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New York Times bestselling author Barbara Delinsky delights with a compelling story of chance, fate, and perfect timing, first published in 1998.
Russ Ettinger doesn't know why the delicate young woman he found gasping for breath at the side of the road disappeared so abruptly -- or even what her name is. What he does know is he must find her again somehow. There has to be a deeper purpose behind his Samaritan act, because never has anyone so powerfully and immediately filled him with such an overwhelming desire to cherish and protect.
But Dana Madison is tired of being protected. What she wants is to be respected and loved as the strong, vital, independent woman she has worked so hard to become. And so she flees from a chance first meeting with a considerate stranger, a man who could possibly play a very important role in her future ... and maybe find a permanent place in her heart.
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She'd had far too many attacks in her life not to know what was happening. Staggering to a large rock by the side of the road, Dana fumbled with the zippered pocket of her Windbreaker, finally managing to extract the small inhalator she always carried. Exhaling as far as her laboring lungs would allow, she raised the mouthpiece, breathed in, and squeezed. Twice she repeated the procedure. Then, propped against the rock, she waited for the wheezing to ease.
Strangely, she was less worried about her lungs than she was about the cold. Having been running for twenty minutes, she'd built up a sweat that was well apt to chill her as she sat still. Her watch, its face narrowly framed between her Windbreaker cuff and the top of her wool gloves, told her it was nearly five. She looked up and around. Five o'clock and the roadway was dark. But then, it was the middle of winter. The days were shorter. It had been dusk when she'd left the house. As for the traffic, or more correctly the lack of it, could she expect otherwise on New Year's Day? The townsfolk would be in their homes, or in those of their neighbors or relatives, finishing off the last of their turkey dinners, if not already hooked by the endless string of football games the day offered.
Not Dana Madison. She'd had enough. Four hours at her parents' house had drawn her patience to its limits.
It had started when she'd first stepped foot inside the door carrying a sweet potato and apple casserole. Her mother had glared at it, appalled. "Why did you do this, Dana? I thought I told you not to worry, that I'd take care of everything."
"It's just a casserole, Mother. I may have spent all of half an hour making it."
"Half an hour when you could have been resting," the older woman chided her gently. "You shouldn't have done it."
Dana had gritted her teeth then, for the first of many times that afternoon. "Well, it's done. Will you take it?"
For an instant she'd half wondered if her offering would be refused. But while her mother was grossly overprotective, she was neither rude nor insensitive. "Of course, dear," she'd said, taking the casserole. "Now, you go sit in the living room and relax. I'll call your father in from the yard. Max and the others will be here any minute."
"Let me give you a hand in the kitch--"
"No, no. You sit." The pointing finger was one Dana knew well. It had been a major reason she'd finally moved out of her parents' house nearly four years before. In her private scheme of things, there were too many better out-lets for her energy than arguing with that finger.
And so she had sunk into the living room chair in which it seemed she'd spent half of her childhood. Within minutes her father had appeared at the door, wiping his hands on a dishtowel.
"Dana! Hi, sweetheart!" He'd burst into a smile and had covered the space to the armchair in which Dana was ensconced before she'd even been able to uncross her legs. Leaning down, he kissed her warmly. "How are you? Feeling all right?"
His stance was unsettling. With his hands propped on the arms of her chair, he was her jailor. She couldn't move. Suppressing an urge to scream, she'd managed to force a smile. 'I'm fine, Dad.' She glanced at the towel he'd slung over one shoulder and attempted to change the subject. "You've been cutting wood?"
"Greasing the chain saw," he'd responded absently. His attention was elsewhere. "You look too thin."
"I look fine."
"Have you lost more weight?"
"Dad, I was chubby before. I'm in far better shape without those extra fifteen pounds.
"You were in good shape before."
She'd sighed. It could have been a replay of a tape made the week before, on Christmas Day.
Moment to MomentBy: Barbara Delinsky, (None)