by Valerie Kapp
After suffering injuries while rescuing her niece in a devastating fire, High School Principal Renata Santos has convinced herself that love is something she’ll never experience again. Her self-esteem and self-image in tatters, she buries herself in her work.
Brianna Walsh hasn’t believed in love for ages. She’s spent years growing her Virtual Reality company and is eager to see her system implemented in a high school looking to improve their STEM test scores. She didn’t expect to feel such an attraction to the high school principal. And Renata can’t quite believe how her body and mind is awakened to the possibility of Brianna’s touch.
But the journey is emotional, and both women must decide whether to let go of the past before they can start the rest of their lives—together.
FROM THE AUTHOR
"My journey as an author began after reading hundreds of lesbian romance novels and listening to lesbian romance audiobooks. One day while driving home from work, it occurred to me that most of the characters were young and rarely older lesbians. Older meaning, like me, in their sixties.
I kept with settings familiar to me and incorporated character traits of people I encountered in my everyday life.
As an attempt to become an author, integrating settings and traits I was familiar with provided a comfort factor to expand the character and story development.
Thankfully, Bella Books took a chance on a new author and provided valuable assistance to enhance the story of two women’s emotional journey to decide whether to let go of the past so they can start the rest of their lives together."
The Lesbian Review
The writing in this book is lovely. The author invoked emotions with her words. The way Kapp developed the main characters was believable and never rushed.
A loud, high-pitched beep awakens me from a dead sleep.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Pause.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Pause.
What is that noise? I inhale and immediately start coughing. And that odor?
Finally, I sit up and rub my eyes. The beeping continues. With a jolt, I realize the dense white fog is blocking me from seeing across the room.
I touch the leather underneath me to feel grounded as the fog swirls around me. If I squint, I can barely see two other high-back chairs across from me. I’m on my sister’s couch in her living room. It hits me: the beeping is the smoke alarm.
Oh my God, where’s Izzy?
I knock something over as I bolt across the living room. The smoke thickens with each step.
Izzy. My breath wheezes as I look to the right toward the front door, then turn left down the bedroom hallway, yelling, “Izzy, fire!” I lift the bottom of my T-shirt over my mouth and nose as my hand guides me against the wall.
Izzy’s head slams into my right side as she flies through her bedroom door. “Aunt Ren—the smoke alarm—all this smoke. I’m scared.” She wipes her eyes and coughs. The smoke billows down the hallway.
“We need to stay low. Let’s crawl toward the front door.” I lead the way, telling her to hold on to my pants leg.
I must save Izzy.
We scurry on our hands and knees down the short hallway, past the kitchen, back toward the living room and front door. I freeze in my tracks as a wave of heat attacks my face.
Orange flames climb the living room walls, devouring curtains and pictures of our Portuguese grandparents and Izzy tossing a football with her dad. The bookshelf holding my brother-in-law’s construction company’s awards begins to smolder. All those memories—will they survive?
The temperature rises, and the swirling smoke lurches toward us like a lion attacking its prey.
“Turn around. We need to go back,” I scream as pockets of trapped steam burst from the wood stacked next to the fireplace. I push Izzy’s head, forcing her to turn with me.
“It’s hard to breathe,” she says between coughs.
“I know. We need to hurry.”
“We practiced how to get out of the house if there’s a fire. If the front door is blocked, the plan”—she coughs—“is to go out the window in Mom and Dad’s bedroom.”
“Let’s go.” Both of us get as close to the floor as possible. I maneuver myself over Izzy protectively, my stomach touching her back. We go on all fours, moving like crabs toward our escape. The smoke chasing us thickens to black.
My heart pounds as my eyes continue to water. Both our coughs become loud and harsh. My throat and lungs burn.
As we make our way to the bedrooms, flames erupt from the kitchen with a whoosh, missing us by a few inches. I’ve never felt such heat. The back of my shirt feels like it’s over a hundred degrees.
Izzy collapses beneath me.
“Izzy.” I slap her back. “Izzy!”
“My eyes and throat hurt,” she says.
“Come on, Izzy. Keep moving.”
Izzy keeps crawling. We’re almost at her parents’ bedroom, where the hallway ends. I wonder if they’ve returned from shopping and firefighters are holding them back from entering their house.
The harsh smoke spirals around us, suffocating the air out of me.
“I can’t breathe,” Izzy says hoarsely.
I yell, “Keep moving!” I must save my niece. I wrap my arm around her stomach, holding her up so we can pick up our pace. Every breath makes my lungs hurt.
Behind us, windows explode, and snapping, hissing, and crackling sounds chase us.
We arrive at the door, Izzy coughing uncontrollably. I move my hand over the door. It’s not hot, so I find the doorknob and turn it with a quick twist.
Using my knee and arm, I throw Izzy through the door opening, quickly following suit and slamming the door behind us.
We collapse onto our stomachs. The room is free of smoke. I look up and see our escape across the room, on the other side of the queen-sized bed. Our coughs become less severe, but it’s still hard to breathe. I get up on my knees and stand. We don’t have much time.
Izzy says, “My chest hurts.”
I pull her up and wrap her in my arms. “Mine too.” I wipe my runny nose. My throat is dry and scratchy. Izzy’s tears make a road map on her black, soot-smeared face.
“Sirens,” she gasps as a high-pitched wail gets closer and closer. I push her toward the window on the other side of the room.
When we get to the window, I open it and yell at her, “Go!”
Izzy lunges at me and wraps her arms around my neck. “What about you?”
I glance back at the door, where smoke has begun to slither in, the long gray wisps curling into darker ones. The popping and sizzling above us gets louder.
I grab her arms and pull them down to her side, looking directly into her eyes. “I’m right behind you.”
With all the strength I have left, I lift her out into the fresh air.
She is safe.
I raise my leg, ready to make my escape. But instead, there is a crisp snip-snap-whoosh. I look up as a roaring blaze of orange, red, and yellow flames crash down.
I awaken with a scream. I’m lying in the fetal position, my hand and arms covering my head. My eyes scan the dark room, my heart racing. Sweat drenches my tank top and bedsheets.
I take a deep breath in through my nose and let it out through my mouth before uncoiling and lying flat on my back. I keep taking deep breaths and releasing them as I remind myself that Izzy is safe.