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Deanna Lynn Sletten
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Michael DeCara came home from the Vietnam War a wounded man, both physically and emotionally. He tried putting his life back together, but found civilian life difficult after all he’d experienced in
Danielle Westerly fell in love when she was only eighteen and her heart was broken when he left her without a word. Her heartache was increased when she made a fateful decision that would alter her future, and she blamed him for her loss. Years later, she is single and has built up a successful career when she accidently runs into the man who was responsible for her past pain. Yet, their chemistry is undeniable. Can Dani give up her anger and let go of the pain of the past and fall in love again with the man she has hated all these years?
Contemporary Women's Fiction
MEMORIES is now available in Audio Book.
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Please enjoy the Prologue & First Chapter of MEMORIES:
Dani lifted her eyes and glanced at the group of people surrounding the gravesite. Her dearest friend, Catherine, stood only a few feet away, next to her husband, Richard. Dani knew Cathy was trying to be strong but tears welled in her eyes. Kevin Lindstrom, a dear family friend and Michael’s closest friend, stood with the other veterans from the Veterans of Foreign Wars in his dress uniform looking serious and sad. Other veteran friends of Michael’s, as well as employees, neighbors, and business associates, huddled around the gravesite, all dressed in black with somber faces.
“Oh, Grandmom.” Dani’s twenty-one year old granddaughter, Michelle, came up beside her and slipped her arm around Dani’s waist. Dani did the same, and the two women who loved Michael DeCara the most held onto each other as the last prayers were said.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Amen. Dani heard the words being repeated by the group of family and friends but did not repeat them herself. She and Michelle held each other tighter as the coffin was slowly lowered into the ground. As it was lowered inch by inch, Dani’s heart sank with it.
The minister nodded to Dani and Michelle and the two women stepped forward. Dani bent and picked up a handful of fresh dirt and let it slowly fall through her fingers onto the coffin now resting deep within the earth. Michelle kissed the single red rose she was holding and dropped it into the open space. It landed softly on the center of the coffin. So, this is what it all comes down to after eighteen years of happiness, Dani thought. A prayer, a handful of dirt, and a single rose. One lone tear trickled down her cheek as she reached out to embrace Michelle, and then the two women slowly made their way back to the small crowd of people.
The minister handed Dani a snowy-white handkerchief to wipe the dirt from her hands, then hugged her gently as she thanked him for the lovely service. In turn, she thanked the veteran members from the VFW for participating in the military funeral. She knew that the playing of Taps and the twenty-one gun salute would have made Michael very proud. She hugged Kevin, thanking him for arranging the military funeral for Michael. Cathy came up to Dani and hugged her friend close, the flag pressed between them. A quiet invitation to come back to the house for lunch circulated around the group as Dani held out her hand to Michelle and they walked slowly back to the limousine with Michelle’s boyfriend, Alex, following close behind.
All Dani wanted to do was go home, draw the shades, and crawl into the bed she and Michael shared for the past eighteen years, but she knew that wouldn’t be possible for several more hours. There was lunch to be served, people to commiserate with, and sympathetic nods and words to endure. It was all well-meaning, but draining nonetheless, but she steeled herself to make it through the rest of this heartbreaking day.
As the limousine made its way through the curving roads of the cemetery, Dani took one last look at the now deserted gravesite on top of the hill. She wouldn’t remember Michael this way, nor the way he looked just before cancer took his last breath. Her memories would always be of him exactly as he was the first time she loved him and the second time they found each other again. She reached for Michelle’s hand and looked into her green eyes, so much like her mother’s, and it brought all those memories flooding back to her.
Eighteen Years Earlier
Danielle Westerly cruised along the Wisconsin Interstate in her royal-blue Grand Am as the radio played softly from the back speakers. The midday sun felt glorious on her arm perched outside the window as the spring breeze whipped at her golden-blonde hair. She had chosen to take the extra time to drive instead of fly to
and as she viewed the lush scenery around her, she was pleased with her
decision. Although she had already been driving eight hours, and still had
several more to go, she felt happy and carefree sailing along the highway on
this beautiful May afternoon. Chicago
Dani's boss had thought her crazy when she said she was going to drive. "That's too far to go alone," he’d told her. Dani had shrugged off his protests. At thirty-seven, she was used to doing everything alone, and a drive from Minneapolis to Chicago didn't seem far to her.
She also appreciated the time away from work, even though the trip was work related. As the sportswear buyer for Chance's Department Store, one of Minneapolis' largest department stores, she worked long hours keeping on top of the latest trends, marketing the purchases, consulting with the department managers and salesclerks, setting prices, and everything else her position entailed, that she rarely took time off. And now, since jewelry had been added to her buying activities, she was busier than ever. But she loved her work and all the travel that went with it. After all, it was her entire life.
Seeing that the highway she wanted to continue taking veered off to the left, Dani checked her rearview mirror and moved into the left lane. She noted a van as it passed her on the right and saw a small face look out at her, then a little hand wave as the van took the road to the right.
Dani smiled at the young child's face until he disappeared from view. Children. She had once wanted children, two, maybe three. But all that was decided for her when she'd made the mistake of falling in love with the wrong man. Because of one bad decision made in her youth, she would never have children of her own. And even though she had accepted that fact many years ago, it still came back to haunt her, especially lately, ever since her friend and coworker, Janette, became pregnant with her first child. Throughout the months, Dani had watched Janette grow large and heard nothing but talk about babies. Janette complained about being fat and clumsy but Dani knew that deep down she was enjoying every precious moment, every kick and wiggle inside her.
Dani was happy for her friend but found herself thinking more and more of what she would never experience, and the thought depressed her. However, Janette had done everything right. She'd finished college, married, built up her career as the coat buyer for Chance's and now, when everything was perfect, was having a baby. It wasn't Janette's fault that Dani had made a fateful decision that changed her future. It was only Dani's fault. His fault, too.
Dani turned up the volume on the radio in an attempt to keep her mind in the present and on the road ahead and not on the past. "Hotel California" by The Eagles began playing across the airwaves and Dani had to force herself not to snap the radio off. Another reminder of her past. She had once loved this song and The Eagles like she had loved him. Now the music only reminded her of the past and the man that she wished she could forget. After all, what had happened was another lifetime, back when she still lived with her parents in northern
leaving home to attend college at the California ,
then landing the position at Chance's upon graduation, Dani had decided never
to go back. And now that her parents were retired and living in a small resort
town in northern University of Minnesota Minnesota, she no longer had
any reason to go back to .
That was fine with her since it meant no chance of ever seeing him again, not
even by accident. California
Once again, Dani tried turning her thoughts to the trip at hand. As she drove along, reaching the
Illinois border, she thought of
Catherine, the friend she was going to see tomorrow in . It had been two years since she’d
last seen her former roommate, so Dani was happy the buyers meetings in Chicago had come up. It
gave her an excuse to see Cathy and to finally meet Cathy's new man, Michael,
who Dani had heard about through Cathy's letters. Dani laughed to herself over
Cathy's excited banter on paper. She had always been energetic and cheerful and
even her letters could not contain her vivaciousness. In college, Catherine had
been the light side to Dani's serious nature. Whenever Dani became depressed or
discouraged, Cathy was there to keep her smiling and laughing. Without Cathy's
upbeat personality, Dani might never have made it through the rigors of college
life. The two helped each other through economic courses, impossible
professors, and over-eager males. Even now, when things got tense, all Dani
needed to do was talk to Cathy and she felt much better. Chicago
Since they were both in the retail business, they could relate to each other's work problems. Cathy was the assistant to the owner of Regal Coats, a premier coat manufacturing company, and it was her boss she'd raved about over the past year. She was in love, thought he might actually be ‘the one’, and couldn't wait for Dani to meet him.
Night fell as Dani entered the city and found her hotel. It was late by the time she slipped between the bed’s crisp sheets. She had to rise early for an eight o'clock morning meeting and then head over to Cathy's apartment for lunch. As Dani drifted off to sleep, exhausted from her long drive,
's lights sparkled below her hotel
room window. Chicago
Miguel DeCara lay crouched beneath the jungle bushes and vines, not quite sure where he was or what direction to go next. He knew for certain that the enemy was up ahead but he had no idea how close or how far—or how many. His comrades were beside him and behind him, but the jungle's dense brush hid everyone from view.
The smell of smoke and gunpowder assailed his senses as he clutched his M-16 tightly, listening for any movement, any sign. Without warning, all hell broke loose and gunfire flailed around him. He heard the soldier on his right yell out as the bullets hit him and the sound of another body falling in the brush to his left. Screaming and yelling surrounded him as he stood from his hiding place in time to see a Viet Cong come straight at him. Without hesitation, Miguel fired his weapon, killing his enemy. And for only a second, he looked at the dead man before him, thinking how different it would have been had they met somewhere sane like New York or L.A. or even Chicago. Hell, they might have even been friends. But instead, here, they were enemies.
"Fall back!" the commanding officer yelled from behind, and Miguel instantly doubled back in the direction he had come. Shots snapped over his head. To his left a hand grenade went off, making him veer off to the right when suddenly his left foot stepped onto a hidden mine and all he heard was ‘click’.
Michael sat straight up in bed and instinctively reached down to feel his left leg. Yes, it was still there, not completely perfect, or the same as it had once been, but there. Wiping the sweat from his face with the back of his hand, he looked around the dark room for several minutes before assuring himself he was not in
it was not 1970. He was safe in his own apartment high above the Nam lights. Chicago
Michael checked the clock on his nightstand. 3:30 a.m. He slid out of bed and walked through the dark apartment, opened the refrigerator door, and drank deeply from a carton of orange juice. In the light of the refrigerator, he smiled to himself, thinking of his daughter, Vanessa, and how she used to say "Gross Dad!" every time he did this. But his daughter was no longer living with him, she was grown-up and married and had a daughter of her own now, and she ran the New York division of Regal Coats.
Michael had raised her by himself after his wife decided she could no longer handle being his wife or a mother. He'd only been home from
for eight months, trying
his best to cope with civilian life and get back to being the husband and
father he had been before shipping out. But Diane couldn't take the nightly
screams of anguish he suffered or his constant tenseness or times of
distraction. All she knew was he wasn't the same man she’d married and she
didn't want to get to know this new man, so she left him and Vanessa to fend
for themselves and joined a commune in Oregon to ‘find herself’. Vietnam
Michael juggled the next few years raising Vanessa alone while going through an endless procession of jobs and women, unable to commit to either. He felt so dirty, so unworthy of enjoying life after all the death he'd seen and been a part of in
that he was unable to maintain a relationship with any one woman for a long
period of time. He knew it was wrong to jump from woman to woman, and he was
careful that Vanessa never caught on to his exploits, but he couldn't stop
himself. Like the pot he'd become addicted to in Nam , so was he addicted to women.
He’d meet a woman and feel good for the moment, the hour, or the day, then he'd
plunge back down and need another and another. Nam
He remembered few faces and names, and the women all reacted much like his wife had to his constant nightmares. It scared them, or baffled them, except for one young woman. When he'd screamed out in fear or pain from a nightmare, she'd held him and rocked him in her arms until he’d calmed down. She'd whisper over and over to him that he was all right, he was home, and she was with him, until he would slowly come out of his nightmare state and back to his senses. She had also been the only one to suggest he go for counseling to help him through his pain. "If not for you," she'd said gently, "then for Vanessa." Sweet little six-year-old Vanessa who she had grown to love in the few months she’d known them. But he'd balked at the idea that he needed help. He could handle everything on his own. He didn't need an eighteen-year-old girl to tell him what he should do.
She had been one of the longest relationships he'd had, and she had been the last of the string of women. After her, his life changed overnight, without warning or preparation. He was forced to change his ways and clean up his act as responsibility was dropped into his lap.
Michael placed the half-empty carton back into the refrigerator, walked to his bedroom, and slipped between the sheets. He had an eight o'clock meeting in the morning and he had promised Catherine he'd be at her place by eleven o'clock for lunch. She was expecting an old college roommate of hers to visit and she wanted Michael to meet her.
He smiled to himself at the thought of Catherine. At forty-four, he was seven years her senior, but he looked much younger than his age. His build was strong from regular workouts, and even though his dark hair and full beard showed a few strands of silver, it only added to his rugged good looks. His deep gray eyes and golden brown skin could not deny his Portuguese heritage, although he had given up his true first name of Miguel for the American version. Women were attracted to him easily, but he'd been out of the market for a long time while he worked hard at the business and raised Vanessa. Only with Vanessa married and gone did he begin to allow himself the pleasure of women in his life again, and along came Catherine, beautiful, softly rounded, energetic yet easy-going. He enjoyed her company, especially in bed, and they had a few interests in common, like racquetball and tennis, along with working in the coat industry. Unfortunately, he wasn't interested in much more from her than just fun and companionship and lately he'd sensed from her an eagerness to commit. He wasn't ready for that now, and maybe he never would be.
This time when Michael finally fell to sleep his dreams were not filled with smoke and heat and death, but instead with the face of a young, blonde, blue-eyed woman telling him he was okay, everything was going to be fine.
I hope you enjoyed this sample of MEMORIES. See what others are saying about this novel.
Nicholas Sparks could not have done better... March 18, 2012 - Amazon
"This is the second of Deanna Lynn Sletten's books that I have read, and I have nothing but praise for her. Not only does she have an excellent writing style, she is not afraid to take on the tough subjects. In this book, it is Vietnam vets and the shabby way they were treated when they came home. In her book Widow, Virgin, Whore, it is AIDS. She deftly crafts her words so that we are totally engaged with the characters-- how their past has led to their present, and where they go from here.
Though the ending of this book seemed inevitable to me at the outset, it did not end at all like I had expected-- and I could not put it down till I was finished. Yes, it is a very emotional book-- keep the tissues handy-- but read this book! You will be glad you did."
"I really enjoyed reading Memories. The author has such a smooth writing style I just wanted to turn off all the phones, curl up in my quilt, and read. Miguel was a young Vietnam veteran dealing with symptoms of posttraumatic stress when he met Dani. She stood by him through it all until he finally pushed her away just when she needed him most. Years later they accidentally discover each other again, but is it too late? Even though he claims to love her, can Dani trust him? Or will he break her heart like before? This was a very satisfying book. I think anyone who has ever been in love will enjoy this story." 5 Star Review on Amazon
"It is so great to find such a talented new author. This story has the perfect combination of romance and mystery, and she makes the characters both believable and likeable. I can hardly wait until her next book is released!" - 5 Star Review on Amazon