I never will get my happy ending. With my past threatening to ruin the possibility of love in my future, I keep every man at arm’s length.  Nick appears out of thin air, becoming a part of my life instantly, leaving me breathless and wanting more. The pain that haunts me is still present, but Nick is worth the risk. When he promises me forever; can I trust him?

Justine makes me see that a forever is in reach with her. She keeps telling me she is hard to love; yet I find it quite easy. Once I break down her walls, she finally lets me in. But, I have a secret of my own which can expose her to the demons that destroyed me in the past. However, with Justine, I will do anything and everything to make her mine.

If I close my eyes, my children’s empty rooms taunt me. In a split second, motherhood has been stripped from my soul. Before I have a chance to explode at my ex-husband, he opens his mouth, and my desire to seize the fire poker and rip out his eye sockets is real.
“Justine, you’re controlling! If I don’t get our kids away from you, you’ll crush them. Your approach is pushing them away. Rose came home today crying because you called her a floozy. And did I understand you right? You called Kai a pothead?”
“Funny how they’re suddenly our fucking kids, when for the last eight years, they’ve been my sole responsibility.” By the time I finish my sentence, I’m screaming.
The vase near my hand beckons me to throw it at my ex-husband’s head; my hands clench against the urge to smash it against his arrogant face. My breath quickens to short gasps. Beads of sweat race down my face, and the hair on the back of my neck stands on end.
In the midst of our showdown, his smug smile leaves me with a desire to slap him.
“You can fight me on this, but you won’t win, not now. They’re sixteen and seventeen, and their preferences will sway a judge’s decision!” he yells.
Fear grips me that he may be right. “And when did you graduate from law school?” I ask sardonically as the blood rushes through my head. Fury swells in my gut and anger clutches my chest. I feel as empty as my bank account was the day I left Rafe. How dare he threaten me like this? “And yes, I called Rose a floozy. She’s sleeping with Jones to get attention. Maybe she needs your fucking attention since all your effort has been focused on your new family, instead of the one we started almost eighteen years ago.”
“Oh, this again.” Rafe unloads arrogance in the way only the president could pardon Richard Nixon. “I know, I know, Justine. You use my family as a reason for hating me more and more every time you dump on me.”
I hate Rafe Hernandez, but I also love him in a way I can never articulate. It might have something to do with the two children who want to disown me in this moment. They own me, though the emptiness they’ve left in my heart mocks me.
“Abuse is not just physical harm, you know,” he retorts.
His vicious accusations prompt me to grab the vase and pitch it just left of his head. My aim is good, and if I’d wanted, I would have hit the son of a bitch.
“You were an ass when we were married, but now, there’s nothing I can say.” I spin around as a single tear falls from my eye. I don’t need him thinking I’ve turned soft through the years. My voice is now raspy from all the screaming.
“Again, this is really mature, Justine!” His arrogance is gone. In a split second, in my anger, I walk toward him. Like the wimp he is, he scurries away from me. He seems almost scared.
Yes, be very scared of me, Rafe Hernandez. You just poked a mother bear, and now I’m fucking enraged.
Before I retreat into my lonely house, I find eyes peeled on me. In all the excitement of Rafe, I’d forgotten a new neighbor was moving in today. Part of me should be embarrassed as if I am being judged, but I am nothing if not transparent.

“Well, that was the welcoming party. Sorry, I guess he doesn’t want to celebrate with us.” It’s rude, but the climate of our relationship should be established right now. If my snippy words fail, maybe slamming the door will work. Sooner rather than later, my neighbor needs to know what a bitch I am. I certainly don’t want him borrowing sugar from me at all hours or trying to be neighborly.


Clearing my throat, I laugh. “Son, that is not really what I was talking about.” I can’t fault Ty. He obviously has great taste in women, he married my daughter after all, but Tyler adds humor to all situations. Looking at Emma, her hands are now firmly placed on her hips, trying to show authority in this relationship. “Listen, Ems, you have always been a grade-A bitch to every woman I have dated. I ask you to cut this woman some slack. I can tell she’s different, and if I'm being honest, I think she might give you a run for your money in the bitch department.” Most may fault me for referring to my daughter as a bitch but it is more a fact than a put-down.
“Is that possible?” Tyler asks.
Emma looks from side to side as if she’s at a tennis match. Finally throwing in the towel to this argument, she looks at us. “You both are assholes, but I’m stuck with you,” she grumbles, turning to Tyler. “Let’s go.” Being the strong-minded girl I am so proud of, she stomps away without another word to me.
As they walk out, Tyler looks back at me, gives me two thumbs up, and shouts enthusiastically, “Way to go, Nick!”

From an early age, I knew I wanted – no, needed – safety in my life. A child of divorce, I ached for the comforting arms of a man who would guarantee this.  I thought I had this security until the day he strolled into my life. Who would have thought that one night could upend the perfect life I have painstakingly planned for myself. I now find myself at a crossroads. Do I choose the road that leads to safety or one that leads to desire?

My family taught me morals and commitment, but I never understood the true meaning of settling down until I saw her in that little red number that left nothing to the imagination. I can still see it if it were just minutes ago. She is a beauty, but in the one night I was able to treasure her, I learned she is more than simply a pretty face. When fate intervenes and I am immersed back into her life, I fall, and it is a rapid and quick descent. Realizing I love her, I want her for forever, however her first love is returning and as much as I want to claim her as mine, she needs to choose. I don’t think I will survive if her choice is not me.

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