RED LINES by T.A. Foster
Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23840031-red-lines
Love on remote Perry Island was one thing, but with the flash of a camera everything has changed.
Movie star Evan Carlson has just landed the role of a lifetime, playing the infamous Dexter Red. Fans can’t get enough of the sexiest, most-talked-about guy to ever hit paperback pages.
Haven is in Austin working on her songwriting career, and Evan’s faith and commitment are put to the test. No matter which way he turns, Hollywood keeps getting in the way.
Does realizing their career dreams mean losing their relationship? Can they survive the headlines and media frenzy surrounding Evan’s new role?
When it comes to love, some lines are meant to be blurred.
RED LINES – EXCERPT
The pilot called over the speaker to announce the plane was making its final approach into Austin. Evan folded his book and tossed it on the floor. Home. It had been four long months since he had been home. He had tried to outrun his life, but failed. He fought. He hid. He resisted. He lied. But now he was back, only this time he wasn’t alone.
Haven was tucked and curled against his side—where she fit perfectly. She had fallen asleep soon after takeoff. He studied her face, half-covered with her auburn locks. He envied the sleep she found. There was no way his mind would have done anything but cycle through everything that could go wrong. If he held on a little tighter, pulled her a little closer, maybe there was a way to protect her. He didn’t want to move his hand from her hip or shift to wake her.
There were certain moments that he knew he couldn’t get back. This was one of them. They were still them. Just Evan and Haven. The minute the plane landed, it would all change.
They would be waiting. They were always waiting.
The flight attendant hovered nearby and Evan waved her off. Her name tag said Ally. She was only trying to follow safety procedures for the landing, but they needed more than seat belts for what was ahead of them. He wrapped his free arm across Haven and drew her against his chest as the wheels hit the pavement. If only keeping her safe was always this easy. The impact jostled them both and her eyes fluttered open.
“Hey.” She smiled.
“Hey.” He planted a kiss on her forehead before she stretched into an upright position.
“I slept the entire way?” Haven looked toward the window. Her nose wrinkled in disappointment.
Evan straightened his legs. They were cramping up, but it was worth it to let her sleep like that. “Yep. You seemed tired, so I let you nap.” He didn’t want to tell her all the selfish reasons he wanted her pressed against him.
“We’re in Texas?” She leaned closer to him, her eyes darting back and forth like she was trying to read his mood.
“Darlin’, we’re in Texas.” He couldn’t believe they were in his home state together.
Was it really this morning that he said goodbye to everyone at the campground and left Perry Island with a hole in his heart?
He was prepared to live with that heartache. After all, he was responsible for everything that had happened. The lies. The deceit. The paparazzi swarm. It was all his doing. When he thought he had left Haven behind, he thought a part of him had stayed behind too. Buried in the sands of the island like lost treasure, never to be recovered.
The pain had wrapped his bones and suffocated him. The only thing he knew to do was leave. Give her what she wanted—as much distance and space from him that he could provide.
It was hard to believe it was over. The hurt and the pain from losing her had evaporated. Haven was here with him. They were together.
Leaning across the love seat, she brushed her lips against his, and he instinctively pulled her into his lap. It didn’t take much for her to distract him. He blamed the pretty blue eyes she batted in his direction. It didn’t matter—he would kiss her anytime and anyplace she’d let him.
Everything about her lit him on fire. He growled in her ear, wishing there weren’t a flight attendant and two pilots on board with them.
“I can’t wait to take you home.”
Haven pulled back and grinned. Her eyes shot across his shoulder to the window behind him. “Me either, but it looks like we have a welcome wagon.” She pointed.
He knew, flying into Texas, there would be a press group, but he was hoping, for Haven’s sake, it would be minimal. He had only gotten her back a few hours ago, and this firestorm could shake the newly formed foundation they had built.
Evan took her hand in his and squeezed it a few times as they looked through the windows of the jet. It might be dark, but there was no mistaking the mass of people gathered with cameras.
“You ok with all of this?” He surveyed her face before tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.
Her eyes widened as the jet came to a standstill on the tarmac. The flashes shot through the air like lightning strikes, and the door hadn’t even opened yet.
“I think so.” She whispered the words toward the window, and he worried it was already too much.
“We can wait it out.” He thought about the best exit strategy. “Or, why don’t I go out and talk to them, and then I can have someone from the airport sneak you to the car? That could work.” He was trying to formulate a plan B and C, but she stopped him.
“No.” She turned to face him. “We’re doing this together. This is a part of you, and I need to get used to it. You are Evan Carlson, right? The World’s Most Sought-After Bachelor,” she teased.
He loved that she was determined to face the reporters, and loved it even more that she was ready to embrace this part of his life, but he felt the familiar pain under his ribs as he inhaled. It was sharper with each breath. This was the last welcome he would have planned for her. There had to be a way to shield her from all of it.
In that instant, he wanted to run to the cockpit and tell the pilots to fly straight back to North Carolina, back to where they could disappear on a nameless beach and blend in with the locals. Texas was home, but he felt homesick for Silver Belle and everything they had on Perry Island. Life was simple and easy there like the waves rolling across the sand.
Shots of panic gripped him. What if she felt the same way? What if she regretted the decision to fly to Austin with him? She was only supposed to be in town for a few days to meet with Bruce at Blue Steel Records. This could all be over before he even got to show her the ranch.
His real life was outside the walls of this plane, and it might be more than either of them could handle. When he had the chance to get her back, all he could think about was kissing and holding her, laughing and talking with her. Loving her. Now protecting her was part of it too.
Watching the flashes ricochet off the jet, he worried his selfishness to have her back had outweighed his good judgment. No one would voluntarily sign up for this.
“You sure? They can be kind of brutal. You don’t have to get used to it tonight. We can ease into it.” He thought back to how she had been ambushed in the parking lot at her father’s store and followed by a pack of paparazzi. Even her parents wound up as targets.
Haven wrapped her hands around his neck and smiled. “Yes, I’m absolutely sure. Besides, I have a feeling there is no easing into life with Evan Carlson.” She winked and he had to chuckle. That was usually his move.
There was no denying those blue eyes. If she was ready to do this, he was going to make damn sure he controlled as much of the press onslaught as he could.
“Ok, well just stay next to me. I’ll make a statement and then we’re off to the ranch. It will be quick and painless.” He forced a smile, knowing there was nothing painless about facing the assembly on the tarmac. There would be questions, and there would be false accusations. Emmy would inevitably come up.
“I’ll be fine. Stop worrying.” She reached for her backpack and slipped it over her shoulder. “I’ll let you do all the sweet talking and I’ll just watch you in action.” She poked him in the side.
“I’m glad you find the humor in all of this.” He shoved the book into the side pocket, pulled the zipper on his bag, and stood. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You never do.”
She clutched his hand as they waited for the flight attendant to open the door. “I know that. Stop worrying.”
Despite the private jet and the private terminal, the press was still allowed to congregate. Evan usually flew out at abnormal times, missing the frenzy, but ever since the breakup story of Emmy Harper and Evan Carlson made headlines last week, the reporters were anxious to catch a glimpse of him, maybe even snag a quote.
He and Haven would have to walk down the plane’s stairs, through the private terminal, and reemerge through another set of doors before they could duck into the car. Alone, he could manage the system effortlessly. With Haven, it was going to be a completely different experience.
Unlike Emmy, who sought the cameras, spoon-fed reporters tantalizing quotes, and dazzled her audience, Haven was new to this twisted game.
“Mr. Carlson, you may exit the plane now.” Ally, the flight attendant, smiled brightly as she swung the door to an open position. “It was a pleasure flying with you, sir.”
Evan nodded at her and thanked both pilots. He looked past the door. The ground crew had already attached the stairs. There wasn’t anything keeping them on the jet. Still, Evan felt as if his boots had lead soles weighing him to the threshold.
It had already been said, but he felt like he was pushing her into the very thing that ruined every relationship before this one. He had to ask again. “You’re ready for this?”
“If you don’t get off this plane, I’m going to start thinking you don’t want to take me home.” Her eyes flared.
“All right, all right, pretty girl. Let’s do this.”
He clasped her hand in his and pulled Haven behind him as they descended the steps, leaving the safety of the jet and diving headfirst into tomorrow’s headline.
T.A. Foster is a Southern girl whose heart and spirit are connected to the beach. She grew up catching rays and chasing waves along the North Carolina Outer Banks and now resides in the state with her adventurous pilot husband, two children and two canine kiddos.
Her long love affair with books started at an early age, and as soon as she was able, she transformed imaginative stories into words on paper. Time Spell is T.A.’s debut novel, and the first in a series about a very adventurous, clever, and magical girl named Ivy.
T.A. has an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University. When she’s not chasing her two-legged and four-legged children or trying to escape for date night, you can find her reading, writing or planning her next beach trip.
Author Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7164289.T_A_Foster
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