Authors: Teresa Hill
Marry Me Again
Second Chance Love
USA Today Bestselling Author
Special Author's Cut Edition
Previously titled: Days Gone By
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Copyright © 1994, 2013 by Teresa Hill. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
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To Laura Jane,
The letter—a bizarre form of self-torture wrapped in the finest cream-colored stationery—was halfway across the room, yet the distance didn't diminish the power it held over him.
In the darkened office, Tucker Malloy noted that the heavy crystal glass in his hand was empty once again and he was still sober—at least enough to know that he didn't want to open the damned letter. It had a power over him the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels could not match.
This was the ninth letter he'd received, and each one seemed harder to bear than the previous one. This one burned hotter than the unadulterated whiskey sliding down his throat.
It was Black Label stock—the good stuff.
Black Jack, he recalled with a smile as he looked out the window again, watching the trails of cars that ran thick up and down the highway.
He'd discovered the whiskey buried in a desk drawer. Must have been a present, because he didn't buy the stuff anymore. And when he had been buying it, he never would have picked up a bottle this small.
Not that he had a drinking problem.
He'd just gotten worried about four years ago—no,
four years ago, when the first letter had arrived—that it would be too easy, given his state of mind at the time, to develop a drinking problem. He'd come to look forward, a little too much, to that first drink of the evening.
That was the summer when he quit drinking, just to be on the safe side.
It was also the summer when he decided he didn't like what he'd made of his life. The summer when he realized he didn't like himself that much. The summer when he'd acknowledged for the first time that he couldn't run away from his past nearly as easily as he'd first believed.
Here he was in a cold sweat in the air-conditioned room, considering the idea that he'd made a monumental mistake all those years ago and wondering what it would take to put it all to right.
If it could ever be right again.
One more drink, he told himself. It was that time of year, one of the two days a year when he let himself have a drink.
It was June. A too-hot Thursday in June. The letter had arrived, which meant the birthday had passed. The picture in the letter had most likely been taken on Sammy's birthday.
He wasn't sure, of course, because he hadn't opened the letter. Not this one. Or the one that arrived shortly after Christmas. Or the one that came the previous June. Or any of the others.
Only the first one—the one that arrived four years ago—had been opened, then carefully sealed again. He didn't need to see the picture. He carried the image in his mind as clearly as if it had been yesterday.
He had eight of those letters at home in the bottom of a drawer he never opened. This one on the shelf, the one that had come today, made nine.
Nine letters, he thought as he emptied the glass and tipped the little bottle again, and a son he wouldn't know if they brushed past each other on the sidewalk.
* * *
Tucker had started drinking around four. He downed the little bottle by five, called a taxi and made it home from his office thirty minutes later.