by Nicole Morgan
eBook ISBN: 9781772331134
[ Contemporary Romance ]
After 12 years of marriage, Priscilla Blackwood has decided to leave her husband. Will being stranded together in a blizzard be enough to repair their broken relationship? Or will Max be forced to say goodbye to the woman who stole his heart so many years ago.
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Priscilla Blackwood stood up on her wobbly legs and rolled her neck from side to side. She then worked it into a circular motion while rubbing at her shoulders in an effort to untie some of those knots, which never seemed to go away no matter how hard she tried.
The bubbles and water cascaded off of her body and dripped from her prune-like fingertips. She’d stayed in the water much longer than she had anticipated, but the luxurious feel of a hot bubble bath offered her a comfort that she hadn’t felt in a long time. It hadn’t quite been a Calgon take her away type of moment, but it was a pretty good start.
The sadness and uncertainty of her decision filled her with doubt. Still she knew there was no going back now. Her choice had already been made and the steps had been taken to close that chapter of her life and begin a new one. On her drive up to the cabin she’d wondered if it was the right choice. She wondered if she should have waited and given the situation time, or if perhaps this was a change that had been a long time coming.
Her mother always told her to follow her heart, and she always had. At thirty years old she was surprised to find that what the heart wanted wasn’t always what was best for the soul. It was a harsh reality to face. It wasn’t taken lightly either. An important lesson she learned in the past years leading up to this was that one’s heart could lead people on a path to more heartache. It was a truth she could no longer ignore.
She closed her eyes against the stinging tears, which threatened to show themselves once again. The time for tears had passed. It was now time for healing. She had no idea how she was going to be able to get past the painful ache in her heart. The only thing she knew with certainty was that she had to at least try.
Stepping out of the claw foot bathtub, she winced when her feet touched the cold hardwood floors. The cabin didn’t have the best heating on a normal day, but the decreasing winter temperatures were making the small two-room mountain home even chillier than usual. She hurried across the floor until her feet met with the rug that sat in front of the vanity. A sigh of relief escaped her when she scrunched her toes into the cushiony softness of the plush cotton.
Water dripped from her naked body as she stared at herself in the mirror. The steam filled bathroom made her reflection look soft and beautiful. So much so that she could barely see the extra belly fat that she could never seem to get off no matter how much she tried. She swiped at the mirror and leaned in to examine the crow’s feet that had begun to plague her a couple months earlier.
She stared at herself for a moment and shook her head at what a mess her life had become. Here she was, a mere month away from her thirty-first birthday and she was starting her life over. She was no longer eighteen like she had been the last time she ventured out into the world. That wasn’t the biggest difference in her new chapter. When she started from scratch before, she wasn’t alone. She’d had Max by her side. Together they were supposed to conquer the world. They were going to have babies, build that perfect little house, and put a white picket fence around it. They had planned so much together. And yet, so little of it came true.
His name whispered through her mind like an affliction she couldn’t quite escape. She had to at least try, though. If she didn’t, she knew that she might never heal and get on with her life.
She felt confident that she’d taken all the necessary steps to give herself some space. She was well over an hour away from home and that was on a normal traffic type of day. The snow had been coming down for the past couple of hours and didn’t show signs of letting up anytime soon. Her cell phone was turned off and she purposely didn’t bring her laptop. Instead she stopped at the grocery store, picked up enough supplies for the weekend, a couple of books and some firewood.
For some people it might seem far too lonely to stay up in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a snow storm all by themselves. Not for Cilla, though. She was used to being alone. Over the past few years, especially, she’d become quite accustomed to having nothing to do and not a soul to keep her company.
That was then and this is now. This time she was doing things on her terms. She wasn’t going to be holed up in a mountain cabin because her husband had abandoned her yet again. She was going to relax in seclusion because it was what she wanted.
She had to admit that the snowfall and distance were offering her a shield of protection. Over the years she had succumbed to Max’s charms far too many times to able to trust herself in any other scenario. He wouldn’t be able to reach her or sweet-talk her out of her decision as long as he couldn’t get to her. She needed time and space now that she had taken such a huge step, if for no other reason than to prove to herself that she can do this.
From the first time she saw him, she’d known that she couldn’t live a day without him. He had looked so handsome in his dirty and torn t-shirt and jeans. His tanned skinned dripping with sweat had made her teenage mind think of things that she never imagined before. He’d made her feel alive and wanted.
At least he used to anyway, it was sad how drastically things had changed for them. There was a time she could envision nothing more than growing old with him as they raised their children and someday played with their grandchildren. So many dreams, so many hopes and wishes. They were like a storybook in her mind now. Memories of what might have been.
She wondered if maybe she was the reason they weren’t getting their happily ever after. There were several nights she had cried herself to sleep wondering what might have been if they’d had a child. Even one would have been such an amazing gift. They had talked about a big family, but for some reason it never happened. Not even once were the given the gift of a child.
Rubbing at her belly, she felt tears well up in her eyes. She had wanted to be a mother so badly. The doctors had sworn there was nothing wrong with her, but despite hormone and fertility treatments it still hadn’t happened, years of trying and still nothing.
She’d be lying to herself if she didn’t admit that she felt like less of a woman and a failure as a wife. Maybe it was Max’s disappointment in her that kept him away. Maybe there was another woman. She had no idea. All she knew for certain that was out of everything going on in his life she was always at the bottom of his list. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but she could no longer ignore the obvious.
After last night, she knew without a doubt that things would never change between them. He was a different person then he was when they first met. He had changed into someone she didn’t recognize in the past five years. There was a time that he was always there for her and wouldn’t let anything stand in the way of their relationship. It was clear that those times were but a distant memory.
In all the years, and with all of the different ways he’d let her down, what he did the night before was the ultimate betrayal. It wasn’t just the embarrassment she felt, or even that once again she had taken last place in whatever else mattered more to him. It was the realization that he no longer cared. She was no longer of any importance but instead merely inconsequential.
She couldn’t wallow a moment longer. There had been enough nights of loneliness and sadness. It was time to start living again. Even if she stumbled along the way, she was going to try. The hot soak in the tub had offered the right amount of comfort to ease her tense muscles. The combination of her long car ride, the hours of tears and her growing migraine had literally exhausted her to the point that she had nothing left to give. The anger toward Max had subsided. The rejection no longer stung. All that remained was the ache in her chest. This getaway and the long bath had been the first step in many she’d be taking to ensure that she would not only move on, but she’d be much stronger this time.
“Come on, Cilla. You can do this,” she repeated the mantra to herself once again. It was the same phrase she’d told herself several times already, hoping that at some point she would really start to believe it.
After drying off, she slid into a cotton nightshirt, pulled her wet hair back into a ponytail and put on her thick, fuzzy socks. The fire she had started in the living room already warmed up the entire cabin. She’d become an expert fire builder from all of the years of learning to do it on her own. Just like so many other things, she was learning to stand on her own two feet.
She walked into the main room and took a look out the front window. The snow seemed to be getting worse as the night went on. She was startled and turned her head when she heard the oven buzzer go off. Unbelievably, she’d almost forgotten about dinner. It was no wonder she felt so shaky and weak. A day filled with tears, major life decisions and no food was bound to wear on anyone.
Thankfully, she had timed her bath perfectly. The aroma of the frozen lasagna she put in the oven wafted through the small house as she made her way to the kitchen. She pulled it out to allow it to rest before slicing and poured herself a glass of Moscato. Other people, including Max, may always swear to the old adage that red wine went best with Italian. She was way past caring what others thought, though. This day, this meal, and even this bottle of wine, were the first parts to a brand new life.
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