Joyce Livingston (Author) & Friends

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Day Before Mother's Day

Last Mother's Day, the book you see here, a Christian romance novel, was released by Barbour Publishing. Apparently it touched a lot of hearts because I got a number of letters and email from readers. I thought showing the cover of my book here would be appropriate since this weekend is Mother's Day. Though it came out a year ago, it can still be ordered Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and probably even Ebay.

Here is an excerpt from Chapter 1

MOTHER’S DAY by Joyce Livingston (me!)

Chuck O’Connor stormed through the door of the house on Victor Lane, slamming it behind him and tossing his set of keys onto the highly polished hall table with a loud thud.

Mindy, who was sorting through the day’s mail, spun around to face her husband, ready to scold him for his careless act. But the look on his face told her something was radically wrong. Although she had seen his angry side many times during their troublesome fourteen-year marriage, she’d never seen his hands tremble or his face so flushed. She hurriedly placed the mail on the coffee table and rushed toward him. “What’s wrong?”

Chuck yanked off his coat, tossed it on a chair instead of hanging it in the closet as was his usual behavior, and pushed past her with a grunt.
She planted her balled fists on her hips. “Chuck! Are you going to tell me or sulk all by yourself?”

He snatched up the mail and began sorting through it, dropping several envelopes on the floor in the process.

Her patience wearing thin, Mindy crossed the room and yanked on his sleeve, her own anger rising. “All right, don’t tell me then,” she told him in a stern voice, holding up her palms between them with a frown of frustration.

Tossing the mail back on the table, Chuck plopped his lanky body onto the sofa, fixing his elbows on his knees and cradling his head in his hands. “Jake suspended me.”

Thinking surely she had misunderstood his barely audible words, Mindy sat down beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Jake suspended you? I find that hard to believe. You do everything by the book. You’re always the top one in sales. Why would he suspend you?”

Chuck sat stone still and didn’t respond, his head still resting in his hands, but his rapid breathing told her his anger had not subsided.

“Chuck?” she said softly, gently rotating her fingers across his tense shoulders. “Don’t shut me out. I’m your wife. You know you can tell me anything. Why did your boss suspend you?”

Swallowing hard, he slowly lifted his face to meet hers. “You may not want to be my wife when I tell you.”

She gave him a puzzled look. Whatever could he mean? They’d had some pretty rocky years, come close to divorce more times than she cared to remember, but they’d str
uggled through each problem and stayed together. What could be worse than anything they’d faced in the past?

“I’ve—“ He paused, still covering his face and pressing his fingertips against his lowered eyelids. “I’ve been accused of molesting someone.”
Mindy stared at him. “What? You? Molesting someone? That doesn’t make any sense.” She scooted closer, her hand still resting on his back, her fingers splayed. “Who accused you?”

Slowly, Chuck pulled his hands away and with misty eyes, turned to face her. “Jake called me into his office and told me. It—it was one of the women employees. Michelle Stevens.”

Mindy tried hard to put a face to the name. Had she met this woman at the company Christmas party? “Is that the little bimbo in the accounting department? The one with the bleach blond pony tail and the false fingernails?”

He shook his head. “No, Michelle is nothing like that. She’s—plain. Kinda ordinary. Has short brown hair and wears glasses.”

“Why would she do such a thing? I don’t even remember you mentioning her name.”
Chuck leaned back and locked his hands behind his head, staring off in space. “I—I never did.”

“Chuck? Why?” Mindy’s heart sank. “Was there something going on between you two?”
His brows quickly furrowing, he glared at her. “Of course not! How can you even ask me that?”

She shrugged then let out a sigh. “Something must have happened between the two of you to get Jake that riled up. Why else would she make such a statement?”

Though Chuck only lifted his shoulders in response, there was something about the look on his face that gave her cause for alarm. In all the years they’d been married they’d had problems—many problems, but infidelity had never been one of them. Surely not now—not when their life had finally settled down into a compatible routine.

“Chuck! I asked you a question. I think I deserve an explanation. What did Jake say?”

“It’s not true, Mindy. I swear it! It’s not true.”

She grabbed tightly onto his wrist. “Are you going to tell me what Jake said, or am I going to have to call and ask him myself? I will, you know.”
His long fingers clamped her hand. They felt warm. Almost feverish.

“Okay. Let me start at the beginning.” He pulled his hand away, rose, and began pacing slowly about the room. “Jake called me into his office and we talked for over half an hour about business, his family, my family, where we planned to go on vacation this year, all sorts of things that really didn’t matter. I could tell he had something on his mind, but I had no idea what. Finally, he leaned across his desk and pointed his finger in my face and asked, pointblank, if I was having an affair with Michelle.”

She blanched at his words. “What did you say? Are you?”

He rammed his fist into the palm of his other hand, glaring at her. “No!” I answered an unequivocal ‘No’! Of course, I wasn’t having an affair with Michelle! I told him that.”

“Apparently, he didn’t believe you. He suspended you!” she shot back, half wishing she’d kept her silence until he finished his story.

His eyes flashed. “Hey, where’s the trust a wife’s supposed to have for her husband? You haven’t even heard me out and you’re already finding me guilty,” he countered, his voice rising.

“I never said—“

“But you implied it. That’s just as bad.” He lowered himself into a chair opposite her and, gripping the arm rests, bent toward her, his face contorted with anger.

“Now, do you want to hear the whole story or not?”

Her heart pounding, and feeling annoyed by his patronizing behavior, she nodded. “Yes, I’m sorry. Go on.”

“It appears that Dixie, one of the secretaries in the sales department, was in a stall in the ladies restroom when Michelle came in and called someone on her cell phone, not realizing Dixie was there. She told whoever she was talking to that she had a new boyfriend and mentioned his name was Chuck, but cautioned them to keep it quiet because the man was married. Then, when she discovered Dixie was there, she begged her not to tell anyone about the conversation she’d overhead.”
Mindy couldn’t help letting out a gasp but kept her silence when Chuck frowned.
“I guess Dixie told everyone.”

“Did Dixie or anyone else tell Jake what she’d heard?” Mindy asked cautiously.

“No. Not then. Not until after he talked to Michelle.”

Mindy frowned. If Dixie hadn’t told Jake, why would Jake talk to Michelle about it?

“I guess I’m not making myself clear.” Chuck gave her a weak smile. “This thing has me so upset I’m not thinking straight.” He gave his head a frustrated shake, then continued. “Michelle went to Jake early this morning and told him I’d molested her. That’s what this is all about.”

“Why would she say such a thing?”

“I don’t know.”

“She had to have said something convincing enough for him to suspend you.”

“The sad thing is, he put me on suspension but let her keep her job! Some justice, huh?” The two sat silently staring at one another. There was so much Mindy wanted to know but she refrained from asking, sure her questions would only throw Chuck into a tirade. If he was innocent, he had every right to some righteous indignation. If he was guilty, any words she hurled at him would only fan the flames.
Finally, Chuck turned to face her again, taking her hands in his. “I didn’t do it, Mindy. I know, at times, I have a hot temper and I let it get the best of me, but I’d never hurt a woman in any way. You know that. Over the years we’ve been together, you’ve angered me to the boiling point a number of times, but I’ve never struck you or laid a hand on you.”

“Are—are you saying she accused you of hitting her? That kind of molesting?”

Chuck gave a sad shake of his head. “No, the other kind.”

“Chuck! This is like a bad dream! Why would she accuse you of something like that, if it weren’t true?”

He glowered at her, his face flushed and his fists clenched. “So you believe it, too, eh?”

“I—I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t? It sounded that way to me!”

Mindy bit her tongue, trapping the words that nearly slipped from her mouth, a retort that would have angered him even more.

“I never—let me repeat—I never molested that woman—in any way!”

“I—I can’t imagine that you would. Tell me the rest. What happened after Jake asked you about her?” Mindy prodded gently.

“According to her story, I had come on to her, invited her to drive up to Providence and have dinner with me a few times, and things got pretty heavy between us. She even claimed I’d told her you and I were getting a divorce.”

“A divorce? We haven’t talked about a divorce for three or four years!”

He patted her hand. “I know. She went on to say that she had decided to break things off between us. She also said that, one night after we’d been to dinner in Providence and went back to her apartment, she told me she was calling it quits and I got really mad. She claims—“ He paused and pursed his lips. “She claims I slapped her around, then made advances on her and when she refused, I—I raped her.”
Mindy’s hands flew to cover her face. “Oh, no, no, no, no, no! I can’t believe this is happening!” The room began to swirl about, making her dizzy. Though Mindy had never fainted in her life, she was sure this was going to be the first time.
Chuck grabbed onto her arms so tightly she squealed in pain. “I didn’t, Mindy. I swear it! None of this ever happened.”

Mindy felt sick to her stomach. “You never drove that woman to Providence like she said?”

He shook his head vehemently. “Not one time!”

“Then, why, Chuck? Why?”

“That’s the same thing Jake asked me.”
Fighting back a stream of tears and feeling light-headed, Mindy sucked in a cleansing breath of air. “I find it difficult to believe she would make up a story like this, and then just waltz into Jake’s office and tell him!”

Chuck braced an elbow on one knee, cupping his chin in his hand. “Jake said he had a hard time believing it, too, and, although he wasn’t completely convinced she was telling the truth, he said he had no choice but to put me on suspension until her accusations could be proven or disproven. It’s a serious charge. I’m well aware of that. To make things worse, Dixie verified the restroom cell phone conversation.”

Mindy dropped to her knees in front of Chuck, lifting her face to his and gripping his hands. “Look me in the eye, Chuck, and tell me none of this is true.”
Her husband of fourteen years trembled. Finally, his eyes filling with tears and his voice breaking, he answered. “Some—some of it is sort of true.”


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