Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 13: Shotgun Wedding 3d cover

Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 13: Shotgun Wedding by Karen Wiesner

Amethyst, Wisconsin is a small, peaceful town on a pristine lake with an active tourist season in summer. When the air turns chill, the area is transformed into a ghost town with only a handful of lifers who stay. Populated with colorful characters, Amethyst is bursting with mystery, romance, and jealousy. Come and visit a place where anything is possible all-year-round.

 

Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 13: Shotgun Wedding

Trevor and Eden were married right out of high school. She’d believed she was pregnant, but that hadn’t been her sole motivation. Wildly in love with Trevor Johnson, she’d worried he was becoming disenchanted with her, his attention consumed by the needy and seductive Delaney Foster who came to Amethyst every year with her family. In the years Eden and Trever have been married, she’s never felt quite secure in the belief that he married her by choice, in love.

During the Christmas season, plagued by unspoken guilt and doubts, she finds herself again competing with a soon-to-be divorced, distraught, and disgustingly gorgeous Delaney. Eden is obsessively aware she’s no longer as young, thin, or sexy as she’d been before she had three sons.

To top off her growing stress, Eden has discovered she and Trevor’s oldest son and his girlfriend, in their senior year of high school, are sexually active. The last thing they need is another shotgun wedding and the potential that a marriage undertaken for the sake of a baby isn’t necessarily one of choice or love.

GENRE: Contemporary Romance    Word Count: 56,393

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Continue the Series:

Adventures in Amethyst Series Anthology (Books 1-4) Continue the Series Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 5: Til Summer Comes Around Continue the Series Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 6: Rose and Thorn continue the series Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 7: Briar's Patch continue the series Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 8: For Auld Lang Syne continue the series Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 9: Forbidden Fruit continue the seriesAdventures in Amethyst Series, Book 10: Blame it on the Rain continue the seriesAdventures in Amethyst Series, Book 11: Never a Bride Continue the Series Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 12: Unlucky in Love Continue the Series Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 13: Shotgun Wedding Continue the SeriesAdventures in Amethyst Trio of Holiday Romances Continue the Series

 

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Chapter 1

 

December 15

 

We haven’t had sex since Thanksgiving.

The thought popped into Trevor Johnson’s head at some point during the long, bone-chilling work day running the hunting lodge with his brothers. His incredulity hadn’t left him once since it appeared as an afterthought yet quickly became his focal point. He and his wife had been so busy of late, there hadn’t been a single free moment to think about anything of the kind.

Living in a summer resort town, where the seasons tended to dictate the financial state of every business, Johnson Family Resort had tried various schemes over the years to turn a profit during the dead season of winter. Their main business came from being situated on Lake Amethyst–the very heart of the town and the reason tourists came in droves to enjoy it for every conceivable sport and recreation. This year, the Johnson family, consisting of eight brothers and one sister, plus their spouses and families, had undertaken a series of radical additions.

Beginning at the end of the previous year, they’d begun laying the foundation for opening the resort as a hunting lodge during the cold season. They’d collectively agreed to give up a sizeable portion of their own family land for the lodge, which had exceeded every expectation they’d had from their very first launch day. They often had to recommend business to the other major resort in town, Rose Rentals–an arrangement that brought them a small kickback.

Finally, just last month, they’d opened a restaurant on the resort that would do business all year, not only for their renters but the community at large. Their newest sister-in-law, Apple, knew of a semi-famous chef from New York who’d been willing to come work for them as his retirement adventure. Since the day their simple but diverse eatery opened, they’d served a full house for every meal.

If early predictions were correct, the former dead season might just become their busiest, indefinitely. And that’s why me and Eden are so tired, with every day since we launched both the hunting camp and the restaurant so packed we haven’t thought about anything but pushing through one day to the next.

His wife of 20 years worked in the restaurant either as kitchen brigade or performing whatever front of the house duties were needed while Trevor supervised the hunting lodge.

Despite his fatigue after getting out early that morning, from the time he’d gotten home to find Eden still in the restaurant uniform of black pants and the t-shirt with their resort logo, getting dinner ready, Trevor had been making his bid for sex tonight. He’d sent her upstairs to get changed into something comfortable, roped their three sons into helping him set the table, serve the fabulous meal she’d made, complimenting her just enough without going overboard–something she could see through too easily–then did the dishes all by his lonesome.

When she finally asked him what was going on, why he was performing tasks he almost never bothered to offer to help out with, he used actions instead of words. He’d kissed her deeply, his whole body involved in convincing her, and she hadn’t needed to ask more questions after that.

But will she be in the mood later? was in doubt. Trevor couldn’t be sure in the hours that followed leading up to bedtime. Was she acting skittish or mildly interested?

After the boys went upstairs to do their homework, Trevor surreptitiously watched his wife. Usually they watched a show or the news together toward the end of the evening, something she did while going through the mail, doing bills or reading. Tonight she’d been up going through the kitchen and bathroom pantries, making a grocery list on her phone, occasionally murmuring in shock that they were out of everything. When was the last time they’d done any real shopping?

Trevor half expected to get a text with a long list of things he should pick up after work tomorrow from the very small convenience mart in town–not a pleasant thought because it would mean he got to the Johnson family Friday potluck late. Once a week on a weekday, the extended family gathered together at the resort host house for dinner. Occasionally, they did that on Sunday, too, but usually only for lunch after church.

The only decent shopping was an hour away in any direction. At least twice a month, they made a day of it with the kids, traveling to one of the bigger cities for what Eden called “extreme shopping”. Invariably, they went to Eau Claire so they could visit his mom, in a healthcare center with late-stage severe Alzheimer’s.

They hadn’t had time for anything but the increasingly frequent trips he’d been making to the convenience mart a couple times a week or, if they really needed a lot, to Black River Falls or Neillsville, the closest small towns that offered slightly better selections of groceries than Amethyst did.

Trevor sensed his wife’s anxiety about the situation, warning him to tread lightly if he wanted to convince her to have sex that night. While he couldn’t imagine when he’d have time to run for groceries, especially if she gave him a big list, he knew the best way to talk her into sex was to offer to go himself tomorrow. At the moment, he wasn’t entirely sure he’d have time for shopping the next day. But there was no sense bringing that up tonight since it could call off the festivities he had in mind. He’d make more of an effort to shop tomorrow if she said she needed him to.

“What’s the damage?” he asked lightly when she finally came back with a few cookbooks. He’d left for a second to grab a diet soda instead of another beer, which would make him tired. Looking at her on the sofa, where she’d taken a seat in front of the coffee table, he could see how completely inside her thoughts she was. Not a good time to touch or sneak a kiss. He set down his drink near the cookbooks.

She shook her head. “I don’t know how I can even make a casserole or something for the potluck tomorrow. Our fridge and pantry are all but empty. I’ll have to get really creative.”

“You need me to get anything from the convenience mart?” He tensed at the thought but made himself sound completely open to whatever she wanted him to do.

She sighed. “No. I think I have an idea about something that should be okay but maybe not my finest. We have all the ingredients for that, at least.”

“Everything you make is primo, babe.” The one thing he could say without fail was that Eden was the best cook he knew. “Everything you make is primo, babe.” The one thing he could say without fail was that Eden was the best cook he knew. In their 20-year marriage, Eden had never made a single bad meal.

Trevor risked sitting close to her to rub her shoulders, lingering for an impromptu massage when she moaned within seconds of his deep caress and gave herself, however temporarily, up to him. Careful not to move too fast, he drew her gently against him, then pushed her mid-back length, silky hair caught up in a messy ponytail over the opposite shoulder. In the lamps in the living room, the thick, jet black strands looked like they were threaded through with sapphire flame. He leaned close, putting his mouth against her ear and breathed in her scent. She smelled like the restaurant, but also like the perfume he gave her for her last birthday.

With one hand still massaging her pretzel-knotted muscles, he kissed her ear, nibbled, encountering the stud earring and moving away to her neck. She lifted her chin, uttering a soft sigh–a good sign another kiss might be in the offing. His arousal swelled with the mild encouragement.

The memory of exactly how long it’d been since they had sex came back to him, a little too boldly for comfort. The grand openings for two new ventures had taken every last ounce of their energy. Their lapse since Thanksgiving Day was extreme though. He remembered she’d been wearing a dress for the occasion that showed off her incredible cleavage and naturally tanned legs. The whole day, he couldn’t take his eyes (or hands) off her during the food preparation, the feast, and finally the cleanup. Not even the Packers game drew his attention more than his wife had.

By the time they got home, he was a very impatient bull in heat, but she was far from the happy “cow” she’d called herself throughout the act. He’d put a little bit more effort than usual into reassuring her he loved her body Thanksgiving night, but she refused to believe anything he said. Honestly, all he’d wanted to hear was “yes”. The rest took care of itself as far as he was concerned.

It was true Eden was only 5’6 and voluptuous by genetic heritage. She put on weight easily. As a result, she’d spent most of their married life, especially after giving birth three times, hating her body and trying to mold it into something God never intended.

Still, when it was over and he finally got relief, he kept thinking back in November about the time before that that they’d had sex. He’d just returned from black bear hunting with his brothers in Canada, and Eden greeted him like a starved nymphomaniac. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d initiated sex with that much aggression. If only she could be that way all the time instead of making me work so hard for her infrequent favors.

He knew by the fact that she wouldn’t turn her face to him that she wasn’t ready for a kiss, but he was screaming ready for more. He risked drawing his distracted, massaging hand down her back further, then around to the front in hopes of a more satisfying grope.

Abruptly, Eden’s hand forestalled his attempt and she turned her face to his at last, but she was already drawing back. He lectured himself into being irresistible, not mad, at her wariness while she said, “What is with you, Trev?”

“Since when does something have to be up when a guy wants to make love to his wife?” he asked in a quiet voice in case the boys came downstairs unexpectedly, reminding her, “It’s been a while.”

“When did you notice that?” she asked, an edge of challenge in her tone.

Pull up! his mind warned him about a question he knew from experience could lead him into a minefield capable of ruining this whole night if he didn’t walk on eggshells from this moment on.

“We’ve both been busy at the resort,” he managed what seemed like a neutral answer even while he wondered if she’d been giving him signals prior to this that she was interested in sex.

In Eden’s world, hints that she was agreeable to seduction usually meant subdued-to-the-point-of-nonexistent indications like bending over in front of him while wearing a V-neck shirt, using perfume on weekdays, sexy nightgowns at bedtime. Hard as he tried, he couldn’t remember noticing anything specific lately that made him think of sex. But he’d had been kidding about them both being busy enough to drop into a coma if something didn’t give soon.

He just barely cut off the groan that entered his throat. No doubt about it. He had been working too hard.

Eden’s edginess and inquiry about something being up with him, along with the fact that he could smell perfume on her neck, told him she might well have been hinting at sex for a while now. The fact that he hadn’t noticed was a sure indication he was about to enter the doghouse. Maybe waiting another night, bringing this up tomorrow just in time for the weekend, would be advisable. He could do things right. Insist they have date night on Saturday…

Eden shifted away from him fully when their seven-year-old dachshund Oliver waddled his way to his favorite person’s feet. Eden cooed to her baby, trying to pick up him up. That got Trevor moving in a hurry to the other side of the couch, annoyed but trying to hide it.

He’d originally bought the dog as a scent hound for hunting. Unfortunately, Eden fell in love with him as a puppy and turned him into the fat, lazy, chicken-livered house pet the mutt relished being. Trevor’s relationship with the canine quickly turned into mere toleration on both their parts. A hundred times over the years, Trevor could have sworn Oliver was laughing behind his back whenever he succeeded in his evil quest focused on getting him in trouble with Eden.

Eden had set Oliver on the couch between them, inviting him to snuggle against her warmth, and Trevor sneered at the dog the second her concentration returned to her shopping list and cookbooks. The look in the mongrel’s dark eyes was deep-seated and amused satisfaction. “Just try it, you louse. Then I’ll be the one in her bed while you’re out in the cold.”

Trying to keep the scowl off his face, Trevor risked a cautious glance at the clock to see it was nearly time to get the kids heading for bed, something both he and Eden played a part in. Things were looking grim on the seduction front. Even while the biggest part of him accepted waiting another night, doing it up right with a whole date night, romantic thing, was best, his arousal was slow to comply. He’d had all day to work himself up into a frenzy. Their kiss, touching her despite that she’d soon pushed him away in favor of the evil canine, were enough to convince him to give it another shot later, when they were alone. This wouldn’t be the first time he’d assumed all bets were off yet he’d managed to seduce her when they were in bed. If there was any hope of getting the relief she alone could give him tonight, he was all over that.

Letting Eden make the decision about when they started their bedtime duties, Trevor instantly complied at her word. He stood, turned off the television, and took both of their soda cans into the kitchen for recycling. She’d already gone upstairs to talk to their youngest, 12-year-old Dean.

Trevor scooped Oliver off the couch, quickly setting him down on the floor ASAP to avoid the thin howl the hound gave whenever Trevor did anything to annoy him. That was sure to bring Eden running to her baby’s defense.

“Come on, Lucifer,” Trevor muttered, too quiet for Eden to hear upstairs, leading the way to the kitchen. He opened the side door near the attached garage that led out to the backyard where Oliver could do his personal business. Not surprisingly, the scheming mutt took his sweet time getting into the kitchen. Once there, he stopped to take a long drink from his water bowl, nibble a hard bite or two, until Trevor had enough of his stalling.

Oliver didn’t get out more than a whimper before Trevor ushered him outside and set him none too gently in the out-of-the-way spot they’d designated for him to poop and pee.

Oliver glared at him with pure and utter malice, and Trevor knew from his familiar stance that he intended to make him pay for rushing him. “You’ll stand out here all night, if I want you to, louse, before I give you the gratification of doing my duty.”

The longer Trevor took to finish bedtime duties, the less chance he had of convincing his wife to put out.

“Fine. Stay out here all night if you want, you stupid mutt.” He went back into the house and closed both the screen door and the main one, a sure signal to Oliver that Trevor wasn’t putting up with his games tonight.

Not surprisingly, Oliver fought with his dirtiest trick of howling forlornly so Eden was sure to hear him and run to his rescue. Trevor launched back outside, picking up the dog and returning him to his spot to do what he knew he was supposed to, telling him in no uncertain terms what would happen to him if he didn’t get to it. “It’s cold. You think I don’t know that, you spoiled pooch? I was outside all day today while you were in the house rolling around on your velvet bed like a king. Your delicate bottom will recover from having to squat on the snow-covered ground, I assure you. Even your beloved Eden isn’t willing to get you a special dog toilet inside our bathroom. Now get to work or I really will leave you out here all night.”

Oliver took the hardline and Trevor headed back toward the screen door. When he glanced back, he saw the dog complying, however ungratefully. As soon as he finished, he ran past Trevor on his stubby legs, entering the house through the door Trevor opened at the last minute. Muttering under his breath, Trevor stalked to Oliver’s bathroom area, noted what the dog had left for him, and covered the pee with sand from a bucket nearby.

When he got back inside, Eden was standing by the central island inside the kitchen with Oliver hiding behind her legs, his back purposely turned to Trevor.

Stifling a groan of disgust, Trevor steeled himself for her chew-out as a concession for what he wanted later.

“You left him outside with both doors closed to convince him to do his business faster?” she demanded.

How does he do it? This devil-in-disguise wiener dog isn’t natural! In the space of the 30 seconds it took me to cover his piss, he somehow conveyed without words to Eden all my evil crimes against him? Oliver looked back scornfully over his shoulder at Trevor, diabolical laughter in his eyes.

Trevor closed and locked the door, offering, “He refused to get his delicate bottom cold. Honey, it’s the only way to get him to go out there and do his business.”

“I never have any trouble getting him to go,” she said haughtily.

Of course you don’t, darling. All part of his evil plan to make me look bad. “He hates me.”

“Because you lock him outside in the cold.”

“No. Because he’s Lucifer,” Trevor said, unable to hold back his fury.

“How can you say that? Look how adorable he is. He’s an angel.”

Which makes me a demon in your eyes. Great.

She stalked out of the room for the staircase, and Trevor sighed, saying under his breath, “You’ve got her thoroughly seduced, Lucifer? Save some for someone else, okay? I’m just a poor husband, trying to get his wife to give up the goods.”

Trevor moved, and Oliver instantly darted backwards away from him, threatening to start his thin, working-up-to-a-howl. Turning to grab a treat out of the dog cookie jar near the side door, Trevor tossed it to the big baby. He knew Eden had given him one already, all Oliver was allowed at bedtime–his reward for doing his duty. He was hoping a show of goodwill would get Oliver to shut up. Miraculously, it worked. Silently, Oliver gave him a look of pure disdain, snout in the air as he stepped over the treat like it was rabbit poop instead of what he normally saw as bacon nectar of the gods. With not an ounce of the delicate dignity he believed he was displaying, the mutt settled down on his luxurious bed, his back once more to Trevor, and dismissed him.

“Like we don’t both know you’re goin’ for that treat the second the lights are out,” Trevor snorted. “‘Night, Lucifer.”

He checked to make sure all the doors were locked before turning out the lights and heading upstairs. His ears tracked Eden to Jax’s room, which meant she was almost done with their usual rounds, saying good night to the boys. He didn’t have a lot of time. While she tended to spend more time with Jax, who was the middle son, 16 years old and most like her, if Trevor wasn’t done saying good night within a few minutes, she might already be in bed, pretending to be sleeping by the time he made it that far.

His first stop was Cobi, his firstborn. Cobi was a senior in high school. At 18, his time was split almost equally by his long-term girlfriend Ree and football. Like Trevor had been at that age, he was a star football player, tall, muscular, and good looking enough to have his pick of the cute girls in his class. He’d chosen Ree in their freshman year, a popular girl who was a lot like Eden had been in high school–pretty, smart, sweet, and good at everything she put her hand to.

Since Trevor already knew Eden had told Cobi to wrap up his phone call with Ree, he offered a quick good night without lingering. He moved on to Dean, named after the elder brother in the show Supernatural. Eden and her sister-in-law and best friend Joelle had been big fans from the start. Eden always came down on “Team Dean” while Joelle was firmly sided with “Team Sam”. They’d named their last sons (born almost on the same day) after the monster hunting Winchester brothers.

Trevor felt like the relationship he had with his youngest son was the strongest. He and Cobi tended to butt heads, given how defensive the boy was of his mother over the slightest infraction, while Jax was an intellect like Eden had been in high school. He was at the top of his class, far less interested in sports and hunting than his brothers, more into music and books. He played a bunch of instruments in the school band, as well as a small jazz band he’d formed there, and summer was all about marching band. He was also involved in school politics, as Eden had been–heading the student government and heavily involved in the school newspaper, website, and yearbook committee.

Jax’s relationship with his mother was so close, Trevor often felt left out, like he didn’t know what to do or say to get closer to his son. He tried to be interested in the things Jax was, but he knew he just didn’t get any of it, the way Eden did.

Dean was more laidback. Fun, happy, enthusiastic, he didn’t care for school though he wasn’t failing or anything. He saw it as a place to hang out with his friends. He’d been popular from the start with his energetic personality. Trevor loved the things they did together–working on cars, sports, and hunting. This had been the boy’s first year hunting, and everything Trevor imagined. Dean was still talking about the 12-point buck he’d bagged while Trevor bragged about it to everyone who would listen.

Often, Trevor marveled that he’d almost vetoed having another kid because money got so tight when they were considering whether or not to have one last child. He couldn’t imagine his life without Dean now.

“We going to get the Christmas tree up soon?” Dean asked eagerly when Trevor entered his slobbish room. “Mom says it’s up to you.”

They usually put the tree up right after Thanksgiving. There’d been no time for it this year. They were still tripping over the boxes of ornaments and house decorations in the living room Dean himself had brought down from the attic Thanksgiving night.

“Guess we better or there’ll be no point,” Trevor hedged, ruffling his son’s hair affectionately.

Maybe he and Eden did need to talk about when they’d do that, but he wanted his agenda to take precedence before they fell asleep tonight.

After Dean was in bed, his light out, Trevor passed Eden leaving Jax’s room with a basket of laundry under her arm. While he usually made more effort to talk about something meaningful with his least understood son, tonight he fell into the much easier agenda of scolding. Jax was still at his desk, finishing up some last-minute homework or extracurricular project.

Proving she had sharp ears, Eden called without threat, “Into bed, Jax.” Instantly, Jax closed his notebook, said goodnight to Trevor, and did what he was told.

Feeling a little guilty for taking the easy way out with Jax, Trevor nevertheless marveled at how Eden could effortlessly get their boys to do things he had to cajole and creatively bargain to get them to go along with. She rarely even raised her voice and never used threats to do it either.

Saying a prayer, Trevor slipped into their bedroom at the far end of the hall, closed and locked the door, then evaluated the situation and his options. Eden was in the en suite bathroom with the door ajar, which meant she already had her pajamas on…but the fact that the door was open meant she wanted to talk.

One point in my favor. She wants to discuss something instead of jumping into bed and shutting off her lamp so she can pretend she’s sleeping.  

Not surprisingly, she called out to him, “Dean’s right. We really need to get the Christmas tree up or there won’t be a point to doing it at all. The holidays are just around the corner.”

While rushing to undress and get his sleep pants on, Trevor acknowledged her comments, saying, “Sure. When do you think?”

They’d established a family tradition for putting the tree up over the years. Every year they went to Marasek Tree Farm, picked out a gigantic blue spruce, and then they came home to put it up, decorate it, and indulge in the feast Eden spent the rest of the day whipping up.

“I can’t remember if we’re both scheduled to work.”

“Maybe we can beg off,” he offered, doing the unthinkable and going in search of that laundry basket and putting his dirty clothes in it. He wouldn’t take the risk that his usual laziness in helping her with household chores became her excuse for denying sex. “We’ve both been working every weekend for months. We can take one weekend off.”

He wasn’t sure whether she’d go for that, but he had the feeling she wanted him to be the one to say it. The restaurant was open Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, they opened for four hours, offering an afternoon buffet. Because the fare, including some breakfast dishes, was basic and nothing elaborate for that self-serve meal, they needed minimal staff once the food prep was done.

He entered the bathroom just as she flushed and went to wash her hands. Trevor quickly used the toilet and did the same, but, after he washed his hands, he said, “Besides, didn’t we talk last potluck about using the part-time help we’ve hired on to work the weekends so the family can get a break? We should implement that right away. That way we can have Saturday and Sunday to ourselves this weekend.”

At the second sink, he brushed his teeth in about 30 seconds, a task that took Eden a full three minutes since she used the timer on her electric toothbrush. That gave him time to slide in behind her. He brushed her long, loose hair over her shoulder, firmly putting his arms around her waist and kissing her shoulder. He had a vague memory that her shoulder had been bare last night, other than a thin strap. Which means she was wearing one of the many sexy nighties she owns.

What an idiot I am. She probably has been sending me signals for days and she’s mad I didn’t pick up on ’em. In her mind, it’s too little, too late for my attention. But if I’m a little aggressive, I can play on the fact that she’s been wanting attention for days, even if she’s mad at me for ignoring her in that department.

The dorm-shirt nightie she wore tonight was old and faded, a little tight, but he had no trouble easing it up so his hands could cradle her curvy bottom against his arousal.

While she didn’t try to stop him in any way, she all but ignored his ministrations until her toothbrush timer went off. After rinsing and spitting, she slipped out of his arms, talking now–a mile a minute–about how the resort was so busy lately, not allowing any of the Johnsons’ a day off, how much they needed to do a full-on shopping trip, hadn’t visited his mom in more than a month, the kids’ busy schedules… His head was spinning.

Back in the bedroom, she went to her dresser, brushed her hair, and then started putting on the nightly slathering of lotion while she went on and on. Trevor found his place behind her again, but a moment later she was gliding away from him to get into bed, tuck herself under the covers, and turn out her lamp. Trevor didn’t give up. He reached for her as soon as he stripped off his sleep pants and got under the blanket. She’d turned to allow their usual goodnight kiss. He pulled her under him, deepening the kiss, not bothering to hide his agenda when his hands plunged under her nightie to her breasts.

He didn’t make it easy for her to protest, but she finally managed to push him away. “I’m dead on my feet, babe. Aren’t you? I was in the restaurant since eight o’clock this morning and didn’t leave until just before the bus dropped off Jax and Dean. You worked even longer.”

“Come on, Eden. It’s been weeks.”

“So it can wait. We’ll do it another day. One that’s not so busy.”

She started to turn away again, but he groaned unhappily, “When? Tomorrow?”

For a second, he actually thought she might agree but then what he could only guess was some monumental checklist floated in front of her eyes and her excuses started instead. At this point, his needs were way past being satisfied by a vague promise of that weekend.

“What do I have to do to get you in the mood tonight, babe? Whatever you want–“

His lamp was still on because he liked to see her naked. In the glow, he could see his attempts were doing the opposite he intended. She was getting mad at him, no doubt because he’d ignored her subtle signals for sex for a few days or longer. How often had he asked her to just tell him straight out when she wanted to have sex instead of making him read her mind? But she couldn’t get herself to do that. Now he was in the doghouse.

Sighing, he lay next to her on his side, looking at her extremely unyielding expression that slightly marred her natural beauty. She had big, beautiful eyes that were like colorful kaleidoscopes with the black outer circle, then evergreen, graduating toward the iris in amber and deep brown tones. Her eyelashes were long and thick, fanning out in the cat-like almond shape. Her mouth was also beautiful, oversized, with deep grooves in her cheeks around it. But she wasn’t smiling now.

Her sex drive seemed so low lately, he couldn’t even predict when she might be in the mood. Once a month? Every three weeks? Her period rarely lasted long, and she seemed to have less trouble with it than the rest of the female population. But what did he know?

All he truly understood was that, the longer they were married, the less sex they had. It was hard to imagine they’d had such trouble keeping their hands off each other in high school, she’d gotten pregnant in their senior year–luckily just before graduation so their family never knew she didn’t get that way on their honeymoon, barely two weeks after their school commencement.

While it went against everything he’d hoped for this night, he leaned toward her, inching closer without trying to touch her. “Everything all right, babe?”

All his life, he’d heard comments about how much he was like his dad. For the most part, that was a compliment. His dad had been a good husband during his two, back-to-back marriages, and he’d been a good father to his many children. He’d been an honest man, well-respected by everyone who knew him in these parts. Those were traits Trevor had worked hard to develop in himself, though his failures were unfortunately public knowledge. He’d spent years trying to make amends for them and gain back an ounce of respect at a time.

When Eden talked about him being like his father, though, she invariably meant that his dad used his actions to speak the words he couldn’t seem to get himself to say. Trevor knew he’d been loved by his dad, just like all his brothers and their sister were. But he couldn’t remember his dad ever saying the words, per se. Apparently his dad had been a hell of a lot better at conveying his meaning without forcing speech than Trevor was himself. Eden never seemed to understand anything he wanted her to just know. He said the words more often than he wanted to, more often than his dad ever had to. Yet she was never satisfied. She always wanted to talk about every little thing.

“Why shouldn’t everything be all right?” she asked dismissively, another sure indication she was mad at him for ignoring her hints to initiate sex during the week.

He didn’t have any patience for her pouting. She obviously longed for the same thing he did. She wanted to punish him needlessly more than she wanted sex. She was just as capable of initiating as he was, so how was it his fault he hadn’t picked up on her clues? “We haven’t done it since Thanksgiving, Eden. Come on.”

“Done it? Wow, aren’t you Mister Romantic?”

He tried to tamp down on his annoyance, drawing even closer to her and saying in his most convincing penitent voice, “You know what I mean. We haven’t made love since Thanksgiving. Let’s make love, baby. I want you. Don’t you want me?”

“I’m…tired,” she started, sounding petulant, but he could tell she was on the fence. “And I’m fat.”

“You’re beautiful. You’re the sexiest woman in the world–” He almost said “to me”, which he realized at the last minute would imply to her that only he could find someone as disgusting as she was attractive. “Let me show you what you do to me.”

She deliberately turned his kiss into a peck. “I really am tired, Trev. We’ll do it tomorrow night. I promise. Okay?”

He’d gotten so close, he wasn’t ready to accept defeat, but he could see she wouldn’t give him any options when she turned away from him again.

“You sure nothing’s wrong, Eden?”

“Like what?”

His annoyance was like a black cloud, descending over him and making it hard to sleep when he was still so aroused and unsatisfied. She was doing that thing that was frustrating beyond belief where females were concerned. Although she was the one who wanted to talk every little thing to death in their relationship, she was shutting him out deliberately now for some slight infraction on his part, refusing to open up at all until he’d gotten the full measure his punishment dictated. Something was wrong. So rare was it that there wasn’t anything wrong, he’d stopped assuming everything was really okay between them. She was mad at him, not just tired.

But he wanted to have sex, not fight, and he vowed from the minute he woke up in the morning, he’d be on her like a second skin. Even when the deed was done, he wouldn’t let up. This whole weekend, he’d shower her with romance and compliments. He thought about flowers but figured that would make his intentions too obvious and they would fade too soon to imply anything lasting. He’d also drop by the restaurant tomorrow whenever he got a break in the day for no other reason but to tell her he missed her and couldn’t stop thinking about her. She’d like that.

In the meantime…he had a long night to get through before his manhood decided to call off the festivities on account of his wife’s stormy mood.

 

***

 

December 16

 

Unable and pretending to sleep half the night despite being every bit as tired as she claimed she was led to finally falling asleep mere hours before her alarm went off. Eden easily could have swatted the clock across the room, but she didn’t want to risk waking the boys so immediately reached to turn it off. She realized Trevor was awake a second before she would have normally snoozed the alarm.

She’d spent what felt like the longest week of her life trying to tell him in increasingly less shy ways that she wanted to him to pay attention to her. She finally gave up Wednesday night, getting up in the middle of the night while Trevor snored like a chainsaw to take off the uncomfortable teddy and put on her slobbish, thoroughly unsexy dorm-shirt pjs instead. The only thing she hadn’t stopped was wearing the sexy perfume he’d gotten her for her birthday. That scent had become her biggest means of telling him she wanted to be seduced. And he knew it. But he hadn’t had any interest.

Go figure he came home last night and he was all over me, sometimes only with his eyes when we weren’t alone. Well, he had a prayer!

She couldn’t imagine what finally got him in the mood. When she gave up Wednesday, she’d been miserable. She couldn’t sleep because he was snoring so loud, and she’d cried for a while…not that he would ever know that. She’d convinced herself it’d finally happened: He could see as well as she could how fat and ugly she’d gotten.

She’d been struggling with her disgust over her weight since Thanksgiving, when she’d tried to put on the new holiday dress she’d worn the previous Turkey Day. But she couldn’t fit in it anymore. It was so tight, she’d had trouble getting it off and instead put on something old she’d unburied from her closet that better fit her chub.

Oddly enough, Trevor had been Mister Randy that day, too. She couldn’t put him off when they got home because her self-esteem was in the toilet. More than anything, she wanted to feel like he found her beautiful and irresistible. His pursuit had been aggressive and stimulating, the foreplay compelling…and, ultimately, short, the sex over before she could get caught up. So much for convincing herself she was his fantasy. Thoughtlessly saying, “Love you, babe”, he’d rolled over and the snoring began almost without preface.

Eden tensed at the memory. Last night would’ve been exactly the same in our usual song and dance if I didn’t somehow manage to put him off. A Catch-22 if ever there was one. Because I still want to be with him. I want his touch, his kiss, his embrace, his loving words.

She stopped breathing when his hands moved to her breasts, pushing the dorm-shirt up until his mouth could join the chorus. He didn’t give up last night. He just waited until I’m at my weakest–

Eden swooned at the kind of attention she rarely got these days. She forgot her breasts had an erotic function for the most part and even the few times Trevor seemed inclined to notice them, his attention was easily diverted by getting down to the sex without delay–and apparently getting it over with as fast as it took for him to find relief.

The memory of the teenage boy who’d acted like her breasts were on his mind 1440 minutes of every single day about made her cry now. He pushed himself up, kissing her mouth and whispering when he pulled back, “I love your breasts, babe. I want to make love to you.”

She was so hot, she didn’t know how to say no. His hands were on her panties, and she could feel herself responding to his urgency so she all but forgot about the diet she’d been on and off unsuccessfully since Thanksgiving.

But then the high-priority howl that meant Oliver needed to go out came up the stairs as unwelcome and chilling as a banshee’s screech. Trevor swore, and within the seconds that followed she knew she had to decide what to do about the situation. She realized Trevor would initiate penetration and liftoff the second she gave him the go-ahead. Any thought of her pleasure would be assumed and eventually drowned in his own need for relief. And then he certainly wouldn’t need to do any of the wonderfully, romantic and tender things he only did when he needed her sexual healing. They could have this now, leaving him satisfied, her devastated and unfulfilled, or they could have the whole weekend when maybe he’d try a little harder to give her the things she needed from their intimacy, too.

“You better go or he’ll wake up the whole house,” Eden hedged her bets.

Trevor looked at her, and she knew he was in actual agony. “You’re not serious?”

She just looked at him, and he shook his head, muttering something indecipherable under this breath. He pushed himself off her, reaching for his sleep pants. She expected him to tell her not to move a muscle, but he was apparently in too much agony or maybe assumed she’d be waiting when he got back. But she got up, needing to pee anyway.

When Trevor came back, he seemed to know exactly where she was because she did generally empty her bladder before sex. As he walked toward the bathroom, he said, “I hate that dog.”

“You can’t hate a dog that sweet,” she lectured, getting up and flushing the toilet.

“He’s not sweet with anybody but you, babe. He’s plotting my demise, just waiting for the right moment to end me then hide my body at the bottom of Lake Amethyst. Then he can have you all to himself.”

Trevor’s octopus arms were encircling again, and this time she protested to make it clear this morning was out, too. “I need to shower. You know the boys are too lazy to get themselves going in the morning. They can’t be late for school.”

He turned her to him after she’d washed her hands. “So skip the shower. I promise I won’t make us late.”

“I’d rather be late than rush through all the best parts. And I’ll feel grungy all day without a shower,” she insisted, not letting him sway her.

“So that works, too.” He reached for the hem of her pjs. “Let’s have sex in the shower. I mean, let’s make love.”

“That’s not actually a shower, and it’ll take longer that way than just taking a shower would.”

Guilt for how he was suffering–his sleep pants had turned into a rigid tent–gave her pause, and somehow his anger didn’t solidify her resolve to fight him because he sounded more whiny than mad.

“You’re killing me here, Eden. Do you want me limping around the resort all day, wanting you? Would it help if I beg? ‘Cause I will.”

“You don’t need to beg. We’ll be together tonight.”

He snorted his derision. “You mean after work and after the potluck. I’m not sure I’ll make it that long.” His expression turned to one of determination. “I’m coming to the restaurant today. We’re making love in the store room.”

“Oh, Trevor! Aberle would just love that. You know he babies that kitchen like it’s his own private space. He’ll call ten different health violations when he figures out what we’ve been doing in there.”

“Not likely,” Trevor groused. “Since you’re one of the guilty parties, he’ll let us off the hook. He’ll do anything you want. You’re his angel.”

Eden blushed but laughed at what she knew was fake jealousy. While he’d noticed the other man’s interest in her from the first time they’d met their New York chef Aberle Ristore, he wasn’t really upset about it. Maybe he assumed Aberle paid as much attention to the sea of other attractive females who worked at the restaurant, most of them her sisters-in-law. In truth, Aberle had noted she also had Italian roots, though her mother’s Italian-descended relations were All-American, through and through. None of them “acted” or spoke Italian. Additionally, Aberle saw her interest in cooking and seemed to believe she had natural flair that could be cultivated into higher standards. He’d been mentoring her since the restaurant opened, giving her something exciting to focus her energies on like she’d had aplenty as a teenager. Their friendship had formed naturally during the hours they worked.

Trevor knows he’s “the catch” in our relationship. Knows he never has to worry about any man finding me attractive and giving him competition and incentive to work harder to keep me. Eden had proven from the time he noticed her crush on him in high school that she would do anything for him, accept any treatment as long as he stayed with her. I’m the fool in this relationship…and I’ll never forget how he’s taken advantage of that…

Trevor’s chocolate brown eyes were sultry when he whisked her dorm-shirt over her head. She immediately wanted to cover her nakedness–and he did, closing the distance between them and kissing her again so he didn’t actually need to say, “Please, Eden. I promise it won’t take long” but did anyway.

Her response popped out of her mouth like the thermometer out of a well-roasted Thanksgiving turkey. “What does that do for me?”

Her vulnerabilities felt as exposed as her body with the words she’d never meant to say out loud. She hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings in the years he’d been rushing through the foreplay so fast, she’d forgotten what sexual release even felt like anymore.

But the words were out now and even horny Trevor couldn’t ignore them. “What does that mean?”

She shook her head, trying to escape him, but he wouldn’t let her go.

“Eden, what does that mean? Maybe I’d believe you said them just to put me off any other day, but… I can tell you’re thinking something. Tell me, dammit.”

Her defensiveness made her feel like he was blaming her for something that couldn’t be considered her fault. Grudgingly, she said with a little heat, “You know what it means. For the last couple years, sex means you get off as fast as you possibly can…and nothing else matters. We go weeks without any intimacy after, and then suddenly you’re randy as a teenager again until you get what you want, and it starts all over again. The only time you ever take any time is if we wait until the weekend. That’s the only time you don’t rush through it because I might say no if you go too fast.”

His handsome face, covered with a neatly trimmed beard and moustache, turned a ruddy color. “Are you saying you don’t…ever…anymore?”

Her entire body suffused with heat and humiliation. She hadn’t wanted to ever bring this up. Because what did it matter? She would take a lifetime of orgasm deprivation if it meant she got a few minutes in his arms every single day. A handful of minutes when he was looking at her, seeing her, listening to her, focused on her, loving her.

“Look, forget it,” she said, pushing him away. Only his shock allowed her to do it this time. “I want the weekend, okay? Everything will be fine if we can just have this weekend with a few hours just the two of us. I promise I’ll put out then.”

“I don’t want you to put out,” he said almost by reflex. “I want us to make love. Together. I want you to be satisfied. I thought you were–“

Great. Now I’ll have to fake my responses if he’s rushing too fast to allow them to come naturally, or I’ll do the usual and lie and tell him I did find release when I didn’t even get close. Why did I say anything at all? I could have had the weekend I’ve been looking forward to for weeks, longer.

She turned and put her arms around him, kissing him and saying, “I am. I love you. I want the whole weekend together. I promise.”

Looking hopeful but just barely over the aura of devastation, he said, “Are you sure? You’re not just telling me what I want to hear? Everything’s good with us?”

“Yes.” She kissed him again with the not-quite-a-lie and he held her longer against him without trying to cop a feel, the way he usually did. Normally, she would have loved it and stood there every blessed second he gave her. But now she just felt exposed and angry with herself for causing a rift in the last place she needed one.

It’s just sex. I’ve been wanting to be with him so long, trying so hard this week to tell him I’m willing, so why didn’t I let him have it last night and be done with it? Even if I’m miserable all weekend as he dismisses any need for further intimacy, so what? I’m used to that. I’m happy to be there when he wants me, even if it can never be enough for me.

But now damage had been done, and she couldn’t recover, nor could he, fast enough to close their eyes and do something they’d done thoughtlessly for most of their adult lives–something that didn’t seem to mean anything more than eating a meal did. It was biological. Hunger. Satisfied. Why cry when one person wanted more substance, less hash-and-dash? Wanted something healthy?

She slipped out of his arms, finished undressing, and rushed into the shower, too aware of her nudity and her less-than-desirable body size. During her shower, she resolved she wouldn’t be wishy-washy about her diet anymore. Maybe Trevor’s interest in her had waned so much this past year because she’d let herself go. The resort had never been as busy as it had this year. Everyone worked so hard. The harder and longer I work each day, the hungrier I get. I just let myself go because there was no time to think about every bite I put in my mouth. Now I’m paying the price.

Normally, around August, Trevor went back to his seasonal job with Mason Construction while she tried to find at least a part-time job around town because the resort wasn’t pulling in enough profit to warrant the whole family working there. Before his dad died, he’d always sent his daughters-in-law and sons except Bailey to find other temp jobs on August 1st straight through until April or May, depending how long winter lasted. Because Tally had started her own cleaning service that she utilized for the resort as well as businesses in town and the surrounding communities, she usually stayed on working at the resort all year, too.

Since Thanksgiving, Eden had been trying to use a calorie recording app on her phone Joelle had told her about to lose weight. In the weeks since, her days were so long sometimes, she’d begun hating the time it took to log in and figure out how far she’d gone over her allotted calories that day. She’d been starting and stopping the practice randomly…meaning when she was using it she was basically starving, when she wasn’t she was without a doubt overeating. Not surprisingly, she hadn’t lost a single pound. In fact, she discovered when she got out of the shower to find herself alone and stepped on the scale, she’d actually gained weight since she recorded her original weight in the program on November 25th.

Near tears, she got dressed quickly as soon as she saw the time. She’d barely have time to get breakfast made and served before the bus from the Black River Falls school district showed up for Jax and Dean. Cobi drove his car, picking up his girlfriend, every day. While Amethyst had had their own school once upon a time, the town leaders decided it wasn’t cost effective. Now all the kids in town went to a nearby school district.

After knocking on each door, she popped in and said, “Time to get up” before rushing downstairs. She put the load of laundry she’d gathered last night in the washer, then headed to the kitchen.

Like cowboys, Trevor’s family had grown up with hard work on the resort and big breakfasts to get each day started right. Their own family proved to need the same. Eden put her hair up, then pulled out eggs, microwave bacon, precooked sausages, and healthy though annoying high-calorie bread for toast.

She had no idea where Trevor was and didn’t have time to worry about it. She could hear the boys moving around, and she’d only just set the table and started getting the food on it when they appeared. Trevor found his way there as well, she noticed when she finally had time to get herself a cup of bitter, black coffee without the flavored coffee creamer she was addicted to. She barely had time to choke down a low-fat, light yogurt, carefully recording her calories before she had to rush back into the kitchen to get Dean’s bag lunch ready. She knew she’d be starving today, as she forced herself to stick to the 1500-calorie diet that would allow her to lose weight eventually. Aberle would make that hard. He was always asking her to test everything he made in the restaurant, eager to hear her comments. She had to put a stop to that somehow.

She glanced at Trevor to see he was brooding and inwardly groaned at how hard it would be to pull him out this weekend. I’m such an idiot! Men never like to be told they’re thoughtless lovers.

Dean managed to draw his dad out when he asked if they could put the tree up this weekend. Though they’d barely talked about it last night, it’d apparently been decided while eating that this was the weekend. Eden had checked the schedule Tally coordinated to see both she and Trevor were off, joy!, something his sister tried to build into the monthly work rosters for couples, but lately that had been slipping.

Which means getting up early to drive to Eau Claire for groceries for the big, special meal we always have, not to mention Christmas shopping, probably visiting his mom while in Eau Claire because we’re right there and we haven’t seen her in a long time. That’s most of Saturday morning and part of the afternoon. Then back here to get the Christmas tree. Jax, Ree, and I’ll start dinner while Dean and Cobi help Trevor put the tree up. We’ll decorate it listening to Christmas music, then eat… Clean up the dishes. Dessert. A Christmas movie. And, dear Lord, all I’ll want to do is pass out when it’s all done, not have sex…

Eden’s gaze went to her husband and she could all but see a mirror of her exhausted thoughts in his eyes. Yet he didn’t smile. He was clearly too disheartened about her mean comment about his botched attempts to satisfy her sexually.

I have to take it back somehow. Convince him I was just trying to stall because we don’t have time this morning and I want the whole weekend together. Honestly, I only noticed this horrible “trend” he started, rushing through foreplay, this past year. Before that, everything we did together was perfect, or as close to it as is possible.

Eden sighed. She wasn’t fooling herself. Despite the lack of sexual fulfillment on her part, she lived for whatever Trevor willingly gave her. Always had, always would.

One of the boys casually mentioned the time, and then she was up again, racing around, trying to get Jax to come out of his room, where he usually disappeared more often than not, finding all the things Dean needed for school because he was forever missing something. The bus was there, and the scramble to get her two boys on it, then telling Cobi to get off the phone and get going to school himself left her feeling shockingly deflated when she and Trevor were alone again.

Surprising her, he moved to take her in his arms when she stood at the island, sipping her cold coffee. “I’m sorry, baby. I had no idea– Whenever I asked, you said–“

Decisively, she kissed him, using her questionable seductive powers to drive his defeated thoughts right out of his head.  When she drew back, she said softly, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. I shouldn’t have said it. I was just…harried. But I do want the whole weekend to relax and take time for just the two of us.”

“So nothing’s wrong? Between us? You’re not mad at me? Everything’s good when we…”

She kissed him again, saying, “All good. And if you want to come over to the restaurant sometime today…”

“I might just do that.”

After another kiss she wanted to linger over indefinitely but knew they didn’t have time for, she said, “I have to leave the restaurant a little early though, which shouldn’t be a problem because the second shift will be there by then. I have to throw together a casserole for the potluck tonight.”

He nodded, adding that they didn’t have to stay there all night. The boys would find their way home and they could duck out early. She liked the thought of that. But soon she was alone and late and she had time only to put on eyeliner in the bathroom. She couldn’t help noticing how old she looked in the mirror. Old and fat. I’m lucky my husband wants me at all. What right do I have to complain about anything?

While she was sure he’d never intended it, she remembered Trevor talking in town once, while they were out for something. Some old high school friend of his was commenting on how another high school friend of theirs was unhappy because his wife didn’t take care of herself at all. No makeup. Wore pajamas all day long. Trevor himself had made the unflattering remark about how fat the woman had gotten, too, and only looked to be getting fatter since she never got off the couch in front of the TV. Eden knew the woman and, while she might have admitted after a lot of hemming and hawing that the wife had put on a few pounds, in truth the woman hadn’t been what any logical person would call more than a little chubby.

I knew from that moment Trevor won’t be one of those husbands who understands that people let themselves go through the years in a loving, comfortable relationship. He’ll be the husband complaining to all his friends about his cow of a wife.

Downstairs, she put the laundry in the dryer, loaded the dishwasher and got it going, then refilled Oliver’s food and water dishes. She watched the hound eat for a moment while pulling on her boots and coat. “We’re both getting fat, Ollie, but you’re hot-dog shaped, so it doesn’t count. You’re adorable. I’m an inverted pear…or a pear with two wide spots.”

Her cell phone rang on her way out to the garage. Trevor had thoughtfully opened both sides of the garage so she didn’t have to listen to the too-close, painful whine of the gears on the garage door that desperately needed oil or better yet replacing. She knew it was Joelle, married to Trevor’s brother Maddox, without looking and put her on speakerphone as she slipped behind the wheel, setting her phone in the holder to talk while starting the SUV up. “I’m leaving now, Jo. We really should walk to the restaurant from the host house. But we’d be so late if we did that.”

Whenever they worked, they met at the resort host house and drove over to the restaurant from there. While in the summer, it wasn’t a long or tedious walk at all; in winter the route was perpetually ice- or snow-covered and therefore treacherous.

“Are you back on your diet again?” Joelle guessed. “You’re Italian. Those curves look good on you. You don’t even need a diet. Besides, I’d give anything for even half of your curves. I’m a stick.”

“I’ll express mail you my extra poundage, gladly. Overnight it! And you’re not a stick,” Eden defended, laughing and thinking Joelle kind of was a stick–but in a sexy way. “Are you already at the host house?”

“Yeah. I actually got here early and ended up having to be the one who put together that urn of coffee. It wasn’t done the night before, like usual. Journee helped me.” The three-year-old girl was the only female born to the Johnson brothers. Both Tally and Apple were pregnant now and hoping to add a couple more girls into the almost exclusively male club. “I’m all hopped up now.”

Eden chuckled again, grateful for the levity she was feeling in her chest. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.” Even speeding, she wouldn’t be there for fifteen, but she was hoping Joelle wouldn’t carpool with the other sisters-in-law so no one could be considered late. She wanted to talk to her best friend about what was going on with her and Trevor.

I miss being teenagers. Whenever we weren’t with Trevor and Madd, we were on the phone with each other, talking about them, about all our hopes and dreams, all our anguish and tears. We live with our guys now, have kids with them, but not much has changed with our friendship. Jo and I still tell each other everything, things I’m sure Trev and Madd wouldn’t be too happy about their wives sharing about them.

While Maddox was a year younger than Trevor, he’d been attracted to “older woman” Joelle in the senior class with Trevor and Eden, and the two had become a couple that year. After Joelle graduated, it had been a little awkward for her to be dating someone still in high school. But once he also graduated, they got married the summer after.

During the drive, Eden tried to organize her thoughts for the long day ahead of her at the restaurant. She’d have to duck out by 4:30 at the latest to return home and get the casserole assembled and baked and into the crockpot in time to head over to the host house for dinner. Trevor was right that they didn’t have to stick around long. The boys would come home with Cobi, who’d surely go there in his car anyway. An hour to themselves would be nice–

Eden pulled into the resort driveway, choosing the road to the host house when it forked. Long before she ever got close to it, she saw a bright blue sports car parked further on next to Trevor’s pickup, in front of the reservations and rental office/camp store. She didn’t recognize the car so much as she recognized Trevor with his back to Eden’s SUV approach. A woman was standing, her slim but just curvy enough backside in a tight skirt against her car door, wearing five-inch heels and leaning toward him. Her chest was dangling in front of his eyes like ripe fruit on display in her inappropriately plunging top.

Eden didn’t need to verify to know exactly who it was even from the distance. Delaney Foster. As Eden slowly drove into a parking space in front of the host house, Trevor didn’t turn around to see who’d arrived, almost certainly because the resort was always busy these days, but also because he’d never been able to pull himself away from this woman.

When Eden got out of her car, she heard Delaney’s annoyingly flirtatious laughter as she leaned in even closer to him. Whatever they were saying, they were both immersed in each other, as if the world dissolved completely around them and left them in their own private world.

Why is she here? Her family comes in April and stays for months every year. There was no problem with them doing that when Delaney was young since they homeschooled her. But this is the wrong time of year for her to be here, if she’s joining her parents. The Fosters had been renting a cabin at Johnson Family Resort since time immemorial, as far as Eden could tell. They owned a slew of successful ski resorts in Aspen, Colorado and they were filthy rich. Delaney and her parents had been a fixture in the spring all through Trevor’s childhood and teenage years, though as an adult she, thankfully, didn’t return every year the way her parents did like clockwork.

And, flat-chested as she’d been before her boob job in her early 20s, Trevor’s been panting after the blond bimbo like a dog from the start. Before, during, and after our wedding.

The last time Delaney had been in Amethyst had been 18 years ago. The rumors about why she was there came out the way dirty laundry always seemed to in a small town like theirs. Delaney’s first husband had filed for divorce after catching her cheating and not for the first time. In the divorce, she’d rewarded herself new boobs–from A to C cup. Trevor had made a complete fool of himself, running around doing her bidding the whole time she was there. Even his father had commented about his shamelessness, taking him aside for frequent scoldings.

But I’ve never believed it was only flirting the two of them did during that time. I couldn’t believe it. How often was he seen going into her cabin? I don’t buy he was getting wood for the fireplace or tightening a loose screw. There’s no excuse for his behavior. And I couldn’t handle it. I left him, she finally decided it was time for her to clear out, and we were apart nearly a month before I let him talk me into believing what happened between him and Delaney was nothing, that it’d never happen again. How stupid am I? Was I wrong to take him back? I’ve never been entirely sure about that.

Maybe the stupidest thought of all came into her head at the moment she rushed toward the front door of the host house. I should have had sex with Trevor last night, this morning. Because now he’ll be going into every interaction with Delaney hot and bothered.

I don’t have a chance. I never have against her. It’s why I panicked when I was a teenager. A month before graduation, I missed my period, thought I was pregnant, and I told Trevor I was without bothering to confirm it with a home pregnancy test. I was convinced I was. But…I wasn’t. I got my period not long afterward. At that point, he said we’d get married, and we decided to stop having sex until our wedding only a few weeks following graduation. So I never told him I wasn’t actually pregnant since I got pregnant on our honeymoon.

I thought I won, but then Delaney showed up two years later and Trevor was right back under her spell. Now she’s returned. And I can’t go through what he put me through last time.

I can’t. How can I get myself to believe it won’t happen this time just like it did before?

I won’t.

Even as she vowed to be stronger, she stepped inside the foyer to see all her sisters-in-law gawking out the front windows at Trevor and Delaney making a spectacle of themselves with their obvious flirtation. All she wanted to do was die at having her sisters witness her ultimate humiliation.

“I’m going out there and tell him–” Tally started in fury.

“No. Don’t,” Eden managed before she all but crumpled into a kitchen chair. Her best friends surrounded her, comforting her and lambasting Trevor and Delaney in the same breath. 

 

Adventures in Amethyst Series, Book 13: Shotgun Wedding print cover