Rhonda O’Donnell has everything her heart desires: a dream job, a beautiful home, and a successful husband. But one morning in May, she loses it all. Rhonda faces no other choice but to contact the only person she has promised herself never to see again: her own mother. Will her mother help Rhonda crawl out of her pit of misery? Or will she let her daughter drown in her own despair?
After Drew Huntington, an ex-murderer, is released from prison, he wants to find his father and atone for his despicable past. His search takes him back to a country which evokes dreadful memories of his youth. As he continues his search, he encounters unexpected hurdles, and finally ends up on a dead-end street. How do you find somebody whose tracks have been erased? How can you find someone who wishes not to be found?
David Westin, a billionaire’s son, uses his good looks and charm to get women into bed. He plays with them; considers them objects. But when he meets his great love, he makes the mistake of his life and loses her. When he runs across her two years later, he acknowledges that his feelings for her are still alive. He conceives a plan to win her back. However, somebody else has stolen her heart, and more importantly: she hates David. Will David be able to reawaken her feelings for him or has he forever burned his bridges?
My name is Edvin Palmer. I am a Swedish writer, who resides in The Netherlands. I work as a teacher and translator. "You're My All" is my debut romance novel. Influenced by American and British authors, I wrote "You're My All' in both American and British English.
This is how my two lovers met in Central Park on a beautiful morning in spring.
You’re My All
You’re My All
Is All That Glitters Gold?
Two years ago
“I can’t believe I will be there in a minute,” Rhonda O’Donnell said to herself as she raced forward on her bike. The soft spring wind played with her raven hair. She saw dew dripping off the green trees, and heard the muffled Manhattan traffic in the distance. The Center Drive in Central Park looked almost deserted at this early hour. Only a few joggers and dog walkers occupied the road. And then there was Rhonda who dashed through the sidewalk, her mind a haze of vigor and exhilaration.
She veered into the circular path leading to The Mall; beheld the white and pink tulips of Olmsted Flower Bed. Once she reached Sir Walter Scott’s Statue, she paused to take in the beauty of the tree-lined walkway known as The Mall. The foliage wore the light-green color of spring. The flowers blossomed and the sun blazed in the blue sky.
“Bethesda Fountain,” Rhonda said as she accelerated again. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited to see you with my own eyes.” She knew the famous fountain from the movie scenes. Although she was twenty-eight years of age, she had never viewed the Angel of the Waters in real life. But now the moment came closer and closer and the enthusiasm rose within her.
Her light-brown face and summer-clothed body filled with eagerness as she approached Terrace Drive. The empty road stared back at her, so she quickly crossed it, and gained more and more speed.
Suddenly, The Bethesda Fountain appeared before her eyes. It stood there in all its glory, right in front of her. The bronze statue of a female angel calmly gazed down on the fountain. The serene dark-green water of The Lake shimmered behind its well-feathered wings. Rhonda heard the spouting and cascading water. She watched it rippling and saw pigeons perched on the wings of the angel. It looked magnificent. Rhonda lingered for a while to take in its entire splendor before she continued left on Terrace Drive. Two seconds later, she veered to the right to reach the semi-circular pedestrian trail. It led to the lower level of Bethesda Terrace. There she would get a better view of The Lake.
The bike picked up speed on the trail and she relished the moment. She unexpectedly saw a small flight of steps before her. She instinctively pressed the brakes, but the bicycle kept on going. Oh no! What’s happening? She panicked and pressed the brakes again, but they still did not engage. She knew she had checked them, she always did.
At a high speed, she came closer to the flight of steps and felt petrified. She closed her eyes and heard herself shriek, “Oh my God!” as the bike flew down the steps. Her body shook like a leaf as she clutched the handlebar, wishing she would not fall. When the bicycle landed on flat ground, she opened her eyes. She stopped shaking and sighed in relief. She had managed to stay seated, but now the bike rushed even faster. It controlled itself.
About three yards ahead of her on the semi-circular trail, she saw a young blond man walking two Chihuahuas. She impulsively swerved to the right to avoid hitting him; to avoid running over the dogs. But she used too much force; almost fell over, and then, in a frenzy of fear, she dashed forward, sitting on the bike. She had no control of the two-wheeler. Shockwaves soared through her. Hence she failed to see the mini flight of steps in front of her. She reached it and the bicycle flew forward, making a half-circle in the air. Although it was in vain, she gripped the brakes and yelled at the top of her lungs. As the bike hit the ground, she trembled and felt a jolt. The unsteady bike did not fall over, though. It relentlessly raced forward at full speed. I’m a skilled bike rider, she reminded herself. I can bike with damaged brakes. However, she was closing in on the fountain and with a pang of fright, she knew the inevitable would happen. She knew she would crash into it. She grasped the handlebar tighter and in shock she screamed. The bike, however, only hastened forward, gaining velocity. A second later, she felt the wreck as the rubber of the bike tires collided with the stone edge of the fountain. She experienced how the force of the collision pulled her off the bike and hurled her forward into the air. Her arms flailed; her voice squawked. Then, she plunged headlong into the fountain. She heard the great splash as the bike landed next to her.
The next moment, she lay motionless in the water. As her face reappeared above surface, she saw the young blond man rushing toward her.
“Let me give you a hand there,” he said as he reached out an arm and grabbed Rhonda’s hand.
“Thank you,” she said in a shivering voice, feeling appalled. “Ouch, my foot has gotten stuck to the bike.”
“Hello madam, could you please hold these dogs for a second?” the fair-haired man asked a female passer-by. The young gentleman gave the woman the leashes, bent down and released Rhonda’s foot. He heroically lifted the bike out of the water, and helped Rhonda get onto her feet. “Luckily you’re still in one piece; without injuries,” he said as he retrieved the dog leashes.
His British accent caressed her ears, and she said, “Then, why am I not feeling very lucky right now?” Her head spun and she felt nauseous.
“It’ll come eventually,” the man assured her, and his smile oozed confidence.
“How can you be so sure?” Rhonda asked. She wanted to add his name, but realized he had not given it.
“How can you be so sure, Dave? My blouse and jeans are drenched, my hair’s in a mess. The bike’s damaged and I’m sure I smell of bird poop.” She blinked to stop her head from spinning and stepped out of the fountain. A water lily had wrapped itself around her left hip. She tossed it back into the water. When she looked at Dave he was holding his head skyward and pretending to muse.
“Well, you’re alive and you’re not injured,” he said.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Rhonda confessed. “I’m sure I’m gonna laugh about this in a year or two. I’m Rhonda by the way,” she said and gave him a hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Rhonda,” said Dave and she felt his firm handshake.
“Thank you once more for helping me out of the water. Have a nice day,” she said and felt his puzzled gaze on her as she retrieved the bike from his grip. She began floundering toward the embellished lower passage, which led back to The Mall where she had come from.
“Wait, where are you going?” Dave cried out from behind her.
She turned her head, wondered why he did not mind his own business, but explained, “I need to get back to my bed and breakfast in The Village. So, I’m heading to the subway.”
“Then you’re walking in the wrong direction. The nearest subway station is that way,” Dave said and pointed with his entire arm to the right.
“Okay, thanks,” Rhonda bluntly said. She hid her embarrassment and changed route.
“Look,” Dave said and strode toward her. “You’re clearly not from round here. I know that we just met a couple of minutes ago, but please let me help. My flat is nearby. You can come and have a shower and put on some decent clothes. Then, you can take a taxi to Greenwich Village from there.”
His light-blue eyes glistened in the sun as he spoke. She had never beheld eyes that clear or that blue. She dropped her gaze and glanced at his brawny yet slim body. She saw him adjust his fitted blue shirt. The matching dark dress pants and the polished black shoes suggested that his employer expected him to show up at work soon.
I should accept your friendly offer, she pondered. I always mistrust strangers, though. But then again, you’re a well-dressed man with Chihuahuas. Serial killers and rapists don’t own Chihuahuas, do they? Yet, she said, “Thank you, but like you said, I don’t know you. It’s seven fifteen now. I start work at eight o’clock and my boss keeps me on a short leash. So, I have to go.” She lifted up the bike and trudged up the large flight of steps leading to Terrace Drive which connected Fifth Avenue with Central Park West. Yikes! I just lied there, she concluded. I don’t have to show up at work that soon…. Lying did form a useful excuse to get away from him, though.
“That’s even a better reason why you ought to have a shower at my place!” Dave insisted behind her. He was standing at the bottom of the steps. “It’ll save you time. I guarantee you’ll get to work in no time.”
“Sorry, I can’t,” Rhonda objected.
“I’m certain your boss wants you to look fresh and clean,” the man went on, as he was climbing the steps. He stopped half way up.
“Sorry, gotta go!” she said with a raised voice, without looking down at him.
“It’ll go a lot quicker if you use my shower.”
Oh, this man is insistent. “Are you Britons always this persistent?” she wondered and gave him a sharp gaze.
“Donno, can’t speak for all of us,” he said with a fake American accent.
She burst out laughing, shook her head in disbelief, turned the bike around and slowly descended the flight of steps. She had already given it a second thought, and had decided to give in to his persistence. How can a guy with mini dogs be a threat? Although looks can be deceiving, he appears to be completely harmless.
“My flat is on East Seventy-Third Street,” he said and pointed to the left, toward Fifth Avenue.
“Thanks,” Rhonda said and added, “I could just die for a hot shower right now. I feel like a scarecrow. But, don’t you get any ideas now?” She gave him a stern look.
“Why?” Dave asked. He lifted his hands in defense and looked as innocuous as a puppy. “You don’t think I fancy you, do you? You’re definitely not my type.” His eyes playfully twinkled. “Come on. I’ll show you the way.”
Rhonda and Dave rounded the corner of Fifth Avenue and East Seventy-Third Street. Now East Seventy-Third Street lay before Rhonda’s eyes. The tree-lined street exuded tranquility and privilege. It formed an oasis of peace amid the bustling city. Its deserted sidewalks looked spotless as they glistened in the morning sun. The fashionable townhouses with low fences emanated high class. Rhonda wondered how the street had looked like a hundred years ago. In her mind, she saw a cobblestone street filled with horse-drawn coaches, women in gowns and gentlemen in top hats.
The Fifth Avenue traffic behind Dave and her intensified and brought her back to reality. A motorist recklessly dashed through the street; it made the Chihuahuas bark.
“They are so cute!” Rhonda exclaimed. “How long have you owned them?”
“Actually, they aren’t mine,” Dave explained. “They belong to my boss. I’m dog sitting them for a fortnight while she’s out of town.”
“Oh, I see. I love them,” Rhonda said.
“Well, this is where I live,” Dave said, came to a halt and looked up at a magnificent narrow old building.
Rhonda looked at the historic townhouse made of red-bricks and white limestone. The portico which sheltered the centered front door immediately caught her eyes. When she looked up, she set eyes on a little balcony at the second story. It must be a great place to live, she concluded and fastened the broken bicycle to a fence. She checked the bike lock twice and peeked at her watch. Her employer expected her to show up at the Convention Center in two hours and a half. That gave her plenty of time.
“Will you make it in half an hour?” Dave asked as he pushed open the door of the townhouse.
She bit her lip, put a few strands of hair behind her ear, and removed imaginary dirt from her sleeve. “I guess I haven’t been totally honest,” she tentatively admitted. “I actually have plenty of time. I start at ten o’clock.” Gosh, I feel guilty for having lied.
“Didn’t you say you needed to get to work really soon?”
“Yeah, I did. Will you kill me for it?” Rhonda asked.
“No, I’m sure you had your reasons,” said Dave and faintly smiled. He closed the front door behind them. They walked over to the landmarked elevator; Dave pressed the button on the right side of it. When the door opened they entered the elevator in silence. When they reached the second floor, he unlocked and opened the door to his apartment.
As Rhonda stepped inside, a bolt of bright light hit her eyes. “Wow, it’s a lovely apartment,” she said in awe as she looked around. The sparsely furnished living room overlooked the street. In the far end, she saw three atmospheric semicircular fanlights. Underneath the one in the middle, a pair of French doors led out to the small balcony. On each side of the doors, multi-paned French windows added ambience.
“This flat comprises four rooms,” Dave told her.
“Awesome,” Rhonda said, nodding. “That’s a lot of space for a New York apartment. It looks far more spacious on the inside.” This impeccable living room oozes manliness, luxury and class. “And I like your fine taste in furnishing,” she admitted.
“Thank you. My father presented the flat to me as a birthday gift. It’s not huge, but it contains everything I need,” he said, shrugging.
“How generous of him! Dreams do come true for some of us,” she said, grinning. “It must be wonderful to live so close to the park.”
“It is. I’m a lucky chap,” he said uninterestedly.
It surprised her that he had not said it with pride. She detected a whiff of sarcasm in his voice.
Dave took off his shoes and a weird silence broke out between them. The air felt heavy and stifling. Dave went to open a window and said, “The bathroom is down the corridor.”
“Okay. Thank you,” Rhonda said and followed his direction.
“Would you like a Latte Macchiato? I can make one,” Dave offered.
“Why, thank you. I’d love to have one!” Rhonda exclaimed before locking the bathroom door. Homemade Latte Macchiato, she thought. Wow, I thought he’d offer me tea. Dave’s courteous, well-dressed and has fine taste. They don’t make men like him anymore. It’s like he’s from a totally different era.
She undressed and fished out her iPhone and credit card from her white jeans. Feeling how wet they were, she grabbed a towel and dried them off. She put them in the washbasin; shivered at the thought that her iPhone might be broken. Nervously, she pressed the power button, hoping that not all hope was lost. Her neck and shoulders relaxed when the iPhone screen sprang into life. Thank God, it’s still working, she reflected, turned it off and piled her wet clothes.
She opened the shower cubicle door and turned on the shower. Water squirted onto the dark granite shower tray. When the water began steaming, she stepped under its warm jets; closed the cubicle door.
She tried to process the unseen events of this morning. Her thoughts immediately rushed to Dave. He’s been kind to welcome me to his home, but I doubt whether I shoulda come. He seems like a nice guy, but I’ve felt his glances on me. I know his mind longs for more. Okay, okay! I admit it! I admit I like ‘m. He’s easy on the eye, and a part of me wishes to get to know ‘m better. That particular fact caused her blood to run cold. Although she refused to admit it, she knew she liked him more than she should. People call it love at first sight, and it frightens me as I’m a married woman. Before God, I’ve sworn to love my husband for eternity. Martin and I’ve exchanged vows and rings. So, even if I already like Dave, I can’t take it any further than this. When I leave the apartment, I shouldn’t see Dave again. Nothing improper has happened between us, and I intend to keep it that way.
“Are you decent in there?” Dave queried five minutes later as he knocked on the door.
“Give me a sec,” Rhonda answered. She switched off the shower, wrapped a towel around her body and opened the bathroom door.
“Here,” Dave said, looking into her eyes, “I’ve got a plastic bag for your wet clothes, and I happened to find this floral dress in my wardrobe. The woman it belonged to was about five feet six and slim. It should fit you.”
“That’s so sweet of ya,” Rhonda said. She lowered her gaze, so her eyes would not meet his. She gently took the bag and the dress, and closed the door. She found the dress hideous, but she put it on and it fitted her perfectly. As she put the wet clothes in the bag, she asked, “Who did the dress belong to?”
“To an old flame. She’s long gone and forgotten!” Dave shouted from somewhere in the apartment.
Rhonda found a hairdryer in the bathroom cabinet; began drying her hair. When she was ready, she grabbed the plastic bag and exited the bathroom.
She found Dave and her hot drink waiting for her in the living room. I intend to drink it and leave within five minutes, she decided. She perched next to him on the blue couch, exhaled and smiled. “What have I done to deserve all this?” she wondered and took a sip of the Macchiato. “How can I ever repay you?”
“You can start by having dinner with me tonight. I know a restaurant in the vicinity where they serve the most delicious Italian food. You must try it while you’re in town.”
Oh no! I knew it would come to this, she fretted. Why did he feel the need to spoil this moment? A tempest welled up inside her. It raged within her, and she desperately sought to find a way to calm it down. Should I listen to my heart and say “yes”? Or should I listen to common sense and decline? My heart longs for mischief and exploration, but my mind forbids it. So, I can’t say “yes”. I mustn’t accept it. “I knew this!” she exclaimed. “I knew you told me a lie when you offered me to come here.”
“Guilty as charged. Will you kill me for it?” he said and smiled.
“You have some nerve, Dave!” Rhonda said and put down the hot glass with a loud bang. She stood up and said, “I don’t know you.” She shot him a grim look. “And I never date strangers.”
“I’m just asking you out for dinner. What’s wrong with that? Don’t tell me you don’t want to. I know you’ve been checking me out,” he said in a light-hearted voice.
“I never checked you out!” Rhonda ranted. She heard the anger in her voice and knew she was lying. “Who do you think I am!?…You took me here so you could ask me out! I knew it from the moment we entered this street. You took advantage of the situation in the park and that’s low!” Oh, I just raved at him. But, that’s good. It’s better to be rude; then he’ll back off. He only means trouble. But, I hope I’m not overdoing it.
“Okay, I’ll be frank,” said Dave. “My offer in the park was sincere. I only wanted to help, but during our way over here, I thought…perhaps…you’d….” He paused for a full five seconds, and then he changed his mind. “Look. Forget about it. I apologise. I should never have asked.” He held up his hands in surrender.
Rhonda bit her lip. I did overdo it. I am being a total bitch and now I’ve hurt his feelings. I didn’t intend to do that. “Look, I am sorry. There was no need for me to get obnoxious. I’m sure you’re a nice guy. I shouldn’t have come down on you like that. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me, but…I think I’d better go now,” she said. Rhonda seized her bag and strode to the front door.
“What about your Macchiato?” Dave asked the second before she escaped into the elevator.
When the elevator arrived at the first floor, she rushed out of the townhouse. She could not describe how much she hated herself. He didn’t deserve to be yelled at. It’s not his fault I’m married. He’s a perfectly friendly guy. I should immediately have refused politely.
A warm breeze touched her face as she plodded over to the bike. She took a deep breath and wished she could turn back time. She wanted to return to him and apologize for being rude. I oughta have been honest with him, she chided herself as she unlocked the bike. I oughta have told him I like him, but that I’m not available. She sighed, hung the plastic bag on the handlebar, took the bike and strode toward Madison Avenue. As she quickened her pace she wondered what caused her to sweat so heavily. Had the outside temperature risen so fast, or was she the one feeling overheated with guilt? Whatever caused the perspiration, she wanted to catch a cab, and get away from the Upper East Side. Tomorrow this will all be forgotten.
“Hey,” somebody shouted at the top of his lungs when she reached the corner of Seventy-Third Street and Madison. “You forgot your iPhone and credit card!” the man shouted behind her.
Rhonda swiveled around and saw Dave standing outside his apartment many yards away. He was holding up her personal belongings in the air and came stalking toward her.
“Thank you so much. You’re a lifesaver,” Rhonda said when Dave walked up to her and handed her the bag. “My life depends on these little things.” She hoped he failed to hear the trembling in her voice.
“No, problem, “he said. “Look, although you gave me a bit of a fright in there, I’d still like to go out with you. Are you sure you aren’t free tonight at eight?”
“Honestly, Dave,” said Rhonda, “I don’t know what got in to me. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have raved at you. You deserved better from me.” In her mind, she thanked him for giving her a second chance to apologize. But, don’t say “yes”, don’t say “yes”, don’t accept the invite. “So, what I’m trying to say is that…. I’d like to go out with you.” She heard the words slip out of her mouth.
Before Dave gave her the chance to take it back, he exclaimed, “Excellent! Shall I come and pick you up at your bed and breakfast?”
“No,” Rhonda insisted. I shouldn’t but…. “It’s time I did something for you. I’ll be here at eight. I promise I won’t be late.”
“You’d better not be,” Dave said, feigning a scowl.
“No, I’ll be here. I give you my word,” she said. On winged feet she felt happiness soar within her. She fought the urge to give him a hug.
He leaned forward and tried to give her a goodbye kiss on the cheek. But in that same instant she turned her head to call for a cab. The force of it all made their heads collide. “Ouch!” they exclaimed in unison.
“I’m so sorry,” Rhonda said, seeing stars before her eyes. “I’m so clumsy.”
“No, it’s my fault,” Dave assured her.
The embarrassment of the situation unleashed an icebreaker which caused them to crack into laughter. Just relax. It’ll be alright, she told herself. It can’t hurt to enjoy some food and a glass of wine with him, right? But I definitely can’t take it further than that. If I make sure tonight is the last time I see him, I won’t upset anyone.
She called for a cab. A second later, one pulled up before her on Madison Avenue. She said goodbye to Dave and stepped in. From the backseat of the taxi, she watched him shrink on the sidewalk as the taxi driver maneuvered toward Greenwich Village.