A Girl's Guide to Moving On (New Beginnings #2)(6) by Debbie Macomber

Getting Owen down a second time wasn’t as easy as I would have liked. A good ten minutes passed.

When I returned, Rocco had turned on the television and had made himself comfortable. He sat with his ankle balanced on his knee and his arm stretched out across the sofa, looking completely relaxed.

“You have coffee?” he asked.

I blinked before I found the ability to answer. “I do.” I hesitated.

“Make yourself one while you’re at it,” he suggested.

This man had nerve. Nevertheless, I brewed us each a cup. He helped himself to milk, digging the carton out of the refrigerator and then putting it back.

Apparently he had an agenda other than delivering my phone. We stood in the middle of my small kitchen, facing each other, each holding a mug of coffee. If he could be direct, then so could I.

“What can I do for you, Rocco?”

He reached inside his pocket and removed the check I had written him earlier. “I have a proposition for you.”

Seeing the check sitting on the kitchen counter, I wasn’t sure I was going to like what he was about to suggest. “What kind of proposition?” I asked, frowning up at him.

The edges of his mouth curved upward as if he’d read my mind. “Whatever you’re thinking isn’t it. I have a fifteen-year-old daughter. Her name is Kaylene and, well, she’s a typical teenager. That girl has a mouth on her…”

“Most teenagers do.”

He didn’t agree or disagree.

“I substitute teach at the high school. I hear the way they talk.”

He arched his thick brows. “Must be hard to tell the difference between you and the students.”

I wasn’t sure that was a compliment, so I let it go. “What about your daughter?”

Rocco sipped his coffee. “She wants to attend this dance, which, according to her, is a big deal.”

“And…”

“And I am not letting her out of the house with the dress she bought with her friends.”

“And…”

“And so I thought we might strike a deal. If you help Kaylene dress for this dance in something I can approve of, then I’d be willing to tear up this check and call us even.”

That sounded almost too good to be true. “What will your boss have to say about that?” I asked.

“I am the boss. I own Potter Towing.”

“Oh.” Then I paused. “I thought you said your name was Nyquist.”

“Good memory. I got the business from a man named Potter. Do we have a deal?”

I didn’t need to think twice. “Sure.” So that was why he’d been so curious about my work with Dress for Success.

Rocco thrust out his hand and I did, too. His huge hand swallowed my much smaller one. As far as I was concerned, I was getting the much better end of this transaction.

I never expected to be living in an apartment at this time of my life. I held it in my mind that after Sean retired our relationship would improve. I thought that we’d travel and spend time together, and, optimist that I am, I hoped we’d make a go of it. I quickly learned that I’d been living a fantasy, believing that with effort we might be able to rekindle the love that had brought us together all those years ago.

Even in the early years of our marriage Sean had been a generous husband. Hardly a week went by when he didn’t bring home a gift of some sort. To anyone looking in on our marriage we were the perfect couple and my husband was crazy in love with me. In public, Sean was openly affectionate and I was the envy of my friends. He was a good provider and I’d never had to work outside the home.

We’d been married about five years when I first learned that Sean was involved in an affair. I was devastated, shocked, and unbelievably hurt. If I’d been in my right mind I would have confronted him then and there. Although I wanted to scream and cry and demand to know why he would do such a thing, I didn’t. Instead I swallowed my pride for fear of where it would lead, afraid of what would happen.

How foolish I’d been, but I loved my husband and Jake was a toddler. The thought of tearing our son away from his father, whom he adored, was more than I could bear. My parents loved Sean, and while it might sound foolish to say this now, there’d never been a divorce in my family. I didn’t want to be the first. In retrospect, that makes absolutely no sense. All these years later I can see that I had been emotionally wounded to the point that I couldn’t think clearly.

I became pregnant just a few weeks after we were married and Sean wanted me to be a stay-at-home mother for our son. He assured me that he needed me to be his emotional support and he didn’t want to entrust our child’s upbringing to a daycare worker. As his career advanced he seemed to rely on me more and more, as did Jake. I became involved as a school volunteer and chauffeured our son to sports and Scouts, church activities and tennis lessons, and never did take a job outside the home.

Over the years I discovered Sean’s involvement in a number of affairs. It didn’t take long before I was able to pick up on the signs that there was another woman in his life. The late nights, the extra care he took in his grooming, the unexplained charges on our credit cards. All the while I was praying desperately for a second child. Foolishly, I believed that if I was able to give my husband more children he would love me and wouldn’t crave other women’s affections.

When I look back on those years I want to slap myself. I did everything within my power to hold our lives together, to perpetuate the lie that we had a strong marriage. It was a fluke when I learned that Sean had a vasectomy, making it impossible for us to have more children. He’d had it done without me knowing, after a close call when he thought he’d gotten one of his women pregnant. All those years I’d been living in a dream world.

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