Authors: Alexandra O'Hurley
Tags: #Romance, #Healing Hearts 1
Falling For Him
Healing Hearts 1
Published by Liquid Silver Books, imprint of Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 10509 Sedgegrass Dr, Indianapolis, Indiana 46235. Copyright © Published 2013, Alexandra O’Hurley. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Liquid Silver Books
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.
A fateful childhood accident changes the course of Olivia Owens’ life. Her body left broken by a fall, she becomes a near recluse. She chooses to hide from society by pursuing a writing career, never stepping into the spotlight. Her loving parents coddle her, which only makes it easier to withdraw from the life around her.
Liam Palmer was twelve when he helplessly watched Olivia fall, and he blames himself for the mishap. Guilt propels him into a career in medicine, as he seeks a way to lessen the weight of the responsibility he bears.
After years apart, Liam visits Olivia to offer a surgical solution to her pain. He’s shocked to find a woman where the young girl had once stood. He struggles with his attraction at first, but soon realizes his perfect woman was right before him his entire life.
Olivia is leery, as the surgery he suggests has risks. She also shuns his advances, knowing he could never love the broken woman she is, no matter how much she wants to give in to the man she’s had a crush on her entire life.
Tied together by pain and guilt, they must break free of their past if they’re ever to have a future together.
To the B.O.E.—I lurve you all
Liam Palmer followed his parents into the large foyer, his father grasping Mr. Owens’ hand and shaking it firmly. His mother prattled on about something regarding the club with Mrs. Owens and he was invisible for the moment. He’d always loved this old house. It was kind of creepy with carved wood along the tops of all the walls, like a place straight out of a horror movie. Too bad it was filled with a bunch of old, stodgy grown-ups instead of some ghosts and gore.
“I’m so glad you could make it, Liam. Olivia will be thrilled to have a little playmate.” Mrs. Owens smiled at him, her even, white teeth too perfect. “She’s outside if you want to go play.”
“Sure,” Liam answered. His gaze swung to his mother. The look she was giving him reminded him to keep his trap shut and not mouth off. He smiled at his mother and back to Mrs. Owens as he mentally snarled at the woman. Jeez, he was twelve and not into playing with little girls, especially not a spoiled little princess who followed him around all day like a puppy dog.
He moved farther into the house, taking his sweet time heading outdoors. Liam ducked between guests who’d already arrived and he was invisible again. They were more concerned with the bubbly stuff in those tall glasses and whatever boring stuff the adults liked to go on about. Once he made it to the empty dining room, he wondered if Willy Wonka had taken a dump in the room. A grand cake stood on a pedestal, covered in pink, pink, and more pink. There was chocolate and candy everywhere. Maybe being one of the two children here today wouldn’t be all that bad, though all the pink was giving him a headache and reminding him of the last time he had to take Pepto.
His gaze traced over the large sign hung in the dining room.
Happy 5th Birthday, Babycakes.
What a stupid nickname, but then again, Olivia’s parents babied her too much.
Liam would have given anything not to have been forced to come, yummy eats or not. But his mother’s words rang through his mind.
If you don’t come, there won’t be any children there at all. Olivia’s parents are older and don’t have friends with children her age. Be nice and play with her a little.
Liam hadn’t wanted to do it, but that inner voice that told him to just go with it had won out and he’d allowed his mother to drag him there.
As he walked around the dining room, he looked over the food and snagged two puffy, fancy balls of whatever crap they were being fed and swiped a hunk of icing off the edge of the cake. Once he licked his finger clean, he popped the first of the puffy balls in his mouth as he thrust a couple candy bars into his pocket. The puff balls weren’t half-bad. He took two steps and froze, deciding to head back and grab one more. He was still chewing as he headed out the back door and into the large expanse of backyard the Owens’ called theirs.
Liam took a deep breath as he exited the house. The sky was a perfect shade of blue, with big cotton-candy clouds floating up high. The one right in front of him looked like Pac-Man, and there was even a little round cloud right in front of its gaping mouth. He smiled as he looked up, the sun hitting him square in the face. When the screen door finally closed behind him, he heard a squeal from his left.
Olivia Owens stood on the edge of the flower bed, covered in head to toe … pink. She had on a frilly dress with all the fluffy stuff underneath it, her chubby little knees showing just below it. Her blonde ringlets reminded him of the Shirley Temple movies his grandparents watched on Sunday mornings when he spent the night. He didn’t like Shirley Temple, although the Three Stooges and The Little Rascals came on right after, so he could endure it to get to the good stuff.
Olivia even had a pink tiara on top of her head. The fake jewels glittered in the sunlight and made the thing look almost real. Her shoes were the only thing on her not pink; the shiny leather glistened in the light.
“My mommy told me you were coming today,” Olivia said as she walked closer to him, following along the top of the flower bed edging. “Wanna play a game?”
Liam plopped down on the raised edging and took the candy bar out of his pocket and began peeling down the wrapper. “No, not really.”
“You aren’t supposed to eat those until after lunch. My mommy said so. She wouldn’t let me have one.”
“I’m older, so I can do what I want.”
“Give it a break,
.” How he hated saying that name out loud. It was awful.
Luckily, she seemed to listen to him and quieted down about the candy bar. Liam munched away as she turned the opposite way and walked farther down the edging. Once she made it to one end, she pivoted and nearly fell, her chubby little arms going out on either side to help her balance. He watched, uninterestedly, but for some reason, he looked at her face. She seemed sad.
It was her birthday. She shouldn’t feel sad.
There went those stupid voices again, trying to make him be nice when he didn’t wanna be.
What if you were in her place? What if you didn’t have anyone to play with at your birthday party?
Liam looked down at the half-eaten candy bar. He broke off a piece. “Hey, Babycakes, come ’ere.”
A smile crossed her lips and she toddled over, trying to keep her balance on the rail. Once she got close enough, he lifted his hand out and offered her the chocolate. Her eyes grew larger when she saw the treat, but she didn’t take it from him. “Mommy told me no.”
“I won’t tell anybody, promise. It’ll be between you and me.” He crossed his free hand over his chest for added effect.
She smiled again and took the small piece of chocolate and popped the end in her mouth, struggling to break into the crunchy bar with her baby teeth. Once she got it, she sat down beside him and finished her snack. They sat there in companionable silence for a moment, but unfortunately, it didn’t last long.
“What did you get for me?”
“My present? What is it?”
“How do I know?” Liam shrugged. “My mom bought it.”
“Oh. You should give me a kiss for my birthday.”
Liam stood up and twisted, staring at the crazy kid. “Whaaat?”
“My mommy and daddy gave me kisses on my cheek for my birthday and I want you to do it too.” Olivia’s face flushed red and she giggled as he stared at her incredulously.
“I’m not kissing you, Babycakes.”
No way was he kissing her. She followed him around enough as it was. He kissed her and he’d never get rid of her. Liam shook his head and began walking away.
Olivia followed him.
“Where ya going?”
“Inside and away from you.”
“But I wanna play.”
Liam froze, his back to Olivia. He was tired of the little runt following him and pestering him all the time. It was time to take matters into his own hands. He spun around and screamed at her, raising his arms in the air like the old Dracula movies.
She squealed as she jumped and began to run toward her tree house. Liam wasn’t sure why, but he started to chase her, bellowing, “I’m going to get you, Babycakes!” as he went.
Olivia scampered up the ladder and turned to look at Liam over her shoulder. He’d slowed, bored with the chase. Let her go into her tree house and he could run back into the house and ignore her. He slowed to a near stop and watched her climb.
As her shiny shoe hit the last rung, her foot gave way. She grasped onto the wood with her hands, but it wasn’t enough; the momentum and her short, little fingers didn’t give her enough of a hold to stay on. Olivia began to fall, screaming the whole way.
Time froze in that moment; her fall looked like it took an hour versus the matter of seconds it was. He felt as if the wind was forced from his lungs and he couldn’t breathe.
“Olivia! Nooo!” Liam finally took off at a sprint, praying he could make it in time to catch her, his body on automatic. When she hit the ground, a soft
crossed on the breeze and she didn’t move. Fear nearly strangled him as he landed with a skid beside her lifeless body. Her eyes were half-open, and he was able to take a breath when he saw her blink slightly.
“Help! Mom! Dad! Call 911!” he screamed at the house. Liam hovered over her as her as he eyes began to drift closed. “Olivia! Don’t close your eyes!”
“Help! Anybody! Help!” Tears streamed down his face as he finally heard a commotion inside the house. As he heard the back door open, he turned to the little girl, his chest clenching in panic, his body thrumming with the adrenaline in his system. “Don’t die, Olivia. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t want you hurt. Please don’t die.”
* * * *
Olivia looked around the downstairs foyer; the large Congratulations sign hung from one side of the hall to the other, atop the curving staircase. The leather binder in her hand confirmed she was now a college graduate, yet she didn’t any different. There was a sense of completion that her education was now done and she’d no longer have to trek across the UVA campus, limping along the way. The daily humiliation of getting across campus, the sensation of hundreds of eyes on her as she moved, had been difficult. Most people had been nice there, but too often, she’d seen the pity floating in their gazes and she’d just withdrawn even more.
She wished she could withdraw now. The last place she wanted to be was a party, with her as the star of the show.
“Put the canapés on the other dish. This one is too small. You’ll have to refill too often,” she heard her mother say to the caterers in the next room. Maria was in her element, the hostess of the party. Her mother was also a control freak, checking the arrangements, making sure everything was just so. When her mother had brought up the idea of a party, Olivia had refused. Both her parents felt they had to, as it was expected.
In other words, her mother wanted to entertain and show off and her father wanted an excuse to smoke cigars and drink cognac with his golfing buddies.
“Olivia! Where are you?” her mother yelled. This was her chance to disappear, perhaps just to squeeze out of the ill-fitting dress she’d purchased online. There hadn’t been time to take it back and she didn’t like anything else in her closet. She wanted to change into jeans and a blouse, but she knew her mother wouldn’t have it, so it would be better to hide behind the graduation regalia she wore on top of the dress than to have to let others see what lay beneath.
The doorbell rung and she checked her watch. It was too early for anyone to start arriving. Olivia eased back toward the stairs, not wanting to be the one to answer the door and be forced into civil conversation. It was her parents’ party, not hers. Let them entertain.
“Olivia Anne! Can you please get the door? My hands are full at the moment.”
It was the last thing on earth she wanted to do. “Yes, Mom.”
Begrudgingly, she left the first step and opened the front door. Mr. and Mrs. Palmer stood in the doorway, wide smiles on both their faces. Olivia loved to look at Mr. Palmer; she could see Liam’s handsome face within the hints of wrinkles and crow’s feet in her parents’ friend.