Between You and Me

By: Jennifer Gracen

This book is dedicated to my sons,

Josh and Danny.





You two are the best, most important part of my life, the best things I’ve ever created, and you own the most important piece of my heart. You are kind, smart, loving, funny, vibrant . . . like any proud mom, I could gush over you both for the length of a novel and still not run out of things to say. But for once, I’ll keep it short and sweet.





I thank the stars every day that you’re mine. You are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I’m beyond proud of you and love you more than I could ever possibly express.





And no, you’re not allowed to read any of my work until you’re older.





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

As always, I am grateful beyond words to the village of magnificent people that got me to this point. But I’ll try to find adequate words.

Never-ending thanks to my editor, the wonderful Esi Sogah. I don’t know how many writers look forward to their editor’s feedback, but I always look forward to yours—like, with glee—knowing you’re going to polish my rough gem into a shining diamond. Working with you is always a pleasure.

Thank you to my agent, Stephany Evans of Ayesha Pande Literary. Your support and level-headed calm always anchor me and make me feel better about all things writing-related. Glad to have you in my corner.

Thank you to everyone at Kensington who has been involved with me and my books—my copy editor, the art department, publicity, marketing—with specific shout-outs to Jane Nutter, Lauren Jernigan, Norma Perez-Hernandez, and Ross Plotkin. I really appreciate what you do.

Thanks to my immediate family: my mom, Linda; my dad, Rob; my brother, Jamie; Natasha, Kyle, Teri, Stevie, and of course my kids. Thank you so much for everything. That you guys are proud of my writing career is pretty cool. I love you all very much.

I’m so lucky to have a network of amazing friends. To all of you, both in person and online, your support, enthusiasm, and kindness helps get me through the days more than you realize. A million thank yous from the bottom of my goopy heart.

Thank you hugs to Nika Rhone, my beta reader extraordinaire. Your insightful feedback combined with your obvious enthusiasm for the story helped me more than you know.

Special hugs and shout-outs to: my online writing group-slash-pseudo family: the FB group The Quillies. To have writing friends who get it, who support and cheer you on, who you can truly trust and be vulnerable with, is a gift. Plus you’re all naughty and make me laugh every day—you are my people, and I love you. Thank you Jeannie Moon and Patty Blount; we have each other. Thank you to the FB group Team Gracen!

Most importantly, boundless thanks to my readers. That you take some time out of your busy lives to read my work means the world to me, and I am deeply grateful. Thank you for your support and for taking this amazing ride with me.





Chapter One

Tess Harrison surveyed the festive scene around her. It was Christmas Day, and over sixty relatives were celebrating at her father’s enormous estate. The mansion, set atop a hill on hundreds of acres beside the Long Island Sound, was filled with the sights and sounds of a picturesque holiday gathering. The grand main living room was decorated elegantly, beautifully, as the staff did every year. No lights—that would be gauche—but red ribbons, garland, holly, and faux white candles made the whole ground floor look like something straight out of a Christmas movie. Bright flames crackled and popped in the enormous stone fireplace, and the eight-foot-tall tree stood majestically in the corner. That did have white lights, and decorative ornaments that went back four generations. Tess suppressed a yawn. She was officially over the holidays.

She cradled her china cup of eggnog and watched her eldest brother, Charles, and his wife, Lisette, sit together on one of the longer sofas as they played with their infant daughter, Charlotte. Tess adored her newest niece, and had spent a lot of time with her. Bonding with that baby had wakened things in Tess she hadn’t known existed. Now five months old, the dark-haired cherub squealed as Charles’s strong arms raised Charlotte up, then back down to kiss her sweet face, over and over, as Lisette smiled brightly at his side. They’d married in May, and the love they shared was tangible. Tess was so glad for them. But oh, how she adored that little girl. Every time Charlotte squeaked, she felt it in her core. Such pure love, such pure joy.

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