My very dear friend, Erin Cawood, joins us today with an excerpt from her debut novel, Tainted Love. I’m warning you, gang—it’s so good you’ll be sucked right in.
Thank you for sharing this today, Erin!
His big angry eyes glare at me as the front door slams. The windows rattle. Oh god! What had I done this time? The urge to run away pools deep in my belly. I didn’t believe it. For the first time in years we were alone. My not so little anymore brother is sleeping at a friend’s house as requested, and hopefully staying out of trouble, while my son and daughter are enjoying birthday sleepover parties at their friends’ homes. I’d been looking forward this night since my doctor’s appointment a few days ago.
I had the news we’d both longed for and it was killing me keeping it from him. But I couldn’t tell him now. From the look in his eyes if I tell him we’re expecting a baby all hell would break loose. The blissful-can’t-keep-our-hands-to our-self way of life we’d lived for the past nine weeks would shatter like one of the crystal champagne glasses sitting on the dining room table.
It was four months before he forgave me after I broke the news we were expecting Caleb and he wore the same expression on his face today as he had that night. It would be my fault we were pregnant again even though we’d planned this baby, even though Cal wanted this baby. Suddenly, this baby has the worst timing ever!
Still frozen on to my spot on the stairs, I fight the fear curling in my stomach. The last time I saw such fury in his eyes he reached for me and I swear he was going to hurt me. But he didn’t hurt me. Far from it. We … we … well we made the little miracle I now carry. And it was amazing. Beautiful. I’ve never felt more connected to Calvin then I had that day.
I shake my head, attempt to shake off the anxiety. He never hurts me. Not intentionally. I’m overreacting. He’s had a bad day at work. It’s nothing what I have planned for him can’t resolve. After his favourite meal, a glass of wine, and a child free night he’ll be mellowed and ready to receive the good news. At least I think it’s still good news.
“Hi” I smile, walk down the rest of the stairs and cross the entrance hall. “You look like you could do with a drink.” My hand gently caresses his forearm.
“I just came to drop my things off.” He brushes me off and walks on as though I’m not even there. “I can’t be around the kids tonight.”
I ignore the stab in my heart from his rejection. “Cal?”
The study door slams shut in answer. I don’t follow. I haven’t been allowed into his study since we… um… Well, it’s been nine weeks since I’ve been allowed in the study. Besides, I know better than to follow him when he’s in a mood like this, it’s likely to end in tears.
Instead, I go into the dining room. We never use the dining, except for entertaining, holidays and special occasions and I guess tonight wasn’t going to be one of them after all. I fail to fight the tears prickling at the corners of my eyes as I unset the table and put the best china, crystal and silverware back in the cabinet. All that is left is my mom’s antique candle sticks when I hear Cal call out. But more tears fall. It’s been over ten years since Mom and Dad were snatched away at gunpoint but suddenly it feels like yesterday.
Cal voice carries from somewhere deeper in the house. Great! He’s still angry and now he’s looking for me. I know I have a fight coming my way but I can’t… My parents’ death is balled up in my throat and my voice won’t reach around it. They missed so much. My brother was so little when they died. Georgia was just a baby. They never met Caleb, my hand rests on my flat tummy, and they’d never meet our newest addition to the family either.
“What are you doing in here?” Cal grumbles. I brush away my tears before I face him. “And where are the kids?”
“I’m putting stuff away” I manage to mumble turning and putting Mum’s candlesticks away and erase all signs of any plans I had. “You’re going out and the kids are at sleepovers.”
He stares at me. The time draws on and I try not to squirm under his silent scrutiny. Then he frowns “You’ve been crying?”
“Don’t lie to me.” He snaps “You don’t cry about nothing.”
“We’ve been through this twice before Cal” I quip walking passed him “I’m sure you’ll remember how the next nine months are going to play out.” I leave him standing in the dining room alone.
“Don’t talk to me like that Faith!”
I march into the kitchen waiting for his usual adage; you know I don’t like it. The steak, already tenderised within an inch of its life, and the ingredient I’d already prepared for his favourite steak sauce look at me from the counter. I was going to indulge him tonight. There was even a bottle of champagne chilling in the wine cooler because I knew how much he wanted this baby. We’d talked about it only a couple of days ago that ended with some silly ideas of ice cream in the bedroom. Packing the steak and the vegetables in airtight containers, I cross the kitchen and put them in the fridge, slamming the door. Cal is behind it.
I jump about a mile out of my skin. My heart beat racing. The look in his eyes hasn’t changed. “Cal!” I gasp fighting to keep the fear of what he’ll do next from my voice and my expression. “You scared the life out me.”
“A patient committed suicide.” Even though his voice is terse, I don’t know if he’s angry with me or himself anymore, so I can’t seem to let my guard down. I don’t know if he wants my sympathy because he wants to fight with me. I know he does. But he doesn’t look at all happy about it. I swallow against my suddenly desert dry mouth and step back. I don’t trust myself not to do the wrong thing, whatever that maybe. “Did you mean what you said?” He asks “It’s just you and me tonight?”
“Uh-huh” Is all I can manage as I put the island between us.
“And the other thing you said” He frowns again as his gaze drift away from mine “Did you mean…” He looks at me. His expression is blank. “Are you…?” It’s as though he never expected it to happen. “Are we…?” I nod and he gasps. Both hands grip the opposite end of the island and his eyes close. He draws in several really long deep breaths. He can’t do this! He can’t take this news badly. He’s not allowed. This baby was his idea!
Just as I’m about to lose my mind he stands upright. He has a mischievous glint in his eyes and a wicked grin on his lips. Just like that the fight it over and he’s happy. He turns towards the freezer. “Then I believe” He chuckles as he opens the door “You owe me an ice cream sundae.”
“What?” My head is spinning from the suddenly change in direction. “No!” I shriek as a tub of luxury ice cream slides across the counter. “You’re not…” I can’t believe he’s even contemplating this.
“You promised. You said I could have syrup, and sprinkles, and whipped cream, and the whole damn cherry on top if we got pregnant this side of Christmas. I intend to hold you to it.”
“But-” I wasn’t serious! He wasn’t serious! I eyed the offensive ice cream between us. The condensation forming on the outside chills me to the bone. I shiver at the thought of cream to skin contact. “That’s really cold. Think of the baby.”
Cal burst into a delighted laughter. “Babies love ice cream!”
It was hard to remain horrified at the sound of his happiness but still, he was not covering me in ice cream. “No!” I made for the left and he blocked my exit. So I started for the right and he made to block that exit too. “No Cal.” I half shriek half laugh and shake my head.
“You promised me Fay.” His eyes sparkle as he reaches for the ice cream.
“No way,” I use his distraction as an opportunity to escape, dodging his overstretched arm as he realises I’m making a break for it. “You’re not making a sundae out of me!” I sprint into the entrance hall as the most magnificent laugh bursts from the kitchen. It’s so light, so free. In all the years we’ve been married I’ve never heard Calvin laugh like that before.
I freeze. I turn around as he leaves the kitchen Ice cream and sundae paraphernalia in his hands. This is what my husband looks and acts like when he’s completely happy. It hits me I’ve never seen him this way before. We’d finally done it. We were thrown into the life he didn’t want and one we both knew couldn’t make him happy. And yet, it did. And he was, ecstatically so. My heart swelled.
“I will if I catch you.”
What?! Oh yes, the ice cream! My gaze darts around the entrance hall. Where the hell did I go? I couldn’t take this outside and he blocked the only other exit except upwards. Where in God’s name did I hide? He steps forward. I’m out of time so I spring into action. “You’ll never catch me.” I challenge and sprint and leap for the stairs.
There’s a sudden clatter of a dozen dropped objects as Cal plucks me out of mid air. His arm wrapping around my waist and he whirls me around to face him. “Gotcha!”
My legs wrap around him. My arms hook around his neck and I grouch “You don’t have to look so smug about it.”
“Oh yes I do” He chuckles before his lips meet mine. His kisses are so soft. His touch is so tender. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud as we climb the stairs and he carries me towards the bedroom. “Fay?” He whispers. “Did I ever tell you you’re the best damn thing that ever happened to me?”
Want more? You can find Tainted Love here.
And you can find Erin here.
I can’t wait for book two-coming soon!