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Seth
Author: Kathryn Shay

Chapter 1

 


* * *

 

 

“Thanks, Mama.” Seth Casella squeezed his mother’s hand. “Another great breakfast.”

Carmella smiled. “I’ll miss these meals with you when you go back to your own place.”

Seth had stayed at his mother’s house to recover from a stabbing at Legal Aid by the disgruntled husband of a client, but he was healing well.

“I’ll miss them, too. I’m going to try not to work so much this time around and come to dinner when you’ll have me.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” Neither had heard the woman come in through the garage and enter the kitchen until she spoke.

Seth swallowed hard. Julianne Ford had been visiting every day since his sojourn here. And her appearances were just about killing him. “Hi, Julianne.”

“Good morning, Seth.” A frown marred her brow. “How much longer are you going to be at your mom’s house?”

“I’m going home soon.”

Mama stood and hugged her. The two women had gotten close, even though Seth had blown his and Jules’ relationship more than one time—and now, for good.

“Hello, dear.” When Julianne sat at the table, they chatted some, then Mama asked, “Did you talk to Celia yesterday?” Celia Ford and Seth’s mother had been friends for decades and raised their families together.

“Yeah, Mom’s loving the hot weather in Florida. She said to say hi and she’ll call you soon.”

Seth stood. “Want some coffee?”

“Um, sure.” She addressed his mother. “Actually, I came over to ask you to go out to dinner, Carmella.”

“Not tonight, sweetie. I’m watching Tommy.” Seth’s oldest brother’s son.

“Some other time, then.”

Carmella’s phone rang. Her face brightened “I-I have to take this. I’m expecting a call. I’ll be back, darlings.”

His mother left, and Seth poured coffee in a cup labeled Julianne’s Mug. His hands were shaking, damn it, as he hadn’t quite recovered. Or was it Julianne’s proximity? “Here you are.”

She angled her chin to where his mom had gone. Her blond hair fell in one sweep at her shoulders and some slid over her forehead. “Think she has the power to make her phone ring?”

“No, she was waiting to hear from Rafe. I knew the call was coming.”

“Ah.” She studied him over the rim of her mug. He wanted to tuck that strand of hair behind her ear. “So, are you feeling better?”

“Physically, yes. I’m still not up to par, though.” He hesitated. Might as well tell the truth. “But I miss you, Julianne. Seeing you every day these two weeks makes me feel worse about our breakup.”

Her blue eyes darkened. The two of them pretty much had the same coloring. “For the record, our contact has made me feel bad about us, too.”

They’d grown up together. Playmates until junior high where they became friends, though it got awkward sometimes, like when they shared their first kiss. But in high school, they started going steady, and were a couple in college until they graduated. They’d stayed together when she went to Julliard for a master’s degree and he attended law school. How could she not miss him?

“So, how’s work going?” he asked to break the awkward silence.

Julianne had her own music therapy studio and was practically a violin virtuoso in her own right.

“Same as always. I still love teaching. Helping kids through music.”

“How’s Jordan?”

She smirked. “Do you really want to know?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“He’s fine. We see each other almost every day.”

“Funny, I haven’t noticed his car in your driveway that much.”

“Keeping tabs on me?”

Instead of answering, he asked, “So, it’s gotten serious?”

“Maybe.” She shook her head.

“What?”

“You’re like a dog with a bone, Casella. You break my heart by sleeping with other women, then we split, but you can’t stand to see me with another man.”

“I’ve always felt that way. Remember Colin Camp in high school? Jack Carroll in college? Watching you with them was torture.”

“Yet you slept with Sandy Baker junior year. And a teacher, for God’s sake, in college. More after that. You’re a serial adulterer.”

“I thought you had to be married to commit adultery.”

The joke fell flat.

She scraped back her chair. “You know exactly what I mean. Tell your mother that I’ll come back tomorrow.” Setting down her coffee with a thump, she stood and headed for the garage door.

Seth caught up with her in the mudroom. “Wait.”

Her back to him, she shook her head. But she’d stopped.

He moved in close so his body nearly aligned with hers. “Can’t we try again?”

She whirled on him then. Her face flushed and her eyes glittered. But not because she was turned on. Anger burned in her from head to toe. “You have to be kidding me! I finally got out from under my love for you. Do you honestly think I’d ever take you back?”

Stung, he leaned against the wall, insolently. “You have before.”

The slap came hard on his face. “Go to hell, Seth.” And she stormed out.

He rubbed his cheek. Everybody in his family thought he was the nice one, the giving and forgiving one. But they were wrong. At least where Julianne Ford was concerned.

With her, he’d been a real bastard.

 

* * *

 

Julianne strode into the house she’d lived in all her life. Two years ago, she’d bought it from her mother when Celia went to Florida to move in with her sister.

Jules didn’t slam the door, though. She didn’t stomp her feet. But above all, she didn’t cry. Years ago, she’d promised herself she would never cry over Seth Casella again. Three months ago, she’d even made up a steady boyfriend, Jordan, so Seth would leave her alone. The ruse made her feel foolish but she had to protect herself.

She was dating, though. She picked up her cell phone from the counter, checked her texts and punched in a number.

He answered. “Hey, there, Julianne. You said you couldn’t get together tonight.”

“Yeah, my plans got aborted.” She’d hoped to spend time with Carmella, without Seth hovering around them.

“Then are you free to meet?”

“Yes. How about The Hidden Cove Inn for cocktails at six?”

“Great. See you then. I’ll be the one with the big smile.”

She disconnected and looked out at the back lawn, not as big as the Casella’s but beautifully landscaped with bushes and trees. She and her mother had planted flowers which bloomed all summer, and now, at the very end of August, the geraniums and impatiens were even bigger and fuller than before. And on the deck, she’d put multi-colored ones in pots. The view soothed her.

But with the calm came sadness. As if in a trance, she climbed up the stairs, crossed into the closet and pulled out an album. She put the brown leather book on her bed and stood before it. The insert on the front read, Happily Ever After.

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