Through the Ghost
After high school, Tara Jenkins followed her dreams to New York where she became a plus-size catalog model. Ten years later, she longs for the college education she passed up. When her mother becomes ill, Tara chucks her career and returns to her hometown. She buys a rundown house and begins the process of restoring the house and her life.Then in walks trouble.
Brett Chambliss is a contractor. He’s thrown himself into his work to forget about his wife Kelly and daughter Betsy, whom he lost three years ago. When he finds out Tara wants to remodel the grand old house he jumps at the chance to resurrect it, knowing he’ll be spending his free time with his neighbor Tara. He just needs to forget about vowing to love and honor his wife until he dies.
Kelly Chambliss has plans of her own. Cursed to spend eternity in the house next door, she can only watch Brett from a distance. Her unwanted new “roommate” could be her ticket back into her husband’s life.
One thing is for sure, if Tara wants Brett she’s going to have to go through the ghost to get him.
Originally published in 2005 as If Tomorrow Never Comes under my original pen name Emjai Colbert
Turn of the Millennium
Turning her back against the sultry storm-fed wind, Tara Jenkins grabbed the signpost and rocked it back and forth with all her might. Finally, the heavy sign came free of the ground and toppled onto an overgrown azalea bush. The “sold” banner that covered the realtor’s name made Tara’s heart soar.
After all the years of planning and hard work, she finally had her dream house.
With a small shout of triumph, Tara took a step away from the fallen sign to study her new home, which even in the pre-storm gloom was beautiful to her romantic heart.
Built in the 1880s the two-story Victorian complete with turret was far from new but it was hers and that was all that mattered.
Just then, a jagged bolt of lightning sliced through the nearly black sky revealing the brutal injustice the grand old house endured with patient grace. Someone in its rental past had painted it purple. And not a pretty shade of purple either, but a sick, ugly shade that reminded Tara of a neon eggplant. Maybe alone the purple wouldn’t have stood out so badly if that same renter hadn’t slathered the beautiful gingerbread trim that decorated the two porches a garish neon green.
As she stood admiring her beautiful, ugly house, headlights swept the yard. A late model silver truck pulled into the drive next door, briefly illuminating the horrible colors once again. Tara smiled proudly despite the disgrace for she knew that the painters would arrive first thing in the morning to begin stripping away the offensive colors. With any luck, that god-awful purple and green would be history by the end of the month.
Next door, the owner of the silver truck slammed the door. Tara glanced over with a ready smile to greet her new neighbor. But as the man came around the truck, a blast of hot storm-fed wind slammed her in the face. She stood breathless for a moment while he walked down the drive to his mailbox, the light from an overhead street lamp illuminating him in all his glory.
Tall, at least six foot, he had shoulders broader than the neat blue oxford shirt could hide. The top button of his shirt gaped open; the tie pulled loose, leading Tara to assume the man was uncomfortable in the business noose. A pair of gray pleated pants hugged narrow hips and, feeling as if she were studying a prime stud at auction, Tara forced her eyes to take a more northward journey, which was a mistake too.
His face was exquisite with eyes as dark as sin nestled under a pair of arched brows. A narrow nose and full lips completed the rugged face. Short dark brown hair that wanted to curl a bit at the neck completed the package. Indeed, this particular neighbor damn near came close to male model in sheer hunkiness.
“Hi, I’m your new neighbor.” Somehow Tara managed to say when super-stud looked up from his mailbox.
Unlike his mouth, his eyes, when they met hers, didn’t smile. For an instant, Tara thought she could detect a trace of sadness hidden within those obsidian depths. “Oh, hey, I didn’t see you standing there,” he said in a voice that had to be the male equivalent to harp-song. His deep melodious accent was very Southern but not so thick that she needed a translator. His words caressed her much like the sultry autumn wind that swirled around her, warm and velvety, creating erotic images of hot sex and cold mint juleps.
Wow. Tara pulled off her gloves and prayed that the water company had made it out that day as scheduled to turn on the water. After that last thought she was going to need a very cold shower.
“So you bought the purple dinosaur? I’d wondered if that old house would ever sell,” he of the velvet voice said as he pulled a stack of letters and catalogs from his mailbox. He then crossed over the low azalea hedge that separated their lawns, his right hand extended.
“Yep, I bought the old girl but by the end of the month y’all will have to find her a new name.” Tara swept her hand out to indicate the entire neighborhood before she took his hand. She gasped as she felt her hand disappear inside his large rough hand, a hand that was so at odds with the way he dressed, the hand of a workingman. “I’m Tara Jenkins.” Tara felt her face flush as the thought of hot sex and cold mint juleps suddenly lost the mint julep part.
“Nice to meet you, Tara Jenkins. I’m Brett Chambliss,” he said, his voice catching on her name. “Glad to hear you’re painting. For a while there I was afraid the place would stay empty and purple indefinitely.” Letting go of her hand, he shoved his now free hand into his pocket. “Well, gotta run. If you need anything at all don’t hesitate to ask.”
“I won’t. And nice meeting you too, Brett Chambliss,” she said as the man lifted the hand holding his mail in a mock salute as he hopped the hedge. The gold of his wedding band gleaming in the dim light of the streetlamp caught her eye. And in that instant hot sex turned into cold mint juleps—alone—on her purple and green front porch.