23 March 2019

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Be My Hero

Date Published: 19 July 2011

ISBN Number:

Publisher: Audiolark and Astraea Press

Link to purchase book: http://www.audiolark.com/books/be-my-hero/

Full Excerpt:

Nathalie hurried over to the window as fast as discretion allowed,
certain her eyes had played a trick on her. All around her, her
brother’s wedding guests chattered and circulated on the dance
floor.
Nathalie’s attention focused on the large picture window of
the ballroom and the glimpse of the man she thought she had
seen outside on the terrace.
“Nathalie, are you all right, dear?” Her mother’s concerned
tone snapped her out of her reverie.
“I’m fine, I thought… never mind. I’ll just go and get a
drink.” She picked up the front of her long, dark red velvet gown
and headed towards the bar area. One of her brothers would be
sure to know if the man she thought she’d seen in the garden was
really here.
“Hey, little sister,” Jerome—her older brother—called to her
from the bar. Nate, her twin stood next to him. Dressed in their
dark formal wedding suits, the family resemblance appeared even
more marked than usual. Both men were tall, with black hair and
piercing blue eyes. Jerome had a more devil-may-care
appearance, Nathalie thought. He had a reckless edge, even in a
wedding suit.
“You look flustered,” Nate observed, looking at her warm
cheeks.
“Dancing always makes me thirsty.” She accepted one of the
pre-poured glasses of juice which stood with the flutes of
champagne on large silver trays all along the bar.
“Thank you so much for arranging all this for us today, Tali.
Jenni and I couldn’t have organised the wedding without you.”
Nathalie smiled at her twin. “It is my job and I’ve enjoyed
every minute. Although, a little more notice would have been
nice,” she assured him.
2
“Has Jerome told you he ran into Evan in town yesterday?”
Nate asked.
Nathalie took a big gulp of her drink, pressing her fingers
hard against the glass so her hand wouldn’t betray the shakiness,
which had just come over her.
“No, he didn’t mention it.” She was pleased her voice
sounded cool and controlled, even if she didn’t feel it.
“I met him outside the bank. I invited him to drop in to the
party today if he had a chance.” Jerome had a teasing look in his
eyes as he watched her to see how she had taken the information.
All of her brothers knew how she used to feel about Evan.
“When was he last in town? It’s been a few years,” Nate
said, before placing his empty glass back down on the bar and
allowing himself to be steered off to greet some more guests by
his bride.
Six years, Nathalie thought to herself. All the time he’d been
gone she’d only heard the barest snippets of information. She
didn’t even know if he had married or started a family in that
time.
“Look who I just found outside!” Barnaby, Nathalie’s
youngest brother called from the doorway. The prickling of the
hairs on the nape of her neck and an inner sixth sense warned her
who she would see when she turned around.
“Hello, Nathalie.”
The sound of her name spoken by Evan’s cool, gravely voice
sent little butterflies of excitement skittering around in her
stomach. She struggled to take a breath. “Evan,” she
acknowledged.
She decided he hadn’t changed much in the last six years.
Except he had a man’s frame now, broad-chested and broadshouldered.
Small lines crinkled at the corners of his bright blue
eyes and his hair had been cropped in a new short style.
“Glad you could make it. Have a drink.” Jerome passed him
a glass of champagne.
“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Where is the
groom?” Evan looked around the crowded room.
“His bride spirited him off.” Barnaby helped himself to a
glass.
3
“We’ll go hunt him down,” Jerome offered. He and Barnaby
walked away towards the dance floor, leaving Nathalie alone
with Evan.
“So, how have you been?”
Nathalie swallowed. “Fine. Busy. You?”
“The same.”
She felt the heat creep into her cheeks. This was ridiculous.
She was thirty-four, not thirteen. He’d been gone all this time and
he could still make her blush like a teenager.
“I guess now Nate’s married, you’ll be next.” He took a sip
of his drink.
“What gives you that idea?” His statement surprised her.
There was no one serious in her life. She dated, yes, but there had
only been one man she had ever given her heart to, and he stood
in front of her now. Six years after he’d walked out of her life
without any warning.
“You and Nate are twins—you always did everything
together, and you’re a beautiful woman, Nathalie. It seemed a
natural assumption.” He shrugged.
“How about you?” Her eyes darted automatically to his ring
finger. She wondered where he’d been and what he’d been doing
whilst he’d been gone. There were a million questions she longed
to ask.
“I’m single. I was married for a while.” His expression
hardened and the sudden appearance of ice in his eyes sent a chill
along her spine.
“Oh. So what brings you back into town?” She decided to
turn the conversation to a safer subject. That way she could
ignore the inconvenient feeling of sweet relief that had swept
through her when he’d said he was single.
“I’m visiting family. I’m looking for a house to buy, as I
intend to settle back here.”
“I see.” Nathalie dropped her gaze and took a sip of her
drink. Her mind worked overtime at his news.
“Evan!” Her brothers returned with Nate and Jenni.
Nathalie took advantage of her clan’s return to slip away and
recover her composure. Meeting Evan had thrown her into a state
of total confusion. Just an hour ago, she would have sworn she
4
was so over Evan. Now, after seeing him again, she wasn’t so
sure. Nathalie never liked to feel unsure about anything.
If he moved back into town, it was inevitable she’d bump
into him again. They had the same friends, had always moved in
the same circles. He had been friends with her brothers for years
as they had all grown up. How would she cope with seeing him
all the time?
Her mother, slim and chic in her pastel blue dress, beckoned
to her from the other side of the dance floor. “Have you seen
Jenni?”
“She’s in the bar with Nate. Evan Davies has just arrived.”
Her mother’s blue eyes—so like Nathalie’s own—surveyed
her shrewdly. “How wonderful. I’d heard he’d come back. Jenni
will need to go upstairs and change soon. I wondered if you could
go and help her.”
Nathalie wondered why all of her family, except her, seemed
to know that Evan was back in town. Keeping her thoughts to
herself, she pinned a smile on her face for her mother’s benefit.
“Of course, I hadn’t realised the time. I’ll go and see if she’s
ready.”
Her mother patted her hand, much the way she had used to
when Nathalie had been a small child in need of reassurance.
“Thank you, darling.”
* * * *
Evan made small talk with his old friends in the bar but all
his attention was given to their sister. Six years ago, he had been
at another wedding where Nathalie had been the bridesmaid and
he had been best man. It had been the same day he’d received the
bombshell letter; the same day he’d left town without saying
goodbye. That had been the last time he’d seen her––until today.
He remembered the first time they’d met. He and Jerome had
played hooky from school to go fishing; they had been sixteen.
They’d sneaked back to Jerome’s house to get some snacks and
drinks when a tall, skinny schoolgirl with jet black pigtails and
flashing blue eyes had caught them in the kitchen. It had been
pure bad luck that Nathalie had come home early for a dental
appointment. Both he and Jerome had been grounded for a month
for that escapade.
5
Nathalie rejoined the circle and spoke to her twin’s new
bride. “Mum said to see if you wanted to get changed yet.”
Jenni nodded. “Give me a minute.” She headed back towards
the dance floor. Nate and his brothers turned to speak to another
guest, and Evan found himself face-to-face with Nathalie for the
second time that day.
“Here we are again.” He wished he’d said something less
prosaic.
“Yes.”
“Nate told me that you organised all of this.”
She seemed glad of the conversational opening. “I own a
bridal shop and one of the services we offer is wedding planning.
Nate and Jenni only got engaged at Christmas, so a Valentine’s
day wedding was a little short notice, but if I couldn’t help my
own brother––well…” She shrugged.
Evan surveyed the faint flush along Nathalie’s high
cheekbones. “You were a bridesmaid last time I saw you.”
Her expression changed, and for a moment, Evan saw the
fourteen-year-old-girl from the kitchen all those years ago.
“Yes, well, thanks for reminding me of that!” She snapped.
“Excuse me, I have to help Jenni.”
He watched her go in search of Nate’s bride, and cursed his
own idiocy. Nathalie hadn’t needed to be reminded of the last
time they’d met. Some things didn’t alter—he’d made a mess of
things then and he’d made a mess of them again now. It hadn’t
been very tactful to remind her of the way he’d treated her.
Absentmindedly, he took another sip of champagne and
sighed as Nathalie continued to walk away through the crowd
with Jenni and another bridesmaid.
*****
Nathalie’s hands shook as she attempted to unfasten the tiny
seed pearl buttons on the back of Jenni’s bridal gown.
“Here, let me.” Jenni’s other bridesmaid offered to help.
“It’s not like you to be all fingers and thumbs,” Jenni
remarked as she craned her neck to see what her two helpers
were doing.
“I’m sorry.” Nathalie picked up the clothes hanger, ready to
help Jenni remove her dress for hanging.
6
“He did look very nice.” Jenni stepped out of the pool of
white silk.
Nathalie’s cheeks flamed. “Who? Evan’s just an old friend
of Jerome’s.”
Two pairs of eyes looked at her with interest.
“I used to have a crush on him. Then we dated for a while
before he left town a few years ago.” Nathalie bent to pick up
Jenni’s dress and hide her hot cheeks.
“Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Jenni laughed.
Nathalie placed Jenni’s dress on the padded hanger and
zipped up the protective cover with care. “We’d better hurry, the
car will be here for you and Nate soon.”
“I’d better not keep my husband waiting. I have to toss my
bouquet.” She smiled at Nathalie.
Nathalie ignored Jenni’s comment about the bouquet. Her
new sister-in-law meant well, but Nathalie had no wish to
become a bride. Romance and fairy-tale weddings were for other
people. She had resigned herself a long time ago to remaining the
bridesmaid and never the bride. Hadn’t Evan just reminded her of
that?
Nate had waited on the staircase for his bride to reappear so
they could say their farewells to the guests before setting off on
honeymoon. Nathalie joined her parents at the foot of the stairs
with the other guests as the final photographs were taken.
“I’m glad he’s finally happy,” her mother murmured.
“Me too.” Nathalie felt pleased her twin had managed to put
his past behind him, but she couldn’t help feeling sad, knowing
the same kind of happiness wasn’t destined to be hers.
“Okay, get ready!” Jenni called as she turned her back to the
crowd and prepared to toss her bouquet.
It was pure, instinctive reflexes which brought Nathalie’s
hand up in time to catch the posy of scarlet roses and green ferns
as it came winging towards her.
Her brothers whooped as she made a perfect catch and the
guests standing around her congratulated her.
“Your turn next, dear.” Her father patted her arm and moved
off with the rest of the family to see the bridal couple leave.
Nathalie stood still for a moment and bent her head to inhale
7
the deep, rich scent of the flowers in her hand. Ridiculous
superstition!
“Are you coming to see them off?” Evan’s voice, deep and
masculine in her ear, made her jump. Deep in thought, she hadn’t
realised he was still there.
“Of course!” She drew a deep breath. “I’m sorry, I didn’t
mean to snap.”
“No, it’s okay. I think it’s me who owes you the apology for
earlier.”
Nathalie forced a smile, her nerves felt ragged and raw.
“Then we had better put it behind us.” She took a step forward
ready to leave, only to still again as Evan slipped his arm through
hers to escort her.
Her pulse thudded as he walked with her to where the
wedding guests were sprinkling more confetti and tying the last
tin can on to the back of Nate and Jenni’s wedding car.
“Look after yourself, Tali, and thanks again for everything,”
Nate whispered in her ear, as he hugged her before climbing into
the car next to his new bride.
As she struggled to keep her composure, Nathalie recognised
that Evan had moved his arm to circle her waist in support as a
tear slipped down her cheek.
She dashed the tear away with her free hand. “I’m okay.”
“Let’s go inside, it’s cold out here,” Evan replied.
“The party will be ending soon, I should find my parents.”
Nathalie peered into the golden pool of light which spilled from
the open door of the reception area out on to the driveway where
she and Evan still stood.
“Have you got time for one dance?”
A shiver ran down her spine, and it wasn’t from the cold.
The gentle warmth of Evan’s hand on the small of her back and
the musky scent of his cologne combined to send a tattoo of
desire through her body.
“I don’t know.” She licked lips that felt dry.
His eyes fixed on her face and she couldn’t refuse when he
continued to look at her the way she had always dreamed he
would. The same way he had used to look at her.
“For old times” sake?” he murmured.
8
Dumbstruck, she nodded and he led her back inside.
The band switched to playing waltzes now the evening had
almost drawn to a close. All around them, couples slowly circled
the dance floor.
Nathalie’s feet moved to the rhythm of the music, all her
senses on maximum alert. She tried to scramble her brain into
gear as they danced. They had always been well-matched as
dance partners, and it was a rare pleasure to dance with a man
who was taller than she was.
“Are you moving back to be near your family?” She knew
Evan’s mother and his sister still lived locally.
“Mum’s not getting any younger and I’ve been offered a job
here.” He twirled her around the corner of the dance floor. Her
heartbeat quickened with the beat of the music.
“It sounds pretty definite, then?”
“I’ve some appointments to view properties tomorrow.”
The music stopped and the band leader started to make his
announcements. Evan released her from his arms.
“Thank you for the dance.”
“My pleasure.” Nathalie shifted her feet. What was the
matter with her? She hadn’t felt so socially inept in years.
“I have to go. It was good to see you again. Could I give you
a call sometime?”
“That sounds nice.” She struggled to sound cool and
collected. Perhaps if she agreed to see him again, she would get
some answers and maybe break this stupid spell he always
seemed to cast over her.
“I’ll be in touch.” He leaned forward and his lips brushed
against her cheek to send heat into her skin.
It was only when her mother called to her from the edge of
the dance floor that Nathalie realised Evan hadn’t asked for her
phone number.
She made her way across the room cursing herself for her
stupidity at falling for his charm all over again.
“Could you come and help me see everyone off home?” Her
mother asked.
“Of course.” She scanned the thinning crowd of guests. A
little part of her half-hoped Evan might still be there and realise
9
his mistake.
“Jerome’s giving Evan a lift to his mother’s. It was nice of
him to call by.” Her mother moved to the door to say goodnight
to some of Nate’s employees.
Nathalie’s heart sank. If he asked Jerome for her number she
would be the subject of merciless and annoying teasing from her
brothers. The problem with being the only girl in a family of
brothers meant that any man who showed any kind of interest in
her was subjected to the kind of interrogation the Spanish
Inquisition would have taken pride in.
She walked across the hall to stand by her mother. The last
little group of guests departed with hugs, kisses and pieces of
wedding cake.
“You will still come to dinner tomorrow, won’t you?” Her
mother asked as she sank down onto a nearby armchair and
slipped off her high-heeled patent leather shoes.
“If the offer’s still good,” Nathalie teased.
“Good? You and Nate have always been so close, being
twins. I don’t want you to feel lonely now he’s got Jenni.”
Nathalie sighed. She would miss being able to call Nate at
any time now there was someone else to consider.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Mmm.” Her mother didn’t sound convinced.
“Really, Mum. I’m quite happy living on my own.” She
knew her mother would love her to move back home, but
Nathalie loved her little townhouse with its tiny garden and
modern styling. She also valued her independence.
“Are you still seeing that young doctor you were dating?”
“I only saw him a couple of times.” She leaned on the top of
her mother’s chair and kissed her grey hair affectionately. “It
wasn’t serious.”
“It never is, darling.”
Nathalie heard the note of reproof in her mother’s voice.
“Mum, I told you I’m fine. I’m not like Nate, I like being
single. I’m having fun.” She wondered if she told herself that
often enough she would believe it.
“Oh sweetie, I just want you to be happy, you know that.”
Her mother squeezed her hand.
10
* * * *
Evan watched from his mother’s front door as the red tail
lights of Jerome’s car pulled away. It had been good to meet up
with his old friends. It had been good to see Nathalie again. He
turned the key and let himself into the darkened house, trying not
to make a noise.
“Is that you, Evan?” His mother appeared from the kitchen
with a china mug in her hand. She had changed into her
nightwear.
“Yes, I thought you’d be in bed.”
“I just got up to make a drink and to check on Polly.” His
mother smiled at him.
“Is she all right?” Evan’s heart jumped. If anything had
happened while he’d been gone, he would never forgive himself.
“She’s fine. I heard her cough, but she’s okay now,” his
mother hastened to reassure him.
“I’ll go up.”
Evan crept upstairs and pushed open the door to his
daughter’s room. His pulse settled when he saw her eyes were
shut tight in sleep, her small face flushed and healthy in the soft
glow of her nightlight.
Relieved, he closed the door and headed for his room. Polly
had been the both the joy and worry of his heart since the day
she’d been born. Now that he had sole charge of her care, he
worried about her ill health all the time.
Also available as an ebook http://www.amazon.com/Be-My-Hero-ebook/dp/B0095MYT24/ref=pd_rhf_gw_p_t_1

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