Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. This week, we are working on scenes using the word HUG as our prompt.
I’m continuing with my contemporary romance, Wedding Bell Blues.
MJ’s gaze followed Paul as he moved around the bed to the top right side of the room where the eating area was located. There was a built-in wet bar, a small fridge, as well as a table and two chairs. On the counter sat a top-end, single brew, coffee maker. Crossing the floor, she stepped down into the sitting area, with its luxurious sofa and two matching overstuffed chairs, and gasped. What she’d thought a rug from the doorway was a thick Plexiglas floor. She looked down at a small reef around which flitted colorful fish.
“Wow. This is fantastic.”
“Yeah, you should see it at night. It’s backlit. I must have spent an hour last night watching the fish play around the reef. I tried to figure out how many different species there were, but since I couldn’t identify them … I bought a book in the gift shop this morning. It’s on the table, next to that pamphlet about Captain Lacorneille and his treasure.”
She reached for the glass Paul handed her.
“My bed, I assume?” she asked, indicating the sofa.
“Yeah. I think it opens up to a bed, but I’m not sure. If it doesn’t, I’ll take the sofa, and you can have the bed.”
“Don’t be silly. It’s your room—your bed. Besides, you’re way too tall for it.” She lifted the cushion to see if it was a sofa bed—it wasn’t. Why would there be another bed in a room like this anyway?
“If you’re sure, but I don’t mind sleeping on the couch. Have you had time to call your husband? I’ll gladly talk to him and swear to behave myself. After all; we’re practically family.”
MJ scrambled for something to say, but her mind was blank.
Practically family? That’s a low blow.
Paul frowned. “MJ, where’s your husband?”
MJ looked at the glass floor once more wishing it would split open and swallow her.
“I don’t have one,” she said softly, knowing she had no option here but to tell the truth. “He cheated on me with another woman, and I cancelled the wedding. This should’ve been my honeymoon, my perfect vacation.” She burst into tears. “I’m such a fool.”
Paul gaped at the woman weeping in front of him. What was it about women’s tears that made a man feel so useless?
“Aww, kid, the last thing I wanted to do was make you cry. I’m sorry,” he stammered, reaching for the glass she was holding. He set it and his beer on the table and pulled her into his arms. Of all the things he’d expected her to say, that was definitely not on the list.
“I’m so sorry, MJ. That sucks.”
He held her in his arms and let her cry. It wasn’t the first time he’d tried to console her. He’d done this once before, almost eighteen years ago, when tragedy had struck the Summers’s house for the first time, and the family dog had died. She’d been heart-broken and nothing had made her feel better. He’d held her, hugged her to him for what had seemed like ages, knowing what it was like to hurt like that. At fifteen, he’d had almost all his hopes and dreams broken, along with a few bones, by someone he’d loved. Eventually he’d given her a stuffed dog that had made her smile again. Somehow, he didn’t think a stuffy with a cheap cut-glass collar would help this time.
He held her close now, murmuring what he hoped were soothing words and praying he wasn’t making things worse. He rubbed small circles on her back. He was amazed at the way her body fit against his, almost exactly the way it had back then, as if their bodies had grown in proportion to one another, staying the same as they had that fateful day.
A good twenty minutes later, he noted her crying had eased, and she was sup-supping now. The worst of the tears might be over, but he didn’t think that was the last of them. He knew he should let go of her, but she felt good in his arms and didn’t seem in a hurry to move out of them. She brought out the white knight in him, she always had, and whereas he’d hidden those feelings years ago, he sensed she needed to know she mattered to someone now. He’d do whatever it took to save her from any more misery.
A few minutes later, she pushed herself away, picked up her glass, and took a mouthful. She looked back at him and even after her crying jag, she was still stunning.
“Sorry about the waterworks. I don’t usually cry. As Ron likes to say, I’m too cold-hearted for that, but I think coming here and ending up in this mess was the last straw. I wet your shirt.”
“Don’t worry about it.” He pulled off the damp shirt and tossed it onto the chair. “I’ve got others. Want to tell me about it?”
She sniffled. “Not really. I wasn’t even going to tell you that, but I couldn’t think of a convincing lie. God, I’m such an idiot. Carla was right. My Irish-Greek temper will be the death of me. Look at the mess I’m in.”
“It can’t be that bad. This is a nice place.”
“Yeah, but it’s your place. At least you’ll only be stuck with me for the night. I’ll go with you in the morning and make my way back to the airport. That way I can get the next available seat back home.”
He frowned. “Why don’t you tell me what happened and maybe we can find a better solution. I don’t like the idea of leaving you alone on Martinique without a room or a plane ticket.”
“You sound like Carla. She was dead set against my coming here. I should’ve listened to her.”
“I can’t imagine your mother was too happy about it either.”
MJ’s cheeks reddened, and she looked guilty as hell. She couldn’t possibly have done what he suspected she had. No way would she be stupid enough to pull a stunt like that.
“You didn’t tell her you were coming here, did you? My God, MJ what were you thinking?”
“I’m a thirty-one-year-old woman. I don’t need my mother’s permission or anyone else’s to go on a vacation. I was thinking I’d relax and enjoy myself. Mama thinks I’m in Watertown.”
He stared at her. “Are you telling me no one knows you’re here?”
“Carla does,” she said, a hint of defiance in her voice. “But I swore her to secrecy.”
“Of all the bone-headed things to do. If your mother doesn’t hear from you for ten days, she’ll be worried sick. Didn’t you think of that?” He didn’t know why he was so angry, but he was.
“I’m not heartless,” she said defensively. “Of course I was going to call her. I just wasn’t going to tell her where I was.”
“Why the hell not?”
Her eyes brimmed with tears again, but he wouldn’t let her off the hook that easily.
“You know my mother, how protective she’s always been. Do you think she’d have let me come? I may be an adult but sometimes she still treats me like a child.”
“When you pull something like this, she has every right to.” He wanted to shake her. What she’d done could’ve been dangerous. He knew women traveled alone, but after what he’d seen in the past twelve years and what he’d learned as a police officer, scenarios of the kind of things that could’ve happened rushed through his mind.
She glared at him. “I should’ve moved out years ago, but after Papa died, she was so lost, and then Ron got married … If I’d told her what I planned to do, she’d have had my Uncle Nick lock me in the basement and called the priest over to pray for my soul.”
“Considering how things have turned out that might not have been such a bad idea.”
She looked as if he’d struck her.
“I’m sorry I bothered you,” she said coldly. “Maybe sleeping out in the lounge isn’t such a bad idea. I’ll get my things and get out of your way.”
He ran his empty hand through his short hair. “Stop. I’m sorry, MJ. I don’t even know why I’m so angry. I’m sure you had your reasons for doing what you did, but you’re in a hell of a mess now.”
“And you don’t think I know that?” she answered bitterly. “You may think you’re my big brother and can fix anything, but believe me, no one can fix this.”
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