Published by Victorious By Design
Distributed by Shakespir
Copyright © 2016 by Ann Marie Bryan
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the publisher.
Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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I dedicate this book to my readers. Thank you so much for your support and the inspiration to write.
My Heavenly Father, I am in awe of you. You are Lord of my life.
Extra special thanks to the love of my life, best friend and greatest supporter, Orville.
Members of Tallahassee Authors Network (TAN) Christian Sub-Group, you are amazing. May the love and glory of God continue to radiate in your lives.
I am grateful for my editorial team – Melissa Mallory, Ayana Matthews, Tremayne Moore, Yamecike McMillan, Icylin Morgan, Paula Owen, and Margo Thomas. God has mountain tops reserved just for you.
A big thank you to the members of my support team. You rock!
A vision of loveliness! Larry stood at the side of the bed, carelessly looping his tie around his neck as he gazed at her, nestled by myriads of soft, white, fluffy cushions. His eyes traced every curve of her body and he drew in a deep, shuddering breath as she purred, stretching her arms above her head and smiling. Whatever she was dreaming about clearly stirred her because the smile remained on her lips.
He couldn’t help but smile too. His heart beat blissfully only for Rozene. Delighting in the way his body responded to her, he bent to kiss her then drew back as her fevered eyes met his, then frosted over before she rolled away from him.
“Good morning, honey. Did you need something?” she asked, with extra warmth in her voice.
“Doing your wifely duties would be a start,” he growled, irritated by her pretentious behavior.
She sat up, ready for battle, then decided to change tactics. She’d always received a more positive response when she added ‘sugar’ rather than ‘lemons.’ “Honey, my fast will be over soon.”
“Great. Fast all you want, but did you have to include fasting from sex?” His bow-shaped lips tightened with displeasure.
“You only have to wait two more days,” she pleaded softly, tossing her curly, light-brown hair over her shoulders.
“Two more days! I have been waiting for over a month,” he hissed, glaring at her. “Plus, this is the third time in five months you’re doing this kind of fast.”
“But, honey, I satisfied you -”
“You call that lovemaking, two weeks ago when you pitied me? On my birthday, of all days?” Shaking his head, he walked to the dressing table and adjusted his tie in the mirror.
Rozene swung her legs over the edge of the bed, grabbed her robe from where it hung off the bedpost, and followed him. “I thought we had fun,” she encouraged, slipping on her robe.
His nostrils flared. “Fun. You accommodated me.” His blood boiled when he recalled that up to fall last year, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Back then, he didn’t have to beg his own wife to make love with him.
“How can you say that?” Rozene asked, knitting her brows.
“You did.” His dark brown eyes pinned her in place before he turned away to pick up his watch from the dressing table. His eyes narrowed when he looked at her again. “Why are you wearing new lingerie when …?”
“I’m preparing for you,” she said cheerfully. He watched as she modeled flirtatiously. “Saturday is game on.” She smiled lovingly at him, a smile that always made his heart pitter-patter.
He gazed at her full lips and straight nose, perfectly placed on her oval shaped face, but it was her vivid hazel-colored eyes that usually held him captive, many times stealing words from his lips. But not this morning. He turned away and clasped his watch on his wrist.
Rozene came up behind him and lovingly caressed his back before brushing imaginary lint from his navy jacket. “I’ll try to be a better wife. I just wanted to seek the Lord while I write.” Her gaze slid down his long muscular, slightly bowed legs, before she gently rubbed his back.
He closed his eyes momentarily, enjoying the warmth of her touch, then opened them and faced her. “I told you, you can slow down with writing your books. You should do one a year.” He knitted his brows. “Plus, with doing writers’ conferences, book tours, and TV programs,” he sighed, “you’re always tired.”
She pursed her lips, taking in his handsome face and confident eyes. He was self-assured but not cocky, certain of his God-given ability and authority, and the correctness of his path. “Just two more days, please,” she urged.
Larry felt like a child screaming for attention. He turned abruptly from her and walked to the nightstand to retrieve his laptop. His legs felt heavy and he was getting more and more ‘ticked off’ by the second. He leveled her with a stern glare. “What am I to do in the meantime?”
“We can do other things or you can play golf with your friends.”
His mouth dropped open, and he quickly snapped it shut. “Are you serious? What happened to you, Roz?”
Without waiting for an answer, he grabbed his car keys from the nightstand and marched out of their bedroom.
She ran after him. “Aren’t we going to pray before you leave?”
“Will pray by myself,” he roared, without a backward glance. “And don’t forget to add my appointment to sleep with you, to your calendar.”
He heard her gasp but continued walking.
A few minutes later, he glanced at their fleet of cars, and wondered which one to drive. Need something to cheer me up. He slid behind the steering wheel of the red Audi S5 coupe, then dropped his laptop on the back seat and closed the door. A deep sigh he didn’t know he was holding left his body, and he leaned forward to rest his head on the steering wheel. Where did my ever loving wife go? How can a woman who is so spiritually sensitive, be so insensitive to my needs?
He was not as fervent a Christian as she was, but he knew the Bible encouraged husbands and wives to “…not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time…” He and Rozene had fasted together a few times but never from sex. Still, he didn’t know if he could, even if she’d asked him.
“Help me, Lord,” was all the prayer he could offer up before pulling out of the garage.
After nineteen years of marriage, he and Rozene were well adapted to each other. The twins, Mason and Madison, came along during the second year of their marriage, right after they had both completed their Master of Business Administration degrees. It was a tearful experience when the twins left for MIT last fall, but after he and Rozene got over the initial shock of a soundless home, they began making plans to enjoy the ‘empty nest.’ That was before Rozene started to behave differently towards him. He wondered if she was going through hormonal changes. She’d become emotionally unavailable. Is she no longer attracted to me? He chided himself each time the thought came. She had been wearing new lingerie, and that gave him hope.
Pulling into his parking space at Pallecia Worldwide All Suite Hotel, he switched off the ignition then exhaled loudly before saying a prayer.
“Lord, please help me. I need your peace and patience to deal with Rozene. I don’t know how to fix whatever is happening in our marriage. On the surface, we are okay but in my heart, I know something is wrong. I need your guidance and direction, Father. Amen.”
After centering himself with prayer, Larry stepped out of his car. It was a slightly chilly January morning, and the cold air seeped right through his tailored suit. Just what I need to cool me down. Grabbing his laptop from the back seat, he closed the car door and put on his “professional face.” He was not in the mood for work but these days going to work was a better option than staying at home. His eyes brightened. Gabrielle would help to jump start his day.
Seven years her senior, he and Gabrielle had hit it off from the day she started working at Pallecia Hotel, a luxurious golf and spa resort, with the head office located on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida. He was Vice President of Human Resources for the past eight years and she came in as a Human Resources Manager just over a year ago. She was brilliant at her job so when the Human Resources Director resigned five months ago, he immediately promoted her to that position.
Entering the foyer, Larry greeted his co-workers before taking the elevator up to the fourteenth floor. He decided to pop into Gabrielle’s office before heading to his office, four doors down. Her door was slightly open and he pushed it in, only to be greeted by her smooth derriere covered in a navy pencil skirt. She was retrieving something from a bag on the ground.
Not quite the jump start I was expecting. Warmth spread through his body as he watched her. Sensing a dangerous shift in his mood, he pulled himself together. No self-respecting, God-fearing man should look at a woman that way. Still, he liked looking at Gabrielle Montgomery, her smooth, honey-brown complexion and slender yet curvy frame. He hastily reminded himself that she was a woman of God who always treated him professionally, so the last thing he wanted was to get caught gawking at her derriere. “Good morning,” he announced loudly as he moved towards her desk.
She spun to face him. “Larry, how’s it going?” A gentle smile lit her face.
Just the smile he needed. He felt like lying on the small red plush sofa near her desk and telling her all his troubles. “Good. How are you doing?”
“Good.” Then she looked sheepishly at him as she arranged herself behind the large cherry wood desk. “We can’t do the mock presentation today. I’m behind with my part of the presentation, but asking God for extra strength to finish by tomorrow.”
He smiled encouragingly at her. “Don’t worry. We have another day before the board meeting. We can wrap it up today, even if we have to work late. We’ll do the mock presentation tomorrow.”
“Thanks.” She flashed him a grateful smile while adjusting strands of her dark brown hair behind her ears. “Nice tie. Bet Rozene selected it for you.”
Strangely, Gabrielle found herself wondering what he was like at home. She stared at Larry, and perhaps, for the first time, noticed he was a fine looking forty-two-year-old man. His naturally sun-kissed complexion glowed with vitality. He was all male – physically appealing, tall, and lean with toned legs. His clean shaven face, highlighted by miniature dimples from a drop dead gorgeous smile, reflected his bold personality and freedom of spirit. He always seemed indomitable and comfortable in any environment. It was fascinating to watch him navigate the political arena at work.
“You’re welcome. Yep. Birthday present,” Larry responded, his heart fluttering under her scrutiny. He was no Mr. Universe, but he thought she’d looked a little longer than she should have. These days, he seemed to have the ability to reach every woman on the planet except his wife. “Any questions for me?” He had often provided answers to her work related questions.
“Nope. Focusing on the presentation.”
He wished she had several questions as he didn’t feel like being alone. He racked his brain wondering what else he could ask her, then he remembered her husband was going out of town. “Did Blake leave?”
Gabrielle smiled, but Larry saw that the smile didn’t reach her eyes. He hoped all was well between her and Blake. He’d noticed how her eyes would twinkle whenever she called his name.
“Great,” he responded, watching her keenly. He had been so busy, thinking about his own troubles that he didn’t realize she was submerged in a cloak of sadness. He did not know her well enough to ask questions but he wished he did. Then, maybe, they could share their marital woes. Lord knows, he needed to talk with someone. “Okay. I’ll be in my office,” he told her.
He walked into his office and sat in the swivel chair behind his oversized mahogany desk. At least, Gabrielle is not shunning me … like Rozene. He was happy when Rozene took early retirement from her executive marketing position and decided to pursue her passion for writing. In less than three years, she became an international bestselling author. She had written four books – Letters to God, Letters to My Daughter, Letters to My Son, Letters to Husbands, and was now writing, Letters to Wives, which seemed to be taking forever.
He loved watching her at book signings; she enjoyed being a ‘celebrity’ and he enjoyed being the husband of one. A smile he couldn’t help, curled his lips. He literally had to remind himself to breathe when she spoke with that delightful look on her face about how God inspired her writings. She would have her audience spellbound. Her last book signing occurred last fall – Letters to Husbands, he recalled. It seemed so long ago. Now, she was busy traveling to present at writers’ conferences. He wished she would slow down so they could spend more time together.
The ringing of his cell phone interrupted Larry’s thoughts. “Hello, Pastor Fotola,” he answered.
“Larry, how’s it going?”
“Great. How is it going with you, Pastor?”
“Going great on this side too. Still trusting in Jesus.” Pastor Fotola laughed in his usual jovial manner. “Just thinking, we need to go over the plans for our upcoming leadership retreat. Wanted to take another look at the agenda and the organizational chart you prepared.”
“Okay. Which day did you have in mind?” Larry served as the church’s Operations Director, so he was heavily involved in the planning of the annual leadership retreat which was scheduled for next Saturday.
“Next Wednesday evening, before Bible Study,” Pastor Fotola replied. “Say, six o’clock.”
“That time would work for me,” Larry responded. He and Rozene usually attended Pastor Robert Fotola’s interactive Bible Studies. It was a blessing to have a spiritually sensitive Pastor and he had benefited from the healthy relationship they shared as Pastor Fotola willingly gave him advice on personal matters.
“See you then. Have a blessed day,” Pastor Fotola said.
“You too, Pastor,” Larry responded cheerfully before hanging up. Staring at the wall ahead of him, Larry wondered whether or not to seek Pastor Fotola’s advice on his marital woes.
Later that evening, Larry sat across from Gabrielle, working on a part of the presentation on his laptop while she sat at her desk, working on her desktop. His body temperature climbed as she got up and walked towards the white board that was hanging on the wall in her office. She radiated grace and femininity that appealed to his masculine nature. Get it together, he cautioned himself as the words of his pastor’s sermon hit him forcefully, ‘The lust of the eye can ruin your life.’ He swallowed hard, shifting his focus to his laptop.
“I’m seeing where we can cut a bit more cost,” Gabrielle told him, looking at the organizational chart for the newly reorganized advertising division. “Let’s merge the positions of Deputy Vice President of Advertising and Manager of Advertising, and call the new position Senior Manager of Advertising.”
Larry drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair and then moved to the white board to inspect the organizational chart. “Love it.”
“That should give us another checkmark with the Board,” she said, while massaging her aching temples with her fingers.
He smiled at her, taking in her tired eyes. “You need to relax, Gabrielle,” he said, touching her shoulder. “You should take off your shoes.”
“My shoes … why?”
He looked at her and had to hold back the urge to kiss her confusion away. “Get comfy. We have another hour or so before we leave.”
She sighed. “That may be a good idea.” She placed a hand on the white board and almost fell over trying to get out of her pumps.
Larry steadied her. “Here, let me help you.” Dropping to his knees, he held on to one of her ankles.
“Oh, okay,” she muttered, grabbing his shoulders and wiggling one foot and then the next to help him remove her shoes.
Enjoying the feeling of her smooth skin under his fingers, he took his time to help her out of her shoes before standing. “There, that should help, Shorty.”
She grinned at him. “Thanks. Feeling better already. Did you call me, Shorty?”
He chuckled as he moved back to his seat. “I sure did.”
Her eyes sparkled as she smiled at him. “I’m going to forgive you.” She stood at five-feet-six inches, but he towered above her at over six feet.
His mouth curled in a smile as he removed his tie and threw it on his jacket, which was resting on the chair beside him. “Please …” His eyes fastened on her body as she removed her jacket, exposing her silky, red inner blouse neatly tucked in her skirt. “Forgive me,” he continued, his eyes now resting on his laptop screen.
Smiling, Gabrielle slid in her chair and was quiet for a moment, clicking away on her desktop. Fifteen minutes later, she stretched her hands above her head and announced, “I’m finished with this part.”
“Great.” Larry pinned her with his gaze, then his eyes became fixated on her chest. “You have a nice cleavage,” he stated matter-of-factly, as if he had complimented her about her hair.
Blushing, Gabrielle lowered her arms. She had hoped that it was only her imagination when she saw him staring at her chest. “We’re tired. Let’s finish up tomorrow.”
Larry knitted his brows. “Come on, Gabrielle. You’re married, so am I, but that doesn’t mean I can’t admire a nice body when I see one.”
She nibbled on her lips as she always did when she was pondering. He could see that she was feeling bad for making him feel bad. “Thanks,” she said quietly.
“We need a break,” he said, sliding out of his chair and opening the small refrigerator in the corner of her office. He motioned for her to join him at the small conference table nearby. “All work and no play makes Gabby a dull girl.”
Smiling, she took her seat before him and sipped on a can of Mountain Dew he had placed on the table. “Just what I needed. Thanks.”
He flashed her a triumphant smile, deepening his dimples. “You’re welcome.”
Gabrielle fought the urge to hold his lingering gaze, but failed. He looked great. A fine specimen of a man. Her eyes roamed him up and down taking in his raw masculinity. Why am I admiring Larry Kanate? Gabrielle shook her head slightly then took another sip of her drink. I must be tired, she rationalized.
“Can’t wait for Blake to get back, huh?” Larry drawled teasingly.
The warmth in his voice shot enjoyable tingles down her spine and she lowered her gaze, her confused senses threatening to derail her composure. “Yep. He’ll be back in two weeks.”
Larry eyed her. “Are you okay? You haven’t been yourself all day.”
She sighed, her eyes brimming with tears. “I’m okay. I just miss my Aunt Jean. I could talk with her about anything.”
She must have had a fight with Blake. “Life happens,” he told her. “But we know God is good. He’s working everything out for your good.” He knew that Aunt Jean was laid to rest two months ago and she was like a mother to Gabrielle. Whatever was bothering her, he was sure she would have talked to Aunt Jean about it.
“Yes. God is good,” she agreed, dabbing her eyes with her finger tips.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really. But thanks for asking.”
“I know exactly what you need,” Larry said, feeling an overwhelming need to comfort her. He slid out of his chair and stood behind her. “A massage.”
Her brows shot up. “A massage?”
“I’m good at this,” he countered, kneading her shoulders with both hands.
Out of reflex, she jumped, grabbing his hands.
“Just relax. Think nice thoughts about Blake,” he offered and she relaxed. He continued to gently massage her shoulders and moved to her neck. “You have a tight knot at the base of your neck,” he mentioned, keeping his voice impersonal.
She let out a long sigh, closing her eyes as his hands traveled the length of her neck, applying deep pressure. His hands moved to her back and she tensed slightly. “Relax,” he said softly, and she did.
Gosh! I miss Blake. I hope we can get past this ‘bump in the road’ quickly. Why wasn’t I honest with him before he found out so callously that I wasn’t ready to have a child? Then, before he left for Atlanta, we would have made love and all would be well. Hmmm, passionate love!
Larry gazed at Gabrielle’s slightly parted lips, and heat seared through his body. Whatever she was thinking about was causing her to breathe a little heavier. Feeling as if he was committing emotional adultery, he closed his eyes, trying to recall a Scripture to clear his mind. An inner voice cautioned him, Stop flirting with temptation.
He opened his eyes, and then bit his lips to steady himself when he realized his hands had taken on a mind of their own and was gently massaging her sides.
“Hmmm,” she sighed, arching her chest.
He watched her respond to his touch, and he liked that. She made him feel … needed. When his fingers caressed the base of her breasts with exceeding tenderness, deliberately teasing, she shivered. Emboldened by her reaction, he cupped her breasts, and then moaned loudly as his hands melted into their softness.
“Larry!” She flew off the chair, hugging her chest with her hands.
He followed her closely, then stepped back as she leaned against the wall. For a moment, he gazed at her, and the only thing he could think about was his thirst for her … all of her. An inner voice begged him to desist, but his flesh craved her, needed her. He had no doubt that he would have her. “You feel so good,” he drawled huskily, his eyes glistening with desire.
She placed her hands on his chest as he leaned towards her. “We … shouldn’t.”
Larry gazed at her for a second before brushing his lips against hers. “We both need this,” he said without hesitation, his mouth temptingly close.
On their own volition, her lips parted invitingly and he eagerly captured her mouth with his, trembling at the velvety smoothness of her lips. Her eyes fluttered shut and she shivered, wrapping her arms around his shoulders as his lips traveled the length of her neck, dropping soft kisses along the way. Just when she could take no more, he lifted his head, his lips hovering above hers. “Absolutely love your lips,” he gushed.
She could feel the heat of his breath on her face as she surveyed his lush mouth, his lips beckoning seductively to her. “We … shouldn’t,” she offered weakly, mesmerized by the aura of his charisma.
Struggling to restrain himself, he silenced her objection by kissing her again, passionately, urgently, and with the confidence of a man who knew what he wanted. Clutching his shoulders for strength, she returned his kiss with more fire than he imagined she would, and his body melted against hers. When he was finally able to pull back, they were both breathing heavily.
“I need you,” he whispered, barely able to contain himself.
Their bodies inches apart, he looked into her yearning eyes, then brought her hand to his mouth and lightly kissed her knuckles, his warm breath stroking her skin. He released her hand and they stood there, drinking in each other.
She swallowed hard, mumbling, “We need to stop.”
He wanted to stop. If only he could tear his eyes away from her lips. “Maybe, just this once?” he asked, his chest heaving in breathless anticipation.
The seconds dragged by as Larry waited for her response. When none came, he turned away from her.
Gabrielle pushed out a gagged breath. Despite all that just occurred between them, she had to let him know that they should not ever go down that path again. “Lar-Larry,” she called out, her voice faint. She was still reeling from the surge of warm, delightful sensations in her body.
In a flash, Larry swept her into his arms, his body crushing hers. “Your body feels amazing,” he said, smiling slightly.
Mercy! I need to fix this quickly. “Thanks,” she said softly, nibbling on her lips.
He admired the beautiful pout of her mouth, then watched fascinatingly as her lips parted, and she began to speak.
“Larry, we can’t-”
Before she could catch her next breath, Larry eagerly and hungrily covered her lips with his. As desire welled up in him, he paused, unsure whether he had her permission to proceed.
She arched closer to him, mumbling, “Let’s talk … about this,” as a wave of heat enveloped their bodies. Then, she froze, her mind screaming, No. No. Please don’t, as he lifted her skirt. This is not happening … not again.
Larry was glad she did not protest when he lifted her skirt. He needed her. She was like a drug and he desperately needed a fix. He heard her whimper, “Let’s … not …” But he couldn’t stop. He had to possess her, to get rid of the insatiable desire he’d been carrying around. “I won’t hurt you,” he whispered.
A few minutes later, he buried his head in her neck, muttering, “Thank you. Thank you.”
He felt drops of water stoning his face and pulled away from her. She was crying. Self-loathing crept up his spine and he moved further away from her. Without looking at her, he mumbled, “Are you alright?”
She didn’t utter a word.
When he looked up, he saw her walking hastily towards her office door. “Gabrielle, don’t …”
But she kept moving, literally sprinting through the door.
He crumbled to his knees, his face twisted with agony. “Oh, God,” he muttered over and over again.
Work should fill up the void. A diversion from this loneliness, he was feeling. Will the pain in my heart ever subside? A sigh escaped Larry’s tortured soul and a teardrop fell from his exhausted eyes and landed on the portfolio that he was reading. He quickly reached for a napkin on his desk and mopped it up before dabbing his eyes. Guilt was wreaking havoc across his mind as he grappled with his incomprehensible heat-of-the-moment behavior. He’d never done anything like that in all of his nineteen years of marriage. What if Rozene found out? Surely, she would leave him. His shoulders slumped in self-pity, just as the intercom on his office phone buzzed. He leaned forward to press the flashing button. “Yes?”
“It’s going to be an amazing Monday, Mr. Kanate.” His executive assistant’s cheerful voice filled the room. “I’ve managed to reschedule all your appointments.”
“Thank you, Marjorie.”
“You’re welcome, sir. On another note, did you see Mrs. Montgomery’s email?”
Immediately, Larry felt a headache coming on. “No. Haven’t checked my email account yet.”
“She’s on indefinite sick leave.”
Suddenly, air was sucked out of his lungs and he couldn’t breathe. In the distance, he heard Marjorie saying something, then silence. “What were you …?”
“I was asking if you wanted me to respond to Mrs. Montgomery’s email.”
“Yes, please,” then he cut off the call. He exhaled loudly, trying to destress.
The day after the incident, Gabrielle had emailed to say that she was out sick. He had tried several times that day to call her, but she would not answer her phone. When there was no sign of her on Friday, he did the board presentation. That evening, on his way home, he also called her phone but it went to voicemail.
“I have ruined her. God, help her,” Larry muttered.
He hadn’t prayed since the incident … couldn’t pray. How could he go before God? He prided himself on being the sort of man that didn’t ogle other women, much less to commit … He couldn’t even bring himself to say the word. Did I suffer temporary insanity? A helpless sigh escaped his parched lips and tears rolled down his cheeks.
The shrill beeping of his cell phone brought him out of his misery. He dabbed his eyes, then cleared his throat. “Hello,” he answered.
“May I speak with Mr. Kanate?” a pleasant voice asked.
“This is Gloria Rogers from Dr. John Cerdon’s office. We have managed to squeeze in your appointment for twelve noon.”
“Thanks, Gloria. I’ll be there.” He had called his doctor’s office on the way to work because since Friday, he had been experiencing a burning sensation during urination and his testicles were slightly swollen. He had spent the whole weekend avoiding Rozene’s sexual advances.
The call ended and Larry stared blindly at his cell phone on the desk. What a mess my life has turned into. It then occurred to him that he’d been calling Gabrielle from his work cell phone. Picking up his personal cell phone, he dialed her number, and almost bit off his tongue when she answered.
“Gabrielle, please don’t hang up.” He heard her inhale and knew he had but a minute.
“What do you want?” she asked firmly, her annoyance evident.
He cut to the chase. “I know what happened between us was unexpected. Are you okay?”
She didn’t respond.
“Is that it?” He could almost see the dead look in her eyes.
Before he could think, he blurted out, “Please don’t tell Rozene.” This was one secret, he was determined to keep close to his heart.
He heard her sharp intake of breath and could have kicked himself. “No. I will NOT tell your wife that you take advantage of unsuspecting females,” Gabrielle said through clenched teeth. With that, she disconnected the call.
Is that what I did? A painful cry left Larry’s mouth and he slumped over his desk, sobbing.
Later that day, Larry had all but driven his car into the house, braking just before he hit the steps leading to the front door.
“Roz!” he bellowed, slamming the front door, then running through the oval entryway. When no response came, he raced across the handcrafted, vintage French oak flooring in the formal living room, shouting her name. When she still did not answer, he veered right and entered the foyer with the grand double staircase leading to their private quarters. Taking the steps two at a time, he continued to yell her name.
“In the bedroom, honey,” Rozene called out, seemingly unperturbed.
Gritting his teeth, Larry moved swiftly across the elegantly decorated circular landing, and entered a softly lit passageway to access their bedroom. The door was slightly open and he kicked it, banging it against the wall.
“What on earth is …?” Rozene lifted her head from the book she was reading to lay eyes on a steaming Larry. The degree of anger on his face had her shrinking back into the pillows on the bed. She couldn’t recall ever seeing him so furious. “What is the …?”
“Is that how you treat me after nineteen years of marriage?” Larry clenched his fists in rage.
Rozene refused to let his outburst unsettle her. “Are we talking about sex, again? I tried all weekend to -”
“You gave me Chlamydia,” he hissed at her. “Who are you sleeping with?” He saw the look of guilt in her eyes and knew he was right. In a mad dash, he crossed the room, grabbed her by her shoulders, and brought her closer to him. “Who are you sleeping with, Roz?”
Dread descending, Rozene lifted her chin. “No one.”
Anger flared in Larry’s eyes, and his hands bit into her shoulders. “Stop lying to me.” He pushed her roughly against the pillows and stood looking down at her. “Fasting from sex, huh?” A hollow laugh left him. “Right?”
Tears streamed down Rozene’s face. “Larry, please. I … I’m not sleeping with him anymore.”
Larry’s features turned to stone. “Anymore?” Confused voices screamed in his head. How did this happen? Who is this man? Where did she meet him?
“His name is Chandler,” Rozene filled in. “I met him last fall at the book tour for, Letters to Husbands.”
Words failed Larry as he sank into the bedroom chair. Something had cut off his air supply and he couldn’t breathe. Even though he knew it, hearing her confess it placed him in an emotional tailspin. In the distance, he heard her droning on through tears but he covered his ears to shut out the humming sound of her voice. Leaning forward, he attempted to find his equilibrium.
He vividly recalled how he almost fell off the chair when Dr. Cerdon gave him the news that he had Chlamydia. He grabbed his head, muttering, “No! No! No!” His heart sank further when he remembered that Rozene was still on her ‘revive our sex life drive.’ Now, he would have to avoid sexual contact with her, for God knows how long. His secret would be out, and she would leave him. But, as Dr. Cerdon supplied information about Chlamydia, a light shone in the darkness.
“Did you say, ‘signs and symptoms could appear between one and three weeks after having unprotected sex with an infected person’?” Larry asked.
“Yes,” Dr. Cerdon replied.
Larry’s entire body shook as Dr. Cerdon’s response sprinted through his brain. My incident with Gabrielle was five days ago. Why then … He paused as the voices in his head settled on … Rozene. Revelations flooded his spiraling mind – Her smiling face as she whispered on her cell phone. Her refusal to sleep with him. New lingerie … for the new man. And the reason that she was taking so long to finish, Letters to Wives. “Noooo!” he shouted, covering his face with both hands.
Dr. Cerdon offered words of comfort but he just needed to go. The traffic would be heavy but he had to get home ‘quick, fast, and in a hurry.’ His body was still shaking when Dr. Cerdon asked for the name of the pharmacy where he would like to pick up his prescription.
“Larry! Larry, I’m …” Rozene cried out, transporting him back to the present.
He flinched, pushing her hands away from his knees and got up. He hadn’t even realized that she was kneeling before him. He glared at her. “You brought someone else into our marriage. Why?” he asked in a pained whisper. “Why, Roz?” He could hardly look at her. She had taken what was sacred in their marriage, and given it away.
She clutched his arm and he snatched it away. “Don’t touch me!” he roared. “Is this how it’s going be, you sleeping with random people?”
His words came out with such fury that she cringed. “Please forgive me,” she sobbed. “I found out that I have Chlamydia and started on medication. But the week after I found out, you insisted on having sex so I just gave in.”
Larry’s face etched into tight lines as he looked at her. “You should have resisted.”
She eyed him sorrowfully. “You know how you get when I say no. You have sex with me anyway.”
Tears crowded Larry’s eyes as Rozene’s words pierced his heart. He gulped, attempting to get more air as nausea blocked his throat. Am I that narcissistic? The fury drained from his body as the unsolicited memory of the incident with Gabrielle assailed him. He stood there, rooted to the spot, feeling immensely overwhelmed at what he had just discovered about himself.
Larry woke with a start to an incessant ringing. Rolling on his back, he realized he’d spent the night on the floor in the study, where he was penitent before the Lord. He was still trying to wrap his head around how he could have committed adultery. Let go of the buzzer, he willed whosoever was squeezing it. He crawled on his knees to get to the intercom on the desk, then reached over and pressed the flashing button for the entrance gate. “Yes?”
“Larry, it’s Pastor Fotola. I’ve come to see you.”
Larry pressed his hands to his temples. The last thing he wanted to do was see anyone. Guilt was enough company. Guilt from what he had done to Gabrielle. Guilt for not telling Rozene what he had done. Guilt for treating Rozene like a leper when she had mirrored his sinful behavior.
“Come on, Larry, open the gate,” Pastor Fotola pressed him gently. “Just want to sit with you.”
Larry shook his head as images of Gabrielle’s dejected face ran through his mind. Maybe, company would be good. “Give … give me a few minutes, please.” He pressed the button to open the gate, and then slipped on his sandals.
A few minutes later, he stumbled through the formal living room, and entered the oval entryway leading to the front door. He paused as his eyes caught sight of a photo of Rozene and himself, that was standing in a frame on the console table. His eyes brimmed with tears. Clearly, he’d lost her.
The day after their big blow-up, Rozene told him that she still loved him and wanted their marriage, but he’d glared at her in disdain. “You should have thought about that before you cheated,” he told her angrily. “Why would you risk everything for an affair with that … man? Were you flattered by the attention he was giving you?”
Rozene hung her head in shame, and with tears streaming down her face, she ran out of their bedroom. Their relationship had become unbearably strained to the point where they spoke to each other only out of necessity. Over the weekend, she’d packed some of her things and told him she was moving in with her parents.
He was glad when she left. It was just easier. He definitely did not need the constant reminder that she’d mirrored his improper behavior … mirrored his imperfection.
Larry shook his head.
Who would have known it would come to this?
When did their gaze shift from each other?
What could have gone so horribly wrong in their marriage, that they both committed adultery?
Strangely, it wasn’t money, sickness, or even when they had different priorities, that derailed their marriage. They had survived all of that.
The doorbell chimed and he pulled the front door open without looking out.
Pastor Fotola stepped in. “Good to see you, man.” He shook Larry’s hand, ignoring his haggard and defeated appearance. Larry was almost a shadow of himself – cheeks sunken, beard unshaven, hair overgrown, just looking way older than his years.
“Morning. Afternoon, Pastor. Don’t know what time it is.” Or, what day of the week it is, for that matter. He stood there, feeling weak and emotionless.
“It’s afternoon. Let’s sit on the back patio.”
Larry dragged himself through the living room, down the passageway near the kitchen area and out the door leading to the huge back patio. He squinted against the assault of the afternoon sun, and then slumped on the sofa near the door.
Pastor Fotola placed a cup of coffee on the table in front of them. “Here’s something to jump start your day.”
Larry looked sharply at him. The last time he thought he needed a jump start he’d coerced Gabrielle. “Thanks.”
Pastor Fotola watched Larry for a moment. When he had not turned up for their Wednesday meeting and leadership retreat, he sensed something was wrong. Further, Larry did not respond to any of his calls. He tried to reach Larry at work and was told that he was on leave. Surprised by that bit of information, Pastor Fotola had taken it upon himself to call Rozene. Although she didn’t divulge anything, she’d told him that Larry was home, and probably could do with a friend. After church, he decided to swing by their home and was glad when he saw Larry’s car parked on the circular driveway in front of their luxurious French-style mansion.
“Larry,” Pastor Fotola spoke quietly, “What’s going on? Whatever happened, it’s not beyond repair.”
“My life is … ruined,” Larry muttered, his expression impassive. “I just hurt people who I care about and they return the favor.”
“Sometimes, we hurt the ones we love the most,” Pastor Fotola offered, “but we will grow from it. What the enemy meant for evil, we know that God will turn it around for our good.”
Larry got up abruptly and walked to the patio door. Leaning against it, he stared at the lush vegetation in the back yard. “They say, ‘Hurting people often hurt other people.’ Now I can safely associate myself with that quote. I never ever thought that I would …” His voice caught and he wiped his eyes, his emotions quickly turning from sadness to fierce anger. “How could I perpetuate what my father did?” Growing up, Larry had vowed never to abuse anyone. He had seen abuse first hand, when his father verbally and physically abused his mother. Although his mother never admitted it, Larry always felt that his father had also sexually abused her.
“Let’s talk about it,” Pastor Fotola said quietly behind him. “I want to help you get through this.”
Larry briefly looked at Pastor Fotola, and then cleared his throat. His vision blurred with unshed tears. “How? I don’t know where to start.”
Pastor Fotola’s heart broke when he saw the vulnerability in Larry’s eyes. He touched Larry’s shoulders. “Come, my friend, start anywhere. Free yourself of the anger and judgment. Let God’s perfect peace dwell in you and the richness of His forgiving power.”
Larry hesitated, then decided to return to the sofa. He had good reasons not to talk about what was troubling him.
All good reasons … but all faded in comparison to the revelation that hit and illuminated his heart when Rozene uttered, ‘You know how you get when I say no. You have sex with me, anyway.’ He eyed Pastor Fotola, and drew in a deep breath, then slowly released it. It stops here.
It was time for change.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it was time to resolve what he had seen in the mirror. For he realized that in order to understand his heat-of-the-moment behavior, he would have to delve deeper and reveal more of himself than he had ever disclosed to anyone. In doing so, he and Rozene might be able to pick up the pieces and rebuild a solid foundation for their marriage.
“I committed adultery,” Larry began.
Encounters of the Heart Series – Book 2
Unforgettable, My Love Has Come Along (2012)
A Circle of Love Novel
Two paths, destined to cross. Friendship, faith and love are intertwined in ways neither could have imagined. Can love conquer all things? Find out in the heartwarming and humorous pages of Unforgettable, My Love Has Come Along.
Shades of the Heart (2015)
Encounters of the Heart Series – Book 1
A riveting story about the courage to love in the midst of broken promises, and ultimately about the healing power of forgiveness, and the journey to rediscovering identity.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
Thank you for reading Mirrored Hearts and for your continued support. This short story was first published on December 22, 2014 in “Truth Awaits You On The Other Side,” an anthology about the consequences of sin.
The writing of Mirrored Hearts led to the creation of my Encounters of the Heart series. This series is based on Proverbs 4:23 (KJV) –“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Book 1 – Shades of the Heart is a novel about the courage to love in the midst of broken promises, and ultimately about the healing power of forgiveness, and the journey to rediscovering identity. Book 2 – Mirrored Hearts: Sealed by Fire (the novel) will detail the story of Larry and Rozene Kanate. It will be released February 4, 2016. Although the books are in a series, they are also stand-alone novels.
Again, thank you for reading Mirrored Hearts. Don’t you ever forget, you are Victorious By Design. Happy reading!
Ann Marie Bryan is a dedicated, graceful, multi-talented leader with a passion for excellence. She is the CEO and Founder of Victorious By Design, an organization dedicated to providing top quality professional writing services, comprehensive personal and professional development programs and exceptional performing arts services to meet the unique needs of individuals and organizations. Ann Marie’s greatest passion is to empower others to succeed by tapping into their God given potential. She enjoys dancing, teaching, writing, meeting people and traveling. Ann Marie is also the author of Unforgettable, My Love Has Come Along and Shades of the Hearts.
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A Short Love Story Larry Kanate and his wife, Rozene would be considered a modern day power couple. Rozene is a globe-trotting best-selling author and he is on the executive management team at Pallecia Worldwide All Suite Hotel. Years in the making, they have managed to keep love alive while supporting each other’s dreams. In an irrational moment, Larry acted on impulse and created life changing struggles that could destroy their happiness. He is determined to keep his secret close to his heart. But, Rozene is living under the crushing weight of her own secret. When mirrored secrets are exposed, Larry realized that in order to understand his heat of the moment behavior, he would have to delve deeper and reveal more of himself than he had ever disclosed to anyone. In doing so, he just may save himself…and perhaps, his marriage.