Authors: Bernadette Marie
Tags: #new opportunity, #Bernadette Marie, #loss, #5 Prince Publishing, #Contemporary, #romance
Silence settled between them. She watched the people come and go in the diner and he watched her.
She was spinning her fork on the table and she was so strong her muscles flexed with each movement. He knew if he asked about anyone in that restaurant she’d be able to tell him all about them. She’d been observing since she’d walked in the door—something he knew she was trained to do.
“Are you ready for the meeting Monday?” He asked as he lifted his coffee mug to his lips only to be disappointed that the brown liquid had gone cold. Where was that waitress?
“Sure. You don’t know what his will says do you?”
This was a tricky conversation, but he could answer her honestly. “I know he changed his will before he was deployed again. It was sent to me from Iraq. I haven’t opened it.”
“Element of surprise?”
Something like that. He knew he’d be seeing Amelia, the last thing he’d wanted was to slip up and say anything. “Surprises are good.”
She snorted a laugh. “Sure they are when your parents buy you the one thing you wanted for your birthday. Not so much when you find out your husband has been cheating on you. It’s even worse when you find out he’s been cheating on his wife
“I’m sorry. That was insensitive.”
She brushed away his comment with her hand in the air. “It’s nothing. I’m thinking everything happens for a reason. There is a reason he wasn’t faithful to Vivian, though I can’t imagine why. And he and I fought, a lot.”
“So why stay?”
“The making up was worth it.”
Right. Women thought that way too, sometimes.
She adjusted her head from side to side as if to work out the tension in her neck. “I don’t even know if Penelope was a surprise really. I think we were a surprise to her. But I think there is more to her. There’s something she’s not telling me, aside from the fact that she’s so nervous she’s sick.”
“Yeah. The heat, travel, emotions, everything got to her. She was up all night. I’m going to get her a little something and take it back.”
Did she even realize she was so sensitive? “You’re being very nice to her.”
“She didn’t ask for this. None of us did.”
“So do you plan to head back after the meeting?”
She shrugged. “Yeah, I suppose. Nothing left here in Oklahoma for me.”
What had he expected? Why did he care?
“Nothing left in Georgia either.” Her gaze had lowered to her hands on the table.
“Time for a change?”
“I’d been considering that.”
“Maybe that’ll work out for you then.”
She sighed—actually sighed. “Yeah, maybe it will.”
Amelia set the bag of food on the table and looked around the small motel room. Penelope was in the bathroom, in the shower. She certainly hoped she didn’t startle easily. If Amelia were to have come out of the bathroom and someone was in the room they might get the crap beat out of them. She was sure Penelope wasn’t going to be harmful to her.
She turned on the TV, hoping that the sound would alert Penelope that she was there. An old Friends episode was on so she sat down on the bed, laid back and watched.
It was one of those episodes where Ross kept trying to convince Rachel that it was okay to sleep with someone else since they were
on a break.
She chuckled to herself. Was that what Adam had in mind when he kept taking wives?
The door to the bathroom opened and Penelope stepped out, followed by a room full of steam.
“Feeling any better?” Amelia asked.
“Well, I brought you some food. I figured you’d need something to eat.”
Penelope pulled a sundress out of her suitcase, stepped around the corner, and came back into the room with it on and the towel now wrapped around her hair.
Her skin was pale and there were dark circles under her eyes. Amelia felt horrible for her. She supposed if she’d found out about Vivian only a few months after she’d married Adam she’d have looked just as bad.
Well, that wasn’t true. She figured she was a much different breed than the other two. If she’d have found out before she started to hate him she’d have kicked the crap out of him—or out of someone. She’d have tied one on and then taken one or two guys to bed. Yep, she was sure that wasn’t how Vivian and Penelope worked.
Penelope seemed to keep it all inside. That didn’t look healthy. Maybe she could convince her to hit the gym with her and she could teach her a few moves against the punching bag. They’d both feel better then.
“Is that what you brought me?” Penelope pointed to the bag.
“Yeah. I brought you a breakfast sandwich. I thought if you wanted to pick it apart it would have the most things to eat out of it.”
Penelope laughed. “Thanks.” She sat down at the small table and opened the sandwich. “You’re very nice. I really didn’t expect that.”
“I do have a reputation.”
Penelope’s eyes opened wide. “That wasn’t what I meant. I’m sorry.”
“I’m just joking.”
“Oh,” she said softly as she pulled off a piece of the muffin and ate it. “I figured you and his other wife would meet me at the door and want to kill me. Really, I’ve even had dreams about it.”
“Well, I could kill a person with my bare hands, but I wouldn’t. Especially when it wasn’t your fault that the man lied to all of us. He’d been doing that long before he drug you into this.”
Penelope nodded and took another bite of the sandwich.
“The lawyer said I needed to be here. But I’m not sure I should be.” She looked down at the food and back up at Amelia. “How could he do this to his kids?”
Amelia shrugged. “I don’t know. Son-of-a-bitch will rot for that. Those kids will hate him now and before they might have thought he was a hero.”
“I don’t want them to hate him.”
Yeah, Amelia didn’t want them too either. “They’re still young. They don’t need to know about us.” She sat up on the bed and planted her feet on the floor. “A far as I’m concerned we go to the meeting in Sam’s office and then we go our different ways.”
Penelope nodded. “Right. That would be the best idea.” She looked at the food, pulled off another piece of the sandwich and then tossed it back into the bag. “You called him Sam. Do you know him?”
“Met him at the funeral. Good looking though, don’t you think?”
Penelope shrugged. “I suppose.”
“We had dinner last night and breakfast this morning. I guess tomorrow will be the last day I see him though.” She chuckled. “But something tells me if I could just take him for a roll he has an animal buried inside.”
Penelope’s face scrunched up and then her eyes opened wide and her cheeks colored pink. “Oh!”
Amelia laughed. “I’m not much of a prude. Sorry if I offend you.”
“No. No offense taken.” Penelope grinned. “I wish I was more like you.”
“Men use women for sex all the time. I don’t see why we can’t use them a little too.”
Penelope bit down on her lip. “I’d never thought that way before. Adam was my…” she stopped talking and Amelia just watched her.
The moment the reality hit her she got to her feet. “You were a virgin?”
Penelope’s lips pursed. “It’s not that uncommon you know. Some people wait until they are married.”
“Holy shit!” Amelia laughed. “I think you’re a saint.”
A tear rolled down Penelope’s cheek. “That was a lot of saving only to have him die.”
This was the part Amelia didn’t do so well with. What was she supposed to do with a blubbering girl? She did the only thing she knew to do—she patted her on the back.
Penelope’s body shook as she sucked back a breath. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Why? He screwed us all over. It’s okay to be mad. I’m mad.”
“I don’t want to be mad. It’s not good.”
“Like hell it ain’t.” Amelia moved back toward the bed to sit down, but decided she needed to pace. “I’m pissed. I’m pissed that I fell in love with the guy and I’m pissed he was lying to me. He deserved the beating I gave him.”
That made Penelope chuckle. “You hit him?”
“Hell yeah. Punched him right in the nose.”
Penelope’s chuckle grew into a laugh as she wiped away the last of her tears. “I think that was when I met him. He had a black eye and his nose was swollen.”
“Great. I kicked his ass and he went out looking for a woman.”
The humor left Penelope’s face. “He took one of my friends home that night.”
Now Amelia needed to sit down. “Are you kidding me?”
Penelope shook her head. “No. Now how dumb do I look?”
“As a species we are all dumb.” And Amelia was feeling that way more now than she ever had. The extra wives were one thing. She’d come to grips with it, but now she knew there was casual cheating.
Anger boiled through her and she wished she’d have broken more than his nose.
Amelia took a deep breath. “What made you want to be with him? Especially if you knew about him taking girls home?”
The tears were back and Penelope let them fall. “I just fell in love with him. He was so handsome and talked to me so sweetly. And he waited for me. I mean, well you know.”
“He didn’t have sex with you until you were married?”
Real upstanding guy
, Amelia thought. “You deserve better.”
Penelope looked down at the floor. She laced her fingers together and squeezed them until Amelia noticed they were going white.
“Hey,” she stood and put her hand over Penelope’s. “Calm down. We all make mistakes.”
“I have to live with this one.”
“We all do. But losing your virginity to some lying ass isn’t the end of the…”
Amelia had done what she could to comfort Penelope. Finally she’d convinced her to lie down and rest. But admittedly that wasn’t for Penelope. It was so Amelia could escape.
It was a good thing she still had on her running shoes because she didn’t know how far she’d have to run before she unlocked her jaw and stopped gritting her teeth.
She was mad. Oh, she was pissed!
She was pissed that Adam had lied to her. Pissed that Adam had been so careless and stupid. Pissed that he died before their divorce was absolutely final. Hadn’t she had his homecoming all planned out? She was pissed because she didn’t get the last word in.
An hour and a half, or so, later she had run until she didn’t even know where she was. There was a Walmart, a McDonald’s, and a gas station, but hell if she could see her motel.
Sweat dripped down her neck, her cheeks, and from her hair. Her sunglasses were fogged over and she was finally out of steam.
She sat down on a bench outside the Walmart and sucked in the hot Oklahoma air. Her phone had exactly ten percent battery left.
Well, hell, she was up a creek.
There was only one person in town who probably could find her and would bother to give her a ride.
She scrolled through her contacts and found Sam’s number.
Sam drove down the street slowly. God, was everyone at Walmart today?
He finally noticed her pacing behind a bench by the entrance. Sam honked the horn and she looked his direction.
Amelia stopped on the curb as he pulled up and then opened the door when he put the car in park.
“Thanks. And I’m sorry. You’re the only person I now in this damn place.”
“You’re about fifteen miles from your hotel, did you know that?”
“Only fifteen? I need to get back to training harder.”
This woman was a mystery.
Sam pulled out of the parking lot and headed toward the highway. “I take it this wasn’t one of your planned runs.”
She shook her head. “Not even close. More like a cool down run. A clear-your-mind run.” She let out a snort of a laugh. “Oh, who the hell am I trying to kid? It was an
I’m pissed as hell
Ah! So the wives weren’t getting along. “Did something happen with Penelope and Vivian that I should know about?”
“Yeah, we all got screwed.” She let out a loud breath and then turned in the seat so she was looking right at him.
“The son-of-a-lying-bitch was cheating on me.”
Sam slid her a glance and then focused on the road. Of course he’d cheated on her. He had two other wives. The run must have made her delusional.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said crossing her arms over her chest. “I know what you’re thinking. It’s very obvious he cheated on me. What I mean is he was picking up girls at bars and taking them home.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because that’s how he met Penelope. He picked up one of her friends the night before he moved in on her.”
“And she knew that?”
Amelia nodded. “See, he had a way. Oh, God, did he have a way.”
Sam’s fingers tightened around the steering wheel. It shouldn’t bother him that a married woman was in his car and he assumed she was going to talk about sex with her husband. But this particular woman had gotten under his skin. In two days they had spent an awful lot of time together.
“Let me get this straight. You’re mad because your husband, who married you when he was already married and then married another woman while married to you, was having casual sex with other women?”
Her lips pursed and she turned back in her seat. “Yes. As irrational as it seems it pissed me off more.”
Sam wanted to laugh, but this wasn’t a laughing matter. There were real feelings being had and three very hurt women.
“I can’t imagine you let anything get under your skin.”
“I’m still a woman.”
Ouch. He was fully aware that she was a woman and too much aware that he was attracted to every inch of her muscular frame—which could crush him for even having the thoughts. But there was something else that she wasn’t letting go of. In two days he’d learned that she spoke what was on her mind and ran to get it off her mind. Something still gnawed at her.
Sam drove her back to the hotel and parked in the lot.