Authors: Mary Connealy
THE BOSSY BRIDEGROOM
Copyright © 2008 by Mary Connealy. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 721, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the H
™. Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.
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Jeanie Davidson believed in miracles because she believed God loved her.
And only a miracle could make anyone love her.
Exhausted after her long day, she slipped into her favorite faded blue jeans and her pink T-shirt with the buffalo on the front. The shirt made her feel close to her daughter.
She curled up in a ball on her dilapidated couch and prayed to become a person worthy of self-respect.
“Jeanie!” A fist slammed on her door.
“You get out here!”
Her heart thudded. She knew that voice. It had been over two years, but she still reacted the same way—fear.
The rickety wood shuddered as Michael kept pounding.
Jeanie stumbled forward, obeying by reflex. He’d had her trained to obey without question. Tripping over her own feet, she hurried to throw open the barrier and face her worst nightmare.
Michael’s battering fist almost caught her in the face. He stormed in and grabbed her by both shoulders. Tall and dark, his handsome face was an unnatural shade of red. A shade she had, unfortunately, seen many times. Michael and his temper were inseparable.
“You gave our baby away?” he roared at her, lifting her onto her tiptoes. “You threw Sally out like a piece of trash?”
Jeanie had tried to be good since she found God. Tried so hard. But her old life wouldn’t stop punishing her. Then she remembered that God loved her, which reminded her of all the promises she’d made to herself. “Get your hands off of me.”
Michael jerked in surprise.
It surprised Jeanie, too. She’d never heard quite that tone come out of her mouth before. She hadn’t known it existed.
She yanked her shoulders, and he let her go.
His surprise didn’t last long. He stepped inside, swung the door to her second-floor apartment shut, and pulled an envelope out of the back pocket of his wrinkled black slacks. He had a white button-down shirt on, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. His hair was a mess, the curls he loathed sprung free. He looked as if he’d slept in his clothes and avoided a mirror—his best friend back in the day. “What is this?”
Jeanie didn’t want to be shut inside with him. She wasn’t afraid he’d hit her. Michael had always done his worst with words.
She glanced at the return address: Custer County Court, South Dakota. It was his final notice, sent months ago, and his time to protest was nearly past.
“I gave Sally up for adoption.” She forced her voice to remain steady when her heart was breaking. “The court made a good faith effort to contact you. It’s been over two years since they first sent notification. Your parental rights were terminated six months ago. You had a long time to complain.”
“I never got a letter.”
“I gave them your last known address as well as your parents’ address.”
“My parents are dead.”
“Oh, well, I’m sorry to hear that.” They hadn’t been subtle letting her know their precious Michael had married well beneath him. “But surely the post office forwards things …”
“This isn’t about the
. This is about a mother abandoning her child.”
“And a father.”
Michael opened his mouth to keep up the verbal assault, but no words came out. Maybe even he had some shame.
“Haven’t you noticed your child support checks, when you got around to sending them, haven’t been cashed for a long, long time?”
Michael’s mouth actually shut.
Jeanie had to keep a tight grip on her inner evil child, because it gave her great satisfaction to stand up to her tyrannical husband, and she wanted to keep at it. And she shouldn’t. Meeting evil with evil wasn’t God’s solution.
Instead, she found the courage to step toward him calmly, neither raging nor cowering. “You abandoned both of us.” She jabbed him in the chest with her index finger. Okay, a little rage there. “Even when the
were never with it. Don’t come in here now acting like you love our little girl or care what happens to her.”
Michael’s hands went to his chest as if her finger was a bullet to his heart.
“You blew it. Sally’s gone. We’re over. I don’t have to put up with you yelling at me anymore. So get out!”
His stutter shocked her, but it was probably due to her completely unexpected backbone.
His eyes settled. Determination.
Jeanie knew he was getting over the shock.
Michael’s head dropped until his chin rested on his chest.
“I just got this letter today. At my parents’ house.”
“In Chicago?” That wasn’t an important question, but none of this was important. Jeanie was past caring about her jerk of a husband. Too big of a jerk to even bother filing divorce papers. And she hadn’t filed. She’d married him for better or for worse and proceeded to live a life of unbelievable “worse” for six years. Since she’d become a Christian, she was even more certain that her vows were eternal. If he wanted out, he’d have to initiate it.
It didn’t matter anyway. She had no intention of ever being married again, to anyone, least of all Michael “The Tyrant” Davidson. So being divorced meant being free to do … nothing.
“I went back to close up my parents’ house, and I found this letter. It made me furious.” He didn’t sound furious, not like two minutes ago when he’d forced his way into her home.
“Your address here in Cold Creek is on the letter, too. I got on a plane and came straight here, in a rage.”
“When are you ever not in a rage?” Jeanie shook her head in disgust.
“I’m not in a rage most of the time these days. I went back to close up Mom and Dad’s house. Then I was going to find you and try to salvage our family.”
Jeanie reared back, far more surprised by this than by his anger. “
You were not
. I haven’t even seen you for years.”
“Twenty-eight months, two weeks, and three days.”
“You say that like you were counting the days of our separation, as if I
“It didn’t matter when I did it. But now it matters.” Michael ran the fingers of both hands deep into his hair. “I had to stop at my folks’ house. It’s been sitting empty since Mom’s funeral three months ago. I hoped she had some information in the house about where you lived. Then I saw this letter, and I saw red, and I’ve been running on rage ever since.”
“When are you ever not running on rage?”
“I’m sorry. Before I saw the letter, I had planned to find you and beg your forgiveness. Instead, I used this letter as an excuse to be angry. You’re right about Sally. It’s my fault, all of it. Please say you’ll give me another chance.”
Seconds stretched to a minute.
Michael stared at the floor. Jeanie stared at his dark curls.
Finally, Jeanie couldn’t stand the wait anymore. “Who are you, and what have you done to my husband?”
Michael would have beaten himself for raging at Jeanie like this—if he wasn’t a newly confirmed pacifist.
He’d had this vision of coming to Jeanie a new man, a changed man, getting down on his knees and begging for forgiveness. Instead, he’d shown himself in the worst light imaginable. But who could have dreamed she’d give up Sally for adoption?
He brushed past her, still not looking her in the eye.
Jeanie. His wife. He’d loved her since they were kids. And he’d done a poor job of showing it.
“Come here, please.” He sank onto her couch. It was awful, with rips in the arms and seat. Some greenish fabric with scratchy upholstery, worn and faded until it was nearly colorless. Jeanie never would have dared let his home look so shabby. He ran a hand over the tufts of escaped batting in the rounded sofa arm.
He felt, more than saw, Jeanie sink into the overstuffed chair across from him. He’d hoped she’d sit beside him, but he was a moron even to imagine it. A spindly coffee table separated them, as well as time and his miserable behavior.
“Where is Sally?” He clamped his mouth shut. He hadn’t meant to start talking there.
“Buffy adopted her.”
Michael looked up. Then he pulled the papers back out. “It says Wyatt and Alison Shaw.”
“Buffy’s name is Alison. You know that. She’s married now to Wyatt Shaw. They were in a better position to make a home for Sally. After you abandoned us, Buffy took me in.
She ended up being more of a mother to Sally than I ever was. I doubt Sally even noticed when I left.”
Jeanie’s head dropped back against the ratty chair.
“Buffy has her?” A huge wave of relief almost made him dizzy. Buffy had always been a better person than he or Jeanie. Buffy would take good care of Sally until Michael could get her back.
Michael saw a tear trickle down Jeanie’s face. It cut a trail down her cheek and cut into his heart at the same time. He’d done it, convinced his wife she was worthless. Not fit to be a mother. It was all on his shoulders.
He stared at her and remembered that girl he’d claimed when she was far too young. So pretty, so sweet, so eager to please. He’d wanted her for her looks. He’d thrived on her sweetness. He’d married her for her compliant nature. Then he’d criticized constantly the things he loved most about her.
When the baby came and he was no longer the center of her universe, he left and blamed even that on her.
And then, through the shock of his father’s death and the realization of how completely lost his mother was without a tyrant to tell her when to breathe and what to think, he’d found God and understood what love was and how badly he’d failed.
He scrubbed his face with both hands, praying silently. Strength—he needed true strength not to be the tyrant he’d been raised to be. “One thing at a time, Jeanie.”
Jeanie lifted her head. A streak of tears cut down from her other eye. She stared, not even bothering to wipe her cheeks. “One thing at a time?” Her vulnerable expression hardened. “Okay, here’s one thing: Get out.” She stood.
Michael raised one hand. “Please sit. I’m not leaving. We’ve got to talk.”
Jeanie gave a short, bitter laugh, but she sank back down. “Why? We never
, not once the whole time we were married. Maybe not the whole time we
. We were together what? Four years of dating and six years of marriage? Ten years in all? And we
never once talked
“I know. I remember. I talked, and you agreed with me. If you ever disagreed with me, I yelled until you agreed with me. It’s one of a thousand things I’m trying to face and take responsibility for. I ruined our marriage, Jeanie. Now I want to fix it.”
Jeanie snorted. It wasn’t a sound Michael had heard from his wife in the past. She’d grown a backbone in the years he’d been gone. Good, he needed her to be tough, to hold him accountable.
“I’m not interested in fixing our marriage. You can go now.”
She grabbed the arms of her chair to stand again, and Michael erupted from the couch, rounded the coffee table, and dropped to his knees in front of her before she got to her feet.
She jerked back as if a rattlesnake had landed on her lap.