New Release: Valentine Puppies and Kisses
Larry and Jenna have it all—a fairy tale romance, a sweet and gassy basset hound dog, and a dream home on the way.
While Jenna charges ahead with her dreams, Larry is plagued by nightmares and doubts about their future.
As Valentine’s Day draws near, and with it, their first anniversary, Jenna plans a big surprise for Larry, a scarred and injured firefighter who is on disability.
When Harley, their hound dog, spoils the surprise, Jenna is shocked at Larry’s reaction.
Will a house full of puppies and kisses be the lucky charm Jenna needs to convince Larry that he can truly have a big and noisy happily-ever-after family?
Sleep used to come easily for Larry Davison—even in the burn unit where he’d been drugged up most of the time. Back then, he didn’t know if he could live. It hadn’t mattered, because he’d had no one to live for.
Sure, everyone had called him a hero, but there was that one child he hadn’t saved—the one he couldn’t get to—the one who’d cried and clawed and coughed and choked, then died alone, all because Larry failed to rescue him.
No, he wasn’t a hero—never had been.
His wife, Jenna, called his scars badges of courage.
What courage was there from being trapped inside a burning building?
He hadn’t gotten the job done, and he’d gotten hurt. Nothing heroic at all.
Larry stared straight up, not moving, barely breathing. Jenna slept soundly next to him, her soft breathing sweet and fluffy, her body relaxed and tangled around the body pillow she hugged.
There used to be a time she wrapped those long legs around him all night. Not long ago, she used his shoulder as a pillow and held her hand over his heartbeat. Back then, they were newlyweds. He, tall, dark, and scarred. She, a vision of beauty, blond, fashionable, and talented.
Back then, he deluded himself—wanting all the temptations of life. Believing the lies of romance, of love conquering all, of family and generations, of adding to the line of humans walking across the stage of life.
He’d wanted to be a father—dreamed about little arms hugging him, little eyes looking up to him, and little hands holding his.
But now, he was a mental wreck—diagnosed with acute stress disorder (ASD) when he’d gone into a dissociative state after being overrun by a wildfire—blinking in and out of a detached, dreamlike state.
Everyone treated him as if he had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but there was no way what he’d experienced was comparable to the horrors a combat veteran experienced.
Which meant he was a weak link and no hero.
Larry let out a sigh and turned to his side, trying not to jiggle the mattress with his shifting weight.
It didn’t work.
Jenna stirred, catching her breath. Her cool, clammy hand found his hot, restless skin, striated with crisscross webs of burn scars.
“Larry, are you still awake?”
He grunted, not having anything to say.
“If you don’t want to have the party, we don’t have to do it,” she mumbled, voice groggy with sleep.
Their one-year anniversary party, set for Valentine’s Day, was all Jenna had been talking about. It would take place at the new home they were renovating with the money they’d won at their reality show wedding a year ago.
Now, as part of their winning package, they were on hook for a “One Year Later” snapshot where they’d show off their accomplishments. Jenna was planning on making a big splash, especially with the interior decorating and her fashion designs, and Larry knew better than to fall into her trap of offering him a chance to disappoint her.
He’d never hear the end of it.
“Then what’s bothering you?” More awake now, she stroked his jaw and leaned over to kiss his cheek.
“Sorry, I woke you. Go back to sleep.” He got up from the bed. “I’ll sleep on the couch so I won’t disturb you.”
Jenna’s fingers closed around his wrist. “Don’t go. Talk to me. What’s bothering you? Is it me? Tell me what I’ve done.”
“It’s not you.” Larry closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I can’t get my heartbeat to slow down, and I don’t want to take tranquilizers. Just trying to sort things out.”
She wrapped her arms around him and rested her head on his shoulder. “What kind of things?”
“Nothing.” His pulse hammered inside his constricted chest. What kind of husband was he to wallow in his uselessness?
He should have counted himself lucky that he hadn’t been burned in the last wildfire. The flimsy aluminum shelter had held, and despite him throwing it off before he was given the all-clear, he hadn’t breathed hot and poisonous gases, hadn’t blistered the backs of his legs or charred the hair off his head. He’d walked out of that burn area unscathed while his brother-in-law, Brian, had been injured with second-degree burns and smoke inhalation.
Larry gritted his teeth and turned his face into the pillow, trying to hold in the explosion rumbling in his gut.
“Something’s bothering you,” Jenna persisted. “Don’t shut me out. I’m your wife. We have our whole lives in front of us.”
That was the problem, wasn’t it?
Her whole life was in front of her, but his was behind him.
Death chased him.
Death surrounded him.
Death engulfed him.
He’d tasted it, touched it, and wrapped himself inside of it.
He couldn’t shake it.
Next time, I’m going to get you.
You won’t cheat me again.
Me and you will be together, always.
Death had the voice of a child.