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Trouble Won't Wait: Love n Trouble, #2

Trouble Won't Wait: Love n Trouble, #2

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Trouble Won't Wait: Love n Trouble, #2

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3.5/5 (3 valoraciones)
Longitud:
305 página
4 horas
Editorial:
Publicado:
Jun 28, 2016
ISBN:
9781533771957
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

Good things may come to those who wait, but trouble waits for no one…

Cheating is a dealbreaker...or so Mandy has always thought. But when she catches her husband getting some "strange," she realizes how hard it is to cut and run, or even file papers. She agrees to a month of counseling, which will give her time to grieve the loss of her marriage before she has to tell the world—and the kids. Then she meets Adam, who gives her a hunky, if mysterious, shoulder to cry on, and that thirty-day waiting period seems like an eternity.

Adam has no problem confessing that he's watched Mandy from his window for months as she runs by his house. If he told her why, though, she'd freak out for sure. He knows they've got a future together, if he can think of a way to explain his past. And he's sure the rat-bastard who cheated on her is putting the moves on her again, but he won't be the revenge guy. The month-long cooling off period she agreed to is lasting forever, and might just be indefinite, if trouble keeps getting in their way.

CONTENT WARNING: Eccentric old lady pushing salt-of-the-earth advice, bossy big brother, kooky counselor, super-secretive hunk, and perfect justice served amidst adult situations and language.

Editorial:
Publicado:
Jun 28, 2016
ISBN:
9781533771957
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Born and raised in itty-bitty Rifle, Colorado, Autumn Piper studiously avoided trouble…but is now inclined toward it, particularly in her novels. She thinks the best things in life are funny, and the runners-up, romantic. An admitted carb addict, Autumn writes, edits, and cares for her two grown kids, a cat, a box turtle with a huge personality, one husband and many supersize houseplants, and does the cooking and cleaning when forced to.

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Trouble Won't Wait - Autumn Piper

Contents

Copyright

Cover Copy

Title Page

Dedication

Author’s Foreword

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Epilogue

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Other Books by Autumn Piper

Copyright

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

Cover Art provided by Sutton Fox.

Edited by Mary Murray.

License Notes

This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only and may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

Cover Copy

Good things may come to those who wait, but trouble waits for no one...

Cheating is a dealbreaker...or so Mandy has always thought. But when she catches her husband getting some strange, she realizes how hard it is to cut and run, or even file papers. She agrees to a month of counseling, which will give her time to grieve the loss of her marriage before she has to tell the world—and the kids. Then she meets Adam, who gives her a hunky, if mysterious, shoulder to cry on, and that thirty-day waiting period seems like an eternity.

Adam has no problem confessing that he’s watched Mandy from his window for months as she runs by his house. If he told her why, though, she’d freak out for sure. He knows they’ve got a future together, if he can think of a way to explain his past. And he’s sure the rat-bastard who cheated on her is putting the moves on her again, but he won’t be the revenge guy. The month-long cooling off period she agreed to is lasting forever, and might just be indefinite, if trouble keeps getting in their way.

––––––––

Content Warning: Eccentric old lady pushing salt-of-the-earth advice, bossy big brother, kooky counselor, super-secretive hunk, and perfect justice served amidst adult situations and language.

For Jim, who not only sent me home from work to write that long-ago day, but also encourages me to keep on keeping on. Toyota, baby.

Author’s Foreword

Some people hate it when the bad guy really isn’t so bad, only human. Sure, it’s easier on the conscience if everything is black and white. But life isn’t always simple...

Chapter 1

They’ve had their turkey, they’ve had their pie. And now, thank God, they’ve gone home. In my next life, I positively will not marry a guy if his family irritates me more than my own does. It sounded like fun the first year my husband, Mike, convinced his family to come to our house for Thanksgiving. Mom brought a ham, little sister brought a veggie tray. Mom helped out with the cooking inside while the guys hovered around the turkey fryer outside, then everybody threw in together to get it all on the table. Good fun, especially when there was help cleaning up. Each year since, I’ve done a little more, and everybody else, less.

The dysfunctional family I married into managed to get along for the last couple of years, but now everything’s back to normal. Today’s knock-down, drag-out left us with mother-in-law tears in the Jell-O salad, and sister-in-law screams we could have cut the turkey with. My man, meanwhile, enjoyed his feast like nothing had happened, favoring the Broncos game with the attention he knows his entire family, but most of all his mother, covets. No point even trying to determine who was at fault. It’s the dance they do whenever they’re all together.

I’ve got to get out of here, walk off some of this mood.

I slip into my running clothes, then make the kids break eye contact with their Playstation to assure me they heard where I’m going, and leave him sleeping in front of the all-important game.

Thanksgiving Day in Rifle, Colorado can mean any kind of weather. Thankfully—indeed, since it is a day of thanks—today it’s a brilliant sixty degrees. The sky is a perfect shade of blue I’ve never seen anywhere but in the mountains. A little wind nips, making me glad of my windbreaker. More cause for thanks, right?

Good thing I fed those ingrates early. Even after they took off and left me with one spectacular mess to clean up by myself, I still have some afternoon left. Billy Idol is blasting in my iPhone when I start speed-walking what we locals call the loop. The loop is an oval of county roads around the cemetery, two elementary schools, three churches, two major neighborhoods in town, and several small ranches—soon to be more neighborhoods. It’s about a forty-five minute walk for me, somewhere around three miles with a few steep hills involved.

Rifle is on the western slope of Colorado, where any three miles will have some steep hills. The loop has few sidewalks, so whenever some maniac in a vehicle comes speeding over a hill or around a corner, I skid and crunch on gravel off the edge of the ever-chipping pavement. Today I’m burning off more tension than usual, and run up all the hills. Oooh, the burn in my hips, the breath like fire in my chest! But it clears my head.

More than the in-laws have me steamed today. Like the incident last night.

No work this morning meant Mike didn’t have to get up early, so we were hanging at a friend’s house last night, drinking. That’s all anybody does at Brad’s house. To be honest, I’m not sure he’d let adults hang there without drinking.

He has a daughter a couple of years older than our kids, and it’s his weekend or holiday, however he and his ex divvy her up. Anyway, the kids were playing in the basement, and the adults were recreating with alcohol.

Brad has a girlfriend who makes it her mission to have every guy she encounters think of her sexually. She’s quite good at it. My theory is, she oozes buckets of some pheromone other women have in tiny quantities. Hell, I even look at the tramp and think sex.

Well, last night, while fetching a Hard Lemonade from the beer fridge in the garage, I found my life-partner with the walking aphrodisiac...in a very compromising position. And what did I do about it? Nada. Zilch. In fact, the single indication aforementioned spouse has that I remember catching him, is today we’ve only exchanged words absolutely imperative to cooking a turkey dinner for eleven. And just what will I do about it? No clue. Which is why I’m out here punishing my body instead of inside napping like all the sane people in this country.

Just passed the Mormon Church. One more incline to blast up, then I’ll walk around the cemetery awhile to cool off. Some people get weirded out by the cemetery. But it’s quiet, there are rarely any cars, and I like it. So sue me.

I remove my headphones and turn off my music, reveling in silence. In the good part of the year, huge cottonwood trees provide refreshing shade. Their leaves rattle softly in even the slightest breeze, sounding like a creek rushing by. Now, they all stand naked, as they will until next April. In the summer, we have a lovely cemetery. Fall and winter, it’s like a setting in a novel by Stephen King. Or Poe. The grass is brown and the silent, bare tree limbs reaching overhead appear every bit as dead as the folks buried below them.

The pavement in the cemetery is in even worse shape than that out on the county road. I think maybe this paving was done with asphalt’s prototype, it’s that old. I’m walking on it, though, not Rollerblading, right? People showing up here for burial services sure aren’t concerned with the condition of the asphalt. The dead couldn’t care less. They couldn’t care more either, for that matter.

The dead are exactly the reason this place is so peaceful. Hardly anybody wants to hang here. Kids come riding bikes in the summer, dodging the larger-than-life sprinklers when they start operating on no particular schedule. Hey, maybe the timer’s haunted! Just a joke. No, I don’t think death is funny. Do I fear it? Not so much. Do I fear I screwed up the little time I have here on Earth by marrying the wrong person? Oh, yeah. Times ten, today.

I wander past the headstone where a friend is buried. He killed himself when we were eighteen. Big, fat waste. Guess he had bigger problems than I have now. More reason to be thankful.

It’s a short walk to my grandparents’ graves from here. I won’t go there today, though. I’ll just mosey around the roads a few minutes more.

A guy is walking up the main road. I know many of the people in town, but not all, like everybody did here in the eighties. Rifle has grown a lot since then. He doesn’t look creepy, so I won’t try to beat it out of here, even though nobody can see me here on the back side of the hill.

Please. What would he want with me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking better. Been walking off about ten years of accumulated, sedimentary butt. Not sedentary—I’ve never been a couch potato. No, this is sedimentary, one fat layer on top of the last. Just got caught up in the mommy lifestyle. Too many Happy Meals, too much time spent doing everything I had to, except for taking care of me. I’ve got it licked now, though. Me and the loop, taking on the fat, and winning.

Strange Man is making a bee-line to where I am, so I dodge, without looking like I’m retreating, by meandering through the old section. Here, it’s hard to read the writing on the crumbling stones. Some are ordinary concrete, engraved with the life facts of less fortunate souls, whose families couldn’t afford or wouldn’t spring for harder stone to have carved en memoriam. I kneel and pretend to read the name of somebody who died in 1905, and Strange Man heads over. Does he have a question? Maybe he thinks I’m not allowed here, and he’s going to tell me so.

With my hair shielding most of my face, I watch him approach. Loose-fit Levi’s, boots—maybe Docs—and a red t-shirt. Nothing unusual. A hint of receding hairline, then brownish hair, almost a dark blond, mussed with gel. Blue eyes. God, I can see them from way back here. A smile, and now that he’s close, dimples. Nice teeth, a good day’s stubble, same shade as the hair.

Hi. Do you come here often? He says it like a smooth pick-up line in a bar, and we both laugh. He’s probably thirty-five, and too attractive to be single. No ring, probably gay. I’m Adam.

When he extends his hand, I take it. It’s warm and strong.

Mandy. Amanda. I’m suddenly very aware of how sweaty I am from running up the hill. My sports bra is soaked under my shirt. I must smell. My hand is still a willing captive in his. I was just, er, walking. I never say I’m running; that sounds athletic, which I don’t consider myself to be.

I saw you running, from my house. I see you every day. A flush spreads up his neck. Why does it sound like an apology? Mandy. He nods, committing my name to memory.

Now when he sees me jog past his house, the one he indicated over his shoulder with its back facing the cemetery, he can say to himself, There goes Mandy, running her butt off. Has he noticed my butt is smaller than it used to be? It would be great if somebody did. Twenty pounds shed, and not a word from my supposed soul-mate.

Since I still haven’t contributed to the conversation, Adam tells me he bought the house about two months ago. He’s a supervisor for one of the companies drilling all the new natural gas wells around here. I’m sorry, did you come here because you wanted to be alone? he asks.

Not anymore! I laugh, a tittering, flirty laugh I’m surprised to still have in me. Not alone, just away from family. I instantly regret my words, thinking this guy is all alone, and probably wishes he wasn’t. At some point, he must’ve let go of my hand, because now I’m fidgeting, trying to figure out where the heck to put it.

Mmm. Yours, or the in-laws?

I feel myself blushing, because I’m married and this cute guy knows it. How would he not? I’m wearing a ring, for Pete’s sake.

In-laws, and the guy who’s related to them, I admit. I just, well, needed to think. It’s quiet here. My house is...not. I’m gazing, embarrassed, at the 1905 stone again.

How many kids do you have? The softness in his voice brings my eyes back to his. Great. I must look like a mom, even out running alone. It’s okay; the kids are worth it.

I smile. Two. Twelve and ten, boy and girl. How ’bout you?

No. He looks away, then back at me.

Why do I suspect there’s a story? It feels like an opening, a tiny doorway leading into a subterranean cavern of sad darkness. Some people might press for more, but I can’t do it, can’t deal with his big sadness. Not today.

Out of anal habit, I look at my watch.

Do you need to get back? he asks. Will somebody be looking for you?

Is he worried for me, or maybe a crazed stalker calculating how much time he has to kidnap me? I go with the optimistic scenario, and chuckle. Not as long as the Broncos are on. Probably not ’til dinnertime. I kick a pile of leaves and watch them scatter over 1905, which lies flat, rather than standing erect.

You shouldn’t tell a strange man nobody’s coming looking for you, when he has you in a place like this. His voice is even, low with warning.

My heart races. Fear, or anticipation? You can’t rape the willing, as the saying goes. I swallow the fear, hoping he’s just protective. Of what? He barely knows me.

You don’t look strange. My flirty voice is on again, and his dimples reappear to reward me. He doesn’t feel strange to me, not at all. It feels good talking to him. I’m glad you came out here to meet me. Come on, I’ll show you my grandparents.

Adam follows me over, without a word. Could be he’s dreaming up a way to knock me unconscious before he drags me home under the cover of darkness. At least now we’re visible from the street. When I stop, he comes to stand beside me, very near. I can smell him, his cologne. Drakkar. I hope to God he can’t smell my sweat. I hope I smell like pumpkin pie or yams.

I peek sideways at Adam, whose arms are big. He’s looking at me. You work out, I say as casually as possible.

He gives a smiling nod. There’s a look in his eyes: the I-want-you look. I haven’t gotten it in a long time, but it feels like I’m returning it! Okay, where is this going? I’m flirting like a fool with a guy who openly admitted to watching me run by his house every day, and made it a point to come introduce himself.

He’s either a stalker, or a guy who finds me totally irresistible. Yeah, that’s a laugh. Or is it? And who am I? I’m angry and lonely, that’s what I am. Angry, yes, but a cheater, no. I won’t have my kids thinking their parents divorced because their mom was a cheater. I just won’t, though I guess it’s not a major concern for their dad!

Anger flares at thoughts of Mike, and I suddenly need to tell this guy, this AdamYou don’t know him from Adam comes to mind, and I almost laugh at the thought—what I saw last night.

When I’ve finished my bitter, furious tale, he folds his arms over his chest, and gazes at me. What are you gonna do? The question anybody would ask, but when Adam asks it, I can tell he has a stake in it. He cares what I do, because it might affect him.

I shrug, tears threatening. They’re easy to blink back. I’m still mad enough to postpone the pain. Um, I reply, my voice wet with swallowed tears. Clandestine meetings in the cemetery with the town’s hottest new bachelor? My banter draws a small smile, but only from him. I’m still remembering, still seeing the betrayal.

With my hands digging hard into the pockets of my windbreaker, I swing a good kick at another pile of leaves, and we start walking toward the street. I have it pretty much together again when we hit sidewalk. Shadows are getting long; it’s time for me to get home.

He fidgets, crosses his arms, then shoves his hands in his pockets. Want me to walk you partway?

Nice of him to offer. I imagine the talk getting around town. I imagine doing things with him, things worth talking about.

Swallowing hard, I decline the offer. Better not, but thanks. I guess I’ll see you...around? Our eye contact makes it hard for me to breathe. I start backing away, hands laced together behind me, all teenager inside. God, I hope to see him around.

Mandy? His voice stops me in my tracks. When he says my name, it sounds pretty. I’m here. Just remember that...when you decide.

When I decide. Yeah, I’ll remember, count on it. But I also have to remember two kids and thirteen years of marriage. Not all bliss, to be sure. But not hell on Earth, either.

I nod, then resume walking. Halfway to the corner, I wonder if I imagined this whole thing to console myself. Will he still be there if I turn to look for him? If he’s not there, does it mean I dreamed all this up, or that he simply went home? If I don’t look, I’ll always doubt he was real.

Compelled, I stop and look back. He’s standing there, in the same spot, watching me go, and I release the breath I’ve been holding. My heart does the little lift-and-flip it does in a descending elevator. He’s there, like he said he’d be.

Tonight when I lie down and search for sleep, he’ll be there. I can think of him, instead of Mike and Lana. If I hadn’t seen them together last night, would Adam matter this much? I think the answer is yes. Looking back at him watching me, I feel what he must have when he saw me running by. The same feeling that propelled him out of his house to meet me.

He’s there, and I won’t forget.

Chapter 2

When I walk back into my house, it feels like I’m returning from another dimension, or maybe an episode of The Twilight Zone. My family is exactly the same as when I left an hour ago, but I’m all new.

Our house still smells like gravy and pumpkin pie. The comfy, overstuffed khaki furniture faces the fireplace and the TV beside it. It’s an open floor plan, so the kitchen, decorated in green with red strawberries, is visible from the small foyer. Our dining room sits in the corner, filled to capacity with a large oak table Mike made when we were first married.

The master suite and kids’ rooms are upstairs, along with both bathrooms. Downstairs is a walk-out basement, which means it’s built half in the hillside, and half out. The lower level consists of a den, my office, and a spare bedroom. My office is also the utility room, home to the furnace and water heater. Once, it housed the washer and dryer too, but Mike built a new laundry room upstairs when I was pregnant with Ben, so I wouldn’t have to haul laundry up and down the stairs. To Mike’s credit, he did this without my requesting it. He’s always been thoughtful and caring toward me. Until recently, that is.

I purposely avoid looking at Mike when I walk in. He’s awake again, talking on the phone. Sounds like he’s planning to hunt tomorrow with one of his buddies.

Ben hugs me hello. Hey, Mom. Have a good walk? Such a sweet boy.

Breathing in the smell of his strawberry-scented shampoo, I pray he won’t be like his dad when he grows up. Yeah, honey. It was nice. His hug makes me happy to be home again, makes me want to keep our family together just to preserve his innocent joy. I want my kids to come home every night to both parents, to have two parents who love each other. They should see marriage as a lasting agreement between a man and a woman, not something easily stepped out of.

Can I stick it out, forgive Mike, forget what he did? Now is probably not the time to make this decision. I’m too angry. I need time, much more time, to make sense and think rationally. How long will it take ’til I can think rationally about my husband stealing a quickie with a friend while I’m only a room away?

And now there’s another factor. I’m no longer the undesirable, frumpy housewife I was when I left for my walk. There’s possibility out there. Possibility is a burden. It will be harder still to make a decision for my future, for my family’s future, knowing I shouldn’t let my own wants be a factor. Yet, when anyone decides to end a marriage, isn’t the chance of a future with a new spouse always there? Even the churches consider infidelity grounds for divorce. Why shouldn’t I?

I make soup and grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, but only pick at my food. Ben and Rachel both have plans for sleepovers with friends tomorrow. Mike will leave to hunt early in the morning, and I’ll have the long, quiet day to think. Just what I need. I can’t stop thinking, as it is.

If I let Mike slide this one time, is it because I believe he was weak and I want to give him another chance? Can I live with a man if I think he’s not strong? Looking across the table, I simply don’t see him as weak. A jackass, yeah. The way he fought with his mother and sister today sure wasn’t weak. But was Lana just too big a temptation?

That’s a cop-out. If someone’s truly in love, no temptation is great enough to make them cheat, right? Maybe.

When dinner is cleared away—Rachel helps, without being asked!—I hole up in my office downstairs, under the pretext of working. Mike is a building contractor, and I do the books for him. But I also write. About four years ago, a story just started running out of me. Whenever I wasn’t busy with bookkeeping, I was tapping the story on the keyboard.

Some nights I went to bed with Mike, then got up

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