Before the Editor’s Cut: Charmed

I’m a self-professed movie buff, so director’s cuts and alternate endings fascinate me. So I thought wouldn’t it be cool to give reader’s an inside look at my books before the editor whipped the manuscript into shape.

Well the idea came into fruition with my very first post of BEFORE THE EDITOR’S CUT! Hopefully you readers will get a kick out of how much a story can change on the back end.

Charmed was the first erotic interracial romance I’d ever written and also the first paranormal. Just between you and me, probably the most fun and the easiest to write.

I guess you’re wondering why?  Well,during a voluntary six-month sabbatical as a high school American Literature teacher, I found myself bored and devouring every interracial romance I could get my hands on. 

And by the time Charmed formed as an afternoon daydream, I had over a hundred books under my belt. Thinking writing a book was a piece of cake, I already had two completed manuscripts (Heart of Harlem and Player’s Ultimatum) on my hard drive, I decided to try my hand at an erotic interracial romance. 

 So with Natasha Bedingfield’s, Unwritten blasting on auto-loop in the background, I banged out Charmed in two weeks.

Insane right?

I can’t really explain it, but my fingers practically flew over the keys.  It was like I wasn’t really writing, but someone else, and I was just the vessel.  Even today I see excerpts of Charmed and I look at it like did I write that?

Strangely enough it took me much longer to polish the completed manuscript which came out at a little under 40K. 

After a month or so of edits, I finally submitted it to Ellora’s Cave during the Christmas holiday, which is the best time to submit a manuscript. Other writers are killing themselves buying Christmas gifts so the slush pile isn’t as deep.  

A month after submitting, I heard back from EC editor Carol Genz who requested the entire manuscript. Yippy!

 A month later, I received a rejection letter.  Boo! Although she didn’t accept it for publication, she sent me a really nice letter, which included the reason for the rejection and a list of plot changes.

“I have reviewed your submission Charmed for Elloras Cave. After careful consideration, we have decided that this story is not right for us in its current state. However, your story has potential, and I would like to encourage you to consider revising it and resubmitting it for further consideration. Here are some pointers that explain this decision.”

Not looking a gift horse in the month or an editor, I immediately set to work, following all of Carol’s suggestions to the very letter including taking out the secret vampire baby at the end. Yes! Chloe was pregnant in the original version of Charmed. And Simon was secretly in love with her!

Funny right?

Anyhoo…by February of the next year, I felt confident enough to re-submit my manuscript to Carol who wrote me back with a contract for the revised version of Charmed. And the rest is history.  Curious about the original ending?  Well, you’re in luck because here it is in  all of its hot mess glory. Enjoy!  Oh…and if you have time tell me what you think.  

***

CHARMED ORIGINAL ENDING

Once his breathing was back under control, Chloe remembered herself. She untangled herself from his body and stood up. She reached down and picked up her robe. As she slid the silk over her shoulders, she armored herself against her baser feelings.

“Well that was nice. I think I’m going to take a bath now. I would appreciate it if you were gone by the time I came out.” Not waiting for his answer, Chloe spun on her heels and headed for the bathroom. She’d only taken a few steps, before his hand on her elbow brought her up short.
“Excuse me I don’t think I heard you correctly.”

Chloe looked down at his hand, and then swung her eyes up to his. Her face was a dispassionate mask. “I said, I am going to take a shower. And when I get out, I would like you to be gone.” Chloe enunciated, as if her were a three year old child.

“You can’t be serious after what just happened,” he croaked, Chloe flinched at the emotion she heard in his voice. However, she steeled herself against her own feelings and twisted the dagger in even deeper.
“I’m very serious Tristan. I can’t help it that you could not resist my charms. Nothing has changed. I still want a divorce.”

“So you just used me…for sex?” he hissed his eyes narrowing in anger. Chloe couldn’t help from taking a step back. She could practically smell the disgust seeping from his pores.

“Now you know how it feels.”

Chloe had to keep herself from reaching for him when he suddenly dropped his hand from elbow as if it burned him. Her resolve crumbled even more when she noticed how badly her hands itched to touch him as he silently put back on his clothes.

Once he was dressed, she walked him to the front door. “Have your solicitor forward me another copy of the divorce papers. My first copy seems amiss.” He mumbled stepping into the hallway.

Chloe felt a stabbing pain in her chest at the flippant way he’d addressed the issue. Just moments ago, he’d didn’t want to hear of it. Now he seemed so resigned. Tears welled in her eyes, yet pride kept her from deviating from her course.

“I will first thing in the morning.” Chloe shut the door so quickly that she didn’t see him turn back around.

****

“Ms. Walker, there’s a gentleman by the name of a Mr. Winthrop here to see you…Pop”

Chloe cringed. She was going to make a memo to herself to talk to Keisha about chewing gum at work. It got on her last nerve whenever she would finish her sentences with that annoying pop.

“Send him in. Could you tell him I only have few minutes to spare? I need to be in Alpharetta in an hour to meet Shirley for dinner.” And she was going to make that dinner date if it killed her for she was hungry as a horse. Plus she was now eating for two and she needed to make sure her baby was born healthy.

“Sure thing Ms. Walker, I’ll send him right in.”

Chloe cleared her desk of the designs she’d received from the interior designer this morning. She had hired them to change her second bedroom into a nursery. She absolutely adored their ideas. This was her first baby and she wasn’t sparing any expense and her baby girl was going to have a room befitting a princess.

“Come in.” Chloe called out. She looked up in surprise at the middle-aged gentleman standing in the doorway. He looked rather smart in his black suit and matching bowler. Rising to her feet agilely, despite her condition, Chloe indicated one of the chairs on the other side of her desk. Sticking out her hand, she became extremely self-conscious at the way Mr. Winthrop stared a little too long at her protruding belly.

“Don’t worry it won’t bite,” Chloe quipped. “But I would advise you remain on the other side of the desk because it sure likes to kick.”

“You look…absolutely radiant, if I may be so bold as to say?” Mr. Winthrop asked as he removed his hat from his head.

Chloe smiled at the man’s nervousness. “Do you honestly think I am going to keep you from complimenting me? I look like I am about to explode, so any flattery regarding my appearance is very welcome.”

“When are you due?” he asked looking at her sharply.

Not an uncommon question, considering her advance condition. “I’m due at the end of August and I can’t wait.”

The man nodded his head as if satisfied with her answer.

“So, Mr. Winthrop how can I help you?” Chloe waited as the older gentleman cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“Unfortunately, I am the bearer of bad news. I’m here on behalf of your estranged husband and my client, Mr. Tristan Smythe. He has instructed me to hand deliver divorce papers. And I am not to leave until they are signed.”

Mr. Winthrop reached inside his black portfolio and pulled out a stack of papers. Chloe turned her head and looked out the window. The Atlanta skyline twinkled far below, yet she didn’t see any of it. She scolded herself for her momentary weakness, especially since she’d prepared for this day, she just wished it had been later rather than sooner.

“Are you okay mum?”

Chloe nodded. It was her turn to clear her throat before she answered. “I’m perfectly fine Mr. Winthrop. In fact, I was expecting this, especially since I didn’t send mine off as promised.”

“Why didn’t you send them?” Mr. Winthrop asked. He was now leaning forward in his chair as if eager to know her reply.

“Well, I was going to send. In fact they were ready to be mailed months ago, but three weeks after I conceived, I discovered I was pregnant. I don’t mind raising my child by myself Mr. Winthrop, but I’ll be damned if my child is going to be born a bastard. So, I held off sending Tristan the divorce papers until after the baby was born.”

“Smart girl,” he mused nodding his head like a bobble-head doll. “So, what would you have me do?” he asked pushing his horn-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose.

Chloe looked at Mr. Winthrop sharply, and then a smile spread across her features. Although he worked for her husband, he was obviously sympathetic to her plight.

“I would greatly appreciate it if you would inform Mr. Smythe that I do not expect any support for myself or the baby. He will also be granted visitation rights anytime he wants. However, I will not sign the divorce papers, until the day my child is born and no day sooner.

“I will mum.” Mr. Winthrop slid the stack of papers back into his briefcase then snapped it shut. A smile broke out on his face as he stood. “It has been a pleasure.” He announced tipping his hat at her.

****

“So how did it go? She didn’t tear into she did?” Tristan asked looking up from the conference table filled with blueprints he and Simon had commissioned for a new hotel in Hong Kong.

Tristan chuckled at the thought of poor Winthrop having to fight off Chloe when she was presented with the divorce papers.

“Actually, she was quite charming,” Mr. Winthrop replied removing a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping his balding pate. Although it was early evening, the Vegas heat still got to the poor man. Even at early evening. Taking pity on him, Tristan offered him a drink. However, the man politely refused.

“Charming you say?” Tristan asked turning his attention back to the blueprints, effectively hiding his reaction from his solicitor.

“Yes, even when she refused to sign the divorce papers.” Winthrop waited for his explosion. It wasn’t long in coming.

“What do you mean she refused?!” Winthrop watched as his employer’s hands tightened into fists. “What kind of game is she playing now? She was the one who wanted this bloody divorce.” Tristan’s fist slammed into the conference table with such force that the sound of cracking wood reverberated through the quiet conference room.

“She’s not playing games,” Winthrop replied in a crisp tone.

“You forget whom you work for Winthrop,” Tristan sneered. “It seems my wife has bewitched you as well. First my brother, and now you. Oh she’s a bloody piece of work that one.” Tristan stalked over to the drawing board and pored himself a drink.

“I know perfectly well whom I work for Mr. Smythe. However, if you would give me a chance to explain her reasons for not signing the papers instead of flying into a rage…”

Tristan looked at his solicitor sharply. If the man had not worked for him for the past thirty years, and his father before him, he would have upbraided him. Instead he sighed heavily and took a swig from his drink.

“I’m sorry Winthrop. I’ve been under pressure lately from this new development, then having to deal with this issue. I have not been myself lately.”

Winthrop snorted. If you asked him, his employer had not been himself since Chloe Walker stepped into the picture.

“Perfectly understandable sir. As I was saying, your wife is not playing games. In fact, she promised she would sign the papers in a couple of months.

“Why in a couple of months?” Tristan tossed down the brandy he’d poured then slammed the tumbler back on the serving board. Seeing Winthrop’s disapproving look, he smiled apologetically.

“Well…I’m not sure whether to congratulate you or not, but your wife is pregnant. She’s due at the end of August.”

The color drained immediately from Tristan’s face. Yet he didn’t reply to the solicitor’s announcement. So Winthrop continued.

“She guaranteed me that once that child was born, she would sign the papers. She also wanted me to inform you that she doesn’t expect any support for either herself or the child.”

“Did she tell you what she was having?” Tristan asked. As he waited for Winthrop’s answer, his mind raced over the calculations in his head. And the numbers all lined up. He was most definitely the father.

“No unfortunately, she did not volunteer that information. And I did not ask.”

Tristan nodded his head. He walked over to the window and looked down at the strip below.

“If there is nothing else, sir, I would like to excuse myself. I came right here once my plane landed. And I have not had the opportunity to freshen up.”
Tristan turned slightly, yet didn’t look at Winthrop. He bowed his head and rubbed his hand along the back of his neck. “You may go Winthrop. I have no further need of your services today. If I need you, I’ll call.”

Once he was alone, Tristan spun his desk chair around to face the windows. He then sat down heavily.

Oh he wished he would have been a fly on the wall when she found out that her little act of revenge had gotten her into deeper trouble. She’d probably cursed him to hell and back. Serve the vixen right. It took all of his willpower to walk away from her that day in her apartment. His hands practically itched to ring her pretty little neck for deceiving him like she did.

A smile spread across Tristan’s features as he thought of his estranged wife. She was an anomaly. How had she been able to out of all the women he’d bedded to be the one who wound up pregnant? He knew in fact that Katrina had tried doing the same thing for years, but failed.

Well, Chloe’s deceit had unknowingly provided him with the most beautiful gift. And that was his first born child.

Tristan spun around in his chair. He reached for the phone and pressed the intercom button. Judy’s crisp accent answered on the other end.

“Yes, Mr. Smythe?”

“Judy I need you to locate me a realtor in the Atlanta area.”

“Do you want me to contact your wife?” Tristan smiled. Judy obviously thought he was beating around the bush.

“No Judy, I don’t think she will be too keen on helping me find what I need. Anyway, I need you to locate a realtor and enlist their services in the purchase of a permanent residence for me, preferably in the Buckhead area.”

“Yes, sir.” Although Judy sounded somewhat surprised on the other end, she did not burden him with a ton of questions. “Is there anything else?”

“Yes, Judy there is…could you get my mother on the phone? I have tremendous news to give her. I’m going to be a father.”

****

Two weeks after Mr. Winthrop’s visit, Chloe was sitting in her office preparing a good faith estimate for one of her investors, when she received another unexpected guest this time from across the pond.

“Well, well, well. Mr. Winthrop didn’t lie. You look absolutely gorgeous.”
Chloe looked up from her calculator and her mouth dropped open.

“Simon,” she murmured looking him over quickly then just as quickly, her eyes darted past him to the door.

“No need to worry, love. My big bad brother isn’t here.” Simon walked towards her then took a seat in one of the chairs in front of desk.

“Although I feel he should have been, but that is neither here nor there.”
“What do you want Simon?” Chloe asked cutting to the chase. Her feet were swollen and the elastic on her skirt was cutting into her side. She was in no mood today for games.

“Games? You are the one to talk about not wanting to play games.” Chloe gnashed her teeth. She’d forgotten their hidden talent for reading minds.
“What are you getting at Simon?”

“I’ll get to that eventually. But first, I would like to talk business. I see that those parcels of land are still available downtown. If you are still game, I would like you to handle the acquisition of these properties.”

“I don’t think it would be a good idea for Tristan and I to be working….”Simon held up his hand to interrupt her.

“Nonsense. Tristan has nothing to do with this. This property will be developed by my own private company. Tristan won’t even have a share in it, I will be bankrolling the whole thing myself.”

“Well….in that case, I would have to reconsider. If you want we can meet tomorrow to go over the numbers, and then discuss a possible offer. And if you’re satisfied you can sign the contracts.”

“Jolly good. Now that that’s settled, I have one more issue to discuss. You’ve been a naughty girl Mrs. Smythe. And I think I’ve been partly to blame.”

“What are you talking about Simon?”

Simon rolled his eyes heaven word at her mocked ignorance. “Don’t you play innocent with me. You know perfectly well what you did. Unfortunately, it might have been done in error.”

Now it was Chloe’s turn to roll her eyes. “Simon I am about to throw you out on the curb if you don’t stop speaking riddles and come out with it.”

“Okay, okay. Do you remember Raleigh’s get together earlier this year?” When Chloe nodded her head, he continued. “Well, I guess you remember how I accused my brother of charming you?” Simon pulled at the collar of his shirt uncomfortably.

“Yes, I remember,” Chloe leaned back in her chair and rubber her belly.

Simon watched her closely, like a hawk eyeing his prey. If his brother only knew how jealous he was of him at this moment, had always been, he’d be embarrassed. Simon knew deep down that was the one of the reason for revealing Tristan’s deceit.

Simon cleared his throat uncomfortably. “Well as you know my brother admitted to charming you that week long ago in Vegas. However, he said that soon after you were married he released the spell. Therefore, explaining why you went ballistic on your honeymoon and left the poor man holding the bouquet.”

“So what you are trying to tell me? Tristan only used his powers up until our wedding ceremony?” At Simon’s affirmative nod, Chloe turned her head and stared out the window. “What about our other subsequent meetings?”

“Well I’m not for sure. He said that he didn’t, but only you can confirm his honesty.”

Chloe averted her gaze from the window back to Simon. She caressed her belly, while she stared at him. “Why are you telling me all of this? Did you somehow think that by telling me this that I would go running out of here and into your brother’s arms?”

“Well not exactly run, but at least give the old sport the opportunity to explain himself, which you haven’t. He’s really torn up about this, Chloe. All he does is work.”

Simon ignored her snort. “I’m not sure if he told you, but he’s deeply and madly in love with you. In fact, he admitted to me that he was completely taken by you the moment he’d laid eyes on you. The bloodlust hit him so hard that he had to have you or he would go insane.”

“Blood lust? What is that?”

“Well it’s a condition that vampires experience only once in their lives. Thank goodness! When we have found our one true mate we become utter fools in some instances raging lunatics. That’s why Tristan took such drastic measures and resorted to magic to win you over.”

“Matter of fact considering who my brother is you were quite lucky he spared you from the full brunt of his bloodlust. You might not have survived.”

“This is utterly ridiculous!” Chloe chuckled. “You honestly think I am going to believe that your brother is in love him with me? That he saw how beautiful I was and went to great lengths to win me over?“

When he nodded his head, Chloe burst into laughter. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately Mr. Smythe? Do you have any idea how attractive you and your brother really are? Why you both look like supermodels. And I’m definitely not supermodel material, especially not now. I’m big as a house.”

“You’re lovely,” Simon breathed his eyes seeming to devour her. “Chloe, we have been on this earth for hundreds of years. The women of today would be considered ugly to past generations. You on the other hand would have been worshiped. Your luscious curves immortalized in paint. Despite what you may be thinking and what today’s society wants you to think, you are a very beautiful and desirous woman Chloe. It is no wonder, that my brother wanted you so badly.”

Chloe cleared her throat; she was never one to take compliments well. In an effort to take the spotlight off of her, she changed the subject. “So, how do I know that he didn’t use his powers anymore after the wedding?”

“Well, actually it’s quite easy. Tristan told me that you recalled only bits and pieces of your courtship. So, the only thing you have to do is think back to those moments when you were with him last and ask whether or not if those events were extremely clear to you afterwards or not. If they appear vague to you, then my brother is a lying bastard. If they remain clear in your memory, then you’re lying to yourself.”

For several moments, both of them sat there staring at each other. Eventually, Chloe broke the tension. She leaned over and pressed a button on her office phone. “Keisha, could you please pull the Smythe & Smythe file. Our new client Mr. Simon Smythe needs to look over it tonight before he makes an offer on it.”

“Sure thing Ms. Walker, I will have it ready for him when he comes out.”

“Thank you Keisha.” Chloe was thankful the younger woman had discarded her gum.

Rising to her feet, Chloe reached out her hand to bid Simon good bye. He eagerly enveloped her tinier hand in his. Geesh! He’s such a handsome man, Chloe thought. If she hadn’t met his brother first, she would have easily fallen for him as well.

“That would have been nice.”

Chloe’s brow knitted in confusion. “What would have been nice?”
“If you would have met me first, instead of my brother, but I guess it was for the best,. Then you would have had two vampires in love with you not just one.”

****

“So, what do you ladies think?” Stella Rose asked, her hands planted on her wide hips. Clad in a turquoise and orange muumuu, she looked more like a trailer park diva rather than Atlanta’s most sought after interior decorator.
“I absolutely love it!” Chloe exclaimed sitting down in the pink and white stripped sofa chair placed in the corner of the room.

Stella had bordered the entire room with wainscoting painted a crisp white. Above that, she’d applied pink and white wallpaper decorated with a bow pattern. All the furniture handmade by an Amish carpenter and painted white as well.

“So what do you think momma?” Chloe asked looking apprehensive. It was always so hard to please her mother.

“I think its beautiful baby girl. But will Selah’s daddy like it?”
Chloe groaned. It was official. Her mother had just gotten on her absolute last nerve.

Ever since the day she told her mother she was pregnant, she’d been harping about will the baby’s father her like this or will he like that. As if talking about him would make him suddenly materialize.

No matter how many times Chloe kept reminding her mother that Tristan was no longer in the picture, she still harbored some deep seated hope that he would come sweeping in the door to save her only child from single parenthood.

“Mama, please. I’ve had a long day at work and really don’t want to hear a lecture right now.” And a lecture it would be. Having to sit through one of her fire and brimstone speeches was akin to ancient Japanese water torture.

“Well, I was just hoping you all would come to your senses and patch things up.”

Chloe opened her mouth, but thought better of it. No matter what she said her mother was stubborn and old fashioned. Thankfully for her, the doorbell rang and she could make a temporary escape.

“I’ll get it,” Shirley replied quickly. She was out of the room before Chloe could scoot her way to the end of the chair. Damn! She’d beaten her to the punch.

“What do you think of the mobile I bought? Do you think it’s too much with the canopy and all?” Stella Rose asked from across the room.
Chloe smiled at her and shook her head. She’d effectively changed the subject to a safer topic. “I think it’s perfect.”

“Ummmm…you have guests.” Shirley announced returning from the living room.

“Who? I’m not expecting anyone.” Chloe asked running her hands over any imaginary wrinkles in her beige St. John’s knit suit. She grew uneasy when Shirley glanced at Chloe’s mother, who was preoccupied with grilling Stella Rose.

“I think you better go see yourself. I’ll stay here with Momma B and Stella.” Shirley replied cryptically.

Shrugging her shoulders, Chloe left the nursery and walked down the hallway, the warmth of the wood floors felt heavenly to her swollen bare feet.

“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. We were preoccupied in the nursery…”

Chloe stopped in her tracks. Tristan stood in the middle of the living room in the exact same place they’d made love all those months ago. Although she tried to prevent from herself from doing so, her eyes hungrily raked over every inch of him.

He wore a pair of distressed jeans low on his hips and a short sleeved polo shirt in Kelly green, a perfect compliment to his eyes. He’d also cut his hair short, probably in an attempt to tame his wayward curls. Either way, he could probably shave it bald and she’d still think he was beautiful.

Chloe couldn’t hold back the thrill of pleasure that passed through her. Despite all that had passed between them, she was pleased as punch by his appearance. She wanted her daughter to know her father. However, she knew deep down it was more than that.

“Well she sure doesn’t act like she’s indifferent to you.”

Chloe stiffened at the autocratic tone of the woman who sat on the living room sofa. She was so worked up about Tristan’s sudden appearance that she didn’t even notice he had company.

“Young lady, if you are done with drooling over my son, could you please come over here so that we may be introduced properly.”

Chloe’s face heated in embarrassment. Squaring her shoulders, she crossed the living room and sat on the sofa next to the older woman. Her jet black hair was pulled back in a neat little bun and she was clad in a pair of winter white trousers and a sleeveless black turtleneck.

She was the epitome of British chic. Her emerald green eyes, so like Tristan’s raked her over once, then twice. Eventually she smiled and extended her hand, which Chloe took and shook gently.

“My name is Victoria Smythe. I’m already quite familiar with yours for you’re the one who has bewitched my son.” She drawled her voice clipped and aristocratic.

“Mother.” Tristan groaned.

I guess no matter human or vampire. Mother’s always had a way of embarrassing their children Chloe thought. Gosh she couldn’t wait to be a mother.

“I think you have it all wrong, Mrs. Smythe. It was your son who bewitched me. Not the other way around.”

“Hmmmm, I beg to differ. My son has acted foolishly ever since he laid his eyes on you. Even to the point of using his powers to court you. Like I said, it seems to me that you bewitched him.”

Not liking the fact that she was being accused in her own home, Chloe decided to change the subject. “So, what brings you two here?”

“Well my son, has failed to introduce me to his new wife,” Tristan’s mother stated looking pointedly at him. She then shifted her gaze back to Chloe and placed her hand on top of hers. “Dear girl, when I was informed that you were carrying my first grandchild, I absolutely insisted on meeting you. I must have you know that I would dearly love for us to become good friends and that I may be permitted to see the child on a regular basis.”
Victoria looked so sincere that Chloe couldn’t help but smile. “Of course I would like that too as well.”

“Good! I can now breathe a sigh of relief. So, do you know the sex of the child? When you are due?”

Chloe looked up at Tristan. He was staring at her intently. What about him? Was he here for that same exact reason as his mother? Or was he just here to accompany her? She couldn’t read a thing in his face. She couldn’t tell if he was happy or even angry. Chloe shifted her gaze back to his mother.
“I’m having a girl. She’s due at the end of next month.”

Tristan’s mother clapped her hands happily. “Oh! We are finally having a girl in the family! I tried so hard to have a girl of my own to dress up in little pinafores and ribbons. But alas, I was blessed with only boys.”

“Now that eldest has decided to settle down, I’m hoping Simon and his other younger siblings will follow Tristan’s lead and finally start a family as well.”

Chloe marveled at how excited the older woman seemed about the baby. She would have thought she would have been appalled at the sight of her. Not only was she black, but she was big as a streamliner right now.
“Oh you’re over exaggerating,” Victoria admonished patting Chloe on the hand. “You’re positively radiant. I see why my son was so taken with you.” Chloe blushed realizing her mistake once again. She kept forgetting she needed to steel her thoughts when it came to Tristan and his kind. “So, have you chosen a name?”

“Yes, Selah.”

“Absolutely enchanting. What does Selah mean?” Victoria asked.

“It’s a Hebrew word that essentially means to pause and reflect. Some books also say it means forever.”

“You didn’t tell me you had guests.” Chloe closed her eyes and counted to ten.

“You were too busy talking to Stella Rose, momma I didn’t have a chance.”

“True, true. Hello, everyone I’m Bernice Walker.” Chloe’s mother walked over to Tristan and shook his hand, then Victoria’s.

“Mother this is Tristan Smythe and his mother Victoria.” Chloe refused to supply any more information. If she did, they would never be able to leave.

“Are you clients of Chloe’s?” her mother asked fishing for information. But both of them shook their heads. “So… how do you know Chloe?”

“Momma,” Chloe groaned.

“I’m Chloe’s husband,” Tristan volunteered his face still unreadable. “And the baby’s father.”

Bernice looked at Tristan then back at Chloe. She then raised her hands in the air and began to pump them wildly. “Alleluia! Thank ya! My prayers have been answered. I mean you are a little lighter than we’d hoped for, but you’re a fine looking one if I must say so.”

Chloe simply wanted the ground to swallow her up. Better yet, take her mother instead. As if sensing her embarrassment, Shirley stepped forward and took a hold of Bernice’s arm.

“I think it’s time for us to go. Chloe’s had a long day at work and she needs her rest. Mrs. Walker, I can drop you off at home if you like.”

Thankfully, her mother agreed with Shirley and allowed her to lead her to the front door. Swinging back, she blew Chloe a kiss. “See you later baby girl , remember what I said earlier.”

“Good bye momma, I’ll call you tomorrow.” Chloe was going to send Shirley a vase full of red roses. She always knew just when to come to her rescue.

“I guess I’m all done here as well. Chloe I’ll forward you the invoice in the morning,” Stella Rose announced. “If there is anything you don’t like about the nursery, or if you change your mind about something please let me know.”

“I think I will ride the elevator down with you.” Victoria stated standing suddenly. “Tristan, I will have John drive me back to the hotel.”

Chloe started to panic as she suddenly realized that everyone was leaving them all alone. “You don’t have to leave Mrs. Smythe. Wouldn’t you like to see the nursery?”

“Oh please do call me Victoria, dear child. Although I would love to, I think I’ll be going as well. I have trespassed on your good graces long enough.

However, I will be back tomorrow. We’ll have tea. Plus, you and Tristan need to be alone to work out your differences. As I said before, I want to play an active role in my grandchild’s life and I can’t do that with the way you two stand.”

Before Chloe could roll herself off the couch, both Stella Rose and Victoria were gone.

She was left alone with her husband.

****

“I’d like to see the nursery,” Tristan stated after several moments of uncomfortable silence. Chloe looked at him warily, and then shrugged her shoulders. What harm could it do if he did, she was eight and half months pregnant. The damage had already been done.
Chloe noticed Tristan kept his distance as he followed her down the hall. Once they reached the nursery, she moved to the other side of the room.
“It’s fit for a princess,” he whispered. He walked over to the crib and his lips curled into a smile. Bending over the railing, he reached in and pulled out a pink teddy bear. He brought it to his nose and breathed deeply. “It already smells like her.”
Chloe nodded. “Stella Rose washed it and the crib sheets in baby detergent.”

Tristan smiled tenderly at the bear, then placed it back in its original spot in the corner. He then reached up and twirled the baby’s mobile. He watched the pieces dance for a moment, then he looked over at her, his expression solemn.

“Whatever you want, Chloe, I’ll pay it. Like my mother, I want to play an active role in our daughter’s life. I’ve even enlisted a realtor’s help in finding me a place here in Atlanta. I would have asked you, but I wasn’t sure if you would have been keen on helping me.”

Chloe’s toes curled at the thought of him moving to Atlanta to be nearer to their daughter. She just wished that he wanted to be near her just as much. After the talk she’d had with Simon last week, she’d come to realize that she had been lying to herself for the past year and half. She really did have strong feelings for Tristan. So strong that she thought she might be in love with him.

Well nothing ventured, nothing gained Chloe thought as she made up her mind to lay her feelings on the line.

“Simon came by the office last week.”

“I know, he told me.” Tristan came to a standing position, thrusting his hands in his jean pockets.

“Did he tell you that we had a long talk about you?” Obviously not because Tristan’s brow knitted in confusion. Chloe crossed the tiny room and stood next to him by the crib. She ran her hand along the railing.

“What did he say? I’m pretty sure all of it was rather insulting, although deserving.”

“No, actually it wasn’t. He told me the reason for you losing your head and why you did what you did.”

“Oh really and what did he say?” Tristan asked his eyebrow arching suspiciously.

“Well, he said that you fell ‘deeply and madly’ in love with me at first sight. And being the selfish cad you have always been, you resorted to charming me in order to gain my favor.”

“‘Deeply and madly’ you say?” Tristan repeated, the side of his mouth quirked as if her were fighting a smile.

Chloe took a step closer to him. “Yes, deeply and madly. He also said that you only used your powers up to the day of our wedding ceremony. Is that true?”

“Yes, all of it’s true,“ Tristan whispered.

“Do you still want a divorce?” If you do, I will sign the papers after the baby is born.” Chloe looked into the crib and waited for his answer.

“You know up to this point I thought you were a bright and intelligent woman. Now I’m not so sure.” Tristan reached out and took a hold of Chloe’s wrist. He then pulled her to him and wrapped his arms around her waist. “But, since I love you, I think I can overlook the fact that you might be a little daft.”

Chloe stilled against him. “Do you really love me Tristan, despite what I did?”

“Silly goose, of course I do. Deeply and madly,” he drawled rolling his eyes heavenward. “And I hope someday that you will come to feel the same way about me.” Tristan bowed his head and pressed his lips gently against her own. Lifting his head again, he looked down at her with a determined expression.

“Where’s the nearest bed?”

Chloe’s mouth dropped open in astonishment. The man always had only one agenda on his mind. “We can’t Tristan!”

“Why? Do you have orders from your doctor?”

“No but…”

“Good,” Tristan interrupted. He didn’t wait for directions; instead he grabbed her wrist and guided her out of the room.

“Ah…eureka!” Tristan grinned from ear to ear when he discovered the master bedroom. He picked her up easily, and then crossed the room in quick strides. He then placed her gently in the middle of the bed.
Coming to her elbows, she watched as he yanked off his shirt baring his magnificent body to her greedy gaze.

“It should be a sin how sexy you are,” Chloe pouted.

Tristan glanced up at her with a wicked grin. “You think I’m sexy Mrs. Smythe?” Chloe bit her lip when he undid his jeans and allowed them to slide over his narrow hips. She nodded her head as he climbed onto the bed.

“Well then I guess we’re perfect for each other. Because I think you’re the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen.” Tristan took a hold of her hands and pulled her an upright position. He helped remove her top, and it’s matching skirt.
When each layer was removed, he kissed her skin as it became exposed. Once she was completely naked, he cupped her face in the palms of his hands. They were shaking.

“I want to spend eternity showing you just how much I love you, Chloe. Do you want to spend eternity with me, love?”

Chloe knew she was going to have to face this decision someday. She was just glad that situation had presented itself now and not before, for her answer would probably have been different.

“I love you Tristan. I can’t imagine not being by your side another day, whether it’s for a day or for eternity.” Chloe closed her eyes to accept his kiss. She absolutely melted when he pressed his lips to hers.

However, it wasn’t too long before his kisses became urgent, soul searching.

“Bloody hell, woman I have no idea what you do to me, but you should have it patented,” he panted as if out of breath. “I can’t wait to have my cock deep in your pussy and you creaming all over me.”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Chloe taunted. She was feverish with lust as well. If he didn’t stick his cock in something she was going to scream bloody murder.

“Turn over,” he demanded. With a firm hand at her waist, he helped position her on her hands and knees.

 

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