and April 5th, 2016 (Print)
Fiona looked around at the packed event, a total success. Anyone would think she had a full life.
Except she couldn’t bring herself to have sex with husband. She’d been so certain the surgery was the right decision. She’d gone to counseling before and after. Her husband had been completely supportive.
And still the distance between them had grown wider and wider these past months, emphasizing how little they knew about each other. They’re married because of infatuation and great sex. Now that the initial glow of infatuation had passed and they didn’t even have sex to carry them through the rough patches, their marriage was floundering. Badly.
And with a cancer scare looming over her today, she couldn’t bear the thought that he would stay with her out of sympathy.
Henri wasn’t in much of a party mood, no matter how much his brothers elbowed him and teased him about his latest fumble. His Texas cousins weren’t cutting him any slack either.
He’d been thinking about the divorce papers his wife insisted on pursuing.
While the love had left their marriage, he’d heard plenty say that marriage had ups and downs. He wasn’t a quitter. And damn it all, he still burned to have her.
His gaze skimmed along the guests around the pool, landing on his wife. Her loose hair and slim curves called to him, reminding him of the enticing feel of her back as he’d tugged her zipper up.
She smiled at whoever she spoke to – a man with his back to the rest the crowd – and nodded as she walked away. The man turned and Henri’s breath froze in his chest. He knew the man well. Dr. Carlson was a partner in the practice Fiona used to see before they’d transferred her to another physician for the surgery.
Fear gelling in his gut, Henri charged away from his brothers and cousins, shouldering through the crowd to his wife.
He grasped her arm and guided her toward the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. “In a moment. When no one can over hear us.”
Lights from yachts and boats dotted the distance. Along the shoreline, couples walked hand and hand into the distance. Henri opened the boat house door and stepped inside. Moonlight streaked through streaked through the windows, across her face. Confusion and frustration stamped along her lovely features.
He angled them beneath a pontoon boat on a lift. The boat was still wet from use, and water tapped the ground in a rhythm that almost matched his pounding heart. Inhaling deeply, he caught the musty scent of the boathouse with the cinnamon notes of Fiona’s perfume. He’d bought it for her on trip to France before all of these difficulties had really gotten out of control.
“Enough already, Henri. Would you please tell me why we’re out here?”
He clasped both of her shoulders. “Are you okay?”
“What do you mean?”
“I saw you talking to Dr. Carlson.” He looked in her sherry colored eyes, trying to read her. Something flickered there but he wasn’t sure what.
Staring at the floor, she chewed her bottom lip for an instant before answering, “We were discussing a fundraiser and party for the pediatric oncology ward.”
Okay, but why was she looking away? “You’re sure that’s all?”
She hesitated a second too long. “What do you mean?”
Fear exploded inside him. “Are you feeling alright?” He clasped her shoulders. “Physically. Is there something wrong? If so, you know I’m here for you. Whatever you need, just tell me.”
She squeezed her eyes closed, shaking her head, tears sliding free.
“Oh God, Fiona, is it …,” his throat moved in a long swallow, “do you have…”
“What were you laughing so hysterically about?” Anger edged through the fear. “And would you like to clue me in on the joke because right now I could use something to lighten the mood?”
“No joke,” she said with a sigh, meeting his gaze again. “Just so ironic.”
“Then what are you hiding?”
“Not that it’s any of your business,” she chewed her bottom lip again, “but he asked me out for a drink to discuss the fundraiser.”
He saw red. Pure red. “He asked you out for a drink? As in for a date? Not because of the fundraiser?”
“Because of the fundraiser, but yes, he clearly meant a date as well.” She pulled at her curls, tension mounting in her cheeks.
Henri had to stay calm. Had to make it through this conversation. “And what did you say?”
“I told him I’m still married.” Eyes narrowing, the words launched at him like daggers.
“Clearly that wasn’t a problem for him since you are wearing my ring.”
She shrugged her shoulders, chandelier earrings swaying. “That didn’t bother him in the least.”
He turned toward the door, ready to return to the party and deck the guy straight into the pool.
Fiona placed a hand on his shoulder. “Stop, Henri. He mentioned hearing we’re splitting up. He thought I was available.”
“How would he have heard such a thing?” His mind went back to the original concern. “Were you at the doctor’s office where he’s a partner?”
She swallowed hard. “You seem to have forgotten his brother is our lawyer.”
“I was thinking the same thing actually.” She picked at her French manicure. “We should get separate lawyers.”
Damn it. This conversation was not going the way he intended. He just wanted to pull her into his arms and take her here. Now. To say to hell with the past and future. No more jealousy or discussion about … hell.
He just wanted her.
USA Today bestseller and RITA Award winning author Catherine Mann writes contemporary romance for Berkley, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Tule. With over sixty books released in more than twenty countries, she has also celebrated six RITA finals, an RT Reviewer’s Award finalist, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win. Catherine and her flyboy husband live on the Florida coast where they brought up their 4 children – and still have 5 four-legged, furry “children” (aka pets). Catherine is an active volunteer with an animal rescue, serving on their Board of Directors and fostering over 200 puppies, ill dogs, and dogs with service/working potential.