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Love Of A Lifetime by Emma Delaney

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the authors imagination and are used fictitiously. Love of a Lifetime Emma Delaney Copyright 2012 Cover photo by: Copyright Lisa A

Electronic Publication Date: 11/15/2012

All rights reserved. This literary work may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including electronic or photographic reproduction, in whole or in part, without express written permission from the publisher.


Cover Page

Copyright Chapter_One Chapter_Two Chapter_Three Chapter_Four Chapter_Five Chapter_Six Chapter_Seven Chapter_Eight Chapter_Nine About_The_Author In_The_Works

Chapter One

Carla Bradshaw stood in front of the mirror checking her reflection one last time as she waited for her husband, Bill, to pick her up for their date. Ever since he started his own law practice their

relationship had become all but nonexistent. If it werent for the fact that he crawled into their bed in the middle of the night she might think that she was single once again. She knew it would be a rough road to travel, Billy starting his own practice, but she never dreamed she would lose her husband in the process. Lately she was beginning to wonder if he distanced himself from her on purpose. Last month he had agreed to take her to Stella Maris for her birthday and tonight was the night. She didnt exactly want to spend her twenty-sixth birthday talking about the troubles in their marriage, but since he was never around anymore she had to grab opportunities when they arose.

Grabbing her lip gloss out of her makeup bag, she dabbed it on her lips until they shined evenly. She was never much for wearing makeup, but Billy has always loved her lips, liked watching them as she spoke, so she played them up as much as possible. The color she chose was a berry red and complimented her red hair and green eyes. There was nothing she could do to hide the smattering of freckles across her nose and she learned long ago not to even try. Her husband had always sworn that he found them attractive, but as she stood there recognizing all her flaws she couldnt help but question that attraction. She couldnt remember the last time they made love. Three months ago? Four? Five? What red blooded man went

that long without having sex, especially when he had a willing woman at home waiting for him? She would never have thought that Billy would be the type of man to warm another womans bed, but he obviously wasnt fulfilling those needs with her. Her heart ached at the thought. She loved him with everything she had inside her. Living without him would leave her a broken, empty woman. Tonight she would find out what her future held for her. Asking him outright if he wanted a divorce wasnt quite the approach she wanted to take, but Billy was a direct man and appreciated when people cut straight to the chase. Plumping the bodice of her dress, she bent forward slightly while shimmying

her breasts to give herself a little more cleavage. Hopefully, if the night went according to plan, they would clear the air between them and spend the rest of the night setting the sheets on fire. Speaking of sheets. Carla grabbed Billys favorite scent from her body mists and headed towards the bed. She pulled back the covers and lightly sprayed the pillows and sheets before spraying herself. He had told her once that this particular scent smelled of passion and sex and that it never failed to heat his blood. Well, she would use every advantage she had tonight to get some attention from him. She had needs that had been left unfulfilled as well and she ached

to be in her husbands arms once again. Leaving the sheets folded down for easy access, Carla headed towards the kitchen to pull out Billys favorite wine to chill while they were out. After all her tasks were complete, she looked at the time. Six forty-five. He would be home in fifteen minutes. She wasnt sure what time he made the reservations for, but she figured it would probably be shortly after seven. Not wanting to wrinkle her dress, but not wanting to stand around for the next few minutes, Carla carefully positioned herself on the couch to wait comfortably. She had hoped she wouldnt have to wait long before she saw his handsome face walk through the door, but an hour later he still hadnt arrived home.

Incensed, she picked up the phone and dialed his cell. He answered on the fourth ring. Hey, honey. A throng of voices could be heard in the background. Where are you? Huh? Oh, Im having a couple of drinks with some business associates down at The Lounge. Drinks. She sneered. What about our date? The silence at the end of line confirmed what she had been dreading. He had forgotten their plans. Once again she was the least of his priorities. Date, of course. Sorry, honey. Could we do it some other time? You understand how busy Ive been. He pleaded.

Understand? She asked incredulously. No, I dont understand. I dont understand how my husband thinks its alright to ignore his wife on her birthday. I dont understand how I can be so unimportant to you. Come on now Carla, youre being a bit dramatic dont you think? Give me a chance to make it up to you. Well go out this weekend, okay? Wherever you want to go. Her heart broke in two at that moment. Carla sobbed out a laugh, unable to believe what she was hearing. No, Bill. She stated sadly. Now you are the one who doesnt understand. This was your chance to make everything up to me. It was your last chance too. Goodbye, Bill

No wait, Carla She hung up the phone before she could hear any more. Dialing the number for her friend, Abby, she marched into the bedroom and pulled the suitcase out from under the bed and dropped it on top of the mattress. Opening drawers, Carla blindly grabbed at articles of clothing and tossed them in the direction of the bed. Happy Birthday! Abby answered. Not so happy Im afraid. She sniffed. Whats up and why are you crying? Im leaving Bill. If he doesnt want the burden of having a wife then he can just be single. Can I stay with you for a while? I promise Ill start looking for an apartment right away. She sniffed

again. Of course you can stay with me, but are you sure this is what you want? Its not like he has been around in the last year anyway. Sobbing, she admitted. I just cant do this anymore Abby. Okay, sweetie. Come on over, the door is unlocked. Thanks. Tossing the phone down, Carla stripped out of her dress and laid it across the bed. Quickly donning jeans and a tshirt, she closed the lid on the suitcase and headed towards the door. Leaving Bill was the hardest decision she has ever had to make, but to continue on with the way things are while knowing nothing would change would be even worse.

Chapter Two

One week later Bill walked through his law office doors looking like a tired, beaten man. His hair was disheveled, he had dark rings under his eyes, and his suit was a wrinkled mess. Walking right by his assistant, Atayla, he ignored her cheerful greeting and entered his office. He hoped to be left alone this morning. He wasnt in the mood to deal with anyone. With his wife gone he hadnt been sleeping well and he didnt have the energy to put up a front any longer. Closing the door firmly behind him obviously didnt deliver the message he intended because Atayla stormed in after him spouting off his agenda for the day. He liked the girl, she was a good friend of

his, but right now she was the enemy. She and that group of obnoxious women who are harboring Carla and refusing to tell him where she is. Stop glowering at me! Atayla snapped. The fact that Atayla felt secure enough to snap at him was enough for him to relax his posture. She really had come a long way over the last few years. When she first started working here, she had left her abusive boyfriend and was trying to make a go of it on her own. He had hired her as a favor to his wifes friend, Abby, and he hadnt been sure shed work out. The way she tip toed around the office trying not to draw attention to herself, and the way she would cower when a man approached her was a

sad, pitiful sight and, unfortunately, not conducive to productivity. The one thing she had going for her was tenacity. She wouldnt stop just because there was an obstacle in the way, she would review her options and determine her best way to hurtle it. Watching her grow and blossom over the last two years was definitely an amazing sight. He had never regretted hiring her. Until now Tell me where my wife is! Bill demanded of her. Sighing in exasperation, Atayla shook her head. Im not getting involved. I love you both and I just want to be left out of it. Compassion showing in her eyes, she looked him over. If its any consolation shes just as torn up as

you are. I told her she needed to talk to you. No, it doesnt help. He swiped his hand down his face. I hate the fact that she is so upset. I hate that I cant hold her and make everything better. Ataylas heart broke for them both. Try giving her a call again tonight. If she still refuses to answer, call me and I will tell you where she is. I feel like Im betraying you both and I hate that, but you two belong together and deserve a chance to make things work. Slipping from the office, she left Bill to his own devices. He would either win her back or he wouldnt. But unless he wanted to lose his wife forever, he had to come up with a plan to prove his love for her was still as strong as ever.

Carla had said she wasnt important to him anymore. He snorted. What a crock of shit. She was the most important thing in the world to him. He knew he had been spending too much time with his job, but he was finally building up his reputation and his clientele. It was a sacrifice he had to make. When other lawyers, judges, and prosecutors wanted to rub elbows he was in no position to say no. To say no to them would be career suicide. Maybe he could invite Carla to come along and be a part of his new social circle. The others didnt bring their wives or husbands to these social events, but he didnt think it would break any rules of etiquette. First he would have to get her to

cooperate though. That in itself will not be an easy task. The woman was a red head to her very core and wont give up without a fight. If she believes she has been wronged then nothing less than groveling will soften her to him. In fact, groveling may not even be enough. Picking up the phone, he punched a few numbers and waited for an answer at the other end of the line. He was going to need a lot of help to fix this mess he was in and he wasnt too proud to admit it. What can I do to prove to her Im serious about saving our marriage? He asked when there was an answer on the other end of the line. Atayla sighed, tired of this stressful situation. Listen to her, Bill. All you need to do is listen to her and you will

know what to do. What kind of advice is that? He barked into the phone. The only advice I can give you! She hung up the phone. Setting the phone back on its cradle, he looked around his office. He was in for a bumpy ride that was for sure. Listen to her. What kind of advice was that, really? Like he had a snowballs chance in hell of deciphering a womans hidden meanings. He may as well hand her a gun and beg her shoot him and put him out of his misery. Picking the phone back up, he dialed his wifes cell phone. His heart clenched when her voice mail instructed him to leave a message. Hey, its me again. Please, baby,

please call me. I miss you something fierce. I want to fix this and I want you back. I love you, baby. Please return my call. Dejected, he turned on his computer and settled in for the morning. He loaded his e-mail and the day calendar Atayla prepared for him this morning. Three consultations and a meeting with another attorney, Vince Shepard, over a divorce and child custody case would take up most of his morning and afternoon. It looks like he would be missing out on lunch again today. Not that it mattered really. It was hard to eat when your heart was in your throat. Carla sat on the chaise lounge in Abbys dayroom listening to the voice

mail Billy just left on her voice mail. He sounded so sad and miserable that she was having a hard time stopping herself from running to his side to comfort him. It wasnt about him anymore. Or at least it wasnt about what he wanted or needed. This was about their relationship and how they could make it work again. She was miserable too, but she has to know that things will change before she returns home to her husband. She refused to live a half of a life anymore. It was all or nothing, she deserved nothing less. She always had a weakness when it came to Bill being unhappy. Being a nurturer was part of her nature. It may kill her, but she would not be swayed by Bills despondence. Abby walked into the dayroom and

saw Carla holding her phone to her breast. She knew her friend was hurting and she wished she could do something to help her. Unfortunately, strangling her husband wouldnt be very helpful but there was nothing better that she would like to do. Did he call again? Startled, Carla looked up at her friend. Yeah, a few minutes ago. She groaned, He sounds so miserable, Abby. I just want to run to him and throw my arms around him and promise that everything will be alright. So do it. Carla raised her eyebrow. Were you not the one who said the man needed to suffer for a while? Abby chuckled. Of course I think

he needs to suffer. I love you and he hurt you. For that I could care less how unhappy he is, but this is your marriage and you need to do what is right. Just because I think you should seek revenge doesnt mean it is the right thing to do. Shoulders slumping in defeat, Carla agreed. I think Ill give Tay a call and see if Billy has any free appointment time today. That way we can talk on neutral ground and maybe come to some sort of agreement before I cave in and give him what he wants. Atta girl! At least you own your weaknesses! Abby laughed. Cracking a smile, she joked I never could resist that man. Sobering, tears shimmered in her eyes. I love him so much.

Then do whatever you need to do, Carla. Your marriage is worth fighting for. Yes, it is. She smiled as she dialed the office number. William Bradshaw, Attorney at Law. Ashley speaking, how may I be of assistance? Atayla Parker, please. One moment, please. Carla listened to the soft music on the line as her call was transferred into Tays office. She just hoped that she was alone. The last thing she wanted was for Bill to be standing there as she made her appointment. Atayla Parker, how can I help you? Hey, Tay. Its me. Will you look

and see if Billy has any openings today? I want to talk to him, but I would rather do it there versus at home where Im more likely to cave. Im sorry, honey. He is booked full today. If you want I can try to reschedule a few things. No, I wont mess with his business affairs. I know how important it is to him. Ill just meet him at home tonight. Its a more appropriate place for personal discussions anyway. You want me to tell him to be there at any certain time? No. I dont want to give him the opportunity to plan out his attack. Ill surprise him. It will give me the upper hand. Atayla sighed. I really dont think

you are going to need it. At this point I think he would agree to anything just to get you back. Carla arrived at home around seven oclock that evening. Noticing that Bills SUV wasnt parked in the garage, she pulled her jeep in second bay and closed the door. Letting herself in through the garage, she had every intention of settling in and awaiting his return. What she saw when she stepped into the kitchen, though, stopped her in her tracks. The sight horrified her and she didnt know whether to feel guilty or angry. Empty take out containers littered every surface of the kitchen and living room. That wasnt all she noticed while walking through the house. Dirty clothes

were strewn about on the floor, on the furniture. Wet towels lay in heaps on the bathroom and bedroom floors. The place was an absolute mess. Not even in high school would he have lived in such filth so why would he do it now? Shaking her head in disbelief, she stopped at the foot of the bed. Her red satin night gown was lying on the bed next to Bills pillow. Her heart clenched as she picked it up. Why was it there? She knew it should have been in the laundry basket in the bathroom. It was what she had worn the last night she stayed here. It was more than apparent that Bill hadnt done any laundry since she has been gone so it should still be there. Sighing, she walked back through

the house and into the living room. Clutching her nightgown tightly, she looked around at the chaos presiding over the room. She hoped she wouldnt have to wait long for Billy to arrive. The guilt was hard enough to live with, but seeing the result of her abandonment tore her in two. Carla shoved a pile of clothes to the side and sat down on the couch. It wasnt long before the smell got to her. She got up and started opening windows to let the breeze in. It was bad enough that the air inside the house was stale, but the dirty laundry and trash added their own pungent aroma. Unable to stand it any longer, she started the washing machine and began throwing clothes inside. When the washer

was full enough, she piled the rest of the clothes and towels on the floor in front of it and sprayed it with air freshener. Searching the cabinets, she found a trash bag and opened it with a snap. She made short work of filling the first bag before moving on to the second. By the time she filled the second, the house was mostly devoid of trash. Filling the sink with hot water and bleach, she dumped the dirty dishes in to soak. She wasnt sure they would ever be suitable for use again, but she would give it a good shot. If her efforts proved fruitless, then she would just make Bill buy new. When the washer stopped, she flipped the laundry into the dryer and started a new load. Taking the air

freshener, she sprayed it throughout the house and lit candles along the way. Already it was easier to breathe. Going back to the sink, Carla drained the water and filled the sink again, adding dish soap this time. She scrubbed the dishes until her hands felt raw then rinsed and set them in the drainer to dry. She was tempted to run them through the dishwasher as well, but realized that would be overkill. Looking at her watch, she was surprised to see that it was nearly midnight. Where was Bill? He should have been home a long time ago. Was he staying with someone else? Searching through her purse she got out her phone. She pulled up his number on her speed dial, but before she could

initiate the call she heard the garage door open. Putting her phone back in her purse, she set it on the counter and waited for him to come inside. A few minutes later the door opened and he stepped cautiously inside. Setting his keys on the counter, he stood there watching her and waiting for her to make the first move. Seeing anger in her eyes provoked his own and made him defensive. What are you doing here? Apparently I just came by to clean up after your sloppy ass! Here I thought you might have missed me being as I found this in your bed. She held up her red satin night gown and watched him flinch. I thought maybe you might want to talk and find a way to work through our

problems, but I see youre enjoying the single life too much. Coming and going as you please, not answering to anyone but yourself! Now wait just a damn minute, Carla. He interrupted. Ive been calling you all week and leaving messages. Youre the one who ignored our problems. Youre the one avoided my calls and never called me back as I asked you to. You have no right to be mad at me for coming home late when I didnt even know you would be here! He yelled the last sentence at her. Where have you been? What was so important that you come home at midnight when you have to be back in the office early in the morning? She snapped accusingly.

Having a drink with my old man, listening to him tell me yet again how big a fool I was to marry you in the first place. Is he right, Carla? Are you going to make a fool out of me? She recoiled at his verbal assault. Apparently I am the fool. She wiped away the tears running down her face. I thought you were a better man than this. Well, I guess you were wrong werent you sweetheart? He replied cruelly. Tossing her gown on the counter she shook her head. This was a bad idea. I shouldnt have come. Grabbing up her purse, she headed towards the garage door to leave. When she was within reach of him, he grabbed ahold of her and hugged her

tight. Im sorry, please dont leave. He buried his face in the crook of her neck. Ive missed you so much, baby. He lifted his head and looked her in the eyes. I cant sleep without you next to me. I tried curling up with your gown, because it smells like you, but it doesnt help. I need you. I want you to come home. Sadness constricted her heart and tears flowed unchecked from her eyes. I love you Billy. She raised her hand and stroked his bottom lip with her finger. But Im not coming home. When he started to protest she explained, Things have to change between us. Im tired of coming in last in your life and Im tired of being lonely. Until you can prove to me that things will get better, Im staying right

where I am. I dont understand how you can feel that way, baby. Yes, I forgot your birthday and Im sorry, but you have always been the single most important thing in my life. Are you sure? At his nod she challenged him. You tell me the last time you made love to me and I will let this entire matter drop and deal with things the way they are. He narrowed his eyes, but she could tell he had no answer to her question. When his shoulders slumped in defeat, her heart shattered. Thats what I thought. She said around the lump in her throat. What do you want from me? Tell me how can I fix this? He pleaded.

You need to figure out what you are willing to give me. All I want is to have my husband back, to be a part of your life. Not have a lump in the bed next to me at night and to lead separate lives in the daytime. Silence stretched between them until she couldnt stand it any longer. She kissed his cheek and stroked his brow. Call me when you figure it out. She walked into the garage and drove out of his lifeagain.

Chapter Three

Sitting on an overturned bucket, Bill watched as his friend, Nathan Mallory, tinkered inside the engine compartment of a 1969 GTO. The man was a brilliant mechanic and collector of older model cars. If there was a problem and he couldnt fix it then the car was just plain

junk. He had been restoring this particular beauty in his garage for over a year. The man had an affinity for muscle cars. The last car he restored was a 64 Ford Thunderbird for some man in California who found the relic in his deceased grandfathers estate. He made a pretty penny off of it too. How much longer is this going to take you? He waved his beer at the GTO. Just fine tuning it now. Im trying to decide if Im going to keep or sell. You never keep them. Its why you can afford all these toys in the first place. Nate chuckled. I had a tip on a Super Bee over in Colorado. Im waiting for my sources to confirm it. If its there, I

plan on using the profit from this one to buy and restore it. From what Ive heard it needs a major overhaul. Sources. Bill snorted. You make it sound so shady. It can be when dealing with older model cars. Most you come across have been tampered with so much that the only original portion of them is the frame. Theyre no good by then. People want the real deal, not some piece of metal that resembles the real thing. Finishing his beer, he tossed the bottle in the metal bin in the corner of the garage. He grabbed two more, handing one to Nate, and retook his seat on the bucket. How are things with you and Candy? Havent seen her in close to six

months. He tossed his wrench in the tool box and cracked open his beer. Taking a long pull off of it he added, She decided she needed someone with more esteem than a mechanic. She does know that being a mechanic has made you filthy rich doesnt she? Bill asked incredulously. Im not filthy rich, nor has being a mechanic made me any money. I make a comfortable living in the restoration business. Whatever you say, man. Whatever you say. He chuckled. They headed out to the patio on the back of the house, dragging the cooler behind them. Daisy, Nates Irish Setter, was prancing around in the back yard. Once she saw Nate sit down on one of the

chairs, she booked it over to steal a few pets. Satisfied with the attention she received, she plopped down in front of Nate and laid her head across his feet. Huffing out a breath, she closed her eyes and settled in for a nap. Damn dog is ridiculously spoiled. They sat there in relative silence, making only the occasional comment on things going on in their lives. As they sat there, they watched the sky darken as the sun set to the west. The peace and quiet was like a soothing balm to Bills tattered soul. You ever going to get around to telling me why you are here or am I going to have to guess? Nate asked casually. What makes you think I have a

reason? Cant I come see an old friend just for the hell of it? Sure you can. He nodded. But you dont. Bill sighed. Damn, I really am an ass arent I? Yep, but I dont take offense. I know how busy you are with your wife and your practice. You come around when you are able, which isnt often, but you call to bullshit often enough. Evidently I havent been busy enough with my wife. Bill muttered. When Nate raised his eyebrow in question, he explained, Carla left me almost two weeks ago. No kidding? Damn, she was a good one. What did you do piss her off? Angry, Bill snapped. Why does it

automatically have to be my fault? Snickering at his display of temper, Nate replied. Because that woman thought the sun rose and set in your ass. No way would she just up and leave you for no reason. Is this a permanent thing or can you two work this out? She said I needed to think about I was willing to give her before she decided whether or not she will come back. Meaning? Nate asked. Hell if I know! She told me this five days ago and I still cant figure it out! What does she want from me? What were her complaints? He asked, honestly wanting to help his friend. She said she was tired of living half a life. She believes that she is the

least important of my priorities! What kind of shit is that? Everyone knows how much that silly woman means to me! Nate looked at him as though he was the biggest moron on earth. What? Bill asked defensively. Well, it sounds pretty simple to me. He answered slowly. Oh yeah? Enlighten me O Great One! Quirking an eyebrow, he did. If she feels unimportant to you, then you need to pamper her, shower her with attention. Show her that you are willing to sacrifice whatever you have to in order to keep her at your side. Bill cocked his head to the side. You mean, like, buy her stuff? He shook his head. You cant but

love, my friend. Cook her a candlelight dinner. Make love to her under the stars. Hell, sign yourselves up for a counseling session. Counseling session, he thought with a snort. No way in hell was he going to have some therapist psychoanalyze his ability to be a husband. He couldnt cook worth a shit so a candlelight dinner was out unless he ordered take out. Making love under the stars? Oh yeah, he could do that. Recalling his conversation with Carla the week before, he tried to remember the last time they made love but couldnt. Had it really been that long? It was hard to believe, but the truth of it slapped him in the face. He would never have believed he

would become one of those men whose careers overruled their need for female companionship. Obviously he has though, he frowned. Now the question was, what was he going to do about it? Thinking awfully hard over there, buddy. Coming up with anything worthwhile? Nate smirked. Just wondering when I became less a man. Nate laughed. Youre not less a man, my friend. When Bill looked at him skeptically he added, Perhaps youve been a bit one sided lately. Thats an understatement if he ever heard one. It seems he has been a selfabsorbed ass for months. Getting here was obviously the easy part. The hard part is figuring out to fix it. Or maybe the

hard part will be getting Carla to cooperate. He needed to come to a decision and fast. It has been nearly a week since he spoke to her last, since she told him to figure out what he wanted. The thing is he has always known what he wanted. He wanted to be a successful attorney, have the love of a lifetime, and a few kids to chase around. He was almost there too. Carla is the love of his life and he was one big win away from being one of the top five attorneys in the district. But kids were a nice thought to be pursued in the distant future. Right? You think maybe the problem is that we havent started a family yet? I mean, weve been married for five years

now and what do we have to show for it? A foundation in which to build the future? Nate responded optimistically. After five years we should have more than a foundation. He said snidely. Nate sighed dramatically. As much as I love to get my inner girl on, Im going to forego all the emotional feelings bullshit and just tell you to listen to what she says. In order to get things back to where they were youll have to meet her needs. At Bills grunt he smiled and punched his friend on the arm. Dont worry, shell tell you what they are. So tell me if you are so smart when it comes women, then why are you still single? Nate looked towards the backyard of the neighboring house on the left.

Guess I just havent found a woman yet that makes me want to settle down. The two sat there in companionable silence, finishing off their drinks. When the sun was fully set beyond the horizon, Bill said his goodbyes and headed for his SUV. He shook his head as he put his car in drive. Listen to her. Thats the second time hes been told that, perhaps the advice was sounder than he originally thought. Now he just needed to get them together so he could get her talking. How was he going to do that though? Take her out on a date? He smiled as he recalled Nates advice of a candlelight dinner. Maybe he could enlist the help of another friend. Aromatic smells of herbs and spices

filled the air in a way that cleansed the soul. It was easy to let your troubles slide away when the right scents combined and created a relaxing ambiance. Or at least it would if you werent attempting to cook and making a mockery of your intentions. Irritated beyond words, Bill dumped the pot of potatoes into the colander. As the steam rose and burned slightly on his cheeks he thought maybe he was starting to get a handle on things. Peeling the potatoes had been a bit of a disaster, but there was at least enough left to boil. I set the butter, milk, and garlic on the counter for you to add to the potatoes before you mash them. Claire told him as she put the finishing touches on the chocolate fudge cake she had helped him

bake. Ill leave the raspberry sauce here on the steamer. Youll need to drizzle the sauce on the cake right before you serve it. Taking the pot of potatoes back to the counter, he dumped in the butter, milk, and garlic. He grabbed the mixer and turned it on to the medium setting as he was shown. He monitored the consistency until only a few sporadic clumps remained. Removing the mixer from the potatoes, he learned belatedly that he should have turned it off first. Potatoes sprayed everywhere, all over the counter, the cabinets, and him. Angry, he shut the mixer off and tossed it on the counter. I knew this was a bad idea. All I wanted was to do something nice for Carla and I fumbled it up just like

everything else. Claire put a comforting hand on his shoulder. You are doing fine, that was a common rookie mistake. You didnt ruin it, okay? We just have a bit of a mess to clean up now. It will be fine, I promise. She crossed her finger over her heart. Should I take the lemon and lime wedges out of the asparagus yet? She poked one of the spears to test its softness. Yes, and add a little salt and pepper before you turn off the heat. Im sure the filet mignon is done as well. Ill grab those and pour on the whiskey sauce. The oven is set to warm so we will put everything in there to keep while you change your clothes. He nodded. Thanks for your help. No way could I have done all this on my

own. Anytime. She smiled. Im sure she will love it. After transferring the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, they cleaned up the rest of the kitchen. Once the last of the mess was wiped clean, Claire wished him luck and went home. Bill went to the bedroom and freshened up before donning new cloths. Now all he had to do was wait for Carla to show up. Carla was nervous. Looking in the mirror, she smoothed her hands down the front of her sweater then twisted to see how her butt looked in the new pair of slim cut jeans she had purchased yesterday after Bill had called to invite her to dinner at their house.

This would be the first time they have spent any length of time together since their separation. She hoped that things would go well. She didnt expect tonight to be the turning point in their marriage, but she would like to make some headway. The least she hoped for was a mutual understanding of what each was willing to change in order to repair their marriage. She wished for so much more though. She missed her husband, missed sleeping next to him. Missed being in his arms. The last two weeks have been torture, knowing that she could go home at any time. But she had to stick to her guns and she knew it. If she gave in now then nothing would change. He would go back

to being gone sixteen hours a day, forgetting he had a wife at home who needed him. She grabbed her purse and keys and all but skipped to her jeep. She was so happy to see Billy that she was actually giddy. Her hands shook as she started the engine and she had to take a few minutes to calm herself before putting to jeep in drive. It was still daylight out, typical of this time of year. The sun was bright and warm on her face. She took in a deep breath and inhaled the fresh evening air. She loved this city. It didnt see a lot of tourism because it wasnt really on the way to anywhere, kind of off the beaten path. Sure they were close to Sheridan

where a few small time casinos were, but the big gambling cities like Vegas and Reno werent close enough to taint the peaceful living of Salem. Everyone who lived here liked it that way too. Her stomach was jittery by the time she turned onto Elliston Drive. All she wanted to do was throw herself in Bills arms and feel his skin against hers, his heartbeat against hers. Smell his familiar and comforting scent, taste the unique flavor of William Bradshaw. She had to repeat her mantra of Thou shall not falter in the face of Bills sexy smile and sultry looks. If she wasnt careful, she would crumble to the ground and allow him to walk all over her. Pulling into the driveway, she noticed that the Yuccas were in full

bloom. She knew when she opened the jeeps door the sweet flowery smell would surround her. Smiling, she remembered Bill had planted them as a surprise shortly after purchasing the house. Her childhood home was in a more rural setting and her parents had chosen to let the natural vegetation of Yucca trees and bitterbrush landscape the property. After her parents died, she had missed the smells she had grown up with. In order to give a little of that back to her, Bill had purchased a couple of trees as a home warming gift. Walking over to the closest tree, Carla reached out and touched the whitish flowers that emitted the sweet aroma. Normally this time of year she would be

sitting outside with a glass of tea, reading a good book, and enjoying the life she so loved. She didnt love it so much anymore. Now her marital home had a sense of achy loneliness that reminded her of the months following her parents deaths. Did all failed marriages feel like that? They bloomed a few days ago. Bills voice startled her out of her rampant thoughts. I woke up the other morning and could smell them and I thought I bet Carla was happy when she woke up, but then I remembered you werent here to enjoy it. Carla turned and saw the sad expression on his beautiful face. Big dark rings still circled his eyes and he had lines around his mouth that werent there

before. Their separation had definitely taken its toll on him. Tentatively, he held out his hand to her. Profound relief played upon his features when her palm brushed against his. It was obvious he was expecting her refusal and she thought for a moment that she might have been too hard on him. Are you hungry? Dinner is ready and waiting for us inside. She nodded and together, hand in hand, the walked towards their home. This is wonderful! Carla exclaimed, astonished at the feast before her. Bill smiled. He and Claire had prepared all her favorite foods. The grocery bill alone was enough to make

him queasy, but the end result was more than worth the cost and the effort he put into it. How did you do this when you dont know how to cook? She cocked her head curiously. I have my resources. He smirked. Laughing, she sat as he pulled out her chair for her. You ordered out didnt you? She teased. Actually, no. I cooked every bit of this meal. Really? She couldnt help but be extremely pleased at his efforts. It must have showed too because his smile turned from arrogant to shy and his cheeks were tinged with pink. It was definitely an eye opening experience, but well worth it.

They talked and laughed over inconsequential things during the meal, just enjoying each others company. It was like it always had been between them, like their problems were a million miles away. Unfortunately they werent, though, and the time had come to face the music. Bill carried their plates into the kitchen and returned with two slices of raspberry glazed fudge cake. As he sat back down at the table he grabbed Carlas hand and asked, What do I need to do, Carla? Tell me what you want and its yours. I cant figure this out on my own and I die inside a little more each day without you. Carla swallowed hard. I wish it were that easy, Bill. I do. But I cant just

tell you what to do and expect it work. You need to make those decisions, not me. But I dont know what to do because I dont know what you want. He said softly. I want you, Bill. I want to be a part of your life. Not as your housekeeper or as an observer, I want us to have a partnership like we had before. I want to spend time with you, in person not on the phone, and I want us to do boring everyday couples things together. I want the mundane life of a husband and wife. I want to eat dinner together every night, maybe watch a movie and go to bed together. I want a husband who keeps his promises, and dammit, I want a sex life! Ill do it. Ill limit my time at

work and Ill consult with you when things come up. Ill be home every evening, whenever you want me to be, and Ill take you anywhere you want to go whenever you want to go. And sweetheart, making love to you is no hardship. Ill make love to you every morning, noon, and night. I just want you to come home. She wanted to come home too. It was so hard to stand her ground and not give in. Every fiber of her body was trembling from the effort. Her heart was galloping a mile a minute and the hopeful look on her husbands face was more than she could bear. Tears trickling down her face, she cupped Bills cheek in her palm. Im not coming home, Bill. Not until I know for absolute certainty that this is going to

work between us. I dont know that Ill survive leaving you again. Without warning, Bill smashed his lips to hers. The kiss was fierce and proprietary and she couldnt stop the little moan that rumbled in her throat. She always loved when Bill got all domineering and evidently that hasnt changed over the months of abstinence. If anything it has gotten stronger. Im not letting you go, sweetheart. Youre mine and Ill get you back. He kissed her again only this time was softer, more seductive. He led her hand to his groin where he rubbed his hard, achy dick up and down against her palm. How about we start working on that new and improved sex life right now?

Oh, what the hell, she thought. They were married and consenting and it had been so long since she had been touched in this way. She ached from wanting and didnt see a need in depriving herself of the intimacy she craved. Carla hooked her fingers in the waist band of Bills pants and pulled him towards the living room couch. His eyes were alight with embers of arousal and he stared into her eyes the entire way. Once she reached her destination, she pulled his shirt up over his head and pushed him backward onto the middle cushion. His bare chest was a magnificent sight, all muscle and smooth silky skin that was lightly sprinkled with hair. She stroked his pecs as she settled on his lap and kissed the hollow of his throat.

Nibbling kisses moved up his throat and over his chin. Opening his eyes, he found himself staring into her sultry green depths as she took his mouth in a heated kiss. One of Bills hands wove through her hair to hold her still for his mouth to capture hers while the other hand slid down to cup her ass. He loved her ass. It was perky and round. The kind of ass a man could hold onto as he pumped into her over and over again. Moaning, he pulled her closer until her pussy was flush against his engorged cock. His marauding tongue dominated her mouth as she persistently rocked her pussy against the hard ridge of his erection. The motion rubbed against her sensitive clit, sending sparks of pleasure throughout her body. She couldnt remember ever being

this aroused before. She was so hot she felt as though her skin would melt off her body before they were through. She couldnt wait any longer. She had to have him inside of her now. Reaching down, she hastily released the button of his pants and unzipped the zipper. Worming her hand inside, she grabbed his velvety hard length and stroked it the best she could. Bill moaned at the contact and responded by tearing her clothes away from her body. Yanking her sweater up over her head, he reached around and unclasped her bra. Her breasts spilled into his greedy hands as he freed them from their confines. They were a familiar comfortable weight and he didnt realize how much he truly missed her until that

moment. Worrying her nipples with his fingers, he released lips and slowly kissed his way down her chest. Sucking one succulent bud in his mouth, he suckled first one nipple then the other. He caressed her breasts in his big palms before pressing them together to suckle both nipples at the same time. Carla buried her fingers in Bills hair and held him close. Throwing her head back she increased the speed of her thrusting hips. God, she was always so responsive to his attentions. So damn sexy it drove him to the brink of madness. After he was satisfied that both nipples received equal treatment, he stood her in front of him so he could pull her pants down her legs. Placing her hand on

his shoulder, she used him as leverage as she stepped out of her jeans. Taking advantage of her position, Bill pulled her hips forward and pressed his face into the apex of her thighs. Inhaling deeply through his nose, he reveled in her intoxicating scent. He twisted his fingers in her panties and moved the material to the side, burying his tongue deep in her folds. She moaned. Ah God, Billy! That feels so good! She rocked her hips against his face. She tasted so sweet. Her pussy was so wet her juices dripped down his chin leaving him bathed in her essence. His fingers found her opening and thrust inside rhythmically as he flicked his tongue against her clit.

Her moans of pleasure spurred him on. He could feel her inner walls clenching against his fingers as she neared orgasm. Curling his fingers, he rubbed against that magical spot that never failed to set her off. He sucked her clit into his mouth, tonguing it relentlessly as she exploded into a million pieces. He had to wrap his free arm around her hips to keep her from falling as her legs grew weak from the strength of her climax. He smiled up at her and wiped his chin as she came back down to earth. Mmm, I love doing that to you. She chuckled. I love when you do that to me. Without getting up, he worked his pants off his hips and down his legs.

Tossing them to side, he pulled her down into his lap and kissed her. He tasted like a mixture of aroused man and her juices. She loved tasting herself on him, loved that he smelled of her. Mmm. She moaned against his lips. Please, Billy. I need you so much. You drive me crazy with wanting you. His erection slapped against her stomach and she could feel the pre-come leaking from the tip. Working her hand between them, she lifted her hips and aligned his cock to her passage. He stretched her deliciously as she filled herself with him. They groaned in unison as she lifted up and sank back down again and again until she was fully seated. His hands snaked around to grab her ass. Using a handful of each cheek, he

guided her up and down on his cock. She increased her pace, slamming down harder and faster in his lap. He grunted and gripped her ass tighter as lifted his own hips to thrust counterpoint to hers. Her mewing cries were magic to his ears. How had he gone so long without being inside of her, feeling her tight hot depths, reveling in the sounds she makes? She was his treasure and in his heart he cherished every second she was his. Her pussy began to pulse and contract around his cock alerting him of her impending orgasm. He brought one of his hands back to stroke her clit rhythmically. She cried out in ecstasy as she unraveled in his arms. Oh, fuck! Fuck, Carla! Yes!

He shuddered violently as her inner walls squeezed around his cock evoking his own climax. He continued to thrust up as he pulled her down on top of him. The sensitive head of his cock bumped against her cervix with each plunge adding yet another pleasurable sensation as his semen bathed the insides of her pussy. Carla collapsed on top of Bill exhausted from her efforts. She breathed heavily against his neck as she slowly recovered from their bout of love making. Sitting here, wrapped in his arms, she could almost believe that everything would be alright. After her breathing returned to normal, she lifted her head and studied his face. His head was resting against the back of the couch, eyes shut, and mouth

slightly slack from exhaustion. He looked content, the lines of strain that were previously around his eyes and mouth were absent. He still looked tired, though, and she knew she was partly to blame for that. Feeling her gaze upon him, Bill opened his eyes and smiled. Good God, that was fantastic. I think you may have broken me. She smiled in return. Are you complaining? Only if you tell me youre not staying the night with me. His eyes bored into hers. She sighed. Billy He shushed her by placing two fingers on her lips. Just for tonight. Please? I want to hold you, make love to

you again. Ive missed you so much. He buried his face in the dip between her neck and shoulder. I feel like I can finally breathe again now that youre here with me. She was having a hard time saying no. She didnt want to say no. What would it hurt? It may actually be beneficial to them both and serve as a reminder of what they were missing. Carla needed this attention from him and Bill obviously needed a good nights sleep. He had already made it known that he was having a hard time sleeping without there with him. She laid her head back on his shoulder and whispered. Just for tonight. Just for tonight. He reluctantly

agreed, unsatisfied, but at least it was a start. Kissing her temple, he scooped her up in his arms and walked towards their bedroom. He laid her down on their bed and crawled in beside her before pulling the covers up over them. Wrapping his arms around her, he sighed and buried his face in her neck. I love you, sweetheart. He murmured into her skin and within seconds he was fast asleep. So much for making love to her again, she thought with a laugh. To his credit, though, she knew he was exhausted from the stress of the last few weeks. She sighed and wiggled closer to Bill. His arms tightened around her instinctively and relished the fact that, for the moment,

she was home where she belonged.

Chapter Four

Despite the fact that Billy was going above and beyond in his efforts to atone for his absence physically and emotionally in their marriage, Carla knew that all good things must eventually come to an end. The end came exactly two weeks later when she received a call from Bill an hour before he was to take her to the movies. Business associates wanted a meet and drink to discuss upcoming cases and do some wheeling and dealing. Carla knew that it was important for him to attend such events, but she couldnt help resenting the fact that she, once again, took a backseat to business. Shaking her head at her unreasonable emotions, she decided that it must be knee-jerk reaction when it comes to being denied time with her husband.

It was one of the nasty habits she was going to have to change in order to hold up to her part of the bargain. It was so hard though, when memories of broken promises and lonely meals and even lonelier evenings assailed her. Sure, he always slept in their marital bed, but more often than not he crawled into it after she had already gone to sleep at night. Instead of sitting alone at Abbys house, she dialed Claires number. Three rings then a harried voice answered. Hello? Carla laughed. A bit busy are you? Carla! Hey! Yeah its the dinner rush and Im short a waitress and Phil called in sick. Im manning the grill and poor Vivian is trying to service all the

tables by herself. I can come and help if youd like. I know I havent waitressed since college, but Im sure its just like riding a bike. That would be fantastic! Thanks so much! Ill see you in a few. She hung up without waiting for a response. Carla chuckled again as she put her phone in her purse and headed into the bedroom to change her clothes. She had a pair of black slacks and a white button shirt she could wear. Not exactly the uniform Claire liked for her waitresses, but in a pinch it would do. Suitable armor in place, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door. That she was actually looking forward to the mad rush of hungry, grouchy people was a sad testament to the

state of her life at the moment. She really needed to get a job, but there wasnt much she could do with a dusty liberal arts degree. She had meant for it to be a stepping stone in order to figure out what she wanted to major in, but then Billy proposed and had become her first priority. She had finished her degree around the time Billy had become licensed and settled into the life of a housewife instead of furthering her own education. Of course at the time she would never have believed that she would be on her own again one day. Billy has been the center of her universe since the moment she met him, it just didnt occur to her that he may not be a part of her life one day. Pulling into the lot behind the

restaurant, she put those notions aside and readied herself for what she was sure would be a grueling experience. Once she walked in though, she saw that, even understaffed, Claire had everything under control. Instead of an insane rush, everyone was relaxed and enjoying great food and the company of their companions. Vivian saw her as soon as she crossed the threshold and waved her over to the counter. She quickly divided up the tables, giving herself more than half. When Carla protested, Viv patted her arm and commented, I could service twenty tables in the time it will take you do five. Laughing at the incredulous look on Carlas face, she handed her an apron and notepad before scampering off to her

section of tables. Shes right you know, Mischief was dancing in Claires eyes. She handed over a tray with plates of food piled on it. Viv could do this job blindfolded. You will be lucky not to mix up the five tables she gave you. She pointed at the tray she had handed over and said Table two before heading back into the kitchen. The dinner rush ended around nine with a few stragglers coming in to place some last minute orders. Most were planning to take their food to go, but some sat patiently waiting at tables. Carla was ready to hang up her apron that was for sure. She hadnt worked that hard since college and her feet were killing her. Carla looked towards the entrance when the over door bells chimed, alerting

her to the arrival of customers. Atayla walked in with a friend and seated herself at one of the side tables in Carlas section. Smiling, she headed her way. What can I get for you tonight? Atayla looked up and greeted Carla with a surprised smile. What in the world are you doing here slinging meals? Poor Claire was short staffed and so frantic I decided to dust off my apron and give her a hand. Approval gleamed from Ataylas eyes. Good for you! Its not healthy to sit around and mope all the time. Eyebrows raised at her blatant pronouncement, she looked towards the womans companion and back. Atayla had the decency to look

contrite. This is Margaret Howard. She works for Ms. Wilson, the Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Waving a hand toward the other woman, she continued. Marg, this is Carla Bradshaw. Bills wife. Margarets eyes light up with recognition. You will have to pardon my forwardness, but the legal world is such a small world. I had heard you and Bill are separated. Carla stopped Tays warning Margaret by putting a hand on her shoulder. Well, yes, but its not... Good for you! Margaret interrupted. I always hate to watch

women hang on to cheating bastards because they think it wont happen again. She smirked at Atayla. It always does, but Im sure Atayla has warned you about that already. When neither woman responded, Margaret looked between the two women with chagrin. Neither of you know about that obviously. She then turned her head away and said under her breath, Leave it to me to stick my foot in my mouth. Who? Carla demanded after recovering from her shock. Look, I dont think Im the right person to Who? She demanded again. My boss. Marg replied sheepishly. I knew something was up when they started having lunch together

frequently, but then they started meeting up with each other after work for business. I overheard her telling the PA not to Worry about Bradshaw because she could Get him to agree to anything while in bed. After I heard that, everything else started making sense. Carla backed away from the table. Hadnt she also thought that there might be another woman in the picture? I need to go. Atayla grabbed Carlas arm as she turned to leave. Wait! We dont even know if any of this is true. Patricia Wilson is not beneath lies and manipulation to get what she wants. She could have been playing out some elaborate scheme to serve, God only knows, what purpose.

Are you telling me you knew nothing about any of this? Carla asked incredulously. You are Bills assistant. You make his schedule and know his every move and youre trying to tell me you had no idea what was going on? Bullshit, Tay. I swear I would have told you had I known, but I remain firm in my belief that Bill would never cheat on you. In all the time I have worked for him I have never seen him look at a woman with any kind of interest except a business interest, and believe me, I have seen many women come on to him. Shaking her head, Carla stepped back again. I need to go, need to think Turning, she fled the restaurant.

By the time Carla reached her car, she could no longer hold back the tears. She knew she shouldnt believe the word of a stranger over a friend, but she couldnt help it. Her heart was breaking. She needed to clear her head, consider the facts, and have a talk with Bill. First, though, she needed to calm down. Grabbing her cell phone, she pulled up Abbys number and pressed send. Five rings later, her call was dumped into voicemail. Figures. Abby was a party girl and Friday nights were play time for her. Swiping the tears from her eyes, she stared at her phone hopelessly. She needed to just go home, but being alone right now was far from appealing. Carla considered her options. What she really

needed to do was confront Billy with these accusations and give him the opportunity to refute. And boy did she hope he would refute. She simply didnt know if she would survive the shattering of her heart if these accusations were true. Mind made up, Carla started her jeep and pulled out of the parking lot. It would be better to deal with it now versus waiting until tomorrow. If she waited, the unknown, the foreboding gloom that would inevitably hang over her, would be enough destroy her. Even for only one night. Turning towards Commerce Street, she attempted to collect herself. It would do her no good to break down before she had the opportunity to question him about his supposed infidelity. She needed to

plan her approach accordingly. To straight out accuse him would be wrong, she had to give him the benefit of doubt. Even though her heart was throbbing from the beating it took, her mind didnt believe he would have an affair. He just wasnt that type of man. He was honorable and loyal to a fault. It was a major source of contention between him and his father. But then again, his father was a narcissist and couldnt even tame his overly bloated self-importance to be proud of his sons accomplishments. She knew, knew, deep down inside that Billy was unswervingly devoted to her and repairing their marriage, but she couldnt stop the nagging suspicion she had prior to their separation. She had to

know, and she had to know now whether or not that suspicion was founded. As she passes the last of the businesses on Commerce, she turned onto La Fountain Drive. She would be home within a few minutes and was nowhere near ready for the impending conversation. She pushed the button to open the garage door as she pulled into the driveway. Carla could see Bills vehicle resting on his side of the garage and she was surprised that he was even home. She had been half hopeful that the house would be empty and she would have a little more time to complete her internal pep talk before he arrived home. Once she was parked, she took a few fortifying breaths and gathered all her

strength and courage around her. When she faced him she had to be calm and collected. With one last you can do this, she got out of her jeep and entered the house. Billy walked around the corner of the kitchen wearing only boxer briefs and a look of confusion. His hair was sticking up slightly on the side as it usually does when he has been lying down for a while. The television remote was in his right hand, confirming her suspicions that he had been channeling his inner couch potato tonight. It always amused her when he did so because he was always such a busy person, even at home. Carla? What are you doing here? I thought we agreed to see each other tomorrow?

As though she had been doused with cold water, Carla jerked her attention back to the present. Am I not welcome? She asked acerbically. His eyes softened as looked at her. Of course you are welcome. This is where you belong, here with me. Im just surprised you are here, is all. She couldnt have stopped it for all the world, she broke down like a bawling, blubbering idiot. The next thing she knew she was wrapped in Billys arms. Hey, whats going on? Whats gotten you so upset? Stroking her hair, he murmured words of comfort into her ear. The feel of his breath stirring her hair and fanning across her cheek was familiar and

comforting. Carla wanted to sink into his embrace and absorb the heat of his body, but she couldnt forget why she was here. Stepping back, Carla wiped her eyes and took a deep breath to regain control of her emotions. Up until this point, she hadnt quite figured out how to approach the subject. Now that he already knew something was wrong, she just needed to come out and ask. Straightening her spine, she looked him directly in the eye and asked. Are you having an affair? She watched as his expression went from surprise to incredulity to anger. No one could fake the emotions that quickly played across his face as he processed her question. Maybe asking him outright was a bad idea after all.

How could you ask me such a question? His voice was low and alarmingly calm considering that anger that continued to simmer in his eyes. How could you. He sighed and looked away from her, but not before she saw just how much her question had hurt him. Im sorry, but I had to ask. She whispered. I was told by a complete stranger tonight that you were having an affair with Patricia Wilson. That the two of you have been spending so much time together that it was becoming quite obvious She shrugged her shoulders. I didnt want to believe it, so here I am allowing you the opportunity to explain what is going on and why Ms. Wilson herself would hint around that she is

having an affair with you. Bill stood frozen at her words. Who did you talk to? You didnt answer my question. Are you having an affair? He stood in front of her within two long strides. Lifting his hands to capture her face he implored her with his eyes to believe him. I would never, never, seek out another woman as long as I have you. You are the only woman in this world that I want in my life and in my bed. Carlas lips quivered and tears ran down her cheeks. I had planned this big elaborate scene in order to seduce you after you took me out for my birthday. It had been so long since you had paid any attention to me that I actually feared that

maybe you might have found someone else. Then tonight Margaret spoke my worst fears and I just shattered. Bill pulled her into him as she began to sob anew. He didnt know who this Margaret was or why she would make such claims, but he knew he would get to the bottom of it. There were enough troubles within their marriage without an outsider creating more negativity. Wiping her tears away, Bill gently kissed her cheek and looked her in the eyes. His own heart constricted at the misery he saw, the dullness that had overtaken her normally vibrant glow. He was willing to do anything take that pain away. I love you, Carla. You know that right?

She nodded her head and buried her face into his chest. As much as he loved feeling her body against his, the warm comfort he retained from it, he had to make sure she understood, believed, that his entire world only existed because of her. Come home, Carla. I miss you so much there are days I can barely breathe from it. I miss having you as a constant in my life, your warm body in my bed. I miss smelling you on my clothes. His eyes burned from the truth of it. The house doesnt even have the same feel of home since you have been gone. Carla pushed away from him and placed her palms flat on the island. This was killing her. She was literally dying inside from the turmoil. She wanted to

come home just as much as he wanted her to, but she feared the consequences would be disastrous. I love you too, Billy, but I cant come home. Not when there are obviously so many issues left to address. I think Ive proven tonight that Im not secure enough with our relationship to do it any justice. If I come home now there will always be a black cloud lingering over us. His fault. Bill was the reason she was so insecure. He was the one who ignored her for so long that she no longer trusted in his commitment to her. Now, because of some unknown persons malice, the progress they have made has had a setback. Who did you talk to tonight?

Carla shook her head. It doesnt matter, Billy. He couldnt tamp back the anger that ignited. The hell is doesnt matter. I need to put a stop to these rumors. I want to make sure that nothing like this happens again. I dont know who she was. She came into Claires restaurant with Tay this evening. She said she was Patricia Wilsons assistant and that she had overheard Patricia mention an affair with you during a private conversation with the PA. Bill growled deep in his throat and wiped his hands down his face. God, thats just what I need. Carla startled when he suddenly barked out a laugh. What is so funny?

Shaking his head, he chuckled. Have you ever seen Patricia Wilson? When she shook her head no he smiled. She is about twenty years older than me. He cocked his head to side in thought. Picture Mrs. Titus, only without the hunch back and standing a foot taller. She laughed. Mrs. Titus was there economics professor in college. The woman was ancient. She was hunched over from age and had wrinkles to rival a Shar Pei. Billy once teased that she always worn her hair back in a severe bun in order to give herself a face lift. I guess I dont have anything to worry about then. Bill sobered. You wouldnt have anything to worry about even if she was young and beautiful. I mean it when I say

that you are the only woman for me and Im sorry I have given you reason to doubt me. This man. This wonderful man. He always made her feel special. Even when they were angry and bickering he always let her know that he wouldnt trade her for the world. It is why she wouldnt allow herself to believe the worst, even when it was thrown in her face. Their separation was meant to be an eye opener. A way to get him to realize his mistakes. It wasnt until she was gone that she started to really wonder if he even wanted her there. Because of his prior absence in her life, being away from her home had been the only change she had to adjust to.

It had been an eye opener for her as well. Not seeing him was already so routine that she doubted he even noticed her absence in his life. It was a major hit to her self-esteem. She began questioning her desirability as woman, her capability of pleasing her husband. Why? she whispered. Lifting his hand, he toyed with a lock of hair that had slipped from her ponytail. Why what, sweetheart? Why did you distance yourself from me for so long? Bill sighed. How to answer this question? Honestly? It was purely lack of attention for anything other than my career. It knew that if I just worked hard

enough now then I could be a little more selective on my cases later. I was so focused on winning that I lost my wife. The worst part about the whole thing is that I didnt realize I had lost you until you were already gone. He kissed her cheek, the corner of her mouth. I went crazy. I couldnt sleep so I poured myself into my cases, but I couldnt even do that right either. If it werent for Atayla keeping me straight I would have lost a lot of clients. All because I was selfish and didnt take your feelings into account. He brushed his lips up the side of her jaw and when he reached her ear he tugged the tender lobe with his teeth. I wont make that mistake again,

Carla. I promise. Seduction, pure and simple, and she was of a mind to be seduced. Tilting her head to the side, she gave him room to nibble his way down her neck. He knew all her sensitive areas and used them to his advantage. Nipping at her collar bone, the fingers of one hand deftly unbuttoned her blouse. His mouth lowered with each button unbuttoned until he reached the front closure of her bra. With a quick flick, the two halves parted revealing her breasts. Mmm, so pretty. His lips traveled a delicious curve, his nose brushing against her nipple. Teasingly he rubbed his nose back and forth against the sensitive bud before

engulfing it in the wet heat of his mouth. Carla arched back at the exquisite pleasure, forcing more of her breast in his mouth. Bill chuckled. Greedy tonight, huh? Dont worry, baby, I plan to devour you. Picking her up, he turned and walked her towards the bedroom. Placing her gently on the bed, he divested her of her clothes before quickly doffing his own. Bill crawled up the foot of the bed and rested his hips between her thighs. Reverently, he kissed down her throat to her breasts. He nipped and suckled until each nipple was red and swollen, until Carla squirmed erotically beneath him. Only then did he travel further down her body, using his tongue to

trace her ribs, her hip bones. The smell of her arousal went to his head, her scent alluring him to the juncture of her thighs. Pushing her knees forward, he teasingly ran his tongue around the folds of her pussy until he could see he juices flowing from within. Her excitement revved him up in ways that were indescribable. Only she could do this to him. Only she could satisfy him with her pleasure alone. Her moans were music to his ears, her taste ambrosia. Using his thumbs, he parted the lips of her pussy, exposing her most private place to his view. She was so sexy, so pretty. He loved fucking her with his mouth. Loved when she lost control and fucked her pussy against his face.

When it was over her cheeks would be tinged pink from the embarrassment of her bold actions, and he would purposely destroy control just to see it happen. The woman was such a contradiction. Sexy siren and innocent sensibilities all rolled up in to one irresistible package. Smiling, he decided it was time to test that control. His tongue burrowed in her entrance, causing her hips to thrust forward with the first plunge. He could see her fingers contract, fisting the sheets underneath her body. He knew if he teased her just right those fingers would be fisting in his hair, and he had every intention of feeling that bite of pain. Replacing his tongue with his finger, he slowly fucked in and out as his tongue explored her inner folds.

Circling the tip around her clit, he found it stiff and throbbing. Poor baby, he couldnt have her lying there in such need. He pursed his lips and sucked her clit into mouth while fucking her harder and faster with two fingers. Immediately she cried out and fisted his hair as he knew she would. The pleasure-pain sent electrical impulses all the way to his balls as her release coated them both with her honey. He continued to manipulate her sex until her shudders subsided. Bill moved up her body to look into her eyes as she slowly came back to reality. Yup, pretty pink and so damn sexy as always. He wanted to push her tonight, test her boundaries a little. He managed to loosen up her sexual inhibitions over

the years of their marriage. She is always willing to experiment with him, but there still are some walls he hasnt been able to raze. Sit up here pretty baby, I need to see those lips surrounding my cock. Carla moaned as she complied with his order. It really turned her on when he got all bossy and demanding in bed. With each command he gave her, her insides liquefied and her juices flowed like molten lava. She licked her way up the underside of his cock before sucking away the pre cum beading at the tip. The growl he emitted vibrated through her body, throbbing in her nipples and clit. She smiled as she circled her tongue around the head, never giving him what he sought.

Wrapping his hand around her ponytail, Bill held her head still as he worked his cock in and out of her mouth. He watched with hooded eyes as her cheeks hollowed with suction. It felt so damn good he was sure he was in heaven and when she moaned, it was all he could do keep from exploding. Hold up there, sweetheart. You have to stop or Im going to cum down your throat instead of in your pussy. He pulled away from her hungry mouth and helped her roll over onto her hands and knees. After rubbing a few comforting strokes along her spine, he pushed firmly between her shoulder blades until her upper body rested on the bed. Seeing her ass up in the air was

more temptation than he could resist. Carla yelped as he gave her a few good swats with his hands. Caressing the sting away, he admired the slight red marks he left behind on her creamy skin. Reaching his hand between her legs, he petted her pussy and kissed her offended cheeks. So fucking sexy. You are the most beautiful woman in the world. Guiding his cock to her entrance, he entered her with one quick stroke. They both cried out at the feel of her pussy convulsing around his girth. Nothing could compare to being inside of this woman. His woman. Hips thrusting, cock shuttling in and out of her tight depths, he couldnt prevent his inner caveman from surging forth.

Youre mine, Carla. Mine! Nearing release, his thrusts never faltered. Powering inside of her, even measured thrusts. Say it! Who do you belong to? Carla moaned as his thrusts became shorter, faster, harder. The head of his cock hit that magical spot inside her with each pass. A few more strokes and she will soar. Tell me, Carla. Now! Oh, God! You, Bill! I belong to you! Bill roared out as his release poured inside her, as the walls of her pussy convulsed around him in her own release. When the last pulses erupted from his cock, he collapsed on top of her. Moving quickly to the side as not to crush

her, he wrapped her in his arms and drew her tight against his body. He tenderly kissed the spot beneath her ear and whispered. Damn, right you do. Its past time you remembered that.

Chapter Five

Bill walked into the office an hour before his usual day starts. Atayla was sitting behind her desk with her nose stuffed in Law References. The sight was a familiar one. He couldnt ask for a better assistant than her. At this moment, though, he was furious and he wasnt quite sure it shouldnt be directed at her. Looking at Ashley manning the already busy phone, he decided he needed a more private setting for this conversation. Rapping on the door caught Ataylas attention. Bill motioned for her to follow

him into his office. For what he intended, he didnt need any witnesses. Walking into his office, he sat on the edge of his desk while Atayla shut the door then faced him. Have a seat. Bill waved towards one of the chairs his clients sat in. Bill, Im so sorry. I had no way of knowing that had even been insinuated let alone Bill waved away whatever else she was about to say. This Margaret you were with last night, who is she? Margaret Howard. She is Ms. Wilsons assistant. We were going to have dinner together last night and discuss the upcoming fundraiser for the Womens Shelter. Please tell me that Carla is

alright. She was so upset last night and she wouldnt talk to me. Atayla gasped out a sob. She looked at me as though I were the enemy. Like I knew it was going on and was hiding it from her. Bill sighed. She came to me and we talked it out. Is this woman trustworthy? Do you believe that she was telling the truth? Atayla looked at him like he was crazy. That you are having an affair with Ms. Wilson? Hell no, I dont believe it! No, that she heard Patricia say that she was having an affair with me. Atayla thought about that for a minute. Yes, definitely. Marg is very much a feminist. If she werent serious about letting Carla know she approved of her leaving your cheating ass she would

never have mentioned it. Bill ran his hand over his short cropped hair. Great, just what I need. Someone to encourage Carla to make this even harder on me than its already been. Atayla laughed. But you two are working things out, right? Thank God for that too. I dont know how much longer I can play along with this separation before I cave and just tie her to the bed. So how are you going to handle Ms. Wilson? Concerned about what this could do to Bills career. I have no idea. Allowing this rumor to run rampant will be bad for my career. Confronting Patricia would also be bad for my career. Going behind her back and making a formal complaint, if it

turns out to be false, would really be bad for my career. So what are you going to do? Bill blew out a frustrated breath. I dont know. If I let it go on, it looks like Im guilty. If I fight back, it draws bad publicity. Not to mention that it will stir up a hornets nest at the Prosecutors office and amongst the judges. It shouldnt be that way but it is. The fundraiser for the Womens Shelter is coming up this weekend. Bring Carla. Dance and drink and mingle and show every single one of them high society twerps that you only have eyes for your wife. Do you really think it will matter? Laughing, Atayla shook her hear. Probably not, but it may stir up enough

doubt. We dont even know how far these rumors reach. As far as we know it doesnt reach any further than the Prosecuting Attorneys office. Bill shook his head. It stood to reason that Patricia had only said it to manipulate the situation. Then again, he never knew Patricia to outright lie about something personal when there was no gain to it. There were other ways to accomplish her goals without dragging him through the dirt. Unless that was the point. If popular opinion was against him, her chances of winning against him increase tenfold. But if infidelity was her ammunition, you would think that the backlash would affect her as well since she was the other supposed deceptive

party. Ill need to talk to Carla. Ultimately it is her decision whether or not to attend. Im not going to ask her to swim with sharks when our separation and these rumors are the equivalent of having a thick raw steak tied around her throat. Do you want me to do some digging? Im sure I could have a pretty good grasp on far this nonsense goes by the end of the day. Bill nodded. Be discreet. Now, what torturous agenda do you have for me today? Laughing evilly, Atayla said I emailed your agenda to you already. Have fun! Turning, she walked out the door, leaving Bill to his day.

Walking back to her office, she made a mental list of the people she could contact and fish around for information. Margaret would be a good one. She hated working for Ms. Wilson and would do anything to help Atayla out. Especially when she learned that Ms. Wilson was making false accusations. Margaret had been secretly plotting to discredit the old bat for over a year now. No way did she want her elected into the DAs office. The woman just didnt deserve it. With Margaret there to do all her work for her, all she has to do is show up for court and impress everyone with her knowledge of legal jargon. There are other younger candidates for the office who are more qualified and have actually worked hard for the

position. Patricia Wilson expected everything to be handed to her on a silver platter. To say that there was a lack of respect for the womans work ethic would be an understatement. Miss Parker? Atayla had just rounded the desk when she heard the semi-familiar voice. Looking up at the man, she identified him rather quickly. Mr. Aiello! Good to see you. What brings you here today? I have more information I want put into record about my ex. I just went and picked my son up from her neighbors house. Apparently Cassie had dropped him off, asking her to watch him for a few hours. That was two days ago. Dear Lord! Atayla shook her

head. Come with me and we will make out a statement. I will also need a statement from the neighbor. We will file with the police as well and get started on an emergency custody order. Since this is the second time she has done this maybe the judge will be more inclined to rule in your favor. Atayla sighed, knowing it was going to be a rough road to travel. The judge in this case hated taking children away from custodial parents if there was no indication of actual harm done. He would most likely deny the motion this time too since Cassie had made sure the boy was taken care of in her absence. Sometimes the system sucked big time. Until Social Services steps up and verifies that Cassie is an unfit parent, the

judge will only slap her hands. It amazed her how situations were allowed to repeat themselves until eventually someone did get hurt. She just hoped it wasnt that precious little boy. Well, her fishing expedition was just going to have to wait. Clients come first, always. Maybe she could use her lunch break to dig up information for Bill. Leading the client towards he office she asked, How is your sister? You mentioned that she was having trouble with her pregnancy. His smile was bright and proud. She had a baby girl. Her name is Jordyn Availa Aiello. She is the prettiest little thing I have ever seen. His happiness was infectious. Atayla beamed at him. Ill bet she is!

Have a seat and well get this started. Later that night, Bill arrived home to find Carlas Jeep resting in the garage. It was such a surprise to see it there that he almost didnt get stopped before he wrecked into the house. Slamming the SUV in park, he hurried into the house with one goal in mind: to kiss the ever loving hell out of his wife. It had been so long since she had welcomed him home after a long day at the office that he almost made a fool out of himself by crying like a baby. Wouldnt that just be the topper on an already shitty day? Not only did one of his clients violate a restraining order against him, effectively losing the case before they even went to court, but Atayla had learned

that Patricia was going to be the Prosecuting Attorney on the State vs. Weinstein case. State vs. Weinstein is the biggest case of his career. This case will literally make or break him. Now he understood the whys of Patricias actions, it is the biggest case of her career as well. By reporting an affair, if she loses this case, she can demand a retrial based on compromised evidence. Evidence she would claim Bill had access to and essentially stolen during one of their private encounters. It truly was unbelievable. Of course there was no way to actually prove her motive, so he had to do his damndest now to refute her claims. Not that it should be all that hard since she had absolutely no

tangible proof whatsoever. The aroma of cumin and cilantro infiltrated his senses as soon as he opened the door, putting his thoughts back on track. His mouth began to water and his stomach reminded him that he hadnt eaten since lunch. The Spanish dish Carla was making was one of his favorites. Maria, his fathers Hispanic maid, practically raised him after his mother ran off. She had given the recipe to Carla when they married. She always said the way to keep a man happy was to keep his stomach filled with his favorite foods. Bill didnt think she was all that far off the mark. As long as there was a good woman in that equation he could easily be the happiest man on earth. If only he hadnt let his career get in the way of that

happiness he would probably be a father as well as a husband right now. There were times when he regretted his decision to follow in his fathers footsteps and wondered how Carla had managed to hang on as long as she had. She had put off her owns dreams in order for Bill to achieve his. Now look where it got her. All she ever wanted was a home and family. She had talked at length about having children of her own before they were married. Children she had wanted him to give her. All he ended up giving her though was grief and misery. Where had he gone wrong? At what point had he become so selfish that her needs had become meaningless? Its no wonder she left him. Hell, he would have

left him too. It wasnt too late to repair things, thank goodness. Carla agreed to give him this time to make things right and he was going to do it. Maybe they could also start working on that family they both wanted. As he turned into the kitchen, the sight that greeted him warmed his heart. He saw her standing in front of the stove, frying corn tortillas. Absolutely beautiful. No woman in the world could compare to her. A lump formed in his throat as he thought about how close he came to losing her. It couldnt happen. He wouldnt allow it to happen. Walking up to her, he enfolded her in his arms and kissed the side of her neck. I love you, sweetheart. She smiled at him and leaned over

to kiss the side of his head. I love you, too. What brought this on? He smiled in return then rested his forehead against hers. Im just glad to come home and find you here. Im glad to be here. I miss being home. Carla sighed as she turned to tend to the tortillas. Placing his hands on her shoulders, Bill quietly suggested Maybe you should move back in. Carla shook her head. I dont think that is a good idea. Bill dropped his hands from her shoulders and stepped back. Why? You are here all the time anyway! What makes a difference if you move your stuff back in

here? If I move back in now then all this effort we have put into our marriage will be for nothing. For nothing? He asked angrily. How can you say that? Give me one good reason why that would be true! Our anniversary. Bill looked at her as though she had gone mad. What? What about our anniversary? Today, Bill. Today is our anniversary. That is why Im here, that is why I went to all this trouble making your favorite meal. Not that it really means anything to you, I suppose, since it seems as important to you as my birthday! When Bill didnt respond, Carla transferred the tortillas to a plate. I

should leave. Wait. He grabbed her arm to stay her. Dont leave. Im sorry I forgot. Its not that it is unimportant, I just have a lot going on right now. Well, Ill just leave you to it then. Carla pulled out of his hold and walked towards the door. Please, Carla, stay and eat with me. It smells wonderful and I know you put a lot of work into it so you should at least enjoy it. Thats alright. Ill pick something up on the way back to Abbys. Carla, please, I dont want to eat alone. The grief in his voice made her pause. How could she walk out and leave him like this? Turning to look at him,

Carla saw the sheen of tears in his eyes. Maybe she was being too hard on him. After all, didnt most men forget their anniversaries? Alright, Bill, alright. Ill stay and eat, but no more talk about me moving back in tonight okay? Relieved, Bill agreed. Okay. The meal had been consumed mostly in silence. He knew he had screwed up again and had no way of making it right. After Carla had left for the night, Bill retired to his bedroom to take a shower and get some much needed sleep. When he entered the room, he noticed the giftwrapped box sitting on the bed. Walking over to it, he sat down on the bed and buried his face in his hands. He was so tired. Tired of all the stress

from his career, from his troubled marriage. He has never been one to give up when things got tough, but right now the thought of throwing in the towel was very appealing. To just climb in bed and pull the covers over his head and stay there until things righted themselves sounded wonderful. Well maybe not, he thought as he looked at the perfectly made bed. It would be very lonely there underneath the covers without Carla there to keep him company. After the disaster of tonight, he didnt think she would welcome the idea any time soon.

Chapter Six

So you really arent going to attend? Atayla swished back and forth before turning to see the back of the dress

in the mirror. How does this one look? Amazing! I like that one the best. Its cut is perfect for your frame. You mean it was designed specifically for fat chicks. Youre not fat, youre curvy. There is a difference. Carla admonished. So why arent you going? I know Bill asked you. Atayla decided to quickly end the age old battle between her and friends about her weight. No, Im not. Carla sighed. Im tired of being disappointed in him. Just when I think things are on the mend he goes and screws up again. I dont think I can take anymore right now. Hey, you know I love you both and I have tried to stay out of this, but Im going to step in this one time and express

my opinion. When Carla didnt object she continued. Now before I say anything that makes you angry or hurts your feelings, let me just say that I understand your position and how he has wronged you. However, I think you are being entirely too hard on Bill. When Carla opened her mouth to protest, Atayla lifted her hand and interrupted her. I know he screwed up big time, neglecting you and your needs, but these last few months he has devoted himself to you and proving to you how much he loves you. Atayla lifted her brow and dared Carla to dispute her words. He forgot your anniversary. I can see how that would hurt your feelings, but

instead of seeing it as an oversight that occurs frequently with the male species you use it as ammunition to throw his past mistakes in his face. Looking down at her hands, Carla had to admit she might be right. Its not like it was really that big of a deal, in fact she had been ready to dismiss it when she first realized he had forgot. Her reaction had been to his persistence in her moving back in when she wasnt ready yet, and then his anger when she didnt relent. Perhaps things did get blown out of proportion. She admitted. Im just not over it yet I guess. I get so defensive when he pushes me and I react to it. He pushes you because he loves you. He wants you home where you belong. Frankly, I agree with him. You

have been gone long enough. You cling to these wrongs and use them as an excuse as to why you hold back from him, but sweetie, he is your husband and you have no right to hold back from him. Tears leaked out of the corners of her eyes. Im afraid to go home because if I get my hopes up and we dont work things out, separating from him a second time will destroy me. Well then, I guess you need to stay on your toes and make sure things work out. Atayla winked at her. Sex is always the answer to any mans problems. If he gives you grief, seduce him and he will forget all about it. Carla laughed. He will just remember later and torture me with it. Probably.

What about this dress? Atayla held up a beautiful lavender mock wrap. No. The last one you tried on was perfect. I found out some interesting information while I was digging around on Patricia Wilson. Carla cringed when she heard the name. Oh? And why would I care anything about that horrid woman? Because she is using your and Bills separation for her own advantage. And just how would she benefit from our separation? Atayla went on to tell her how Patricia and Bill will both be representing in the State vs. Weinstein case. If she lost the case she could request a mistrial, claiming that Bill had gained access to

sensitive materials during their personal encounters. Though it wouldnt look good for her in the fact that she had been irresponsible enough to allow Bill access to the case file, adultery was a common extracurricular activity amongst the legal giants and politicians in Salem, Nevada. It would be a slap on the hand for her, but for Bill it would mean the end of his career. The question was, did she really dislike Bill so much to set him up or is there another motive for vicious scheme? It was a question Carla was determined to find an answer to. Will Patricia Wilson be at this Fundraiser? Carla asked. Yeah, all the big shots will be there. It is the big event for those who are

up for election this fall. Its a way to campaign and impress the community with rich donations to the highly sought after womens shelter. This shelter is the most pressing issue at the moment so they all want to be regarded as a supporter. Carla grunted. Perhaps its best if I dont go. I doubt I can be civil with her if we come face to face. Not to mention all the others who would look upon us as entertainment for the night. I hate to be seen as weak and thats how they will see me. All the more reason for you to go. Dont you see? You would be making a stand against her and her claims. Atayla conspired. By showing up on your husbands arm youll be making a statement.

Yeah? And what would that be? That I am a doormat that will allow my husband to walk all over me? No! By making this appearance you will be informing them all that you stand by your husband and believe in him, that this torrid affair that Patricia is claiming is nothing more than hogwash. Carla scoffed. Yeah, I just bet thats what they will be thinking. They will if you appear as a united front. Prove to them that your marriage has prevailed, that the bond between you is strong enough to withstand lifes hurdles. It will work, but you have to believe in it too. Do you believe in Bills love for you? Do you believe in Bill? Of course I believe. Carla thought about her answer and then said

with more conviction. I absolutely believe in Bill! Then stop sitting on the sidelines and take back your marriage! Are you going to step up and take action or are you going to sit back and allow that bitch to ruin Bill? Carla smiled. I guess I better start trying on dresses, huh? Atayla laughed. Atta girl! Start with that green number over there. She pointed towards the corner of the dress shop. I saw it on my first pass and thought it would look stunning on you! Bill knocked on the door at seven sharp. He waited impatiently, tapping his fingers against his thighs. He sighed and cursed himself inwardly. Why was he so

nervous? He hadnt felt this jittery since he had picked Carla up for their first date. That wasnt true though. He was even more nervous as he waited at the head of the chapel for her to march down the aisle and bond her life to his. That was the greatest, if not scariest, day of his life. If he could withstand the pressure of that then he would make it through this night. He knew that others would whisper the rumors and secretly gawk at them, knowing that their marriage was on rocky ground. It was his intentions to prove to them, to leave them no doubt, that he was entirely devoted to his wife. Bill looked at his watch then knocked again. What in the world was taking the woman so long? She knew he

would be here at seven to pick her up. He had confirmed with her last night when she insisted on leaving the comfort of their bed to return to Abbys house. That in itself irked him beyond description. There was no reason for her to leave their home. Home is where she belonged and it was high time she realized that. He was at a loss as how to make her see reason. He has already done everything within reason to convince her that their marriage was just as strong as ever. Frowning, he moved to knock a third time when the door swung open and the most beautiful of goddesses greeted him. Stunningno that was too weak a word. The vision before him literally stole the breath from his lungs.

Her red hair was set in large curls and swept up in what he was sure was a fashionable style among the women. All he cared about was that it showed off the elegant curve of her jaw and sleek line of her neck. Her dress was the color of emeralds and plunged into a deep V neck line, showing off way more cleavage than was appropriate. He didnt care. Let her show off her assets. She was his, they both knew it, and soon everyone else would know it without a doubt as well. At the base of the V, beads and sequence were sewn about in an elegant floral pattern that spanned her waist. The skirt clung to her form and pooled in satiny waves at her feet. The entire ensemble was sexy and classy and begged

a man to imagine the bounty underneath it. Bill knew what bounty was underneath all that satin and his hands itched to sweep that sassy skirt up to her waist so he could drown himself in her honey. His mouth watered for a taste and it took all his strength not to give in to his urges and ravish her right here where they stand. Carla gasped at the possessiveness her husband fixed on her. Eyes alight with fire, the look he gave her singed her wherever his gaze landed. His slow perusal was torture and left her feeling overly warm and slightly breathless. No man had ever made her feel as beautiful and sensual as her husband. There simply was no competition. She

had turned to putty in his hands on their first date and she knew he would be the only man for her. As if he knew her thoughts, a smug grin spread across his face. Carla couldnt stop the girlish sigh that passed her lips. He was so handsome and he just kept getting more so with age. Long gone was the young kid she fell in love with in college and in his place was the man she had pledged to love and honor for the rest of her life. You keep undressing me with your eyes like that and I will hold you personally responsible for our absence tonight. Carla laughed. I believe it was you who was sexing me up visually. Ill sex you up. He growled in

response. As gorgeous as you look all dolled up I cant help but think about how much better you look in just your skin. Bill watched as Carlas eyes darkened with arousal. He could swear he smelled her pussy dampen as his words slid over her. There was nothing more satisfying as her bodys natural respond to him. Every touch, every reaction was genuine. His smile was pure sin now. Yes, he was a lucky man indeed. Of course, not even your beauty can compete with mine. Carlas eyes widened before she balled her fist and thumped him the chest. They both laughed as the sexual tension abated. It was a good thing too. Carla wasnt so sure she could contain herself

much longer. Youre a nincompoop. She laughed. Her laugh drew his attention to painted lips. Damn, he loved her mouth. So sweet she was, and her lips were plump and ripe. Because he couldnt help himself, he lowered his head and stole a kiss. Yes, definitely sweet. He moaned as her tongue stroked over his. Her mouth was sheer heaven. All it ever took to put his world to rights was her smile and when she kissed him he forgot everything but her. Groaning, he lifted his mouth from hers. Enough or we will never make it to the Community Center. Placing her hand on his arm, Bill

guided her down the steps and to his SUV. He helped her get situated before closing the door and walked around the front of the vehicle. Letting his eyes drink their fill of her, he sat there for a moment before starting the engine. You really do look exceptional tonight. A smile formed on her lips from the sincerity in his words. So do you, handsome. Shifting the gear into drive, he pulled away from the curb. Once they were safely on their way, Bill reached over and took Carlas hand and lifted it to his mouth for a kiss. Thank you for coming with me tonight.

Chapter Seven

The Williams-Hershner Community

Events Center is located down town next to the high school. Usually it was used for prom night, homecoming, and all the other social events for the teenagers, but it is also used by City Counsel for public meetings and greetings. Tonight, however, it hosted the Charity Ball, a fundraiser for the new womens shelter being built across town. Though crime and poverty were not real prevalent in Salem, it still existed. And when it reared its ugly head, it was comforting to know there was an outlet for assistance readily available. Especially for the women and children. The St Frances Mission has always offered a meal and shelter for anyone in need, but there is little protection for those whose flee their homes and the danger

within. The Missions door were always open for anyone to enter and there had been several incidents over the last few years where abusive husbands sought out their wives and children. Some of those incidents had even been fatal. The citizens of Salem have been pushing for the womens shelter for the last two years. It seemed location and finances were just never available. Then one day Peter Laure emptied out one of his warehouses and donated the building for the shelter. The problem of location had been solved, now it was up to the people to aide in funding. This isnt the first fundraiser to be held for the cause, but it was the first that geared towards the political and higher esteemed residents of the city. Another

$100,000 dollars was needed to complete the project and open the doors for those in need. This money would put the finishing touches on the remodel and furnish the kitchen, bathrooms, and living areas. It was also important for Bill to be seen at this event. It was by invitation only and to receive an invitation was an acknowledgement of his status in the legal and political world. Here he would make important friends and open up new business ventures. Carla also recognized the importance of her appearance as well. Her showing up on his arm relayed a silent message that she will stand by his side, be a strong partner, no matter the circumstances. Of course, this message was only received due to the fact that a

harridan tried to destroy her marriage. Carla gathered up her courage and smiled at the valet when he opened the door to help her out. Bill was there, waiting to receive her. He smiled lovingly at her, an encouragement and reassurance. Ready to do this? Carla snorted. Not really. I dont think Ill ever be ready to stand around meekly while everyone talks about me. Laughing, Bill leaned down and whispered in her ear. Just remember to inform them very politely that Patricia is a lying sack of shit when they feel intrusive enough to ask. Carla shook her head as they walked up the steps to the Events Center. She had to admit that his suggestion held a

lot of appeal. She wanted to stake her claim and be certain that everyone knew once and for all that Billy was hers and only hers. No other woman would ever tempt him stray, especially not some manipulative old hag who could freeze lava with only a look. Carla could feel the stares burning into the back of her head. She squeezed Bills hand and pressed herself tighter into his side. She knew she was being clingy, but she wasnt comfortable under such close scrutiny. Fortunately Bill understood and tucked her more closely against his body, attempting to shield her from any foes who may seek out to distress her in any way. Well, she was already distressed and she

felt like a lamb amongst a pack of hungry wolves. All eyes were on them the moment they entered the room. Not only were they physically stunning couple, but there was a fog of scandal that shrouded them. It didnt matter whether it was true or not, these vultures loved any and every kind of drama. It was more than apparent by the lavishness of the room that it was intentionally decorated to highlight the theatrics of the night. These people expected the red carpet treatment and this place looked like it could be a Hollywood showroom. Red billowy curtains hung from the windows and spilled to the floor in waves of fabric. Crystal sparkled in the light and

resembled the flashing of cameras. The music was low but upbeat enough to encourage dancing. Bill spotted Atayla on the outskirts of the room and guided Carla in her direction. He hired Atayla two years ago as a favor to his wifes best friend. Normally he wouldnt take such chances with his career, but it turned out to be a very beneficial arrangement. Atayla was a great friend and fiercely loyal to them both. He knew there would be moments throughout the night that he would need to leave Carlas side and he felt a lot better about it knowing she was safe with Atayla looking out for her. Not that Carla couldnt hold her own, but she would definitely be more comfortable with the support of a good

friend. As soon as they reached their destination, Bill greeted Atayla then excused himself to procure some drinks. Nervous? Oh, God! Is it that obvious? I just hate this whole mess! I hate that everyone keeps giving me that knowing smirk, like they are waiting for the drama to start. Atayla chuckled. Nature of the beast. Everyone likes to believe that they are predators, but in all actuality they are all scavengers. A few are brass enough to say something directly to you, but most will just wait and watch it all play out. She turned and inspected Carla. You look fantastic tonight, by the way. Beautiful, stoic. Good for you! The more confident you look the less they will pay

attention to you. I dont feel very stoic or confident. I feel like my insides are a second away from exploding. Laughing, Atayla nodded her head towards the crowd. Dont give them the pleasure. Carla was greatly relieved when Bill returned with their drinks, needing a little liquid courage to settle her nerves. He handed her a long stem flute of champagne and kissed her beneath her ear. I have had no less than twenty compliments on how lovely you are tonight. He whispered. Really? Yes. He squeezed her hand. It will be alright. I think you would be surprised how many people are on your

side. You mean on your side. She grumbled. Bill barked out a laugh. Actually, no. The looks I got were less than complimentary as they made it a point to inform me how attractive you are. Atayla grinned. Patricia doesnt exactly have a lot of fans. May I have your attention, please? A middle-aged woman rapped on the podium as she spoke into the microphone. Thank you all for coming tonight. It is an honor to have each and every one of you in attendance. In her speech she announced the progress of the womens shelter and what it means to the City of Salem and those less fortunate. She pointed out the location of the

donation box and encouraged everyone to give. It amazed Carla how much money someone needed to spend in order get others to help out. She was sure the preparation of this event was worth a hefty chunk of money. Hopefully it was all worth it and the sponsors are able to collect the $100,000 needed to finish the project. Atayla was one of those sponsors. Having lived with an abusive man, her aspirations for the shelter ran on a more personal level. She was one of the lucky ones and was able to get away before it became physical. As the crowd began to disperse and converge into small groups, they were engaged in conversations from several of the attendees. Carla was introduced to a

lot of new people and becoming more overwhelmed by the minute. She was careful not to let it show, but it was hard putting names with faces and she was fearful of offending someone. They were all genuinely kind to her and it helped relieve some of the tension that kept her strung tight. No mention was made of Patricias claim, but there was an unspoken camaraderie amongst them that let her know they knew the truth of it. After two hours of mingling, Carla excused herself. She needed to visit the ladies room and take a breather. She walked into the ladies room and entered the stall on the far end of the room. Just wanting a few minutes to rest her achy feet and settle her mind, she sat down and rested her head in her hands.

The night had turned out much better than she imagined it would. Now she was just ready to leave and have Bill all to herself. She had many things she wanted to say to him, things that Atayla had brought to her attention. She wanted to clear the air. It was time to mend the hurt feelings and perceived wrongs. They were husband and wife and it far past time that they acted as such. Carla knew it was her fault. Bill had wanted this all along and had already made it clear he was willing to do whatever was necessary to make things work between them. It was her own insecurities that held her back, not anything Bill had done or hadnt done. The truth was that she didnt feel as though she was enough for Bill

anymore and had felt that way for some time. She knew now the truth was that Bill just didnt know how to balance out everything in his life. Taking a deep breath, Carla stood and prepared herself for another mingling session. The outer door opened just as Carla reached for the handle on the stall. What she heard made her hesitate. I cant believe he brought her here and shoved her in your face like that! An unknown woman exclaimed. A deep feminine laugh was heard. Hush, Bonnie. Its alright. Im not offended. William needs to keep up appearances. You know how important it is for them to believe that he is structured and competent, not only as a professional but in his personal life as well.

Yes, Patricia, but everyone knows he left his wife for you. He should be showing everyone that he stands by his decisions and not misleading them into thinking he is still with her. It just makes no sense! He cant do that until the divorce if final. It wouldnt be appropriate. Patricia chastised. Once the divorce is final though, William will be sure to let everyone know where his loyalty truly lies. Unable to listen to any more of this womans bullshit, Carla opened the stall door and stepped out to confront her. I suppose the divorce youre speaking of would be mine? Patricias eyes widened for a brief second before narrowing at her. The

corner of her mouth quirked up into a smirk. Why yes, dear. William is mine. Its only a matter of time before we make it known how in love we are. Carla allowed herself a moment to study the woman. Patricia wasnt at all as she had pictured from Bills description of her. Though she could see a resemblance to Mrs. Titus, he failed to mention how attractive Patricia was. She obviously took good care of herself. Patricia looked about ten years younger than she actually was, thank you Botox, without a line or wrinkle to mar her appearance. Her perfectly tweezed eyebrows were severe above her eyes and she had a long regal nose that gave her a false look of sophistication. If she had met her under different

circumstances Carla might have felt intimidated by her. Standing here, facing her, all she felt was righteous anger for her intrusion in her life. Carla looked over at the friend and smiled before regaining eye contact with Patricia. Im going to say this only once so you better listen up. Billy loves me. I am his wife. He chose me. Even after you spread your lies and tried your best to get in between us he still chose me. I dont know what game you are playing or what you are about but it appears to me that the only person you are fooling is your friend there. She nodded towards the woman standing beside Patricia. Patricia laughed. You silly, nave, little girl. Everyone can see the love

William and I share and every person out there can vouch for our relationship. It is time for you to run along and play with people of your own class because here you seriously lacking. Is that so? Absolutely. Carla flashed her teeth in a devilish grin. We shall see. Carla marched out of the ladies room with a purpose. She walked up to the podium and tapped against the microphone to get everyones attention. Once she was satisfied that everyone in the room was looking upon her she introduced herself. Hello. My name is Carla Bradshaw. Im William Bradshaws wife.

Carla knew Bill and Atayla had situated themselves in front of the crowd and she tried hard to avoid their questioning looks. She didnt need the distraction of Bills disapproval as she continued on. Im sorry to interrupt your evening, but I feel it is time to settle an important issue. Im sure by now you have all heard the claims made by Patricia Wilson that she is having an affair with my husband. There was a murmur of agreement. Carla searched the crowd until she saw Patricia towards the back with her arms crossed over her chest. If looks could kill Carla was sure she would be dead where she stood. I confronted her on her accusations just a moment ago and asked her to quit

spreading lies about my husband. You did what? Bill shouted as Atayla cheered Atta girl! She informed me that if I wanted to know the truth all I had to do was ask all of you. Carla encompassed the entire crowd with a wave of her hand. Their attention was rapt, waiting to see how this situation was going to play out. Well, if they wanted a good dramatic episode to gossip about they were about to get it. So I ask you now. Has anyone here ever heard William express his love for Patricia? The crowd remained silent, looking around from person to person for any acknowledgement. I see. Has anyone here ever seen

the two of them in a compromising position that would make you believe they are having an affair? The crowd still remained silent. Not one person stepped forward, instead their gazes turned towards the back of the room where Patricia stood silently seething. The glare she sent towards Carla promised retribution. Interesting. Carla looked Patricia in the eye. Bill is a good man. He is loyal, not only to his clients and business associates, but also to me, his wife, who he loves unconditionally. It is time for you to cease your lies and step back. Bill is my husband, mine, and I will stand by him and fight for our marriage. You claimed that every person here would back you up and prove that you speak the

truth, but they all just made it perfectly clear that you are manipulative and conniving. I dont know what your motivations were for trying to destroy my husband, but it wont be tolerated any further. She looked at her husband. We wont tolerate it any further. The crowd erupted in applause as Carla stepped down from the podium and into Bills waiting arms. He kissed her sweetly on the lips. I love you. I love you, too. Now lets get out of here. My feet are killing me.

Chapter Eight

There was a chill to the air that hinted of fall. The wind was slight and carried the smell of autumn leaves and ripe pumpkin. The bakeries were working hard preparing those special fall treats

everyone looked forward to. Carla herself was planning to stop at the bakery and buy a pumpkin spice roll after leaving the grocery store. Loading the last bag into the back of Bills SUV, she closed the hatch and climbed in the drivers seat. She wasnt entirely comfortable driving this hulking vehicle, but her jeep broke down and Nathan said it would take a few days for the parts to come in. He had offered to loan her one of his project cars to get her through until he could get hers road worthy again, but she was too afraid of something happening to one his beloved toys while in her possession. With the trial coming up, Billy really needed his vehicle so she was

trying to get all her errands and shopping done and out of the way. This was her last stop before heading home. Yes, she moved back home. In fact, as soon as they left the Events Center last month they stopped by Abbys house and packed up all her things. Carla heaved a happy sigh, glad that things were back to normal. Well, close to normal. She still had a broken down jeep to contend with. It shouldnt be too much of a problem since she got everything done today that needed done. She turned into the Sweet Things parking lot. Noticing a sign on the door and no cars parked in the lot, she pulled up parallel to the entrance. Sorry, closed until Monday. Dang, that meant that she had to drive to the other bakery

downtown. Carla frowned. He hated driving downtown and it would take her at least thirty minutes to get there if she went down Main Street. Deciding it would be faster to bypass traffic, she turned left on 106th St to go past the park and to the outskirts of the city. There she could drive unimpeded until she reached Allisonville Road and make a straight shot to York where Divine Treats was located. Just as Carla reached the edge of town she noticed a dark truck coming up behind her at a high rate of speed. It wasnt unusual for people to drive really fast out here in the rural parts of Nevada where the roads were open for miles. Figuring the truck would just speed on around her, she paid it no further heed.

Carlas thoughts turned to her plans for this evening. Bill and Atayla were working late preparing for the upcoming trial. Atayla was going to bring Bill home and stay for dinner since it would be too late to stop for anything but fast food. Carla knew well the issues Tay had with her weight so she had extended a dinner invitation. Not that there were any true physical issues. Atayla was a beautiful woman. She had a soft bone structure and curves most women would kill for. Carla envied her looks and wished she had a little of what Tay had. Not that she would ever believe it. Her thoughts were broken off as the truck slammed into the back of Bills SUV. The impact had caused the air bag

to inflate and bounced her head back against the headrest. It took her a second to process what had happened. Her neck hurt from being jarred so violently and her chest hurt from the seatbelt catching and keeping her in the seat, but she manage not the wreck. She looked into her rearview mirror and saw the dark truck swerving to stay on the road. At first she thought the driver had fallen asleep or passed out or something, but then the driver of the truck regained control, sped up and slammed into her again. Panicking, Carla searched the area for someone to help her but they were far away from homes and public places. Not knowing what else to do, she grabbed her cell phone and speed dialed Bills

number. He answered on the third ring. What do you need, sweetheart? Im really busy right now. Full of terror, Carla began to shout. Oh God, Bill, there is this guy behind me and he hit me. Twice! I dont know what to do! Oh, God! Hes.. The line went dead after Bill heard a loud crash over the line. Carla? Baby, talk to me! Where are you? His question was met with the silence of a broken connection. He punched Carlas number and called her back. Ringringringring He picked up his office phone after shoving his cell at Atayla who immediately put the phone to her ear. Ringringring Keep trying to reach her. Im

calling the police. He dialed 911 and briefed the operator on the phone call he received and what he had heard. I dont know where she is! Can you find her location by her cell phone? I know it is turned on Please hold, sir. What!?! My wife is out there somewhere, most likely hurt, and you want me to hold? He screeched the last part. Hello? Hello? Bill seethed as he waited for the operator to come back on the line. Fear was overriding rational thought. If she was lying somewhere hurt or worse, dying, with no one to help her because 911 decided he needed to be put on hold

Sir, the police are on their way to speak with you. They should be there within fifteen minutes. If you hear anything more from your wife before they get there, please call 911 immediately and give an update. Hanging up the phone, he went to the front door and unlocked it. He wanted to get out there on the road and search for her, but he knew the futility in that. He had no idea what she had planned today or where she could be. Less than ten minutes later the police arrived and began asking questions. Fear and frustration from not being able to answer the most basic questions had him pacing and snarling like a caged tiger. He gave a description and the license plate number of his SUV and

then turned pleading eyes to Atayla. Did she say anything to you about where she was going or what she was going to do? Atayla shook her head. Grocery store, dry cleaners, post office? I dont know. She just said she had errands to run. What are the places she usually goes to? Bill thought for a minute. She likes going to Central Markets for groceries. When she goes there she usually stops at Sweet Things to buy bread and stuff. She takes my suits to Warners Cleaners and its right around that area. He thought for a moment more. She usually has me go to the post office because she hates driving downtown. He paused, wondering why he hadnt heard anything

yet. He turned to the police officers who were questioning him. If she had an accident in town wouldnt we have known about it by now? What are you thinking, Bill? Atayla asked. She hates driving downtown. If she needed to go there she would have driven around the city to get there. Allisonville runs straight through downtown and would have gotten her wherever she was going. The question is what side of town was she traveling? The west side. Atayla stated. She always sticks to the west side because there is less traffic. Both officers headed towards the door. The first officer grabbed his radio

and relayed the information while the second officer addressed Bill. If you hear anything, call us right away. Well be in touch as soon as we find her. Bill and Atayla stared at each, lost and worried. Do you think we should go looking for her? No. Atayla shook her head. I think we should stay right here where they know how to contact us. I hate thisthisnot knowing if she is alright. His voice was unsteady with grief. Walking up to him, Atayla wrapped her arms around Bill and buried her face in his chest. He eagerly wrapped his arms around her in return, seeking all the

comfort he could get. Shes okay. She has to be. Carla awoke to harsh lights and the smell of antiseptic. She moaned and turned her head to shield her eyes from the light. Unfortunately, someone was holding her eye lid open and she couldnt escape it. The light flashed again and pain radiated from the depths of her skull. She wished she could shove that light somewhere it wouldnt shine anymore. A deep masculine chuckle caught her attention. You must not be too bad off if you can threaten me. The light flashed in her other eye. Damn, did she say that out loud? Another chuckle.

Yes, you did. Where am I? Her mouth and throat were so dry her voice came out as a croak. University Hospital. Do remember anything that happened? Carla licked her dry lips and tried to focus her gaze on the man in front of her. Truck. Thats right. The man nodded. You were in a motor vehicle accident. Any nausea, dizziness? Do you hurt anywhere besides your head? No. Carla shook her head then groaned in pain. Truckhitme. Yes, the police are looking in to it. They want to speak with you, but not until you are ready. Once I feel it is

acceptable, I will call and let them know. In the meantime I want you to relax and heal from your ordeal. Billy Your husband? He cocked a questioning brow at her. Closing her eyes, unable to stand the pain inside her head any longer, she answered. Yeah. He is on his way here. Ill send him back here to you once he arrives. Carla allowed herself to succumb to darkness once more. The next time Carla became aware of her surroundings she smelled her husbands cologne and felt his lips on her forehead. Wetness dripped onto her

temple and ran down the side of her face. Was she bleeding? How is she? Not bleeding. She didnt need to see Billy to know he was crying. She could hear it in his voice. Good. The air bag saved her from a concussion. Other than a severe headache and few bumps and bruises she is just fine. When can I take her home? Tomorrow. I want to keep her overnight for observation. The CT of her head showed no trauma, but better safe than sorry. The doctor patted Bills shoulder then left the room. Looking back down at his wife, Bill saw her gorgeous green eyes staring up at him in confusion. His heart leapt, the fear he felt dissipating since she had woken up.

Hey, sweetheart. How are you feeling? Drink. She licked her dry, cracked lips. Here Bill grabbed the plastic cup of water sitting on the bedside table. He helped her to sit up then placed the straw in her mouth so she could take a drink. She finished off the water and settled back in the bed. Did they find him? Who, baby? There wasnt anyone else around when they found you. Do you know who it was? Carla shook her head. Dark truck. Like the one you looked at last year. There was a man driving, a big man with wide shoulders. He had sun glasses on.

She reached up and wiped the tears from his cheeks. Im sorry I scared you. Oh, God. Bill grabbed her and hugged her to him. He trembled as she wrapped her arms around him. He had thought that he lost her. That she had died in the accident. He snorted. Accident. This was no accident and when he found out who was behind this he would make sure he paid for it for the rest of his life. Easing back, Bill kissed her soundly on the mouth. I dont ever want to go through that again. Me neither. She assured him. A knock on the door startled her. They both turned to see a middle-aged man in a suit walk into her hospital room. He flashed them his badge and introduced himself.

Sorry to intrude. Im Detective Larkin. I was hoping you would be up to answering a few questions for me. Carla nodded and squeezed Bills hand and told the detective everything that she told Bill a few minutes ago. Thats great. Now, I want you to tell me everywhere you went today, including those you spoke to and anyone who might have seen anything. Carla retraced her steps for the day starting with dropping Bill of at the office, through her errands, her call to Bill, and finally waking up in the hospital. You didnt see this truck prior to the hit and run? Detective Larkin questioned. She shook her head. If I did, I didnt notice it.

The detective nodded. Carla, we found the truck a few miles up the road from where you wrecked. There was extensive damage to the vehicle, enough to force the man to abandon it. Bill gave the man a knowing look and acknowledged the unspoken threat. If he was still on the loose then he could try to finish what he started. The thing is, Im not sure if he was after you or your husband. Carla gasped. What do you mean? She looked to Bill who seemed awful stoic for having just learned he could have possibly been the target. Billy? Think about it, sweetheart. Im an attorney. I piss people off all the time. It makes more sense that someone was after

me. Plus, you were driving my SUV Detective Larkin cut him off. There was a sheet of paper found inside the truck. Written on it was a description of your vehicle and license plate number. No names. No physical description of you or your wife. Just the SUV. It is quite possible the man didnt know who the intended target was. Bill blew out a breath of frustration. What do we do now? Wait. He said easily. There were several fingerprints recovered from the truck. We will work through them as we identify them. He looked back to Carla. Thank you for speaking to me. You have been very helpful. With that he left the room. Bill grasped Carlas hand and

brought it to his lips. Dont worry. Ill keep you safe. No one is going to hurt you again. Not if he had anything to say about.

Chapter Nine

Atayla burst into Bills office. Her cheeks were flushed and her big green eyes were wide as saucers. He jumped to his feet and immediately went on the defensive thinking something must have happened to Carla. What the hell is going on? Marg just called. The police arrested Patricia for conspiracy to commit murder. I dont know all the specifics. She said it all happened so fast that she didnt have time to process all they were saying. When did this happen? About half an hour ago. They stormed into her office, informed her she

was under arrest and read her rights. She barked orders for Margaret to call Bernie Lloyd to meet her downtown. Do you think? Mr. Bradshaw? There is a Detective Larkin here to see you. His office secretary stated from the doorway behind Atayla. Please show him in. Bill frowned at Atayla as she rushed to take a seat in the corner. She arched a brow in return and dared him to make her leave. Heaving a sigh, he went to the door to greet his visitor. Detective Larkin looked much as he did the other day only there was a light in his eyes that wasnt there before. Detective Larkin shook the proffered hand. Mr. Bradshaw. Its

good to see you again. Please come in. Have a seat. He waved to the two chairs sitting in front of his desk. The detective hesitated once he saw Atayla and raised a questioning brow at Bill. This is Atayla Parker. She is my assistant and a good friend of Carlas. You can speak freely in front of her. Besides, the only way to get her out of here would be to pick her up and physically remove her. Then muttered to himself. And I value my nuts too much to try. The detective chuckled and Atayla just looked smug. So what brings you here today, Detective? Hopefully you have some

good news for me. Bill stated as he walked around desk to take a seat. Detective Larkin followed suit and sat in one of the chairs reserved for clients. I do. I stopped by your house and spoke to Carla already. She asked me to come by here on my way back to the precinct and speak to you. Bills posture stiffened as he wondered why she hadnt called, but he nodded his head for the detective to continue. The man who was driving the truck is Larry Gaby. Hes local and has a record, mainly petty theft and domestic violence. We picked him up this morning after getting a hit on his fingerprints from the trucks steering wheel. After some

extensive questioning he made a full confession. He claimed he was hired by Patricia Wilson. She paid him to cause the accident, but only gave him the description of your vehicle. Her instructions did not dictate the circumstances of the accident, only that the occupant didnt survive. Bill growled menacingly. Luckily the guy wasnt a professional and your wife walked away relatively unscathed. What we need to know now is what Patricias motives were. Your wife was very helpful, but she believed you could provide more insight than she was able to. Detective Larkin listened as Bill told him all the details of the situation as he knew them. It became obvious that

Patricia had set out to discredit Bill and when that didnt work, eliminate him. He was the biggest threat to her career. She wanted the position of District Attorney, but didnt have any big wins under her belt. State vs. Weinstein would be that career changing win. Bill, however, was damn good at what he did and she knew it. Patricia knew the odds of defeating Bill were slim so she set out with this alternative plan. Thanks for all your help. Bill shook the detectives hand. Keep me updated on the situation. Im heading back to the precinct to question her now. She lawyered up as soon as we read her the Miranda warning. He snickered. Care to represent her?

The smile he gave the detective was purely predatory. I would love to be her attorney. Life without the possibility of parole sounds like a hell of a deal to me. They shook hands and Bill walked him out of the office and to the front door. After a final goodbye, Bill walked back in and slumped in a chair at the reception desk. Both Atayla and Ashley regarded him carefully, not knowing how he was going to react to this new information. Finally he looked up at them. His sorrow glistening his eyes. This is all my fault. How do you figure? Ashley cocked her head in question. Carla would never have been hurt if it wasnt for me. Bullshit! Atayla admonished.

The only person to blame for this mess is Patricia. The woman is obviously insane! She hired someone to kill you! Its not your fault, Carla just happened to be the one driving at the time he decided to make good on his part of the bargain. She didnt call me. He whispered Who? Ashley inquired. Carla. Atayla growled out an impatient sound. What are you talking about? After Detective Larkin spoke to her. She didnt call me, didnt want to talk to me. Obviously she blames me as well. Lord, spare me from dense men! Atayla looked up at the ceiling and prayed. Blowing out a breath of frustration, she implored Bill to listen to

reason. Im sure the only reason she didnt call was because she knew how you would react. By the time Detective Larkin got here you would have had yourself in such a tizzy that you wouldnt have been helpful at all. You havent exactly been rational when it comes to Carlas role in this nightmare. I hope you are right. I cant bear to lose her again. He strode into his office and collected his jacket and briefcase. As he walked towards the back door, shoulders slumped, he murmured, Atayla, handle the appointments that you can and reschedule the rest. Im going home to talk to my wife. By the time Bill arrived home he

was ready to just throw himself at her mercy. If he thought it would do any good he would crawl to her on his knees, groveling for her to still love him. He wouldnt blame her for leaving again. He was, after all, the reason she was attacked in the first place. He walked into the house and found her sitting meekly on the couch, hands in her lap, staring out the window. It was like she didnt even notice his arrival, though she had to have watched him pull in. Quietly, he walked over to the couch and crouched in front of her. Clasping her hands, he brought both to his lips for a kiss. Will you not even look at me? His voice was tortured.

At the sound of his voice, the tears she had fought valiantly to hold back spilled forth. He wiped them away and kissed her softly on the lips. She looked close to her breaking point. Im so sorry, sweetheart. Her lips thinned as she shook her head and his heart clenched painfully at her rejection. I should have known it was her. She spat, her voice thick with emotion. She is an evil, evil woman. She tried to have you murdered! He stayed silent, not knowing what to say to her at this point. She turned to him and grasped his face in both hands. I want to have a baby. He blinked. Well, that was way out in left field. Maybe the trauma of the

whole thing has skewed her judgment. Oh, stop looking at me like that! I mean it! Im tired of waiting. This whole she waved her arms around emphatically, thing has really opened my eyes. You have been very selfish William Bradshaw! Our entire marriage has been about you and what you want. Well, now Im telling you what I want, and that is a family. You can have your career and do whatever you want with it, but no longer will you deny my needs and what I need is a mini us to love and to cherish! He blinked again, torn between asking Are you sure? and grabbing her up and shouting Lets get started! Finally, he settled on, You are the love of my life, Carla. Anything you want is yours.

His lips came crashing down on hers and he kissed her with all the pent of longing from the months she was away. He meant what he said. He would give her anything she wanted so long as she stayed right here with him. And a baby? Hell, yes. He was definitely on board with creating a child with her. Then another thought occurred. He tore his mouth away from hers. What about your birth control? He asked as he swept her hair behind her ear. Consider that officially over with as of today. He looked at her with all the love in his heart. You know we wont get pregnant right away. She gave him a saucy smile. Yes,

well, practice makes perfect doesnt it? An explosion of arousal swept through his body, his cock already as hard as granite. Yes. It does indeed, sweetheart. It does indeed.

About the Author

Emma Delaney is a pen name, the real author resides in small town America where she is a full time mom and nurse. When she is not working a twelve hour shift taking care of sick and grouchy people or chasing her ornery son around, she likes to sit back and relax with a good book.

In The Works! Unraveled Love in Salem Atayla Parker has fled LA, her loveless parents, and her abusive boyfriend. Settling down in Salem was the best decision she has ever made. Now she has a job she loves and friends that adore her. She is happy for the first time in her life. The last thing she needs is a man to try to control her life again. There isn't a man on this earth worth giving up her freedom for, until....
Aidan Aiello had mapped out his future at the tender age of ten. At

seventeen he gave up his dream of college and dropped out of high school to work full time and help support his family after his father suffers a heart attack. Now he owns his own tattoo parlor and has worked hard to build up his business and clientele. Even though his aspirations have veered onto a different path, everything is still going just as he has planned. Well, everything except his love life. Ever the single male, he has just about given up on his dream of love everlasting. Then one night of drunken sulking he falls into love, literally.

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