When Lightning Strikes





  "Hannah is superb at delving into her main characters'

  psyches and delineating nuances of feeling."

  -The Washington Post Book World

  Romance writer Alaina Costanza has given up on dreams and fairy tales. Then one stormy night, she is suddenly plunged back in time to the wild, Western world of her

  newest novel. Disoriented and disbelieving, she is

  kidnapped by her own character, a ruthless outlaw known

  only as Killian. But this "dream" is all too real. Once

  wisecracking and invincible, Alaina is now a mother

  desperate to return to the child she left behind-one

  hundred years in the future. Yet Alaina and Killian will

  discover a love too magnificent to last a single lifetime. But

  for the sake of Alaina's child, they must risk it all and fight

  for a future that depends on lightning striking . . . twice.

  "Hannah writes with candor, tenderness, and vivid detail.

  Her characters are endearing and admirable."

  -Publishers Weekly

  Features a previevraf Kristin Hannah's new novel Between Sisters

  ISBN 0-449-14908-

  Look for Kristin Hannah's newest novel

  KRISTIN

  HANNAH

  BETWEEN CASTERS

  Ballantine / Del Rey/ Fawcett / Ivy / Presidio Press

  Praise for Kristin Hannah and

  "An exquisite tale of a woman at the crossroads of her life . . . There are real-life lessons here told with truth, humor, and courage. You will love this story."

  -ADRIANA TRIGIANI Author of Big Stone Gap

  "Tender and moving, [Distant Shores] will have you smiling one minute and reaching for the Kleenex the next."

  -EILEEN GOUDGE Author of Stranger in Paradise

  and Taste of Honey

  "Certain to strike a chord . . . Winning characterizations . . . and a few surprises." -The Seattle Times

  "In fast-moving prose punctuated by snappy asides, Hannah examines whether love and commitment are enough to sustain a marriage when two people who have put their individual dreams on ice get a chance to defrost them. . . . Bottom Line: Shore bet."

  -People

  "A compelling tale of true love ... A fun, worthy read full of honest emotion."

  -Jacksonville Times-Union

  By Kristin Hannah

  Published by Ballantine Books:

  A HANDFUL OF HEAVEN

  THE ENCHANTMENT

  ONCE IN EVERY LIFE

  IF YOU BELIEVE

  WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES

  WAITING FOR THE MOON

  HOME AGAIN

  ON MYSTIC LAKE

  ANGEL FALLS

  SUMMER ISLAND

  DISTANT SHORES

  Books published by The Ballantine Publishing Group are available at quantity discounts on bulk purchases for premium, educational, fund-raising, and special sales use. For details, please call 1-800-733-3000.

  Shellsburg Public Library

  BALLANTINE BOOKS NEW YORK

  Sale of this book without a front cover may be unauthorized. If this book is coverless, it may have been reported to the publisher as "unsold or destroyed" and neither the author nor the publisher may have received payment for it.

  This book contains an excerpt from the forthcoming hardcover edition of Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah. This excerpt has been set for this edition only and may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition.

  A Ballantine Book

  Published by The Random House Ballantine Publishing Group

  Copyright © 1994 by Kristin Hannah

  Excerpt from Between Sisters by Kristin Hannah copyright © 2003 by Kristin Hannah.

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by The Random House Ballantine Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.

  Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

  www.ballantinebooks.com

  Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 94-94404

  ISBN 0-449-14908-0

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  First Edition: November 1994

  0PM 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11

  To my father-in-law, Fred, who wanted a western,

  To my sister, Laura, for all her help and encouragement, and

  To my own everyday heroes, Benjamin and Tucker. Love makes believers of us all.

  Dear Reader:

  Welcome to my world. It's a place of myth and magic and impossibility, where fact has an unpredictable way of becoming fiction. So put your feet up and suspend your disbelief, and come with me to a realm of sheer imagination.

  Oh, and one more thing. Ask yourself what you would do- what you would think-if tomorrow you woke up in a different time, in a world that couldn't possibly exist. Ask yourself what you would do if you stood beneath the lightning and nothing was ever quite the same again. . . .

  DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

  All this time the guard was looking at her,

  first through a telescope,

  then through a microscope,

  and then through an opera glass,

  at last he said, "You're traveling the wrong way,"

  and shut up the window....

  "No, no, the adventures first,"

  said the Gryphon in an impatient tone.

  "The explanations take such a dreadful time."

  -from the works of Lewis Carroll

  Chapter One

  NEW YORK PRESENT DAY

  "So, Ms. Costanza, how much sexual research do you do?"

  Even now, almost four hours after the Geraldo interview, Lainie winced at the offensive question.

  She played and replayed it in her mind, every time coming up with a witty, stinging retort. So, Geraldo, how much research did you do before you blasted Ca-pone's basement on prime time?

  Of course, she hadn't said anything that clever or intelligent. Oh, no. Not her. She'd let anger get the best of her—again—and spoken without thinking. "Could you ask a stupider question, Geraldo? Really, inquiring minds want to know."

  She winced at the memory. She should have known better than to respond so bluntly. He was much too skilled an interviewer to let some historical romance author make a fool of him on national television. He'd seen right off that she was hostile, so he'd adroitly cut her off in midsentence and gone on to another guest. A woman who did as she was supposed to—blush and squirm and apologize for the books she worked so hard to create.

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  He'd also been smart enough not to come back to Lainie. He hadn't asked her another question for the remainder of the hour. She'd sat there, pinned to her uncomfortable chair like a dead insect, barely listening to what was going on around her, waiting desperately to be let loose.

  God, it had been awful. It wasn't until now, hours later, in the anonymous, vast open space of John F. Kennedy International Airport, that she'd finally begun to relax.

  She glanced sideways at the woman beside her. Judith gave her a tense, irritated smile, and Lainie knew immediately that she shouldn't have made eye contact. Her editor was still spitting mad.

  "Did you have to look at your watch so often?" Judith snapped.

  Lainie lit up a Marlboro. Dropping her purse on the pile of cheap powder blue luggage heaped beside her left ankle, she glanced at her editor. "I only take that kind of shit from men I'm in love with."

  Judith shoved a well-manicured hand through her blunt-cut, Clairol-blond hair. Behind her, a steady strea
m of people pushed through the security checkpoint. "But it was so ... hostile. You practically told America you thought you were wasting your time."

  "I was."

  'The publicity director worked damned hard to get you on that show. National exposure isn't easy."

  Lainie rolled her eyes. "The next time someone says the words 'national media tour,' I'm going to projectile-vomit. Maybe that'll get my point across."

  Judith almost smiled in spite of herself and shook her head. "I knew I shouldn't have picked your manuscript out of the slush pile. I should have taken that one about the cross-dressing pirate. Now, that was a book."

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  Lainie smiled at the familiar complaint. It was the same thing her friend had been saying for ten years. Back then, Judith had been a hungry young editorial assistant, and Lainie a dreamer. Now Jude had her own imprint, and Lainie was a New York Times best-selling author. "And especially relevant for today's readers."

  "I don't think you're cut out for television interviews. You were so ... testy."

  Lainie laughed. "I'm a testy kind of gal. Ask anyone."

  Judith snatched the cigarette from Lainie and took a long drag, blowing the smoke out in a hurried puff. "Why should I bother to verify the obvious? You spend more time alone than anyone I know. If I hadn't personally seen you in the daylight, I'd swear you were a vampire."

  Lainie shrugged. "I like being alone. I don't need anyone besides Kelly."

  Judith took another drag and handed the cigarette back. "Your daughter's a nice kid—in a prepubescent coil of hormones sort of way—but she's not enough, Lainie. You've got to get out of the house."

  Lainie snorted. "Who do you think I am ... Madonna? I get out of the house every day. I go to the grocery store, the mailbox, the .. ."

  Judith gave her a knowing look. "Uh-huh."

  Lainie extinguished her cigarette in a nearby ash can. "I'm fine, Jude. Don't worry about me. Okay?"

  "I wouldn't waste my time worrying about an author. You're all a bunch of self-absorbed, undisciplined media hogs."

  Lainie cracked a smile. "Yeah, be sure and book me on the Howard Stern show as quickly as possible. I'm on a roll."

  4

  Judith gave her an arch, knowing look. "You need a roll ... in the hay, if you get my drift."

  "It would be hard to miss, Jude. But there's not a lot of hay in Seattle. Especially not healthy, heterosexual, single hay. But if I find a bale, I'll give it a good roll."

  Jude hesitated. "I mean it, Lainie. You know how you get when Kelly's gone."

  Lainie flinched. "She'll be back in two weeks."

  Judith started to reach out to Lainie, then checked the impulse. Reluctantly she drew her hand back and pressed it to her side. "Why don't you stick around for a while? Les and I would love to have you over."

  Lainie looked into her friend's eyes, wishing, just this once, she could relax enough to let someone care for her. "Thanks, Jude." Her voice was embarrassingly husky. "But I've got to learn how to cope with this. Kelly's getting older. She'll be leaving ... more."

  "I know, hon."

  Lainie cleared her throat and reached down for her mismatched luggage. "Well, I better run or I'll miss the plane."

  Judith gave her a sad, understanding smile. A look that said too much from a woman who never would. "Don't forget, kiddo, if anyone asks you who you are on the plane, make up a name. We don't want your readers to know that Alaina Costanza is a foulmouthed, spike-haired, tattooed slob with a carton of Marlboro Lights sticking out of her handbag."

  Lainie grinned at the familiar advice, knowing it was only half a joke. Her downtown, tough-girl look was a far cry from the media image of a romance writer. Oversized sweaters, holey Levi's, and cowboy boots weren't exactly the outfit du jour. " 'Bye, Jude."

  Jude's smile dipped a fraction; her gaze turned serious,

  5

  maybe even a little sad. " 'Bye, hon. I'll be waiting for the Lightning manuscript."

  The two friends stared at each other for longer than they should have; perhaps it was only a second too long, but Lainie knew instantly that it was a mistake. She sighed. Christ, she hated good-byes. She stiffened and tossed Jude a half-assed smile. "Not long, you won't."

  "Safe flight. Don't ... drink too much."

  Lainie made a harsh, defiant sound that was meant to be laughter, but even to her own ears sounded more like a snarl. "Is that possible?"

  Jude's attempt at a smile made Lainie feel even worse. 'Take care of yourself these next two weeks. Don't fall so deeply into your book that you don't have a life."

  "I wish to hell I could fall that deeply in, Jude."

  Judith reached for her. "Oh, Alaina .. ."

  Lainie lurched backward before Judith could touch her. Resettling the garment bag's wide nylon strap on her narrow shoulder, she gave Jude a cocky grin. "Well, gotta run. 'Bye, Jude."

  " 'Bye, Lainie."

  Lainie straightened and headed toward her gate.

  Judith watched Lainie walk away. The younger woman's body was perfectly erect, her back ramrod-stiff, her legs pumping in that no-nonsense, ground-gobbling march that was her usual gait. Her narrow shoulders were drawn up high and held stiff, her left elbow was pressed protectively against her waist, as if she were afraid to accidentally touch or be touched. Somehow, even as she moved through the sea of hurried travelers, she was a woman distant and alone.

  For years, Jude had watched her friend contain real life within the parameters of a blue screen. Except for

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  motherhood, writing was all Lainie had, all she claimed to want. The work was a refuge for Alaina, a safe place where she could control fate.

  "Please ..." She mouthed the single word, wondering what she could ask of the God with whom she so rarely spoke. "Watch out for Alaina. Let the book take care of her until Kelly gets back."

  The book. Jude shook her head, frowning. It was so little, so damned little. But without Kelly, it was all Lainie had.

  Bainbridge Island, Washington

  Lainie stood at her bedroom window, staring out at the dark, rain-drenched night, trying to be brave and failing miserably. Water hammered the pane in an endless, pounding heartbeat. Wind howled through the huddled, quaking stand of dogwood trees that bordered her small lot. Every new gust wrenched off another fistful of summer-green leaves, sending the tender branches tumbling through the stormy night. Beside her window, a maple tree shuddered at the onslaught, tapping a long, gnarled wooden finger against the glass.

  Lainie brought the cigarette to her lips and took a drag. The sharp, unpleasant taste of the smoke scalded her throat and lungs. When she drew her hand back it was shaking so badly, it sent a spray of fluttering ashes across the hardwood floor.

  "Damn," she cursed, glancing quickly around for her ashtray. She found it, overflowing, on the piano, and stabbed the cigarette out.

  A drink, she thought suddenly. She needed a good, strong drink. She stumbled through her living room and reached for the bottle of Jack Daniel's she kept stashed behind the stereo. She wrenched off the top and took a

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  long gulp. The liquor burned a path down her throat and puddled, hot and pulsing, in her stomach. For a second, a brief, fitful heartbeat, she felt almost warm. Then the cold began to creep in again, curling around her heart, chilling her deeper than her bones, chilling her to her soul.

  She took another huge swallow and wiped her mouth with her sleeve. After about three more drinks, a pleasant, familiar lethargy stole through her bloodstream, easing the cold burden of fear.

  She set the bottle down with a sloshing clank and padded to her bedroom, sitting on the edge of her unmade bed and pulling the pile of blue flannel sheeting around her body. She hugged herself and slumped forward, staring dry-eyed at the floor. God, she hated rainstorms .. . and being alone.

  The phone rang.

  She dove across the bed and grabbed the receiver
. "H-Hello?"

  "Mom?" Kelly's small, quiet voice slid through the telephone wires.

  Lainie swallowed hard. Tears welled in her throat, stung her eyes. It took every ounce of self-control she possessed not to let them fall. "Hi, baby," she breathed, hating the trembling sound of her voice.

  "It's raining here in Montana, and I figured it was probably worse at home. I thought ... you know, I was worried about you."

  Lainie squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath. Thank you, God; thank you for giving me this child. "Nothing to worry about, sweet pea. I'm fine. More importantly, how are you?"

  A sigh of relief moved through the phone. "I'm great, Mom. This is a totally cool place. Tomorrow we're heading out. Mr. Hade—he's the trail guide—has provisions tied to trees at certain places. We've got compasses to find the food. Then we set up tents, cook the food, and go to sleep. So I won't be able to call again till we make it back down the trail."

  The words caught Lainie off guard. "Oh." She knew it wasn't the right thing to say, knew she should say more, but the words were lodged in her throat, held in place by fear and a parent's desperation.

  "Is that okay?" Kelly's voice had gone quiet again, hesitant.

  Lainie cursed her own neuroses. "It's fine, baby. Hey, they don't call it survival training for nothing."

  Kelly laughed, a high, pure, clear sound that washed through Lainie like an elixir. "Yeah, Mom."

  "I ... I miss you, baby."

  "I miss you, too."

  "I'll talk to you when you get back. When will that be ... ten days?"

  "Twelve. And, Mom?"

  "Yeah, honey?"

  "Take care of yourself, okay?"

  Lainie thought about the cigarettes, which she never smoked when Kelly was home, and the Jack Daniel's she'd downed a few minutes ago. She winced, feeling the sting of shame and regret. She wanted to say, I'll try. It was all she could realistically promise, all she could hope for. But it wasn't enough for a bighearted thirteen-year-old. Kelly didn't deserve to worry about her schizoid mother all the time.

  "I will, Kel. Don't you worry about me, okay? You and Jennifer just have fun."

  " 'Bye, Mom. I love you."

  "I love you, too."

  Click. The connection went dead. Lainie listened to

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  the droning buzz of the empty line for a few minutes, then slowly put the receiver back in its cradle.

  She squeezed her eyes shut, felt the familiar sting of tears.

  She'd known how it would feel to let Kelly go to camp, of course, known the wrenching sense of loss that would descend, known, too, that she had to say yes.

  But knowing that didn't stop the hurt. She reached blindly for the bottle of sleeping pills beside her bed. She needed the oblivion, needed not to think about this for a while. If she thought about it anymore, she was going to start crying. And if she started, she might never stop.