If not for you, p.1
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       If Not for You, p.1

           Debbie Macomber
 
If Not for You


  If Not for You is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2017 by Debbie Macomber

  All rights reserved.

  Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  BALLANTINE BOOKS and the HOUSE colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

  LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA

  Names: Macomber, Debbie, author.

  Title: If not for you : a novel / Debbie Macomber.

  Description: New York : Ballantine Books, [2017]

  Identifiers: LCCN 2016042032 | ISBN 9780553391961 (hardcover : acid-free paper) | ISBN 9780553391978 (ebook)

  Subjects: LCSH: Man-woman relationships—Fiction. | Life change events—Fiction. | BISAC: FICTION / Romance / Contemporary. | FICTION / Contemporary Women. | FICTION / Sagas. | GSAFD: Love stories.

  Classification: LCC PS3563.A2364 I35 2017 | DDC 813/.54—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/​2016042032

  Ebook ISBN 9780553391978

  randomhousebooks.com

  Book design by Dana Leigh Blanchette, adapted for ebook

  Cover design: Belina Huey

  Cover photo-illustration: Debra Lill

  v4.1

  ep

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Author's Note

  Prologue

  Chapter 1: Beth

  Chapter 2: Sam

  Chapter 3: Beth

  Chapter 4: Sam

  Chapter 5: Beth

  Chapter 6: Sam

  Chapter 7: Beth

  Chapter 8: Sam

  Chapter 9: Beth

  Chapter 10: Sunshine

  Chapter 11: Sam

  Chapter 12: Beth

  Chapter 13: Sam

  Chapter 14: Beth

  Chapter 15: Sam

  Chapter 16: Beth

  Chapter 17: Beth

  Chapter 18: Sam

  Chapter 19: Sunshine

  Chapter 20: Beth

  Chapter 21: Sam

  Chapter 22: Beth

  Chapter 23: Sam

  Chapter 24: Beth

  Chapter 25: Sam

  Chapter 26: Beth

  Chapter 27: Sunshine

  Chapter 28: Beth

  Chapter 29: Sam

  Chapter 30: Sunshine

  Chapter 31: Beth

  Chapter 32: Sam

  Chapter 33: Sunshine

  Chapter 34: Beth

  Chapter 35: Sam

  Chapter 36: Beth

  Chapter 37: Sam

  Chapter 38: Sunshine

  Chapter 39: Beth

  Dedication

  Ballantine Books from Debbie Macomber

  About the Author

  Spring 2017

  Dear Friends,

  On a recent Facebook post, I read a New Year’s resolution that said: “I will lose ten pounds this year. I only have fifteen to go.” I laughed because that is generally the way my resolutions go. The point being that we all need second chances, a fresh beginning, and that is what inspired this New Beginnings series. If Not for You is the third book.

  People often ask where I get my ideas for stories. Most often they come from real life. A couple of years ago I met a couple with an amazing story of how they met and fell in love. Vic and Mary Jury inspired me to come up with my own version for Sam and Beth. This is a story of healing, both emotional and physical.

  Finishing a book is a bittersweet moment for me. On one hand I’m ecstatic to be finished so I can move these characters out of my brain. I can almost feel the next set clamoring to get inside my head, if they aren’t already there. And at the same time it’s hard to say goodbye, which might explain why so many of my stories and characters are connected to previous books.

  The dedication for this book goes to a high-school friend, Cherie Carlton Thalheimer, and her husband, Robert. Cherie and I have a high-school reunion this year, and it’s a biggie—one with a zero in it. We didn’t know each other well as teenagers, which I find amusing now because she has become one of my best friends. I finally found someone (outside of my immediate family) who is as nuts about football as I am. The story of our friendship, rediscovering people we knew from the past, is worthy of a book in its own right. Hey, that’s not a bad plot idea. I think I’ll write that down so I remember…

  One last note. The poem The Warning Label No One Reads was written by my granddaughter Bailey after she broke up with her boyfriend. I found it poignant and bittersweet and with her permission decided to include it in the book. It looks like I might not be the only writer in the family. And the song Sam wrote for Beth was composed by Pete Evick, who is the lead guitarist for Bret Michaels.

  If you’re familiar with any of my reader letters you know how much I treasure hearing from you. You can reach me any number of ways. The best place to learn about me is from my website at debbiemacomber.com or read my Facebook posts or Twitter. Or you can write me at P.O. Box 1458, Port Orchard, WA 98366.

  Now it’s time to turn the page and meet up with Sam and Beth and hopefully find a bit of healing in your own life.

  Warmest regards,

  PROLOGUE

  It really was a shame. No, not a shame…a disappointment, Beth Prudhomme mused, as she sat at the intersection, waiting for the green light. She glanced out the car window at the man her friend had invited her to meet over dinner. Sam Carney was stopped in the lane next to her, also waiting for the light. Again she felt a twinge of regret, knowing nothing would ever come of their evening together.

  It’d been silly to put any hope into this blind date. One look at Sam and it was clear they weren’t a good match. Beth could just imagine what her parents would say if they were ever to meet Sam. The thought was enough to make her smile. Her mother would have a fit of hysterics. In her mother’s eyes, she would view Sam as uncouth, vulgar, and a bane to society. All this because his hair was long and he had a beard. His tattoos would likely send her over the edge. But then her mother had high expectations when it came to the man Beth would one day marry.

  It didn’t take her long to realize Sam felt the same way about her. His eyes had widened briefly before he could disguise his reaction when they were first introduced. He probably saw her as prim and pristine and oh-so-proper, which she was, thanks to her mother. Beth suspected Sam hadn’t been psyched about this dinner date, either, and briefly wondered what had led him into agreeing to meet her. She knew she’d been a big disappointment. The truth was, she’d liked Sam. Although they hadn’t spoken much, she felt drawn to his unconventional attitude, which was so unlike her own structured life. It’d been hard to get a read on him, other than when they were first introduced. Beth couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking; he gave away little of his thoughts other than the fact that he seemed more than anxious for the evening to be over. Beth didn’t blame him.

  She had to admit Sam was handsome, definitely rough around the edges, but Nichole had warned her about that. His shoulder-length hair was tied into a ponytail at the base of his neck. He had nice dark eyes, she’d say that. The color reminded her of warm cocoa. He was tall; she estimated he must be six-two, which was a foot taller than her own petite frame. And he must outweigh her by a good seventy or more pounds. Her friend’s description of Sam had given her pause, but her aunt Sunshine had persuaded her to give it a shot.

  “Why not? What’s it going to hurt?”

  True enough, it hadn’t hurt, but still the taste of disappointmen
t settled over her.

  Sitting in the tall cab of his truck, Sam must have noticed her scrutiny, because he turned his head, looking down at her as they waited for the light to change. Goodness, the truck was so high up she’d need a step stool just to climb onto the seat.

  The traffic signal turned green. Offering Sam a brief smile, she stepped on the accelerator and moved forward into the intersection, preparing to make the turn. That was when she noticed the car coming directly toward her, racing through a red light.

  In that split second her eyes caught those of the teenage driver in the other car. She had her cellphone in her hand; her face twisted in a look of surprised horror. From that moment forward, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. The girl’s mouth opened in a scream. She braced her hands against the steering wheel and slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.

  Much too late to avoid a collision.

  Knowing what was coming, Beth braced herself, too, but nothing could have prepared her for the impact of the other vehicle slamming into the driver’s-side door. The explosive noise of steel crashing against steel was loud enough to burst Beth’s eardrums. Despite her death grip on the steering wheel, her arms were jerked free, tossed above her head like a puppet’s string as the other car plowed directly into her, spinning Beth and her car around and around.

  She opened her mouth to scream, but all that escaped was a gasp of sheer terror and pain, horrific pain.

  And then…then there was nothing until she heard someone calling her name.

  When she managed to force her eyes open, all she could see was Sam.

  CHAPTER 1

  Beth

  “Give Mozart a chance,” Beth pleaded with the teenage boy who stared doggedly down at the classroom floor. “Once you listen to his music you’ll feel differently, I promise.”

  The youth continued to avoid eye contact and then chanced a look in the direction of Bailey Madison. Beth had noticed the teenage girl sneaking glances in his direction through most of the class. Before class, both students had asked for transfers, which disappointed her. Beth didn’t want to lose either one.

  “I like music, but I’m not into that classical stuff,” Noah told her.

  “But you might be if you gave it a chance,” Beth said in what she hoped was an encouraging voice. Noah Folgate sat through the entire class period with his arms folded and his eyes closed, except when he took peeks at Bailey.

  “Besides, the only reason I signed up for the class was because my girlfriend, I mean my ex-girlfriend, did.”

  “You can stay in the class,” Bailey said. “I’m dropping out.”

  Beth motioned for Bailey to join them. Noah’s gaze narrowed and he crossed his arms and refused to look in the other girl’s direction.

  “Bailey, why did you register for the class?” Beth asked.

  Clenching her books to her chest, Bailey shrugged. “I’m in band. I like anything to do with music.”

  “Are you and Noah friends?”

  “We…used to be.”

  “Would you like to be again?” Beth asked.

  Noah stared at the teenage girl. Bailey nodded and her voice trembled when she said, “More than anything.”

  Noah blinked as though her words had shocked him.

  Beth knew better than to get caught in the middle of teenage angst. She really did, but she’d watched these two closely through class and suspected that whatever had happened between them was what prompted them to ask for a transfer.

  “Noah, would you be willing to give the class another week?”

  The high school junior shrugged.

  “Bailey, what about you?”

  “I suppose that would be all right.”

  “Great.” Beth rubbed her palms together. “We’ll talk again next Friday, and if you both feel the same way, I’ll do what I can to help you find another class.”

  “Can I go now?” Noah asked.

  “Of course.”

  The boy shot out of the class, but Bailey lingered behind. “I know what you’re doing, Miss Prudhomme. I don’t think it’ll help. Noah thinks I cheated on him. I didn’t, but I can’t make him believe me. I don’t know that I can be with someone who doubts me and has trust issues. I’ll give it another week, but don’t expect Noah to change his mind. If he doesn’t, it will be far too painful to be in class with him and see him every day.”

  “Of course,” Beth said sympathetically. She hoped they could work it out. She’d done what she could; the rest was up to them. She really hated to see them drop out of the class for personal reasons, especially when by their own admission they were both musically inclined. Unfortunately, they had little understanding or appreciation of the depth and beauty of classical music. Given the chance, she believed they would come to love it as much as she did. Noah and Bailey were exactly the kind of students she enjoyed most. The challenge, of course, was to keep the two of them from dropping out of class.

  This was Beth’s first teaching experience, but she’d had some success convincing her private piano students to give Schubert, Bach, and Beethoven a try. Once they’d learned about the great composers and played their music, her private students had been hooked. Beth hoped to hook these high school students as well.

  Feeling like she’d made headway, Beth straightened her desk. It was Friday at the end of a long week of classes and she was more than ready for the weekend, not that she had any big plans. As a recent transplant from Chicago, the only person Beth knew, other than a few teachers, was her aunt Sunshine. She was making friends, though, at church, where she volunteered for the choir, and in her apartment building.

  Sunshine was the best. Just thinking about her eccentric, fun-loving aunt produced a smile. Beth didn’t know what she would do without her. Her aunt had given her the courage and the encouragement to break away from the dictates of her family. Beth loved her parents, but they, especially her mother, had definite ideas about whom she should marry, her career, her friends, and just about everything else. Until she moved, her mother even accompanied her when she bought clothes, not trusting Beth to choose her own wardrobe. Without realizing what she was doing, her mother was strangling her. She had to break away or suffocate.

  She had saved money from teaching piano and was prepared to leave in the middle of the night rather than argue. Her family wasn’t holding her prisoner; she was free to go. Sunshine was the one who’d invited Beth to move to Portland, Oregon. Looking for employment, she went online and saw an opening for a music teacher in a local high school. Beth wanted that job in the worst way and was determined to get it, to live her own life instead of the one her mother saw for her.

  Before following through with her escape plans, Beth decided to tell her father. He was by far the more reasonable of the two. It’d been a good decision. Even now Beth didn’t know what he said to her mother, but whatever it was had been life-changing for her. The next morning Phillip, her father, told her she had his word that Ellie, her mother, would not visit or interfere in Beth’s life for six months. No visits to Portland. No tearful phone calls. No tossing guilt. Any contact would be instigated by Beth herself.

  She was basically free; well, at least for the next six months. Before her mother could change her mind, Beth loaded up her car and left that very day. Her mother had stood on the lawn and wept as Beth backed into the street and started on her way.

  When she arrived in Portland, she stayed the first few days with her aunt, scheduled interviews, and was over the moon when she was hired at the high school. As soon as she had the job, she found an apartment she could afford and for the first time in her twenty-five years she was on her own.

  Weeks earlier she’d had no hope, but now, after breaking away, hope had found her. When she was settled in her own apartment, Beth called her parents and told them she was set. The conversation had been awkward, and when her mother had sniffled softly, her father made her get off the phone. Beth knew the tears were about more than the fact that she’d left Chica
go. It hurt her mother that Beth was in the same city as Sunshine. The two sisters had never gotten along. Whatever had caused the rift between them was a mystery to Beth. She hoped that at some point Sunshine would explain what it was that had put such a heavy strain on their relationship. Once in her youth, Beth had asked her mother, but her mother had said it was something that happened a long time ago and wouldn’t explain further.

  Beth collected her books and purse and was heading down the hallway when she heard her name.

  “Beth,” Nichole Nyquist, a substitute English teacher who’d befriended her, called out from behind her.

  “Hey,” Beth said, smiling as she turned around, happy to run into her friend. It’d been a couple days since they’d last connected. They’d met during the first week of classes and struck up an immediate friendship. After the birth of her second son, Nichole had given up her full-time position and currently worked only as needed. Seeing Nichole was a treat, as she hadn’t been at school all week.

  “Do you have a minute?” Nichole asked.

  “Of course.”

  “I wanted to ask you to dinner tomorrow night.”

  “Oh.” The invitation came as something of a surprise. She’d been to Nichole’s house once and briefly met her husband, son, and stepdaughter. Kaylene was also a senior at the high school. Nichole and Beth ate lunch together in the teachers’ lounge when they could, but those times were rare.

  “I know it’s last-minute. I wanted to connect with you earlier but didn’t, and the next thing I knew it was Friday. I’ve been thinking about this awhile; I hope you can come.”

 
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