeah, I'd forgotten about that. Well, I guess mysterious messages from those who have passed over and voodoo are the tools of their trade. I'm just feeling a little guilty, I guess. I've actually felt happier here than the last two years in Oregon. Hearing his name like that brought back all the pain."
Rachel winced. "Girlfriend, we came here so you could release some of that pain and take a breather from being 'Dylan's poor widow,' remember?" She gathered her friend under her arm, and they moved toward the parking lot.
Barbara slowed her gait and turned to look up at her friend. "I know she has a very good act going, but I never told Dylan he was my second choice. Did you?"
Rachel shook her head and with her hand crossed her heart.
"Kind of makes you wonder, doesn't it?"
Rachel picked up the pace until they stood at the doors of the convertible.
"No. The woman is good at what she does—selling the occult. Everyone who goes into her shop is looking for something, or they wouldn't stop. The white spot and indentation on your finger, where your ring used to be, indicates you were in a long relationship, which has recently ended. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but, when you think no one is watching, you look incredibly sad. It wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out you might be looking for a new love. That part about two brothers, though; that was taking it just a little too far. You gotta give her this—she's a great actress."