Monday, January 9, 2012

Michelle Sutton's When Love Collides



Michelle Sutton, otherwise known as the Healing Hearts author, is a prolific reader- book reviewer- blogger, and the author of over a dozen inspirational novels. She lives in Arizona with her husband of over twenty years and her two college age sons.


You can find Michelle online at her
website,
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and on her blogs:
Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers social media network
My Healing Hearts book review blog


When Love Collides

She longs for physical healing, but God uses someone from a dark time in her past to heal something more important…her heart. 

Ten years ago Raquel dumped Scott for an abusive man, only she didn’t know Scott loved her in a romantic way. She thought they were just good friends because Scott never made his feelings known. Ten years later they meet up again, only now she's a widow—emotionally fragile from years of abuse—and in need of a friend she can trust. She is taking care of her aunt who has cancer, but now her own health is failing. Scott never got over Raquel and he worries he will fall in love with her again. Her past rejection causes Scott to guard his heart as he helps her navigate the unwanted changes in her life. Over time he begins to trust her again as she fights discouragement over her diagnosis. He gives Raquel the unconditional love she has always longed for, but will that be enough?




Here's an excerpt from When Love Collides

Sierra Vista, Arizona
1997


    "The PA will be in to see you shortly." A bubbly nurse dropped Raquel Taylor's chart into the clear plastic holder and pulled the door shut with a firm click.
   "Thanks," Raquel mumbled, shivering as she sat on a hard, plastic chair in the too-frigid room. She regretted leaving her umbrella at home. Besides its usefulness as a cane to lean on, the sturdy thing would have protected her from the sudden onslaught of sideways-blowing rain. If she'd realized the weather would be so terrible, she would have stayed home.
   Unfortunately, forgetting things was a daily occurrence just like the persistent weakness and buzzing in her hands. Rivulets of water coursed down her neck from her sopping wet hair and slid underneath her shirt. 
   Another shiver overtook her and she rubbed her arms. So much for her new rain jacket keeping her dry. She could only imagine what her mascara looked like. Thankfully she didn't know anyone at the clinic.
   She scanned the walls while she waited. Her gaze landed on a poster of an ear infection and a shudder wracked her spine. She had a weak stomach, unlike her baby sister Melanie, who always acted like she could handle anything. She also felt pretty plain in comparison to Melanie's stunning beauty. How she hated living in her sister's shadow.
   She sighed and ran her fingers through her cool, dripping locks to avoid fixating on the gross picture. As she combed through her hair, several strands tangled between her knuckles. Working to unravel the knots, she closed her eyes to concentrate better on what she was doing. How ironic that for once her hair was more messed up than her nerves.
    After a half hour wait, a rap on the door drew her attention from the novel she'd been reading. She slipped her handbag and the book under the chair and climbed onto the exam table. While rubbing her sleeves to try and warm her arms, she said, "Come in."
   As she shifted her attention to her hands, she bent her fingers one at a time to stretch them out. The door cracked open. She pulled her lips into a tight grin and tried to appear calm, but she felt like a fake. The temptation to sob like a child knotted her throat before her physical exam even began. She hated check-ups of any kind.
   Glancing up for a moment, she noted the physician assistant stood about six feet tall. His light auburn-colored hair and broad shoulders made him more attractive than she'd anticipated. She averted her gaze before she saw his face. She didn't want him to catch her staring at him.
   As he stepped inside the room, he peered down at her chart. The scent of his musky cologne warmed her insides. Maybe the appointment wouldn't be as scary as she'd first thought. She glanced up again and studied him while he wasn't looking. She'd always been a sucker for a handsome man. Too bad thinking that way had gotten her into trouble before.
   She found his full head of hair and reddish-blond stubble on his angular jaw captivating. Thoughts of anguish and death fled as she scanned his large hands. No wedding band.
  A wry grin tugged at her mouth. Sure beat being poked and prodded by an old man.
   Her pulse slowly increased in response to his presence. She sensed a familiarity, like she knew him, but the way he stood made it hard to see his face.
   "Hello, Mrs. Taylor. How can I help you?" The man glanced up and his eyes widened.
   She peered at him for a moment and sucked in her breath. Her pulse lapsed into an erratic rhythm at the horror reflected in his brown eyes. Scott McMullen?
   Impossible. It couldn't be him.
   His attention once again riveted to her chart, and his knuckles whitened from the apparent strain of his grip on the clipboard.
   After a moment of awkward silence, he cleared his throat and asked, "Would you please excuse me?" He didn't wait for an answer, but exited the room without looking back.
   He definitely resembled Scott, enough that they could pass for brothers. But Scott had always planned to go to grad school to become a lawyer, not a PA. Yet this man seemed to recognize her. Too bad she hadn't had a chance to read his name badge.
   A plethora of thoughts and memories whirled around in her head, making her dizzy. Last night during a nostalgic moment of prayer, she'd asked God to help her to make things right with her past, but she never expected to actually have the opportunity to do that. Not this soon after.
  Her betrayal of Scott and their friendship had haunted her for the past ten years. Last night during her quiet time she'd sensed God's prompting to give the burden of her guilt over to Him. Of course, she resisted at first. She always resisted.
   A rap on the door drew her attention. Her muscles tensed, and she exhaled a prayer, Lord, please let it be someone else. I can't deal with this right now.
  The tap repeated. She had to respond. "Come in."
   The same man reentered the room, his eyes cast down, and his arms pressing her chart against his chest. He cleared his throat, but didn't speak. Now that she'd had a chance to look at him again she had no doubt in her mind. It was definitely Scott. The years had been kind to him.
   Her face heated when she thought about the last time she'd seen him and how she'd lied to his face. She shifted on the exam table. A crunching noise erupted from the movement and sounded ten times louder than it should. She needed to say something -- anything -- to break the tension between them. With a shy -- and what she hoped passed for a disarming grin -- she whispered, "Hello, Scott. It's been a long time..."
   His mouth opened and quickly snapped shut like a marionette's. As he glanced at her chart and flipped through the pages, his neck flushed red.
   "Raquel. Remember?" She thrust out her hand, hoping he'd see the gesture as her way to make peace with the past.
   He stepped back and avoided her offered hand as if she'd offended him.
   Touching her hair, she remembered her disastrous appearance and groaned. No doubt he found her repulsive. If she felt like a wet dog, she could only imagine what he saw when he looked at her.
   "Of course I remember." His eyes narrowed. "I thought our relationship hadn't meant much to you."
   Just as she'd feared. He was angry with her for leaving town and not saying goodbye. Her eyes burned as she blinked back tears. "I'm sorry for the way I treated you."
   He took a deep breath and mumbled something.
   "What?" She licked her dry lips. Had she hurt him so much that he still carried a grudge? No friend deserved to be treated so poorly. And he'd been such a good friend.
   He sat on the round stool and rubbed his forehead with a sigh. "Never mind. What brings you to the clinic?"
   His eyes captured hers for a moment, and her pulse tripped.
   She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She tried again. "I..."
   Scott stared with his lips pressed together and his gaze unwavering. Nothing about his expression was welcoming. "What do you need?"
   A lump formed in her throat as she peered helplessly back, her heart burning until it melted like liquid fire in her chest. Maybe the stress was now affecting her brain. "Uh..."
   Scott leaned forward. "I'm listening."
   "It's... nothing." Her shoulders drooped. Confusion clouded her thoughts, swirling and harsh like a dust devil. She couldn't seem to form the words to describe her symptoms because she couldn't get past his strong reaction to seeing her.
   But why was he so angry? She'd never saw him as more than a friend, so her choking fear of telling him the truth made no sense. Maybe she was losing her mind.
   "If meeting with me is too difficult you can return tomorrow when Dr. Severon is here."
   Raquel blinked. If she left now, she knew she wouldn't come back. And she couldn't lie to her aunt about her visit. Somehow she'd gotten this far. She just needed to make it through the rest of the appointment before a panic attack pummeled her. She'd promised her aunt she'd see a doctor, and that's what she planned to do.
   "Do you want that?" He squinted.
   "Want what?"
   "To come back later?"
   "No." By sheer force of will, she cleared her throat. I can do this... With a slight lift of her chin, she stared him down, praying she looked braver than she felt. "Thank you for the offer, but that won't be necessary."
   Scott offered a slight nod. "Good."
   Pulling a tube of grape-flavored lip gloss from her pocket to moisten her dry lips, she removed the cap and rubbed the contents on her mouth. She glanced up and noticed Scott staring.
   He turned away and exhaled. "Tell me what brought you here."
   "Um...I...I have these symptoms." She shoved the tube back in her pocket and stared at her trembling hands.
   "Go on..." Scott tapped his foot, like he was in a hurry.
   "Sometimes my hands bother me. Like today." She ignored his tapping and wriggled her fingers where he could see them. "My hands tingle like they're falling asleep. And I drop things."
   "Hmmm..." He wrote something in her chart.
   Maybe he thought she was crazy too. When he stopped writing, she continued. "Sometimes I feel dizzy for no reason. And once in awhile my vision blurs and I see double."
   "What do you do when that happens?"
   She raked her lips with her teeth, scraping at the waxy grape flavor as she shrugged. "I sit and take deep breaths."
   "Does that help?"
   "A little, I guess." Frowning, she peeked up. "Sometimes I lose my balance for no reason. I'm not dizzy or anything and I just collapse."
   "Have you ever had a seizure?"
   "No, that's not what happens to me." She furrowed her brow. "At least I don't think so."
   "What about panic attacks?"
   Just asking about them caused anxiety to squeeze the air from her lungs. "Yeah, I have those, but this is different from panic attacks. It's hard to explain."
   "How so?"
   Raquel shrugged. "I don't know. I can't describe it exactly."
   He stared, as if puzzled.
   "I kept hoping it was just a virus or something. For months I've tried to ignore the symptoms, but I came to the clinic because I can't do it anymore."
   "Why ignore them?" He straightened on the stool.
   "I guess I hoped they'd go away." She cringed, knowing her answer sounded juvenile.
   Scott nodded and wrote something in her chart. Probably "denial."
   Glancing up, his gaze fixed on her. "Have the symptoms gotten worse?"
   She swallowed hard and nodded. "That's why I'm here."
   "Are you getting enough rest?"
   "I suppose. But that's not the worst of it. I can't afford to get sick. I'm taking care of Aunt Martha and without my help she'll be placed in a rehab center for her cancer treatments. I don't want that to happen, so I have to get better."
   "Your aunt lives here in town?"
   "Yes. She moved here from Phoenix after she retired. She offered me a place to stay when I left my... um, when I first moved here."
  Several times she noticed him peering at her from the corner of his eye. She wondered what he was thinking when he stole quick glances at her.
   "When did you experience your first symptom?"
   Her mouth went dry and her mood crashed when she reflected on her sordid past. Examining her fingernails, she tried hard not to choke as she blurted, "When I lost my baby... my boy... seven years ago."
   Sensing Scott's stiffening at her words, she met his astonished gaze.
   His eyes clouded. "You were pregnant?" He glanced down at her chart. "Yeah, I guess you were. How far along were you?"
   Heaviness from the memory weighed on her chest, and hot tears sprang to her eyes. She blinked and took a cleansing breath as she slowly counted to ten.
   Please, not a panic attack. Please God, not now...
   She forced the words out. "Not quite six months."
  "I see your last name changed. You got married?" He shifted on the stool.
   White dots converged in her vision at the sad tone of his voice. The room began to spin. To stop the nausea, she rested her forehead on her knees and took a long, deep breath. She waited several moments before straightening her spine, but her shoulders still trembled. She wasn't sure what was stressing her out more, the fact that she'd just thought about her abusive ex and the child his violence had caused her to lose, or the fact that she was telling Scott about it.
   He touched her arm. "Are you okay? Do you need a drink of water or something?"
   She glanced at his hand, now searing her skin through her shirt with its warmth. "I'm fine. I was married. My husband... died."
   "I'm sorry to hear that." He pressed his lips together and wrote aggressively in her chart for a moment, then stopped and rubbed the back of his neck. "Tell me what happened."
   She stared. What should she say? She'd never expected him to ask that question. Silence screamed between them. Did Scott mean what happened to Carl, or what happened to her pregnancy? Several hot tears fell from the resurrected memory of that horrible day. She wiped her face with her sleeve.
   With her hands still trembling, she slid them between her knees and pressed her legs together. She tried to retrieve her voice. "I... miscarried."
   She glanced up as Scott rubbed his forehead again, like he was fighting a headache. He leaned his elbow against the counter. "I'm sorry to hear that."
   "Thank you."
   Another flashback from that terrifying night flitted through her mind, but this time with more clarity and detail. How odd that she'd remember that right now.
   He met her gaze with a blank expression. His jaw clenched and she noted the muscle twitching in his cheek.
   Somehow she had to change her focus and think about something other than the loss of her baby and the two worst mistakes of her life... throwing away her friendship with Scott, and marrying an abusive man. She still didn't understand exactly what had drawn her to her ex-husband except that he'd told her he needed her. Why, oh why had she believed him?
   She glanced at his feet to avoid erupting into sobs. Blinking away more tears, she counted the number of air holes in the upper section of his right shoe. Tears rolled down her cheeks and her tongue tasted salt as she licked the corner of her mouth. Stuffing her pain, she inhaled another deep breath to clear her thoughts. "I'm so sorry I left without telling you. I can't seem to forgive myself for hurting you. It was stupid what I did..."
   From the corner of her eye she saw him make a fist. The sight of his tension made her breath catch. "I know you cared about me as a good friend should. You were always so kind to me and I hurt you. I regret that."
   "Lot of good it did me," he muttered, his stare holding fast to something behind her.
   She couldn't keep her chin from quivering. Biting the inside of her cheek, she attempted to hold back more tears. This appointment wasn't going well at all. The more she said, the angrier he seemed to get. A scowl from anyone these days reduced her to a puddle of sopping tears. She hated that, but couldn't seem to control her emotions.
   Blinking, he swiped his hand over his face. "I have people waiting. Let's get back to the exam, okay?" He sighed. "I shouldn't have allowed my feelings to get involved."
   Her throat swelled further and she could barely speak. His feelings? What did he mean? She covered her face with her hands and tried her best to regain control.
   "Here," Scott muttered.
   She glanced up. He handed her a tissue and their hands bumped.
   "Thank you," she rasped, stretching the tissue as she blew her nose.
   His voice softened. "You're welcome."
   She sniffled, wiping her face and grabbing some fresh tissues.
   "It might not seem like it, Rocky, but I forgave you a long time ago." He shifted his gaze to the wall. "Don't worry about it."
   Her throat squeezed when he'd used his pet name for her. She didn't believe him, but held on to a shred of hope that he really would forgive her someday and they could be friends again. At least he said he'd forgiven her. It was a start.
   "Can, um, we... talk later?" While staring at Scott, she wiped her nose.
   He cleared his throat, something she remembered him doing whenever he got nervous. "First let's see if we can identify the cause of your symptoms so they can be treated. Can you please lift your hair?"
   Scott removed a gadget from his pocket and turned on the light with the flick of his thumb. He slid his stool closer and leaned forward to check inside her ears for fluid. A shiver raced up her spine when his breath encountered her neck.
   The nearness of his body unnerved her, frightened her even. She'd thought that part of her emotional life no longer existed. Killed by Carl and the other creeps she'd dated.
   In the past Scott would have been the last person who'd come to mind if she reflected on romance and love. He'd always been just a friend to her, nothing more. Now she had the impression their feelings hadn't been mutual. That he'd cared more than he'd ever let on. The implications disturbed her.
   She only half-listened while he explained that fluid in her inner ear could cause dizziness. When he finished thumping on her knees to check her reflexes, he placed his hands around her jaw, sliding warm fingers down her neck to examine her lymph nodes.
   Panic from his touch seized her and she stiffened. The memory of being choked by her ex within an inch of her life squeezed her windpipe. A whimper escaped before she could stop it. She couldn't trust men. They always hurt her. But Scott had never been like that.
   Dropping his hands as if scorched, Scott scribbled on his prescription pad and practically thrust the script at her. "I'm referring you to a neurologist. Take this. You'll need proof of your prior authorization when you go for your initial visit."
   The thought of having to see another doctor made stabs of terror prod her heart. Maybe the nickname Rock really was a cruel joke, for now she felt as strong as loose dirt.
   He must have noticed her fear, because his face grew serious when he stood. "You just need a few tests. That's all."
   "Will they be... extensive tests?" She reached for her purse with trembling hands, never taking her eyes off him.
   "Probably not. We just need to rule some things out."
   "But you can't say for sure?"
   Someone tapped on the door. "Scott, there's a patient waiting in room two."
   He turned and his shoes squeaked as they rubbed the waxed floor. "I have to go."
   "Wait..."
   Barely moving, Scott avoided eye contact, but turned to face her. "Hmmm?"
   "Can we meet away from here so we can talk more?"
   His brow furrowed and he hesitated, checking his watch. "All right. But just this once. Listen, I'm off tomorrow. I can meet you at Mountain Mocha on Fry Boulevard at noon."
   She hadn't realized she'd held her breath until it rushed from her lungs. "I'll be there. I appreciate this, Scott. I really do. I..."
   Her eyes filled and she nibbled on her lip. She hated always being on the verge of tears.
   His gaze softened and captured hers again. Then, as if remembering his initial reluctance to deal with her, he stiffened and turned to leave.
   In spite of his reserved response, Raquel knew one thing for sure about Scott. At least, it would still be true if he hadn't changed over the past decade. And oh, how she prayed he hadn't. She really needed a friend. Someone she could trust who wouldn't abuse her.
   When they'd been friends in college she'd trusted Scott completely. Something told her she could trust him now. The only man with integrity she'd ever known, he would never go back on his word. She'd never counted on anything more.


 You may purchase When Love Collides at:
Amazon (for your kindle)
Barnes & Noble (for your nook)

Michelle is giving away a copy of  her ebook When Love Collides. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.


Until next time . . . Sharon A. Lavy

16 comments:

Judy said...

This books sounds so good I must read it! One can't go wrong with a book written by Michelle! She has a God given talent.

I would love to win a copy of, When Love Collides.

Blessings!
judyjohn2004[at]yahoo[dot]com

cjajsmommy said...

Excellent start! I'm very interested in seeing how the character of Raquel develops, how she handles her past in view of the future. I want to enter the giveaway. djragno [at] hotmail [dot] com

Rebecca said...

This book looks great. I would love to read this. Thank you so much for the chance to win.

agent_beckster(at)yahoo(dot)com

Amy said...

I have not read any books of Michelle Sutton's yet. I do enjoy reading her book reviews and her blog. Please enter me. Thanks.

sweetdarknectar at gmail dot com

Teela said...

I would love to win and read/review/post about this book! Thanks~ teelayoung at hotmail dot com

Marianne said...

i didn't need to read the excerpt to know i want to read this novel. i realize this an ebook, and i want to win it, but am also wondering if it is in print as well? Thanks for the great interview and giveaway.

mitzi[underscore]wanham[at]yahoo[dot]com

lgm52 said...

Book sounds soooo good!
lgm52@hotmail.com

Laura J said...

This looks like a great book. I'd love to read it.
laurelprincess12 at gmail dot com

karenk said...

would love to read this novel...thanks for the chance :)

karenk
kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Michelle Sutton said...

Marianne,

It's not in print yet, but my first print book with Desert Breeze is releasing in 2012 (in a few months) but it's a first book in the series and those series books are going to be in print first. This is a stand alone novel, so it'll be a few years, probably, before anything gets printed.

For the rest of you....thanks! Y'all made me blush. I love to write romance and love stories so this was a fun one.

Jennifer said...

I almost wanted to cry along with Raquel while reading that excerpt. Your book sounds very compelling and I hope it does well. Hoping Scott softens up.
jennydtipton@gmail[dot]com

apple blossom said...

sounds like good book thanks for chance to win a copy

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Anonymous said...

Sounds like such a great book! Thanks for the chance to win!

Juliecranford at hotmail dot com

Bethany said...

This sounds like a good book! I'd love to win! cbus.blogger@gmail.com

Jo said...

I want to read it! This book sounds so good already just from the beginning. Please enter me!

Blessings,
Jo
ladijo40(at)aol(dot)com

Sharon A. Lavy said...

Check this blog 1-25-2012 to see who wins Michelle's book!

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