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The Affair by J.L Berg is LIVE!! #OneClick today!!
There are some paths in your life you’re never meant to take.
Yet, by some twist of fate, you find yourself on the forbidden road all the same.
Those are the words I stumble upon when I unearth a hidden journal that once belonged to my grandmother.
A hidden journal that details a heartbreaking affair with her husband’s brother. It’s a family secret I’m unprepared to deal with, especially when my own life begins to parallel hers.
Sawyer Gallagher was never on my radar. The moment I met his younger brother, I was taken. Done for. Love-drunk.
But, some things aren’t meant to last and at the age of thirty-three, I find myself divorced, penniless and living with my parents. When Sawyer stops by our family’s antique store, asking for a job, I figure: Why the heck not? Life can’t get much worse.
It doesn’t take long to realize just how different the Gallagher brothers are. Sawyer is kind, supportive, and, oh, did I mention sexy as hell?
In a small town like ours, I can’t help but ask myself…
Can I fall for my former brother-in-law?
Or is this just history repeating itself?
B&N: Coming Soon
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It had been ages since my feet graced the concrete of this street.
A year ago, I used to walk this familiar path several times a day. I could count the steps between our front door and the antique store and the café. It was the perfect little house, right in the middle of town.
My parents’ house, on the other hand, was on the outskirts, and in order to get anywhere, you had to drive. I hated that, especially as a kid. When you were little, you wanted instant gratification, and being even ten minutes from friends and fun was too much. I hadn’t lost that feeling when I got older, so being able to walk to the market for a head of lettuce or walk hand in hand with my husband to the café for an impromptu brunch, that was my idea of bliss.
Or at least, it had been.
Now, the little white house was a stark reminder of everything I’d had. And lost.
My heart began to race when I got within eyesight of it. I saw the mailbox first—the royal blue I’d chosen that first year of marriage. I’d agonized for days over the perfect shade. Reed had laughed, not understanding the difference between any of them.
My stomach turned as I thought of it now.
Look straight ahead, Elle.
Don’t think about the mailbox.
Or the young, blonde woman walking out of the house … wait, what?
My feet faltered, and I nearly tripped.
There was a woman in my house.
It’s not your house anymore, I reminded myself.
I tried not to look, but I couldn’t help but notice how familiar she seemed with it all. The way she stepped off the threshold and locked the door with ease, tucking the set of keys into her purse without thought. She waved to Mr. Flannigan next door, who was watering his award-winning roses. I watched in horror as he smiled and gave a friendly wave back.
My throat burned, and my eyes stung.
I thought back to that moment at the funeral when Reed’s lips parted, and those unspoken words sat frozen in time.
I’d always assumed he was waiting for the perfect time to say I’m sorry or I’ll never stop loving you, but in reality, perhaps he was just trying to muster the courage to tell me the truth.
He’d met someone.
He’d moved on. It seemed there’d been a lot of that going on lately.
Suddenly not in the mood for coffee, my stomach turning more sour by the second, I turned and bolted for the antique store. I didn’t bother checking to see if the mystery woman saw me.
There was a reason I never walked down this street.
Too many memories.
Too much pain.
And right now, I’d had enough of both.
As I rounded the corner though, I heard voices, which, at first, wasn’t unheard of. The church was packed with nearly half the town.
But it was the tone of the voices that made me stop in my tracks.
Hushed whispers in a place like this could only mean one thing …
“It’s just so sad,” the first female voice uttered.
“I know,” said the second woman in a tone that suggested she was feigning empathy more than feeling it. “To first lose your husband and then your father, all in the same year. It’s a wonder she can even get up in the morning.”
Oh, good. It was gossip. About me.
The first female took back the reins. “We all thought she and Reed were like the golden couple too. But I guess it’s true what they say—”
I couldn’t take any more.
The mascara that had barely been clinging to my eyelashes was now wet as I bit my bottom lip, trying to will away the tears. With my arms wrapped around my chest like a protective blanket, I tried to speed past them, hoping that I’d somehow develop special powers and zap them away with my death stare.
But I was never that lucky.
Instead, all I managed to do was summon my evil foe—or as others liked to call him, my ex, Reed Gallagher.
“Elle?” he called out, seeing the distress written all over my face. He always was good at the knight-in-shining-armor bit.
And I had always been his favorite damsel, growing up.
“You okay?” he asked, his gaze moving over my shoulder to the flock of gossiping women I was desperately trying to flee.
I didn’t need to stick around to see who they were. I’d recognized them the minute I blazed past. Just two rivals from high school I couldn’t ever seem to get rid of, even now, fifteen years later.
One of the many benefits of never leaving your hometown.
“Um,” Macy blurted out, hoping to save face in front of Reed. She’d had a thing for him since he moved here in middle school.
“I’m really sorry,” Sarah finally added. “We didn’t mean for you to hear that.”
“Yeah,” Macy agreed. “We’re really sorry about your dad.”
I thought about attempting some witty comeback, but it wasn’t worth it. They weren’t worth it.
And I wouldn’t ruin the memory of my dad for it.
Reed seemed satisfied with their halfhearted apology as they both made a quick exit. At least one of us was. I just wanted to get away, but unfortunately, the big beast of a man was still standing in my way.
“What do you want, Reed?” I asked, trying not to make eye contact with those dark blue eyes or the subtle curve of his jaw.
“I wanted to see how you were,” he said, sounding genuinely concerned. His voice still had the power to make my stomach clench and my knees wobble, and I hated that.
“My dad died, Reed. How do you think I’m doing?”
He ran his hands through his dark brown hair. “Yeah, sorry. That was a stupid question. I just meant—”
“Why are you here?” I asked, my question instantly making his face blanch.
“He meant a lot to me, Elle,” he answered, sounding incredulous. “I wish I could have seen him before—”
“He asked about you.”
“He did? But I thought—”
I shook my head. “He never knew.”
His eyes widened. “How? But—”
“The man had cancer. Do you think I wanted to break his heart, too, by telling him what you did to me? What you did to us?”
Finally, the shame came pouring back. “No, I guess not.” Reed could only nod, his head lowered, obviously upset.
I wanted to feel bad for him, I did. Growing up, he’d been a part of our family. Ever since he’d nearly run over me with his BMX bike, I had known Reed Gallagher was the one for me.
Like some moronic fairy tale come to life.
“I need to go find my mom,” I said, unwilling to go down any more memory lanes today, especially with him.
“Right. Of course. Will you tell her I said hello?” he asked before realizing what he was saying.
My mom had once loved Reed like a son.
When she’d found out he’d cheated on me with some barely legal waitress at the local bar just a week after my father had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, she’d told me she’d never felt so betrayed in her life.
That made two of us.
I didn’t even have to respond before he did.
“Never mind,” he said. “Take care, Elle.”
I could tell he wanted to say more. Whenever we met like this, whether it was between the aisles of the grocery store or picking up takeout at one of the local restaurants, there was always something more waiting on the tip of his tongue. Maybe it was another apology. Perhaps it was a plea for me to come back home and pretend like nothing had happened, or maybe he just wanted to say he still loved me.
All I knew was, I wanted to hear none of it.
Not a goddamn word.
Because there was nothing he could say that could take back what he had done, and he knew it, which was why he kept quiet and I walked away.
You know the expression, sweating like a whore in church?
That was me exactly ten minutes after arriving home when it finally dawned on me that I was going on a real, legit date. My chest began to heave. Every inch of me was damp, and my mouth was dryer than the Sahara Desert.
This was it.
Sawyer wasn’t just casually popping over to bombard me with a flurry of questions or to help me with my grandmother’s journal. There would be no couches and blankets to hide behind, no dinner preparation to occupy us.
Just the two of us. In a restaurant. With actual people.
“Holy crap on a cracker, what was I thinking?” I asked the dead plant in my living room.
It had no answers. Mostly because it was plant. And it was dead.
Okay, I just needed to keep calm.
I needed to keep calm and make a list.
To-do lists always kept me cool under pressure.
So, first things first.
What did one do to prepare for a date? It had been ages since I’d actually been on one, so my knowledge was rusty at best, but thanks to my heavy dose of Netflix bingeing, I’d watched just about every romantic comedy known to man in the last few months.
And if there was one thing rom-coms were known for, it was a glow-up montage—an opportunity for the heroine to go from zero to hottie in under a minute, making her downright irresistible to her potential mate.
The upside to this cheesy cliché was that it gave this rusty heroine the refresher she needed.
And the first thing I needed was makeup.
Lots of makeup. My dress was obviously already picked out. Hopefully, the weeks of pizza-eating wouldn’t cause me to bust the zipper. I guessed we’d soon find out.
Taking the steps two at a time, I marched my butt into the bathroom and turned on the shower. I wasn’t sure why; I didn’t particularly need a shower. I’d taken one that morning, and to be honest, I wasn’t that sweaty from my mini freak-out, but the idea of hot, running water soothed me.
And I needed some soothing.
Of course, I didn’t think about the fact that hot water on top of my hair would also constitute me having to restyle it.
“Shit!” I yelled the moment the water hit my nearly perfect curls.
Well, too late now. I guessed I should add a blow-dry and a curling session to my list of things to do.
Now that I’d basically doubled my to-do list, the soothing feeling of the shower did little for my stress relief. Finishing up quickly, I dried up, threw my now-sopping-wet hair into a towel, and found my way into my bedroom.
Plopping down on the bed, I let out a heavy sigh.
Why did people do this?
Was it worth it to get all dressed up, put on a crap-ton of makeup, and spend a fortune on dinner, only to have a few hours alone with someone?
Thinking about those few brief moments with Sawyer today—the way his eyes had lit up when we spoke, the heavenly feeling of his hands on my body—I couldn’t help but smile.
Yeah, it was worth it.
It was definitely worth it.
To celebrate the release of The Affair, J.L. Berg is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card! Head to her Facebook page to enter: https://www.facebook.com/authorjlberg/
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready series, the Walls series, the Lost & Found series and more. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls and two pups. When she’s not writing, you will find her cuddled up, watching a movie with her family, obsessing over fandoms or devouring anything chocolate! J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.
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