Authors: Curtis Bennett
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or deceased, is entirely coincidental.
Cover design by CS Bennett
Cover Model: Ouida Robinson
Inset Photos: Virginia. Allen / James Burke
Copyright © 2011
is an intense romantic novel, sprinkled with sadness, joy, adventure, betrayal, sexual tension and emotional excitement. This is a dazzling and exotic and heartwarming, down-to-earth contemporary love story about an independent, self-made woman who discovers she is falling in love with a handsome stranger; a man who rescued her from a very violent and heart-wrenching carjacking attempt. The setting is the balmy coastal city of Tampa Bay, Florida; the city my leading character has recently relocated to. The two strangers serendipitously meet again, and from that point on, by design. In time, they find themselves growing on one other. Problem is my leading lady is being pursued by another love interest, a man she befriended several years earlier. As she wrestles with her feelings for both men, she is unaware that the handsome hunk she has fallen for is keeping an interesting secret from her, and that an old flame of his still has eyes for him as well. Add to this, he has a deep longing to be reunited with his lovely estranged wife. When these issues come to light, and certain characters in my book cross paths, there is an abundance of fireworks the likes you’d expect to find at a
of July celebration.
urt Douglass fumed silently as he climbed hastily into his car. Another late day at the office, along with a broken promise to be home early, put him in the doghouse for the third time in ten days. On whole, there was more paperwork than an arsonist could shake a matchstick at. Though a tab cliché, it was the response he favored whenever asked how he felt about his job. But it was a job and jobs pay the bills. Cliché or not, it was the explanation he was going to use when he arrived home to his wife. Of course, he would mention the staff meetings, telephone conferences, long-term and short-term strategy meetings and an impromptu training session. Hell, anyone could see how such a schedule made for a long and disruptive workday. Still, a promise is a promise and he had promised to be home early.
A sudden tropical downpour just as he left the building only added another cloud to his day. Though feeling down in the dumps, he struggled to put a positive spin on things.
What the hell
, he thought. After all, this was his last week on the job. Agency downsizing the bureaucrats explained it. By year’s end his state run agency expected to be fully privatized with less than half of the workforce.
Though it meant going on unemployment, he found solace knowing that he and his wife had nestled away emergency funds. Seven months ‘worth. They also had twenty-five grand invested in stocks and several mutual funds. With the current downtrend in the economy, he’d figure they had done well in the preparation department. But with the negative downtrend in the stock market and the economy, he knew their investment value had probably diminished to around sixteen grand. It helped that his wife was employed. Between wife, unemployment funds, investments and savings, he’d figure the two could comfortably sustain themselves until he found another job.
Turning on the ignition, he revved up the car. Though a used car it wasn’t just any old used car. It was a royal blue Corvette
with new leather seats. And it was in damn near mint condition when he bought it from old man Horace Johnson, a retired investment banker and longtime family friend. There was some minor bodywork that was needed but in time it would be done. He was also considering a complete engine overhaul. Barring a winning Lotto ticket, these repairs would have to wait.
An optimist, he’d gotten into the habit of picking up a Lotto ticket once weekly, though he never thought much about his chances of winning so he never spent more than two dollars a pop on any game of chance. It was pocket change he’d never miss, he’d reasoned. Most of all, he always played the same two sets of numbers. Had been for the past year. In a nutshell, the weekly opportunity to dream about what he’d do if he hit the big time was worth the price of two dollars.
Downshifting, he sat poised as though he was about to start the Daytona 500. And pole position at that. Today’s tempo would match temperament. And today’s temperament registered
. Stress, tension, and frustration often produced such results.
Cleared of the parking lot, Kurt gunned his sleek and powerful two-seater towards the New Jersey Turnpike. Although he was running late, he could at least minimize further dissension by getting home as fast as possible.
As he drove along the four lane road he revisited earlier thoughts of his lovely wife of eight years. Her recent and peculiar behavior troubled him, though. She had grown distant, almost detached from him. Why did she find it so difficult to fulfill her role as a supportive wife? Hell, it wasn’t his damned fault he was forced to work late the past few nights, he thought. To get paid, you’ve got to put in the time and the grind, he felt like telling her. It’s just plain ole business sense 101. Still, was that reason enough for an accusatory tone on her part or a lack of trust? Besides, had he not been thoughtful and considerate enough to phone her to say he was running late? Still, her coarse responses left him feeling like he had been stepping out on her. It was obvious to him that she had doubts about his truthfulness. And it hurt him to the core to even think this possible of her. There wasn’t anyone else in his life that matter to him as much as she did.
Okay, so there was Tabitha Baptiste, a Haitian born co-worker at the job. Though quite innocent a relationship, Tabitha was someone Kurt gravitated towards whenever he felt Leslie was not giving him the time of day. After all, everyone needed to be reminded of his or her self-worth. And if they were not getting it from wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, or partner and regularly, they were apt to get it from another source. And that’s where Tabitha came in. Just knowing that she thought enough of him to give him the time of day and much more was enough to satisfy his ego and self-worth. But remaining true to his wedding vows and his love for Leslie, he never took his relationship with Tabitha beyond what is commonly known as platonic. Yet he continued to anguish deeply over his relationship with his wife. If only she would open up to him instead of keeping everything inside. His home situation had gnawed at him all week long.
Though traffic was above normal levels, he was able to race five miles above the posted sixty-five miles an hour speed limit. Anyway, isn’t that why they made sports cars to go fast? Is this not why they were built to go over one hundred forty miles an hour at minimum?
In an effort to change the subject he turned on the satellite radio and channel surfed until he tuned into Dr. Joyce Brothers, a noted psychologist and national radio talk show hostess. The topic was marriage and the high rate of divorce in America. There were few family radio and television talk shows that did not have divorce as its main topic. Good thing he was in a solid marriage, he thought, even if he and his wife were experiencing some problems. Surely she would get over her sudden insecurity. God knows, he would hate to think how he’d survive if his wife decided to leave him again. Not wanting to hear any more about divorce rates, he changed channels until he found a Kool-Jazz station.
As if it occurred in slow motion, Kurt watched in stark horror, as the driver ahead of him lost control of his car on the rain-soaked surface of the road. Like a scene out of a Hollywood movie, he cringed as the sedan spun around 360 degrees in a swirling wall of water before slamming hard into the median guardrail as it came to an abrupt standstill.
Oh, my God!
Kurt thought. Damned tires must have hydroplaned.
And why me
Glancing at his watch, he pondered whether to stop and help out or continue on home. He wasn’t a doctor or nurse or medic, just an underpaid social worker trying to get home to his wife. After all, a promise is a promise. And he’d promised his wife that he would be home early. No excuses. None whatsoever! A life or death situation was never factored in, though.
Pulling the car over, he ran back to the site of the crash in the pouring rain. As he drew nearer to the car several other good Samaritans converged on the scene to assist. Unsure of what he was going to see inside the car, Kurt swallowed hard then peered in. To his surprise, there was an elderly woman at the wheel. She did not appear to be hurt or injured in anyway. She appeared more dazed than anything else. It helped those who had feared the worst that she was conscious and able to talk. She even made a joke about the situation. Yes, this was definitely a good sign, Kurt thought.
Out of nowhere, a middle-aged man and woman appeared, saying they were physicians. They introduced themselves to the driver as husband and wife. They took her pulse and asked her several clinical-type questions. The elderly woman responded aptly. Talk about feeling relieved.
The incident, though under control, left him feeling unnerved and dreadful. It only served to reinforce his notion that events can change one’s world at the drop of a dime. For good or for bad. In his world it was usually for the bad.
Sensing that everything was all right and the kind woman was in good hands, he decided to continue on home. Home to wife and family (a feisty Persian kitten and a frantic school of Tiger Barbs in his fifty-five gallon aquarium) and neighbors who often referred to him as the
eslie sat at the computer in her home office working on a report for the Monroe and Lambert Law Firm, which often sought her consulting services on matters of mental health and mental illnesses. A successful clinical psychologist, various law firms often called upon her to serve as an expert witness. With a successful professional career, a loving husband and having turned thirty-six the week before one might surmise that she was feeling on top of the world. Just three weeks before that, the couple had celebrated their eighth wedding anniversary. But all was not rosy at the Douglass household. For the past month she had agonized over a decision she had made and what affect it would have on her husband and their relationship. Worst, she was not sure how to approach him with it. But she knew she had to bare her heart and soul, and soon. What she had bottled up inside was beginning to affect her concentration and focus at her job. It was also causing her many a sleepless nights.
Closing her eyes, she prayed aloud for strength to get through the evening. “Oh God, help me, please.” she began, opting to complete the remainder of her thoughts in silence.
There was a faint sound from behind.
A shadow fell over the doorway as a deep rich baritone voice announced, “Is there something I can possibly help you with?”
She stirred, then rose up. It was her husband Kurt. And late as usual.
At thirty-two, Kurt was a distant and proud descendent of black abolitionist Fredrick Douglass. He was a man whose rich baritone voice once melted her like heated butter, and in some ways it still did. Instead of bucket-size doses, now it came more or less in tablespoons.
Turning, she glanced in his direction but did not look directly at him, wishing she could find some private corner where she could hide and collect her thoughts. “Honey, I didn’t know you were standing there,” she replied.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m all right, Kurt. I just had a few things on my mind. I was just wondering why you were running late again? This is the third time in five days, you know.”
“If you say so.”
“Well, it’s certainly nothing you should worry yourself about,” he replied.
“Well, I’m listening.”
“Look, there was an accident on the highway and I stopped to assist. It’s as simple as that.”
“An accident, huh,” she murmured before sitting back down