The Howard Family Series
Book 2
If Only...
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Justin is hurting, in a situation that is tearing him apart.  He has too many if-onlys, and he does not know how to see past his pain. Then Lana walks into his life.  He is astounded by the impact she has on him.  She is a breath of fresh air for him—his sanctuary. Perhaps it isn’t over for him after all?

Lana is at a place in her life where love and romance have not turned out to be all she’d bargained for.  Try as she might to comprehend men and their attributes, she decides that maybe she should take a step back and reflect for a while.  The truth of it was, men just did not understand her, and she was content to be on her own. 

Until Justin. 

Justin changes everything for her, making her believe and long for something more, until the stark reality of the situation unfolds, and she knows that walking away is best for them both. 

But how can she? 

When faced with the painful certainty, she does not want to let him go.

About the book:

Justin finds himself in a circumstance that he feels is spiralling out of control, nothing, and no one can stop what is looming ahead for him.  Everything seems to be hanging in the balance with no way forward until he meets Lana and somehow, there is a glimmer of hope. 

Lana and Justin’s friendship becomes a strong and powerful bond that neither want to break.  They discover that life is not always simple, and when they find themselves at the edge of an impossible situation, are they both willing to make the sacrifice of self and trust God even when all else seems to be in despair?  

Let's hear from Justin and Lana​...

Can a friendship become more?

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Blurb

 

 

What do you do when your heart is breaking because you lose your first love?

Tragic circumstances change the course of Justin’s life.

 

Lana Howard gives him hope for a future he never thought he would have again. Without her, he is certain he is unable to move forward. But his past, his present, and his imminent future have left him filled with regrets, and he is at the point of despair—is it over?

If only... things were different.

If only... he could turn the clock back.

When Lana meets the mysterious, handsome Justin Stewart, she is captivated by his good looks and charm, but the intrigue is short-lived. Her expectation of men amounts to zero based on past experiences, and as far as she is concerned, Justin is no exception. But in spite of herself, Justin sweeps into Lana’s life and she finds herself slipping into something that she seems unable to get out of.

Will Justin see past his pain and make the right decision for them both?

Excerpt

Lana looked over at the bar, and her eyes met those of a very handsome man whose gaze did not waver. She expected him to look away, as did most men when challenged with her bold and confident response. But no, surprisingly, this man held her gaze for the longest moment.

He was dressed in a dark tailored suit; he looked sharp, very well-groomed. His eyes were green—captivating. His almond-toned complexion was flawless, his hair neat with soft curls. His gaze was intense; something seemed to happen to her as he continued to look at her. Then he smiled, producing dimples and a sparkle to his eyes.

He was breathtaking.

She looked away, disconcerted, returning her gaze to her friend, who was sampling her dessert—salted caramel chocolate mousse—with a look of delight on her face.

“This is absolutely divine!” Brooke pointed at her plate with her fork.

Lana mumbled a response but could still feel the man’s gaze on her. She resisted the urge to look over at him again. She was not interested. With men came dilemmas, and she just did not have room for complications right now.

A waiter appeared at their table with two drinks.

“We didn’t order these,” Lana pointed out.

“No charge, madam. Courtesy of the man by the bar.” The waiter gestured to the man with the intense gaze.

Brooke looked over. “Wow…he’s gorgeous! Who is he after, me or you?” She giggled as the waiter disappeared, and nodded her thanks to the man.

“Well, let’s hope it’s you.” Lana kept her eyes averted, not wanting to encourage anything.

Leaning towards her, Brooke whispered excitedly, “He’s coming over!”

Lana groaned inwardly. Brooke was such a girl at times. Lana hoped she wouldn’t say anything embarrassing!

“I couldn’t help but come and say hello to you beautiful ladies. I’m Justin Stewart.”

He addressed them both—however, his gaze was on Lana. She noted his American accent; his voice was deep and husky. She loved the accent. It sounded rich and cool. She wanted to hear more.

Lana looked at Brooke, who was grinning unashamedly at him, trying to get his attention.

Brooke flicked her long, layered hair. “Thank you for the drinks. How thoughtful of you. I’m Brooke­­­”—she paused for effect—“and this is Lana.” Her eyes lit up with interest.

Justin’s gaze rested on Brooke for a moment.

Lana looked on, amused at Brooke’s attempts at flirting with Justin. She half expected Brooke to flutter her eyelashes.

“Did you want to join us?” Brooke asked.

No! What is Brooke thinking? I certainly won’t be spending the afternoon with some man Brooke has taken a fancy to! Lana decided it was time to excuse herself. She thought hard for anything to get out of an evening with this man. She had a pile of ironing she needed to get home to. Maybe he would buy that excuse.

Justin smiled. “I would love to, but unfortunately, I have a business meeting in a few minutes.” He returned his gaze to Lana. “I’m in the UK on business and I leave tomorrow. I want to get to know you. Have dinner with me?”

His voice had lowered; his accent seemed more apparent and appealing. The way he looked at her was so mesmerising that it felt as if everything had disappeared, and it was just him and her, staring at each other. The message in his eyes said he wanted more than just dinner; it was a blatant invitation for much more.

She held his gaze and contemplated her answer. He’d made it evident that his interest was with her. “Thank you for the invitation. But I’ve made plans for this evening.” She doubted he would appreciate the ironing excuse.

“I’m disappointed.” His gaze drifted over her, then he reached into his jacket, pulled out a business card, and handed it to her. “Call me.”

His watchful gaze drifted over her again, causing her heart to skip a beat and a blush to flame her cheeks. She took the card from him, and their fingers brushed for just a moment. She felt it to the core, sensations sweeping through her like an electric current. She was intensely attracted to him; he was attracted to her too and seemed reluctant to leave.

“It was nice meeting you. I hope we meet again.” He held her gaze for a moment longer, then he turned, walked over to the bar, and greeted a group of men, then followed a waiter who led them to the other side of the restaurant. She suddenly felt a sense of loss and didn’t know why.

Okay, now that was weird… She’d met captivating men before, but none that impacted her as much as this man.

“Wow! He was yummy…and smooth. Are you going to call him?”

Lana looked down at the business card in her hand. Justin Stewart, CEO of Investor Relations. She ran her fingers over the white and gold embossed card. “No,” Lana said simply. Yet she did not throw the card away or give it to her friend—surprising herself, she placed it in her handbag.

 

*     *     *

 

Justin dried his hair, taking in the panoramic views from his hotel windows. London’s landscape always fascinated him—some of the architecture was exceptional, so varied in parts, from striking historical buildings to contemporary modern structures. The sunset views across the Thames were spectacular.

He placed the towel on the chair beside the enormous bed in the centre of the room and switched on the television, settling down on the bed, and flicked through to the Bloomberg Channel. His thoughts drifted to earlier that afternoon and the beautiful woman at the Shard. He couldn’t get his mind off her and hoped she would contact him. He’d found her alluring in a way that he couldn’t seem to comprehend.

Lana.

He’d watched for a while before going over to talk to her; he’d been compelled to go and speak to her. The restaurant had been busy, filled with customers, yet he couldn’t take his eyes off her.

Right now, he could use a friend. His heart ached, and he wondered at God’s plan for his life.

Is this your will, Lord?

He did not receive an answer; the hotel room was quiet. The floor-to-ceiling windows cast soft orange and red rays of light into the room.

He felt so alone.

Please, Lord, give me confirmation, if this is your will.

He thought about his flight and where he would stay on his return. Ashley had ended things between them, told him to pack his things and leave. Where was he supposed to go?

She was all he had.

He’d tried to reason with her, make her see sense, but she wouldn’t have it. Their argument was the last straw for him.

“I want you out, Justin!”

He’d stared at her in disbelief, taking a seat at the chair beside the huge bed that they used to share. “We’ve been over this. I’m not going anywhere.” She stood before him, a scarf wrapped around her head, barefoot in a pink nightdress, frail, having lost so much weight that she was no longer the woman she used to be. Only remnants of the old Ashley remained, leaving this angry and bitter person whom he found it difficult to reason with. She used to be so loving and kind; he did not know who she was anymore.

“It’s over! How many times do I have to say it? We’re finished! No more! I don’t want you!”

That stung. “You don’t mean that,” he said quietly, still reeling from her words.

She looked him deep in the eyes. “I do. I don’t want you anymore, Justin, and I won’t tolerate you being here any longer. You moved out of our bedroom six months ago. I don’t know why you’re still here. Surely you have needs. It’s time for you to go.”

He felt the pain of her words like a physical assault, but this time, it was clear she was serious. “You asked me to move out of our bedroom. I didn’t want to.” He stood and reached for her. “Please, you’re not thinking clearly—”

She stepped out of the way and looked at him with disgust. “Don’t give me that! I want you out now! Let me know where you will be staying and I’ll have your things delivered.” She glared at him, her chest heaving with anger.

He couldn’t believe this. If she wanted him to pack his bags then he would. He certainly didn’t need this!

Angry now, he turned on his heel, stalked out of the room, and heard the loud bang when Ashley slammed the bedroom door behind him.

He did not waste any time—he packed his suitcases and left. He’d had enough of her anger and bitterness—at the world, at him, and at God.

That was five weeks ago. She still refused to take his phone calls and only sometimes responded to his texts. He sighed, swallowing the hurt he felt, and his mind returned to Lana.

There was something about her.

Why was she so compelling to him? He was fascinated. Still, he would leave it to God. He would decide whether Lana was to be a part of his life, because right now, he didn’t know if he had it within him to make any decisions. His life seemed to be spiralling towards a future he’d never prepared for, and try as he might to take control and ease the impact, that seemed not to be working.

God dictated his path. He would decide.

 

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If Only...
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