by Marci Boudreaux
Stonehill Romance Book Two
Dianna Friedman never expected her husband to leave her. Who does? But she’s making the most of what she has left–a sarcastic near-grown son and a mountain of bills that just keeps growing. She’s in over her head, but she is determined to survive.
Even if everyone else saw it coming, Paul O'Connell was blindsided by his wife's affair and attempt to bleed him dry. He reaches out to Dianna–the woman who caught their spouses cheating–in hopes that her testimony at his divorce hearing will prevent him from paying alimony.
Dianna and Paul become fast friends and maybe a tad bit over-dependent on each other, but who are they hurting? No one. At least not until Dianna’s life takes yet another unexpected twist, and she and Paul have to step back and reevaluate everything…including what they mean to each other.
Genre: Contemporary RomanceFriends Without Benefits Purchase links: Amazon Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Over 40, Second Chances
Release Date: July 10, 2015
Excerpt, The Road Leads Back & More
Friends Without Benefits Excerpt:
Dianna slowed her angry stride as she neared her glass-paned front door. A man she didn’t recognize was bundled in an expensive-looking tan overcoat with a cobalt blue scarf wrapped neatly around his neck. He gave her a friendly smile, and crow’s feet wrinkled the smooth skin around his light-colored eyes.
“Mrs. Friedman?” he asked as she cracked open the door.
Mrs. Friedman? Not for much longer. “Yes?”
His smile faltered. “I’m sorry to bother you. My name is Paul O’Connell,” he offered hesitantly.
Her heart squeezed tight in her chest, and her breath rushed from her lungs as surprise punched her hard in the gut. “O’Connell?”
“Michelle was…is…my wife.”
Michelle. Better known as that home-wrecking-husband-stealing slut.
Dread settled heavy on her chest, and the bile she’d just barely managed to contain started churning in her gut. She still hadn’t made sense of what had happened in the courtroom—how she’d gotten stuck with so much debt and no way to pay for it. Seeing her husband’s mistress’s husband standing at her door only added to her sense of confusion, and she couldn’t quite think of anything else to say.
“May I come in for a moment?” he asked.
Startled from her thoughts, she looked into eyes that were similar in color to his hair—silver with flecks of black.
Dianna stepped aside and gestured toward the hooks on the wall. He shrugged out of his coat and hung it and his scarf next to hers.
“Would you like some coffee?”
“That’d be great. Thank you.” He tugged the sleeves of his suit coat down one at a time, a gesture that made her think he must be anxious.
She swallowed as her own nerves started to feel frazzled. “It’s decaf.”
“That’s perfect. I’m trying to cut my caffeine intake. I haven’t been sleeping well.”
“I’m sure that has less to do with coffee than other things.”
He pointed to the broken cup and spilled coffee on the kitchen floor as they entered. “Did that help?”
Dianna’s cheeks warmed with embarrassment. “No. Now I’m just pissed that I’m down a mug and have to clean up the mess.”
Paul’s quiet laugh was a nice sound, even if it wasn’t heartfelt. She couldn’t recall the last time someone had laughed in her kitchen.
She opened a cabinet and pulled out two mugs. “How do you take your coffee?”
“Cream, if you have any.”
“That’s okay.” He knelt down and gathered chunks of broken mug.
“Don’t. I’ll clean that up.”
“I don’t mind. I’ve broken a few dishes myself. Although, I usually empty them first.”
She laughed as her cheeks warmed again. “I’ll remember that next time.”
He dropped the pieces into the stainless steel trashcan next to the counter. While she filled their mugs, he wadded up several paper towels and wiped the coffee from the floor. “I’m afraid that’s all the cleaning I’m good for.”
“That’s plenty. Thank you.”
Paul washed his hands as the silence in the room pressed down on Dianna. She still had no idea why he was in her kitchen. He finally quit fussing and sat across from her at the table, adding creamer to his coffee. He stirred the liquids together much longer than needed. Each passing of the spoon added tension to the knot in Dianna’s stomach.
Finally, the quiet overwhelmed her. “Mr. O’Connell?”
He stopped stirring and met her gaze. “Paul. Please.”
“Paul, why are you here?”
He tapped the spoon on the edge of his mug before deliberately setting the utensil on a napkin. “I feel like I should—” He drew a deep breath and let it out loudly. “I’m sorry. For what she did.”
Dianna creased her brow. She didn’t know what she thought he was going to say, but that certainly wasn’t what she expected. “Why?”
“Why are you apologizing for your wife sleeping with my husband? Didn’t she cheat on you as much as he cheated on me?”
“Yes. She did.”
“So, why are you apologizing?”
“Well. Someone should. Don’t you think?”
His question sunk her heart. Her eyes, which were still irritated from her last bout of tears, began to sting anew. Yes. She did deserve an apology. Too bad one of the two people who should be sorry for what she was going through hadn’t offered it, though.
“Yes.” She swallowed in an attempt to tame her emotions. “I think someone should. But I don’t think that someone should be you.”
“Maybe, maybe not. Michelle sure seemed to think her affair was my fault.”
“Oh, yes. I didn’t understand his needs anymore.”
“I smothered her. I needed her too much, put too much pressure on her to make me happy.” Paul looked far more than miserable. He looked guilty, as if he were to blame for being on the receiving end of his wife’s adultery.
Dianna wanted to assure him he wasn’t, but she didn’t have the conviction. She’d failed to buy that line too many times to try to sell it to him.
Instead, she looked into her mug so she couldn’t see the pain in his eyes. “Do you know… Do you know what today is? Is that why you’re here?”
“No. I’ve been meaning to stop by, I just hadn’t worked up the courage.”
“What is today?”
Her lip quivered. “My divorce hearing was today. I just got home not too long ago, actually.”
“Jesus,” he whispered. “I’m sorry. May I ask how it went?”
The stress of the judge’s decision hit her again. “Um…not well, actually. I don’t know how I’m going to—” She gestured lamely at the room around her. “Our oldest son Jason is away at college, and Sam is a high school senior so the judge didn’t feel that Mitch owed me anything. I’ve been a housewife since we got married. I’m not sure how I’m going to…you know... He wasn’t wearing his ring,” she said before she could stop herself.
Paul lifted his brow in question. “I’m sorry?”
“This morning. At the hearing. It’s the first time since we were married that I’ve seen Mitch without his wedding ring.”
Paul nodded, as if he understood exactly how much that had hurt her. “Look, there’s never going to be a good time for me to ask this, but I was wondering…”
“I, um, I’m so sorry, but… When Michelle told me she was leaving me, I asked her what she was going to do when this great guy she was seeing decided he didn’t want to leave his wife. She said that wasn’t going to be a problem because you had caught them together. Is that true?”
Her mind again flashed to the night she’d walked in on Mitch and Michelle having sex in his office. He had her bent over his desk as he gripped her hips and thrust into her. Those sounds returned—skin smacking against skin, soft moans. Michelle’s black skirt was hiked up onto her back, her hands clinging to the edge of Mitch’s desk, his face tense as he neared release—a look Dianna knew all too well.
She winced. The painful memory still struck her like a slap across the face. “Yes. It’s true.”
Paul’s cheeks lost a few shades of color as if she’d confirmed something he was trying to deny. “Well, now she’s trying to say that her relationship with your husband wasn’t sexual.”
Dianna laughed bitterly. “Oh, it was sexual, all right.”
“I know it can’t be easy for you,” he said quietly, “especially having just gone through your hearing, and I swear to you I wouldn’t ask if there were any other way, but would you be willing to testify on my behalf? About when you caught them together.”
Dianna exhaled slowly. She’d give anything not to have to think about her husband’s affair ever again. She didn’t want to remember how completely unexpected catching Mitch cheating had been. Or how she’d walked into the room, as she’d done a hundred times before, carrying his still-warm dinner. How the Tupperware container fell to the floor. How the sound of plastic crashing onto the tiles pulled the lovers from their passion as shock rolled through her, numbing her mind and freezing her body.
“Please, Mrs. Friedman—”
“Dianna,” she spat. “I really hate the Friedman part right now.”
“Please, Dianna. She doesn’t deserve alimony.”
She scoffed. “God. Wouldn’t that be something? I was informed that I don’t deserve alimony because I am capable of work. Yet, you think she’ll get alimony when she’s got my husband to support her.”
“I think she’s got a hell of a better attorney than you had.”
“Yeah, well, I couldn’t afford to pay the bills, support our children, and pay for a top-notch attorney, could I?”
He didn’t respond.
“Sorry,” she whispered as her angry words lingered between them. “That wasn’t directed at you.”
“I know. I have no right to ask you to go through this again, but she will get alimony if I don’t stop her.”
“Well, that hardly seems fair. To either of us.”
“So, you’ll testify?”
Those damned memories flashed through her mind again, bringing with them the familiar stinging and crushing of her soul. “Yes,” she said, finding a conviction that she hadn’t felt for a long time. “Yes, I will testify.”
Friends Without Benefits Purchase links: Amazon Kobo B&N
by Marci Boudreaux
Stonehill Romance Book One
Kara Martinson and Harry Canton weren’t exactly high school sweethearts, but they did share one night neither will ever forget. Twenty-seven years later, Harry surprises Kara at an art gallery opening and discovers he left her with more than just memories when he went away to college. Desperate to connect with the family he never knew existed, Harry convinces his son to move to Stonehill—and pleads with Kara to come, too.
Kara hasn’t stepped foot in their hometown since the day she was sent away to a home for unwed mothers. Now Harry’s back in her life and as they put together the pieces of his parents’ betrayal, old heartaches start to feel anew. She wants to be near her family, but returning to Iowa means facing some things…and some people…she isn’t quite ready to.
Can Harry convince her to forgive those who betrayed her so they can embrace the future they were robbed of so long ago? Or will the pain of the past be too much for Kara to overcome?
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Content/Theme(s): Over 40, Second Chances
Release Date: April 3, 2015
The Road Leads Back Purchase links: Amazon Kobo B&N
The Road Leads Back Excerpt:
“Kara?” asked a deep, smooth voice as if the man wasn’t certain who he was touching.
She turned. Her eyes bulged as she looked into an intense dark gaze she hadn’t seen since the night she’d lost her virginity.
The music had been loud, the beer lukewarm, and everybody who was anybody—and several nobody’s like Kara and Harry—in their senior class of Stonehill High was at the graduation party. The only person she had cared about, though, didn’t care about her. Or so she’d thought. Until she’d somehow ended up on Shannon Blake’s disgustingly pink- and ruffle-covered bed with Harry Canton, book club president and algebra superstar, clumsily removing her clothes, leaving slobbery kisses in their wake.
Kara swallowed hard as the flash of a memory faded, and the man standing before her, looking as shocked as she felt, came back into view.
She downed the liquor, slammed the glass against the bar, and sighed before she announced, “I’ve been looking for you for twenty-seven years.”
He sank onto the vacant stool next to her and lifted his hands as if he were at a loss for words. Something that appeared to be guilt filled his eyes and made his full lips sag into a frown. She’d be damned if temptation didn’t hit her as hard as it had when she was a hormonal teen.
“I wanted to tell you I was leaving,” he said, “but I didn’t know how.”
“You should have tried something like, ‘Kara, I’m leaving.’”
“You’re right. But I was a kid. I didn’t have a lot of common sense. All I could think about was how I finally had my freedom.”
She tilted her head and narrowed her eyes at him. “You had your freedom? You selfish prick.”
His eyes widened. “Well, that might be a little harsh. I was just a kid, Kara. Yes, I should have told you I had no intention of staying with you, but I was a little overwhelmed by what had happened. I’m sorry.”
Harry’s shoulders slumped, as if he had given up justifying sneaking out on her in the middle of the night. “Look, I saw a flier for your gallery opening, and I wanted to say hello. I thought maybe… I don’t know what I was thinking.” He sounded hurt, dejected even. “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
He stood. She put her hand to his chest and shoved him back onto the barstool. The move instantly reminded of her their one night together. All of seventeen and totally inexperienced, she’d fancied herself a seductress and pushed him on the bed before straddling his hips like she had a clue what she was doing.
Touching his chest now, warmth radiated through her entire body.
She glared, pulling her hand away and squeezing her fingers into a fist. “Are you living in Seattle?”
He shook his head. “I had a conference in town. There were fliers at the hotel. As soon as I saw your picture, I knew I had to come.” His smile returned and excitement radiated from his face. “I can’t believe you have a gallery opening. This is amazing, Kare.”
She wasn’t nearly as thrilled by her accomplishment as he seemed to be. She felt like she was selling her soul instead of her art. She’d always preferred to go the indie route, but that crap agent had cornered her at a particularly vulnerable moment and convinced her she needed him…just like he convinced her she needed to be in a gallery. Although, now she was glad she’d conceded on the open bar.
The tequila swirled through her, making her muscles tingle, preventing her from fully engaging the near-three decades of anger she’d been harboring. She had spent an awfully long time wanting to give Harry Canton a piece of her mind.
Even so, hearing him say she’d done something amazing warmed her in a way very little ever had. If he had come looking for another one-night stand, she hated to admit that she would consider reliving that night again—only this time with more sexual experience and less expectation of him sticking around.
He might be almost three decades older, but his face was still handsome and his brown eyes were just as inviting as they had been when he was a high school prodigy and she was a wallflower.
She smirked at a realization: he was in a suit, probably having just left a corporate meeting, while she was wearing a red sari-inspired dress at her gallery opening.
He was still the straight arrow. She was still the eccentric artist.
“Did you hear what I said, Harry? About looking for you for the last twenty-seven years.”
His shoulders sagged. “I never meant to sleep with you that night. I mean”—he quickly lifted his hands—“I was leaving and should have told you before taking you upstairs. I shouldn’t have just left like that, but I didn’t think you wanted to see me again anyway. If it’s any consolation,” he said giving her a smile that softened the rough edges of her anger, “I’d been working up the courage to kiss you since junior year when you squeezed a tube of red paint in Mitch Friedman’s hair after he made jokes about Frida Kahlo’s eyebrows in art class.”
She frowned at him. That hadn’t been her finest hour. Then again, neither was waking up thinking she was starting a new life as a high school graduate and the girlfriend of the cutest boy she’d ever met, only to find the other side of the homecoming queen’s bed empty. “There’s nothing wrong with a woman embracing her natural beauty.”
His smile faded quickly. “I’m sorry,” he said, sounding sincere. “I shouldn’t have left you like I did. I hope you believe that I regret it. Not being with you,” he amended, “but leaving without explaining.”
She laughed softly. He’d had that same nervous habit in high school. He’d say what was on his mind and then instantly try to recover, afraid his words had come out wrong. Usually they had. For as awkward as she’d been, at least she’d always been able to say what she meant and to stand behind it. Of course, that ability got her in trouble more often than not.
She’d told herself a million times that Harry didn’t owe her an explanation. They hadn’t been in any kind of relationship. She’d drooled over him from afar, but other than an occasional smile in the hallway, he’d barely acknowledged her existence in high school. Even if he hadn’t gone off to start his Ivy League college career the day after graduation, he likely never would have looked at her again. Well, at least not until she could no longer hide the truth of their one-night stand from the world.
“I expected so much more from you, Harry,” she said sadly, the sting of what he’d done back then numbed slightly by the tequila.
His shoulders sagged a bit. “I know.”
“Why didn’t you ever write me back?” Her voice sounded hurt and pathetic. She was surprised that after so many years of being angry, there was still pain hiding beneath her fury. “I must have sent you a hundred letters.”
He creased his brow. “Letters? I didn’t get any letters.”
Kara searched his eyes. He looked genuinely confused.
“I sent them to…” Her words faded. Suddenly the tequila-induced haze wasn’t so welcome. “Your mother said if I wrote to you, she’d make sure you got my letters.”
“My mother? I never got any letters.”
“But you sent money.”
Harry shook his head slightly. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would I send you money?”
She stared at him as realization set in. He hadn’t responded to her letters because he hadn’t received her letters. And if he hadn’t received the letters, he hadn’t sent her money. And if he hadn’t sent her money, he hadn’t known that she needed it. Sighing, she let some of her decades-old anger slip. Her head spun, either from the alcohol or the blurry dots she was trying to mentally connect. Leaning onto the bar, she exhaled slowly. “She never told you, did she?”
“Told me what?”
Kara couldn’t speak. Her words wouldn’t form.
An arm wrapped around Kara’s shoulder, startling her and making her gasp quietly. She turned and blinked several times at the man who had just slid next to her.
“Sorry to interrupt,” he said, “but I need to get home.” Leaning in, he kissed her head. “Congratulations on the opening, Mom. It was great.”
“Um…” She swallowed, desperate to find her voice. “Thank you, sweetheart.” She flicked her gaze at the man sitting next to her. The longer Harry looked at her son, the wider Harry’s eyes became.
Phil cast a disapproving glance at Harry then focused on his mother again. “Don’t forget that Jess is expecting you to make pancakes in the morning. You promised.”
“I haven’t forgotten.” Kara returned her attention to Harry. His jaw was slack and his cheeks had grown pale.
Phil nodded at Harry as if he were satisfied that he’d made the point that his mother didn’t need to be staying out all night and walked away. Harry watched him leave while Kara waved down the bartender and pointed at her glass. The tattooed kid hesitated, likely debating the ethics of giving her another shot. She pointed again, cocking a brow for emphasis, and he finally filled her glass.
“Kara…” Harry’s voice was breathless, like he’d been kicked in the gut. “Was…was that my…son?”
No. His mother definitely hadn’t given him the letters Kara had written. She lifted her shot, toasting him. “Congratulations, Harry. It’s a boy.”
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Be on the lookout for Marci Boudreaux's future release(s): The Forgotten Path coming October 2015
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