Until It Fades

By: K.A. Tucker
“Tucker is adept at spinning stories with hot romance, unexpected twists and turns, and a strong, independent female lead who is not afraid to take charge, who is not perfect—which is why she feels so real." —Toronto Star





Twenty-four-year-old truck stop waitress and single mother Catherine Wright has simple goals: to give her five-year-old daughter a happy life and to never again be the talk of the town in Balsam, Pennsylvania (population three thousand outside of tourist season).



And then one foggy night, on a lonely road back from another failed date, Catherine saves a man’s life. It isn’t until after the police have arrived that Catherine realizes exactly who it is she has rescued: Brett Madden, hockey icon and media darling.



Catherine has already had her fifteen minutes of fame and the last thing she wants is to have her past dragged back into the spotlight, only this time on a national stage. So she hides her identity. It works. For a time.



But when she finds the man she saved standing on her doorstep, desperate to thank her, all that changes. There’s an immediate connection, and it’s more electric than the bond of two people who endured a traumatic event. It’s something neither of them expected. Something that Catherine isn’t sure she can handle; something she is afraid to trust.



Because how long can an extraordinary man like Brett be interested in an ordinary woman like Catherine. . .before the spark fades?






Chapter 1



March 2010

The Subaru station wagon comes to a sliding halt in a parking spot out front of the Balsam County police station, the fresh blanket of snow coating the asphalt making the streets slippery.

And my stomach sinks with the realization that I’ve been tricked by my own mother.

“What happened to going to the mall, Mom?” She’s been quiet since we pulled out of the driveway; I just assumed she was pissed at me. These days, she usually is.

“Did you honestly think we’d just pretend that nothing happened and go shopping?” Her eyes remain focused ahead as she says, “I had to get you in the car somehow.”

I’ve seen her pull this same trick on our golden Lab, Bingo. He thinks he’s going to the park, so he eagerly jumps into the backseat, his tail wagging and his tongue lolling, only to end up at the vet. Falls for it every damn year.

This is so much worse than a trip to the vet.

Shutting off the engine, she unfastens her seat belt. “Okay. You know why we’re here.”

When I don’t unfasten my seat belt, she reaches over and pushes the release button for me. Her expression is stony, her tone is worn-out. “I reported Mr. Philips to the police yesterday. They need your statement, so we are going in there and you are telling them everything right now.”

“But . . .” My stomach drops at the same time that heat crawls up my neck. “You promised that you wouldn’t do this!”

“I made no such promise, Catherine.”

Oh, my God . . . I need to warn Scott before she forces me in there.

It’s like she can read my mind. She snatches my phone from my grasp.

“That’s mine! Give it back!” I dive for it, but she holds on to it tight, slapping my hands away.

“The police will want this for evidence.”

“That’s an invasion of my privacy.” I’m doing my best to put up a calm but defiant front. Inside, I’m screaming. Because there is evidence on my phone that I should have deleted. That Scott told me to delete and I assured him that I did, but I haven’t yet, not all of it. Not the message where he told me I was beautiful. I love lying in my bed and rereading that one.

“Just drop this, already. Please, Mom. Or how about let’s just go to the principal. Let him fire Scott if he thinks he needs to. Okay?” I plead.

My mom’s face contorts. “The principal is his father. The superintendent is his uncle. And his mother is a Balsam! You think they’ll want this to get out? They’d just find a way to sweep this under the rug.”

Which is exactly what Scott and I were hoping for when, two nights ago, my mom heard me tiptoeing down the stairs and followed me—quietly, in her nightgown and housecoat—outside and around the corner, to where Scott was waiting for me in his car.

I’m not sure what made her more angry—that she caught me sneaking out to meet up with my English teacher, or that I tried to sell the “he’s helping me with my assignment over spring break” excuse to her, standing on a sidewalk at one in the morning.

“Besides, it’s too late. The police are investigating.” She takes a deep, calming breath. “I have an obligation, Cath. This is what good parents are supposed to do when they find out that a thirty-year-old man has taken advantage of their teenage daughter.”

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