Splendor at Dawn – Linda Wisdom

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SPLENDOR AT DAWN

Hawaii—the ultimate escape. Evelyne Winters had chosen it in the wake of a devastating divorce. She’d have a fling, decide what to do with a life that was suddenly her own. But even for exquisite Evelyne—daughter of a legendary movie mogul, ex-wife of a starmaker—seduction wasn’t simple. Certainly she hadn’t expected to run into a man like Rhyder Stewart. Aloof, sophisticated, he’d appointed himself her protector—until passion engulfed them and he became the ultimate lover. The heat of his kisses put the past in a new light. In his arms the present was breathtaking. Was it an idyll that had to end? Would they go their separate ways, or were they on the brink of discovering a brilliant new future together?

PROLOGUE

The large room was dark save for the flickering color images on the silver screen
covering one wall.
“This will be a party to end all parties!” The man on the screen announced in his
husky southern drawl, his arms gesturing toward a swimming pool dotted with floating
candles. “Another memory for our library and another thank-you to my gorgeous wife
for giving me another great year of marriage.” He mimed a smacking kiss at the
camera.
A woman sat in the middle of the room with stacks of neatly piled videotape cases
surrounding her. Her life may have fallen to pieces, but that didn’t stop her from
making sure everything was in perfect order. So far she had viewed three tapes with
each video segment representing a different part of her life; her twenty-fifth birthday
party, their tenth wedding anniversary, special vacations, and other, more personal
times that were for private viewing.
The longer she watched the tapes, the more tears covered her cheeks and the more
misery she brought upon herself as she watched the man on the screen.
Rick, with his hair of sunlight, eyes like the sky, and a smile that sent shafts of
burning desire through her veins. No man could make love the way he did and no one
could hurt her as badly as he had.
The peal of the doorbell echoed through the huge house, but she ignored it. She’d
had enough visitors. Right now she was too preoccupied watching Rick. She pushed the
hair sticking to her cheeks away from her face and wiped the tears away. But that
didn’t make them stop. The silent tears soon turned to full-fledged sobs.
Cursing loudly she jumped up and grabbed the remaining cassettes, throwing them
down and battering them against a chair until they broke open and streams of darkbrown
metallic tape streamed over the carpet in their own gesture of mourning as black
chunks of plastic flew all over the plush cinnamon carpet.
“Evelyne!” A woman’s voice filled with horror echoed around her.
She spun around to face the couple standing in the doorway. “The front door was
locked.” She may have looked like a lost waif with her dark-brown hair streaming
around her shoulders and tearstained face, but no one could match her for composure
when necessary.
“We used the extra key,” the man standing next to the woman explained. He
stepped forward to examine Evelyne carefully. “You haven’t been drinking, have you?
You know what the doctor said about alcohol.”
“Drinking?” She arched an eyebrow. “Come now, Brian, I know very well what he
said, and I certainly wouldn’t go against that tyrant’s orders.” She stared at him with
defiance before turning to the woman. “Why have you come, Celia?” She wasn’t in the
mood for company and chose to let her friend know it, even if it meant acting rudely.
“You haven’t answered your phone in days and we were worried.” Celia looked
around the room with its mess of torn tapes draped over the carpet and a
group of singers shouting a bawdy ditty on the screen. “We can’t get ahold of Rick
either. What is going on here?”
During Celia’s speech Brian noticed a paper lying on the back of the couch. He sidled
over in that direction and scanned the official-looking document long enough to
understand the meaning before turning back to Evelyne.
“When did this come?” he asked quietly, holding up the paper.
Evelyne shrugged, her deep-green eyes betraying her bitterness. “Yesterday at
three-thirty. No wonder I haven’t seen him in the past week. He’s had better things to
do—such as filing for divorce.”
Brian swore fiercely under his breath while Celia looked too upset for words.
“What can you expect?” Evelyne shouted. “I’m not a whole woman any longer, am
I? I’m not the proper image for Rick Winters’s wife now because people whisper about
me and look away if I happen to see them. They’re afraid to get too close to me for
fear it might be contagious. I’m not perfect anymore….” The last words dropped to a
painful whisper. She sank down to the floor, too tired to battle the world any longer.
Brian and Celia would have disagreed without hesitation, but they knew Evelyne
wasn’t in the proper frame of mind to listen. They saw her kneeling on the carpet
looking beautiful in spite of her tears and the pain etched in her too-thin features.
“What will you do?” Celia whispered, unused to seeing her friend so downtrodden.
Evelyne had always been a fighter; this woman filled with self-pity was someone new.
Evelyne’s lips trembled. “I guess I’ll have to find a way to put myself back together,
won’t I?”

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