Saturday Excerpt: Right Where We Belong by Brenda Novak
Savanna’s life unravels when it’s revealed that her husband has attacked three women. Luckily for her and her children, she can go to Silver Springs to restart her life…and maybe even meet someone worth falling for.
About Right Where We Belong:
Savanna Gray needs a do-over. Her “perfect” life unraveled when, to her absolute shock, her husband was arrested for attacking three women. With her divorce settled, she takes her two children home to Silver Springs to seek refuge between the walls of the farmhouse where she was born. It needs a little TLC, but she’s eager to take control of something.
Gavin Turner understands the struggle of starting over. Abandoned at a gas station when he was five, it wasn’t until he landed at New Horizons Boys Ranch as a teen that he finally found some peace. He steps up when Savanna needs help fixing things—even when those things go beyond the farmhouse.
Despite an escalating attraction to Gavin, Savanna resolves to keep her distance. She trusted her ex, who had a similarly tragic background, and is unwilling to repeat her past mistakes. But it’s hard to resist a man whose heart is as capable as his hands.
“You knew! You had to have known!”
The vitriol in those words caused the hair on the back of Savanna Gray’s neck to stand on end. She was just trying to pick up a gallon of milk at the supermarket with her kids, had never dreamed she might be accosted—although since her husband’s arrest, it felt like everyone in town was staring daggers at her. The crimes Gordon committed had shaken the small, insular town of Nephi, Utah, to the core.
“Don’t you dare run off!” someone said behind her. “I know you heard me.”
Savanna froze. She had been about to flee. Her emotions were so raw she could barely make herself leave the house these days. She wished she could hole away with the curtains drawn and never face her neighbors again. But she had two children who were depending on her, and she was all they had left. Those children now looked up at her expectantly, and her son, Bran- son, who was eight, said, “Mommy, I think that lady’s talking to you.”
Gripping her shopping cart that much tighter, Savanna swung it around. She was determined to do a better job of defending herself against this type of thing than she’d done in the past. But then she recognized Meredith Caine.
A videotape of Meredith—clothes torn, mascara smeared and lip bleeding while her sister, who was with her now, tried to comfort her—had played on the news several times while police searched for the man who’d attacked her as she carried a load of laundry down to the basement of her apartment building. That man was Savanna’s husband. Since his arrest, Savanna’s house had been egged—twice. Someone had driven onto her lawn and peeled out, leaving deep ruts. And someone else had thrown a bottle at her parked car that’d broken all over the driveway. But she’d never been directly confronted by one of Gordon’s victims, only their friends or family or others in the community who were outraged by the assaults.
Facing Meredith wasn’t easy. Savanna wished she could melt into the floor and disappear—do anything to avoid this encounter. Meredith didn’t understand. Savanna had watched her on TV with the same compassion and fear all the other women in the area felt. She’d had no idea she was living with the culprit, sleeping with him—and enabling him to operate without suspicion because of the illusion she helped create that he was a good family man. She’d thought he was a good family man, or she wouldn’t have married him!
“Meredith, don’t do this. Let’s go.” Her sister tried to drag her off, but Meredith remained rooted to the spot, eyes shining with outrage.
“Where were you, huh?” she cried. “How could you have missed that your husband was out stalking women at night?”
Gordon had been a mining equipment field service technician for the last seven years of their nine-year marriage, which meant he drove long distances to reach various mines and worked irregular hours. Savanna had believed he was on the road or repairing equipment, like he said. She’d had no idea he was out prowling around. Despite what Meredith and everyone else seemed to believe—that simply by virtue of being close to him she should’ve been able to spot such a large defect in his character—he’d never done anything to give himself away.
“I thought… I thought he was doing his job,” she said.
“You believed he was working all those hours?” Meredith scoffed.
“I did.” She hadn’t been checking up on him. She’d been trying to manage the kids, the house and her own job working nine to five for a local insurance agent. Besides, Gordon always had a ready excuse for when he came home later than expected, a believable excuse. Another piece of equipment had failed and he’d had to drive back to his last location. His van wouldn’t start, and he’d had to stay over to get a new battery. The weather was too terrible to begin the long trek home.
Were those excuses something a wife should have been leery of?
“Maybe you should’ve paid a little more attention to what he was doing,” Meredith snapped.
Savanna began to tremble. “I wish I had. Look, I’d be happy to talk to you—to explain my side so that maybe you could understand. But please, let’s not do this here, in front of my children.”
Meredith didn’t even glance at Branson and Alia.
She was too angry, too eager to inflict some of the pain she’d suffered on Savanna. “Your husband didn’t care about my children when he put his hands around my neck and nearly choked the life out of me. Thanks to him, I haven’t been able to have sex with my own husband since!”
“Meredith!” Her sister gasped, obviously more aware of the children and, likely, the attention this confrontation was drawing.
Alia, Savanna’s six-year-old daughter, pulled on Savanna’s sleeve. “Mommy, why did Daddy choke her?” she whispered loudly, her big blue eyes filling with tears.
“Your father…” Savanna’s throat had tightened until she could scarcely breathe, let alone talk. “He made some poor choices, honey. Like we talked about when he went away, remember?”
“Choices?” Meredith jumped on that immediately. “That man is pure evil. But keep lying—to them and yourself.”
At that point, Meredith’s sister managed to pull her away. They left Savanna standing in front of the cooler that held the milk and cheese, feeling as if she’d been slugged in the stomach.
“Show’s over,” she mumbled to those who’d stopped to watch the drama unfold.
“The kids at school say Daddy grabbed three women and ripped off their clothes,” Branson said, his voice small as his gaze followed Meredith and her sister to the checkout register at the opposite end of the aisle. “That’s true, isn’t it.”
He wasn’t asking. He was just now realizing that Gordon wasn’t innocent as they’d all stubbornly hoped.
That her son would have to accept such a terrible truth, especially at his tender age, would’ve broken Savanna’s heart—if it hadn’t already been shattered into a million pieces. “They’ve been talking about your father at school?”
For the most part since Gordon’s arrest, Branson had clammed up when it came to discussing his father, pretended as if nothing had changed. Almost every day, Savanna would ask him how things were going at school, and he’d insist everything was fine.