Authors: Beverly Taylor
A Sweetest Day Romance
Copyright © 2013 J.U.M.P. Publishing.
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, including photocopying, recording and taping, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher. All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all the incidents are pure invention.
Sweetest Desires by Beverly Taylor
Is he cheating on me?
Katharine tossed and turned in her sleep. This wasn’t one of her sweet ballerina dreams, but rather a nightmare of her husband in the arms of another woman. Suddenly, she jolted awake and sat straight up, gasping to catch her breath. She looked around the room, condensed her eyes, and waited for her v
ision to gain focus. The only light present was a small glare that crept through the corner of the faux wood blind. Finally, she drew out a hard breath, relieved it was all a bad dream—a horrible nightmare. She clicked on the dim nightlight attached to the bedside lamp. Despite the spinning ceiling fan, she dragged her hand across her forehead to remove the wetness. Now lying on her back, she watched the fanblades rotate, contemplating her awful dream. From the way things had been going in her marriage, she wasn’t totally convinced that he’d been faithful.
Carson was sleeping soundly when Katharine had eased out of bed and glided quietly through the halls into their home office. Unlatching the lock on Carson’s briefcase, she’d searched for something, anything to confirm her suspicions. Buried unde
rneath mounds of paper, news clippings, and post-it-notes, she’d found his monthly planner. She’d opened it to the current month and flipped back and then ahead to July. Penciled in every other Thursday in the months of June and July, were the words, “Lunch w/Cindy.” Her heart dropped to her stomach.
Carson, age thirty-six, worked as a sportswriter for a national publication. Granted, the woman could be the wife of an athlete he was doing a story on, but how likely was it to have to meet every other Thursday to complete a one- or two-page article? One visit, even a telephone inquiry, would sum it up if that were the case. No, this was something much more. She could feel it in her trembling bones.
As she nervously returned the planner to its position, she saw a photo—a portion of someone’s face. It lay underneath a marked-up draft article. She slid the picture from its hiding place and gaped at the couple staring back at her. Carson and the unknown woman were smiling—but Katharine wasn’t. As blissful as they appeared, their relationship could not be strictly business-related. She flipped the photo over and read, “Carson O’Connor and Cindy Lomax.” The photo was dated February 14, of the previous year. The Valentine’s Day Carson came home late.
If he’s cheating, why leave something like this in plain view or thereabouts?
Then it struck her.
Does he want me to leave? Is he trying to get me to divorce him?
Her chest rose and fell anxiously.
Katharine spent the next week doing her own i
nvestigation of the woman. She had discovered that Cindy was a freelance counselor for the eleventh-grade students at John Adams High School, hired as an exclusive contractor for the school’s athletic programs under a state-funded three-year project. And with the assistance of
, the report revealed Cindy was nearly five years older than Katharine. She couldn’t chance hiring a professional detective because of Carson’s notoriety.
At eleven thirty the following Thursday mor
ning, Katharine, out of desperation, waited outside of the parking garage of the
building for Carson’s vehicle to come out, and had decided to follow him in a rental car to one of his scheduled lunch dates. It was at a seafood restaurant half a block from the high school where Cindy worked. Through the tinted window of the rental car, Katharine had watched the woman who was wrecking her home, her family, her marriage, her life. Even though the pair was inconspicuous, dressing and behaving like colleagues sharing a business lunch, Katharine’s intuition cautioned her that their relationship was more than the casual acquaintance it appeared to be. It was good, yet heartbreaking, that she saw it firsthand.
Cindy wore a conservative, melon-colored silk dress that made her copper tone complexion glow. Her hair had dried naturally, encircling her head in glossy, ebony curls. She wore large gold hoops in her ears, and bangles glittered on her wrists. Katharine was sure Carson had told her how beautiful she looked.
Katharine clinched her fists so hard, her bronze-colored knuckles turned chalky at the sight of her. “Help me, Lord,” she cried, her fingers now relaxed. “I don’t know what to do,” she whispered as a tear fell onto her cheek. A verse from Psalms 37 popped into her head and echoed in her mind as she drove home
: Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart
. Her heart desired her marriage, the joyful laughter that once filled her home. But how could she find the strength to delight herself in the Lord when her marriage was in shambles?
I’ve fallen out of love with you.
I don’t want to be with you anymore.
Carson O’Connor tried to prevent those words from invading his consciousness. Deep inside, he still loved Katharine, but the sparks, the flame, the fluttering heartbeats had vanished and left no forwarding address.
He really was fond of Katharine, but her drab appearance had him less than interested these days. It had stifled the passion she’d once aroused in him. She was boring and he needed some fun and excitement in his life that she no longer provided.
Too many times, his relationship with Cindy had separated him from his better judgment. But what was he supposed to do, survive only on the sterile, uninspired sex of his marriage?
He knew Katharine felt responsible for his loss of interest, but her efforts to rekindle the spark left him cold. In his job as lead sportswriter for the
, he met lots of beautiful women, only to come home to a wife who wore homemade dusters that made her look twice her hundred and twenty pounds and ten years older than thirty-five.
Carson stared at the computer screen, pondering his thoughts.
“Sweetheart, you’ve been glued to this computer all day,” Katharine said, coming through the door. She made her way to his side. “Why don’t you stop and watch a movie with me? The children are asleep, and I can put a couple of bags of popcorn in the microwave for us.” She smiled down at him invitingly. “Better yet, remember the Jiffy Pop popcorn?”
He ignored the invitation and the smile.
“I bought a couple of them from the grocery store a few days ago. I thought the children would get a kick out of seeing the type of popcorn our generation grew up eating.”
Carson clicked the mouse button, sliding cards in columns and shifting them around.
“Anyway, I could pop them over the fire instead of using the microwave.” The corners of her lips lifted a little. “It’ll bring back a lot of childhood memories.”
He gave no response.
Katharine’s grin slowly faded. “Okay, honey?” she asked. “I think one of your favorite movies is coming on tonight.” She waited as if expecting him to ask the name of the film, but he focused his attention on the flat-screen monitor.
“Sweetheart, are you listening to me?”
Carson’s eyes met hers and he didn’t spare his contempt. “I’m not interested,” he said coldly, then lowered his eyes to the computer screen, hoping she’d go away.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Katharine’s smile falter. “Why not?” She folded her arms defe
nsively and shifted her weight to one leg.
With a sigh of disgust, Carson scanned her physique. “Look at you, Kat. You mosey around the house looking like you don’t care about yourself anymore. Your legs are flaky and your toenails u
nmanicured.” His eyes roamed upward to her face. “No makeup,” he sneered, “and your hair is uncombed.” It was a vicious thing to say but he let the remark stand. He turned back to the computer, more concerned with winning his solitaire game than with her feelings.
“Okay,” she said in a rueful voice.
* * *
Katharine’s eyes watered and she backed away from him, pausing for a moment to lean against the doorframe and think. Obviously, she didn’t look her best, but since she was at home on a Saturday evening, away from her demanding job as admini
strator of the Berkley Manor Assisted Living Complex, she’d seen no reason to endure the discomfort of nylons and high heels or to bother with cosmetics and styled hair. It wasn’t fair to expect her to look her finest all the time, but if that was what it took to get him back, she’d do it.
Rushing to their bedroom, she threw herself onto the bed. Tears gushed from the corners of her eyes, streaming down her cheeks and landing inside her ears as she rolled onto her back to wipe them away.
It’d been six months since she’d spied on Carson at the seafood restaurant. And during those six months, she’d tried desperately to save her floundering marriage, but none of her attempts—the weekend getaway, the soft music and candlelit dinners, snuggling by the fire, the in-home professional Swedish massage, the aroma therapy baths—seemed to work. Even though she despised Westerns, she had sat through some of Carson’s favorite John Wayne movies just to have something to talk about. Unfortunately, that was just as uneventful as the company itself.
A small-framed woman with long, shapely legs, Katharine envied women with larger breasts and wider hips because her husband so obviously pr
eferred curves to slimness. Even in her presence, Carson stared, no doubt unconsciously, at women with full breasts and rounded backsides.
If he likes full-figured women, then why did he marry me?
Katharine pulled herself away from her thoughts and strode to the bathroom mirror to stare at her r
eflection. She tried to conceal the heavy bags under her eyes with a bronze-colored soufflé makeup, but the puffiness couldn’t be hidden. She would have to wait until it disappeared with sleep and time. Instead, she grabbed a bottle of lotion and began to lubricate her legs.
What am I doing?
she thought. Carson wants me to change to fit his pleasures, but he needs to do some changing too.
Sucking in her breath, she gathered the courage to confront him and darted back to their home office. Just as she reached the door, Carson spoke softly into his cell phone, “I’m on my way.” Before he could flip the phone close and spot her in the doorway, Katharine scurried to the bedroom and sat on the m
ahogany-finished footboard, taking short, sharp breaths to calm herself
She knew where he was headed.
Carson rushed past the bedroom door without so much as a glance and said, “I’ll be right back.”
She wanted to say something—anything—to stop him from leaving, but no words came out. Knees trembling and pulse fluttering, she heard the front door open and close. It was too late.
Katharine paced the room, her thoughts roaming wildly. When she reached the chest of drawers, she halted abruptly and pulled open the top drawer, searching among her silk slips until she felt the four-inch-by-six-inch photograph that she’d color-copied. She slid it out and, for the umpteenth time, viewed the two people whose smiles too plainly revealed they were happy together.
Carson’s smile was identical to the one Katharine had seen so often during the first ten years of their marriage but had not flashed for the past two. His arm circled the waist of a beautiful woman, whose head nestled against his chest, hardly suggesting platonic friendship. Her name, Katharine now knew, was Cindy Lomax.
Katharine stared at the photo for several long seconds, trying to hold back her tears, but when she blinked, they streamed down her face.
She took one last look at Cindy’s beautiful, bond white, porcelain teeth and perfectly aligned cleavage. Her sight shifted to Carson’s delightful beam before she returned the photo to the drawer. She thought she did everything within her power to make her husband comfortable and happy. She had put forth an extra effort in making sure that when he was at home on weekends to look extraordinarily special, even though she just hung around the house. But that didn’t seem to work either. It appeared useless. Perhaps it was too late.
Exhausted from her busy weekend schedule, Katharine looked forward to an evening of relaxation. An hour earlier, she had taken a hot bath, given he
rself a facial, and slipped into a comfortable duster dress. She assumed it had triggered a frustration in Carson but soon realized he was using it as an excuse to leave.
If only she could get Carson to attend church with his family again. She refused to attend the Su
nday services without him. Other than the same tired explanation, “He’s away on business,” what additional justification could she give to the congregation concerning his whereabouts? “My husband is spending the day with his mistress.” Heaven forbid the gossip resulting from such a satirical answer. The church the O’Connors attended had plenty of Sunday-only Christians. Still, some of them were sincere, and Katharine missed having Christian friends at church to talk with after the services and discussing the scriptures at Bible study classes. Unfortunately, she’d fallen into the habit of missing church altogether. Forgo one or two services and that turns into twelve and thirteen.
Lying across the bed, she began to wonder about the future. But as a wave of hopelessness washed over her, a voice whispered, “
I’ll never leave you nor forsake you
.” As the words repeated in her mind, a sense of peace began to push away the fear. She slid out of bed and got down on her knees, but as she lifted her prayers to heaven, she heard no answering voice.
After her prayer, she picked up her Bible and b
egan to read from the Book of Psalms. Chapter after chapter was filled with David’s despair over some terrible event in his life, followed by his hope that God would deliver him. She could feel God’s healing presence all around her. She marveled that she could feel such joy when her marriage was falling apart.
She snuggled into the covers and turned to her imagination for additional comfort knowing that in her dreams, Carson would return and beg for her fo
rgiveness. Prayers and dreams were all she had for now.
* * *
Running water from the shower woke Katharine. She scrunched her eyes until they reached focus to accurately see the time on the alarm clock. One-forty-six a.m. She wanted to know what he was doing until one o’clock in the morning. Better yet,
he was doing. The thought made her feel foolish. Maybe she was jumping to conclusions. Sometimes he’d chum around late with pro ballplayers to get a scoop for his column or to play some midnight basketball at a twenty-four hour gym. But he’d usually call or send a text message to let her know.
Quietly, Carson pulled back the covers and got into bed.
“Carson,” Katharine sprung straight up.
He heaved a huge sigh. “Aw, not tonight,” he r
eplied testily. “I’m too tired to say another word.” He lay with his back against her and pulled the covers over his shoulder.
“I-I was just going to remind you about our di
nner reservations at Cavalieri’s day after tomorrow.” She came down on one elbow, too timid to ask where he’d been. “We’ve been on the waiting list for a long time, and it’s finally arrived.” She tried to put excitement in her voice, hoping he’d feel the same charge.
“Cavalieri’s?” he yawned. “Oh, yeah. Look fo
rward to it. Now good night,” he pressed forward.
She didn’t want to let him off the hook that ea
sily, but a full-fledged fight would’ve required energy she knew he didn’t have and it probably would’ve spoiled their big dinner date Monday evening. So she let it drop with a feeble, “Good night,” and slid under the covers with the hope that privately dining with her husband would be the beginning of rebuilding a happy marriage.