With: J. Arlene Culiner
Don’t we all have a memory tucked away of someone we once loved, or someone we just might have fallen in love with if the circumstances had been right? And what would happen if we came face-to-face with that person today? Would the magic still be there? Would our hands tremble, our knees knock together just the way they did back then? Or would we just stare, appalled, wonder how we could once have been so silly.
For me, the idea of meeting up with a romantic ex was just intriguing enough to write about. And so, Felicity Powers came to life. She’s a strong, determined woman, just the sort who fights for what she wants. And she wants Marek Sumner to fall in love with her. And because he’s a smart guy, a romantic, he realizes how wonderful his life will be with Felicity in it.
But love doesn’t solve everything, and that’s the problem. If the relationship is going to work, it will mean sacrifice. Too much compromise. Marek wants security, a family; Felicity wants adventure. So, after living together for almost two years, the love story is over.
Well…in a way it’s over. Because, even after years of separation, Felicity has never forgotten Marek. She has spent her life as a foreign aid worker, has been in danger countless times, has done exactly what she set out to do, but she knows Marek was the love of her life. And because she’s a fighter, she’s going to see if their relationship can start all over again.
What does Marek think? Sure he’s never forgotten Felicity. Sure it’s great to see her again. Sure she looks wonderful. And sexy. And exciting. But start over? All these years later? Risk having his heart broken again? He’s older and wiser now. Too smart for all the turbulence and drama. But that’s definitely not how Felicity sees things.
So let’s go to the moment when Marek and Felicity come face-to-face again after all those years. Let’s see if the magic is still there…
He didn’t look in her direction, not even once, Felicity saw. If he’d looked up, he probably wouldn’t even have noticed her anyway, half-hidden, as she was, behind the bookshelves. Fading into the scenery, she sneered at herself.
All his attention was directed toward the people he spoke with. He’d always managed to do that: give his all to whomever he was with at the moment, as if what they had to say was of utmost importance. He was really classy looking. Elegant in that sports jacket, in those dark gray, beautifully cut trousers. His glasses underlined the intelligence in his face. Even over this distance, the influence he was having on her was astounding—and it had nothing to do with the past. Admit it! Didn’t she now have the answer to the question that had been plaguing her for so long?
Would he still have the same effect on you now that he had before?
She felt as if she’d been thrust into a dangerous, highly volatile, situation. Cool down, Felicity. He has a wife here somewhere.
Fine laugh lines crinkled around the green of his eyes. His mouth was resolute, impatient. A curl of salt and pepper hair had tumbled over his forehead, and she’d have given just about anything in the world to have the courage to go over, touch it, brush it back. You don’t have the right to do that anymore! You gave up that right a long time ago.
Still, the thought didn’t stop the tingle in her fingers, the desire to reach out. He had aged. Of course he had. But he’d done it wonderfully. He glowed. Whereas she was looking like she’d just managed to crawl out of the swamp. She’d better get out of here. And fast. Before anyone noticed her, weak coward that she was. Besides, wasn’t it better to leave a dream intact? The dream of the wonderful things that would happen if she and Marek came face to face again after all this time. That was only a dream. A real encounter would destroy everything, all the illusions. Is that what she wanted? Of course not.
So what did she want? She knew now—now that she’d seen him again. She wanted to know he loved her. Still. She wanted him to desire her madly. She wanted to be with him, skin against skin, his beautiful mouth on hers, telling her it wasn’t too late. That the intervening years had been as empty for him as they had been for her. Her heart thudded with the violence of her hopes. Fool!
Was she going to make a run for it? Yes? No? Of course not. She couldn’t.
There was a temporary lull around the table. Marek bent to sign a book.
Move! Felicity shoved herself out of her hiding place. If only her legs didn’t feel as weak as wet noodles. How, in heaven’s name, did you cross a room on noodles?
If only he didn’t look so…so beautiful. Yes, that’s what he was. Absolutely beautiful—but then, he always had been. Sexy as hell!
“Hi.” Brilliant starter, Felicity! That should impress him all right.
Hi? The hand on the page he was signing, stopped. He didn’t move, didn’t look up. Not immediately. What was going on? What was he thinking?
A few seconds passed—just a few seconds while reason fought with hope in her heart. She braced herself…
Then, so very slowly, he raised his eyes. “Felicity?”
Stunned surprise tugged at her heart. He’d recognized her voice. After all this time.
“I must be dreaming,” he said softly. “This isn’t possible.” He straightened, shook his head in wonderment, stared at her as if she were a ghost. “But here you are. Felicity Powers.”
She stared back more boldly now, searching his face just the same way he was searching hers. Looking for messages.
Then, he was moving. Was on her side of the table. Reaching out, pulling her into his embrace as if time had never intervened. She enlaced him, melted against him. Closing her eyes, she wished time could stop, leave her here forever. Here, where she belonged.
Holding tightly in a world containing only the two of them, the noise of the crowd receded, became a vague murmur, the sigh of a distant wind.
Until he finally managed to let her go. Stepping back, he looked slightly abashed.
“Your husband is going to have something to say about a hug like that.” His voice was almost light, teasing. Almost. Had the word “husband” bothered him? She hoped so.
“No husband. I’ve been divorced for ages.” What did she see on his face? Surprise? Pleasure? She’d been right. He had minded. Then she told herself to cut out the dreaming. Swallowing, shaking her head slowly, she sank down in the depths of his green gaze. “Your wife will mind, though.”
“But I read—” She stopped, stared up.
“Ex-wife.” His smile was faint. “A long time ago too.”
He was divorced! Free! The news shook her, leaving her stunned. Instantly it was as if a bright light had snapped on allowing life to take on colors she’d never seen before.
By J. Arlene Culiner
Contemporary Romance from The Wild Rose Press
San Francisco, 1971: hippies in the streets, music and revolution in the air. The evening Marek Sumner opened his door to the wild-looking Felicity Powers, he knew nothing would ever be the same again. But even love and passion couldn’t keep them together.
Forty-three years later, having lived in the world’s most dangerous places as a foreign aid worker, Felicity is back, still offering him love, passion, and adventure. But why would Marek risk having his heart broken a second time? Now a well-known author, he loves his calm, solitary life in an isolated farmhouse. He and Felicity are just too different; their relationship could never work.
But Felicity is just as fascinating and joyful as ever, and that wonderful sexy magic is still there too. As for love, perhaps it’s even deeper and more delightful the second time around.
Born in New York, raised in Toronto, J. Arlene Culiner has spent most of her life in England, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Hungary and the Sahara. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no real interest. Much to everyone's dismay, she protects all living creatures — especially spiders and snakes — and her wild (or wildlife) garden is a classified butterfly and bird reserve.
In her perfectly realistic contemporary romances, heroines are funny, and heroes are dashingly lovable. All are proudly over the age of forty.