From the Heart (Sweetbriar Hearts #3) - Nora Everly



“I don’t have enough coffee or middle fingers for today.”

Everything that could possibly go wrong in a day had already gone wrong and the clock had yet to strike eight a.m. I woke up confused and cranky well after my alarm had gone off and after finally making it outside to leave for work, I was greeted by a flat tire. It only spiraled further down the crapper from there.

Currently, I was back at home sitting in my car with my head pounding from what was sure to become a migraine. I was also covered in almost dry, sticky foam courtesy of my hell-bent-on-betrayal espresso machine and some unruly steamed milk. But I had known something was about to go extra-horrid-change-your-life-wrong the second I had approached my driveway and saw my husband’s latest Porsche still parked in the driveway—with his secretary’s little red Honda parked next to it. Apparently, my coffee shop’s espresso machine wasn’t the only thing in the mood to stab me in the back this morning.

I pulled in behind the Honda, shut off the engine and stormed out of my car. All I wanted was a shower, some fricking Advil, and maybe a damn nap. It looked like I was going to get a whole lot more than that. I was about to see something horrible. I could feel it.

How do you know when a marriage is over?

Several times over the years, I’d tried to recall the moment—or even a ballpark time period—when my marriage went from happy to . . . less happy. From shaky to in serious trouble. But I could never do it. Tom and I had loved each other once; that was a fact. But somewhere along the way, we’d grown apart. Hence why I’d made the choice to soon file for divorce. I had decided that February first would be the day to tell our sons. I didn’t want to taint the holiday season for them.

A wave of nausea hit me as I approached the porch and the snick of my key in the lock made me flinch, but I persevered and stepped into the foyer anyway. After deciding to head up the back stairs, I tossed my keys on the kitchen island and tried to mentally prepare for whatever I was about to discover.

Choking back bile, I started up the stairs. I didn’t want to catch him in the act, yet I couldn’t force myself to turn around and leave. The car in the driveway was my first clue—of today, at least. The knock-off Louis Vuitton bag I spied sitting on the stairs was the second.

I continued down the hall to our bedroom. Tom and I had moved into this house almost twelve years ago. The same year our twin boys started kindergarten and I opened my coffee shop in town. My pregnancy had been a surprise, but Tom had insisted it was meant to be. After we got married, I left college to have the boys and found a job as an educational assistant. Tom had been in his junior year and gone on to graduate, then worked his way up to owning his own real estate agency right here in Sweetbriar, Oregon. He was ambitious and determined to make a good life for us, and he did it. But he had developed expensive taste over the years and the more money he made, the more his sweet disposition had disappeared. Sadly, he replaced it with a big-ass ego, an air of condescension, and an overabundance of concern about what other people thought of him. Keeping up with the Joneses was not good enough for Tom. He preferred to lord his success over everyone we knew. He wanted to be the only Jones in town.

A finite number of happy family smiles greeted me as I passed the portraits and school pictures lining the hallway. I ended up standing in front of our wedding photo, hung in an inset arch, right next to our bedroom door.

Who was that girl?

Hope shone in her eyes while two baby boys grew in her belly. Tom had worn a rented tuxedo and an adorable, sweet smile that I hadn’t seen in far too many years to count.

“Tom! Tom! Tommy!” a woman moaned. It sounded like his secretary. I kept forgetting her name. Or maybe I had just subconsciously refused to remember it. It had been clear upon meeting her that her goal was to end up right here—beneath my snake-in-the-grass husband.

“Bethany, baby—” he grunted.

Bethany. That’s it.