Each kiss was an event. Each time he brought his mouth to hers, the world would explode around them in a thousand tiny bits, only to be pieced back together by the moments in between.
His hand would find her cheek, brushing a thumb across the soft, white palette. Then, tracing across her lips; he knew every contour, every crease. Her breath would tickle his fingertip. At last when he leaned forward, he’d tease her mouth with his, pulling away before she could taste his hungry complexity.
When their lips would finally meet, she would explore him with slow strokes, begging for more and coveting his unique badge of intimacy. And when he spoke her name, his silky, soothing tenor found its way into her very soul.
He was gone.
Just like that. After sixteen years of marriage, Malcolm Holmes had walked out on his family – no note, no reason, and no luggage. He’d just vanished.
Within twenty-four hours, the truck he’d been driving was found abandoned in a ditch off Highway 17. So, when the trail grew cold, it just seemed to Catherine, and everyone else who knew him, that perhaps Malcolm just didn’t want to be found. Was he dead? Perhaps. But the entire family doubted it.
Catherine. His wife. After the personal search for her wayward husband had exhausted all efforts, there was nothing left but crushing anger. An anger whose weight threatened to devour her whole. Somehow she knew he’d run off with someone else – someone younger. The Englishman was infamous for breaking hearts, and it was only a matter of time before it was her turn.
Victoria, his youngest child at eleven, was not even old enough to understand. Rose, the oldest, and Isaac, the middle, simply assumed he was lost, with amnesia maybe. Older still, they were sure he’d be back one day. But Catherine didn’t have the heart to tell them their Daddy was gone for good. Hope drifted in many ways, for many years.
Until she changed her name back to Delaney. That’s when everything happened.
* * *
“Marry me, Catherine… again.”
Rose fell back in her chair after saving the word document for the seventeenth time that night.
“Done!” she breathed, thanking the stars she could move on to more important matters at hand.
Just as she was about to make a move for the parenting magazine at her side, a familiar voice floated from the direction of the bedroom.
“What?” she asked, watching as her husband of one year stepped out of the hallway in nothing but a towel.
“Are you done editing?” he asked, drying his dark hair with a dish towel. Rose frowned; she hated when he used the good dishrags for that.
“Yeah, just now,” she answered.
“I just finished reading them last night,” he said.
“Some agent you are,” Rose joked, shutting her laptop and giving him the full attention that her first review deserved.
“Hey, the name Jonathan Baker carries a lot of swagger in the writing business. If I’m to take on your project, I don’t want it to look like it’s only because I’m married to you,” he said with a smirk.
“Uh-huh,” she replied with a roll of her blue eyes. “Well… what did you think?”
“Well…” Jonathan paused for a few moments, toweling off the remaining water from his hair.
“No good, huh? Ugh, I worked for months on these novels!”
“They have a ton of potential,” he reassured her. “I really cared about your characters,” he said.
“Figures… that was kind of the point. Hopefully my mom will say the same thing. What else?” Rose demanded.
“Well,” Jonathan began again, taking a seat on the arm of their brand new sofa, “you got your facts right in the first manuscript; I thought it was creative that you made up your own little island.”
“Yeah, I had to get away from the discrepancies in my knowledge of history.”
“Mmm… you might want to work on the future issues in the second story. Some of your technology is a little far-fetched,” he admitted.
“Maybe a little, but… well, I’m not the one you should talk to about that; I’m not a Sci-Fi agent.”
“Science Fiction, Jonathan. Sci-Fi is…something else,” Rose replied.
“Oh, and it should be geared toward an older audience due to the sexual subject matter.” he said.
Jonathan stood and stretched his back. “They were both excellent. You have a great grasp of the English language,” he said, planting a kiss amid his wife’s blonde hair.
“Just like my Dad,” Rose replied.
“Yeah…” Jonathan added, pausing for a beat. “You may want to change the names, though. I’m not sure your mom’s going to want the essence of her life recited in a romance novel.”
“Hey! Admit it, Catherine and Malcolm are totally period names, they were perfect! Plus…everyone always told me to write what I know, and I know my mom and dad,” Rose protested.
Jonathan sighed. “You all thought you knew your dad, didn’t you?” he asked, his voice soft. Rose nodded, recalling the many times her husband consoled her as she wept about her missing father. “By the way, you’re gonna be late for dinner at your mom’s,” he added with a wink as he disappeared back down the hallway.
“You’re not coming?” she asked, each word louder as his footsteps paced away from her.
“Not if your mom’s making that peacock thing again!” he shouted back.
Rose shook her head. “It’s Pahok not peacock! Besides… Pahok is a sauce, not a dish.”
“Call it what you will… it’s weird!”
Rose sat back and stared at the two manuscripts she’d given her husband/future agent to read. She’d counted on his opinion a great deal, hoping he’d agree to pick the first one up and sell it to a publisher. After all, it was just a retelling of her mother and father’s lives together.
“Come on, Rose, you’re gonna be late!” Jonathan called from down the hall.
“‘Kay!” Rose returned, standing from her desk and stretching her back. After ensuring her laptop was powered down, she shut off her light and trudged toward the bedroom to get dressed.