Reclusive Jenny Hamilton wants only to be left alone. Afraid to venture far from her modern cabin in the Eastern Sierras, this widow and writer endures a solitary existence caring for her animals until Tom Driscoll washes up in the creek. She rescues the unconscious man, and when his injuries heal, he helps Jenny overcome her fear of men, the result of an abusive marriage.
Tom saves her from the burly intruder intent on rape who traumatizes Jenny. Her earlier fears come flooding back, convincing her there is no man she should trust. She sends Tom away with the sheriff who comes to pick up their prisoner.
When Jenny realizes Tom has taught her to feel again, she reaches out to him. He rushes back to her side, and she promises never to send him away again.
In To Feel Again, following her near-rape by a stranger, reclusive Jenny Hamilton sent Tom Driscoll away from her mountain cabin where she’d nursed the near-drowned man back to health, convinced by the local sheriff that he no longer needed to be there. Now Tom is back, and wants answers.
Tom: Why did you send me away?
Jenny: I was frightened.
Tom: Afraid of me?
Jenny: No, not any more.
Tom: Are you saying I did frighten you at one time?
Jenny: Y-yes, but it wasn’t your fault.
Tom: Whose fault was it?
Jenny: I’d rather not say.
Tom: (sighing deeply) Jenny, if you don’t share your fears, they’ll continue to rule your life.
Jenny: Like Hank does.
Tom: Who’s Hank?
Jenny: My late husband, the man who ruled my life with an iron hand.
Tom: He hurt you?
Jenny: All the time.
Tom: Why did you put up with it? Why didn’t you leave him?
Jenny: I couldn’t. Where would I go? I have no family, and he scared all my friends away.
Tom: So you just gave up and took his beatings?
Jenny: Said like that, you make me sound weak.
Tom: I didn’t mean to, you’re one the strongest, most resourceful women of your size I’ve ever met.
Jenny: Thanks. I changed after Hank died, and changed some more after meeting you. I won’t ever let myself become a doormat or a punching bag for some man again.
Tom: Good. I’m glad to hear it, but you know you have nothing to fear from me, don’t you?
Jenny: Yes, I was praying you were nothing like Hank the minute I pulled your unconscious body out of the creek, and once you regained consciousness, I was convinced.
Tom: You mean the world to me, Jenny. I’d never harm a hair on your head.
Jenny: I know. That’s why I invited you back into my life. I’m so sorry about sending you away.
Tom: That has to have been the worst day of my life.
Jenny: Mine, too. Once I realized what I’d done, that I’d ordered the one man who’d taught me to feel again out of this cabin and out of my life, I spent many lonely nights regretting my decision and trying to think of a way to make it right.
Tom: Come here, Jenny. One of your sweet kisses in all it will take.
Excerpt from To Feel Again:
Confusion clouded his eyes as he turned toward the light and waited for his vision to adjust to the sudden brightness. Sunshine streamed through a wide expanse of windows, bathing the room and highlighting a golden fairy plucking a harp.
He closed his eyes, shuttering out the sunlight while he considered the scene he’d just witnessed.
No sign of his crew, only the fairy and her harp.
No harp sounded like the rhythmic sounds making his head hurt. They were far from musical.
Filled now with a growing need to understand, his eyes popped open to gaze at the apparition before him again. The fairy’s nimble hands danced along colorful strings, her delicate fingers gracefully plucking sunbeams.
No, that can’t be right.
He gave himself a mental shake.
The fuzziness cleared and his romantic fantasies disappeared. He gazed at the flying fingers until, tiring of that, his gaze followed her upraised hands to her wrists, her bent elbows, and up to the collar of a blue sweater. Golden tresses sparked by the sun glinted around narrow shoulders.
“What are you making?”
The words caught in Tom’s dry throat and growled across the distance with such harshness those dainty fingers he’d enjoyed watching so much froze in midair. The attractive young woman pivoted her golden head and peered in his direction, her doe-like eyes widening. Wetting her lips, she blinked at him, making him regret he’d interrupted her weaving.
“You’re awake.” Her whispered words fell from trembling lips.
Dummy. You scared her with your sudden outburst. A smile might ease her fright.
He tried to lift the corners of his mouth, but his dry, cracked lips stretched across his teeth. He winced, flicking out his tongue to circle his mouth, raking his parched lips with needed moisture.
He cleared his throat and tried again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Her hands settled in her lap. She clasped her fingers. Puzzled, he watched her knuckles turn white. She moistened her lips again, then chewed on the bottom one, her somber gaze never leaving his face. Those expressive eyes held a disturbing wariness he couldn’t comprehend.
“You hurt your head,” she whispered.
He tried to touch the spot that ached. Both his hands came up, connected by rope.
“What in blazes?”
The fairy rose, her golden head moving from his line of vision. He lifted his head to follow her movements. Rockets exploded behind his eyes.
He shut them again.
Her footsteps faltered, then moved toward him. He opened his eyes.
A pair of trim leather boots stopped beside him. The knees above the boots bent as she knelt in his line of vision and leaned back on her heels, considering him with a wary look.
“Your fever made you delirious, so I tied your hands.”
Her words brought a bright flush to her cheeks. With the sun no longer shining on her head, her hair took on a darker shade, encircling her shoulders in a cape of chestnut satin.
“Did I hurt you?”
She nodded. “Last night. A little. Here, I’ll untie you.”
The hand she lifted in his direction quivered. He raised his bound wrists to give her easier access to the knot. She flinched, ducking away from his movement, her distrusting gaze following his action. Then her shoulders slumped and her fear-darkened gaze settled on him.
She drew in a ragged breath. Her shoulders lifted with determination and she clamped her jaw tight.
Everything I say, every movement I make, spooks this woman. Why?
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Author Bio: Toni Noel’s love of books started in childhood, when her mother first read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew to her. She helped start church libraries in two rural Tennessee towns and appeared before the City Planning Commission and the San Diego City Council to urge a site be purchased. As the neighborhood spokesman for the new library the City Councilman for her district invited her to turn the second shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking for the new library. Toni’s fondest dream, to see one of her safe-haven-for-the-heart novels available for checkout there may soon be fulfilled. Desert Breeze Publishing will release in print form in November the author’s first published novel Law Breakers and Love Makers.
Toni Noel’s Novels… Safe havens for the heart.