Prologue / Love at First Sight
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Copyright © 2016 by Khristina Atkinson


New York, December 1985

Julia Hollingsworth was engaged to another man when she noticed Travis Collins at a Christmas party. One of the professors they had in common hosted the event at his home. She observed him blatantly staring at her each time she glanced his way.

She contemplated most women would find him discernibly handsome with his ebony hair and eyes the color of a Ceylon sapphire. His navy suit fit him like a glove and was paired with a cerulean dress shirt. Blue just so happened to be her favorite color. When he smiled at her, his dimples were revealed. Apparently, a weakness discovered that very moment. She could not resist and shyly smiled back.

He had been nonchalantly working his way over to her. Every time she moved in the opposite direction to avoid him, he followed her. She gave herself a harsh mental scolding for the mistake of expressing a sign she was interested.  

“I need it back.”

Julia raised her right eyebrow slightly higher than the left. “What?”

“My heart. You just stole it.”

She couldn’t hold back her amused laughter at his clever attempt to grab her attention. “Does that cheesy pick-up line work on all the girls?”

“I don’t know. You’re the only one I’ve ever used it on. You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Julia tried to dissuade him with the confession she had a fiancé named Howard Kensington. His family was equal in wealth and status to her own. Her father, Edward Hollingsworth, considered him to be an appropriate match. Their fathers did not even try to hide the fact they made a pact when the children were born to use not-so-subtle influence and persuade them to marry one day.

Julia was not aware arranged marriages still existed in the modern-day world until her father pushed her to date Howard when she turned sixteen. When she developed an attraction for boys, he practically insisted the two of them become a couple. His daughter was too good for every other member of the opposite sex.

Howard was attractive and intelligent—everything most women wanted in a man, but Julia did not love him. She chose to attend a different college, hoping time and distance would put an end to their relationship. Her tactic didn’t achieve the desired results. He continued to show up at family dinners whenever she was at home on breaks.

The summer after their first year of college, Richard, Howard’s father, and Edward decided the time was right. Howard proposed, and Julia was urged to accept. Her father expressed in no uncertain terms that by declining, she would create an embarrassing situation for their family.


Travis did not lie when he confessed to Julia’s pulchritude. A classic black dress showed off her figure magnificently. Her light brown hair was naturally curly. She had it pulled up, and a single curl dangled down the right side of her face. He fought the urge to reach over and touch the ringlet. His first glance into her big hazel eyes mesmerized him. Not being the type of man to believe in love at first sight, gazing at her lovely face for just a few minutes persuaded him to change his mindset.

Travis could care less about Julia’s fiancé or the prestigious last name of his rival for her affection. His father had been killed in a mine explosion when he was a young boy. The accident gave his mother, Katherine, the resources to send him to any college he chose. She remained frugal with the settlement over the years and only allowed the money to be spent on necessities. When she died of cancer a little over a year before, he invested most of his funds in high risk stocks. He researched them and went with his gut. He rarely chose wrong.

Travis was twenty-one years old and nearly a millionaire. Friends described him as confident and ambitious with clear-cut goals for his future that he would undoubtedly achieve with his determination. He took one look at Julia and his priorities shifted to include her in the life he previously mapped out for himself. He could not wait to graduate and take over the world—but first, he had to get the girl.

After Travis chatted with Julia for almost an hour, she conspicuously glanced down at her watch for a few seconds and made an attempt to bid him adieu. He was not ready to let her go.  “I won’t allow you leave until you promise you’ll see me again.”

“I can’t.”

“It’s just dinner. You have to eat, don’t you?” She shook her head to affirm. “Okay. How about tomorrow evening?”

“I’m going home tomorrow.”

Her excuse did not put him off. He had always been persistent. “I’ll take you to dinner when you return.”


Julia embellished the truth and actually left two days after meeting Travis. Upon her arrival home, she had nearly a month to erase the good-looking man she encountered by chance from her thoughts. She expected he would forget all about her by the time she returned to New York for the spring semester.

When Julia was forced to endure Howard’s company over the holidays, she found herself fantasizing about Travis. Her daydreams positioned him as her groom in place of her fiancé at the upcoming nuptials. The musings were frivolous and impossible, so why was she wasting her time?

As soon as she entered her apartment on Saturday, January eleventh, she was instantly surprised by a note Travis left inside her mailbox. He confirmed he would be coming over that evening to pick her up around eight for a casual dinner. He had gone to the trouble of finding the location of where she lived to keep his promise to take her out.

“You were wrong about him losing interest,” she uttered out loud in her excitement, and then discreetly turned her head to make sure no one was around to hear.

Her nerves were getting the best of her as she applied her makeup for the evening. She could not conceive why. They were only going to dinner, and an informal one at that. She picked out a pair of grey slacks and a pink blouse. As she glanced into the mirror, her fingers lightly touched the diamond necklace Howard had given her for Christmas. Was she really doing this? Her father would probably disown her for the simple act of eating a meal with Travis while engaged to Howard.

The sudden knock on the door caused a startle. Her heart was beating faster than usual. She whispered, “Calm down. This cannot go anywhere.”


When Julia opened the door, Travis stood before her with a huge grin spread across his face and a dozen pink roses in his hands. How did he know? Howard always brought her red roses, and she hated them. They reminded her of blood. There was no logical reason, but she despised the color red.

Travis held Julia’s hand as he escorted her to Michelangelo’s Ristorante. He must have been a mind reader. Her favorite cuisine was Italian. Even though their cook prepared the finest meals for her family, Julia considered spaghetti and meatballs the greatest food ever.

They talked for hours, and Julia genuinely laughed at all of Travis’ silly jokes. She decided to surrender instead of constantly fighting her feelings. Her heart fell victim to him a month prior. Nearly four years spent with Howard, and she never experienced the attraction she did for this man who she had only known for such a short period of time. Her father would hate him, but she loved him.

That night, they shared their first kiss. Howard kissed her countless times whenever they were alone, but his affection could never compare with the way Travis made her feel. Her new love interest was somehow able to turn something so simple into an experience that buckled her knees and made her almost faint dead away in his arms. She had a hard time catching her breath when he finally removed his lips from hers.


For their second date, the couple ended up at a bowling alley. Julia had no knowledge whatsoever of the game. Travis explained how to put her fingers inside the holes of the ball. He went behind her to demonstrate the action of pulling her arm back, and then proceeding forward. A strange stirring resonated between her thighs as he put his hand around her waist. Her breath quickened and her heartbeat hastened as his body was pressed tightly against hers.

When she tried to throw the ball, she let go too soon. It lunged backwards and almost hit him. Both of her hands immediately covered her mouth as she let out a gasp. He started laughing, and she had to laugh at him. Their childish snickers would almost die down, but start up again. She couldn’t remember ever having so much fun.

On their third date, they went to see a movie. He put his arm around her and leaned over to briefly brush his lips against hers. They had only been dating for a week, but everything seemed to fit with the pair. When he walked her back to her apartment that night, she invited him inside.

He placed a tender kiss on her lovely mouth as soon as she closed the door. He stopped just long enough to look into her eyes. She was sure he witnessed a yearning that matched his own. His kisses became harder and fiercer.

She hardly noticed him removing her blouse, and then his own shirt. His brawny arms picked her up and carried her to the bed. He laid her down and was on top of her in an instant.

Julia experienced emotions totally new to her.  She perceived her naked state in the presence of a man for the first time should make her feel embarrassed or ashamed.  Instead, she was consumed with pure pleasure.  

His kisses trailed over her entire body. She moaned with delight and started running her fingers over the muscles in his arms and his chest. She wanted to touch and kiss him everywhere. The intensity was overwhelming.


Travis discerned Julia was a virgin. He tried to be gentle and slow down, but her passion drove him over the edge. Having been with other women without the experience of being in love, the difference overwhelmed him. He was complete with her and never wanted to let her go.

How did he know she was the one from across a room? He sensed their connection the moment he stared at her lovely face the first time. Love. Four simple letters changed his life for the better. His desire to be with her forever could not be contained.

He had to let her know how he felt. “I love you. You’ve made me the happiest man on the planet.”


As soon as Julia heard those words flow effortlessly from Travis’ mouth, it was evident that in his strong, safe arms was where she belonged and always wanted to stay. What explanation could she possibly give her father about the sudden onset of her feelings? Her heart pleaded for her not to worry until later. She wanted to concentrate on the heart-warming sentiments the man who she already adored had just released, and the bliss from making love to him for the first time.

Julia naturally responded, “I love you too.” She tried her best to please her father and fall in love with Howard, but the emotions never developed. In only five weeks, there was no denying her love for Travis.

Julia had her head laid on Travis’ chest and could hear his heartbeat. His heart now belonged to her. The sound was so soothing, and soon she fell fast asleep.

Julia awoke the next morning to the sound of Travis’ deep voice. “Good morning, gorgeous.” She slightly opened her eyes and cognized an image of him coming toward her with a tray. “I was going to cook you a gourmet breakfast, but all you had was cereal and bread for toast.”

Her words were almost inaudible. “I’m not much of a breakfast person.”

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” he scolded.

She responded with an air of annoyance in her voice. “I already know that. I guess you should know I’m not a morning person either.”

“I’ll just jump in the shower while you’re eating if that’s okay.”

“It’s fine.” She wanted desperately to return to her peaceful state of slumber.

Travis’ movement as he crossed the room nude caused Julia to focus on him, and suddenly her concerned for sleep diminished. The sound of water hitting the tub became a nuisance and forced her totally awake. She managed enough energy to leave the bed and join him in the shower. When his mouth gaped open and instantly turned into a sly smile, she took it as a sign of him being pleasantly surprised. 


Travis sat down in his Advertising Strategies class later that morning, and the majority of the professor’s words were lost on him. In less than four months, he would be graduating. He envisioned buying Julia a ring and making her his fiancée.

“Sorry, Howard,” he mumbled to himself.

Was he crazy to fall madly in love with Julia so quickly? As he recollected the lovemaking that transpired the previous night and in the shower earlier that morning, he rationalized his sanity. The woman of his dreams had captured his heart. He did not need months or years to figure that out.

Travis found himself recalling details about his new girlfriend—the way her hair smelled and how her smile melted his heart. When his mind wandered to the intimate attributes, such as the softness of her skin as he touched her body and the taste of her lips, he found paying attention extremely difficult.  Love was such an amazing feeling.

He could not wait until Valentine’s Day, even after all the grumbling in the past about the holiday being a highly commercialized event to extract money from foolish boyfriends and husbands. This year, he was a changed man. He wanted to share a special day with the woman he cherished.


Julia’s mood was not so bright on February fourteenth. She hurried to the drug store shortly after the doors opened that morning. Being almost a week late, she started to worry. As she stood in the bathroom, staring at the home pregnancy test, her nerves were getting the best of her. She had to do something, anything, to get her mind off her fate. She hoped for a negative result, but what if it was positive? For the past few days, she imagined a beautiful baby in her arms with Travis’ dimples. Surely, her father would never force her to marry Howard if she were pregnant with another man’s child.  

The twenty minutes were up. The liquid turned blue, indicating a positive reading. She was going to have a child of her very own and resolved to be happy.

What about Travis? They had been dating for barely over a month. How would he take the news of a baby on the way before even finishing college? There was no use agonizing over his reaction until she apprised him of the situation.


That evening at dinner, Travis wanted everything to be perfect. He reserved a quiet table at a fancy French restaurant, Mon Destin. A dozen long-stemmed pink roses and a box of Julia’s favorite chocolate truffles were purchased as gifts. He shook his head back and forth and let out a slight laugh at how easily he turned into the typical male stereotype of this former dreaded celebration by finding the right woman to share his life.

Travis tried to be romantic and sexy, even though Julia was unusually quiet. He wanted to know the reason for her pensive mood. “What’s that matter, sweetheart?”

“There’s something I need to tell you, but I didn’t want to ruin tonight.”

He implored himself not to be alarmed without an explanation, but her expression was dismal. “Are you leaving me?” The thought her father convinced her to return to Howard briefly crossed his mind.


He let out a slight sigh of relief. “Then what could ruin tonight?”

“Travis . . .”

“Yeah?” The suspense was killing him.

“I—I’m pregnant.” Julia lowered her gaze to the table and tears formed in her eyes.

Travis was taken aback, to say the least. He struggled for a response to the startling news. “Did—did you just say we’re going to have a baby?” He heard the words finally come out of his mouth, but his mind still refused to wrap itself around the concept.


“But I used protection.”

Travis vividly recalled her sexy shower seduction when he pulled out of her nearly too late. Not exactly his best move to prevent a pregnancy, but now was not the time to bring up that single incident. He could sense her anxiety and needed to put an end to her doubts.

“Okay. I’m guessing we have about eight months to prepare. It’s going to be all right, Julia. We can do this. We’ll get married as soon as possible. I’ll move into your apartment for now. As soon as I graduate, I’ll get a job. We can get a bigger place then. Maybe something near a park for the baby.”

Her enchanting hazel eyes were now full of hope. His hands reached for hers, and he smiled optimistically. Everything was going to be fine as far as he was concerned with starting a family so soon.


The next few days were busy for the couple. They had to obtain a marriage license. Travis led his new fiancée into a jewelry store where they picked out matching wedding bands.

He found the pastor of a quaint little church who could marry them the upcoming weekend. A florist provided a bouquet and several arrangements to decorate the church with flowers Julia chose. She purchased a beautiful white dress, according to her description, but he was not allowed to see it until the ceremony.

On Saturday, February twenty-second, Travis entered the vestibule a little early and made his way to the front where the preacher already stood waiting. Julia had him wear the same suit as the evening of the party that brought them together. She readily admitted the way he looked in his attire was part of the reason she fell for him in the first place.

When Travis finally had the honor of viewing Julia in her wedding dress, she took his breath away. It was only a simple lace design, but she never looked lovelier. She left her hair down, because he preferred her curls cascading around her face and shoulders.

Travis wanted to declare his love for his bride-to-be before the traditional vows began. He practiced what he wanted to say over and over in his head. In the end, he let the words come from his heart.

“Julia, I knew the moment I saw you that you were the woman I’d been searching for. I just needed to convince you that we belonged together. You were so gorgeous; I couldn’t stop staring at you. Today, I can’t even find words to describe your beauty. My love for you grows a little more each time I lay eyes on you. I couldn’t stop thinking about you the first time we met. I never wanted anything more desperately than to see you again. You’re making me the happiest man in the world by agreeing to be my wife and spend every day for the rest of your life with me. I still can’t believe how lucky I am. I love you so much.”


Blissful tears streamed down Julia’s cheeks as she faced the man who would make all her dreams come true without a doubt. She was going to have a hard time speaking, but wanted to try. “Travis, every girl dreams of being rescued by a handsome prince. You are my prince. You rescued me from a life without love. You’ve given me love that I never even knew existed. I love you now, and I’ll love you forever. I am so happy. I can’t wait to become your wife.”

Joy was bountiful for Julia that day. Her wedding was small, yet ideal. Travis Collins proved to be everything she ever wanted, and everything she would ever need. Her mind raced with visions of their wonderful future together with a baby to look forward to.

The next eight months, however, were not what she expected. The suffering from her bouts of morning sickness increased to almost intolerable. Just what every new bride wants—to wake up every morning with an urgency to run to the bathroom.

Her schoolwork suffered considerably, because she had to miss quite a few classes. It was all she could do to keep up. Her plans quickly changed to taking the fall semester off, since she would be very pregnant at that point.

Julia tried to put off contacting her mother after the spring semester ended. Travis playfully called her a coward and offered to instigate the conversation with his new mother-in-law. She finally found the courage to pick up the telephone and dial.

“Julia, I’ve been worried about you. You were supposed to come home yesterday.”

“Mom, I got married.” She had exposed half of the news.

“Married? But Howard was here looking for you no more than half an hour ago.”

Her mother failed to understand the confusing announcement without her sharing all the details. “I didn’t marry Howard. I fell in love with a wonderful man named Travis Collins. We were married in February. I know I should have called you sooner, but I was afraid of what Father would say. Mom . . .”

“Yes, dear?”

“We’re going to have a baby.” The big revelation was finally out in the open.

“Oh, honey, I’m going to talk to your father. You know I can’t promise you anything, but I’ll try my best. I love you.”

Julia could hear the trepidation in Elizabeth’s soft tone, which released her own concerns that she managed to keep hidden away until that very moment. Her father would be furious and probably forbid her mother from ever speaking to her again. “I love you too, Mom.”


Travis began searching for employment opportunities. He spent a great deal of his daytime hours tracking down leads he considered himself qualified to apply for. It took him a few weeks to find a job, and then he hated constantly being away from Julia. He landed an entry level position at the advertising agency, Barrett, McNamara and Westmoreland.

Travis had researched their top ads before his interview and went in suggesting a few improvements. The face-to-face was with Warren Schaffer, assistant to the vice president of marketing. Warren admitted knowing ingenious concepts when he heard them and hired Travis on the spot. After the company implemented one of his ideas, sales increased over ten percent for their customer.

The starting pay at Travis’ new job was nothing to brag about, especially with the long hours, but the company offered insurance. It was much needed for his new wife and the baby soon to come. He wanted to make sure he provided well for them.


Julia could have been depressed with the loss of her family and her expanding waist, but Travis would not allow her. Somehow, he managed to work up to twelve hour days while finding the time to make her feel loved and adored. Whenever her mood started to decline, he showed up with flowers. He gave her back and feet rubs and never neglected to tell her how pretty she looked.

Travis easily persuaded Julia that they needed a bigger apartment. It didn’t take long to find one she was drawn to as soon as she entered through the front door. She could not wait to move in and start decorating. Soon, her days were filled with searching for furniture and décor to suit the space.

Julia’s strong sense of intuition led her to believe she carried a little girl inside her. Her new activities included shopping at every baby store in town for ideas on the perfect nursery. She even enrolled in a few art classes to learn how to paint murals, so flowers and butterflies would define her baby’s walls. She convinced her husband the room could always be redecorated if she was wrong, and they ended up with a boy. Her plans moved forward with certainty in her instincts.  The nursery turned out bright and beautiful, just as she pictured her baby daughter.

Next: Chapter One / Tragedy

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