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TO THE WOMAN HE LOVES



By Theresa Hodge and Shani Greene-Dowdell





All Rights Reserved ©

Smashwords Edition

DEDICATION



We’ve had women tell us this is their story…

To the Woman He Loves is dedicated to any woman who lives in fear of her own truth, and in remembrance of those who lost their fight with cancer.

The battle rages on.



Theresa

Shani







To The Woman He Loves,


I’m writing this letter with tears in my heart and a heart that is heavy as lead. I contemplated writing this letter to the other woman, to the woman who seems to have stolen my husband’s heart from beneath me. So many emotions are warring through my head and heart right now. I want to hate you and lash out at you with all the hatred that is coursing through my veins like venomous poison.

Even in all this beauty around me, the sand that glitters beneath my feet and the sunlight gleaming down on me brightly from above, it’s not enough to lessen the pain that fills my heart brought on by you and Ronan. I look around at the seagulls dashing to and fro as the waves flow in the distance and think I should be enjoying this moment with the love of my life.

I think of how I should be in this place kissing my husband under the crowning sunsets and frolicking in the water with our wet bodies plastered to one another like newlyweds. I think of how we can’t keep our hands off of each other long enough to get back to our room to make love, to make beautiful and wonderful love, so he takes me beneath the glorious stars as he makes love to me slowly but passionately. But because of your indiscretions, I’m on this beach alone, sitting beneath this umbrella with tears staining my cheeks, knowing that you don’t give a damn about the pain you have caused from your selfishness.

Ronan is my husband, yet I’m sure you feel as if I’m the intruder in this three-way relationship. I wonder how this could be possible when you’re the interloper. I hate myself for all of these nagging doubts of me no longer being woman enough for my husband. I hate myself for letting my already staggering self-esteem be shot straight to hell, all because of you.

I have a question for you, many questions really, but this one will suffice for the time being. Did you ever think about me and my children when you decided to lie down with my husband?

Your actions will hurt more than me. My children are my all, just like I once thought Ronan was and I was his. There go those nagging doubts again making me wonder if anything between me and Ronan was real for all of these years.

I have given the best years of my life to this man. I made some bad choices when I kept a very important secret from him. Why I’m telling you this is beyond me, but I need to let it out. See, it was during this time that you found a weak link in our fence and you entered to destroy the sanctity of our marriage. I know he’s more at fault, but you know about me. You met me at the company party and smiled in my face.

I felt that maybe if I explained this to you it would help me own up to my own part in this mess. I’m not going to linger in giving you insight into my reality, so here are the facts. My annual exam showed I had stage one squamous cell carcinoma on my right ovary. I hid this fact from my husband because of the way my parent’s marriage ended when I was a young girl. I even went as far as to have surgery without him knowing. The surgery removed it all, thank God. The problems started when my body needed time to heal. I know, as surely as I am breathing, this is when you entered the picture.

The devil found his way in through my secrets and lies. I own my part in this; I should have trusted my husband. These “should haves” plague me deep in my soul. I guess I am appealing to your sense of morals to walk away from my husband. I still love him with all of my heart, but I must know that I have his heart.

If you’re any kind of woman, you will allow him to go and let him recommit himself to our marriage and family without further temptation.


From a woman who still loves her husband,

Ruby Michaels


Chapter 1


Ruby


October 8, 2005


It was a dream. I was fresh out of Spelman College with a degree in business administration and I was about to embark upon a once in a lifetime experience. Billion-dollar construction company, Turner Enterprises, had offered me a paid internship. Not only was I finally able to get off my sister’s sofa and move into my own apartment, I’d be gleaning business experience from powerful men like Mr. Ronan Michaels.

“Hello, I’m Ruby Holloway and I’m here for an appointment with Mr. Michaels,” I said as I approached the desk of a pretty woman who had auburn colored hair cascading around her petite shoulders in an array of curls.

“Hello Ms. Holloway, I’ll buzz Mr. Michaels now. Give me just a second,” she said before picking up her phone and speaking. “Mr. Michaels, Mrs. Holloway is here for her appointment. Would you like for me to bring her back now?”

“Come with me Ms. Holloway,” she said after hanging up the phone. The smile in her voice matched the one on her face, proof that she loved her job. I smiled through my nervousness as I followed her to a corner office. Pushing the door open, she announced, “Mr. Michaels this is Ruby Holloway.”

“Thanks Jessica.”

Shaking any sign of nervousness away, I walked into the office. “I’m Ruby Holloway. I’m here for my first day as an intern,” I said with a satisfactory infusion of confidence.

“Very nice to meet you, Ms. Holloway. It is Miss, right?” Ronan asked in a sultry baritone voice, as he unfolded from his chair. His blazing silver gaze and tall muscular frame captured me and caused my breath to catch in my chest.

Taking my hand for a proper greeting, his large fingers curled around my small hand. The warmth from his caress warmed me to my core, as I looked up into his signature silver eyes and became momentarily entranced. I had been forewarned by his last intern from Spelman that his orbs were death traps, and that so many women had been captured and never broke free of their spell.

“You look a little flushed. Should I have Jessica bring you some water or juice, Ms. Holloway?” he offered.

The scent of his cologne assailed my nostrils, causing an immediate reaction of moisture pooling inside my panties.

Goodness. There’s no ring on his finger.

“No.” I coughed in attempt to free myself of his aura that arrested my senses. “I’m fine. Please call me Ruby…everyone calls me Ruby,” I said, finding my voice, albeit shaky.

“Ruby, it is then. Ruby is a beautiful name by the way,” he said as his eyes scanned my face with a hearty smile.

Remembering the reason I was standing in this expansive office, his space, I tore my eyes away from his handsome face and scanned the room.

Get a grip. This opportunity is too big to blow on the first day over a childish attraction.

But Ronan Michaels had a sister all up in her feelings. He was fine as the day the good Lord made him. I’m talking wavy chestnut brown hair, ivory skin that had been kissed by the sun, chiseled jawline and prominent shoulders. He wore a business suit cut just for him, covering a hunk of muscles. His lips looked drinkable, like a sweet, red wine. And those silver eyes made me swoon every time I connected with them. I shook my head slightly in attempt to shake the hot and flustered way I felt away.

“Well, Ruby, I want to welcome you onboard. I feel confident that you will enjoy this internship experience. In our search for extraordinary people, your resume rose to the top. At Turner, we’re only interested in people who can help assure we remain innovative leaders in our industry,” he began.

“Thank you! I’m lucky to have been chosen, Mr. Michaels. I’m looking forward to working with you and you won’t regret it,” I said as excitement coursed through my veins.

“And it’s going to be an experience like no other,” he said as his left brow rose slightly. Under the pressure of his stare, chills shot over me and headed straight to my core. We stood in awkward silence for a few more seconds. “Have a seat, so I can go over a few things with you,” Ronan pointed to the chair in front of his desk.

“Thank you.”

He pulled out a file with my name on it. “Jessica sent me all of your paperwork and, while I didn’t get a chance to interview you personally, I signed off on your application package, because I’m impressed with how well you did in school and your rave recommendations from your prior internships.”

“Thanks, Mr. Michaels. I’ve worked hard to get where am and I intend to work even harder for Turner Enterprises. I’m prepared to do whatever it takes to rise to the next level.” Well, maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. The salacious thoughts that involved us lying horizontal together I had no intentions doing.

He nodded and began explaining Turner’s diversity initiatives. For the next few hours, we went over company expectations and my job description as a quality control intern. After his brief orientation, he showed me my office.

“Jessica will be emailing you your first assignment in a few minutes. Are you ready to get started?” he asked as he stood beside my desk.

My desk. “I’m so ready, Mr. Michaels. I’m going to show and prove that I deserve the opportunity you gave me. I will earn this position on the merit of my work,” I said as I looked around my very own office. My office. Ideas for decorating it ran through my mind.

“I’m sure you will do just fine, Ms. Holloway. I’m sure you will,” Ronan said before he walked out of my office and back to his.


Chapter 2


Ruby


I started what seemed like my hundredth assignment since I started with the company last month. All I wanted was a cup of extra strong coffee to help me get through the day, but I ended up in the breakroom listening to Eliza Jakes gossip about any and everybody at Turner Enterprises.

“You know Ronan’s grandmother was an Irish woman who had Italian blood. They say she died and left him a trust fund the size of the Miami River,” Eliza said, as she pushed down on the lever to pour coffee into her Styrofoam cup.

Eliza was that intern that seemingly lived to keep the watercooler buzz flowing. The way she kept mess flowing around, it was a guarantee that she would be jobless at the end of her assignment.

Halfheartedly listening, I took the lid off my mug. “No, I hadn’t heard that,” I said as I began filling my mug. Time was a rare commodity. Spending it gossiping was a no go.

“Well, you work for his fine ass. What do you think of him?” Eliza pried.

“I think Mr. Michaels is a great boss. Beyond that, I don’t have any thoughts of him.”

“Great huh? Are you sure you’re not getting it on with him? They say he gets it on with all his interns. Oh, he gets around with the ladies,” she said, moving her eyebrows up and down suggestively with a big grin crowning her round face.

“I’m doing no such thing! And, don’t speak to me like that. I haven’t heard anything about Mr. Michaels getting around, except from you, Eliza. Where do you get your information?” I snapped at her, as I put the lid back on my mug.

“Oh, testy, testy. Don’t you worry about how I get my information. Just know that I have my ways of finding things out,” she said with a smirk. “And, if you knew what was good for you, you’d be trying to get you a piece of that sexy beast. The trust his grandmother left him, he invested it and became very wealthy,” said Eliza as she looked off, as if she were imagining herself somewhere on an island taking a break from her latest shopping spree with Ronan’s money.

“People will say anything,” I mumbled. Why would Ronan work as hard as he did for Turner, if he had his own fortune? He easily could’ve started his own company or spent his days sipping his favorite scotch with a mansion filled with exotic women. Eliza didn’t know what she was talking about, and, even if she did, it was none of our business.

“Well, since you don’t want him, send him my way,” Eliza said.

“O–kay sure, Eliza. I’ll jump right on that,” I said sarcastically as I backed out of the breakroom, erasing everything she’d just said from my mind.

On my way back to my office, I dropped by Mr. Michael’s office to update him on a purchase order. His silver eyes met mine, and a jolt of lightning traveled through me. I stopped in my tracks beside his door frozen like an iceberg, but my insides were melting like a bubbling pot of honey.

“Hello,” his smooth as velvet voice acknowledged me.

Wavy chestnut hair brushed against his neckline complimenting his radiant skin. My fingers itched to tap dance through its silky texture. More moisture pooled in my panties. It was a daily occurrence, which was why I kept an extra pair of panties at my desk.

“Hello, Mr. Michaels.” I tore away from his gaze, and my eyes traveled to the notes in my hand. “I have an update on the risers you wanted me to check on. After researching about fifty companies, I found that Telgin has them one thousand dollars cheaper per item when ordered in bulk.”

“What’s the minimum we can purchase on a bulk order?” he asked.

Eyes still glued to my notes, I read off the numbers I had gathered. “Bulk starts at five hundred items.”

I chanced a glance at him. He was writing notes of his own, while nodding his head. “Get a rep from Telgin on the phone and schedule a meeting for us to discuss testing out their products. If the quality is good and they’re made in America, we will use them. This will save us a chunk of our budget, if the product is comparable,” he said with an astonished smile.

“Yes, it will sir. I will call them right away,” I said, turning to leave.

“Ruby,” he said, addressing me by my first name for the first time. “I’m impressed.”

“Thank you. I try.”

“You help out around here more than you know, Ruby.”

“Do you need me to do anything else today?”

“Yes, but I will email you the details,” he said.

“Yes sir.” I sauntered to my office and placed a call to Telgin’s director of sales. He was enthusiastic about meeting with us in person the following day. I checked Mr. Michael’s schedule and made the appointment before returning my attention to doing more research.


***

“Ruby, you really should somewhere dancing and enjoying yourself on a Friday night. What are you doing still cooped up in this office?” Mr. Michaels asked, when he walked into my office at 5:48 p.m., according to the clock on my computer screen.

“I haven’t looked at the time in a while. I didn’t realize it was so late. But I wanted to make sure you had everything you needed for the shopping center project that’s nearing completion,” I said on a long yawn.

“Well, you have done an excellent job so far Ruby. Better than expected, actually. I’m going to have to insist that you pack up and get out of here. I can’t have you getting burned out on me. I need you,” he said, as he rubbed his hand over his stubble.

He needs me. Now, that brought a smile to my face.

“I’m fine, Mr. Michaels. I have a few more reports to do and then I’m out of here. Thanks for checking on me, though.”

He walked around my desk until he was facing my computer. The woodsy scent of his cologne permeated my nostrils and warmed me over. His eyes clashed with mine and there was no denying the blazing attraction that ignited in the small, enclosed space of my office.

“Ruby, it’s against the rules for employees to fraternize, and especially for bosses and employees, but, if it’ll get you away from this computer, I’d like for you to have dinner with me.”

I restrained myself from fanning my hot, flushed cheeks. Deliberate inhales and exhales slowed my erratic heartbeat. His request appealed to my repressed desire to know him in the most intimate way. But, I didn’t want to get ahead of myself and feel completely embarrassed later.

“Will this be a dinner to discuss work?” I asked.

“No…I want to get you as far away from work as possible,” he said, and his eyes ripped my clothes off stitch by stitch. His tongue slid across his lips with promises of what he would do with it if my naked body was at his disposal.

“Oh…”

“What I want to discuss more than what you can do here at the office,” he said.

“Mr. Michaels…”

“Yeah, that’s another thing. Start calling me Ronan.”

“I’ll have dinner with you, but only dinner,” I said for my benefit more so than his. “Thanks for rescuing me from this pile of work, Ronan.”

I laughed, loving the sound of his name on my lips.


Chapter 3


Ronan


The very first day she walked her mocha brown sweetness into my office, I fell for Ruby…hard. My brain held my body at bay, until the night I took her out to Calabre’s Bistro. We laughed and talked until it was time for the place to close down. Even as the workers finished cleaning the building and were ready to leave, I didn’t want our date to end.

I courted her the next few months, sending her flowers and taking her on romantic dates. I had the intensity of a white knight wooing his African American queen. It was like a dream come true to have a down-to-earth, hardworking woman like Ruby to spend my time with. In my circles, I ran across some very superficial people.

Ruby reminded me a lot of my grandma. She was a regal, virtuous woman who bestowed me with genuine love.

Hiding our feelings at work became impossible after the first time I made love to her. We’d been dating officially three months, when I picked her up for an outdoor concert at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre. It was a hot summer evening. I rummaged through grandma’s old things and found a rustic picnic basket. I packed us a lunch that included an expensive bottle of chilled wine.

I fed Ruby seductively as we sat on a blanket on the soft grass underneath the stars. She sucked my fingers into her mouth as we gazed into each other’s eyes. I wanted to eat her alive.

The way she surrendered to me, along with the blues and soul music and fruity wine, lured me deeper under her spell. That night under the stars, we sealed our love and devotion with a kiss. I kissed her soft lips and held her close for the entire concert.

When we got back to her apartment at the end of our date, we couldn’t keep our hands to ourselves. After spending my adult life daring to fall in love, all I wanted to do was make sweet love to Ruby.

I laid her down on her bed and slowly stripped her clothes from her body. Before removing my clothes and showing her the ways of my love, I slowly kissed my way ever so gently up and down her entire body. Slow was how I wanted to take her. Each everlasting moment was to be savored.

Her eyes widened in surprise when I removed my briefs. Before I could read her, she looked away from me. I reunited us with my tongue making its way from her neck to her lips. “What was that look for?” I asked, as I kissed the corners of her lips.

“Ronan, there’s something I have to tell you.”

I kissed her lips again and asked, “What is it?” My voice had become deep and laced with drunken desire.

“I’m still…”

“Are you not ready for this, Ruby? Do you want me to stop?” I asked as I rolled over into the space beside her on the bed.

“No, I don’t want you to stop. It’s just that…well, I’m a virgin,” she said, her body tensing as she spoke.

“You’re a what?”

“Yes, I’m a virgin.” She nodded her head.

“How old are you, Ruby?”

“Twenty four, just like I told you already,” she said, taking a defensive tone.

“You’re only five years younger than me. I assumed you were experienced.”

She crossed her arms across her chest. “If you’re looking for an experienced woman, Ronan, then you’re in the wrong place,” she said as she attempted to move from the bed.

“Ruby, you’re the one for me. I just didn’t know this was your first time. Your first time should be special. I mean, we can wait,” I said, although my body was unwavering and anxious to cover hers like a blanket.

She climbed on top of me and kissed my lips. Her hot, minty breath brushed against the skin of my face as she said, “You being my first and my forever would be special. The question is can you be that for me, Ronan?”

Flipping her onto her back, I riddled her lips with an onslaught of rough kisses. I sheathed myself with a lamb skin condom to protect her before entering her sweet center ever so gently.

“I can be that for you, my sweet Ruby,” I said, taking as much care as needed not to hurt her, while her virginal pussy stretched to accommodate my size.

She bit into my shoulder as her tight flower spread its petals. I soothed her with loving words until I had reached the depth of her snug core. Her hot breath sighed against my ear.

“Don’t tense up, Ruby. Let me have all of you.”

“Ronan,” she whispered as she released the tension from her body.

“Ahhh, my sweet Ruby. You’re doing good…you feel good too. Stay just like that,” I said as I thrust my tongue into her mouth to capture the taste of her precious kiss once more.

As I moved inside of her, I felt myself come alive. Knowing that she trusted her virginity with me stirred pleasurable sensations in me in a way like never before. Ruby was a beloved gem that had been made for me.

My hand slid between our bodies to touch her nub. On impact, her body rippled with vibrations from the depths of her soul. When she sighed most delightfully into my mouth and began to undulate her hips in a slow rhythm beneath my thrusting body, I came like fireworks bursting into air.

That night, while lying with her in my arms, I told her how I felt about her. She was sleeping in my arms like an angel, when I whispered in her ear. “Ruby?”

She slowly opened her eyes. “Yes Ronan?”

“I can’t walk in that office tomorrow and act like this didn’t happen,” I began.

“I’d hope that you wouldn’t ever act like we didn’t make love,” she said with a confused look.

“What I’m trying to say is I want you to quit your job so we can be together with no inhibitions. So we won’t have to hide our love for each other. I don’t want you to have to deal with the office gossip once Eliza sees the way I look at you.”

She laughed. “I’m not afraid of Eliza, Ronan.”

“I’ve heard she spreads quite a story around the office about me. As soon as I fill her position, she’s out of there,” I said. “But even with her gone though, I want to be able to freely love you.”

“It’ll be tough, but we can do it, Ronan.”

“But I want you to let me take care of you, in every way.” I stroked her cheek with my finger. “I want you to quit.”

Ruby sat up in the bed on her elbows.

“No, I’m not quitting my job! This is the best job I ever had. Before I got it, I was sleeping on my sister’s sofa and barely able to take care of myself, which is something I don’t ever intend to do again. I have to think of my future, too,” she said as worry lines appeared on her forehead. “Maybe this was all a mistake. Please don’t fire me because we slept together.”

I could see the deep sadness in her eyes as her mind raced. “Ruby, listen to me. I would never fire you,” I said, forcing her to look at me. “I just want to offer you a more permanent position. You don’t have to give up your ambitions; I just want to be the one taking care of you. I’ll help you find a better job in the industry, if you want to work. But being with me, you have options. If that’s being a homemaker, you can. If you want to go back to school for your master’s degree, you can. If you want to start a charity and make a change in the community, you can. I just want to create an environment where we can be together without any inhibitions.”

“And you feel there’s no way we can do that with me working at Turner?”

“It’s best not to mix business with pleasure,” I said.

“It’s kind of late for that, wouldn’t you say?” she asked, glossing over my naked body.

“Yeah, but this couldn’t be denied. I’m drawn to you like a moth to a flame, and I’ll do anything to maintain our connection.”

“Ronan, can I trust you to do the things you say?” she asked, as her beautiful brown eyes drew me into her soul.

“You just trusted me with your virginity. Don’t you trust the things I say to you?”

“I do, it’s just…”

“I’m not asking you to be my sack buddy, Ruby. I feel strongly about you. I know I’m asking you to give up a lot. How about if I give you a check worth two years’ salary for assurance of my commitment to you?”

“Ronan, you don’t have to do that.”

“But I will, if that makes you feel more comfortable about your future. I want to build our foundation so our relationship will go far, and that wouldn’t be best in a boss/employee atmosphere.”

“You don’t have to pay me to be with you, Ronan.”

“I just don’t want money to be an issue in your decision.”

She held my face in her hands, as if she were searching for sincerity. “I’ll put in a two weeks’ notice Monday morning,” she said before pulling my lips to hers for a kiss.



Chapter 4


Ruby


Sure, I had my reservations about quitting my job. It took a big leap of faith to walk through the doors with my two-week notice in hand. Ronan never gave me a reason to look back at the position I vacated. The two-year salary advance was nothing compared to the security I felt with him. He moved me out of my apartment and into a condo that was paid for and in my name the week after I left Turner Enterprises. The following year, I was Mrs. Ruby Michaels.

My wedding day was the second happiest day of my life, with the first happiest day being when Ronan made sweet love to me for the first time. It was like a classic fairytale. I felt like a true princess on the eve of becoming a queen as my sister, Emerald, helped me into my princess cut wedding dress.

“Emmy, I can’t believe this is happening,” I said as I admired what seemed like a thousand rubies attached to my frothy wedding dress with the gathered bodice.

“If you think this is something, wait until you see the gold satin draping over the chairs with strings of rubies sweeping down the centerpieces that match your dress,” Emmy said, pausing to look at me.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

“Nothing. I just wish mom were here, so she could see how beautiful you look. She would be so proud,” Emmy said.

I had vowed not to get sad about the absence of our mother, the most loving woman to ever live. She lost her battle with breast cancer when I was a young girl, so a lot of cherished moments passed by without her beautiful smile.

“Emmy…” I placed an arm around my sister’s neck. “Mom is always with me. Her spirit comforts me in times of need, just like she never left.”

“I just miss her so much,” Emmy cooed as a tear fell from her eye.

“I do too,” I said, hugging her neck tight. I then handed her my ruby earrings. “Here, put these on for me. We’re going to have a fabulous time today, so I want you to smile and enjoy the moment. Mom would want that for us both.”

“Ruby, you were always the one that made everyone feel better. You’ve always been my rock and I appreciate you for it,” Emmy said as she smiled heartily at me and finished helping me get dressed.

Through our silence, I could imagine mama singing her favorite song. Then, Emmy started humming I Won’t Complain, and it was as if mom was right there with us.

All of my good days, outweigh my bad days. I won’t complain,” she sang.

“See, mom is here,” I said touching the place over her heart.

Emmy hugged me close to her bosom. “Awe, sis, yes she is. And, I’m so happy for you. You’re gorgeous.” She lifted my train for me to walk into the hallway and line up with the wedding party.

A few minutes later, I strolled into the chapel feeling like a modern-day Cinderella. My cascading bridal bouquet with a single red rose placed in the center of fragrant blossoms was Ronan’s idea. He had said I bloomed for him like the velvety petals of a rose when he took my virginity, and each rose was a symbol of the love I’d given to him.

I still get the chills when I think of the way Ronan's eyes held mine as I floated down the aisle on my way to devote my life to him and live out my fairytale dream. Yes, I floated on clouds toward the one man I loved more than anything. I remember every vow Ronan promised me that day.

"My sweet Ruby, I promise to love you and protect you all the days of your life. I promise to be your shelter from any and all storms and to wipe your tears away when you're sad. I will always respect you and never take for granted the beautiful woman God has entrusted to become my wife. You are my soulmate who completes me in every way. I pledge in front of man and God to never be the source of your heartbreak. To break your heart would be like breaking my own, because you are my heart. One heartbeat that beats as one. Last but not least, I promise to never take you or what we have for granted, from this day forward, forevermore." 

His vows were so touching that I did nothing to stop the happy tears that flowed freely. Ronan touched my face ever so tenderly to wipe them away. I had written my vows on an index card a month before our wedding, but I decided not to read them and spoke from my heart instead.

"I promise to be a faithful and dutiful wife and mother to our future children. I promise to always be open and honest with you, and I promise to protect your heart as if it were my very own. I promise to never go to bed with anger and to love you, Ronan Michaels, with every fiber of my being. When I pray at night, you are the first person I pray for. And when I rise, your smile is the first vision in my mind. I thank you for being the man that you are. I couldn't be blessed with a better man to be my husband. My mind, body and soul are yours for as long as I live, now and for all of eternity."

Pledging our love on that day, I was never more alive and fulfilled when the minister pronounced us as husband and wife. I was ecstatic. We were happy and so in love. I never would’ve guessed that my best days were behind me.


Chapter 5


Ruby




Ten Years Later

“You know, I could always catch a later flight,” Ronan said as he rocked me side to side in his embrace. We stood near our bedroom door, neither one wanting to let go. Our love for one another was like a burning ember that refused to ever die.

“I would love for you to stay a little longer, but you have to get going. You don’t want to miss your flight,” I told Ronan as I placed a hand on his broad shoulder.

I was a bundle of nerves as I helped him get ready for his business trip. The longer he stayed home, the harder it was to hold my façade together. Chances of Ronan noticing the sadness lingering behind my smile grew with each passing minute. He had to catch his flight, so he could go to a business retreat, and so I’d be left to face the scariest ordeal of my life, alone.

“What’s bothering you, Ruby?” Ronan asked. The passionate way he looked at me told me he was reading me like a book. He was attuned to my every mood. This very fact could work against me, if I didn’t play my cards just right. I had to do something to prove to him that I was okay before he would leave.

“I’m fine, honey,” I lied as I buried my anxiety into the deepest recess of my being.

Months of empty smiles, senseless lies, and cover ups were beginning to wear down on me. It wasn’t easy to walk around and act like my body hadn’t been occupied by a terrible disease, when Ronan and I had been connected on every level in such a deep way. Deceiving my husband, whom I loved more than life itself, was the hardest thing I ever did. But he had to think everything was fine. I didn’t want him stressing about me.

“That’s what you keep saying, but underneath that gorgeous smile of yours I feel like there’s something wrong. My gut tells me that I need to stay here and be with you, instead of going on this trip. When I get feelings like this, it’s usually something to it. Tell me what’s going on with you, Ruby,” Ronan said as he leaned his face to the side and kissed my hand that was resting on his shoulder.

“There’s nothing to tell. Everything is fine, Ronan.”

“Take off your cape, stop trying to be superwoman and let me be there for you, for once, Ruby.”

My heart fluttered as I withdrew from him and walked away. Ronan was my greatest source of energy, but what I had to deal with today I had to face alone. My knight in shining armor couldn’t fix cancer, and I couldn’t stand the thought of his many possible reactions to my grim news.

“I’m perfectly fine,” I assured him with a bright smile plastered across my lips. “I just get a little worried about you traveling is all,” I said as I rummaged through the jewelry on my dresser, attempting in vain to find a pair of earrings. My mind was so far away, I couldn’t even concentrate on the minor task of putting on jewelry.

Ronan picked up a pair of ruby earrings with encrusted diamonds that he’d gotten me for my birthday. “Here, wear these. A ruby for my rarest of Ruby’s,” he said handing them to me. His choice caused a genuine smile to appear on my lips. “Do you want me to put them on?” he asked.

“Thanks, babe,” I said, examining his handsome tanned face. He smiled at me as I offered each earlobe for him to place the earrings on. His hand upon my ear sent warmth traveling through my aching body.

His hand touched the length of my hair. I cringed inside as I thought about the possibility of chemotherapy thinning and shedding every strand of my hair away.

Ronan, placed my hair behind my ear that had been in my face hiding the sorrow in my eyes. “I like seeing your natural hair, Ruby. I know you like to wear your array of wigs, but your natural hair is so much more beautiful.”

I took a quick step away from him before I said, “Babe, you have to go. Now, go on and go.” I shooed him toward the door, while faking another smile to solidify the fact that nothing was wrong with me. I didn’t want to talk about my hair with him. It forced me to think of my future… Our future. And it was too painful.

“Perhaps I’ll leave, now that you have a real smile on your face,” he said, turning me around and pulling me in for a long hug. “I’ve been with the company ten years and this never gets easier. I’m really going to miss you while I’m gone. No man should have to be away from his wife for five days at a stupid retreat. Are you sure you can’t come for a few days?” he said as he clutched me tight and brought me close to his chest.

I took that chance to close my eyes and inhale the scent of my husband that I had come to know and love so well. Whenever I smelled the scent of Ronan’s masculine cologne, I would always think of it as Ronan’s scent and his alone.  

“Who’s going to be here with the kids, if I leave?” I finally found my weak voice to ask him, while silently praying away my impending tears.

My God, I have to be here for my kids.

I hoped to be around for my children many more years. The peace I found in Ronan’s robust arms comforted me as uncertainty shook me to the core.

“My mother would love to come spend the week with the kids. All you have to do is say the word,” he said, watching me expectantly.

I pretended to consider his proposition and then said, “No, you go ahead and handle business and I’ll take care of the home front. When you get home, we’ll make up for any time lost.”   

“Oh, the ways I love you, my sweet Ruby. You know what to say to make me feel like rushing back to you. Take care of home and I’ll surely be on the first thing smoking back to you babe,” Ronan said as his hands began to freely roam over my backside. He kissed me once again, releasing a drawn out groan into my mouth.

“Umph, Ronan, I can’t wait until you get back,” I said.

“What about giving me a parting gift?” he asked, as he methodically grinded his pelvis into mine. His warm hands slipped inside the groove on the back of my dress and settled atop my plush bottom before he began to unbutton my dress.

“Roonaaaan, we can’t… You don’t have time,” I tried to convince him to leave on time. He had a flight to catch, and I had a very important appointment that I couldn’t miss.

“Turn around.”

“Baby, you have to get going.”

He eased around to stand behind me and pressed his body against mine. “Tell me you don’t want me and I’ll leave right now,” he said. His prominent erection pressed hard against my ass. “I’ll be a little bruised, but I’ll leave without another word. I promise.”

My head fell back against his chest as I basked in the wonderful feel of my husband’s love next to mine. Would this be the last time I would feel, want, and desire him? Would the procedure I was about to undergo take away my ability to bond with Ronan in the most intimate way?

Turning to face him, I felt so lost. I didn’t know what life held for me over the next weeks or months. Looking into his luminous eyes, I saw so much love. My mouth opened and I was ready to tell him everything I’d been going through.  

“Tell me, Ruby. Tell me you want me to go,” he said before I was able to say the words that were caught in my throat.

“Ronan…” I began.

My brief moment of confidence shrank back into the depths of my mind. Whatever made me think of telling him the dark secret that was eating me alive disappeared? The secret worried me so much that my hair had started to come out in chunks.

No. On this one thing, I had to stand and fight with my own will. Therefore, I gave in to the moment before me. The only moment I would concern myself with.

Fighting back my tears, I grabbed his tie and pulled him close to me. I kissed him long and sweet. “Is this what you want, Ronan?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. This is what I need, Ruby,” Ronan said as I pulled him over to the bed by his tie. As he walked, he discarded his jacket and tie seemingly in one action. “Lose that dress and I’ll show you the ways that I need you,” he added, as he stepped out of his pants.

I pulled the dress over my head and was about to toss it before he halted me by assaulting my lips. Moans escaped my mouth only to become trapped in his throat. He took the dress out of my hand and ridded us of any and all barriers.  

As he took a step back and admired my body that had gained a few extra pounds and visible stretch marks over the years, I could feel his eyes seduce every imperfection before he walked back over to me to kiss and caress my body.

He guided us onto the bed, where he climbed on top of me and used his legs to nudge mine apart. His eyes glazed over with lust as he rubbed a finger up and down my slick heat. His nostrils flared when he brought his finger to his nose and inhaled deeply to take in the essence of my heated scent, before bringing the same finger to his mouth to taste me.

“That’s right. Feed me before I go, sweet Ruby,” he said peppering kisses down my body to the juncture between my thighs.

I moaned a pleasurable sigh as Ronan spread me wide before him. His eyes greedily ate up the sight of my glistening heat before his mouth attacked the object of his desire with ferocity.

His mouth opened wide and sucked my plump lips in while his tongue found great satisfaction in attacking my clit with the precision of a seasoned connoisseur.

“Ronan!” I screamed his name in the throes of passion erupting from my core in a thunderous explosion.

He climbed atop of me, spread my legs far apart and entered me with no restraint. He groaned as he entered and exited, cherishing each stroke with his ritual call. “Ruby, baby… Oh Ruby. You feel so good,” he whispered sweetly against my ear as he made love to me as if it would be our last time together for a long while.

My moans and his groans permeated the otherwise serene room.

“Do you like that, Ruby?” he asked as his sculpted, tanned body moved in earnest to bring us both the ultimate pleasure.

“I love it,” was all I could say before his lips devoured mine. His tongue coated with the flavor of my juices entered my mouth viciously. I moaned aloud as scorching heat burned between my thighs as he thrusted deeper into my slickness.

Finally, his lips slid down my chest and caught a pointy hard nipple. I looked down at my husband’s chestnut head full of wavy hair and watched him feed off my breast. I gasped aloud as an electrical shock jolted deep inside my slick walls as he trembled savagely. His lips sought another kiss, and our kisses reached maximal intensity. His urgent rhythm meant the throbbing of his shaft had arrived at a climax. His hot seeds bathed my walls, and my nectar sprang forward with a satisfactory release lovingly merging our essence. We lay for a few seconds staring into each other’s eyes, having reached optimum pleasure in such a short time.

Kissing my shoulders as he eased off me, he said, “Thank you, Ruby. I think I can make it on that plane now.”

“Honey, I’m glad to be of service,” I said, holding a smile in place for his sake. A smile that faded when he entered the bathroom for a quick shower.

Within minutes, Ronan would be gone to the retreat in Cincinnati, unknowingly leaving me to deal with the life-altering decision to have a total hysterectomy. I hid my need for surgery from him, just like I hid the fact that I had stage one squamous cell carcinoma.

When my doctor called me back after a Pap smear and told me that I had some abnormal cells on my test, I was sent for an ultrasound, which also did not look good. Ultrasound-guided biopsy proved I had ovarian cancer, without a shadow of a doubt. I felt devastated, fallible and weak, when I found out. How was I, the rock of my family, going to tell my husband that I was in for the fight of my life?

I shivered with fear when I thought of telling Ronan of my condition, especially after how dad treated mom when she was ill. It would break my sister, Emmy’s, heart to know that I too was afflicted with cancer, so my plan was to beat this thing, like I’d beat everything else in life, on my own.

I rocked back and forth on the bed as I looked at the bathroom door and listened to the sound of the water running from Ronan’s shower.

“It’s best that I don’t tell him. He already has so much on him,” I said aloud, not realizing Ronan had come out of the shower.

“Who has too much on them? Ruby, what are you talking about and why are you shaking like that?” he asked.

“Nothing. I was just thinking aloud about what I was going to tell Shauntay about her friend Serenity. She asked me earlier for some advice,” I lied. Yeah, I threw Serenity under the bus, but I had to come up with something to say.

Ronan sat down on the bed beside me with his towel wrapped around his waist. “You looked stressed when I came out the shower. Are you sure that’s all that’s on your mind? With the way you’re acting, I’m about to call and reschedule my flight.”

“There’s no need to do that.” I played it cool. I had to keep a level head until he left. It was taking him forever to leave though. Any other morning, he would’ve grabbed his bags and been out of the house by now.

“Baby, if you need anything while I’m gone, just give me a call. If you can’t get me, call Mark, or one of our assistants. You have all of our numbers. I can be back here with you in a matter of hours, for any reason. Do you hear me?”

“I’m sure everything will be fine, Ronan.”

“You and the kids are my top priority. You are my world, Ruby.” He smiled.

“Thank you for always being here for me, Ronan. I love the way you take care of us. You are a wonderful husband and you deserve the best of everything. I want you to know that.”

Ronan knelt down in front of me. He placed a kiss on my hand. “Baby, I do have the best of everything,” he said as he stood up and started getting dressed.

As tough as it was going to be, I was going to kick cancer’s ass. I felt horrible for not telling him, but I had to do it that way. The news would crush him, as it had crushed me. I didn’t want the ghastly disease that had taken up residence in my body to also damage the love we shared. For that reason alone, this was a secret I was willing to bear.

“Ruby, a lot of these guys can’t wait to get away from their wives for a full week of five-star arrangements, parties and guy fun, but I’m partial to spending time with only you,” Ronan said, snapping me out of my thoughts.

He had redressed in a nice suit and tie, looking like the strong father and businessman I loved and respected. He picked up his suitcase and walked toward the bedroom door. I wrapped the bed sheet around me and followed him to the front door, where he kissed me goodbye and then looked deeply into my dark brown, weary eyes.

“I’ll see you Saturday,” he said, looking like he wanted to say more but decided against it.

“I can’t wait,” I said.

To be the subject of Ronan’s silver gaze was like being a bee drawn to honey. I breathed in his intoxicating scent once more before he tore his gaze from mine and walked to his car without saying another word.

Left alone, a sudden loss of his demanding presence washed over me. I watched him walk down the driveway. I whispered prayer upon prayer that he would be safe and that I would live to see another day.

God, please give me strength to carry this out, my inner spirit silently cried out.




Chapter 6


Ronan


I looked outside the window of the airplane. The sky was a perfect shade of blue and the clouds looked like I could reach out and touch them. I wished my Ruby were there beside me. Although a lot of business had been accomplished at the retreat, I missed my wife and kids.

My family was the life of me and I wouldn’t be the man I was without them. I thought about the sound of Ruby’s voice the last time we talked. Something seemed amiss with her and I couldn’t wait to get home and lay my eyes on her, to see that she was alright. Then, and only then, would all be right in the world.

“Sir, would you like anything to drink?” asked the flight attendant drawing me away from my thoughts.

I looked up into an attractive face that encased beautiful, brown slanted eyes. Her friendly smile immediately drew me in and rendered me speechless, which was a rare occurrence for me. “No, nothing for me at the moment,” I said.

Her smile grew wider as she looked into my eyes with interest. “If you need anything at all please don’t hesitate to let me know. My name is Misty Crewe, by the way,” she said pointing a finger at her name tag.

My eyes naturally slid to the cleavage of her full bosom, before returning to settle on her face. “My name is Ronan Michaels,” I reached out to enclose her hand in a firm handshake. Her hands lingered in mine a little longer than necessary, so I respectfully pulled it away.

“Don’t hesitate if you need anything at all,” she reiterated with her tone suggesting her offering was more than what was on the airline’s menu. I nodded and she reluctantly moved on down the aisle.

I peered out the window at the beautiful skyline as the airplane ate up the miles bringing me closer to my wife and kids. Then, I exhaled an exhausted breath, laid my head on the head rest, closed my eyes and waited for the airplane to land.


It was late in the evening, when I entered through the front door. The house was quiet and in shadows of the setting sun.

“Ruby?” I called out as I closed the door, making sure to lock it. I sat my luggage aside and walked up the stairs anticipating seeing my kids run from their rooms with open arms.

I peeked in Yasmine’s room, but she wasn’t in there. Then, I opened Benedict’s door and his room was empty, as well. Each of their rooms was tidy without the usual toys, clothes and sneakers that littered the floor on any given day.

I smiled at the thought of finding my three favorite people in our master bedroom together. The kids must’ve been sleeping with Ruby since I’d been out of town. I’d come home a day early and hoped to surprise them. I proceeded down the hallway to my bedroom and found the door was closed. I opened it and frowned. The curtains were pulled closed and the room was in total darkness.

I flipped on the light switch and the room glowed in light. My eyes traveled to the bed and found Ruby bundled beneath the covers.

I glanced at my watch. Our home was usually a vibrant place to be at this time of day. It was only a little after 6:00 p.m., much too early for Ruby to be asleep.

I walked over to the bed to sit beside my wife’s still body. Her even breathing let me know she was deep in sleep. I softly brushed a flyaway wisp of her hair from her beautiful face. Her once full head of hair had become thinner lately. I made a note to get her an appointment scheduled with a hair loss specialist, and to schedule a vacation so she could relax.

“Ruby,” I called out softly before I bent to brush her lips with mine.

She slowly opened her eyes and rubbed her hand across them as if to clear her vision. Her eyes held an unfocused look as she stared at me. She gasped in surprise before easing herself up in bed.

“Ronan,” she said softly. “I didn’t expect you home until tomorrow night.

“I thought I would surprise you and the kids, since we finished up the workshops a day early. I hope you’re glad to see me.”

“Of course I am, darling,” she reached out to give me a brief, weak hug.

I frowned in confusion, when she didn’t give me her usual hearty hug, and she didn’t act as happy to see me as she said she was.

“Where are the kids?” I asked instead of dwelling on her odd greeting.

“They’re with Shauntay,” she said speaking of her best friend.

“Well, I miss them and want to see them,” I said. “Give her a call and tell her I’m on my way over to pick them up.”

“Okay,” Ruby said, before maneuvering herself out of bed using slow and steady movements. I stood watching her as I unknotted my tie and slang it on a nearby chair.

“What’s wrong with you, sweetheart?” I asked, walking over to get her phone for her off the nightstand. I handed it to her. “You don’t seem like your normal self. Are you sick?”

“I’m fine. I just have a slight headache.”

“Are you sure that’s all?” I asked again feeling deeply concerned for my wife. I couldn’t put my finger on what was going on, and she was being secretive. The unsettling feeling in my heart before I left home was even stronger after seeing her like this. “You know you can tell me anything, and I’ll do everything I can to help you.”

“Ronan. I’m fine,” she replied as she scrolled through her phone, looking for Shauntay’s number. “I’m going to call Shauntay and tell her to get the kids ready to come home.”

“Good, and ask her if she and Mark would like for me to bring anything over as a gift for them watching the kids,” I said.

“I will ask, but I will warn you that they may be disappointed that they have to come home. They really love being around little Contessa.”

“Oh, so they’ve traded their ole dad in for the new baby, huh? Little rascals,” I said and Ruby and I laughed.

“They just like being around babies. It makes them feel like they’re little helpers when they get to take care of the baby,” Ruby said, and I could see her perking up as she talked about our friend’s new baby.

“Yassi and Benny are good kids, which is why I can’t wait to see them.”

I watched as Ruby made the quick phone call to tell Shauntay. I couldn’t hear what Shauntay said on the other end, but Ruby sent a quick look in my direction before abruptly ending the call with a promise to talk to her tomorrow.

“I wish I had known you were coming home, Ronan. I would’ve had dinner ready,” she said as she stood up and went over to her vanity. She picked up her brush and began brushing her hair back into place.

“Well, you’d normally have one of your gourmet meals on the stove by now. I guess you were on hiatus since I was out of town. You deserve a break too, so don’t you worry about a thing, sweetheart. Let me grab a quick shower to rid me of the plane ride, and I’ll pick up the kids and get something for dinner on the way home,” I said to her as concern for my wife continued to nag me.

“I don’t mind fixing something real quick. I love to cook for my family,” she replied in a shaky voice.

I walked towards my wonderful wife and pulled her into my embrace. “Woman, give your husband a real kiss to show me how much you missed me. That’s what you can do for me.”


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