Jannifer Hoffman

Sample Chapters

 

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Bittersweet Memories Sample Chapter

Here is the prologue and a sample chapter of Bittersweet Memories.

 

 

Prologue

Gut wrenching pain seared through LuAnn’s lower body.

“Push,” the mid-wife ordered. “Push now.”

On the heels of her order, the crack and sizzle of July fourth fireworks split the night sky. How ironic this ill-fated baby should be born on a night that was meant for celebration.

LuAnn bore down, out of breath, pushing and screaming, “I can’t do this.”

“You should have thought about that nine months ago,” the woman standing over her muttered unsympathetically. “Now…push. One more time.”

Of course she should have thought of that, but she couldn’t go back. What was done was done. If she’d had a mother, maybe she’d have known about babies and birth control.

LuAnn gave it everything she had, feeling the relief as the stubborn baby slipped from her body. She drew great gasps of air as the newborn did likewise, letting out a wail that sent LuAnn’s heart racing with joy and aching at the same time. Over her own moans she heard the words, “It’s a girl.”

“Children having children,” the mid-wife grumbled as she placed a squirming bundle in LuAnn’s arms. “There ought to be a law. Chastity belts like in the olden days.”

Tears clouded LuAnn’s vision as she lifted her head to look at her tiny red-face daughter. Perfect miniature fingers wrapped around LuAnn’s own larger finger as bright brown eyes opened to look at an unfamiliar world. She was the beautiful daughter LuAnn would never get to raise because her father had forced her to sign some papers.

You sign or both you and your kid will be out in the street. I can’t afford to raise no kid and you’re fifteen years old; you sure as hell can’t either.

 

Chapter One

Almost thirteen years later.

Bart Harridan glared at the note clutched in his shaking fingers. Over twelve years had passed…and now it started all over again. Only one person could be responsible for this. Swearing, he glanced at his office door to make sure it was closed then picked up the phone and dialed a number his lawyer had given him. A man answered after the second ring.

“Yeah, you got Jace Murdock here.”

Bart sucked in a breath of air. “Mr. Murdock. I understand you do investigative work.”

“Sure, as long as it’s legal. What do you need?”

“I need to find someone. And I’m told you know how to be discreet.”

“That I do, but I don’t like to walk into anything blind. I’d want to know why you’re looking for this person,” Murdock said.

“Can you meet me downtown, so we can talk in person?”

“Name the time and place. I’m flexible.”

“This afternoon. We need to get on this as soon as possible. I’ll make it worth your while.”

Bart heard a decisive sigh.

 

Bittersweet Memories by Jannifer Hoffman

“I guess I can clear a block of time for you. Oh and I didn’t get your name.”

“Bart Harridan. Meet me at Clancy’s Bar and Grill at one-thirty. You know where it is?”

“Yeah, Mr. Harridan. I know where it is.”

Jace hung up the phone, an uneasy feeling in his gut. Bart Harridan was one of the richest men in Minnesota, certainly the wealthiest in Duluth. He owned a string of hotels that spanned the country, yet he didn’t ask to meet in the restaurant of one of his own hotels. Jace made a note to ask Harridan who had recommended him. Oh well, whatever Harridan wanted there was bound to be a hefty commission attached to it.

He’d barely hung up the phone when it rang again. Checking the caller ID, he recognized his sister’s number, sighed and answered it.

“Hello, Kayla, what’s on your mind today?”

Soft laughter tickled his ear. “Maybe nothing, maybe I just want to call to talk to you.”

“And maybe you met somebody you want to set me up with.”

“Hey, what are twins for?”

“Yeah, yeah, who is it this time?”

There was a short pause. “Well, she’s—”

“Sorry, I’m not interested.”

 

Bittersweet Memories by Jannifer Hoffman

“That’s not fair. You can at least hear me out.”

Kayla’s idea of hearing me out was a twenty minute detailed description of attributes for a woman he had no intention of meeting. “When will you get it through your head that I don’t need you, or mom, to find a woman for me?”

“You’re thirty-two years old—”

“So are you, and you don’t see me trying to fix you up with every yahoo I meet.”

“Huh, I wish you would. I could use a little help in that department. As long as he’s as good looking as you are, as tall as you, sensitive like you, loves his mother and—”

“Give it a rest, Kayla. I have to go. I’m meeting someone in half an hour, and I need to get ready.”

“A woman?” Kayla asked, a decided lilt of hopefulness in her voice.

“No, and it’s a potential client. Good-bye. Love you.”

He hung up the phone shaking his head. Ever since his divorce a little over a year ago, both Kayla and his mother had been crusading to get him hooked up again.

Been there, done that, bought the whole damn wardrobe.

****

LuAnn Barstow watched the giddy second-graders file out of her classroom. They were still cheering as they ran down the hall. The last day of school, she should have been giving herself a mental cheer, but she couldn’t dredge it up. The kids looked forward to an exciting, carefree summer while she faced three months of boring loneliness. Maybe this year would be different. Maybe she’d take a trip somewhere—to Yellowstone or Mount Rushmore.

 

Bittersweet Memories by Jannifer Hoffman

Still trying to build up some enthusiasm for the upcoming summer vacation, she grabbed the eraser and started clearing the blackboard.

“LuAnn, what are you doing?” It was her closest friend, Barb from the third grade room across the hall.

LuAnn smiled. “Getting things ready for next year.”

“You are pathetic. Come on. A bunch of us are going down to Rango’s for pizza and a celebration drink. Join us.”

“You know I don’t do that sort of thing.”

“What sort of thing—have fun?”

“Don’t you have to go home to your husband and kids?” Barb had a wonderful husband and five-year-old twin daughters.

“It’s only three o’clock; they’re with the sitter ‘til five. Besides Rich is picking them up, and I have the whole evening free if I want. Being married isn’t the same as going to jail,” Barb added, laughing.

Barb walked up to LuAnn, took the eraser out of her hand and pulled her toward the door. “I’m not taking no for an answer. Patsy’s brother, Ron, is joining us. Ron’s a teacher over at Sandburg High. He’s a good guy, perfect for you. We want you to meet him.”

LuAnn snagged her purse from the top of her desk. “You guys might as well stop trying to set me up. You know I don’t—”

“Do that sort of thing,” Barb mimicked. “Yeah, yeah, I know.”

“Besides, I’ve been in class all day. I’m a mess. And I have to go home and water my flowers.”

 

Bittersweet Memories by Jannifer Hoffman

“You’re a mess all right, LuAnn, but it’s not your appearance. Someday I’m going to get you drunk enough to tell me why you’re so sour on men. You’ve been divorced what, eight months? And I haven’t seen you so much as go out on a date.”

LuAnn scowled. “I’m not sour on men.”

“Glad to hear it. Let’s go.”