The Memory Box (Comfort Crossing Book 2)

By: Kay Correll

CHAPTER ONE





Jenny Bouchard dropped a quarter in the jukebox at the Magnolia Cafe. She stared at the plastic button labeled B19. The button she always avoided. The song on B19 hadn’t changed in over twenty years.

She stood there ignoring B19… really she was. Her mind flooded with memories. She could almost feel Clay Miller’s physical presence beside her, taking her hand, transporting her back in time to the days of secret meetings and stolen moments together. So long ago. She tried so hard to push those memories from all consciousness. They should have been long forgotten, but occasionally she couldn’t fight it any longer, and they came rushing back, riding on waves of emotion.

Jenny’s heart tightened in her chest. For a moment, she sucked in air, but it didn’t seem to fill her lungs. So many choices she’d made, so many forks in the road, with impossible decisions to make. When neither option was one she had wanted to choose. But life was like that. And all those choices had led her to where she was now. She couldn’t change the path she had taken, but every once in a while she couldn’t help playing “what if.” Even if the game of “what if” was a slow, melancholy torture.

She closed her eyes and let the memories engulf her. She could almost smell the scent of Clay’s aftershave. Feel the closeness of him. Relive the feeling of completeness and safety in his arms.

“Hey, Jenns.” The voice was low. Deep. Warm. She almost believed she had really heard him. The memories were sucking her back in time, playing tricks with her mind.

“Jenns?”

That sounded more real. She opened her eyes and whirled around to face her greatest fear. Clay Miller. Right there. In the flesh. No longer safely confined to her memories and entwined with the song playing in her mind.

He stood there with the sun streaming in from the window behind him, outlining his tall muscular frame. His brown hair held not a touch of gray after all these years.

“Clay.” Had she really said his name out loud? How many years had it been since she’d allowed herself to speak his name? Seventeen years. She knew the exact date.

Her breath froze in her lungs. Or did it burn? She wasn’t sure. Her eyes locked on his and she felt almost drunk with the sight of him. Her breath still wouldn’t come. Nor any words. Her heart rammed against her rib cage and, for a moment, her emotions were so overwhelming she wasn’t sure if she was going to burst into tears or crazy maniacal laughter.

He looked good. Older. His face had hardened at the edges. His eyes—those steel blue eyes that could either shine with laughter or freeze into cold, unfeeling hardness—stared back at her.

Clay looked over her shoulder at the jukebox, took a quick glance at the songs, and punched B19 without a moment’s hesitation. “Our song.”

Like it was normal to stand here talking to her. Like seventeen years hadn’t passed in silence. Like she could deal with standing there, listening to their song.

He remembered too. Had he had any regrets? She doubted it. The pain of the breakup, so many years ago but still so fresh and raw when she thought of it, swept over her.

“Is it?” She lied, sure he didn’t believe her. “I was just getting ready to play some current country songs.” To prove her point, she dug into her purse for some more coins, dropped them in the jukebox, and hit a few more buttons.

She looked up at him, and his eyes told her he didn’t believe her. Well, that wasn’t her problem. He’d made it all too clear she wasn’t his problem. So he wasn’t hers either.

“You’re looking good, Jenny.”

His voice threw her again. Same voice, rolling over her as waves of memories crashed around her. She didn’t answer him. Her voice wouldn’t work, anyway. What did he want her to say? Hey, it’s great to see you? Well, it wasn’t.

He just stood there while the awkward silence thrust them apart. Good. That’s what she needed. Distance.

Okay, he won. She’d talk. “You home visiting your mom?” She finally found her voice, though it sounded weak and tremulous.

“We’re staying with her for a while. I’m working Doc Baker’s clinic for him, while he takes a few weeks’ vacation.”

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