Dear Reader,

Do you remember the rush of first love?

I do. I remember what it was to be young and infatuated and maybe even a little reckless. I definitely remember how consuming it was...and how I was positive that it was going to last forever.

It didn’t, of course; like most first loves we parted ways and went on our own journeys. But sometimes those early relationships leave scars along with the happy memories. And sometimes don’t you just wish you could have a do-over?

In my latest release, Breathe, I nearly wished that Jace and Anna could have a do-over, but then I realized that what they needed was a do-again. A second chance to clear up past mistakes and to learn to love each other as grown-ups – adults with responsibilities like aging parents and businesses and even children. When we’re younger we’re positive that being grown up will be so much simpler! But the truth is – it gets more complicated. Anna is having to deal with being a single parent along with the failure of her marriage and her lingering feelings for the boy she loved all those years ago. And through it all sometimes she just needs to breathe and follow her heart.

I hope that you get lost in reading their story the same way I got lost in writing it!

Warmest wishes,

Donna



Excerpt from Breathe

© Donna Alward


“Aren’t you going to eat?”

He still hadn’t moved from his spot beside the counter. Without looking at him, she fed Aurelia, mimicking opening her mouth and closing it without thinking. “I’ll eat once Aurelia’s through and happy. Don’t wait for me.”

His feet moved and she heard him getting his own plate, then pausing by the stovetop. “I could wait. We could feed the children and then eat together.”

Anna concentrated on scooping up rice on the spoon, toying with the grains as Aurelia fisted another piece of bread to her mouth. The invitation had been clear. It was an intriguing thought. Dinner with Jace. Perhaps after the children were in bed, when dusk was settling in and the day was winding down. The two of them, perhaps some candlelight and the rest of the bottle of wine. Peace and quiet and…

Resolutely, she stuck out the spoon. That was impossible. It suggested romance, and Anna was not interested in that, not by a long shot. Nor was Jace. He liked things fast and loose with no commitments, no baggage. He’d always preferred it that way. And she was a single mother. She had so much baggage at this point she didn’t know what to do with it all.

He’d let her stay here as the gesture of a friend, nothing more. And she knew she’d never be the woman he wanted. Especially now. Stefano had taken a few things with him when he’d died. One of them being her pride. She was working on getting that back. But after Jace, and then Stefano, Anna was not interested in love again. It hurt too much. It hurt to have expectations of people only to have them let you down.

And she’d made a promise to herself and to her children. They would come first. They would feel wanted and loved and like they belonged. She spooned more rice into Aurelia’s waiting mouth.

“I don’t believe in feeding the children and getting them out of the way,” she replied coldly, scraping the bottom of the bowl and building the risotto into a mound. “Maybe I serve myself last, but families sit down together. Matteo, Aurelia and me…we’re a family.”

Wordlessly, Jace finished filling his plate and took a seat at the head of the table. She realized belatedly that she’d just insulted him. She had deliberately excluded him when he was generous enough to offer them all a place to stay. He couldn’t see that she was trying to make everything up to her babies. She’d trusted where she shouldn’t have and now they were paying the price. She had to make the right choices. For once.

I'm sorry, Jace, that was rude of me.”

He looked up from his dinner, his eyes dark with what she’d swear was condemnation mixed with acceptance. “Don’t worry about it. I’m used to living alone.”

She pushed aside Aurelia’s bowl and looked at Matteo. He was eating, but the way he held his head let her know he was also listening closely. “It’s an adjustment you are making for us, and we appreciate it. I know we’ll all try to respect your boundaries.”

She got up and finally fixed herself a plate, though she suddenly didn’t feel like eating.

This was not a family. It was a mess. She swallowed and again set her lips. But it would be a family. She’d make sure of it. It would take time. That was all.

A crash echoed through the kitchen. Jace cursed sharply and Aurelia started crying.

Anna put down her plate with a sigh and went to Matteo, who was sitting in his chair staring at the floor where water and glass mixed on the tile.

“Are you hurt?”

Jace had pushed out his chair. “He did that on purpose.”

Anna sighed again. One child was enough. “Matteo. Please apologize to Jace.” She said it firmly, feeling suddenly exhausted. Would she never get any relief?

“It was an accident, Mama,” Matteo protested, but she raised an eyebrow at him.

“And I told you, you needed to be careful. What do you say?”

His little lips were set in a mutinous line. “Sorry,” he mumbled at Jace. Anna looked at the latter and prayed he’d just leave it for now. Thankfully, he settled back in his chair as Anna took over. She ignored the squalls from Aurelia, setting her teeth as she attended to Matteo. She picked up the large pieces of glass, laying them gently in her palm and then taking them to the sink. When she returned, she caught Matteo looking somewhat triumphant as he glared at Jace. The look Jace was returning was anything but kind, and she couldn’t help but think they’d both met their match. Sometimes Matteo’s stubbornness reminded her of Jace when he’d been a boy, but this time the idea didn’t bring a smile. The last thing she needed was for everyone to be at odds.

And still Aurelia cried.

She sent Matteo off to his bedroom, and her annoyance grew as Jace just sat there while the baby’s squeals pierced their ears. Couldn’t he just go pick her up or something, or offer to clean up the mess? Instead she got the feeling he was staring at the top of her head thinking about how he knew this was a bad idea.

Children were children, and perhaps Jace needed to be reminded. After all, he had been one. And he’d been a handful. Papa had always said so.

With a cotton towel laid over the remainder of the mess, Anna pushed her hair off her face and went to get Aurelia.

“Shhh, cara.” She snuggled the girl against her shoulder and the tears stopped at once. “Mama’s here. It’s okay.”

She sighed. Today she could definitely use a second set of hands. Matteo needed a talking to about attitude and Aurelia was distressed and clinging to her neck. There was glass and water on the floor and a table full of dirty dishes. Anna closed her eyes. She didn’t want to inconvenience Jace any more than she already had. And in truth she’d thought they’d have privacy in a guesthouse and be completely out of his way. She wanted to do it all before he had a chance to. She needed to prove to him she was capable of handling everything.

“Leave the kitchen. I’ll clean it up. I just need to get the children settled first.”

“Never mind, Anna.”

He refused to turn and look at her. Instead, he stood at the sink and looked out over the hill behind the house. A wave of what felt like failure swept over her. She felt like she’d let him down. Let herself down. Their first night here and all it had demonstrated was that her life was out of control.

Feeling like a failure was getting to be way too familiar.

“Please. I’m the one who caused this, let me fix it.”

The words tumbled out. She did consider herself responsible and she was trying to fix things. And she kept feeling pressure to do it now, when she was really doing the very best she could. Like keeping it together was somehow expected of her. She’d always been the steady one. The one to make logical decisions rather than ones based on her heart. Not even Jace understood how much her heart had been broken back then.

They thought her simply strong.

They were wrong.

“What do you need from me?” He remained staring out the window, but she heard the softening of his voice and knew he meant more than at just this moment in time.

She blinked, smelling the baby-powder scent of Aurelia mixed with the aroma of dinner.

“Understanding.”

She said it softly. It settled through the kitchen like a prayer.

“Patience.”

His fingers tightened on the counter’s edge. She knew that request would be harder for him.

“And time. Just give me time, Jace, to make everything right.”

Her neck was damp with the moisture of Aurelia’s breath as Jace turned back to her. Her heart thumped heavily. What she was asking wasn’t easy, or uncomplicated. Not for them. They both knew it. And yet the bond they’d forged years before held them together. And she knew he’d give her what she asked.

He came up to her, so that she had to tilt her chin to look up into his eyes, the color of rich espresso. For a shining moment, she remembered what it had been like for him to touch her. When being this close to him meant he was about to kiss her. And how his kisses had made her body sing. The memory exhilarated and frightened her.

His hand came to rest upon her cheek for a moment, and his gaze changed. Then it was gone, along with his touch as he left the room.



Amazon Barnes & Noble Samhain Publishing




Contest!


Donna Alward is really excited about her new release and to celebrate, she's hosting a contest just for you! For a chance to enter, just visit Donna's website and find the answer to the following question -

What is the name of the winery in Breathe?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with the answer and be sure to include your full name and mailing address in the email.   Please also remember to mark the subject heading as 'Breathe'.

Do make sure you email your answers only to staff@authorsoundrelations.com or your entry will not be counted!

Three winners will be chosen and contacted via email shortly after November 7th.

1st Prize – E-book of Breathe in the winner’s choice of format, a special bookmark and tote bag
2nd and 3rd Prizes – a copy of Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage + notebook and pen

Good luck!

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