Hello again and welcome back to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales, free reads written by bestselling authors. Thanks go to Jean Joachim for keeping us on our toes each week. Each post is a snippet from a work in progress and is based on a specific word prompt. Our word this week is METAL, and believe me, considering where I am in this story, it was a stretch!
I’m working with Wedding Bell Blues, my contemporary romance, with a best friends to lovers-second chance at love trope. For those following the story, MJ and Paul have agreed on a marriage of convenience in order to right a few wrongs from their pasts. What they have yet to realize is that they were meant to be together. As I heard in a television program lately, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him look at his reflection.” Right now, that’s exactly where my characters are. Enjoy.
Paul pulled MJ’s arm through his and led her back to the Cinderella coach, releasing her to help her into the carriage and climb in beside her. The bench seat was small, the interior of the metal carriage not designed for a man of his size. He put his arm across the back of the seat to give her a little more room.
“How are you holding up?” he asked, unable to see much of her face with only the carriage’s twinkle lights to see by. “I think that went well, and your mother was in seventh heaven.”
“Did you know about the padre?” she asked softly, but the tremor in her voice told him the truth was critical to her. The last thing she needed right now was to be backed into a corner. She was as skittish as a newborn colt.
“You mean before we arrived? No. Louis Rich told me about it just before he handed me my uniform. I was as stunned as you must’ve been. He didn’t tell me about your mother until the curtain opened, and there she was.”
“That must’ve been a surprise.” She giggled nervously. “Is it really your uniform? You’ve got a lot of medals on your chest.”
He chuckled bitterly. “There are a lot of guys with more, but sadly they didn’t all get to come home and brag about their service. Rich arranged to have someone from the post go into the house and get it for me. Since until now, I had no next of kin, the camp commander was my emergency contact. Now, it’ll be you. I didn’t expect the interview, either.”
“What did you talk about?” she asked, and he sensed her curiosity was genuine.
“You and me, the way we met, fell in love—the kind of stuff we agreed on. He blindsided me with questions about my last tour, but I managed to deflect them. National security comes in handy at times.”
She exhaled heavily. “I’m sure it does. What are we going to do Paul? This changes everything.”
“Does it? The way I see it, everything has improved. We’ll save money on a Thanksgiving wedding–maybe I can even skip out on the Greek Baptism–although I’m sure your mother will want to throw a party. You can move into the house now, the way you’d hoped and be within walking distance of school. You’ll save on gas and rent–and don’t even think of offering to pay me rent. This may be a marriage in name only, but I have my pride. You can cover the cost of groceries and incidentals, if you insist, but the big expenses are mine.”
“Pulling rank, lieutenant?” There was bitterness in her words.
“I didn’t mean it like that, MJ,” he said, wishing he could take the words back. He’d probably sounded as controlling as the Achilles Heel. “You’re my wife now. I want to take care of you and make you happy for as long as it lasts.”
“You do realize that after this dog and pony show, it could be longer than either of us thought. Mama will be devastated. I haven’t seen her this happy in years,” she stated, her voice choked with emotions. “I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to tell her the truth.”
The last thing he wanted was for her to cry. He reached for her hand and took it in his, gently squeezing it in reassurance.
“I’ve often heard the expression,’ if life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ but I’ve never really understood it until now. This may not be what either of us had in mind, but I’m actually glad it’s turned out this way. The last few years of my life have been lonely, bitter ones, filled with sorrow and regret, and talking about my last posting reminded me of why I bought the house in the first place. I want to wake up in the morning and know I deserved to survive.”
“Don’t be silly, of course you deserved to survive. And as for making lemonade, I think I’m the one coming out on top here. I arrived a jilted bride with no place to stay, and nowhere to go. Like a white knight, you’ve rescued me, and the cost you’ve paid to do so is staggering.”
“I have to disagree with you. You make me laugh again and think that maybe I can be a better man because of you. I’m looking forward to having someone other than King to talk to. I can’t wait to sit and listen to you tell me about your day, knowing it won’t involve the number of casualties suffered by both sides. The thought of not sitting down to dinner with sand in my food and another hundred guys, each one lost in thought remembering loved ones far away thrills me, especially when I’ll get to sit across from you and watch your face as you sample my cooking and I enjoy yours. We can make this work, if we really want to, Marilyn, and damn it, I know it isn’t logical, and I don’t deserve someone as wonderful as you are in my life again, but I want it to work. This place is filled with magic. Maybe we can take a little of it back home with us.”
The carriage pulled up in front of the building and in the light, Paul could see the shimmer of tears in her eyes. His heart fell. Was the thought of being his wife that disturbing to her?
Surprising him, she reached over and kissed his cheek. When she leaned back, she was smiling. “Okay, Mr. Davis. Magic it is. Let’s get this party going.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post. Don’t forget to check out all the other on Tuesday Tales.