Mended Hearts

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Summary

Katie Williams is used to pretending. Raising her younger brother on her own and struggling with depression, she's made it this far with fierce determination alone. She puts on a brave face during the day, but when she's alone, she cries and thinks of the life she should have had. Matt Stephens has suddenly lost his mother. He's at her apartment, going through her personal belongings and trying not to fall apart, when he meets the pretty brunette who lives upstairs. Sparks fly from the start, but Matt lives out of state and besides, he isn't looking for a relationship. Yet he can't help wonder what Katie is hiding behind her brave facade. Can these two broken hearts heal each other? Or will distance and a threat from Katie's past cause them to shatter for good?

Genre:
Romance / Erotica
Author:
Angelina Disano
Status:
Excerpt
Chapters:
4
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

Prologue: Ice

She wasn’t exactly a long, cool woman in a black dress. At five-foot-two, there was very little about Katie Williiams that anyone would describe as ‘long.’ However, in three inch strappy black heels, she thought she could at least pass for a cool woman in a black dress.

The short, slinky number hugged her curves, accentuating her narrow waist and making the most of her modest chest. The dress came to mid-thigh, showing off her short but shapely legs. She had on a rhinestone necklace with matching dangly earrings, and not much else besides a little mascara, blush and red lipstick. Katie rarely wore makeup; she reserved it for special occasions like holidays, weddings and slaying dates at winter dances.

She inspected her reflection in the full-length mirror. Her chestnut brown hair now hung just past her shoulders in soft waves and she couldn’t help but be satisfied with the results from her curling iron. She turned it off and unplugged it, checked her makeup one last time, and then realizing that she had almost thirty minutes to spare, took to tidying up her tiny bedroom. The walls were boring apartment white but Katie had added a ton of color with a bright multicolored comforter, yellow pillow shams and turquoise blue curtains. She made the bed and picked up some clothes off the floor, making a mental note to do laundry tomorrow. She put her makeup away into a pouch and placed the pouch in a drawer of her antique vanity. Looking around, she felt the room was sufficiently clean, so she exited her bedroom to see if Grace was ready.

Katie entered the living room of the off-campus apartment they shared. Grace was seated on the hand-me-down brown sofa and had her heeled feet crossed and propped up on the second-hand coffee table as she scrolled through social media. She looked up when she sensed Katie’s presence.

“Hot damn, girl! Look at you. You clean up real nice, you know?” she teased, making Katie laugh.

“Let me see you,” she replied. Grace stood and twirled around to let Katie get a 360 degree view.

“Oh wow! Grace, you’re stunning!” Grace O’Leary was five-foot-seven inches of red hair and attitude. Her wavy hair was long, to the middle of her back, and a deep auburn. It was the first thing you noticed about her, followed by her unusual honey-colored eyes. She was wearing a long, emerald green fitted dress with a slit going all the way up her left leg.

“You look like an old-time movie star,” Katie added, feeling a little mousy with her five-foot two frame (well, five-foot-five in these heels), brown hair and regular old brown eyes. At least compared to Grace. On the other hand, who didn’t look mousy next to Grace?

The two had been friends since their freshman year when they were randomly assigned to each other as roommates. They had immediately hit it off, despite being different in many aspects of their personalities. Katie was a little quiet and a bit shy, but was always happy and pleasant. She usually had a smile on her face and seemed to light up the room with her warmth and sunny disposition.

Compared to Katie’s steady temperament, Grace was fire and ice. She was passionate, strong-willed and prone to mood swings. When she was happy, she was ecstatic. If you made her mad, watch out. She would not hold back and would tell you exactly what she thought. She didn’t mince words and said exactly what she was feeling. You either loved Grace or were put off by her directness. There did not seem to be any middle ground, at least that Katie could see.

For the last two and half years, they were pretty much inseparable. They had shared a dorm room for their freshman and sophomore years, but had moved to this off campus apartment last fall. Since Katie was a business administration major and Grace was a marketing major, they had classes in the same building and often commuted to and from campus together. Tonight they were going to the Winter Carnival Dance on a double date with Katie’s boyfriend, Jason, and Grace’s date Isaiah, who she really didn’t know that well but had asked because she knew he was fun at parties.

Katie and Jason had been dating for about six months, since the beginning of the academic year. Jason was Katie’s first real boyfriend. She hadn’t dated much in high school. At the time, she thought the boys were all immature and acted pretty stupid for the most part. When she came to college, she found a few interesting guys and dated casually, but Jason was the first to capture and hold her interest. They shared tastes in music, movies and books. They were both serious students who kept their grades up and didn’t party all that much. They just clicked. Katie thought being with Jason was comfortable; she trusted him and felt relaxed around him. He was her first love.

Grace didn’t do boyfriends. Grace did hook-ups when they were convenient for her. She didn’t sleep around or anything. It was more than when she occasionally found a guy she liked, she was never serious about him. They never held her interest and she was always too much for them -- too opinionated, too honest, too direct. The lack of serious relationships never bothered her though. Grace wasn’t at college for the boys; she was here for herself.

Once Grace was done twirling and had showed off all angles of her gorgeous dress and voluptuous figure (another difference between her and Katie), they checked the time and realized they had twenty more minutes until their dates were supposed to pick them up.

“Let’s take some pictures,” Katie suggested and Grace agreed. They spent several minutes hamming for the camera and posted a few on social media. When they felt they had sufficiently pouted, smiled and posed, they plopped onto the sofa side by side to wait.

Grace asked, “How did your finance exam go, by the way? You never told me.”

“Oh, it was fine,” said Katie nonchalantly.

“By ‘fine’ do you mean you got an A?”

Katie grinned sheepishly, “Yeah.” Grace recognized that as the ‘I aced it but I’m too modest to tell you’ smile.

“As usual, you brainiac. I’m glad you’re not in my classes. You ruin the curve every time.” Grace commented wryly.

It was true; Katie was incredibly smart. She always performed at the top of her classes and had been invited into several honor societies. If not for the one B+ she received freshman year, she would have a perfect 4.0 GPA, which still irritated her two years later. She was studying business, and was majoring in finance. Once she finished school, she wanted to go to Harvard for her MBA and had dreams of being a big-time executive in a Fortune 500 company. However, she knew it wouldn’t happen easily. She knew she had to work hard and not take anything for granted – not one assignment, not one exam, not one course. With this mindset came worries, maybe too intense, about her grades.

Grace was more laid back about her classes. She did well and had a decent enough GPA, but she didn’t stress over exams and relied on her innate intelligence more than meticulous study skills. She took the grade she got and moved on, no worrying required. Her future career in marketing and promotions would require innovation and an understanding of people, not a perfect GPA, so her grades weren’t a focus for her like they were for Katie. Again, another way they were so different from each other.

They were still smiling when there was a knock on their door. Katie looked down at her phone and realized it was still fifteen minutes until their dates were supposed to pick them up.

“Guess they couldn’t wait,” she said jokingly as she got up off the sofa and walked to the door. The words “You’re early” died on her lips as she noticed it was not Jason and Isaiah, but instead the dean of students, Dean Jacobson, and an older woman she had never seen before. Okay, this is strange, she thought.

“Uh, hi? Can I help you?”

“Hello, we’re looking for Katherine Williams,” the Dean replied.

“I’m Katherine,” Katie answered, completely puzzled at the unexpected visit.

“Um, may we come in?” The dean gestured to the woman who had a decidedly uncomfortable look on her narrow, pinched face.

“Of course,” Katie replied, now suddenly nervous. What the hell is happening? Why is the dean here at my apartment on a Friday night? Whatever it is, it can’t be good, Katie thought as she tried to think of some, really any reason, for a visit from the college dean.

Finding none, she stepped back to let them enter and took in the woman’s appearance. She was petite, her hair pulled back into a severe bun. She was wearing a tailored grey pantsuit and holding a burgundy briefcase. She wore nothing on her face except a pained expression. Who was she?

Katie closed the door behind them and turned apprehensively to face them. The Dean appeared to be shifting and searching for words. He was older, maybe 60, grey hair, distinguished in his dark suit. He also was wearing a somber frown on his face, causing Katie even more alarm. She chanced a glance at Grace who looked as baffled as Katie felt. Grace attempted to excuse herself, but was halted by Dean Jacobson who suggested she stay.

“Katherine, as you probably know, I am Dean Jacobson. This is Dr. Myers. Katherine, please sit down.”

Katie obeyed numbly, her mind now racing, frantically trying to figure out why the dean and a doctor were here. It was all so strange. She suddenly felt an intense feeling of foreboding; as if her life would never be the same. A chill passed over her and the room felt extremely cool to her bare shoulders and neck. She looked up at the Dean, who was still standing, and the doctor. What kind of doctor? What the hell was going on? They both appeared grim and she wasn’t sure, but were they looking at her with pity?

She realized in some deep corner of her brain that she didn’t really want to hear whatever it was he had to say. She glanced again at Grace, whose face clearly told that her thoughts had gone in the same direction. Katie’s heart started thudding wildly. She realized now with crystal clarity that whatever they had come to say was not good. Something is wrong, oh God, something is very, very wrong. She felt the color drain from her face.

Dean Jacobson’s heart was breaking. In all his sixteen years as the Dean of Students, he had never had to do anything as hard as this. He wanted to come out and tell her, but if he was honest with himself, he didn’t know what to say, or rather how to tell her the news. He looked down at Katie’s expectant face and all he could see was the little girl she must have been. The little girl she would be, for only another moment, until her whole world was shattered. It was suddenly too much for him and he stepped aside, choking a bit and nodding to Dr. Myers.

The woman came to sit down next to Katie. When she grabbed both of Katie’s hands with her own, Katie’s fear spiked horribly. Her heart was now beating so fast, the pounding in her ears was all she could hear. She started to sweat. She couldn’t breathe. She fixed her intense gaze on the doctor, silently willing her to tell her what was so wrong and at the same time pleading with her not to.

It seemed to be minutes before the doctor spoke, but in fact was just a few short seconds. The doctor, to her credit, only hesitated slightly, chancing a look at the Dean as if to bolster her resolve. Finally deciding she could put it off no longer, she looked back at Katie.

“Katherine, I’m afraid we are here under the most troubling of circumstances. I...your... Katherine, there has been an accident,” she finished lamely.

Katie couldn’t seem to think. Oh God. Please tell me this isn’t happening! Oh God, oh God. She felt as though her heart had suddenly been torn out. Instinctively she knew. She knew but she didn’t want to know! Oh God, please let this be a dream. Oh God, oh God.

When she tried to speak, she realized her mouth had gone dry. She managed to croak out one word. “Who?”

Dr. Jameson took another deep breath and resolved that she could put it off no longer. “Your mother, Katherine. Your mother was in an accident. She lost control of the car on the icy roads.” She paused only momentarily before adding the final blow.

“I’m sorry, Katherine, your mother is dead.”

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