In the game of love, she never loses.
Paper Fools by Staci Hart is coming April 17th!!
Title: Paper Fools
Author: Staci Hart
Cover Designer: Quirkybird Designs
Photographer: Lauren Watson Perry
Publication Date: April 17th
Aphrodite knows love — just don’t ask her to figure out her own mess.
Rather than deal with her sticky love life, she toys with the hearts of unwitting humans. It’s a little game she plays, and the stakes are high. Lucky for her, she’s just found the perfect match.
Lex is everything Dean needs, but he can’t have her.
It doesn’t matter that her eyes speak to a long forgotten part of him, or that her art and poetry touch his shredded heart. She’s off limits — crossing that line would implode his band and everything he’s ever cared about. There’s only one option: stay away from her, no matter the cost. Even if the price is his heart.
Dean is everything Lex wants, but she can’t take the risk.
The second she meets him, she knows her heart is in danger. She’s convinced it’s only attraction that has her hung up on the dark, quiet lead singer, but with every day that passes, she knows it’s more. It’s just that she can’t put her heart on the line. She won’t — love has never been worth the sacrifice.
If only they knew they were just pawns in a much bigger game. And in the game of love, Aphrodite never loses.
*Formerly titled Deer in Headlights, Paper Fools has been rewritten and reedited just for you.*
Add to GoodReads: https://goo.gl/SggznE
About the Author
Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life — a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey.
From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.
Connect with Staci:
When Lance Corporal Brecken Connolly gets taken as a POW, Camryn hopes for the best but steels herself for the worst. In the end, steel was what she needed to survive when he didn’t. She moves on the only way she knows how—gilding herself in more steel.
Years go by.
She builds a new life.
She leaves the old one behind.
Until one day, she sees the face of a ghost on the news. Brecken seems to have risen from the dead, but she knows she can’t perform the same miracle for herself. While Brecken was held in a torture camp for the past five years, she’s been trapped in her own kind of prison. One she can’t be freed from.
The man she mourned comes back to join the living, but the girl he wanted to spend his life with isn’t the same woman he comes back for. Brecken isn’t the same person either. The past five years have changed them both. While he’s determined to put the pieces back together, she’s resolved to let hers rot where they shattered.
Whenever he had to leave, it was torture. You’d think I’d get used to it, but I didn’t—each time got harder. This one might have felt especially brutal because of how long he’d be gone. A year. We’d done weeks, we’d done months, but we’d never done the full year.
Being with someone in the military, I knew I’d have to get used to it. The separation. The worry. The loneliness. The feeling that I was trying to catch my breath for however long he was gone.
It was a way of life. And he was my life. So I’d just have to figure it out.
“I’m never going to look at dog tags the same way again.” Brecken’s mouth turned up as his eyes roamed over me splayed across the backseat as he tucked in his T-shirt. He twisted his wrist, his gaze moving to his watch. A crease folded into his forehead. “But I’m going to need those back before I climb onto that bus. Something about military regulations. Not wandering around enemy territory without them. Those marines are sticklers for the rules.”
He was trying to make me feel better—trying to get me to smile—but little could lift my spirits other than finding out he didn’t have to leave for the Middle East for twelve long months.
“You don’t need them. Not really.”
“Because you only need them if you’re planning on dying, and so help me god, I’m not taking these off my neck if you have plans for some kind of a hero’s death.” My hand curled almost defensively around the metal tags hanging against my bare skin as I focused on the way the cool metal warmed in my hand. The way it seemed to come to life in my hold.
“I’m not planning on dying over there. I’m not going to die,” he corrected the moment my eyebrow started to lift. “But I do have plans of scoring some gnarly war wound so I have a story to tell our grandkids one day and can hang one of those Purple Hearts off my chest.”
I flattened my face as best as I could, even though it was kind of impossible with the way he was grinning at me as he wrestled his jeans back into place. “Not funny.”
“Come on. It’ll make me look tough.”
“You already look tough. Too tough,” I added as I scanned him for the millionth time since he’d arrived back in Medford for a week-long vacation before shipping out. Whenever I looked at him, I didn’t just see the good-looking guy others did—I saw every good memory from my past. I saw every good memory that would be formed in the future. Brecken had been a part of my life since I was eight, and he was as much a part of me as I was.
“Nah, I need one of those big, angry-looking scars running across my chest. Or one of those bullet hole scars on my thigh. Something real tough like that.”
“And why do you need your dog tags for that?” My fingers tightened around the thin metal ovals, refusing to let them go as if I hoped in doing so, he couldn’t go either.
“Blood transfusion. Medics are going to need to know my blood type when they’re trying to patch up my unconscious body.”
He nodded all solemn-like. “I can’t be one of those guys who earns his Purple Heart by getting a scratch on some barbed wire. I need to lose a quart or two of blood, maybe even code on the operating table. Something worthy of that medal.”
The thought of Brecken marching through a hostile country with a rifle in his hands, with god only knew what aimed his way, made me feel weak with worry. The thought of him fighting for his life in some marine medical tent about took whatever was left of my sanity.
I must not have been doing a good job hiding my emotions, because his face broke when he saw my eyes, his arms opening toward me. “It’s going to be okay, Camryn. I’m going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. The year will fly by, and before we know it, we’ll be getting married and buying a little house as close to the beach as we can afford. Okay?”
His arms wound around me, swallowing my body, and I let him tuck me close to him. I’d never known the feeling of being safe until Brecken Connolly’s arms had shown me the meaning.
My hand planted in the middle of his chest, feeling his heartbeat vibrate against my palm. “Why can’t we just get married now? Why can’t I join the marines and go with you, wherever that is, so we can be together?”
His laugh was muffled from his mouth being pressed against my temple. “Well, you can’t join the marines and my unit because the military’s under this impression that us marines of the male species become distracted and one-track minded when the women we love are marching beside us. They’re convinced the only things on our minds are protecting you, flirting with you, or screwing you.”
Quietly, I counted off on my fingers, “Protecting, flirting, screwing . . .” Then I nodded. “Damn, they sure have you pegged.”
Brecken’s fingers brushed up and down the bend of my waist. “And we can’t get married right now because you’ve got two more months of high school to finish before you earn that nifty diploma thing.” He kept going, undeterred by my grumble. “And I need to save some money to give you a proper ring and wedding. I’m not doing the courthouse thing with cheap silver bands. Not for you. You deserve the best.”
My head tucked beneath his chin as I let him hold me in the backseat of his aunt’s old Corsica. The only good thing I could say about the car—which was a coin toss if it would start any given day—was that it had a decent-sized backseat that Brecken and I had made more than ample use of. Growing up in a strict household with my dad as Brecken grew up in the packed household a few houses down, privacy had been in short supply for both of us. Thankfully, his aunt was willing to lend Brecken her car whenever she could, like today, when I’d just made love to the only boy I’d ever loved for the last time for the next year.
My fingers curled into his chest as I willed time to freeze. “I have the best.”
Brecken grunted like he doubted that, his head lifting to check out the windshield. We were parked way back in the bus depot lot. His bus would be leaving for the long drive back to Camp Pendleton in a few short minutes.
“Besides, you already got me a ring.” I raised my left hand in front of him, rolling my fingers so he could see the adjustable birthstone ring on my finger.
He shook his head. “I won that for you at an arcade when we were ten.”
“It cost you twelve hundred tickets too. You saved up all summer to get that many tickets.”
His fingers touched the ring, twisting it around with a small smile on his face. “And it probably has the street value of a nickel. Not exactly the kind of wedding ring I want my wife to have.”
I found myself staring at the ring with him. The gold paint had started chipping off the thin band years ago, but the small pink birthstone still sparkled when the light hit it just right. “Well, it’s priceless to me. I don’t care what the street value is. Or how many tickets it cost.”
“Even so, I’m getting you a nice ring. With all of the hazard pay I’ll earn this year, you’d better start working that left ring finger out so it can bear the weight of the diamond I’ll be dropping on it.”
I was glad he couldn’t see my face, because he hated knowing how worried I was about him. He said hazard pay like a sales rep mentioned a bonus, but I heard it for what it really was—the government giving you a little more money for the likelihood of losing your life increasing.
“One more year. That’s it. Then we’ll be able to be together like we’ve always planned. Away from here.” Brecken’s arms loosened around me. We didn’t have much longer. “Away from these people.”
An uneven exhale came from him, the muscles in his arms twitching. I knew who he was talking about without him going into detail. Neither of our lives had been charmed or particularly easy, but mine had been worse. Being raised by a single dad who was so strict he made a monk’s life seem carefree, I’d had an unusual upbringing. Brecken only knew what I let him know about it, which was barely half of the reality.
“I don’t like leaving you alone with him,” he said, his voice a note lower. “If things get hard again, just leave. Move in with my insane family or a hotel or anywhere. Don’t let him hurt you. Words or fists. He does it again”—Brecken’s hands curled into balls as his back stiffened—“I’ll kill him. I swear I will.”
“He won’t,” I said instantly, in my most convincing voice. “He’s working on all that. Not drinking as much.” I made sure to hold his stare to sell as much conviction as I was capable.
My dad wasn’t just a strict man. He was a sad one, a lonely one. After my mom left, he’d turned into someone else, almost like she’d taken everything that had been good about him and stuffed it in that small suitcase too. Since I was the only one around and bore a striking resemblance to my mom, I’d taken the brunt of my dad’s grief. In the form of cutting words and, occasionally, outstretched palms.
Brecken had been walking down the sidewalk one day when he saw my dad strike me across the cheek for attempting to leave the house in a skirt he described as “fitting for a whore.” Brecken had only been thirteen, but he’d taken my dad down, managing to land a few punches before I could pull him off.
My dad stopped hitting me after that. At least where anyone passing by could see.
Not that I needed to tell Brecken that now. Though I guessed it would get him to stay a while longer . . . if only to be charged with murder and thrown into prison for the next twenty to thirty years.
Suddenly, that year didn’t seem so bad.
“He won’t,” I reiterated, when Brecken continued to give me that penetrating stare, like he was capable of finding a lie if I was hiding one.
Both of his brows lifted. “He better not.”
“If anything happens, I’ll crash at your family’s place, I swear.”
Sitting up, he pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. “With fourteen people sharing twelve hundred square feet of space, good luck finding a quiet spot to do your homework.” He pulled every bill out of his wallet. Even the last crumbled dollar. “Take this, hide it from your dad, and use it if you need to. That’s enough to get you a week or so at a hotel that isn’t a dump, and as soon as I get my next paycheck, I’ll send more.”
My head was shaking as I tried to stuff the money back into his wallet. He’d already closed it and was sliding it back into his pocket though. “I’ll be fine.”
Brecken’s gaze dropped to the money in my hand. “Yeah, I know.”
“Camryn,” he mimicked.
“I’m not taking the last dollar in your wallet.”
“Why not?” he asked, making a face. “I’d give you the shirt off my back, the air in my lungs, the last drop of blood in my veins. The last dollar’s a cakewalk compared to, you know, dying of suffocation or bleeding out.” He winked as he folded my fingers around the wad of money in my hand, then he leaned down to pull on his boots. He was moving quickly, glancing in the direction of the buses like he was making sure his wasn’t pulling away from the curb yet.
“Do you want to walk with me to the bus?” His focus stayed on cinching up his last boot as he waited for my answer.
He already knew it though. Good-byes weren’t my forte. Especially not the kind where I had to wave good-bye to the man I loved as he prepared to head into the middle of a war zone for the next year. Good-bye came with a whole different context when you said it to a marine.
“I know, Blue Bird. I know.” He sighed, his eyes narrowing at the weathered floorboards before he reached for the dog tags still hanging around my neck.
I didn’t make any move to lift my head or slide my hair aside to make it easier for him. As long as those tags were on my neck instead of his, he was safe. He was alive.
“I’m not going to die over there,” he whispered, pulling the tags over his head. They clinked together as they fell against his chest. “I’m coming back to you.”
My throat was burning from trying to keep myself from crying. “You can’t promise that.”
He reached for the blanket that had fallen on the floor and gently tucked it around my still-naked body. It was strange how I’d forgotten I was naked until he’d taken his tags off of me. Now though, I felt bare. Exposed. Vulnerable. My dress was somewhere around, even though I didn’t see it. We’d barely managed to make it to the parking lot before falling into the backseat together.
“Yes I can,” he said, his thumb tracing my collarbone before tucking the other corner around my shoulder. “Have I ever broken a promise to you?” He angled himself so he was in front of me, so I was forced to look him in the eyes.
“This is different. You can’t know for sure.”
“I’m going to enjoy watching you eat those words when I’m standing in front of that pretty face in twelve months, Blue Bird.”
I pulled the blanket tighter around me. “You know I don’t like it when you call me that when I’m mad at you.”
“You’re mad? At me?” He blinked. “Why?”
“You know why.” My eyes automatically moved toward the line of buses.
“To set the record straight, it’s the marine corps sending me to Iraq. Not me by personal choice.”
“No, but you made the personal choice to join the marine corps.”
“Yeah, because I didn’t want to spend the next twenty years pumping gas at the Qwik Mart.” His hand curled around the back of the front seat. “We’ve talked about this, Camryn. I’m not cut out for college, and I sure as shit am not going to spend my life working a minimum-wage part-time job and stuck in Medford. The marines is a chance at a real life. A career where I can be promoted and provide for a family and get a chance to kick a little ass every once in a while.” He leaned forward to kiss my forehead. Then my lips. “This is the ticket to that life we’ve been talking about for years. But it comes with a price.” His mouth covered mine again, this time a bit longer. “I’ll be okay. I’ll make it back.”
My eyes closed so I could focus on the taste of him left behind on my mouth. “You’re always the first to charge into anything. You don’t hang back. You don’t like the shadows. You like being the one who cast those shadows.”
When my eyes finally opened, I found his dark blue ones inches away from mine. His light hair, buzzed short so he was all ready for deployment, the few freckles scattered across the bridge of his nose, the way his jaw tightened when he stared at me, those were the things I’d remember when I’d lay awake at night, wondering where he was. If he was safe. If he was thinking about me. As long as I held on to a part of him, he could never really leave me.
“I’m coming home to you,” he said like a solemn vow. “It might be in more than one piece, but I’m coming home to you.”
I tucked his tags inside his shirt. They’d become cold again. “A thousand pieces, I don’t care. Just come home.”
His smile was almost as forced as mine as he leaned in, pulling me into his arms one last time. He held me for a minute, one hand secured around my neck, the other around my back, rocking me against him. Then he kissed me one last time. “Gotta go, Blue Bird. The Middle East isn’t going to settle itself down.”
As he threw open the back door to go around to the trunk to grab his bag, I leaned across the seat. He was leaving. For what felt like forever. “Yeah, don’t think you’re single-handedly responsible for tackling that agenda either.”
Throwing the bag over his shoulder, he crouched beside me. This smile wasn’t contrived. It was real. Perfect. “I’ll see you soon.”
His hand formed around my cheek as his thumb traced the seam of my lips. “Sounds better than see you in a year, right?” Tucking his thumb into his mouth, tasting my lips on it, he gave me a wicked smirk before shoving to a stand and starting toward the buses. “I’m coming back for you, Camryn Blue Gardner, so you’d better be waiting for me, or I’ll just have to come find you and remind you why you fell crazy in love with me.”
Tucking the blanket around myself, I slid out of the car, leaning over the open door. “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be waiting.”
He’d started to jog backward. “Waiting as in a few days until some other guy makes his play?”
My eyes rolled as I gave him a look. Brecken and I’d been together since I was fifteen and he was seventeen. Even before that, we’d been inseparable, no one able to come between us.
I cupped my hand around my mouth. “Waiting as in forever.”
“I won’t keep you waiting that long. Just long enough.” He was shouting now, the rumbling buses muffling his voice.
“Long enough for what?” I yelled back.
Even with this much distance between us, I didn’t miss it. The look in his eyes. The tip of his smile. “For you to agree to marry me the moment I get back.”
The breeze played with my hair, sending it away from him, like forces out of our control were already pulling us apart. “I will!”
He paused just below the bus steps, his eyes consuming me from a hundred yards away. “It’s, I do, Blue Bird. I do.” He grinned and handed his bag off to the person stuffing them into one of the outside compartments. Then his hands cupped around his mouth, and he dropped his head back. “I do, too!”
His voice echoed across the parking lot, earning the attention of more than just me.
That was it. He climbed the stairs, turned the corner, and disappeared inside the bus. I wouldn’t see him for a year. I might not see him ever . . .
My jaw tensed as I put a stop to that train of thought. Wedding vows and rings were the last things on my mind as his bus lurched away from the curb.
“Just come back to me,” I whispered to no one. “Just come back.”
The Gravity of Us (Elements #4) by Brittainy C. Cherry
Release Date: April 13th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Cover Designer: Quirkybird Designs
Book Four in The Elements Series
By Brittainy C. Cherry
Graham Russell and I weren’t made for one another.
I was driven by emotion; he was apathetic. I dreamed while he lived in nightmares. I cried when he had no tears to shed.
Despite his frozen heart and my readiness to run, we sometimes shared seconds. Seconds when our eyes locked and we saw each other’s secrets. Seconds when his lips tasted my fears, and I breathed in his pains. Seconds when we both imagined what it would be like to love one another.
Those seconds left us floating, but when reality knocked us sideways, gravity forced us to descend.
Graham Russell wasn’t a man who knew how to love, and I wasn’t a woman who knew how to either. Yet if I had the chance to fall again, I’d fall with him forever.
Even if we were destined to crash against solid ground.
Start the Series of Standalones Today!
(Free in Kindle Unlimited)
The Air He Breathes
The Fire Between High and Low
The Silent Waters
About the Author:
Hi! I’m Brittainy! Join me as we travel through my mind as a Romance Author. This includes such things as my random thoughts, tricks, tips, things I’m learning, things I’m re-learning, things I’m forgetting, and my weird ways of crafting stories.
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Title: Crazy For You
Author: Daisy Prescott
Series: Love with Altitude #2 (Standalone)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 28th March, 2017
I’m not that lucky.
He’s my worst nightmare.
He’s my one night stand from two years ago.
And he doesn’t remember me.
My Cinderella didn’t leave me a shoe to find her.
Not that I’d need random footwear to recognize her.
Her kiss is something I’ll never forget.
Work hard. Play hard. I’m paid to be a nice guy on the slopes, but what I do in my off time isn’t always about making good choices. That’s the fun of living in a ski town. I stay while the women come and go.
Crazy Over You is a standalone romantic comedy and the second book in the Love with Altitude series.
A cute romantic comedy set in Aspen. This is the first book I have read by the author and the first few pages caught my interest right from the start.
Mara is a veterinarian who just moved to Aspen for her new job. She has a dog named Tapper, a three-footed wonder dog and two psychotic cats named Fred and George. I like Mara’s character. She is honest and loves her animals although apparently she hates horses. Oh, and yes she has no filter as well. “Sorry about the biting. I didn’t want to scare the dogs by screaming your name and having it echo over the mountains. The hills are alive with Mara’s orgasm and all that jazz”. I love this woman! She has so many foot-in-mouth moments that made me smile and giggle throughout the book.
Meet Jesse, he works in the slopes of Aspen and is one of the guys in the ski patrol team keeping the area safe. His dog Fern also works for the ski patrol and her job is mainly to search for people buried in an avalanche. Jesse is the loner type and trusts his dog more than humans. Losing a family member from an accident made him more the way he is now.
Jesse and Mara first met when she had a panic attack on the ski slope and Jesse had to “rescue” her. It turns out that this isn’t their first meeting. They actually first met two years ago when Mara and her friends went vacationing in Aspen, she got drunk, danced on the bar as a dare and fell on Jesse. She thought they had a one night stand but could not remember. They pretend to not recognise each other on the ski slope.
The relationship between these two is a slow burn, they did kiss but it shows that it’s not insta-love. There was attraction at first sight obviously but they took their time. It’s actually refreshing to read a romance story and the main characters do not engage in sex scenes on the first half of the book. And when the main characters have very interesting pets, it’s a sure fire formula for an engaging romantic comedy. I like this author’s style a lot. I would highly recommend this book to friends. 4.5 stars from me!
“I’m paid to be a nice guy.” He gives me a sweet smile while his eyes shine with mischief.
“You’re only nice when you’re being paid?” I squint at him with distrust.
“You make me sound like a male escort.” His smile falters but the mischievous spark doesn’t fade.
“Your words not mine.”
“Better than a stripper. At least I don’t have to prance around on stage in a thong.” He chuckles.
But I’m not laughing.
The word echoes around in my head as a strong sense of déjà vu hits me smack in the face.
Me dancing on a bar in a short, silver dress. Me practically showing off the goods to a crowd of cheering men.
Oh no. Oh shit. Friends, we have a problem.
My savior isn’t prince charming.
No, I’m not that lucky.
He’s my worst nightmare.
He’s my one night stand from two years ago.
99c / 99p for a limited time only
USA Today Bestselling Author Daisy Prescott writes romantic comedies about real love.
Love with Altitude, her newest Rom Com series, is set in Aspen, Colorado features life and love in a small town. Her Modern Love Stories feature characters in their thirties and forties finding and rediscovering love in unexpected and humorous ways. The popular Wingmen books star regular guys who often have beards, drive trucks, and love deeply once they fall.
Born and raised in San Diego, Daisy currently lives in a real life Stars Hollow in the Boston suburbs with her husband and an imaginary house goat. When not writing about herself in the third person, Daisy can be found traveling, gardening, baking, or lost in a good book.
Giveaway ~ $25 Amazon Gift Card
Dirty Filthy Rich Men, an all-new sexy, contemporary romance from NYT Bestseller Laurelin Paige is LIVE!!!
Dirty Filthy Rich Men by Laurelin Paige
Publication Date: March 27th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance
From NYT Bestselling author Laurelin Paige, discover a whole new world filled with sex, love, power, romance and dirty, filthy rich men.
When I met Donovan Kincaid, I knew he was rich. I didn’t know he was filthy. Truth be told, I was only trying to get his best friend to notice me.
I knew poor scholarship girls like me didn’t stand a chance against guys like Weston King and Donovan Kincaid, but I was in love with his world, their world, of parties and sex and power. I knew what I wanted—I knew who I wanted—until one night, their world tried to bite me back and Donovan saved me. He saved me, and then Weston finally noticed me, and I finally learned what it was to be in their world.
And then what it was like to lose it.
Ten years later, I’ve found my way back. Back to their world. Back to him.
This time, I’m ready. I’ve been down this road before, and I know all the dirty, filthy ways Donovan will try and wreck me.
But it’s hard to resist. Especially when I know how much I’ll like it.
About the Author:
USA Today and New York Times Bestselling Author Laurelin Paige is a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however. When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, or dreaming of Michael Fassbender. She’s also a proud member of Mensa International though she doesn’t do anything with the organization except use it as material for her bio. She is represented by Rebecca Friedman.
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Title: Tempt The Boss
Author: Natasha Madison
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 3rd April, 2017
Going back to work was supposed to be a painless transition, but when my new boss turns out to be an arrogant, cocky jerk, he quickly turns my professional life into a world of torture. Okay, fine, calling him an asshat before knowing he was my boss wasn’t my finest moment. Hating him should be easy. I just never counted on him being so gorgeous or charming when he’s not annoying me.
I expected my new assistant to be professional and punctual, but all I’m getting are dirty looks and rude comments. I should fire the little hellion, but instead all I can think about is bending her over my desk and breaking every rule I’ve ever made for myself.
One look. One touch. One night. If we break the rules, our lives will never be the same again.
Good thing rules were made to be broken. And besides, it feels so good to Tempt the Boss.
Beep, Beep, Beep. My hand snakes out from underneath the warm cocoon of my blankets. Grabbing my phone from the side table, I shut it off and bring it under the blankets with me. Seven minutes later, I feel it vibrate under my pillow between my hands.
Pulling myself up and swinging my legs out of the bed, I walk downstairs, going straight for the coffee machine. Thank god for this programmed machine, because the coffee is ready for me to drink.
I blink my eyes a couple of times while I turn on the light over the stove. With it lightly dimmed, I lean against the counter and look at the clock. Five-thirty on the nose. Smelling the coffee, I slowly take a sip to not burn my tongue. My brain jolts awake as the hot, strong brew rolls over my tongue.
It’s the calm before the storm. In thirty minutes, I will have to get the kids up and get them ready for the bus that is always here at exactly seven-ten.
I look into the dining room, taking in the hurricane that is my children. Opened backpacks linger on the floor near the chairs, papers are tossed on the table, homework they finished but haven’t put away. No matter how much I tell them to clean up the table before they go to sleep, Gabriel, who is ten, and Rachel, who is six and a half going on twenty, always leave it until the last minute. Something they inherited from their father.
I look around the house—the open concept floor plan makes it easy to see into the rooms around me—taking in the changes that the house has gone through in the last six months. No more men’s sneakers at the door. No more suit jackets hanging on the back of the chair at the table blending in with the backpacks.
Nope. Nothing. Nada. Taking another sip of the coffee, I let my mind wander to when it all changed.
Walking up to the children’s school for the parent/teacher interview, I am running late, of course. I had to pick up Gabriel from soccer practice, while rushing Rachel to gymnastics, then we grabbed McDonald’s in the car on the way home. Eating my cheeseburger in the car is why I now have a mustard stain on my shirt. Pulling a scarf that I find in my backseat, I throw it over my neck hoping it covers the stain.
Once in the school, I make my way to the classroom of Gabriel’s teacher. I run down a list of things that I need to get done when I get home. Thinking about the birthday parties that the kids are invited to this weekend. The gifts are already sitting in the trunk waiting to be wrapped. I hope that Jake will at least be available on Sunday.
Stay-at-home mom. That is my job, and I love it. Sometimes. Most times. More days than not. My husband, Jake, is an ad executive in the biggest marketing firm in the city. He spent the last eight years working his way up the ladder. His long work hours are our sacrifice until he gets that corner office, then he can cut back a bit. At least, that’s what he keeps saying. I still stand by my conclusion he is a workaholic.
We met when I was fresh out of college; I had just started working at the same agency he did. Not the one he’s with now, but the first agency he worked at after college. I was hired as the office temp assistant. Since it was a small office of only five, it was normal that we spent all day together. Those long hours together resulted in us becoming good friends. Becoming a couple was the natural next step. I don’t think it surprised anyone when we walked in on a Monday morning holding hands, both of us looking at each other with our hearts in our eyes.
Getting to Ms. Alvarez’s door, I knock once and then walk in. Looking around, I’m shocked to see Jake sitting in one of the chairs in front of the desk, while Ms. Alvarez sits in hers.
Walking up to him, I lean down and kiss him on the lips. “Hey, I didn’t know you would be here,” I say, sitting down in the chair next to him.
He nods at me and then looks down at his shoes. I don’t know how to describe what came next, except to say that my world crashed around me. It’s like my heart knew it. It’s like my body knew it had to go into protection mode.
“Lauren,” he says, still looking at his shoes. I look down at them wondering what he is looking at exactly. I will never forget them. Brown, with light brown laces. Stain free, scuff free. Clean.
It is at this point I start to panic, start to think something is wrong. “What’s the matter?” I ask him and then look over at Ms. Alvarez. She is gorgeous with beautiful thick, black curly hair that is always styled perfectly. Whether she wears it in a ponytail or loose, you can’t help but envy her fantastic hair. She always looks so put together, but right now, she’s looking at my husband nervously as she blinks away tears, and her hands clasped together in her lap are shaking.
“I’ve met someone.” The breath I have been holding rushes from my lungs. My legs go so weak, I feel it so strongly even though I am sitting. My heart is beating so hard and fast, I hear it echo in my ears. My mouth gets dry, and my hands start to tremble as I feel that heart starting to break.
“What?” I look at him and then at Ms. Alvarez. “Jake, now is not a good time. Not here.” It’s like I’m begging him to not tell me. Like I’m begging him to take it back.
“I love her,” he says with a whisper, and then all the pieces to the puzzle start coming together. Gabe’s tutoring classes that Jake would always pick him up from—the ones they’d always be late getting home from. I look at my son’s teacher and see a tear run out of the corner of her eye while she smiles at my husband. My fucking husband—the one who made vows to me. The one who promised to love, honor, and cherish me for the rest of his life.
“You?” I say to him and then look at her. “You slept with my husband?” I ask her while I feel Jake’s hand on top of mine. I shake it off, not wanting to feel his touch right now. Not wanting him to try to comfort me.
“It was me. I started this. I did this, not Camilla.” He tries to reach out and touch me again. Getting up from the chair, I start to pace the room. Thoughts are running through my mind. How did I not know? How did I not suspect? Was it because I was too tired for sex? Was it because I still needed to lose the extra ten pounds that I had lingering on me? Was it because I was too tired at the end of the day to even talk to him?
Stopping in my tracks, I look at them. He has now stood up and so has she. A desk still separates them. “We had sex last night,” I tell him, and he doesn’t continue to look at me; instead, he looks at her.
“It was the last time. Kind of a good-bye kind of thing,” he says, now looking at the floor.
“A good-bye thing.” I now raise my voice. “A good-bye thing?” I shake my head. “How long? How long has this been going on? How long have you been sleeping with your student’s married father?” My voice is firm, anger starting to rush through me.
“Lauren, let’s not—” he tries to say, but I don’t give him a chance. I yell, and this time loudly, “How long? How long have you been sleeping with her and coming home to me? How long have you been telling me you love me and lying about it? How fucking long, Jake? How much of my life is a lie?”
They both look at each other. “Seven months,” he answers right before there is a knock on the door. The principal sticks his head inside “Oh. Mr. and Mrs. Watson, is everything okay?” The poor man doesn’t see anything coming.
“Oh, we are totally fine.” My voice starts to rise, while my hands start to shake. “I’ve come to attend my son’s parent/teacher conference only to be told his teacher is fucking my husband. Looks like in addition to tutoring her students in math, she also offers sex ed lessons to their fathers! She deserves a raise.” I laugh humorlessly. Maybe I’m having a stroke. Maybe, just maybe, this is all a dream. “But other than that, I would say everything is perfect.”
I walk to the chair that I have been sitting in, picking up the purse that fell off my shoulder while my life fell apart. Grabbing it, I turn to walk out as Jake grabs my wrist. “Lauren, wait.”
I yank my wrist away from him, the force shocking both of us. “Don’t fucking touch me,” I hiss before I walk past the principal and right into the hallway, where I’m greeted by the president of the PTA, Colleen.
The tears have now started to freely fall down my cheeks. “Oh, honey, I just heard.” I look at this woman who I thought was actually my friend. I tilt my head to the side. “You knew?” I don’t really need her to answer, since she puts her head down to look at her hands she is wringing together.
I can’t stop the angry laugh that bursts from my mouth. I’m that oblivious spouse who everyone makes fun of. I’m that wife who said it would never happen to me. I’m that woman who they all feel sorry for. I’m her. That poor, clueless woman who can’t seem to keep her husband from falling dick first into a sexy, twenty-something woman. I look around to see who else is looking at us.
The secretary, the principal, Colleen, and four of her posse, who are there trying to get parents to join the PTA, Jake, and her. “Does everyone know he was having an affair? Was I the only one who didn’t know?” I throw my hands out to the side, turning on my heel as I walk out of the school, vowing never to return.
I get in my car and make one phone call to Kaleigh, my sister. I don’t know how much she understands between the sobs and the yelling, but ten minutes later when I pull up to the curb of my perfect house, she is there throwing Jake’s clothes out of our bedroom window. They land right in the front of my house on the lawn.
It takes her a full five minutes to toss everything out. I stand here, still in shock, still in a daze, looking at the mountain of his clothes. Clothes I bought him. Clothes I picked out. Clothes I washed, ironed, and put away. I don’t see Kaleigh come from the side of the house with the gasoline container in her hand. I just see her pouring it all over his clothes. She walks over to me, handing me the packet of matches. “Let’s burn this motherfucker down.”
And we do. Till one of the neighbors calls the fire department, who rush out, three full trucks, lights blaring in the night, an EMT, and one police cruiser. I sit here on my lawn, watching the flames rising up from the pile of everything that he owns before the whole mess is drenched in water.
The second alarm sounds, bringing me out of my trip back into that nightmare.
“Gabe! Rachel! Time to get up, guys! Mommy starts her new job today,” I yell, hoping they hear me. I take another sip of my coffee before I make my way upstairs to get ready for my new job. Yay me.