A Christmas Surprise

A Christmas Surprise
Janelle Taylor

November 2012 $1.99
Available in e-book only

Will sharing her secret with her adoring husband creating a holiday disaster--or a Christmas surprise?

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An unexpected miracle or a risky dream? She never expected to get pregnant so soon after a health scare, and her work as a nurse makes her all too aware of the dangers. Will sharing her secret with her adoring husband create a holiday disaster— or a Christmas surprise?

Betsy Reed and her husband, Tommy, have a marriage that other people envy—romantic, passionate, and filled with happiness. The news Betsy brings home from her doctor right before Christmas could destroy all that. Against all odds, just a few months after surgery to remove cysts in her uterus, she’s pregnant. She’s familiar with the dangers of pregnancy—her beloved sister-in-law died of complications.

As Betsy and Tommy head for a Christmas in the Blue Ridge mountains, he begins to realize she’s hiding something from him. Although their nights are filled with desire, her holiday joy seems forced. He fears the worst.

New York Times bestselling romance author Janelle Taylor puts her magic to work in this Christmas story about love, courage, faith, and trust.


"A Christmas Surprise is a heart wrenching, deeply moving, emotionally fervent tale, destined to earn a keeper spot on your shelves… I instantly fell in love with Tommy and Betsy… At times it was laugh out loud funny and at others get the tissues out sad… If your looking to brighten your holiday season with a great, short story, that sparkles and shines then A Christmas Surprise is for you!" -- Sara Salan, Harlequin Junkie


Chapter One

"IT CAN’T BE TRUE. Heaven help us, it just cannot be true. My file must have gotten mixed up with someone else’s. Or the lab made a terrible error. I’m sure that happens plenty of times with all sorts of tests,” Betsy Reed rationalized aloud, as she tried to convince herself the laboratory’s reported results were a huge mistake, just as she had done with the nurse in her doctor’s office. She called to mind the blonde’s empathetic gaze and tone of voice as the female shook her head and repeated the dismal news. Obvious the revelation was distressing, the nurse had sighed deeply and said she was "sorry”, as if the blonde was to blame for the life-altering situation.

As Betsy drove homeward, she reasoned with herself as she often did when dismayed or while trying to figure out a problem of any kind. Tommy sometimes teased her about talking to herself, but it seemed to help her make the best decisions when she heard her pros and cons spoken aloud in a soft tone. "Of all the times for Doctor Williams to be away until next week. He could have gone over the tests, examined me, and resolved the ridiculous matter today. I bet he’ll discover fast who or how this blunder was made after his nurse tells him how upset I was. Was? Is! There is no way, no way on earth, the results can be positive. How dare a doctor allow a nurse to relate such grim information! We’re so young and we’ve got so much living to do. This condition will spoil our plans. Dear Lord, this can’t be happening to me. To us. Why?”

How in the world, a distraught Betsy worried, was she going to tell Tommy about what she had just learned? They were leaving today for her parents’ cabin, a place which held special memories for her, to spend their first Christmas alone together. She loved the idea of starting new traditions with her husband. She wondered if she should keep this dark news a secret until after the trip so it wouldn’t ruin their romantic weekend. The only problem with that plan was that he knew her well enough to realize something was wrong, unless she could keep them happily occupied all weekend. If she kept his mind on other things, he wouldn’t have time or the clear wits to suspect any distress or change in attitude. After they returned home, she would tell him about the medical report and hope he took the shocking disclosure better than she had, if it was indeed accurate. Maybe she should stay quiet until Doctor Williams confirmed the results.

Betsy was thankful she had not quit her job in the emergency room to go back to school, so she still had her employee insurance. She knew how hospitals treated those without it and knew she would not be able to purchase any new coverage with a pre-existing condition. She knew from experience that medical bills were high and added up fast. Where, she fretted, were they going to get the money to pay the deductible and the portion which her insurance didn’t cover? Even though Jimmy had said he wanted Tommy to invest in his contracting business, it would be a while before that happened. They had saved enough money for her to work part-time while she went back to school to pursue her dreams; now, that might not be possible.

A blaring horn startled Betsy from her tormenting reverie. She berated, "Don’t go getting yourself killed, Bets! Tommy would rather see you with this shocking news than identify your body in a morgue. Besides, there’s still a strong possibility it’s only a mistake. Don’t get yourself worked up over nothing. You’ll return to school, get your degree, and pursue your dreams in the legal field as you planned. Just keep your mouth shut and don’t lose hope. Wait and see if anything is going to change. It might turn out to be a big mistake.”

As Betsy pulled into the driveway, she saw Tommy standing at the door and talking on a cordless phone. He waved when he saw her and blew her a kiss. For a moment, she sat in the car and looked at the man whom she loved with all her heart. His brown hair was covered by one of the caps he preferred to wear when working. Her husband was one of the few men who looked good in a cap. She saw his full lips moving as he spoke to the person on the line. He was dressed in jeans, a flannel shirt and tennis shoes, ready to begin their trip, unaware of what loomed ahead for him. For her. For them.

As she stalled joining him until she had her emotions under control, Betsy’s thoughts drifted back in time. They had met almost three years ago when he came to the hospital for treatment after an automobile accident. She had been the nurse on duty in the emergency room and she’d had a difficult time concentrating on the doctor’s orders as Tommy’s grinning eyes and face captured her heart and wits. She had never believed in love at first sight, but she knew at that moment she wanted to spend the rest of her life with this man. How she came to that conclusion was anybody’s guess, but Tommy snared her heart the minute she set eyes on him.

She remembered how excited she had felt when his husky voice had asked her to hold his hand while the doctor put Novocain in and around his injury. She had obliged his request and soon found herself lost in his liquid brown gaze. He had required several stitches in his forehead from broken glass during the wreck, and apparently he had a phobia of needles, as did nearly half of their patients. After the doctor had repeated his command several times, she quickly handed the physician the instruments he requested.

After Tommy’s cuts were sewn up and he was released, he had asked in that shy way of his if she would join him for dinner to repay her for her kindness. He had thanked her many times for not laughing at him about his fear of needles. She knew when he grinned that sly grin of his and melted her heart, she could refuse him nothing. They had gotten married on the one-year anniversary of that momentous day, twenty-three months ago. She was certain she would feel the same way in a hundred years as she did now when he looked at her. But how would he feel, she wondered, after receiving her life intrusive news?

After pasting a bright smile on her face, Betsy climbed out of the car and went to greet her husband. She walked up the front steps to their rented home and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "I love you, sweetheart,” she whispered. He mouthed the same to her before he continued talking to Mr. Green, their neighbor, who was to watch the house this weekend.

Betsy went upstairs to finish packing her toiletries and last minute items and to look once again to make sure she had not forgotten anything. As she hurried about, her soul mate walked in and halted her task.

"Now, give your husband a proper hello,” Tommy said as he took her into his arms and lowered his mouth to hers. He delighted in Betsy’s response to his welcoming kiss and said, "I love you with all of my heart, Mrs. Reed. You’re so beautiful. I can’t wait to take you away and share a romantic holiday with you. I know you’ll miss sharing it with your parents, but I’m going to do everything in my power to keep your thoughts occupied elsewhere,” he promised as he lowered his mouth to hers again and delivered a sensuous kiss, which shook both of them with its intensity.

Tommy continued the seductive onslaught of her lips as he felt her desire mounting quickly with his. He cupped one of her breasts and heard her moan slightly. Man, he loved this woman. He had never desired any female as much as he desired her. All it took was one look or one touch or one moan, and he was lost in her. He wondered if she knew how powerful her touches were. He grasped a handful of her auburn hair and tugged gently to coax her to look up at him, as he was several inches taller than she was. Her blue gaze was filled with passion and love as it fused with his golden brown one.

"Tommy, I love you more than anything in this world, but if you don’t let me get this packing done, you’re going to have to finish something else before we leave,” Betsy jested in a merry tone. She felt his stomach tighten at her bold statement, as he seemed to ponder in which direction he should go. She felt his hardness pressed against her hips as he held her waist tightly. She also debated which path she wanted to travel following her dismaying stop at the doctor’s office. If only Doctor Williams had been in today, she fretted again, so he could have confirmed an error had been made with her test; but he had left town for the weekend. That meant she had to sweat it out until his return, and she would have to mislead Tommy until she was assured the tests weren’t wrong. She told herself there was no need to worry her husband unnecessarily. Yet, her troubled mind needed the comfort he unknowingly offered at that dark moment. Tommy always made her feel so complete. He encouraged her softly aggressive nature when they were alone, and she always made sure she let him know how much she desired him. The fact that they were best friends seemed to intensify their passion and strengthen their bond. It made them comfortable about exposing their raw emotions and completely exploring each other.

"I want you, Bets,” was all Tommy managed to say as he gently eased her to the down covered surface. Suitcases were piled on one side of the king size bed, but there was plenty of room on the other as he lay atop her and began lavishing attention to his favorite parts of her body, as if he could actually love one area of her more than another.

Clothes seemed to fall off of their own volition as they continued what Tommy had started. Their lovemaking was feverish, as each felt an urgent need to connect with the other. It was as if they sensed the surprises that were in store for them this weekend and needed to touch and to feel each other before they began their journey. They climbed the sensuous mountain peak in haste, conquered its beckoning pinnacle and sank into the peaceful valley below.

Afterwards, Tommy began to chuckle.

Betsy looked at him and tried to determine what he found so amusing.

"That’s what I love about you most, Bets: you want me as much as I want you. If it’s not true, please don’t ever tell me so I can die a happy man. I know this will make us late arriving at the cabin, but I feel much better and I know I’ll drive a lot safer.”

"Please don’t ever doubt how much I love you and want you, Tommy. I don’t think you realize it, but all you have to do is stroke me anywhere and I’m burning up for you. I think about you all day. You’re my life and I want to spend forever with you. Anyway, it’s not that late and you’re a good and careful driver, so I’m not worried a bit. Besides my wonderful husband and world’s best lover, I feel much better myself,” Betsy said, needing to reassure him of her love before she dealt him the staggering blow of her news, if she decided she should do so.

Tommy also worried over the news he was withholding, but he wanted to share this weekend with his wife before they tackled a major decision which would require a commitment from both of them. In order to redirect the path down which his mind had wandered, Tommy suggested, "Let’s take a shower together and hit the road. I want to get there before it’s too late, woman, because I’m going to need a repeat performance. And if you don’t get that beautiful rear moving soon, we might be leaving in the morning!” he announced as he pulled her to a sitting position.

They shared a quick shower as they highlighted the days’ events, though both were careful to avoid any hints to their separate secrets. They packed the car, turned off the lights and headed down the road to a weekend which could change their lives forever.

"THERE IT IS!” Betsy squealed, excitement running through her at the prospect of being back at her family’s mountain retreat. She looked at the large log cabin in the distance that consisted of three bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, and a sizeable den with a fireplace which almost spanned an entire wall. She had spent many weekends and holidays there as a child and during her adolescence. She had many happy memories about this place that caused her eyes to well with unshed tears as she viewed the beckoning sight.

They rode down the gravel driveway to the front porch where Tommy turned off the ignition and she jumped from the car and ran up the steps.

Overjoyed, Betsy turned and shouted, "I love this place and I love you!” Moisture glimmered on her cheeks as she gazed down at her husband.

Tommy got out of the car and came to stand beside her. His fingers gently wiped away a small drop that had made a wet path to her chin. His wife was not one who cried easily, so her show of emotion made his mental alarm bells start ringing. "What’s this, sweetheart? What has you so sad? Are you feeling okay?”

His genuine concern made her cry harder as Betsy knew she was withholding part of the reason for her tears. "Yes, I’m fine. This place just means so much to me and I guess with the holiday season and all, I’m just overcome with sentimental emotions. I had to put in a lot of overtime to get his precious holiday off to come here with you. Those extra hours, errands, shopping and preparations must have taken their toll on me. I think my gas tank is empty.”

"Then we’ll visit a station this weekend and get you filled up,” he teased with a grin before he waxed serious. "You’ve been working hard to get everything ready, Bets, and I haven’t been much help. With Jimmy sending me out to make so many bids for the company, I’ve been getting home pretty late, so I haven’t been pulling my fair share around the house. I promise you that will change very soon,” he vowed. Tommy realized his wife had been doing a lot, but he hadn’t comprehended the toll it was taking on her. Or, he mused, something else was bothering her. He told himself he had better find out if that was true before he made his disclosure.

Tommy put a finger underneath her chin and lifted her tear-streaked face to gaze into her blue eyes. "For the record, Mrs. Reed, I have noticed how much you’ve been doing lately and I appreciate everything you’ve accomplished for us. Now that we’ve made our escape, you can relax for a while. Until you start school, that is. Did you tell them at the hospital you’re reducing your hours and going back to school? Were you able to get the classes you wanted next semester?”

Betsy had dreaded those questions during the entire three-hour trip to the cabin, as she didn’t know what she was going to tell him. If she said she had decided not to go back to school, Tommy would suspect that something was wrong. If she deceived him by claiming she had not gone by the school to register, when in fact, she had been able to get the two classes she wanted, that also would evoke suspicion. Would she have to postpone those plans indefinitely? Only if the tests results were accurate. How was she going to tell him the truth, she contemplated, when his intense gaze anticipated her enthusiastic response, causing her stomach to harden into a nauseating knot?

Betsy answered the first question honestly while she contemplated her response to the other. "No, I haven’t told them I’m cutting back on my hours. It’s a tough job to fill, because you have to know a lot about everything to work in the emergency room. I was afraid Old Nurse Grumpy, as she’s called on the floor, would deny me the holiday weekend in favor of another nurse who’ll be staying full time, even though I was scheduled to be off. As hard as I’ve worked to get this weekend free for us, I couldn’t take that chance. I’ll let her know what my plans are when I return to work. She’ll be plenty mad, but at least our weekend won’t have been spoiled.” By her anyway, her mind finished.

"Tommy! Betsy! Merry Christmas!”

The elderly man who had approached the cabin via a trail through the woods interrupted Betsy’s explanation.

"How’re you young folks doin’? It’s good to see you again. Your parents called to let us know you’d be visitin’ for the holidays, so I wanted to come by and check on you. I turned the heat up earlier today to make sure the cabin would be warm. The radio issued a freeze warnin’ for tonight, so you want to make sure you get bundled up good.”

Betsy replied to her old friend, "Merry Christmas to you, Mr. Peters, and thanks for the warning. Think we’ll get any snow this year?”

"Maybe. We’ve got a forty percent chance, they say. Who knows, the weathermen can’t be trusted even with all of their fancy equipment. Only the good Lord knows what’s gonna happen and He ain’t tellin’.”

The threesome laughed at Richard Peters’ comment and the unpredictability of the weather.

Tommy said, "It’s good to see you again. We missed seeing you the last time we were here. How is Mrs. Peters?”

As the men talked, Betsy’s mind wandered to past vacations and holidays at the cabin. Mr. Peters and his wife were good friends with her parents and looked after the place during their absence. The Peters had been retired and living there for as long as Betsy had known them. She couldn’t remember a single time that Mr. Peters hadn’t come over to visit, and Mrs. Peters often had watched after her and her brother when her parents needed a night without the children. She and Jamie had loved staying at their neighbor’s large house and playing with the many toys and games the Peters had there for their grandchildren.

After his response, Betsy said, "Please tell her we said hello and we’ll be over tomorrow for a visit. Tonight, we want to rest and celebrate together.”

"Now, don’t you two go worryin’ about us old folks. You’re young and in love and need time alone; we understand that, trust me. That woman over there with the apron and gray hair makes my world go ‘round. She’s still the most beautiful woman alive to me. Just enjoy the night and we’ll see you sometime tomorrow. We’ll call before we come over,” he said and winked as he turned to head home to his wife.

Betsy and Tommy watched Richard Peters walk to where he had left his golf cart. She yelled to their neighbor, "Good night, Mr. Peters. Don’t forget to tell your wife we said hello and Merry Christmas!”

Richard smiled, waved and departed.

Tommy said, "He’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. He’s very understanding of us young folks, too. Hope I’m that way as I get older. Think young, stay young; that’s what I’m going to do.”

Betsy laughed, then suggested, "We’d better get our suitcases and sacks into the house before it gets dark. It’ll be night soon and the wind is already blowing in some of that cold air. I’ll unpack the groceries while you get a fire going. Are you hungry for anything particular tonight?”

"I’m always hungry for you, woman. I think I can handle getting a fire started and warming you up.” Tommy hinted, amazed to discover he already wanted his wife again. It had only been a few hours since they left the bed at home, but he felt as if he hadn’t touched her in days. It was as if she had this magical way of consuming his thoughts and inflaming his body.

Together, they unpacked the car and prepared to settle in for the night.

As Tommy placed the wood and kindling in the fireplace, his mind drifted to Betsy’s earlier comments and expressions. He sensed something was bothering his wife. Her eyes had not glowed when he’d asked her about school and work. Until today, she’d been so excited about getting started with her new career that her smile had generated considerable wattage every time she talked about it. He recalled they’d had several arguments before she had brought him over to her way of thinking, because he had wanted to start their family immediately. His parents had been considerably older than he was now when he and his brother were born, and he didn’t want that to be the case in his life. At twenty-eight, he wanted to have children while he was young enough to enjoy them as they were growing up and young enough to see them marry and have kids. Sadly, his father had not lived to meet Betsy nor their unborn children, and his mother wouldn’t realize she had grandchildren in her current mental condition.

He knew Betsy wanted to wait until after she began her new career before she took time out to rear a family. She had witnessed a lot of torment and suffering during her years in the emergency room, and she wanted to do something to help vulnerable victims who believed they had no one to turn to in their distress. His wife wanted to go back to school to learn about the legal system, so she could offer assistance to battered spirits whom she had discovered in her nursing duties. Tommy also surmised she feared childbirth because of certain horrors she had observed in the hospital. He cringed at some of the stories she had told after dinner about her routines at the hospital, not realizing the tales she revealed were as heartrending to him as they were to her. She took her patients' pain with her, which evoked many sleepless nights. He desperately wanted Betsy to find another avenue to help others without witnessing so much anguish herself.

Tommy lit the kindling and stoked the infant flames as he continued to recall the events she had been a part of at the hospital. Her brother’s wife had died earlier this year while giving birth to her nephew, and Tommy knew Cathy’s loss had left an indelible scar on her as well. She had been working in the emergency room the day an unconscious Cathy had been brought in by an ambulance. Betsy had done everything in her power to see that her sister-in-law got the best care, but it was too late by the time Cathy got to the hospital to save her life. They were lucky to have been able to save the baby. Betsy helped her brother and her nephew as much as she could as they traveled a new highway alone. She had loved Cathy as if she were a blood sister, so the loss had devastated her for weeks.

As the flames in the fireplace leapt to life, Tommy thought of Betsy’s eyes which had blazed with the need to do something new with her life as she had become increasingly burned out with the tragedies that she had seen in the hospital, especially after Cathy’s death. He remembered the look of relief that had crossed her face when Mr. Peters had interrupted their conversation and her answers to his questions. Something was definitely going on and he intended to get to the bottom of it and soon.

BETSY WAS FINISHING with the master bedroom and the bathroom essentials when Tommy joined her.

"I’ve got a fire started in the other room and enough firewood inside to get us through the weekend, so what can I help you with, Bets?”

Seeing his sweet smile, she melted again. "Everything’s handled in here. Your things are in the top two drawers and mine are in the bottom two. The rest is hanging in the closet. The bathroom’s ready for later, so that’s all for in here. You can help me with the groceries if you want. I’ve already put the food in the refrigerator, but I haven’t unloaded anything else.”

"I’d love to help you in the kitchen; it’s my favorite room here.” Tommy winked as he referred to what happened there after he proposed to her two and a half years ago, six months after they met.

"That’s because you eat like a growing boy. I don’t know how your parents afforded to keep you and your brother fed with the way you two shovel it down. I hope we have girls instead of boys or we won’t be able to feed all of you.” At the mention of children, her heart began to pound. She inhaled deeply, then released the spent air rapidly.

Tommy thought she noticeably shuddered because of Cathy and the strange mood she had been in all day. They had been unable to make the annual ski trip to Colorado with her parents and brother this year since he and Betsy couldn’t take that much time off from work. It had been impossible to negotiate more than the weekend and they hadn’t wanted to spend most of it in airports and planes. Actually, it was going to be nice to share this holiday with only the two of them, especially after the past year’s trials. They had joined her parents last Christmas and had enjoyed themselves tremendously, but they were looking forward to much needed private time together. "Let’s get that kitchen straight so we can start cooking. By the way, I’m already hungry again for another kind of snack,” he hinted with a contagious gleam.

Tommy’s provocative tone, words and mood set Betsy’s heart to thumping. His appetite for her seemed insatiable which made her feel like the sexiest woman on the planet. In the twenty-three months since they had married, he never seemed to tire of touching and caressing her, and always took her in his arms to soothe away her day’s worries. What, she fretted, would she ever do without him? Or him, do without her?

In the kitchen, Betsy unpacked the treats she had brought for them to snack on during the holidays. Meals, which she had prepared ahead of time, were stored in the refrigerator before she started their dinner.

Tommy took the coolers outside and dumped ice and water well away from the porch so they wouldn’t freeze and make entry into the house dangerous. He dried and stored them in the hall pantry. Now that they were settled, he decided, he was going to get to the bottom of whatever was troubling her.

Being lovers and best friends, Betsy knew that Tommy sensed something was wrong. She could tell by the way he was watching her and not teasing her as he usually did. She had to think fast of a way to distract her husband, because she knew she couldn’t lie to him and he was probably getting ready to question her again. "Tommy, I’ve already started the spaghetti to feed one of your ravenous appetites. The sauce is on the back burner and the water is beginning to boil for the noodles. Could you watch them while I run to the restroom?” she asked as he came into the room.

"Sure, sweetheart. Man, this smells good. You make the best spaghetti in the entire world, you know that? We should market this recipe and make a million bucks. Then again, there are some things I want all to myself. Greedy man you married, Bets. I won’t be able to move after I finish a plateful of this. I don’t suppose you made any of your famous garlic bread?” He posed the question with one of his most engaging grins to relax her.

"You know I wouldn’t forget the garlic bread, especially since you eat nearly an entire loaf yourself! But you better not fill up too much, because I have a surprise for you after dinner.”

After she winked at him, Tommy’s lower half felt as if it was sitting on the hot stove instead of the pots and pans. Man, this woman could do amazing things to his mind and body. He didn’t know if he could make it without her, as Jamie was being forced to do without Cathy. His cherished Betsy had helped him through one of the most difficult times of his life and he knew he would be grateful forever that she had wanted to become his wife. She filled him with such joy and passion that he sometimes imagined he would burst from an abundance of these emotions. "I thought we agreed to exchange Christmas gifts tomorrow evening.”

"I think you’ll want to get this present tonight. You’ll understand my meaning when you see it. Trust me,” Betsy purred, then sent him a sexy grin before she turned and sauntered from the room.

Tommy knew that "trust me” usually meant something was up, so he hoped he would learn soon what had her so distracted. As he added the pasta to the boiling water, he thought about her strange mood. Cathy’s passing and his mother’s stroke had made it a tough year for both of them. His heart ached every time he went to visit his mother who didn’t appear to recognize him. He hoped somewhere in her subconscious she knew he was there. One of the hardest things he’d ever had to do was place his mother in a nursing home. His father had passed away years ago, so now he was the head of the Reed family. His younger brother, who still had a lot of growing up to do, wasn’t much help with family decisions. Selling his childhood home and most of the Reed belongings to raise enough money to put his mother into a full care facility had added years to his emotional life. Betsy had shared the worst moments with him and held his hand when he needed it. She also had lent her muscles when he needed those to help clean the house and ready it for sale. His wife had sold furniture and belongings, except for those he had chosen to keep for sentimental reasons, as he had found that task extremely difficult.

"The bread! Hurry! It’ll burn!” he heard Betsy shriek from behind him as she rushed to his side. Tommy grabbed a potholder, yanked open the oven door, and rescued the garlic bread in the nick of time.

"Sorry. I forgot to tell you it was already in the oven.”

"Woman, you scared the daylights out of me, coming up behind me like that and shouting in my ear!”

"I’d better offer a whole dollar instead of a penny for those thoughts!” she joked and grinned at him. "They must have been good, because I’ve been standing in the doorway for several minutes watching you until I remembered the bread.”

"What were you looking at?”

"My handsome husband. Well, actually, my handsome husband’s rear-end, if you want the truth. Which is quite a pleasant view, I might add.”

Tommy turned and sent her a skeptical look, as he had never felt he was "handsome”. Thankfully, his Betsy thought he was nice looking or at least she told him he was. He loved her so much for all of the encouragement she gave him. He couldn’t wait to give her her present tomorrow. And the extra gift he had received today. He hoped she would be as happy about it as he was, as it would require a large commitment from both of them. Before he disclosed his news, he had to relax her and get her in a calm and receptive mood, a state she had lacked since returning home at noon. Something was wrong, unless she was just reacting to vibes of tension from him due to his secrets. It would all be revealed soon, so he’d know afterward if the tangible stress was hers or his. He prayed there was no new hurdle about to be thrust into their young marriage.

"Bets, I think you’re the most beautiful woman to walk the face of this earth. You should know I mean that because I can’t seem to keep my hands off of you. You have curves in all the right places.”

"I think I have too many curves. I could stand to lose a few pounds and tighten up my rear end. It’s getting a little heavy lately.”

"No! I don’t want you losing any weight. You’re the perfect size for me and my hands and my mouth and... Well, everything else, too! I don’t want to wrap my arms around a lot of bones. I want to feel a woman’s flesh beneath me in my bed. Yours, Bets.”

"I could stand to lose a few pounds,” Betsy insisted. "You always comment on the women on TV and in the movies who have the tight bodies and big breasts. I’ve never heard you comment on any woman who was excessively well rounded.”

"That’s because all they show are either tight bodies or overweight women, not much in between. I think your body is sexier than anybody’s on the tube.”

"That’s because mine is accessible. Wouldn’t you like for me to have a sexy body like those models or movie stars?” she queried with a twinkle in her eyes.

"No, because then all the other men would want you and you might turn the other way. I love the way you look. Besides, you’d be able to tell if you didn’t turn me on. It does show on a man better than on a woman.”

Betsy laughed. "I guess I can’t argue with that logic. I just thought you were always like this,” she murmured as she eyed the bulge in his jeans before her playful gaze met his smoldering one.

"I am, around you,” Tommy emphasized.

Betsy felt the heat igniting her body. She walked to the sink and washed the dishes they would need for dinner, as they had been in the cupboards unused for weeks. She knew her parents had the cabin sprayed for bugs and such, but she still performed the task her mother had taught her many years ago. Her husband was the most wonderful man alive, she thought, and always knew the right thing to say to her. She only hoped he would still find her sexy after her body changed. She already had one scar from surgery earlier this year, and perhaps more would be added to it if the tests were right. Would she be undesirable to him after her body changed?

Tommy kept checking the pasta as he continued to watch his wife. She seemed to move as if in a trance when she set the table. Her eyes appeared to glaze over at his last comment. He didn’t want to spoil their dinner, so he decided to wait until afterwards to have a serious talk.

Husband and wife sat down to dinner and discussed more of the events of the past week, as they had been unable to spend much time together with their hectic schedules.

"Susan caught her husband with another woman last week: that’s why she hasn’t been at work. I can’t imagine seeing your husband in the arms of another woman. Susan looks awful. She said she hasn’t eaten or slept since she walked in on them.”

"Don’t look at me like that,” he quipped mirthfully. "I didn’t do anything. Why is it that every time a man cheats on his wife, so many other wives starts looking at their own husbands in suspicion? It’s like that Fatal Attraction movie that everyone was so hyped about. Women everywhere took their spouses to see it just so they could warn: ‘See what could happen if you cheat on your wife? You’d better think hard and long, buster, before you do anything like that.’ Heaven help us men.” Tommy continued, shaking his head and laughing. "Most men never imagined being unfaithful. Thankfully that movie came out before we met or I’m sure you would have kidnapped me and taken me to see it,” he teased.

"Well, statistics prove it was more than fiction.”

"Numbers can be manipulated to back up whatever position you hold. Besides, just because someone else jumps off a cliff, I’m not going to be enticed to do it.” Tommy waxed serious, realizing for some inexplicable reason his wife was feeling insecure and needed reassurance of his total devotion and commitment to her. "Betsy, my love, there is no one in this world who would be worth jeopardizing my life with you. I think—if I made a slip—you might be able to forgive me one day, but you surely would never forget such a cruel betrayal, and that would forever change what we have. No, it simply would not be worth it,” Tommy vowed.

"What if you could do it and I would never find out? If there was a guarantee that I would never know and one of those hard-bodied nymphs offered herself to you, you mean to tell me you wouldn’t go for it?”

"Number one, that isn’t going to happen, so there’s really no use in debating this point. But for your information, my second point is that, even if you never found out, I would know I had betrayed your trust and our commitment and it would change things for me.” Tommy’s brown eyes showed his pain as he continued. "I saw the hurt and betrayal in my mother’s eyes enough to know the damage that selfish type of behavior causes. I never want to see that look in your eyes. A few hours of play would not be a good exchange for a lifetime with you. Are you trying to tell me you’ve found another man?”

Betsy replied in a sexy tone, "No man could ever measure up to the example you’ve set, in and out of the bed.”

"I feel the same way, Bets. There could never be anyone who makes me feel complete the way you do. I love you with all that’s in me. You stood behind me and beside me at one of the worse times in my life. I can never repay you for that. So why are we having this crazy talk?”

"I don’t know. I guess it’s like you said, women immediately wonder if a tragedy like Susan’s enduring will happen to them. I bet we aren’t the only ones having this conversation tonight. I’m sure that at least half of Susan’s friends and coworkers are doing the same thing. But you’re right; I do trust you and I know in my heart you would never do that to me or to us. The dull knife theory works well, too.”

Tommy grimaced as he unconsciously checked his intact manhood and urged, "Let’s change this subject, woman. I’m sorry about Susan’s problem, but it won’t happen to us. I promise. Nothing and no one will ever come between us. Now, do you want any bread?”

"No, you finish it off. I made it for you, my bread lover.”

"That’s not all I’m going to be loving tonight. As soon as my supper settles, I’ll prove to you that you’re the only woman for me, now and forever.” Tommy sent her a mischievous look as he placed the rest of her homemade garlic bread on his plate.

Betsy warned herself she had better stop acting odd and soon, or Tommy was going to get suspicious. She knew that part of her feeling of impending doom had to do with the news she was dreading to tell him. Her slight weight gain also had participated in her faltering confidence. She knew that some men cheated on their wives even while they were confined in the hospital, as she had been propositioned several times by a few of those kind. One of those disgusting episodes had occurred last week while she was in the room with the unconscious wife! Since Tommy had never given her any reason to doubt him, she fretted, why was she questioning him now? She really believed he would never abandon their commitment and she had promised herself to always make sure he knew without a shadow of a doubt he was number one to her. She had learned through occasional talks with the doctors on staff that many husbands simply went in search of attention. Most men hungered to feel that their wives needed and desired them above all others, and when they thought those feelings were no longer there, they went in search of someone who inevitably gave them what they were missing at home. Of course, Betsy concluded, that was often the same reason why a woman strayed from her marriage vows! Unfortunately, men did not see the correlation between the two slips and issued a different level of punishment for a deceitful wife. Well, she was not going to let that happen to them!

They finished their meal and began to clear the table.

Each briefly lost in mental dilemmas about their secrets and surprises...


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