Book Three of the Butterfly Memoirs is Here, but I Have Moved!!!

Yes, once again I have moved to a new website with a new URL….and man am I loving it! But don’t worry, all the blog posts have come with me, so have the characters of The Butterfly Memoirs. Join is as we celebrate the release of Kaitlyn’s story, Lonely Heart. See you there!!!!

MJKaneMedia.com

MJ

It’s Bernadette Marie’s 15th Release!!!!

Yep, that’s right, Bernadette Marie has published her 15th novel! If you’ve been following The Keller Family Series, then you’ve been waiting in anticipation for Book  Seven, HOME RUN!

HR2

Contemporary Romance

In one moment Christian Keller’s life was changed. Now as he picks up the pieces he wonders if he can possibly recoup what he lost.

Victoria Lincoln had a promising future with Christian until an accident took the life of her sister and left her as guardian to her two small children.

Their lives have gone in different directions, but Christian and Victoria’s paths will cross again. It will take a lot of change to pick up where they left off—if either of them can.

Amazon     5 Prince Publishing 

Excerpt: 

There was a pure energy in the car as they drove away from the arena. Christian Keller had it all, just when he thought he’d lost it.

His career ending injuries were just the start to finding out he could keep going and that’s what he was doing.

He’d just watched his sister perform with her husband, on stage at the Bridgestone Arena right there in Nashville. Hometown kids making it big time.

As his best friend Dave pulled out of the parking lot the number one country song came on the radio, and wouldn’t you know it, it was Clara and Warner Wright, his sister and her husband.

Christian’s fiancée Victoria hugged his arm and slid across the back seat as close as she could to him. “That was the best concert ever. Your sister and Warner were phenomenal. The Broke Tourists are one of my favorite bands. And that Savannah and her hair!”

Ashley, Victoria’s sister, turned in her seat and looked at her. “I know, right? Do you think we could buy hair like that?”

They both laughed, but Christian just took in the ambiance.

His career as a baseball player was over. He had come to grips with that. It had caused him a lot of emotional and physical pain, over the past year, but now he had new things to look forward too.

They were already talking about him coming into the organization as management. The woman of his dreams had accepted his marriage proposal and wore his ring. And tonight he’d take her home, to the home he had built—for them. It was a surprise and he had something very special planned.

“You know,” Victoria continued. “Ali would love a Savannah wig. We should think about marketing them.”

“My kids and their tastes,” Ashley added.

Laughter filled the car and then a scream pierced the air.

A blinding white light forced him to cover his eyes.

Christian sat up in bed. His heart was racing. His face and hair were wet. And he was alone.

He threw his head back against his pillow.

Of course he was alone. He’d been alone for almost a year and the replay of that night wouldn’t give him any peace.

Christian rolled to his side and he looked at his phone on the night stand. It was five-thirty in the morning. He let out a grunt and rolled out of bed.

It took a minute for his knee to be stable under him. His shoulder ached, as it had since the surgery on it after the accident.

He flipped on the light in the bathroom and looked at himself in the mirror. The jagged scar on his forehead was beginning to fade, but it would always remind him that on that night he’d lost everything. His career. His best friend. And even if her life wasn’t taken—he’d lost his fiancée.

Well that was life now. She had a lot to deal with too.

Christian splashed his face with cold water.

Victoria’s life had changed drastically when that drunk driver crossed the median. She’d lost her sister in that moment. Her leg was shattered. And she was the next of kin to her niece and nephew, whom she was now raising.

A single woman trying to advance her career and plan a wedding was now guardian to a two year old and a four year old—and he was no help.

Christian turned on the shower and let it warm.

He’d been so overwhelmed with losing his best friend he’d nearly lost his mind. And it wasn’t losing him it was watching him die and not being able to get free from the accident to help him.

Just the thought of it made his heart kick start again.

He slipped off his boxers and climbed into the shower. But no matter how hot the water was, it would never wash away the pain that day still caused.

By six thirty he was dressed and sitting in his quiet kitchen having a cup of coffee. The dress shirt and tie made him uncomfortable, but it was the way he had to dress for work now. He supposed he owed it to his brother and uncle for stepping in and giving him a job, though he didn’t care much about construction.

His entire family had stepped in when he needed them. There was no way to repay them. His sister Clara and cousin Avery were at his house daily to make sure he ate. His mother stopped and cleaned the house. His future sister-in-law Darcy made him freezer dinners and stocked them for him.

It had been like this for a year.

When would it all ease so he could get on with his life?

Before lunch the door to his office creaked open and Darcy stuck her head in.

“I’m going to lunch with my bridesmaids. Ed is free for Chinese food. He said to send you his way when you’re done.”

Christian nodded. “I’ll be done in a few.”

Darcy shut the door and Christian was alone, again. It was funny, he thought, for being so alone all the time there were always people around him. That was what came with a big family.

A new Chinese restaurant had opened just down the street and Ed had been dying to try it. Christian figured it would be good for leftovers and that would warm up for dinner. It was just one less thing to think about.

“So did you look over that proposal I sent you?” Ed asked as he adjusted the place setting in front of him.

“Yeah. I don’t know if I understand any of it. Could you work in some baseball terms?”

Ed laughed. “It’s a baseball stadium. I thought you’d want to be part of that.”

Christian put down his menu. “You’d think huh?”

He lazily looked around the restaurant and that was when a set of dark eyes caught his.

Victoria waved and was already walking toward them.

It had been nearly eight months since he’d seen her—since he’d told her that he wasn’t someone who could just take on someone else’s children and start from there. That was the day she walked out of his life. God, he was an idiot.

She looked different. Her hair was shorter and there were dark circles under her eyes, as if she hadn’t slept in eight months. He probably looked like that too. He never got a good night’s sleep.

“Hello, Chris.” She smiled down at him and then turned her smile to Ed. “Hi, Ed.”

“Tori!” Ed crawled out of the booth and gave her a hug. “How are you?”

“I’m good.” Christian wondered if she noticed her voice quivered.

“How are the kids?”

Christian watched as her jaw tightened and she kept her eyes on Ed. “Sam just turned three last weekend. He’s into everything. Ali just started kindergarten.”

“Wow.” Ed looked at Christian. “Kids get big fast, eh, Chris?”

Christian narrowed his stare on his brother.

“You’ll be at the wedding right?” Ed was touching her arm. “I thought Darcy said you’d RSVP’d.”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Ali can’t stop talking about it.”

“I look forward to it.” Ed smiled and then both of them looked at Christian still seated in the booth.

“Guess we’ll see you then,” he croaked out.

Victoria nodded and forced a smile. As she walked past him, limping just as he did now too, she put her hand on his shoulder. “It was good to see you, Chris.”

Then she was gone.

Ed sat back down and shook his head. “You’re pathetic.”

“Me? Why?”

“She’s still in love with you.”

“She is not. She dumped me.”

“Because she had to.”

“Had to?” He picked up his hot tea and burned the pads of his fingers and then his throat. But it was worth it.

Ed opened the package of chop sticks by his plate and tore the two wooden pieces apart. “She lost a lot that night. Her sister died. Her brother-in-law died. She got two kids to raise and has no parents to help her. She’s all alone and all you could tell her was you weren’t ready for a fully formed family. I didn’t realize you were an asshole, until that day.”

If Christian was the man he used to be, he’d be up from that table and have pulled his brother out of that side of the booth by his shirt collar. But as if to remind him that he wasn’t an athlete any more, his knee throbbed and the pain shot up through his body.

“She didn’t need me around when she was trying to get things taken care of.”

“You’re right. Six surgeries on your leg and two toddlers at home is a piece of cake. Why have the man you love getting in the way?”

Christian swallowed hard. He didn’t need his brother poking at him. It had been a year and he felt bad enough.

Luckily the food arrived just in time for his brother to shove some in his mouth and shut up. Christian, on the other hand had lost his appetite.

He had become a pathetic loser and he’d lost the only thing that he’d ever cared about—Victoria.

He took another long, scalding sip of his tea. Maybe Ed’s wedding would be the perfect place to apologize for being an ass.

It wasn’t in him to be a father right now, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t be a friend. She looked as though she certainly could use one. And they’d been friends too—hadn’t they?

Christian tore open his chop sticks and broke them apart. As he picked up a pot sticker he thought about his parents.

They’d been divorced when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and her husband had walked out on her to marry another woman and have a baby. She was alone with three kids.

He tugged at his collar because it was getting hot.

His own father, who was at the time engaged to Kathy, still stepped up and took care of his mother. Damn, he’d even shaved his head for her.

That was love. That was commitment.

It was right too. His father’s marriage to Kathy lasted less than a day and he was back with Christian’s mom and had been married, again, ever since.

What had Christian done when the woman he loved needed him? He backed away.

He put down the pot sticker. Again, he wasn’t hungry.

They’d both lost a lot that night when that drunk driver hit that car. Lives changed in a flash—a bright white flash.

Ed was right. He was pathetic.

But he was done being pathetic. It was time Christian Keller took his life back—and the woman.

####

5 Prince Publishing Launch Day for Bernadette Marie!About the Author: 

Bestselling Author Bernadette Marie is known for building families readers want to be part of. Her series The Keller Family has graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011, along with her other series and single title books. The married mother of five sons promises Happily Ever After always…and says she can write it, because she lives it.

When not writing, Bernadette Marie is shuffling her sons to their many events—mostly hockey—and enjoying the beautiful views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains from her front step. She is also an accomplished martial artist with a second degree black belt in Tang Soo Do.

A chronic entrepreneur, Bernadette Marie opened her own publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors come true too.

Website     Facebook     Blog     Twitter 

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MJ

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5 Prince Publishing #NewRelease- Blissful Tragedy by Amy L. Gale!

cover

Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance

Sometimes love is more than tragedy or bliss.

 Ambitious 22-year-old Lexie Waters is intent on taking the advertising world by storm.  When she’s offered the soon to be open position she’s been vying for at a swanky advertising agency, there’s only one last summer separating her from dreams of corporate success.  Still bitter from catching her boyfriend cheating, she heads out for a night of fun to see her favorite band, Devil’s Garden, but fun turns into utter embarrassment when she insults the enticingly confident lead singer, Van Sinclair.  Van is intrigued by Lexie’s ability to resist his charm and secretly obtains her cell number.  Shocked but eager to get to know this captivating rocker, Lexie accepts Van’s invitation to see his next show, which requires an overnight stay.  The overwhelming feelings that follow take them both by surprise, and with two months left before starting her sought after new position, Lexie joins the tour. As she’s catapulted into the world of groupies and wild parties, she questions Van’s commitment to her. So what happens at summer’s end when time runs out?

Amazon     5 Prince Publishing

Excerpt: 

CHAPTER 1—THE CONCERT

 

An eerie silence takes over the dark night sky. I stare straight ahead and breathe slowly, trying to ignore the pounding of my heart. The crisp, cool, spring air caresses my body and heightens my senses. I shiver slightly. The bone-rattling drum beat pulsates through my chest. I jump up from my seat as the guitar screams its heavy ear-splitting shriek, like a choir of electric angels. A frenzy of loud cheers emerges, piercing through the calmness as hundreds of fans leap to their feet. The bright lights focus on center stage. I take a deep breath and stare at the silhouette slowly being illuminated.

Van Sinclair stands so close that if I lunged forward, I’d crash into six feet of pure muscle. My eyes fixate on his light-brown, shoulder length, perfectly messy hair that frames his chiseled face. Then, they travel down to the tight black T-shirt that clings to every sculpted muscle of his torso, flaunting them in just the right way. My lips part and chills flood my body causing the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. I hold in a deep breath and slowly exhale as he grips the microphone stand, pulling it close to his body. He closes his eyes and begins to belt out the lyrics. His raw powerful tones, both decades old and brand new at the same time, resonate through the night sky. Hot lights shining down on the stage highlight a bead of sweat that runs down his arm, over the impeccably detailed dragon tattooed on his left bicep. He lifts his head and looks into the crowd. My heart races as I stare into his exquisite emerald green eyes, mesmerized.

“Oh my God, he’s so hot!” Brooke yells into my ear, breaking my trance. “His picture doesn’t do him justice.”

“You can say that again,” Sydney agrees.

Breathless, all I can do is nod.

Devil’s Garden is promoting their best album yet. Even though the two-thousand-seat amphitheater is not the largest of venues, it’s sold out tonight. A wall of bodies closes in, pushing us toward the stage. The hard wood against my palms keeps the crowd at bay. Can it keep me from being crushed for the whole two hour set? My skin glistens as the three of us sway, moving to the music. Wait, is Van Sinclair watching me? Yeah right, like that would happen.

####

Amy GaleAbout the Author: 

Romance author by night, pharmacist by day, Amy Gale loves rock music and the feel of sand between her toes.  She attended Wilkes University where she graduated with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. In addition to writing, she enjoys baking, scary movies, rock concerts, and reading books at the beach.  She lives in the lush forest of Northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband, six cats, and golden retriever.

 Website     Twitter     Email

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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My Valentine’s Day Gift to You!

Once again, I’m bringing my readers a gift, by popular demand…a Mini Memoir of a day in the life of Yasmine and Zachariah!

If you’ve read Jaded, you’re familiar with the ups and downs of their relationship, and know that it was work for these two characters to find their happily ever after. But now it’s Valentine’s Day. How do they handle it? Check out this short story to find out!

And don’t forget to mark your calendars! Kaitlyn’s story, Lonely Heart will be here in 21 Days!!!! 

Autumn landscape

Valentine’s Day

Yasmine

 

“Yasmine, I looooovvvee it! As always, you know exactly what looks best on me!”

“Just doing my job.” I smiled as Mrs. Hill continued to model the strapless black dress, with the simple short sleeved jacket, I selected for her.

“Harold is going to be blown away,” she chuckled as her cheeks turned pink.

I laughed, too. Mrs. Hill was in her fifties and had been married for nearly thirty years. One of my most loyal customers, she’d been with me since I decided to start my own fashion consultant business a year ago.

“But, we both know the dress is not what’s going to blow him away. It’s what hidden beneath,” I teased.

Mrs. Hill’s attention turned to the sexy red lingerie hanging on the dressing room door. A mixture of excitement and trepidation appeared on her face. “Are you sure about that? I don’t have the body of a twenty-year old anymore.”

I inclined my head, putting one hand on my hip. “When have I steered you wrong?”

She wrung her hands. “Never…it’s just…it’s been a while since I’ve worn something sexy to bed.”

“Who said you had to wear it to bed? You and Mr. Hill are empty nesters. With Melody gone to college, there are no more kids in the house. You can christen your home all over again. Valentine’s Day would be the perfect time.”

A girlish laugh emerged as she covered her mouth with both hands. “I don’t know…”

“Look at it this way…at least you won’t get pregnant.” I slid to the end of the chair, gripped the armrest, and pulled my pregnant body out of the chair.  Sitting next to the dressing room made it easier to see my clients as they went through each wardrobe change. My hand went to the small of my back.

Carrying twins was kicking my butt. Six months into my pregnancy and I was twice as big as I had ever been. My breasts were swollen and feet aching. How in the world was I supposed to make it for three more months?

“You know, you’re right.” She eyed my belly and smiled. “I remember those days…aches and pains. After four kids, I can’t imagine what it must be like to have two inside at one time.”

I rubbed my belly as my son and daughter took turns kicking, and smiled. “Never a dull moment and I’m never alone.”

“So true. Okay, I’m going to take this off now. Do I need accessories to go with it?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll select a few pieces while you change.”

Mrs. Hill nodded, then slipped into the dressing room.

I made my way to the jewelry department of the store to select pieces to compliment her outfit.

Valentine’s Day. The one day of the year when couples were expected to declare their love for the world to see.

I lost my love for the holiday years ago.

After dealing with men on friends-with-benefits bases, for years my February 14th routine involved soaking in the bathtub with a glass of wine, followed by a double date with my two favorite men, Ben and Jerry. A pint of Karamel Sutra ice cream, and watching my DVD collection of Criminal Minds, filled my evening, taking my mind off of romance completely.

Well, except for imagining what it would be like to be with Shamar Moore.

But this year was different. I was no longer alone. Besides being pregnant, I was married to my best friend and the love of my life. Zachariah was everything I’d secretly wanted in a husband and more. What would I do without him?

I knew the answer too well. After our brief separation, it was obvious; being apart from him would devastate me.

Now that we were together again, why didn’t I feel the same way he did about the holiday?

For the past week he’d walked around the house humming; alluding to some secret surprise. I had no idea what it was, but knew it involved leaving the house for the night and having dinner at some romantic restaurant. After that, I’m sure coming home and making love was the next thing on his list.

I forced my attention back to my job and selected a platinum choker and matching earrings. Mrs. Hill would love it.

My client was set, but what was I going to wear tonight?

Over the past few months, my collection of maternity clothes had grown. Being a fashion consultant meant I had to look just as good, or better, than what I did for my clients. Even with a hurt back and swollen ankles.

I had several outfits to choose from, but honestly, I was too exhausted to be in the mood for anything else other putting on my comfortable night shirt and cuddling with my husband in bed.

“Oh that is perfect!”

Forced out of my thoughts, I turned to find Mrs. Hill standing next to me. I held the jewelry next to her dress. “Do you like it?”

“Absolutely!”

“Good, let’s go find a pair of shoes.”

****

“I’ll be leaving work soon. I can’t wait to see you. Our dinner reservations are for eight,” Zack said, his voice full of excitement.

I kept my sigh hidden, sat on the edge of the bed, and kicked off my fashionable flats. “You’re not going to tell me where we’re going, are you?”

He chuckled. “No, then it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

I smiled and shook his head. His enthusiasm was infectious. “Well, I’m going to take a shower and freshen up a bit. I’ll see you soon. I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

My husband’s picture stayed on the screen for a few moments before the cell phone shut down to conserve power. I walked to the closet and searched through my wardrobe. Zack would be expecting something sexy…

I chuckled. With the thirty added pounds to my breasts, butt, and hips, sexy was the last thing I felt. Zack, on the other hand, loved every inch of my swollen body. He constantly wore the expression of a man proud of the fact that he’d been virile.

We were on our honeymoon when I suggested we not waste time starting a family. Zack had been eager to become a father. It wasn’t long before I got pregnant.

I selected a hot, red number guaranteed to make my husband happy. The maternity dress was a short crossover knit that featured a V-neck drop, allowing my bosom visibility.  I searched the closet floor for the perfect pair of shoes to go with it, deciding to put on a pair of pumps that accentuated my long legs. Those shoes would only be worn from the car and into the restaurant. In-between I’d wear my flats.

In the bathroom, I stepped into the shower, making use of the fragrant body wash that made me feel sexy. By the time I got out, my muscles were so relaxed, I needed to lie down. According to the clock beside the bed, I had at least forty-five minutes to take a nap before getting ready for our date. That would be enough time to rejuvenate for the evening my husband had in store.

 

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Valentine’s Day

Zachariah

 

“I need two dozen calla lilies.”

“Lucky lady,” the florist said, dollar signs in her eyes. “And this is for Valentine’s Day?”

“Yes, for my wife.” I would never get tired of saying that.

“Ahh…how long have you been married?”

“Eight months.”

“Congratulations. Is this is your first Valentine’s Day as a married couple?”

“It’s our first, ever.” The florist eyebrows rose in surprise. “It’s a long story,” I added.

She nodded, then walked to the refrigerated portion of the shop where a variety of fresh flowers were on display. “Your wife obviously likes calla lilies since you’re not asking for roses.”

“Yes, she does.”

“Since this is your first Valentine’s Day gift, I suggest you do something a bit more unique. Remember, this will set the standard for the next celebrations to come. Tell me about her. What else does she like? Is there something significant going on in your lives? Any accomplishments she’s proud of or that you are proud of?”

This was a no brainer. “She started her own business a few months ago, one she’s been working hard for since the day we met.”

“That’s good. What does she do?”

“She’s a fashion consultant and works with women who need help building their wardrobe and self-esteem.”

Her eyebrow went up. “Hmm…I could use help freshening up my wardrobe.”

I smiled. “I’ll be sure to give you her number.”

The florist perused the flowers, reaching in to select a few stems. “Anything else?”

“She’s pregnant with twins. A son and a daughter.” My chest poked out with pride.

“Oh, now that is something to celebrate. Congratulations, papa!”

“Thank you.” Even though the pregnancy was planned, I felt as though we’d hit the lottery. Twins ran on her side of the family, though, according to my mother-in-law, it had been years since a set were born.

“The perfect floral arrangement should represent her dreams, your children, your marriage… and your future.” She studied the flowers. “How about this, instead of calla lilies, we use Stargazer lilies. The full, vibrant blooms and rich pink color will represent your wife’s ambitions. We’ll accent it with traditional red and soft pink roses for friendship and passion, and…,” she searched around some more, then pulled out a few more flowers. “White Gerbera daisies for the innocence of your unborn children.”

I studied the assortment of flowers she held in her hand. “Wow, I’m impressed. That’s perfect.”

“Good. I’ll put these together for you. It should be ready in say…twenty minutes?”

“Enough time for me to go next door and look for a card to go with it.”

I left the flower shop and went to the grocery store next door. This evening was going to be perfect. I secured reservations for a dinner in advance of the holiday. The restaurant we were going to was special. It was the Italian restaurant where we had our first date.

I chuckled at the memory.

In truth, it was anything but a date. Instead, it was a last minute decision to go out for dinner to thank her for putting a smile on my mother’s face for her birthdate. At the time we were acquaintances; neither of us had any intention of getting involved in a romantic relationship.

Who know a candlelit dinner would lead to friendship, then love and marriage. And now, a family.

I checked my watch, then searched until I found the card bearing the perfect sentiment and imagining Yasmine’s reaction. Tonight was going to be perfect.

****

 “Yasmine, baby, I’m home!”

There was no answer.

I balanced the large vase of flowers in the crook of my arm, then closed and locked the door behind me. The house was dark and silent. Not the greeting I expected. She was usually in the kitchen or sitting in the living room watching TV or reading a book.

On instinct, I walked through the house, my heart racing, checking every room, forcing myself to ignore the flashback of the night we found my mother nearly unconscious.

The moment I reached the bedroom and turned on the light, I took a deep breath.

Yasmine laid on the bed, clothed in her bathrobe, slippers on her feet…and fast asleep. I sat the vase of flowers on the dresser and walked over to the bed, easing down beside her so as not to wake her.

Her hair was damp; her clothes for the evening lay at the foot of the bed. Apparently she decided to rest after getting out of the shower and instead fell into a deep slumber. I checked the time. There was no way we’d be able to make our reservation. A part of me felt disappointment; the other half understood my wife needed time to rest.

After all, she was carrying our babies.

I reached out to run a hand over her belly and was rewarded with a slight kick. I wished there was a way to tell which one of our children had attempted to say hello.

After a moment, I turned out the light and went into the kitchen to scrounge something up for dinner. When Yasmine woke, she would be hungry. Ravenous was the correct statement.

There was a Bertolli frozen meal for two in the freezer. Homemade Italian would work. I went into the living room and turned on a CD, letting the smooth sounds of Kem fill the house while I put together a salad and chilled a bottle of apple juice.

Once dinner was ready, I checked on Yasmine again; she was still asleep. Instead of waking her, I slid into bed behind her, slipping my hand around her belly, cradling her and our unborn babies once again.

Yasmine stirred when I nuzzled her neck. “Zack, baby, what time is it?”

“After eight,” I said, and then kissed her shoulder.

Her hand went to her forehead. “Oh man, I’m so sorry. I ruined everything.” She turned her head in an attempt to see me over her shoulder.

I kissed her lips. “You were asleep when I came home. I didn’t want to wake you, so I decided to make dinner instead.” I massaged her belly. “How are my babies?”

She smiled and placed her hand over mine. “Fine, and starving. It smells good. What did you make?”

“Shrimp Scampi and Linguine, salad, and garlic and cheese bread sticks.”

Her stomach growled, making me smile. “Dinner is simmering, so there’s no need for you to rush to get up.”

“Thank you,” she said, resting her head against the pillow and settling her back against me. “Oh wow, Zack, are those for me?”

I followed her line of site to the vase of fragrant flowers sitting on the bedroom dresser. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh, they are beautiful. Now I really feel awful. I didn’t get you anything. Between work and being tired…trying to figure out what you would want got pushed to the side. Then I come home and go to sleep…”

Yasmine had a lot on her plate. Managing her business, running our household, and managing her health while carrying our children. I could only imagine how worn out she would be once they were born.

“It’s okay, really.” I brushed the sting of disappointment aside.

Yasmine turned in my arms to face me, her expression pained. “No, there’s no excuse. I’ve already failed you once as a wife. I promised never to do it again, and yet…here we are.”

“We were both wrong then, and the past is the past.” I kissed her lips. “There’s no looking back, remember?”

“I know.” She sighed heavily, then looked down at her hand resting on my chest. “To be honest, Zack, I didn’t know how to handle Valentine’s Day. I’ve always spent it alone. Besides, spending money to tell someone you love them is overrated. If you love someone, you show them every day. There’s no need to go out and spend ridiculous amounts of money. Do you know how many relationships are ruined over the type of gift someone did or didn’t buy?”

“True, but that’s not us.” I ran a hand over her check, brushing her short locks away from her face.

“I know, I’m just saying, that’s how I feel. I guess since we’re married, there’s no need to feel like that anymore.”

I chuckled. “It’s funny, you’re anti-Valentine’s Day, and I’m willing to go all in.”

“And that’s what I love about you, Zack. You wear your heart on your sleeve, even when you think you don’t.”

“Only when it comes to you. You and our children are my future. I’m nothing without you.”

“I know what you mean. I can’t imagine being without you, either.”

I sat up and kissed my wife. The soft feel of her lips and fragrant smell of her skin was all I needed to know my wife loved me. “You know, there’s only one gift you can give that will forever mean the most to me.”

She studied my eyes as if getting the answer meant the difference between life and death. “What’s that?”

I rubbed her belly again. “Our children. Speaking of which, we need to decide on some names.”

“We already have two names. Belinda and Charles. I promised your mother her granddaughter would be named after her.”

“True, and I thank you for it. But don’t you think those names are a bit out dated?”

Yasmine smiled. “You sound just like your mother. She said the same thing.”

“I am my mother’s son. Why don’t we use them as middle names?”

She inclined her head in thought. “I can do that. I’ve been thinking…do you want to have a junior?”

“I thought about it, but since I’m not a junior and want my son to have my father’s name, I’m willing to wait until the next time I get you pregnant.”

Yasmine laughed. “Who said there would be a next time? I’m knocked up with twins. Our hand will be full for a while.”

“True, but I’m willing to bet after a year or two, I can convince you to try again.” I grinned and wagged my eyebrows.

“Yeah, well, I guess you could, especially since you know exactly how to turn me on.” I groaned as my wife ran a hand over my chest.

She had no idea how sexy she was. Full breasts, wide hips, and just the right amount of flesh on her already sexy behind…I loved my wife’s pregnant body. While I would love to have her back at her pre-pregnancy physic, a part of me was going to miss this.

“So, if we don’t name him Junior, and Charles will be his middle name, what do you think about Jayden?” she asked.

“Jayden? I like that.”

“So our son’s name will be Jayden Charles Givens. What about our daughter?”

“Well, I imagine her being as strong-willed as you, so she needs a strong name. I like Mackenzie.”

“Wow, that’s different. Mackenzie Belinda Givens?” Yasmine mulled over my suggestion.

“You don’t like it?”

“Actually, I do. Zack, do you realize in three months we will officially be a family? Your mother would be proud.”

I felt tightness in my chest. “I know, my father, too.” I kissed my wife, grateful yet again for the blessing bestowed upon me and for listening to my mother’s advice. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Yasmine.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you, too.”

 

The End

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I hope you enjoyed this brief peek back into the life of Yasmine and Zachariah. For their full story, read Jaded (Book 2 of The Butterfly Memoirs). Be sure to check out the character bios, and diary post! Look out for book 3, Lonely Heart, which will be available from 5 Prince Publishing on March 6, 2014! Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs. Happy Reading!

 

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this story, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow my blog!

MJ

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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LONELY HEART (Book 3 of The Butterfly Memoirs) Cover Reveal and Contest!!!!!

This has been a long time coming….okay to readers that is, but to me, it got here sooner than I expected! In 25 days, Kaitlyn Rodger’s story will be here. If you’ve followed The Butterfly Memoirs since Book 1, A Heart Not Easily Broken, then you know Kaitlyn has had a back seat to the drama in the lives of her best friends, Ebony and Yasmine. But regardless, every one has their own story….and some aren’t as innocent as they seem….

Autumn landscape

Contemporary Romance, Interracial Romance, Women’s Fiction

Instead of planning her wedding, Kaitlyn Rodgers is facing motherhood alone, the pressures of a new job, and caring for her rebellious younger sister. What should have been the happiest time of her life turns into one stressful event after another.

After watching his father struggle to raise a family by himself, auto mechanic Antonio Rodriguez refuses to follow his father’s footsteps…even if it means a lifetime of loneliness.

When Kaitlyn’s car breaks down, though, Antonio goes beyond auto repairs to take care of her needs. An unexpected friendship begins, allowing them a glimpse of happiness…until the father of Kaitlyn’s child returns, ready to offer her marriage and a future. But at what cost?

 Available from 5 Prince Publishing March 6th

Excerpt: 

Prologue

 

 “Kaity, are you sure this is what you want?”

A final scan of the room showed nothing left behind. “Yes, Ebony, I’m positive. Luke made it clear he doesn’t want this baby, which means he doesn’t want me.”

After months of failed attempts to convince my boyfriend of two years keeping our family together was best, I had had enough.  The moment he learned about the pregnancy, he suggested abortion. After arguing, he conceded to try and work things out. Everything went fine for a while, but the more I asked him to participate in the doctor’s appointments and for ideas about setting up the baby’s room, the more standoffish he became.

His decision to avoid the sonogram and ignore my calls and text messages was enough.

I had three months until my baby’s arrival.

My baby…Who’d have thought I’d become a single mom?

A few short months ago, my life was perfect. I worked my dream job and had a man who loved me.

Tunes out I was wrong about that.

I made some bad decisions in my life, but it was too late to change them now.

For the next three months my focus would be providing my baby with a happy home.  And regardless of what Luke thought, he would still have responsibility in providing for his child.

“That’s everythin’. Let’s get out of here before he gets home.”

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 ***Psst!!! If you haven’t read Book 2, Jaded, grab a copy today! Kaitlyn’s story starts here!***

***By the way, if you haven’t read the first novel in The Butterfly Memoirs, A Heart Not Easily Broken, now’s your chance! For ONE WEEK ONLY you can get it for .99 cents! Sale ends February 14th! Follow these links and tell a friend! Enter the RAFFLECOPTER CONTEST for a chance to win an Autographed Paperback copy of Lonely Heart (Book 3 of The Butterfly Memoirs)! Winner will be announced Monday 2/17/14! ***

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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#FeatureFriday- Sullivan’s Way by Wilhelmina Stolen

***5 Prince Publishing NEW RELEASE!!!!***

Cover

Historical Romance

A single day shattered her life and set in motion, events that would change the Sullivan family for generations.

~~~~

Marnie Joe Sullivan had the perfect life as the daughter of a wealthy Virginia businessman, but perfection wouldn’t last. As the War Between the States ends, she is struggling to keep her family together. After a botched robbery, fleeing rebels leave her mother dead and Marnie at the mercy of a killer. The year is 1867 and Virginia is still home to Confederate conspirators and a killer that must be stopped. Loyalty and love run deep in the Sullivan family and Marnie is no exception. As the eldest Sullivan, she feels obligated to rescue her father from the hangman’s noose. But a jailbreak at midnight lands her in the arms of Marshal Mason Kane.

 Death is never fair. Mason Kane is proof of that. The horror of war and the death of his brother made him a drunk. Consumed by guilt and grief, he finds himself occupying Richmond saloons and starting fights. But a forgotten promise to his brother forces him to put down the bottle and accept a friend’s plea for help. Mason has no idea that the scrawny, mud covered boy he just hit is Sullivan’s daughter and he has no idea just how tempting she is until he tries to mend her wounds. Bound by honor and promise, Mason sets out to find a killer. What he finds is the outlaw Marnie Sullivan. A woman he can’t live without and secrets that lie in the way.

 Amazon     5 Prince Publishing

~~~~

Excerpt:

February 2, 1868

Sullivan Settlement, Virginia

Them Damned Confederates

Marnie Joe Sullivan, a well-bred woman of Virginian wealth, sat at the head of her father’s table. Despite her cool exterior, she felt civility’s firm grip slip and a white-hot anger coil its way up her spine. The beast threatened to burst forth in a rage of unladylike vulgarities of which the gentlemen across from her would undoubtedly recoil and offer a hideous clicking sound of disapproval from their forked tongues! No, that wouldn’t do.

“Damn it Marnie! You can’t go!” The abrasive voice manifested itself from the older man sitting across from her. He heaved one foot upward and slammed it against the smooth cherry floor of the great room. The dull clap of the heavy boot vibrated against the stone walls of the Sullivan house, “We have to wait for Lucas. He’ll be back anytime now.” The stub from his missing first finger wiggled uncontrollably as he ran his gnarled fingers over his thinning, silver hair, creating a wild mess. The missing digit was Ike Ritchie’s trophy for his victorious fight in the Battle of Buena Vista in ’47, “Your Pa was crazy for going to Silver Creek!”

With an unwavering face of authority, Marnie lifted her chin and leveled her gaze. A delicate blush of pink rushed over both cheeks, “My Pa is not crazy! He’s grieving.” Her small fingers anxiously examined the delicate embroidery of her handkerchief as her eyes burned into Ike with disapproval. The midnight black of her silk dress couldn’t quench the green fire that raged in her eyes. Since her mother’s death, Marnie had adorned black in every sense of the word, her soul, her spirit, and her will were all shaded black by that day, but not today. Today was a day of action!

An indignant “humph” escaped the edge of her full lips. As if being prompted by the sound, a petite black woman stepped from the hall and stood with folded hands as they waited for their guests to arrive, her slate stare burning relentlessly into Marnie. Yes, yes, I know, Tillie! Ladies always remain calm! As leaders from the settlement below entered the room one by one, Marnie took a deep breath that generated a small look of understanding and approval from the housekeeper.

Marnie’s skin itched and burned from the laces of her corset, causing her to shift in her seat. Thanks to Tillie’s diligent efforts, she was presentable. It infuriated Marnie to know that over half the morning had been devoted to tying, lacing and buttoning her unmentionables just so she might look presentable to the men in front of her. In the time it had taken Tillie to carefully style her unruly blonde hair into the neatly formed chignon, she could have been half-way to Silver Creek. This is ridiculous! I don’t need their help! Will Roark, Louis Porter, and Charlie Wilcox, represented only a handful of families that homesteaded on her father’s land. The men had taken council at this house since Marnie had donned pigtails and played with dolls. They weren’t use to answering to anyone but her father, “Thank you all for coming on such short notice.”

Will looked confused, “Marnie, I don’t know what we could possibly do to help your Pa.”

Ike eased forward and rested his elbows on the table, “Marnie thought you gentlemen might accompany us into Silver Creek.”

Charlie frowned, “Why would we do that?”

“To help me break Papa from jail.” Marnie said hopefully.

Her statement provoked a laugh from Louis, “You want us to help you stage a jailbreak?” He glanced at the other men, “Is she serious?”

“I don’t find anything funny about it. It is possible.” Their snide smiles added to her frustration, “If we go in after dark, there’ll be only one or two guards.”

“That’s insane!” Louis interjected.

“No, it’s not!” With her fists clinched tightly at her side, she demanded an answer, “How can you sit there and do nothing to save him?” Their silence infuriated her. They weren’t taking her father’s capture seriously. “Papa’s been rotting in that jail for three days and God only knows how long Lucas will be gone!” It had been two days since her adopted brother, Lucas, set out for Richmond to find her Uncle, and Marnie’s confidence in the law and Maxwell Richardson was diminishing, “I haven’t seen my Uncle Max in years. How can we be sure he’ll even help Papa?”

“Maxwell won’t think twice about it.” With a dismissive hand, Ike waved her fears aside, “Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if old Maxwell dynamited the jail himself to free your Pa!”

It was because of her father’s selfish act that she sat like a plucked turkey, stitched and tied for the presentation at hand. Her father, Daniel Sullivan never left anything to coincidence. Why had he allowed himself to get caught by the law in Silver Creek? Haven’t I dealt with enough tragedy? Less than a year ago her mother lay lifeless on the floor as Marnie and her sister were ripped from their home and taken for ransom.

Tight lips controlled Marnie’s words. She lifted her chin and fought to steady her breathing. Back straight, shoulders square, you’re a Sullivan, baby girl! Her father’s voice echoed in her mind and unconsciously her posture straightened. Defiance rushed through her as the authority in her eyes demanded attention from each man.

“We can’t wait! Are you going to help me or not?” Marnie gave the table a single strike with her fist, “Someone answer me! My father gave you a roof over your head, and never asked for anything in return. Without his help, none of you would have anything. If Talon Dougal hangs Papa, nothing will prevent him from taking the mountain and everything around it!”

Louis adjusted his collar, “Marnie, we’re all concerned about your father, but he knew not to go. He was safe here. He knew if he went to town he would risk getting caught.”

“We could protect him here, but not in Silver Creek. Hell! We could be hanged right along with him!” Will shouted and Charlie nodded.

Ike agreed, “They’re right, Marnie.”

Twenty-five years ago, through dense forests and jagged rocks, her father carved out a life for not only his family, but for the families in the valley below. Now when he needed them, they cowered in fear like children, “So it will be the same as before? He needed you last year and you didn’t lift a hand to help him. You all wanted to run and hide.” She tapped the table with a finger, discarding the truth for her cause. The people around her father’s table were loyal, but fear made her desperate.

“Now wait just a damn minute little girl!” Her accusations brought Ike up out of his seat. In his younger day, he’d been a boxer, broad in the shoulder and narrow at the hip. Legend of the “Fists of Fury” spread through Texas like wildfire. Even now, his withered frame towered above Marnie. When his expression changed, she braced herself, “You seem to forget I was riding right alongside your Pa when them damned Confederates took you girls, and I helped him bury your Ma!” He shifted his weight from one leg to the other in agitation, “So don’t you go lecturing me about helping spring your Pa from jail!”

The outburst sent a silence over the men. Ike shook his head, “I’m sorry Marnie. I know you miss your ma, but−” Marnie watched him rub his furrowed face and produce a tender smile, “you girls, feel like you was my own and I don’t want to see ya get hurt.” He placed a hand on her shoulder, “We’ll wait for Lucas.” he instructed softly.

Marnie’s head shook feverishly, “We can’t wait. They could hang him at any time. Lucas might persuade the Governor to intervene in the charges against Papa, but Talon is a coward. He won’t wait for a judge or jury.” Marnie forced a wave of moving tears as she let out an, “Oh!” and pushed the handkerchief against her nose. She sniffed and dropped her head. Papa’s running out of time!

Ike eased down in a chair beside her, “Look Marnie, we can’t just go into the jail and ask for the key. He’s a wanted criminal, they’ll be guarding him close.”

“I won’t be moved by tears young lady.” Will interrupted Ike’s careful words, “I’d give my life for Daniel, but our actions have to be thought through. We wait.”

The firmness of Will’s words stilled her tears. I knew it! They’re not going to help me. Marnie refused to lose the fight. She calmed herself and raised her head, “I’m sorry, you’re right.” Her head nodded slightly in agreement and then bent forward with humility, “I know without your loyalty Papa would have been caught a long time ago, and Callie and I would probably be dead.” When she met Ike’s concerned face, the storm in her green eyes cleared, and a crafty smile eased its way onto her pouty lips, “Forgive me.” Her voice was soft, “I’m just scared.  I had to try.”

Ike cocked one bushy eyebrow upward and sighed, “Well girl, Lucas will be back from Richmond tomorrow.”

A half an hour later Marnie walked the last remaining man to the door. Ike shifted awkwardly and moved towards her. When the others had gone, he called Marnie by her childhood name, “Joe, in nineteen years I ain’t never seen you give into a fight. I saw them green eyes clear, and that means one thing. You’re up to something!”

 ####

authorAbout the Author: 

Wilhelmina Stolen is the pseudonym for romance writer, Shannon Hayes. Shannon is a native of Kentucky and makes her home in a small southern town close to the Tennessee line. During her adolescence, her mother’s free spirited nature became restless causing the family to embark on a slew of adventurous moves across the country. The moves provoked a hunger for adventure and romance and introduced her to a wonderful world of history and beauty.

As with most writers, her stories began at an early age with long sessions of seclusion and secrecy. While her classmates and friends were outside playing, Shannon was locked away in her room hammering out ideas on an old 1940’s Royal typewriter.

After finding Mr. Right, Shannon found herself wanting the comfort and security of the small Kentucky town she longed to escape as a child. Fortune smiled upon her and she became the family historian; gathering pictures, wills, marriage certificates and everything else that somehow managed to fall into her lap. Stories flooded her mind and writing quickly became an obsession that turned into the Way of Hearts Saga. The saga spans six generations and three families.

Shannon holds an Associates in Applied Science in Technology, a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and Management as well as a Masters in Educational Leadership. Visit her author page at www.wilhelminastolen.com to learn more about the saga.

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Wattpad

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Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online!  If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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Family for the Holiday- A Ebony and Brian Short Story, Part 5

The story continues!

Ebony and Brian’s Gift to you!

Part One- The Meeting- December 23rd- Brian

Part Two- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Ebony

Part Three- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Brian

Part Four- Christmas Day- December 25th- Ebony

Christmas Day- December 25th

Brian

 

“Merry Christmas, Brian!” my sisters sang as I entered the kitchen.

The room was filled with the aromas of Christmas dinner and sound of my sisters singing Christmas carols off key.

Andrea and Lisa assisted my mother as she finished making dinner. Caroline sat at the kitchen table, bottle feeding her newborn son. Bridget danced around everyone doing absolutely nothing, as usual, except use the wooden spoon as a microphone. In the middle of it all was my fiancée and her mother. Mrs. Campbell sat at the kitchen table nursing a cup of coffee, bewildered and amused. Ebony seemed to enjoy every minute of it.

I walked among the group and kissed them each on the cheek. To my surprise, Ebony’s mother allowed me to give her one as well. After her standoffish greeting at the airport, we had yet to have a one-on-one conversation.

Maybe her husband’s talk with me the day before won her over. Either way, I would take whatever she wanted to give.

“It smells good in here,” I said. As tempting as it was to sneak a taste of the dishes lining the kitchen island, I knew better.

“Thank you,” my mother responded.

“Do you guys mind if I borrow Ebony for a moment?”

“No,” my sisters sang.

Ebony followed me out of the kitchen and into the dining room. My mother’s fine china, used only for special occasions, sat on the table along with other decorative items used for family gatherings.

The minute we were out of sight of my nosey family, I pulled her in my arms and kissed her. “Want to sneak back outside tonight?”

Her arms went around my neck as she laughed. “I don’t know. I had a hard time sleeping last night.  It was a combination of wanting more and guilt.”

I chuckled. “Hey, you’re the one who started it. I’d rather think the wanting is what kept you up. Did you make the call?”

She nodded. “Yes, and everything has been worked out. Now we just have to make the announcement.” She inhaled deeply. “I’m not sure how they’re going to take it.”

“Neither am I, but it’s our decision.” I pulled back to so our eyes met. “You and me?”

She smiled. “Me and you.”

****

With dinner time nearing, everyone was either in the living room, kitchen, or my father’s man cave watching television. I snuck out on the back porch for a few minutes of silence. The last few days of being with my family was inspiring. My mind was in creative mode, toying with rhythms and notes to recreate the melody in my head.

Brian, can I talk to you for a minute?”

I turned to find Mrs. Campbell standing behind me

“Sure. It’s a bit chilly out here. Do you want to go inside?”

“No, here is fine.”

I waked over to the patio set and pulled out a chair for her.

“Thank you.” She sat down, tugging the edges of the shawl she wore around her shoulders a little tighter. “I can’t believe how much warmer it is here than it is back home. It’s still chilly, but at least you can walk outside without turning into a Popsicle. Weather like this will make you want to stay in California.”

“Yes, ma’am, it will. Are you enjoying your visit?”

Her attention turned to me. “Yes, I am. It’s been more than I expected.”

Not sure how to take the comment, I remained silent.

“Let me rephrase that,” she inclined her head. “You’re more than I expected.”

I thought back to conversations held with Ebony when we started dating. She told me her mother made a habit of pointing men who were ‘talk, dark, and handsome’ in her direction, playing matchmaker from afar. If anyone was thrown off by her decision to be with me, it was her mother.

“Brian, do you really love my daughter?”

I looked her in the eye. “Yes, ma’am, I do.”

“Then forgive me for asking this question, but I must. Ebony mentioned you were in a relationship with a black woman before. So I get it, this isn’t new for you, but it is for Ebony. She says she’s ready to tackle anything life throws at you, and I believe her. But I can’t help but wonder…what happened to the last woman?”

Momentarily caught off guard, I kept my mouth shut. My first instinct was to tell her it was none of her business. What happened with my previous girlfriend had nothing to do with my relationship with Ebony.

I sat back in my chair. “You think I’m trying to replace my ex with another black woman?”

Mrs. Campbell tilted her head as if studying my body language. “Are you?”

I sat forward in my chair, rested my elbows on the table, and linked my fingers. I kept my eyes trained on hers. “My feelings for Ebony have nothing to do with any woman from my past. The night we met, I wasn’t looking for any one. She caught my attention as a beautiful woman I wanted to know. Skin color, race…none of that stuff mattered. I fell in love with the woman she is. Period.

“Mrs. Campbell, I don’t take relationships lightly, nor do I play with anyone’s emotions. If you’re worried I’ll get tired of her and leave…believe me that will never happen. I’m in love with your daughter. I don’t know what else to say. And to be honest, my job is to make sure Ebony is satisfied with what we have. Outside opinions don’t matter. Not yours, your husband’s, and not my parents. I hope you can understand where I’m coming from. I mean no disrespect.”

Both of Mrs. Campbell’s eyebrows rose as she sat back in her seat, her lips pursed. A part of me wanted to apologize, but I hadn’t said anything to offend her. If anything, her question had offended me.

After years of watching my brother-in-law’s deal with my mother, I learned one thing; as the husband, there were times your foot had to be put down in order to gain the respect of your wife’s mother. Since I wasn’t the one Mrs. Campbell selected for her daughter, I had to make her see me for who I really am: the man who loves her daughter and the father of her future grandkids.

“I know my daughter, Brian; it takes a lot to win her heart, especially if she’s got her mind set on reaching a goal. She would have moved back home a long time ago if it weren’t for the job opportunities in front of her. Can you promise me that you will continue to make her happy and support her, not just financially, but emotionally?”

“Until the day I die.”

She nodded slowly. “Then there’s only one thing I can say,” she rose from her seat, walked over to where I sat, and opened her arms wide. “Welcome to the family. And you can call me Mom.”

****

 “I am stuffed!” Ebony pushed back from the table, both hands on her belly.

I looked over at her plate; there was food left. “Are you going to eat that?” I pointed to the stuffing and cranberry sauce.

“Have at it.” She pushed her plate over and I devoured the remains. There was nothing like my mother’s homemade stuffing.

“Where on earth do you put all of that food? If I ate like you do, my hips would spread.”

I swallowed, then followed it up with the soda sitting in front of me. It was the only thing that had not received a re-fill since dinner was served. “I burn it off. And don’t worry, if it goes to your hips, I’ll help you get rid of the calories.” I winked; she laughed.

“It seems like everyone is nearly done. Are you ready?” she asked.

I held up a finger and ate the last of the dressing.

As I chewed, my gaze went around the table. Nearly everyone was here. My parents, her parents, my sisters and their husbands, and my grandparents, which was a blessing. All six of the grandkids were seated at the table in the kitchen.

I wiped my mouth on a napkin, then picked up my glass and tapped the side with my fork. “Excuse me everyone, can I have your attention?” I stood as everyone quieted down.

Ebony stood, too.

“First of all, I’d like to say thank you to the wonderful hands that prepared this evenings meal,” I rubbed my belly as everyone murmured their appreciation. “And to anyone who is unable to finish their plates, I have containers with my name on them in the kitchen. No doggie bags will be allowed to leave the premises.” Laughter erupted; I waited for it to die down.

When it did, I reached for Ebony’s hand and kissed it. “This year, we have had the pleasure of having new guest join us. Mr. and Mrs. Campbell, and my beautiful fiancée, Ebony.”

“Thank you for having us,” Mrs. Campbell said.

My parents raised their cups and saluted them.

“I appreciate you guys welcoming my soon-to-be in-laws into our family. I know every Christmas won’t be celebrated this way, but this was a great start to our future. I can’t tell you how much Ebony and I appreciate your continued support.  With that said, we have an announcement.”

I turned to Ebony, but didn’t miss the anticipation on the faces of every woman in the room.

“For the past three days, Brian and I have received advice about love and marriage, even kids,” Ebony laughed; I chuckled. “Between our parents, that over sixty years of experience. We love you for it.”

Around us, my sisters and their spouses’ clapped in agreement.

“And with that said, we’ve decided on a date for the wedding. April 5th!”

More clapping and cheering.

“And…,” she gripped my hand for reassurance as the din called down, “we’ve decided on a location. Mom,” she looked at my mother, “and Mom,” she addressed her mother, holding her gaze. “We talked about the locations you suggested, but have decided to do this our way. Our wedding will be held at the Phillips Family Inn. They have several beautiful rooms that will be perfect for the ceremony and reception. There’s also a spacious garden that will be perfect for pictures. We chose this location because it is significant to us. We built memories there and want to add one more; our wedding day. We hope you guys understand and respect our decision.”

There was a moment of silence as our mothers looked at each other across the table.

“If this is what you want, Ebony, then I’m happy. I’ll buy our tickets for the flight out as soon as we get home,” her mother said.

“I agree. Whatever you need, let me know. I’m sure Anita and I can coordinate over the phone or Skype, or whatever! Isn’t that what technology is for?” my mom added.

Both of our mothers got up from the table to hug us.

“Dad’s, I could use some help footing the bill,” I said and received hearty laughs from both men.

My niece, Hannah, tugged on my arm. “Hey, Uncle Brian, can you play us a song?”

“That would be great!” Ebony said. “I’d love for my parents to hear you play.”

“Well, it is tradition for us to sit down after dinner and sing a few Christmas carols. Let me get my guitar.”

Before long, everyone was squeezed into the living room. The children were on the floor, while the adults sat in every available seat, including chairs brought out of the dining room.

I took my customary place in front of the fire place while Ebony sat with her parents. I played a few carols we loved to sing, laughing at the off key notes sang by my sisters, some of it done intentionally. All the while, the notes that had been playing around in my head since before dinner came to mind.

“I’ve got one last song to play. It’s my Christmas gift to all of you.” I announced. “It’s a bit different and there are no lyrics, because honestly, I just made this up. It was inspired by my crazy, loving, and sometimes annoying family. I wouldn’t trade you guys for a thing. And this is also for you, my new family.” Across the room, Ebony and her parents smiled.

I closed my eyes and let the notes flow from me to the strings, humming the melody as I remembered Christmases past and revisited the conversations had with my future family.

Most of all, I thought of the love I had for Ebony and the un-known future lying ahead of us.

When the song ended, the room was silent. I opened my eyes to see my mother wiping tears while my father smiled, full of pride. Ebony’s mother had a hand over her mouth, while beside her, her husband nodded in appreciation.

Ebony walked towards me. “Brian, that has to be the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard you play. Thank you.” She threw her arms around my neck and kissed me.

Around us, our family clapped.

“Merry Christmas, baby,” Ebony whispered.

“Merry Christmas, to you, too.”

The End

####

Thank you for taking this journey with Ebony and Brian, I hope you enjoyed this brief peek back into their lives as much as I did writing it!

If you love The Butterfly Memoirs and would like to stay in the loop of what’s coming next, please sign up for the monthly newsletter. And above all, tell a friend! If you’ve read A Heart Not Easily Broken or Jaded, take a moment to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Your thoughts and opinions go a long way and are much appreciated. 🙂

The next book in the series, Lonely Heart, will be available March 6, 2014, so mark you book buying calendars! Sample Sunday excerpts will be starting in a few weeks so be sure to follow the blog as well!

Stay safe, Happy Reading, and Happy New Year!!!!  

MJ

Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs!

#####

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Family for the Holiday: A Ebony and Brian Short Story, Part 4

The story continues!

Ebony and Brian’s Gift to you!

Part One- The Meeting- December 23rd- Brian

Part Two- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Ebony

Part Three- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Brian

Christmas Eve: December 24th, Part 4

Ebony

 

“Ebony, baby, wake up.”

I awakened in the dark room to find Brian looming over the bed, his blond hair illuminated by the light streaming through the bedroom window. “What time is it?” I rubbed my eyes. After a day spent shopping and preparing for tomorrow’s activities with my mother and Mrs. Young, I was exhausted.

“Nearly midnight. You were supposed to meet me outside ten minutes ago.”

The mattress lowed on one side of the bed as Brian sat down. I reached out and rested a hand on his thigh. I wanted him to crawl in-between the sheets with me and talk in bed. But I knew my man. Talking would lead to cuddling which would lead to kissing and end in sex. I had no problem with all three activities, but his mother’s rules about un-married couples sleeping together in her house were finite. I was not about to break them.

“Are you sure we can’t talk here? It’s warm and I’m comfortable.” I put on my best smile, but it was no use; he couldn’t see it in the dark.

“Don’t tempt me.” He ran his finders along my hand. “Let’s go, I promise you’ll be comfortable. Be sure to grab a jacket.” He stood and offered his hand.

I still wore my clothes from earlier in the day in preparation for our late night rendezvous. I shoved off the sheets, got out of bed, and slipped on my tennis shoes.

Our fingers linked, I followed Brian into the hall, tiptoeing past the guest room where my parents slept, and his parents’ master bedroom. The lights in both rooms were off, but a faint blue glow ran underneath his parents’ door.

“They sleep with the television on,” he whispered.

We crept slowly down the steps.

“Follow my lead, step where I step,” he instructed.

I nodded and did as I was told; only missing one spot. The creak of that step sounded like a gunshot in a quiet room. We froze; no doors opened. I suppressed a giggle while Brian stifled a laugh.

We made our way through the dark house and out of the sliding-glass door in the kitchen. Instead of stopping at the patio table and chairs on the back porch, Brian retrieved a flashlight from the railing and led me across the backyard.

I looked at the newly built gazebo. “We’re not going there?”

“No. We need privacy. If they wake up and look outside, they’ll see us. We’re headed for the treehouse.” Brian handed me the flashlight and lowered the rope steps. He reached for the light, stuck it between his teeth, and climbed.

I inclined my head and watched. When he reached the top, he looked down. “Come on.”

“I must be crazy,” I murmured, testing the rope to be sure it would support my weight. “If I fall on my ass I’m kicking yours,” I said, loud enough for him to hear.

When I reached the top, I crawled through a small door into a room that was big enough for us to sit facing each other. The flashlight sat on its flat base, the light reflecting off the ceiling and bouncing off the wooden walls. I wiped my hands on my jeans and looked around. Pictures, drawings, and posters lined the walls while a box filled with a variety of toys sat in the corner.

“My father and I built this when I was eight. Now my niece and nephews play here when they come to visit.” He chuckled. “You know, my sisters used to sneak out of the house late at night to make out with their boyfriends when our parents were asleep.”

I laughed. “I assume you did, too.”

His lopsided grin I loved so much appeared. “Of course.”

I shook my head, trying to ignore the green-eyed monster of jealously. It wasn’t often that I thought about the women from his past.

“Don’t worry, I never got past second base with anyone up here,” his eyes turned mischievous. “I’d love to do it with you, though.”

I covered my mouth and laughed. “But your mother’s rule─”

“Only applies inside the house. We’re outside.” He wagged his eyebrows, then reached into a box beside him. “And, I’ve come prepared.” He pulled out candles and a lighter. A large blanket, a small bottle of wine, and plastic cups followed.

Brian always had a way of bending rules to meet his needs. My heart warmed. “When did you have time to do this?”

“When no one was looking.”

We maneuvered around the small space and lay the blanket down. I held the candles while he lit them; he held the cups as I poured the wine.

“This is perfect,” I said after sipping the chilled liquid. “I thought today would never end. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it, but I’ve missed being with you.”

“I missed you, too,” he said, settling against the opposite wall. “So, what went on with you guys?”

I sighed. “In a nutshell? I was told we don’t need to drag our feet with starting a family. Oh, and deciding where to have our wedding is going to be a pain in our backsides.”

Brian lifted his head from the wall. “What?”

I nodded, sipped again. “You heard me. Apparently waiting a few years to have kids is going to make us ancient by the time they get to be teenagers.”

Brian laughed. “Which one of our mothers said that?”

“Both.”

He cringed. “Yikes. And the wedding?”

“Remember when I told you the last time my mother assumed I was getting married she started planning the event?”

“Yes.”

“She informed me she’s already talked to the pastor back home and has the church reserved. All she needs is the date.”

His eyebrows went up. “Okay…”

“Oh, that’s not the half of it. Your mom insisted the church your sisters were married in is the perfect location, especially since your family is so big.”

He whistled. “What did you say?”

“Nothing other than we haven’t decided on a date yet.”

Brian shook his head.

“How was the ride with my dad?”

Brian’s brow rose as he looked down at his near empty cup. “Enlightening and informative.”

It was my turn to look confused. “How so?”

“Do you want the long or short version?”

“Short, that’s all I think I can handle.” I emptied my cup and reached for the bottle.

“He admitted he had reservations about me being white, but said since meeting me and my family, he’s happy if you’re happy.”

“Hey, that’s great news!” Then I realized Brian wasn’t exactly smiling. “Did I miss something?”

His eyes turned intense when what he was about to say was important. “Can I ask you a question? I need you to be honest.”

“Always.” I gave him my undivided attention.

“Your father made some good points about what it takes for a man to support his family. It’s funny, even he mentioned kids.”

I nearly choked on my wine. “You’re kidding.”

He shook his head. “Nope, I got family advice, too, the practical side that is. He made me think about something I haven’t considered before. With both of us determined to see our careers grow, what happens if get you get pregnant before we’ve reached them?”

Instinctively, my hand went to my belly. His eyes followed.

“Would you want to go right back to work, or would you prefer to stay home?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. After talking to my sister, I know daycare can be expensive, and I don’t like the idea of someone else raising my child during the day.”

“Neither do I. But what if we needed the money?”

That was a sobering thought. “What are you saying, Brian?”

He took a deep breath. “I’m saying…maybe I should cut back on the music and focus on building my business. It was a way to supplement my income while I focused on my career. It worked when it was just me, but now…,” he looked down at his cup. “The business has grown over the last few months. If I focus on it, with my cousins help, I can make it into more. We’ll need that type of stability in the future. I can make a decent living off my contract with the studio and playing gigs. The major money is in touring, but I’m not about to go down that path again. The last time was…,”he looked away. “I’m not leaving you like that again, especially if we have a child.”

“Brian, are you saying you’re going to give up everything you’ve worked for because of something my father said?”

He scooted around, as if suddenly uncomfortable with the thought. “I want to provide a good life for you, for us. You’re about to be my wife and─”

“And I want you to be happy about it.” I set my cup down and moved closer to where he sat. His eyes were cast down. I lifted his head until our eyes connected. “Can you honestly say you’d be happy if you put your dream aside?”

I gazed into the cerulean eyes I loved and saw him at war with himself, trying to make himself say something I knew he wouldn’t believe.

“No,” he admitted.

“Then don’t walk away from what makes you happy. That’s like asking me to quite school and give up on becoming a veterinarian because I was pregnant. Not about to happen. I’m this close,” I held up two fingers in demonstration, “this close to earning the degree it took eight years to get. Walking away now would be throwing away eight years of my life. The same for you. You’ve got talent like I’ve never seen before, and you are good at what you do. There’s nothing worse in life than giving up something you love. You’d be miserable, and for what? I’m not pregnant. We have time. I don’t want you regretting our relationship because my father is making you doubt your career. I’m happy with you and your career…now and in the future. What happens next is our decision. Where we work…where we get married…when we start our family.” I swallowed hard, forcing the lump I felt in the back of my throat to go away. If I wasn’t careful, tears would follow.

“Your right.” He pulled my hand that rested on his check to his lips, and kissed my ring finger. Then he chuckled. “And to think, a month ago, we were worried your parents wouldn’t support our relationship. Now we’ve got support, but it’s the real life issues that are stressing us out.”

“Tell me about it.” I settled into his embrace as he pulled me next to him. “What are we going to do about the wedding? Tomorrow is Christmas Day and your entire family will be here. They’re going to expect us to announce a date.”

Brian kissed my forehead. “You’re right. You know, we could always do like my cousin and run off to Vegas. We could sneak away for the weekend, then Skype everyone with the good news.”

I laughed. “Don’t tempt me. I say we don’t worry about what our mothers want. It’s us getting married. Why don’t we find someplace neutral?”

Brian nodded. “I like the way you think. Got someplace in mind?”

“The perfect place. I’ll need to make a call in the morning. What time is it anyway?”

Brian dug his phone out of his pocket. “Damn, it’s way past midnight.”

“Christmas morning?”

He nodded.

“You do realize this is our first Christmas together.” I let a seductive smile play across my lips and saw his eyes light up in response.

His focus went to my mouth as the deviousness I loved came out to play. “Indeed. What are you thinking?”

I scooted away from him and settled down on the blanket. It wasn’t a bed, but it could work.

“I’m thinking we celebrate early. We may not be in our house, but I’m sure I can knock out the memory of Betty Sue or Sara-what’s-her-name who wouldn’t let you get past second base.” I beckoned him over with the crock of my finger.

Brian laughed, put his cup down, and moved the lit candles out of the way. He settled in the space of my open legs, resting his elbows on either side of my head. “You know, I think your right.”

Our lips fused together as my hands dug deep into the blond waves of his hair. The feel of my son-to-be-husband’s body pressed against mine would never get old. I pushed all thought and worry about family aside and focused on what was important…the here and now. The love that we shared. The future we were building.

Now all I had to do was keep from moaning too loud. The neighbors had dogs. No need to wake up the entire neighborhood.

Brian’s mouth left mine and traveled the expanse of my throat. In-between kisses he said, “I love you.”

I sighed. “I love you, too.”

#####

Come back tomorrow for the conclusion, Part 5!

 

Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online! If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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Family for the Holiday: A Ebony and Brian Short Story- Part 3

The story continues!

Ebony and Brian’s Gift to you!

Part One- The Meeting- December 23rd- Brian

Part Two- Christmas Eve- December 24th- Ebony

Christmas Eve- Part 3

Brian

 

My father jumped out of his recliner as his favorite football team scored. “Go, go, go….yes! See, Brian, I told you! Pay up!”

Beside me, my future father-in-law shook his head. “That was just luck.” He dug into his wallet and pulled out the money to pay his debt.

“No, that was an athlete who knows how to play the game,” Dad said, laughing as he collected his winnings.

I dug into my pocket and gave my dad a dollar before glancing at Clarence. He appeared calm, even though his team was losing. The good-natured bets going back and forth between us was an easy way to study the temperament of my future father-in-law. After last night’s handshake, I was still on edge.

He sipped his beer and studied my father’s movie posters on the wall during the commercial break. “Nice man cave you’ve got here, Winfred. I’ve tried to get Anita to let me have one inside the house.” He shook his head. “You’d think after thirty years of paying the mortgage I would have earned a room. Instead, I got pushed out to the garage.”

Both men laughed.

“What we won’t do for the women we love, eh?” My dad supplied.

Clarence raised his bottle. “Here, here.”

Both men looked at me. I held my bottle up in agreement then gulped.

A soft knock on the door drew everyone’s attention. Ebony peeked into the room. “Excuse me, Brian, your mom would like you to run to the store before they close.” She held up a sheet of paper.

I tried to hide my relief. “Sure.”

If I was lucky, Ebony would be able to sneak away with me. After my mother’s invitation to spend the week at the house with everyone else, Ebony and I had gone to our respective homes and grabbed enough clothes for the week. Our original plan had been to spend the rest of the holiday at our new home.

Three weeks had passed since we signed the lease. Ebony came by periodically to help unpack and set things up. A few of her personal items had made their way over. Her official move-in date was a few days after Christmas. Regardless, my attempt to convince her to spend at least one night at our new home and come back in the morning hadn’t worked. She insisted on not disappointing our parents. In the end, not only had I slept alone, I slept in my childhood bed.

My mother insisted we sleep in separate rooms because we weren’t married. She knew we had sex, but my parents were old fashioned. ‘Unwed? No sex in my beds!’ was her motto.

Imagining my fiancée sleeping down the hall in addition to the intimidation of being in the same room with her father made a good night’s sleep hard to come by.

I joined Ebony in the hallway. “How are things in the kitchen?”

She walked over, slipped her arms around my waist, and laid her head against my chest. “Up until twenty minutes ago, fine.”

I caught the change in her voice; she was no longer as excited as she’d been at breakfast.

In need of physical connection as much as she apparently did, I held her tight. “What happened? Is everything okay?”

Before she could reply, I heard the door to the man-cave open behind me.

“Hey, Brian, do you mind if I ride with you? I could use a bit of fresh air.”

Clarence’s booming voice forced me to jump away from Ebony as if we were teenagers caught red handed. My back was turned to him so he couldn’t see my initial cringe as I squeezed my eyes shut.  “Sure. I’ll be ready to leave in five minutes.”

“Let me grab my shoes.” Clarence walked by me, stopped at Ebony, who’d stepped away from me, and kissed her cheek before heading for the stairs.

Ebony watched as he disappeared, then turned to me. “I saw that look. Things aren’t going well in there either?”

I shrugged. “They’re getting along fine. Men are easy. Beer, sports, everything is all good.”

She cocked her head to the side, studying me. “What about you?”

“I’m hanging in there.” It was my turn to study her. “How about you? You guys seem to be getting along great. We can hear the laughter over the T.V.”

Ebony ran a hand over her head. “Woman can be touchy, especially when the subject of weddings and babies comes up.” She shuttered.

I was about to ask for details when I heard her father’s heavy footfalls on the stairs. I kissed her quick. “We’ll talk tonight after everyone goes to bed, okay?”

“Sounds like a plan. Be safe.” She kissed me again and headed for the kitchen.

“Ready to go?” Clarence said.

“Yes, sir.”

***

We were in my truck, merging into the main street traffic when Clarence spoke.

“Brian, I have to be honest. When my daughter told us she’d been dating a white man and that you were engaged, I had my reservations. Even after she told us about what you’ve done for her, I still was wary. Things were different when my wife and I got married, but times have changed. We raised our children to be open-minded, loving, and honest individuals. As a father, it’s hard to imagine your little girls growing up and being involved with a man. You worry about how well they’ll be treated and if the guy really loves them…” His voice drifted off as if in remembering something.  “Then one day they say, ‘Pop, I’m getting married.’” You learn to handle it and move on, but it’s never easy.

“Ebony has always been strong minded, hard-headed, and determined to have what she wants. Ever since she was a little girl.” He chuckled. “I can’t tell you how many times she almost gave her mother a heart attack by bringing injured animals home and hiding them in the garage.”

I smiled, trying to picture Ebony doing those things. Then I felt Clarence staring at me. My smile dropped.

“You’ll have to forgive me if I’ve come off as rude. With everything my daughter has told us over the last few weeks, it was quite a shocker. What happened to her…what you did…the engagement…that was a lot of information to process at one time.”

“And the fact that I’m white.” I glanced over in time to see him crack a small smile and nod.

“And there’s that. Can’t lie and say we weren’t shocked.”

I braced myself for what he was about to say next.

“But since meeting you and your family, I can understand why she loves you. You’re a good man and come from a good family.”

My mouth fell open. I risked a glance as I drove to make sure I hadn’t heard incorrectly.

Clarence watched me, an enormous smile on his face.

“Thank you, sir,” I stammered.

His thunderous laugh reverberated in the car. “You were scared, huh? I must say, you did better than my other son-in-law. Poor boy nearly pissed his pants the first time he met me, and he’s black.”

I found myself laughing. “Well, I didn’t have problems with my bodily functions, but my hand still aches.”

“Sorry about that. I hope it’s not one you play with.”

I shook my head. “It’s fine. I’ve done a lot worse. When I first met Ebony, I did yard maintenance for a living. There were numerous times when I had cuts and bruises on my hands and had to go to the club to play that night. Professionals learn to do what you must for the show to go on.”

He nodded. “True. Which is what I want to talk to you about.”

Something about his words set me on edge. “What’s on your mind, sir?”

“You can call me Clarence, or Dad, whichever one you’re comfortable with.” He watched me nod. “My daughter comes from a family of hard workers. You’ve seen it for yourself. She’s worked hard to get where she is in her career.”

“Yes, sir. I support her with anything she wants to do. That’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with her.” I watched him nod with my peripheral vision.

“So I’ve heard. I understand you have a pretty good work ethic, too. You’re a musician and own your own business. How do you balance the two?”

“I’ve got family; my cousins are running the business for now. I join in when I have time. But working for the record company pays well, too.”

“How long do you plan on staying there?”

“Excuse me?” I gave him my full attention when we reached a red light.

“Musicians tend to move from job to job. It’s not like working for a corporation that pays for your health insurance and gives you a 401K. There’s no retirement fund. What happens when Ebony gets pregnant and you guys need a bigger place? What about when you have a second or third kid? Life won’t get easier. I know my daughter is going to get the job at the zoo she wants, but how long will she be able to work once she’s pregnant? What if she takes off from work and decides she’d rather stay home with the kids. Will you be able to handle the expense with the job you have now?”

Clarence looked at me full on. Nothing about his facial expression or body language said he disliked my choice of careers. He was asking real-world questions based on the reality of the commitment Ebony and I were going to make.

“To be honest…” I gripped the steering wheel. “I don’t know. I’ve thought about some of it, but right now, children are not high on our list.”

“Do you guys have a five-year plan? Ten year? Anything?”

I shook my head. The plans Ebony and I made were about our jobs and getting married. Now that I thought about it, even that was unfinished. We had yet to set a definite date.

“We’re moving in together this weekend.” My eyebrows furrowed. “I guess with everything that’s happened, we’ve skipped ahead a few steps.”

“I’m glad you’re willing to admit it,” Clarence said. “There’s one thing I want you to remember.” He paused, waiting for me to look in his direction. “Nothing is set in stone. Plans can be broken, updated, and reevaluated at any time. Trust me. I’ve been married to Ebony’s mother for over thirty years. Sometimes I knew where we were going in life. Other times, I was flying by the seat of my pants. I didn’t always share the ups and downs with Anita because the stress would have made her worry too much. There were times when I carried the burden alone. As men, that’s what we do to take care of our families. Remember that. But don’t just take my word for it, ask your father. I’m sure he’s got some stories he’ll be able to tell,” he chuckled, “especially when raising five kids. And four daughters?” He whistled. “Two was enough for me.”

I smiled then got lost in thought.

Clarence had given me a lot to think about. While Ebony said she was supportive of my career, how long would it last? We avoided the baby roulette game once, but what if it happened again? We’d welcome our baby, no doubt about it. But what about everything it would take to care for my family?

Insurance. Housing. Daycare. Stay-at-home mom? Could my current career handle all of that on one income?

Yes, Ebony and I were definitely going to talk tonight.

####

Come back tomorrow for Part 4!

Follow this link to learn more about The Butterfly Memoirs!

#####

Thank you for stopping by! I love to make new friends. Got questions or comments? Leave a comment, or connect with me online! If you’ve enjoyed this post, sign up for the monthly newsletter and follow this blog!

MJ

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Family for the Holiday: A Ebony and Brian Short Story- Part 2

The story continues!

Ebony and Brian’s Gift to you!

***Miss Part One? Follow this link! ***

****

Christmas Eve- December 24th, Part 2

Ebony

My mother-in-law to be led us into the kitchen. “Ebony, Anita, we’re going to have so much fun!”

My mom and I laughed at Mrs. Young’s enthusiasm. We’d spent the day going from store to store, picking up last minute gifts and ingredients for her Christmas breakfast and Christmas dinner dishes.

The Young family’s customs were nothing like my family’s. I watched my mother all day as she stopped herself on several occasions from suggesting where the other woman should place a decorative item or exactly what meals should be on the menu. I had to say…she was a trooper.

This was the first time my mother would not be hosting Christmas dinner at our family home. Every year, no matter where we were, our family dropped everything to be together. Especially since Trevon and I graduated high school and went to college. I’d moved to California while my brother, Trevon, attended college in Atlanta, Georgia. Upon graduation, he made the city his home. My older sister, Lashana, and her husband and daughter were the only ones living near mom and dad.

I snuck a peek at my mom as she accepted the aged recipe from Laura’s family cook book. She scanned the ingredients and plastered on a smile. It wasn’t a dish she was familiar with. When it came to something new, my mother had to be prodded to accept change. I could tell she longed for the dishes she customarily made back home.

I felt a momentary pain of guilt. Once again, my decisions affected those I loved. If I had opened up about what was going on in my life, things would be a lot different now. I would have been home, and Brian would be with me, meeting my entire family. Instead, he had obligations to attend to that kept us in town.

But when I thought about it, things were working out the way they should. Soon, Brian and I would be starting our own family traditions as a married couple. Between my family across county, and his large family in town, deciding where we spent the holiday would be interesting.

Having my parents meet my future in-laws now instead of on our wedding day would make the decisions we made much easier.

“Oh crap, where are my manners?” Laura said. I looked up to see her watching my mother. “We were out all day, so I didn’t ask if there was something you’d like to make for dinner. I’m so sorry.”

My mom smiled. “Oh, it’s not a problem. Everyone does things differently.”

“Yes it is. It’s probably too late to plan a meal. Would you like to make something for dessert?”

My mother’s eyes brightened. “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind?”

“Of course not.” Laura smiled. She walked over to the refrigerator where a mini notepad and pen were stuck on with a magnet. “Write down what you need. Whatever we don’t have, I’ll send Brian to the store to get.”

“Okay, wow, I’m not sure what to make!” My mom put her hands on her hips, deep in thought.

“How about your famous Banana Pudding? I haven’t had it in ages,” I suggested.

“Perfect!” both women said in unison.

My mother jotted down the ingredients from memory.

“Laura, what time is Bridget going to be here?” I asked.

“Bridget?” My mom looked up from her notes.

“She’s one of Brian’s sisters. You’ll love her, she’s a riot.”

“That’s right, I remember you telling me about her. Laura, how many children do you have?” my mom asked.

“Five. Four girls and one boy. Brian is the baby.” Laura selected a pot out of the cabinet, then put her hands on her hips as if reviewing the inventory. “I hear you have twins. How fun was that?” She glanced over her shoulder.

My mother laughed. “Honestly? Not as much fun as you would think during the first few months. Sleep was a commodity not easy to come by. Let’s not talk about potty training and learning how to walk.” She looked at me and shook her head.

“What?”

“Wait until you have your own kids.”

Laura laughed. “Do twins run in your family?”

“Yes, they do,” mom confirmed.

“And that’s why I’m not in a rush to start a family.”

Both women looked at me as if I’d used profanity. Neither woman lacked in the grandkids department. Laura had six and my mother had one. My twin brother and I weren’t in a hurry to add to the Campbell family tree.

“Does Brian feel the same way?” my mom asked.

“Um…yes, we’ve had this conversation.” A feeling of unease hit the pit of my stomach. A quick glance at my mother and seeing the expression on her face didn’t help. “We are both starting out in our careers and want to get stabilized first. I have a few more months until I graduate college, and he’s still making a name for himself at the record label. We’ve got three years until we turn thirty. We’ve got time.”

Both women looked at each other and smirked.

“Baby, I was twenty-one when I gave birth to your sister, and twenty-three by the time you and Trevon came along. I couldn’t imagine doing it when I was older than that.” My mother shook her head. “You have no idea how much energy it took to keep you two out of trouble.”

Laura laughed. “Tell me about it. I started young, too. It seemed like they just kept popping out. Give birth to one, look at Winfred, then I was pregnant again.”

I laughed along with them and ignored the momentary flash back to when there was a chance I carried Brian’s baby. Even then I was sure the Young men were potent. A twinge in my gut made me nauseous.

I pushed the reminder of the decisions of my past aside. There were some things Brian and I chose to keep private.

“When the time comes, I’ll be sure to do a conference call and let you both know at the same time.”

“Let them know what?”

We turned to see Bridget breeze into the kitchen, her arms loaded with groceries, her pixie cut hair tousled.

“Trust me, you don’t want to know,” I warned. One thing I’d learned about Bridget, she was in no rush to be attached to any man, much less have a baby.

She took a moment to study me, looked at the older women, then back at me. “You know…you’re right.” She went to her mother, gave her a hug. “You owe me, Mom. This is the last Christmas Eve where I go shopping. If it weren’t for the fact that Caroline just had her baby…” She rolled her eyes. “Anyway, I’m being rude. Hi, I’m Bridget.” She extended a hand to my mother.

“This is my mother, Anita,” I said, praying her appearance would speed up the change in subject.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Bridget walked over to the kitchen table and grabbed a bright red apple from the fruit bowl, rinsed it off, took a bite, then chewed. “Where’s Dad?”

“Your father, Clarence, and Brian are in your father’s man cave. When it comes to cooking, Winfred stays away from the kitchen, but if it has to do with grilling, that is his territory,” she advised my mom, who nodded in understanding.

“No surprise there.” Bridget took another bite and chewed. “Well, it’s obvious I’m here in time for cooking. What have I missed? Have we started planning the wedding yet?”

“No, but there’s no time like the present.” My mother’s eyes lit up. I knew exactly where this was about to go. “Ebony, I’ve talked to our pastor back home and he said he’s more than willing to perform the ceremony. All we have to do is notify him of the date and the church will be reserved.”

Laura looked up from the cookbook she’d pulled out. “I thought the wedding was going to be here in L.A. The church we attend is beautiful. There’s plenty of seating and all of my daughters have gotten married there. Well, except for Bridget.”

My future sister-in-law rolled her eyes and continued eating.

All eyes centered on me.

I bit my lip. “Well… with everything that’s been going on, we haven’t set an exact date yet, much less decided where to hold it.”

“Well, that’s a no-brainer. North Carolina is your home. You grew up there and have family and friends who haven’t seen you in years. What’s there to think about?” My mother stated.

“Brian has a lot of family here, too. If you have it in North Carolina, a lot of people won’t be able to attend. Andrea and Lisa have small kids, and Caroline just had the baby…”

Both women started going back and forth, listing the pluses and negatives of each location as if I were no longer in the room.

I was scared to utter a word for fear it would turn into World War III.

“Holy crap, I didn’t mean to start an argument,” Bridget murmured out of the side of her mouth when she joined me at the kitchen island.

Both of us watched our mothers, shocked at how fast the ambiance in the room changed from happy to nearly volatile.

“Have you guys decided what you want to do?” she asked.

I shook my head. “Not yet.”

It was apparent that whatever we decided, neither of our families would be happy.

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Check back tomorrow for Part 3!

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MJ

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