Yes, it’s the last Saturday of the month, so that means another excerpt from The Fine Line is up on my website (http://traceeford.com). This reveal has a PG rating.
This week it is my distinct honor to include a piece from the newly edited book coming out on April 12th. Enjoy the chapter everyone:
After the night Robin confessed everything to Matt about her past with Brett, their bond strengthened. They spent even more time together. Matt knew exactly what it took to earn and maintain Robin’s trust. Gifts became a regular occurrence, ranging from necklaces to bracelets to flowers to candy. The support and affection he offered was unmatched. Robin saw the sincerity behind every gesture.
Mid-August brought intense heat. The softball games coming quickly to a close with the start of school also meant an influx of cases at the agency. Robin hoped this year might be different, but she sincerely doubted it.
After the Thursday night softball game, Robin drove home looking forward to a nice, hot shower. As she made her way across town, she thought about the transition she had made from her intake position to being the supervisor of the entire department. It exhausted her, raising her stress level far beyond anything she’d experienced before. So much needed to be done and so many of the employees seemed angry. She knew she needed the trust of her workers to keep the team working cohesively.
One of the positive things that came from her promotion was a new car. She financed a Jeep Cherokee. It was silver and equipped with heated leather seats, a touch screen radio and navigation system, and sun roof; she finally owned the car she had dreamed of. As she pulled into her parking place at the apartment building, she noticed an unfamiliar white Saturn parked in the lot. She stepped out of the Jeep and slung the duffle bag over her shoulder. As she walked closer, she noticed a tall blonde woman getting out of the car. She didn’t recognize her.
The woman, very stylishly dressed, remained expressionless as Robin flashed a sociable smile and started up the stairs.
“You must be Robin,” the woman said, her voice shrill and intense. “I could tell just by the way Olivia described you.”
Robin turned and then continued up the stairs as the woman followed.
“You must be Sheryl.”
She wanted to be nice to Sheryl and invite her into the apartment. She wished no ill will on her. However, her gut told her that pleasantries would not happen.
“Yes, Sheryl Gregory,” she replied as she puffed out her chest.
“You mean Sheryl Winston? Isn’t that your married name?”
Robin continued walking to the apartment as Sheryl followed closely behind.
“I came to tell you that you need to quit seeing Matthew. He isn’t interested in you. You also need to understand that his daughter will always come first. You’re not a mother, so naturally you wouldn’t understand.”
Robin inhaled and then breathed out, releasing all of the negative energy built up inside of her. Remaining positive would be the key to this conversation and Robin knew that. Nevertheless, assertiveness seemed of equal importance. When she turned, Sheryl was toe to toe with her.
“Let me explain something to you,” Robin began calmly and quietly, “the way I see it you have no control over this situation Sheryl.”
“Oh, now see, that’s where you’re wrong. I have one thing you don’t;
“I know everything,” Robin continued speaking in a low, determined
tone. “I know Olivia isn’t Matt’s. I know that he stayed by your side when he clearly shouldn’t have. Do you know why? It’s because he is a respectful, good, honest man.”
“How dare you!” Sheryl replied, as hate shot from her eyes.
Robin’s positivity quickly flew out the door.
“How dare I? You come to my apartment to have a pissing contest? It’s none of your business what Matt does or doesn’t do; who he sees or doesn’t see. You gave up that right when you divorced him. I won’t have anyone assume the right to order me around either. So if you thought you could intimidate me into not seeing Matt, you can think again. This sort of behavior has obviously worked for you in the past. But it won’t now.”
“He still loves me, you know?” Sheryl spit out insistently.
Robin stood firmly and confidently with her shoulders back, a very strange feeling to her to be so secure in her actions.
“You think so?” she said calmly. “I knew this day would come. I was going to be nice; try to work things out with you. I can see now that isn’t going to work. It isn’t my fault you gave up the absolute best thing that ever happened to you. Do you even know how gentle and kind he is? He is the most understanding and selfless man I’ve ever known.
“So, here’s the way it’s going to go, Sheryl. If you continue with your reckless behavior, assuming you can tell me what I can and can’t do with your ex-husband, I’m going to file a restraining order against you and if you violate it, I’ll have you arrested. So, keep going Sheryl and see where this ends up.”
Coolly, Robin walked into the apartment and closed the door behind her. With her back against the door, her heart pounded. She closed her eyes to collect herself. Taking deep cleansing breaths, she released all of the negative energy gathered from the encounter. She knew she needed to meditate to gain her balance, but before she could, her cell phone rang. Looking at the screen, Matt’s face appeared.
“Did you tell my ex-wife off?” he asked without saying hello.
Hurt and disgusted, Robin felt as if he may be defending Sheryl.
“Yes I did,” she answered curtly.
“Good!” he shouted. “It’s about time someone put her in her place.”
“Really? You’re not mad?” Relief swept over her.
“Hell no, I’m not mad,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m glad you did it.”
“You’re the first woman that hasn’t been intimidated by her. Most women are terrified of her. I just thought maybe she’d scare you off, too.”
“Nothing will scare me off.”
“That’s good,” he laughed.
Saturday morning, Matt clocked out at the hospital and jumped into his truck bound for Robin’s apartment. While driving, he took time to be thankful for their relationship. He felt so lucky to have found her. Still, he hadn’t told her that he loved her yet. He still waited for the perfect time to say it.
When he arrived, he quietly walked into Robin’s room and shut the door behind him. She slept soundly. He took off his jeans and t-shirt and crawled into bed beside her. He pulled her close, listening to her breathing as she stirred for a moment. He kissed her back.
“Morning beautiful,” he whispered.
“Mmm,” she uttered groggily. “Morning.”
He wrapped his arm around her waist and drifted off to sleep quickly. When he woke, she wasn’t beside him. He heard the shower running. He put on the cotton shorts he kept at her apartment and made his way to the bathroom listening carefully for Wendy and Terri’s voice. He knocked on the bathroom door to make sure it was Robin. Her voiced answered back.
He walked in, slipped off his shorts, and stepped into the shower. The water running off her skin instantly aroused him. Her back was to him as he stood watching her. He saw a patch on her hip. Gently, he touched it.
“You’re wearing a birth control patch,” he said as he continued tracing it with his finger.
“I’ve always worn one. I’ve just always made you wear a condom.”
“I don’t mind,” he lied.
“Well, I’m not making you anymore,” she said assertively.
He touched her back soothingly.
“Matthew,” she scolded, “we don’t have time. We’re already running late.”
“We can do it fast,” he answered.
“I don’t want you to be quick,” she said as she turned and put her hands on her chest.
He smiled, “Well neither do I, but I know we’re racing against the clock here.”
He stopped and pushed her away for a moment.
“Have I ever told you just how gorgeous you are? I mean, look at you. You’re built like a goddess.” His eyes swept over her as his hands found her supple breasts.
He stepped closer to her and kissed her lips, then took her wrists in his hand and held them behind her back. He kissed her neck and collar bone with the intent of exciting her. Luckily, it worked. He felt her hands as they cupped his face and her warm breath as they kissed. He turned her so her back faced the shower wall. His hands raced madly over her wet body.
Matt pushed her up against the shower wall and lifted her up. She leaned against the wall to steady herself as he slipped into her. His thrusts were deep and quick.
He continued kissing her neck overpoweringly as he held tightly to her bottom, his hands balancing her. He stopped suddenly and looking deeply into her brown eyes.He saw the wrinkle in her forehead as her eyes narrowed.
“What? What’s wrong?” she asked quietly.
“I love you,” Matt whispered.
She smiled. “I love you, too.”
He felt her hands wrap around his neck and her fingers lock together. The electricity between then frightened him at times, but he craved it. He watched with accomplishment as her head leaned back against the shower wall and he felt her tighten around him. Her moans were music to his ears. He pumped for a few moments longer and climaxed, too. He held her for a few moments, kissing her ear and again, whispered,
“I love you so much.”
The picnic with Robin’s family held one purpose: introducing Matt. The three hour drive to her brother’s house gave Matt the opportunity to sleep as Robin drove.
The plan included a cook out. They planned to stay with Robin’s brother, Corbin, and his wife, Shelley. Robin didn’t doubt that her stepdad, Richard, and her mother Amy excitedly awaiting meeting Matt. Her younger sister, Maria, still lived at home. Significantly younger than Robin and Corbin, Maria was finishing her senior year of high school.
Once they arrived, Cobin quickly put Robin to work helping Shelley prepare potato salad, coleslaw, and other delicious sides while he cooked steaks on the grill. The food smelled delicious.
Shelley had met Corbin in high school. She seemed more like a sister to Robin because she had been around so long. Her red hair had lightened over the years. Still as thin as she was in high school, her skin looked like porcelain and her big blue eyes reminded Robin of the ocean. Shelley worked as a pediatric nurse at a local hospital.
It wasn’t easy to miss the fact that Corbin and Robin were related. They looked very much alike. Of course, Corbin was taller, but their coloring was the same: dark hair and brown eyes. A farmer at heart, he worked hard in the fields, which kept him pretty buff. The southern mannerisms were bred into him, too, as he always used “ma’am” and “sir.”
Corbin’s in-ground pool was one of the reasons Robin loved visiting in the summer. She loved the water because it calmed her.
Robin stood at the kitchen counter in her black bikini chopping up lettuce. Her hair pulled back in her usual messy bun, she wore her sunglasses on top of her head and smelled of sun tan lotion.
Shelley began, “Robin, you are glowing.” She walked to Robin and put her arm around her shoulders. “You simply look radiant.”
“Thank you. I feel great,” Robin replied.
“He seems like a good guy, your Matthew.”
“He is like no one I’ve ever met before, Shell.”
“That’s how I feel about Corbin. No one like him on earth, you know?”
“Yes. I know.”
The front door slammed. It wasn’t long before they heard Richard’s southern drawl.
Richard had been a part of Robin’s life since the age of two. Shortly after she was born her biological father died of cancer. Once her mother met Richard, they quickly fell in love. Wedding bells followed.
Robin loved Richard and trusted him fully. He was the only father she had ever known. She admired him for taking on two children that didn’t even belong to him. She knew he had substantial character to do something like that.
He walked in with a smile, carrying a casserole dish. His white hair glistened and his rosy cheeks always made Robin smile.
With arms outstretched she took the casserole dish from Richard and put it on the counter. She turned back to him and embraced him. “Hey there daddy,” she said.
“Ladybug,” he said with a smile. “You look good; healthy and smiling. Just the way I like to see you.”
“Where’s mom?” she asked curiously.
“She’s coming with Maria and Fred. They had to stop by the grocery for a few more things.” He looked around and shrugged. “So where’s this feller you can’t stop talkin’ about?”
“He’s outside with Corbin.”
“Oh Lord. You didn’t leave him out there with him, did you?” he joked.
Robin smiled and looped her arm through Richard’s as they walked onto the patio. Corbin and Matt’s laughter echoed as they stood by the grill.
“At least they’re bonding,” Robin murmured.
Richard turned to her and smiled.
“Sure seems like it.”
“Matt,” Robin called.
She watched him walk to her. He wore a pair of khaki swimming trunks, his brown leather flip flops, and a white muscle shirt. Robin loved admiring his physique. Just thinking about him without clothing on made her weak and she started blushing as she walked toward him.
“Matt,” she continued. “This is my dad, Richard.”
With a handshake, Matt took his Aviator sunglasses off and made intense eye contact. “Sir, it’s great to meet you,” he said politely.
“Sir…” Richard laughed. “Where’d you say this boy was from?” he said looking at Robin with a sweet smile. He turned his focus again to Matt. “Son, you just call me Rich.”
Matt nodded. “Rich; will do.”
Soon Amy, Fred, and Maria arrived. Robin introduced each of them to Matt and each showed their sincere appreciation for the positive change he made in her life. In record time, Matt earned their admiration and their confidence.
One lazy Sunday afternoon in late September, Matt convinced Robin to venture into the country with him. Matt told Robin about a place he wanted her to see; a house in the country. As they drove down a country road on the outskirts of town, he described the house as an old white brick saltbox style home.
Matt pulled onto a lane, overgrown and lush with trees. Robin saw a large area of woods in the back. There were several other houses nearby, but not like in the city. They were sparsely spread out.
As they continued up the lane, the large, white two-story came into view. She glanced over at Matt.
“You’re right. It’s beautiful,” she agreed. In her mind, she saw what it must have looked like when it was first built.
They pulled up to the house. Robin waited for Matt as she continued gazing up at the home, awestruck by its size and potential. After opening the door for her, Matt grabbed the picnic basket out of the truck bed. Robin reached behind the seat and grabbed a blanket.
As they ate, Robin couldn’t take her eyes off of the majestic old home. She took a drink of her wine and then felt Matt’s lips on her ear. Gentle kisses turned into passionate love making in the tall grass. Afterward, as they lay wrapped in the blanket, Robin continued to be mesmerized by the house.
“It’s so big,” she said still gazing up at the structure.
“Now how come you never say anything like that about me?” he joked.
She smiled at him and then turned her attention back to the house.
“Come love. Let’s get dressed. I want you to see the rest of the property,” Matt encouraged.
After putting their clothes back on, Matt led her inside the old house. The surroundings were rough. Everything seemed to be falling apart. With her hand in Matt’s, she followed him back out to the front of the home. She stared up at it still.
Robin felt her hand drop to her side. The nervous tension in the air came from Matt.
“I want to buy it,” he blurted out with a long pause. “And I want you to live in it with me.”
She turned to him as he leaned against the front of the truck.
“Yep. I’m tired of not being able to be beside you when I sleep.”
“But, you sleep during the day Vampire man. The only time we sleep together is on your days off.”
“Okay woman, will you let me finish?” he said jokingly.
She smiled at him again as she turned back to the house. She walked toward it. Like a magnet, it was as if something greater drew her in.
“I want to marry you, Robin.”
She stopped immediately and then turned to look back at Matt. With a million questions running through her mind, she found it impossible to form coherent thoughts.
“I want to make babies with you and grow old with you. And I want to do it all right here.” He continued.
Walking toward her, he could see the surprise on her face.
“Say that again…” she said.
He reached for her and pulled her close.
“Marry me,” he whispered.
He took her hand in his and raised it to his mouth. Kissing her knuckles gently, he looked into her eyes. She knew he was trying to get a read on what answer may come.
“But, Matt, we’ve only known each other for a few months. We don’t even know if we could even survive living together.”
“Sometimes time doesn’t matter. When it’s right, you just know.” He dropped her hand, but held to it. “I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. I can’t explain it and I don’t want to even try. Isn’t that enough?”
“Matt, you haven’t thought this through.”
“Yes I have. Do you have to think it through? I know I can and will love you for the rest of my life. Aren’t you sure you can love me?”
“No, no. It’s not like that. I am deeply, irrevocably in love with you Matt. You know that.”
Calmly he knelt before her as she stood with tears brimming in her eyes. From his pocket he pulled out a ring, a large diamond princess cut solitaire in a gold setting.
“I know and understand what you’ve been through. I know that it’s hard for you to trust, but like I told you, I will never hurt you and I will always love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You’re the one I want to lay beside every night and you’re the one I want to see every morning when I wake up. This is it, Robin. You’re it. Marry me?”
She couldn’t catch her breath and the tears fell down her cheeks too fast.
“I know you’re afraid, but don’t be, please,” he said as he pulled her down to kneel with him. “I love you so much.” Soothingly, he touched her face with his steady hand. “I will never lay a hand on you or take you for granted.”
She nodded tearfully. “Yes, I’ll marry you.”
A few days passed. Matt couldn’t wait to tell his family. He made phone calls to everyone. He shared the exciting news with Avery and some other close friends at the hospital.
As he stood at the nurse’s station, he looked up at the clock. “Only 3 a.m.,” he whispered to himself as he rubbed his eyes. Glad this was his last night before three days off, he continued trudging through charts, signing here and there.
Avery sat beside him.
“So, you’re getting married,” he said with a hint of negativity in his voice.
“That’s the plan,” Matt replied as he continued looking through charts.
“Well, good luck with that buddy,” Avery concluded with a pat on the back.
When Matt turned, Sheryl stood before him.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked.
“Is Olivia okay? It’s the middle of the night. What are you doing here?” he inquired.
“Yes, she’s fine. She’s with Kyle. This will only take a minute. I just had to see you.”
He walked silently to the doctor’s lounge, Sheryl following closely behind. He took off his lab coat, dropped to the couch, and folded his hands behind his head. Sheryl paced.
“Will you please tell me what the hell is wrong?” he asked curiously.
Looking rather desperate, she sat beside him on the couch.
“Please don’t do this,” she pleaded quietly.
“What are you talking about Sheryl?”
“I know that you asked Robin to marry you. The entire hospital knows you’ve thrown yourself at her. I heard people talking and they are saying you can see her ring you gave her from a mile away.”
“Yes, I asked her to marry me; so what?”
“Don’t. Don’t do it. Please. I’m begging you.”
“Why not Sheryl?” he bit out.
“Matthew I still love you and I want us to be a family.”
The rage swelled within him as he stood up and folded his arms defensively.
“Sheryl, you’re a player. It’s the hunt you love, not me. You listen to me,” he said gruffly, “this is my shot at happiness and I’m taking it. I finally found someone who won’t hurt me; who loves me and can be a partner to me; someone I can have a good life with. You will never understand that. It’s always been about you.”
“Matthew, you haven’t even known her that long. You can’t possibly know that you’re in love.”
“Let me put it to you this way. I was married to you for fourteen years. I’ve known you since I was a junior in high school. We got married when I was a senior. In all of that time, you have never made me feel the way she does. You’ve never made me feel loved or accepted… not once. You’ve made me feel like a disappointment. And then when you got pregnant with Olly… I stood by you. I listened to all of your lies. I knew instantly Robin was right for me. Instantly!”
“But what about Olly?”
“Olivia loves Robin and Robin loves her. Quit dragging her into this! Don’t use her to control me Sheryl.”
“If you love us you won’t do this!” she shouted.
“There’s the catch. I love Olivia. I’ve always loved her and I always will. I’ll always take care of her. But you,” he said as he paced, “I don’t love you. In fact I didn’t know what love was until I met Robin. She’s taught me more in the few months I’ve known her than you did in the last fourteen years! And one of the things she’s taught me is that I don’t have to put up with your mind games anymore. I’m marrying Robin as soon as I can.”
She stood, rushed to him, and then kissed him forcefully. He fought her off.
“Stop this!” he shouted. “Stop making a complete ass of yourself!”
“We had something good Matt. Don’t you remember?”
“No, Sheryl, it wasn’t good. All I remember are the nights when you would come home with the scent of another man all over your body and how worthless it made me feel. I remember that you got pregnant with another man’s child. I remember quieted phone conversations. Believe me, Sheryl, I remember everything.”
“I’m so sorry. I just know if we give it one more shot we can make it work.”
“You’re delusional. I’m not wasting my time with this anymore,” he shouted. “I’ve got patients out there.”
He took a breath and began walking away but there was more he needed to say. He stopped, turned, and walked back to her with his finger in her face.
“Now, I’m only going to tell you this once,” he began quietly in a stern, serious voice, “Leave us alone. Stay away from us. The only time you need to contact me is when it involves Olivia. No other reason than that. Do you understand me?”
“You’re going to regret this one day Matthew,” Sheryl protested.
“The only thing I regret is ever meeting you.”