Tender Deceit by H.Y. Hanna
Word Count: 67,000 words
Cover Artist: Kim Killion
First love. Second chance.
All they have to do is stay alive...
Following her father's mysterious death in Singapore, Leah leaves her life in London and returns to the island that was her childhood home - braced to confront her past. Toran James may have been the boy her fourteen-year-old heart yearned for, but the magic of stolen glances and first kisses faded with his betrayal.
The enigmatic man she meets upon her return, though, is nothing like her memory, and the past holds more secrets than she realised. Was her father's death really an accident? What was hidden in his study? And why has Toran contacted her again after all these years? Someone is out to silence Leah - and that someone might be the man she is rapidly falling in love with... again.
He made as if to rise and suddenly Leah panicked. Should I shake hands? Kiss him? Hug him? Quickly, she sat down at the table and waved him back down with her hand.
It was hopelessly inadequate, a stupid inane greeting after all these years, but Leah didn’t know what else to say to the stranger sitting in front of her. Except for those brilliant green eyes, there was little left of the boy she used to know. The jaw had widened and hardened, roughened by a faint shadow of stubble, and the warm smile had been replaced by a steely line of a mouth that was at once forbidding and sensual. Dark, unruly hair fell over his brow and didn’t quite hide a thin scar along his left temple which Leah was sure had not been there before. His skin was more tanned than she remembered and that lean, boyish frame had filled out into broad shoulders and a hard, muscular physique that spoke more of outdoor pursuits than time in a gym. More than that, though, was the feeling of latent power and cool authority. Leah caught her breath. Toran James had grown up into a dangerously attractive man.
There was a glass in front of him filled with a pale amber liquid; and next to it, a cigar, its wreath of smoke curling lazily up to the ceiling.
Her eyes met his in accusation. “You said you would never smoke.”
“You said you would never cut your hair.”
Leah touched her head self-consciously before she could stop herself. She wondered if he was assessing her too and searching for the girl he used to know. Her hair fell in waves just past her shoulders now and she had learnt the art of eyeliner to make the most of her deep blue eyes. She wasn’t a gym bunny either, but walking everywhere in London had kept her trim. Leah saw his gaze flick appreciatively over her, lingering on her bare legs exposed by the short hem of her black dress, and she felt her pulse quicken.
“I guess people change.” Leah attempted a light smile. “It’s been over twelve years, you know.”
“I know.” He made a gesture with his hands. “I’m sorry to hear about your father, Leah.”
She nodded. “Thank you.”
The Indian woman came over with a menu. Leah ordered the house special, a coconut mojito, while Toran ordered another whiskey. When the drinks arrived, he settled back in his chair and gave her a small smile. It was just a glimmer, but it was enough to remind her of the boy she used to know and Leah felt her shoulders relax slightly.
“So you work in London now?” He raised an eyebrow. “Tell me about your job…”
He was a good listener, as he always had been, and Leah found herself relaxing even more as she told him about her work, friends, life back in the U.K… Before she knew it, half an hour had passed and she realised that she had not learnt anything about him.
“What about you?” Leah asked. “What’s—”
A shrill beeping made her jump. He took a phone out of his pocket and glanced at the screen, his face tightening. He stood up with an apologetic smile. “I’ll be right back.”
Leah looked idly around the lounge as she waited for him to return, not quite sure of the feelings churning inside her. Why did anyone look up their childhood sweetheart? To reconnect? Rediscover? Re-ignite what had once been…?
“I’m really sorry—something’s come up and I have to go.” Toran stood by the table, those green eyes once again belonging to a stranger.
Leah stood up quickly and found that he towered over her. He had always been tall, but now he was well over six feet. She stared at the front of his shirt, where the crisp cotton parted to reveal a glimpse of tanned chest. He was standing very close. She found herself unable to meet his eyes. “Um… Sure, yes, of course…”
“I’ll be in touch.”
Leah felt something brush her hand—she could almost have imagined it—and then he was gone. Slowly, she made her way back to her hotel, her head dizzy with thoughts she didn’t really want to acknowledge. Alone in her room, she grabbed the phone on an impulse and dialed the number.
“Hello?” Julia’s voice hadn’t changed, despite the years.
“Oh my God, Leah? Is that really you?” She laughed. “I was so excited when I read on Facebook that you were coming back to Singapore. When did you arrive? Where are you staying? Hey, if you’re not doing anything tonight—”
“I arrived earlier today. Listen, Julia,” Leah said breathlessly. “I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve got to tell somebody—somebody who understands. I…I saw Toran again and he—”
“What?” Her voice was sharp. “Toran James? When? Where?”
“Tonight.” Leah was taken aback by her sharpness. “I just got back, in fact. I went to meet him for drinks. I got this message and I couldn’t believe it… But then I thought, hell, why not, and…” She trailed off as she realised that Julia wasn’t listening.
“Tonight? You saw Toran tonight? Leah, are you sure?”
“Of course, I’m sure. I mean, he looks different—you know, all grown up—but his eyes…”
“Wait, Leah,” she cut in urgently. “That’s not possible.”
“What do you mean?”
“You couldn’t have met Toran tonight.”
“Because he died in an accident yesterday.”
About the Author
Along the way, she somehow managed to pick up a wonderful husband, a huge, slobbery dog, two rescue cats, an assortment of cardboard boxes and a slightly dodgy "trans-atlantic" accent. After graduating from Oxford University, she tried her hand at a variety of jobs before returning to her first love: writing.
She’s the author of the Amazon bestselling children’s mystery series, Big Honey Dog Mysteries, and is now diving into the world of romantic suspense with the launch of Tender Deceit, Book 1 in the First Love Series.
You can find out more about H.Y. Hanna and her books at: http://www.hyhanna.com/ or catch her on Facebook at “H.Y. Hanna” or the Big Honey Dog Mysteries Facebook Page.
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