Sterling and Elizabeth Jackson have built a life most would envy. A beautiful home, two wonderful children and a very comfortable lifestyle. Yet something is tearing them apart. With divorce looming, they are trying to make it through the holiday season for their family.
With clashing schedules, demands from employers and two busy kids, the former lovers have managed to stay out of each other’s orbit, at least for a while. But Fate, or maybe their well-meaning family, has set them up on a collision course.
Past memories bubble up to the surface and there’s nothing to stem the flow. What once was amazing has turned hurtful and full of pain. But is that the real story? Is it too late for a couple who once lived and breathed for each other to find their way back?
There’s a thin line between love and hate. Will Sterling and Elizabeth be able to mend a love that seems broken and lost, or will the final pull on the holiday ribbon unwrap their last chance to save their marriage.
“Cream cheese?” Beth raged right back at him. “How many times do I need to pound it into your thick skull she’s lactose intolerant until you get it? Hence the special milk in the fridge just for her.”
“I thought that was for you?”
“It said low fat.”
The smack of his words cut through every bit of her insecurity about the weight she’d gained. Comfort food and two kids she practically raised on her own had killed her thighs, hips, stomach… she saw the way he looked at her. Disgusted by her new form, but to throw it in her face was a new low. “How long are you gone for?” she asked through gritted teeth.
“Less than twenty-four hours.”
“Good, maybe Molly’s stomach will be settled by then. How about in the future, you set a reminder every day on your goddamn phone that your daughter can’t handle milk? Maybe then you’ll remember it.”
“Since when can’t she handle milk?”
“Remember this summer when she got really sick at the Fourth of July party?”
“She over ate. Stop giving our child problems because of one belly ache.” Sterling ran his hand down his face to reset himself to calm. “I know technically, she’s in remission, but you have to stop living for her to get another terminal diagnosis. Sometimes, it’s just the sniffles.”
“Mama,” Molly said as she came in their room looking green with her hand on her stomach. “I don’t—” She didn’t get to finish the sentence before vomiting on their carpet.
Beth rushed to her side and helped her to the toilet to finish. “Now you’ve seen it three times,” Beth spat at Sterling as she helped Molly clean up. “Is that enough? Have you noticed there’s less cheese in this house? Smaller cartons of milk? I had her tested last summer. Next time, I’ll send a memo to your secretary. Then maybe you’ll get the message.”
“I didn’t remember she was allergic,” Sterling confessed as he got an old towel to clean up the white clumps from the milk which had curdled in Molly’s stomach and now graced their cream colored bedroom carpet. “When she said you never let her have those sandwiches anymore I just thought—”
“That I was Cruella DeVille? Nope, just her mother.”
“Mama, my belly is cramping,” Molly interjected in a weak voice.
“Let’s get you on the toilet for round two.”
Three hours later, Molly’s stomach had stopped attacking her from both ends and she was tucked into bed. When Beth went in search of the wet vacuum to clean up the rug, it wasn’t where it should be. Had they used it a few days ago in Tommy’s room? Nope. Continuing to look in every nook and cranny until she arrived at her bedroom and got a big surprise. The vacuum sat idle to the side and the carpet had been cleaned. Sterling was sitting on his side of the bed in just a pair of pajama bottoms. His head cradled in his hands as his elbows rested on his legs. She watched him for a moment. Marveled at his still fit body with biceps flexed and shoulders cut with thick muscles. Women would kill to have a man like him in bed next to them every night. So then what was her problem?
“She’s asleep,” Elizabeth said startling him. “If her class wasn’t having a Christmas party tomorrow, I’d keep her home from school.” She crossed the room and sat next to Sterling. Heat wafted from him and she inhaled the clean scent of his soap. His eyes were mournful and the part of Beth that still loved him, wanted to pull him into her arms.
“I’m sorry, Beth, I really didn’t remember.”
“Thanks for taking puke duty,” she replied. “I know you hate it.”
“Well, you’ve done it enough times, thought I’d get my one time in.” Sterling gripped the top of his knees with his hands. “I suppose when I have the two of them by myself I’ll get used to it.”
“You can still call me with questions.” She sighed trying to imagine not having him with her in the house. Strange, she should be used to it by now, but this was the first time the image of him living somewhere else entered her mind and chills ran down her arms.
“Won’t you be busy?” he asked.
“Yeah, living it up on a Caribbean Island,” she scoffed.
“I meant with the guy, Tim.”
Her face flushed, she could feel it tingling with embarrassment. “What, on camping trips? I’ll have Tommy with me.”
“Don’t lie to me.”
“Something is there.”
“Since when do you care?” she asked, her voice catching as she took in his words.
“I’ll always care Beth. I was a little hung over at our wedding, but I know my vows didn’t have an expiration date.”
Barnes and Noble