17 December, 2016

Just Gone by Renata W. Müller Book Spotlight!

It was without doubt that Lana Bell was the cleverest, sexiest, most inspiring and seductive girl Hayden Ravensdale had ever met. The attractive law student had burst into his life, blown his mind and changed everything. He was head over heels in love with her. He could not have foreseen the disaster awaiting him just around the corner. So when all of a sudden Lana disappears without a trace, Hayden’s whole world crumbles to pieces.

Had it all been a lie? Had she only been using the young and wealthy heir to a well-known international publishing firm?

When after 7 years of despair, pain, anger, hatred, and finally, emptiness, the disillusioned businessman unexpectedly comes face to face with the love of his youth, only to see his strictly organized life turn upside down again. Their chance encounter finds them both cast into a whirlwind of attraction, uncertainty, and doubt. Can he ever trust her again? Can he once more put his broken heart into the hands of this woman without the risk of ruining himself completely? Dare he even resist?

Can either of them possibly deny the physical attraction they feel towards each other?

This is the passionate and captivating love story of Hayden and Lana. 
It caused him pain to know that she may not have waited for him with as much expectation as he had looked forward to meeting her. He clenched his hands into fists, and his fingernails dug into his palms painfully.
Ah, yes, the dinner. The dinner she organized at Zafferano. At Zafferano. Zafferano. The name set him thinking and drove away his peace. He turned up the collar of his suit, and quickened his pace, led by a sudden idea. He headed in the direction where he saw more people and busier traffic, and he soon managed to catch a taxi.
To Zafferano! Quick, I’m in a hurry! he dryly told the driver, who stepped hard on the pedal in hope of a generous tip.
It did not take them ten minutes to get there. He had the taxi stop a little further from the entrance of the restaurant, paid the driver generously, and got out. He gazed at the large, white, glowing letters above the door with a gloomy, dark look. Just a few months earlier they had spent some truly happy moments here. They had just found one another, and everything was still so unbelievable when they had come here to eat. It was so impossibly beautiful. And now… In fact, he did not know what exactly to expect. He had no idea what he expected or hoped, or what on earth he was actually doing there. Lana could be anywhere in the city – anywhere. It was only his instincts that led him here, because he could think of no better place he could have looked for her. He walked closer and closer to the restaurant, which, as it was illuminated for the evening, looked much more elegant than he remembered.
He reached the large glass windows, which were framed by terracotta-coloured curtains. He passed the entrance and reached the other row of large glass windows on the other side. He still refused to look inside. He had a strange feeling, as if he were up to some mischief and did not want to be caught. He finally reached the last window, facing the street, and noticed with relief that there was no one at the corner table. Through the transparent, veil-like curtain, a friendly, inviting light streamed out onto the street. He stayed there, halfway hidden by the wall. He did not want to be mistaken for some starving peeping Tom. He wasn’t sure how well the semi-dark street was visible from the inside. He lifted his head slowly and scrutinised the guests one by one. The restaurant was roughly half full with diners. Waiters came and went with their trays. His gaze glided from one table to the other, until he suddenly caught his breath. He froze in horror, his feet rooted to the spot as he glowered at the apparition before his eyes. In these moments, his most terrifying nightmare had materialised before him. He saw Lana at a table by the wall. There could be no mistake – it certainly was her. In a black silk dress, bright and beautiful, just as the old lady had described her. Only she was not alone. She was with a man. They sat across from one another, and the man looked tall and well built, even while sitting down. He had black or dark-brown hair, as far as Hayden could tell from the outside. His forehead was not too high, and it was partly covered by his longish, unkempt hair. The profile of his nose was straight and masculine. To Hayden, he certainly seemed far too handsome and laughed far too much. Lana laughed as well. They were apparently intimate because Lana reached over the table to ruffle his already dishevelled hair playfully, and then tugged at his collar a little, at which they both laughed heartily.
Hayden’s world turned upside down at the sight, and he lost the ground from under his feet. He turned away from the window and leaned against the wall with his back. He ran his fingers through his hair, and then rubbed his eyes with his palms vigorously, as if he could not believe them. He did not know what to think of this. Should he believe what he’d just seen? Tangled thoughts preyed at his mind.
There was no doubt that the woman he saw was Lana. Lana was accompanied by another man he had never seen before. The man was certainly not Ben Jones. He’d surely recognise that guy. It was also obvious that they were familiar with one another. They behaved as though they were in a close relationship. How could it be? How could it be that shortly after their date was cancelled, she was having dinner with a man, what’s more, in her favourite restaurant? Could the bond between them be of so little value? Could he mean so little to her? If he could not come to meet her, would she go out with someone else without hesitation?
His whole being, his mind and soul, protested against what he saw. He felt vaguely that something was amiss with the scene before him, but it was difficult to doubt his own eyes. Was he once again mistaken? Was it possible that the two of them regarded their relationship so differently? He turned back, and although the world was swirling around him, he fixed his eyes on the table beside the wall once again. The two people were visibly absorbed in conversation, and were no longer laughing. Lana tapped the man’s hand, at which he reached into his pocket and took out a small, rectangular object and put it on the table. She became very excited, and reached for the box. Hayden, fighting a wave of nausea, forced himself to keep watching them masochistically. Now Lana opened the box a little bit and playfully peeked inside. Then the man said something, and took it away from her. He took something out of the box, and held it towards Lana expectantly. What exactly the object in his hand was, Hayden could not make out, but he was certain it was some kind of jewellery. He thought it must be a ring. Lana looked delighted, and reached for the piece of jewellery. This was too much for him. He was unable to watch the scene any longer. He held onto the wall for support with one hand. He was breathing hard. He felt he could not take a step. There was a lump in his throat, and he was overcome by nausea. He had only one thought: Out! Out of here now!
He pushed himself away from the wall and headed in the direction he had come. He pressed his hand hard against his forehead, as if the gesture could erase the events of the last five minutes from his head. But the images he had just seen were burnt into his memory. He could not escape them, and no matter whether he opened or closed his eyes, he could only see Lana as she touched the hand of that other man. He barely noticed as he nearly knocked over a young, red-haired woman who was about to enter the restaurant, and who stared back at the strangely upset figure indignantly.
Dark clouds gathered over his head, which brought storm and destruction. The demons of hurt pride and jealousy took dwelling in his mind, and painted his thoughts black. Then will this woman be my destiny? Who is she that with one word or gesture, she can cast me down into the depths of hell or lift me into heaven? What witch is this? How can it be that I am so desperately addicted to her? Just like a drug addict. I just can’t escape from her. It’s as if she’s my personal brand of heroin. For a short fleeting happiness with her, I have to pay so dearly that no man in his right mind could bear it! This is too much… I can’t take this any longer! This is enough! Enough! his wounded dignity screamed inside.
At the next corner he gave up. Bending over, he vomited, then went to buy himself a mini whiskey at the kiosk. He wandered the streets almost unconsciously, and cursed himself under his breath for letting himself be fooled. He was convinced that Lana had been playing some sort of duplicitous game on him, and as time passed, he was pulled deeper and deeper into the bottomless whirlpool of blind jealousy. Finally, he reached the point in his self-tormenting agony where he questioned everything Lana had ever said about her emotions and her attraction towards him. The immense pain weighed on his soul so much that it became nearly unbearable. Then, perhaps as a way of self-defence, it got transformed into cold hatred. He deemed Lana a selfish, cruel woman, and wanted nothing else but to make her face the truth and leave her forever. After a while, he realised in astonishment that he had unconsciously wound up at Lana’s apartment. He wiped a last teardrop from his bloodshot eyes. His face was stiff as stone. His lips were pressed into a hard line. He sat down on the last step of the staircase leading up to the entrance and buried his face in his hands. The rain slowly started to drizzle, but his heart was already covered in thick ice.
It had been a while since Big Ben had struck 10 when Lana turned the corner in her car, looking for a parking spot. Since the apartment building didn’t have a private parking lot, it often happened that she could not park directly by the entrance, but was forced to leave the car a little further off. This was exactly what happened that evening. Although the rain had stopped, she wound the silk scarf around her neck one more time, and neared the front door at a quick pace. She already had her keys in her hand when she saw a stooping figure sitting on the ground. She gave a little shriek and started back. But as the person lifted his dark eyes, she recognised Hayden. He looked really terrible as he sat there with his wet hair and soaked suit. Lana was now truly frightened, and screamed louder than before.
For goodness’ sake, Hayden! What happened to you? You’re all soaked through, and your hair is all wet too!
Her voice was full of concern. All of her gestures testified to her gentleness. She crouched in front of him, and with one hand, she lightly stroked his wet hair. With the other hand, she wiped the water off his face, and looked straight into it.
Speak up! Did you have an accident? What happened to you? And how come you’re here at this hour anyway?
He thought how well she played her role, how concerned and caring she was. He closed his eyes for a moment and considered the tempting idea that he would tell her nothing of what he had seen. He could just let it go and surrender himself to this delight. He could allow this cruel and cunning angel – or whatever she was – to keep playing her games with him, until his heart simply burst with pain.
Is something wrong, darling?! she tried again, more and more desperately. What are you doing here in London anyway? Wasn’t it that… didn’t you say you couldn’t come back today? I thought…
This was the point, when Hayden dismissed the previous thought, opened his eyes, and icily glared at her.
You didn’t expect me to come back, did you? he said in a coarse voice with an unmistakable tone of scorn.
He pushed her hand away, stood up, and stepped back to distance himself from her. His whole posture radiated revulsion and contempt. Lana also straightened up, eyeing him uncomprehendingly and vexed.
She held one hand out towards him pleadingly, and hesitantly asked, What’s with you? How did you come back, and how long have you been sitting here? Please, let me come near you!”
Stay where you are!” he answered coldly. It’s pointless now! Can’t you see that?” He backed another step, and clenching his teeth, he groaned in a pained voice, Why do you do this to me? Why do you play with me? Why do you lie?
What are you talking about? Lana now raised her voice. Would you please tell me what has happened and why you are acting so weird? Did I hurt you somehow?”
Oh Lana, please!”
Hayden turned, and then he sighed deeply, turning his face up to the sky and laughing bitterly. His voice was on the verge of hysterics, which terrified Lana as well.
I have no idea what you’re talking about. I swear I have no idea, Hayden!
He turned back to her and slowly, coldly spat his words at her: I saw you.
She just stood there in complete confusion and waited for him to continue. When he did not, she merely repeated what she had heard from him. You saw me? What do you mean? What the hell are you talking about?
Oh, just quit acting, you liar! It’s pointless. I saw you.
Lana was taken aback by such rude words. She felt she was verging on madness and was completely at a loss for what to say or do to calm him. She searched her brain frantically. She strained her nerves as she tried to understand what was happening to them, what Hayden was talking about and why he was so beside himself.
Can’t you hear me? I don’t know what you’re talking about! Please, don’t do this to me! You’re scaring me, she said in a faltering voice, nearly crying.
She tried to approach him, but he suddenly stepped threateningly close to her and threw his words in her face. I saw you tonight at Zafferano. I saw you with that man at the table. I saw everything, understand? Everything! he breathed heavily in outrage.
For a while they stood face to face, wordlessly glaring at one another. Then Lana stepped back, and turned her back to him. She buried her face in her hands. Suddenly, everything became clear. She understood what had happened and why Hayden was so outraged. Finally, she saw the whole situation clearly, and she was deeply shaken by what she grasped. She tried to gather herself from this nearly shocked state, when she heard Hayden’s accusing voice coming from behind her back.
I assume you didn’t expect me to be here. Admit it! You didn’t expect me to ruin your evening!
Lana lowered her head in sorrow, and felt a teardrop run down her face. She imagined it leaving a burning scar behind, exactly as the one his words were burning now into her heart.
So, you saw me?” she asked quietly, turning towards Hayden. You saw me with a man after you cancelled our date. You made me think that you missed your flight and could by no means meet tonight.”
Her voice grew stronger and louder as she spoke. Her whole body tensed. Her hands were clenched with emotion.
It all changed at the last minute, and I couldn’t let you know, he continued with slight uncertainty. You didn’t answer any of my phone calls or any of my messages, so I just came here. I came here, trembling with happiness that I could see you again, but you’d already left.
Lana shook her head astounded, and pressed her hands against her mouth. My phone… had powered down…
The old lady from the ground floor told me you had left, dressed elegantly. Zafferano was the only place I could think of to look for you.
Hayden’s voice, even though he had done everything to prevent it, cracked with pain. And I did find you – in the company of another man, he finished with a groan, and mirthless, scornful laughter rose from his lips. Of course, it’s my fault. What did I expect?!
Lana shook her head in despair. Every single unfair word was a slap in her face. You’re ruining everything. You don’t trust me. You still don’t trust me. And you never will, she moaned in a faint voice. She wiped the tears off her face, gathered her strength, and straightened herself. She looked at Hayden straight in the eye, and began to talk bravely, but with pain.
The man you saw me with tonight… whom I was sitting with at the table… that man was my brother.
A dumbstruck silence filled the street.

Renata W. Müller is an author of Hungarian descent. She was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary and has lived in Switzerland for 14 years now. She writes contemporary romance, filled with passionate love, eternal obsession and family intrigue. She creates emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Her first novel was inspired by a very vivid dream which encouraged her to put pen to paper and so began the 7 Years Later Series. 
Author’s Note: 
Can you imagine falling in love with a fictional character, you created? This happens to me all the time. I hope you enjoy reading my novels as much as I enjoy writing them! 


Renata W. Müller said...

Thank you so much Kathleen!

Kathleen Kelly said...

You are very welcome!

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