Shannon Stacey

Forever Again


January 3, 2006

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A sweet romance about a second chance at love…
 
As teenagers, Gena Taylor and Travis Ryan were forced into a marriage neither wanted, the price they paid after one night of passion. But what he believed to be a lie forced Travis to walk out of her life shortly thereafter, crushing Gena’s dreams of a happily ever after with the boy she loved.
Now it’s fifteen years later and Travis is back. Only now, Gena owns the inn he’s considering for his upcoming wedding. Despite their resolve to keep things impersonal, the past comes rushing back and feelings Gena thought long dead rise from the ashes. But there are other lives at stake now, including that of the child Travis once thought was a lie.
 
Forever Again is 52,000 words and was previously published under the same title. No changes have been made to the story.
Forever Again cover

Read an Excerpt

It was hard for Travis to believe fifteen years had passed since he’d seen the town. Very little had changed. There was a new gas station at the end of the block, and a video rental store that he wished had been there when he was a kid. But Frank Castille was still cutting hair and Smitty’s no doubt still served up the best breakfasts for a hundred miles.

Forever Again cover

Travis bought an ice cream cone at the corner store, something he hadn’t done in a very long time. If he was going to be forced to walk down memory lane, at least he could enjoy himself a little. A new park had been built to house the town’s old statues, and he sat on a granite bench to watch the people go by.

It was a charming little town, full of people who knew almost everything about each other. A place where the people who lived on either side of you were truly neighbors.

But not a good town to get married in. He refused to let that thought darken his renewed good spirits. He’d find a way to convince Kristen that the Riverside Inn was not a good choice for their wedding and reception, and certainly not for their honeymoon. Maybe he’d just put his foot down and say no.

He didn’t need an excuse. Regardless of what Kristen thought, it was his wedding, too. He just wished she hadn’t pointed out that it was the first wedding for each of them. Not correcting her might only be a lie of omission, but it was still a lie. He didn’t like being dishonest with her.

And thoughts of dishonesty brought him back to Gena. He had noticed that mischievous sparkle in her eyes when she disputed his claim that they didn’t need to decide right away. She knew they wouldn’t be getting married at the Riverside Inn. He’d made that very clear, and she had agreed. Still, she had him scared there for a second, and one look at her face told him she had done it purposely just to make him suffer.

Where was that fire fifteen years ago? Maybe it had always been there, and he had just been too young and too stupid to see it. It was hard for him to believe that such a captivating woman had been concealed under the baggy clothes and bad haircuts.

That thought shook him so badly he almost dropped his ice cream. Did he really think she was captivating?

Yes, he acknowledged grudgingly. Gena Taylor was captivating. She was beautiful and intelligent, and she didn’t feel the need to make herself look artificial. He only wished he’d seen it sooner. About fifteen years sooner, because now it was too late. Tomorrow night he would get in the car and exit her life again.

I wish I had seen it sooner? That had to be exhaustion speaking. He refused to believe he was feeling…was it regret? It couldn’t be, because walking out on that farce of a marriage was one of the smartest things he’d ever done.

Two teenaged girls walking toward the park caught his eye. One of them was upset, frowning and making choppy gestures with her hands as she spoke. Something tugged at his subconscious, and he thought there was something very familiar about the girl. He just couldn’t place it.

Maybe she was the daughter of one of his old school friends. She’d be about the right age. Fifteen, he guessed.

Suddenly his mind produced the memory of a picture. It took another second to place the image. The photograph was of a young blonde woman cradling a baby on her lap. He was the baby and the woman was his mother.

The girl and her friend drew closer and he matched her features with those in the picture. The thick blonde curls…heart-shaped face…the eyes. He saw that distinct shade of blue when he looked at his mother…or in a mirror.

The girl’s resemblance to that picture—to himself—was too uncanny to ignore, and he stood, black raspberry ice cream dripping unnoticed onto his hand.

Fifteen… She looked straight at him before her friend pulled her into the store, piercing him with her blue gaze. Fifteen…my mother…oh my God.

He dropped the ice cream in the grass and started running up the hill toward the Inn.

***

Gena could hear Travis shouting her name before he even entered the house. He knows—somehow—he knows. She was upstairs, but she heard the loud echo of his footsteps and the slamming of doors as he looked for her.

She was down the stairs and in her private living room when the door flew open and Travis was there. His chest heaved from anger and exertion, and Gena trembled in anticipation of his rage.

She watched him look around, saw his gaze fall on the school portrait of Mia that hung over the sofa.

Forever Again cover

“Who is that?” he demanded in a hoarse voice, pointing at the picture.

Gena swallowed and lifted her chin. “That’s Mia—_my_ daughter.”

She saw Kristen appear behind Travis, her forehead wrinkled in confusion. “Travis? What’s wrong? Why are you shouting?”

“She’s my daughter, isn’t she?”

“What? What is going on here?” Kristen demanded, but they both ignored her.

Gena’s hands fisted at her sides. “She’s my daughter. You left, remember?”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?” he shouted.

“Having a baby was the reason we got married, or did you forget that part?” Gena yelled back in a volume that matched his.

He was advancing slowly toward her, his face white with anger, and she backed up until she felt the seat of the rocker hit behind her knees. “You were lying. I saw the proof.”

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Reviews

“FOREVER AGAIN is a very emotionally driven love story. I was surprised at the depth of all the characters involved. Each character had their flaws and faults. It was refreshing that Gena is not made out to be a saint and Travis the “bad” guy. I enjoyed how the romance once again bloomed between Gena and Travis in a slow, realistic pace. Both characters are portrayed in various ways giving the reader a bigger glimpse at the relationship and family strains around them. Even Mia the daughter is explained as a typical teenager, but she is not whiny or childish. I found it even better that Travis’ Fiancee is not showed as being the typical “revengeful” other woman in the picture. Shannon Stacey has written a story about what love is really about, making mistakes and being mature enough to face them in the end. This is a more “mature” oriented theme in which all the characters must think things through without just jumping to more conclusions. I look forward to reading more by this author, for I think this is just a taste of the future talent she will show us.” —5 Angels from Anita of Fallen Angel Reviews

“Shannon Stacey has taken a very tender subject and makes a gripping true-to-life story that will grab you on page one and not let you loose until the very last word. The emotions run high as the adults try to deal with one another and come terms with how this will play out. Gena hurts more and more every time she sees Travis. She still loves him, has loved him since kindergarten.”

“If you don’t read another book this month, read this one. I can only describe it as a true love story. A story that will have you crying one minute and cheering on one of the characters the next. This story is so real, you’d think the author lived it.” —5 Blue Ribbons from Nickie Langdon of Romance Junkies

“Shannon Stacey writes a story with a good solid plot and entertains with friction between the characters that leaves the reader mesmerized. After fifteen years of being hurt, the reader feels the passion, the broken heart and everything the characters experience. It is a story of letting go and learning to love again. Ms. Stacey gives her characters strength and also shows them human. Ms. Stacey pens a story that will touch you in so many ways. Her style of writing is excellent by far with a story so well written with all the elements that make it believable that I give it a 5-cup rating.” —5 Cups from Cherokee of Coffee Time Romance

“This is one of those books that grabs you right from the very first page. The characterization and detail are exquisite, as if we were truly peering into the lives of Gena, Travis and Mia. With considerable charm, Ms Stacey brings out the awkwardness of the long-separated couple thrown together by chance, and with real care she shows the anger of a father divided from his child, and the pain of the mother who chose to keep them apart for so long. I couldn’t put this book down. Shannon Stacey has produced the perfect romantic read, I’ll be looking out for more from her in the future.” —5.5 Magical Wands from Autiotalo at Enchanted Ramblings

“A heart-rending story, FOREVER AGAIN will definitely have readers reaching for the tissues. Gena’s heartbreak over Travis’s desertion still pains her, and having him in her life again brings back all of those feelings. Fifteen years earlier, Travis felt as if his life was over when an unwanted marriage shattered his dreams of college and sports glory. After a disastrous ending to that episode, he got his life back on track, yet never forgot Gena or the way he believes she betrayed him. Things aren’t easy for Travis, either, realizing that he is just as responsible for not knowing of his daughter doesn’t lessen his anger at Gena. He’s also torn between the three women in his life—none of whom he wants to see hurt.

“A character-driven story of family and love, FOREVER AGAIN is definitely a winner.” —Jennifer Bishop, Romance Reviews Today

“FOREVER AGAIN really is a very nice and romantic story that almost reads by itself. There is a lot of love going around in this book, and what really got to me; is that the father all of a sudden has tried to rearrange his whole world, just to fulfill his duties, to become a father and be there for his daughter, no matter what the women in his life think about it. Shannon Stacey wrote a very romantic story with unexpected twists here and there and this made FOREVER AGAIN a very good book to read.” —Sylvie, Euro Reviews

“FOREVER AGAIN had some sexual tension that warred with the bitter tension between Gena and Travis, leaving me strung tight as a bowstring. This story had me in its grip to the point where I had to stop reading and come back to it so that I could be objective and diplomatic; I took this story so personally. In my opinion Shannon Stacey knocked it out of the park with FOREVER AGAIN! When a story sucks me in so deeply that I get involved as though it were happening to me, the author has done their job in writing an excellent story.

“Get FOREVER AGAIN today. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll yell, and at the end you’ll be satisfied!” —Dee Valentine, Joyfully Reviewed

“FOREVER AGAIN brings together two people that loved for a short time fifteen years before, a romance that neither could forget nor forgive. I am not sure what was more memorable about this story, the marriage that did not last or the child that resulted from it. Gena is a courageous woman in my book because she not only withstood the breakdown of her marriage but also raised her daughter by herself. At the start I did not like Travis because of his whole manner, blaming Gena for his enforced unhappiness and then walking out on their marriage because of what he thought was a lie. I can understand not liking being forced to marry but it took two people to get Gena pregnant and no one forced him to sleep with her. For most of the book I wanted to hit him but by the end of it, he redeemed himself to me and I also wanted Gena to finally have the love she was entitled to. Ms. Stacey has penned a fantastic story of two people rediscovering the love and the life that was to have been theirs before it went so horribly wrong. I recommend that you go out and get your copy of this terrific book because I am certainly glad to have read it.” —4 Stars from Sheryl at eCataromance.com

“Readers who value sharp dialogue more than a plausible plot will enjoy this novel […] Stacey’s book is curious because it manages to be a page-turner without being good. Her characters dwell in a world where everyone has witty comebacks and sharp retorts at the ready, but no one holds a grudge, even against the most unspeakable deeds. Readers’ own incredulity will keep them glued to this book until its preposterous conclusion.” —RT Book Reviews

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