​Tessa Brookfield

Chapter One

With the sound of Preston’s car pulling into the driveway, my face heated to a burn. My mind had rapidly gone astray with conjured thoughts of where he might have been. As the clock had ticked, time somehow seemed to have remained still. Already discomforted by the heated blood flowing through my veins, my temperature continued to climb by the minute. I didn’t want to believe it could be true. My heart constantly battling with the overpowering feelings deep in my gut. A never-ending tug of war battle—follow my heart or go with my gut?

Slamming the TV remote onto the dark, wooden surface of the coffee table, my teeth clenched at the possibility it might have left a mark—not realizing my own strength. Strength clearly fueled by my mounting anger.

Livid, from the fact he obviously had forgotten that we had dinner reservations for five-thirty and it was now nearly seven o’clock, I left the room in a huff. I didn’t want to see him when he walked through the door.

I scurried up the stairs to the bedroom, stricken by the cold hard reality of what my gut was trying to tell me. What does it take to call and tell me he’s going to be late? Or here’s an idea, answer your damn phone when I call? I really didn’t think I was asking too much, but the reality was that this was happening more and more. It was always the same thing—his meeting ran late.

There I sat dressed to go out for a nice dinner and instead I was preparing myself for more of his lame excuses, refusing to believe that whatever he would tell me wouldn’t be the truth. Rather, wanting to believe that it was all in my head and it had always been just as he said—a meeting that ran late.

Maybe I’m becoming too needy. Jealous of the time he devotes to his career and wanting that attention given to me.

“Tiffany.”

At the sound of his voice, I pushed off the bed and moved to the bathroom, actually starting to feel embarrassed that he would find me this way. Embarrassed that I’d allowed myself to sit and stew, believing we’d actually go out for dinner. Pfft. I really should know better by now.

“Tiff, where are you?” His voice grew louder as he climbed the stairs, approaching the bedroom.

Moments later the bathroom doorknob rattled.

I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath. I knew no matter how hard I tried, I just wasn’t going to be able to stay mad at him. I love him. He was my high school sweetheart. We met in our senior year and here we are eight years later, married. And here I was questioning his loyalty toward me.

“Tiffany, you in there?”

I slowly turned the lock, allowing him to open the door.

He had taken one look at me in my black halter dress and his hand pushed through his wavy, dark brown hair. “Shit! I’m sorry, Tiff. I totally forgot.”

“Let me guess. Your meeting ran late again?” My tone was clipped and laced with coldness as I pushed by him. My gut had been winning over my heart, at the moment, in their never-ending battle of tug of war.

“Don’t be this way. I said I’m sorry.” His arm slid out of his grey Armani suit jacket as he followed me into the bedroom.

“You’re always sorry, Preston. Would it be too much to ask, for you to call me?”

He crossed the floor moving toward me, tossing his jacket onto the bed.

Standing before me, his hand slid along the side of my cheek then gently ran down the length of my blonde hair. I wanted to push his hand away, I wanted to stand my ground, but the look in his dark brown eyes was so compelling. They get me every time. I hated him for being able to do this to me, unable to stay angry with him for any significant amount of time.

“I’m sorry, babe. Look at you. You look beautiful.” His thumb ran over my bottom lip then he lifted my chin with his finger, forcing me to look at him.

“Do you want to go out for dinner now?”

I shook my head, “No, not really.”

Preston had worked hard to get to where he is today. Being appointed a top executive at a large pharmaceutical company, here in Chicago, had been more than demanding on his time and strenuous on our marriage, to say the least. Gone all the time away on business, which I would admit had a tendency to make my mind wander and yes, as much as I tried not to let myself go there, I did. I questioned his faithfulness quite often. It was so hard to stop myself from going there when I was left sitting at home alone when he would be gone for weeks at a time. Maybe the fact that I was even considering it a possibility was really my gut trying to tell me something that I refused to believe could possibly be true. Denial at its finest!

His lips pressed hard against mine. “I’m going to take a shower, why don’t you order a pizza?”

How can I not manifest the possibility? Why does he have to take a shower right now? He showers in the morning and it’s not as if he has a physical job that he would need to take another one when he gets home. I suddenly realized I was looking for anything, any little thing that would confirm or dispel my suspicions. The cold hard reality was that I wasn’t finding anything that would dispel them at this point. Maybe I’d been focusing so hard on finding things that would confirm my suspicions, maybe I was forcing myself to believe things that weren’t really there. I was facing denial and paranoia, a deadly combination.

“Fine,” I said, trying to convince myself that I was just mad and hurt that he’d left me waiting, without having the decency to call and tell me he was going to be late. Regardless of the fact that he’d also forgotten about our dinner reservations. I changed into my yoga pants and a t-shirt before going downstairs to order a pizza.

Above all the long hours he worked, he still managed to find time to go to the gym. Watching him walk into the living room, freshly showered and wearing only a pair of pajama bottoms, made me appreciate the time he committed to keeping himself in shape. He’d always been a very attractive man and that hadn’t diminished in the least, in the time we’d been together. The physical attraction that drew me to him all those years ago remained a prevalent force for me today. So much so, that at times I had a hard time seeing past it.

He didn’t sit with me on the couch. Instead, he sat in his lazy boy chair, pushed back with his hands clasped behind his head. His actions were contributing widely to my growing preconceived notions, making it very difficult to convince myself that I was just being paranoid.

When the doorbell rang, I grabbed money out of my purse to pay for the pizza before heading to the kitchen to get plates. “Do you want something to drink?” I hollered out to Preston.

“Grab me a beer, would ya?”

Returning to the living room, I set the pizza and plates down on the coffee table and handed him his beer.

“Thanks.”

I guess now that he thinks I’m not angry with him anymore makes it okay for him to be so standoffish. What did I do? He’s the one that stood me up and I’m being made to feel as if I’m at fault for something. Not liking one bit that I had become locked in a state of accusations, searching for an unturned rock that would reveal the confirmation of my suspicions, I knew I either had to address this head on or let it go before I truly made myself crazy.

Deciding to let it go, for now, I made a feeble attempt at turning the mood of the evening around. “So, how was work today?”

He finished his mouthful of pizza before answering. “It was fine. Oh, I’ll be leaving on Monday for a conference in Seattle, then spending some time in Colorado.”

“How long will you be gone?” It was so hard not to let my growing frustration show.

“Two, three week’s maybe. Don’t know for sure.”

“Why don’t I come with you? I haven’t taken any vacation yet this year from work, and I’m sure it won’t be a problem to get the time off?” I already knew what his response would be, even before I suggested me going, but for some reason I needed to hear him tell me the reasons why he didn’t want me to go. I knew for a fact, some of his colleagues took their wives with them on these business trips. Up until not too long ago, I wasn’t able to get away from work for the length of time he would be gone, but now that I’ve hired an assistant I can afford to be away without returning to a mountain of work. Being a marketing consultant for some very large firms around the country could be just as demanding as his work, but I had never let it consume me in the way he does.

Preston set his plate on the table beside him. “Tiff, I’m going to be in back-to-back meetings, and I’d feel bad not being able to spend time with you.”

There was a time when he wanted me to go and he would tell me that he would make time in his schedule for us. I guess that’s not the case anymore. “Well, maybe I’ll still take some time off anyway.”

“That might be nice.”

Anger reared, once again, and I just didn’t have it in me to fight with him. I needed to collect my thoughts and remove as much emotion as I could before I did or said something I might learn to regret. Picking up my plate, I reached for the pizza box, “Are you done?”

“Yeah.”

I stormed off to the kitchen to put the dishes in the dishwasher and the leftover pizza in the fridge. When I returned, Preston was asleep in his chair, so I turned off the TV and went to bed, leaving him there.

Tiffany Keller married her high school sweetheart. Together forever. Wrong! When Tiffany’s suspicions are confirmed, she struggles to accept the truth of her husband’s betrayal. 

Blaise Cartwright’s wife broke his heart years ago, leaving him bitter and closed off. 

Tiffany finds comfort in an acquaintance who quickly becomes a dear friend, who also happens to be Blaise’s father. Blaise couldn’t be more different from his father. John a warm, caring man with a heart of gold. Blaise a cold and cocky man with a ruthless persona. His standoffish demeanor pushes Tiffany to her limit, but the more Blaise tries to push Tiffany away, the stronger her attraction for him grows. She knows there is so much more to Blaise than what he portrays and that is what keeps her coming back. 

The unexpected return of Blaise’s ex-wife threatens those that Blaise cares about, including Tiffany. 
Tiffany had been warned of her return, but nothing could have prepared her for what she would be faced with.
How far will Blaise go to protect the ones he loves?
How far will Tiffany go to keep a promise she made to a dear friend?
The stakes are high. Emotions are higher. Loyalties run deep and Blaise’s ex has no boundaries. How far will she go to get what she wants?​