“I was thinking about taking Logan and a couple of his friends to see the college lacrosse championship on Memorial Weekend, just the championship game,not the whole tournament,” Phil said to Lina when he arrived home with Logan.
“That’s nice.” She was at the counter, slicing vegetables.
“It’s in Philadelphia this year.” He leaned his hip against the counter as he watched her. “Do you want to come?”
“Come on. It will be fun. We could spend the night and check out the city.”
Lina set down her knife and wiped her hands on a towel before closing the small distance between them and framing his face with her cool hands. She stood on her tiptoes and softly kissed his lips. “No,” she whispered before brushing her lips over his again. “We’ve already seen the Liberty Bell.”
He clasped the sides of her hips, pulling her lower body into his. He knew she’d never really liked lacrosse. She thought it was too physical. When he’d spot her in the stands during his high school and college games, she’d more often than not have her hands covering her eyes. “Logan and I aren’t playing. You won’t have to worry about us getting hurt.”
“I never worried about you getting hurt. I was always worried you were going to hurt someone. I didn’t want to have the memory of it in my mind.” She linked her arms around his neck. “Take Logan and have fun. You don’t need me there.”
He let his gaze drift over her face. He knew every inch of it. Even the laugh lines around her eyes which had come in the past couple of years were etched in his memory. “I’m still making up for lost time.”
“Gross—stop looking at each other like that,” Katie said. “I shouldn’t have to be afraid to come in to my own kitchen.”
Lina kissed him again before stepping away from him.
“Your kitchen?” Phil asked Katie. His gaze remained on Lina, watching the feminine sway of her hips as she crossed to the refrigerator.
The draft of Swimming Naked is now in the hands of my editor. I should have it back in about four weeks.
Opening scene of Swimming Naked…
“Just a second, buddy.” Phil was at the sink, screwing the top onto a baby bottle.
Lina watched Liam’s small hands yank at Phil’s pant leg, his demands to be picked up increasingly loud. She rubbed her hand across her forehead. “I think I’m going to go upstairs.”
“What?” Phil scooped up his son, handing him the bottle he’d just prepared as he turned to Lina.
“I have a headache. I’m going to go lie down for a minute.” Her eyes were on the almost one-year old sucking on a bottle as his head rested on her husband’s chest. She swallowed down the lump in her throat.
“Do you need me to get you anything?”
“No. I just…I can’t,” Lina whispered before rushing from the room.
“Katie?” Phil called out as walked toward the family room. “Katie?”
“What?” Katie paused the television screen.
“I need you to watch Liam.” He set him on the couch beside her.
“What?” Katie retreated to the corner of the couch, her eyes widening. “No way. I’m not watching him.”
“I’m not asking.”
“You said it wouldn’t affect us if you brought him here. I don’t want to be a baby sitter. I don’t even like kids.”
“Watch him,” he said firmly, pointing at Liam. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Lina was sitting on the edge of the bed when she heard the bedroom door open. “I can’t do it,” she said. “I thought I could but I can’t. I’m sorry.”
The mattress shifted as Phil sat down beside her. “It hasn’t even been an hour.”
“I can’t look at him. I know it’s not his fault, but he’s the result of what you did—a living, breathing reminder.”
“Lina.” Phil stroked his hand up her back. “It’ll get easier. Once you get to know him, you—“
“I don’t want to know him.” She came to her feet and headed toward her wardrobe. “I’ll go to Adele’s or my mom’s for the night.”
Phil cursed softly, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees as he gripped his head. “You said you would try. Forty-five minutes isn’t trying.”
Lina finished packing a small bag with pajamas and clothes for the following day before leaving the wardrobe and crossing to the bathroom. “I tried,” she said when she felt Phil’s presence in the doorway. “You have no idea how hard.” She began to toss toiletries into the bag.
“One night. All I’m asking for is one night.”
“I can’t.” Lina shook her head. She’d thought she could. She’d even picked out a crib and decorated a nursery for Phil’s son, but the reality of him was so different than the imagined.
“I’ll leave,” he said, his voice sounding defeated. “I’ll take him to a hotel.”
“No. All his things are here. It’ll be easier if I just go to Adele’s.” Lina lifted the bag and turned from the sink.
“You shouldn’t be the one leaving.”
“This is the best solution, Phil. I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Let the conversation continue…
Phil was half-way home before he was calm enough to call Kim. “When were you going to tell me?” he bit out as soon as she answered.
“That was fast.”
“We agreed that it was better for you to be out of Baltimore.”
“No, you convinced me it would be better if I was out of Baltimore. But it’s not better, not for Liam. He’s your son and you barely see him.”
“I see him once a week. I’m doing the best I can.”
“And your best will be better when I’m closer.”
“He has a nanny and routine he’s used to. Why would you uproot him?”
“I think being closer to his father is more important than his nanny.”
“Do you really think the city is the place to raise him?”
“You don’t live in the city. Maybe I’ll get a place near you.”
His grip tightened on the steering wheel. “Don’t you fucking dare.”
I am now approximately 85 percent done with the sequel to A White Picket Fence — still shooting for a December release date!
From Chapter 46 of A White Picket Fence — Lina is 17 and Phil is 18
“Are you going to make me swim alone?” Lina splashed into the surf and dove under a small wave, swimming several yards before she felt Phil’s strong hands gripping her hips and pulling her back into his naked body.
“You’re crazy. You know that?” He wrapped his arms around her.
“For you.” She turned in his arms and snaked her own up around his neck. “Promise me you’ll always swim naked with me, even when we’re old and wrinkled.”
Update — the sequel to a White Picket Fence is approximately 60 percent complete and still on target for a December release date!
At the moment I am working exclusively on a sequel to A White Picket Fence — I have received an overwhelming number of requests for a conclusion to Lina and Phil’s journey — there are so many questions remaining in readers’ minds that I felt compelled to put the other novels on hold until I finish this story. I am shooting for a December release date. Thanks for your patience!