Authors: Deanna Lynn Sletten
Cassie stared in awe at the photos. "I forget just how talented you are at photography," she said. "You really need to start doing this for a living. This is what you love, and you're brilliant at it."
Maggie smiled up at Cassie. "Thanks, sweetie. I've been thinking about that more and more. I spoke to Andrew about opening an artists' shop, where I can display and sell my photos and other artists' work, too. He's not too thrilled with the idea, but he said we could talk about it."
Cassie grunted and turned back to her dirty pans in the sink. "You don't need his approval to do what you want. Don't you still have some money from your dad's house? You could use that to start your business. Forget what Andrew thinks. He only cares about his own ambitions."
Maggie turned in her seat and looked over at Cassie. "What is it about Andrew that you dislike so much?"
Cassie stopped washing dishes and looked at Maggie. "You mean besides the fact that he cheated on you?"
"You've never liked him, even before that happened. Why?"
"He's always been so damn arrogant. Even when you first met him, he just had a way about him that irked me. And his attitude has only gotten worse over the years. I figured that through the years with you, he'd mellow, but he's become sharper. He only cares about what he wants from life, and he forgets that you even exist." Cassie's eyes lit up with anger.
Maggie stood and walked over to Cassie. She wasn't angry with her cousin for speaking her mind, but it did make her sad that the two people closest to her in the world didn't like each other.
"He's not as bad as all that, you know. Andrew's family has a lot of pride, and it comes off as arrogance sometimes, but he doesn't mean it to. Most of the time, I think he's torn between being the man he wants to be and living up to his mother's expectations. "
"And did his mother's expectations also include him cheating on you with some bimbo from his office?" Cassie asked.
Maggie sighed. "No. I don't know what he was thinking when he did that. We never really talked about it. That's the biggest problem between us. We haven't sorted all that out the way we should have right away. We both just ignored it. It seemed easier at the time, but now, I realize that was wrong. It's why I left. All those hidden emotions just came to the surface, and I ran away from them."
Cassie stared hard at her. "This isn't your fault, so don't blame yourself. You always make excuses for him. It's time he accepted the blame for his behavior."
"We've been together for a long time, Cassie. We have two children together. What am I supposed to do?"
Cassie reached out and squeezed Maggie's arm. "I just want you to be happy. That's all. I want you to have what Matt and I have. Someone who cares about you and wants to make you happy."
"Andrew was that guy, once. We’ve just gotten off track." Maggie wasn't sure if she even believed her words, but she hoped she was right. She'd spent too many years with Andrew to just throw their relationship away.
Cassie turned back to her dishes. "If you weren't married, I'd try setting you up with Rob. He's a sweetie. You two would be perfect for each other."
Maggie walked over to her computer and sat down again. She couldn't believe what Cassie had just said. She hadn't even thought of Rob that way. As she continued working on her photos, Cassie's words kept tugging at her mind.
A while later, Maggie's phone vibrated on the island's counter. She picked it up and answered, happy to see it was from her daughter.
"Hi honey. How are you?"
"Mom, you won't believe what dad has done," Kaia said, sounding upset.
Maggie frowned. She stood and walked into the living room so she could talk to Kaia privately. Cassie was outside on the porch with Matt and Rob, and the kids were in their rooms doing homework. "What's going on?"
"He had a big argument with Kyle last night, and now Kyle has moved out. He was just here packing up his clothes and stuff. He told me not to worry about it, that he'd be okay at his friend's apartment. But I am worried. You should have heard them arguing, Mom. It was so awful. At one point, I thought Kyle was going to punch Dad." Kaia started crying, and it tore at Maggie's heart.
Maggie took a deep breath. She was so angry with Andrew right now, but she didn't want to say anything that would upset Kaia further. "It's okay, honey. I'll talk to your dad, and we'll settle this. Did Kyle say which friend's place he was staying at?"
"Nick's apartment," Kaia said, sniffling. "Mom, you have to come home. Dad is just going crazy. He's nice one minute and mean the next. Please come home."
Maggie felt terrible. She wanted so badly to reach through the phone, hug Kaia, and tell her everything was going to be okay. But she was two thousand miles away, and even if she left this very minute, she wouldn't be home for at least two days. She was so furious with Andrew. He made this mess, and he was the one who had to fix it—and fix it fast.
"Kaia, I promise you everything will be okay. Let me talk to your dad, and we can fix this."
"He's not here. He's still at work," Kaia said.
"What? He didn't pick you up from school this afternoon?" Maggie asked, growing angrier by the minute.
"He wasn't in a very good mood this morning, and he asked me to take the bus home. He said he had a lot of work to do and had to stay later today. After all the arguing last night, I just did what he said."
Maggie bit her lip as she paced the living room floor. She wanted to scream. Instead, she calmed Kaia down as best she could before saying goodbye and immediately hit Andrew's name on her phone. When he didn't answer, she clicked her phone off and swore under her breath. She decided to wait until he was home from work before confronting him, because if she knew him at all, she knew they were probably in for a hell of a fight.
Andrew's day was a nightmare. He couldn't concentrate on work, because he couldn't get the fight he'd had with Kyle last night off his mind. And then there was Kaia's reaction from last night. She'd looked completely distraught, and he'd realized that this was a problem that wasn't going to be easy to fix. But he was still mad, too. Why had Kyle acted so angry with him when all he wanted to do was spend some time with him? Kyle had insinuated he knew why he and Maggie were having problems, and that infuriated Andrew. It was bad enough to have his wife angry with him, but if she told the kids what he'd done, that was unforgiveable.
Andrew knew that Kaia was also angry with him for telling her to take the bus home so he could get some work done, but he didn't have much choice. Since Maggie left, his work had suffered, and it drove him crazy. He liked being organized. He liked following a schedule and keeping to it. But since she'd left, his schedule had gone all to hell, and he was constantly apologizing to coworkers and clients for not completing projects quickly. On top of that, he was upset about missing the Airport Planning Committee meeting last night, too. Worst of all, he hated to admit that, without Maggie, his life was falling apart. He had never realized just how much she did to make his life easy, and it irked him to realize it was true.
He saw a call come in on his phone from Maggie in the late afternoon, but he didn't answer it. He figured she'd probably found out about Kyle leaving home, and he didn't want to have that argument with her at work. Besides, would it really kill Kyle to live with one of his buddies for a while and learn what it was like to be responsible for his own bills? Andrew decided that he'd call Maggie when he got home tonight, and they could talk about it then. Until then, he had plenty of work to do, so he turned off his phone and dug right in.
Maggie kept her family problems to herself, as they all sat together at the dining room table eating the delicious salmon Matt had grilled and the asparagus tips, roasted potatoes, and salad Cassie and Maggie had made. They visited easily that evening, and, at one point, Rob said that he'd be leaving the next day for home.
"I didn't know you were leaving so soon," Maggie exclaimed, sorry to hear he was going. She was just getting to know him, and had hoped to visit with him more while she was here.
"I don't want to stay so long that I wear out my welcome," Rob said. "Besides, the weather is supposed to be clear the next couple of days, so I know it will be good biking weather along the coast."
"You know we'd never throw you out of here, Rob," Cassie said, as she sat back, sipping the last of her white wine. "Even if we were sick of you, we'd still let you stay."
Rob chuckled. "That's why I'm leaving. That way, you'll want me to come back soon."
"I bet that's a beautiful drive on a motorcycle down the coast," Maggie said. "A lot of beautiful pictures, just waiting to be taken."
"Gee, Maggie, you should tag along with Rob. After all, you already have the leathers to wear," Cassie teased.
Maggie frowned at her.
"Leathers?" Matt asked. "What type of leathers do you have, exactly?" He waggled his eyebrows at her suggestively.
"Riding leathers, you idiot," Maggie said, reaching out to hit Matt on the arm. "Keep your mind out of the gutter."
Rob looked at Maggie and smiled. "They must be from your wild ride with Wild Bill," he said, winking.
Maggie rolled her eyes.
"Actually, it's not a bad idea, you riding along with me," Rob said. "We could stop along the way so you could take pictures, and you could get some beautiful photos of my vineyards and home. It might be fun."
Maggie looked around the table. Cassie was nodding her head in agreement, and Matt seemed to think it was a good idea, too. She could tell from Rob's tone that he was serious. "That's nice of you to invite me, but I couldn't bother you that way. The last thing you want is someone making you pull over every few miles and ruining your trip."
"I think it would be fun to have someone along. You might enjoy yourself," Rob said sincerely.
"Yeah, Maggie, you should go. You can always hop a plane when you're ready to come back. You might have a great time," Cassie said, her eyes bright.
Maggie wavered a moment. It did sound like fun, riding down the coast road on a motorcycle without a care in the world. Unfortunately, she couldn't brush away her problems that easily. She had to fix what Andrew had done, and she'd probably have to leave and head home, too. But for a split second, she wished she could go with Rob.
"It's a nice idea," Maggie finally said. "But I really shouldn't. Thanks, though."
Rob threw her a smile. "You can change your mind anytime. I'm serious when I say I'll be happy to have you along."
Maggie nodded, but she knew she couldn't accept. They started talking about other topics then, but every so often, Cassie looked over at Maggie, smiled, and raised her eyebrows. Maggie knew she was silently trying to tell her that she should go with Rob, and she ignored her cousin. She didn't want to complicate her life even more than it already was.
Later, after the dishwasher had been loaded, the kids were in bed, and Maggie had gone off to her room to work on her photos, her phone buzzed. She answered it instantly when she saw it was Andrew.
"I tried calling you today," Maggie said, pushing aside all politeness.
"I know. That's why I'm calling you back," Andrew said. "What's up?"
"What's up? Really? You're going to play that game? Okay, then, you tell me. What the hell happened between you and Kyle last night?"
"Oh, you've heard about that. It's no big deal, really. We had a disagreement. He went to stay with some friends. It'll blow over in a few days, and I'm sure Kyle will move home then," Andrew said.
"Andrew, you listen to me. I don't know what you and Kyle were fighting about, but you need to go get him and bring him home. I don't want him staying at Nick's apartment," Maggie insisted.
"Oh, get off it, Maggie. You're right. You don’t know what happened. And it won't kill Kyle to be away from home for a little while. Weren't you the one who said he's old enough to make his own decisions? Well, he decided he couldn't live in the same house as me, so he moved out. Thanks to you," Andrew added in a nasty tone.
Maggie's blood was boiling. She got off the bed and started pacing the room, trying not to raise her voice to a scream and scare everyone in the house. "Thanks to me? What on earth do you mean by that?"
"You know damn well what I mean. Kyle insinuated that he knows what went on between you and me last year. How dare you tell the children? That's playing dirty. Our problems are between us. Bringing them into it so they'd hate me stinks."
Maggie stopped pacing. "How dare you blame me. I wasn't the one to tell Kyle anything. And I never said a word to Kaia, either. The fact that you think I'd do that is terrible. I have never tried to play the kids against you. No matter what you did."
"Then how does he know about it? And why is he so hateful toward me while he thinks you're so wonderful? I've never given Kyle any reason to hate me. You're the only one who could have done that."
Maggie shook her head. He was so clueless. Did he really think he could run around town with another woman and no one would know? "You really don't know anything. Do you?" Maggie asked, her voice quiet now. "The night that I confronted you about your affair with that woman, you never even asked me how I knew. Didn't you ever wonder how I found out about her that night?"
"No," Andrew answered sharply. "I just figured some nosy person like Derrick told you."
"No, Andrew. He didn't tell me, and neither did anyone else who knew you, even though everyone in town seemed to know. Everyone, that is, except your wife."
"Then how did you find out?" Andrew asked.
"Our son told me," Maggie said sadly. "Our eighteen-year-old son, who just happened to be driving around town with his friends and saw you and that woman in front of a downtown bar, kissing."
"Oh, my God," Andrew said, sounding stunned.
"Imagine how he felt," Maggie continued. "His friends seeing what he saw. His father betraying his mother. He was devastated. He came home and was so upset, that I asked him what was wrong. I could tell he didn't want to tell me, to hurt me, but he also knew I needed to know. So he told me what he saw. I had to hear about my husband having an affair with another woman from my son. Can you imagine, at all, how that made me feel?"