Title: Vivienne's Guilt
Author: Heather M Orgeron
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 14
Like a cancer, it festers, slowly stealing your life bit by painful bit.
What do you do when you have betrayed the love of your life but he is no longer there to grant you forgiveness? How do you carry the weight of your gravest mistake knowing there is no way to atone for it?
I've made a terrible choice–one that can't be undone.
Hiding this secret is eating me alive.
But if it ever came out?
If it were ever discovered?
It would destroy everything.
They say you always want what you can't have.
From the moment I laid eyes on Vivienne Parker, I knew I was fighting a losing battle. I want to believe that I'm better than this–that I wouldn't cross that line–but deep down, I know if I were ever given a chance, there's no way in hell I'd refuse.
She's my uncle's wife, so why does it feel as if she is mine?
***For ages 18+ due to adult language and sexual content.***
“Tillie, honey . . . let’s go!” I whine. Yes, whine. That is what spending every waking moment with a toddler has reduced me to. “Daddy will be here any minute!”
“No, no-no, no-no, NO! I’m not wearing this one!” my sweet angel screeches as she stomps her fat little foot on the bathroom tile. “I want the pink bow!” She turns her back to me and crosses her arms over her chest in a stance that lets me know she means business.
Dear Lord, here we go again with the freaking pink! If being the mother of a three-year-old girl has taught me anything, it is that they are serious about their pink, and you can’t rationalize with three-year-old girls. Ever. About anything. From the moment Matilda Grace could walk and talk, she has been a little tyrant! I am sure Abbott and I don’t help matters by catering to her every whim, but she is just too damn cute with her golden blonde hair, crystal blue eyes, and the deepest set of dimples you’ve ever seen. I know, we are going to regret it later, but we choose to enjoy her now.
“Baby girl, your dress is blue, just like your beautiful blue eyes,” I tell her as I hold the pink bow against the silky blue fabric of her dress. “See, the pink bow won’t match. Don’t you want to look pretty for your date with Daddy?”
Tillie tilts her head to the side as she considers this for a moment before coming up with a solution of her own. “Ummm, I sink pink is fwitty, Mommy, right? You said pink is your favorite, too! Pink is my faaaavorite, Mommy! We can just pick something else to wear that’s pink, and I get to wear the pink bow! That’s a great idea, right?” she suggests, a little too pleased with herself.
Sure, it’s a great idea. It’s not like we went shopping for a “date dress” and matching shoes only yesterday. It isn’t like it took her hours to pick a dress she liked. Now she wants to wear something else so she can match the dress to the bow, rather than matching the bow to the dress. I thought this stuff didn’t start until they were teens. Mommy needs to get creative fast. Abbott really will be here any second to pick her up.
He’s taking her to see Disney on Ice. She has no clue where they will be going, only that she has a birthday date with her daddy. She’s bubbling over with excitement, and I could not be more in love with that man. Seriously, I thought I loved him before Matilda, but there is just something about watching a man dote on his baby girl that multiplies that love tenfold.
Wow! Our baby will be three tomorrow. Where has the time gone?
“It’s a fantastic idea, sweetie, but I just remembered a surprise Mommy got for you. I think it will be perfect!” The word surprise, of course, captures her attention. She is all eyes as I rifle through the vanity drawer for a little crown that I bought for her to wear to a princess dress up party in a few weeks.
And there it is—that million dollar smile. As I pull the hairpiece from the drawer, I know I have won this round.
“Oh. My. God! Mommy! Is that for me?” she asks, practically bouncing out of her skin. “I’m going to be like a reeeeeal princess!” Tillie squeals in excitement.
“You sure will, sweet girl. Now hop up here on the stool so I can get it in your hair before you’re late.”
“Can I wear some make-ups?”
“Makeup is for Mommies,” I say as I slide the comb of the crown into the golden bun atop her head.
“Can I pleeeeeease just wear some lipsticks? Please? Please? Pleeeeease?” she begs with a pout. Oh God. Not the pout. I can never refuse that pitiful look, and she knows it. Manipulative little shit.
We settle on lip gloss and light pink blush. Just as I finish strapping her sparkly, silver dress shoes, there is a knock at the door.
“I believe your date is here, baby girl! Go answer the door!” Tillie sprints across the living room to the door and opens it just as I power on the camera. The sheer joy that crosses my beautiful girl’s face at the sight of her prince makes my heart skip a beat. Abbott looks like a dream in his suit and tie, perfectly styled blond locks, and the same striking blue eyes as Tillie. Her smile is radiant, and the look of adoration on Abbott’s face makes my eyes well up.
My girl is living her own little fairytale.
God, I love that man.
Abbott crouches down to her level and pulls a dozen pink roses from behind his back with one hand and swoops her up into his arms with the other. “You look stunning, Bossyrella!” he says as he kisses her chubby little cheeks. “Are you ready for our date?”
“Yes, Prince Abbott. Do you like my fwitty dress? And look,” she says as she points to the top of her head, “Mommy gotted me a real princess crown!”
“I love it!” he tells her as he leans over to give me a light kiss. “Great job, Momma,” he whispers against my lips. His scent and the warmth of his breath leaves me momentarily flustered.
“You didn’t do so bad yourself, Charming,” I say, and I give him a lingering look that lets him know just how significantly he will be rewarded for his efforts. “You two better get going or you’ll be late.”
Abbott glances down at his watch. “Mommy’s right. We better head out.” He sets Tillie down and reaches for her hand. “You don’t have too much fun with Cassie while we’re gone . . . and make sure you’re alone when we get back,” he whispers suggestively into my ear. He brushes his nose along my nape, causing the baby hairs to stand on end as a shiver moves through my body.
I smother my sweet girl in kisses and instruct her to have a great time. As I practically shove both halves of my heart out of the door, a pang of guilt hits me because of how much I am looking forward to some girl time.
About thirty minutes later, Cassie arrives armed with tequila and strawberry margarita fixings.
“Hey, hooker!” she says as she wraps me in her boney arms. “God, I’ve missed you!”
Cassie and I were roommates through all four years at Tulane University. We spent the first year together in the dorms before getting our own apartment. Both transplants from different states, we quickly became more than friends. Cassie and I are family. She is the only person I have beyond my mother, who still lives back home in Alabama, and Abbott. Abbott and I decided to settle down in Louisiana near the university because he’s from Georgia and I’m from Alabama, so we didn’t know how to choose. Also, I couldn’t bring myself to leave Cassie. Cassie grew up in and out of different foster homes in Mississippi and has no one else. She has no family. Although we have been here nine years now, she has yet to find “the one” or even come close. Cassie is the sister I never had and Tillie’s godmother. She spends every holiday with us, whether it is here in Magnolia Pines or back home at Mom’s house. Cassie is always saying how lucky she is to have us, but I know without a doubt that we are the lucky ones.
I squeeze her tight and give her a peck on the cheek. “I know, right? Three. Whole. Days. How did you survive without the Parker casa chaos?” I tease.
“Speaking of chaos, I’m sorry I missed my little BFF. Was she excited? Show me pictures. I know you took some, paparazzi.”
I pull out my iPhone and start scrolling through the pictures. “You should have seen her, Cass. She was so excited. Abbott got all dressed up for her and showed up with roses. If it wasn’t so damn sweet, I might’ve been a little jealous.”
“I need an Abbott. I swear he’s the only good one left. Tillie’s dating life is better than mine . . . and she’s dating her daddy.” She shakes her head. “I’m in such a rut, girl. My hand is tireddddd. I’m going through batteries like nobody’s business,” she divulges while waggling her eyebrows at me.
“You’re right . . . it isn’t my business. What happened to that one guy . . . Jared, Jacob, Jeremy . . . ? What was his name again?” I can’t keep up with this girl anymore.
“Jason? Yeah, uh, no. He was too into himself. I can’t handle all that cockiness. If you’re more into your own body than mine . . . you’ve gotta go. Doesn’t he know this body is a temple just begging to be worshiped?” she teases while running her hands provocatively down her front, tracing her tiny breasts and hips.
I shake my head and laugh at her silliness. “Speaking of your body, you’re looking really thin again, Cass. Are you eating? I swear you’re withering away.” Cassie has always been a stick of a girl. At 5’9”, she dwarfs my 5’3” frame. She could best be described as a beanpole, but don’t let that fool you. Cassie is absolutely stunning with her wavy red hair and green eyes. She could be a runway model. But I hate seeing her look sickly.
“I’m eating. It’s just stress, and my thyroid’s acting up again,” she says with a shrug. Sure it is.
“You’d tell me if something was wrong, right? I don’t want you making yourself sick again. I don’t want to mother you or overreact. I’m just worried.” Cassie has a bad habit of “forgetting to eat” whenever she’s lonely. She swears she doesn’t have a problem, but I lived with her long enough to notice that her stretches of not eating always occur during or immediately following a breakup. Maybe she was more into this Jason guy than she’s letting on. I feel myself begin to sweat, and my throat constricts. I’m apprehensive, but I have to tread carefully, or Cassie will shut down on me. I will just have to keep a closer eye on her.
“I’m fine, love. I swear it. I’ll even come over every night this week and hit up some of your good home cooking just to show you.”
“I’ll hold you to it. The boss’ll be excited to have her favorite playmate over for dinner every night,” I say as I wink at her. “Now, are you going to get this frumpy, old housewife drunk or are we going to sit here and stare at that bottle of Jose all night?”
“On it, sista!” Cassie grabs the blender from the pantry and sets up shop on the island counter.
I make myself comfortable on one of the bar stools and watch my best friend do her thing. Her tiny hips shake to the beat of some pop song blaring from her iPhone.
“So, how’s Momma Anderson? Have you spoken with her lately?” Cassie asks while chopping the stems off a handful of strawberries before adding them to the blender.
“Ugh, no. You know how she is. She’s constantly nagging me to visit her. No matter how often we go, it’s never enough. I get tired of hearing it, honestly. She will never truly forgive me for settling down here instead of going back home. If she misses us so much, she should just move here. We have nothing there but an empty house filled with memories of my father. It’s sickening. She keeps that place like a shrine to a man who left her for another woman. A woman ten years younger than him! It’s not like he died, Cassie. He’s out there somewhere with his new, younger wife and kids, and she’s stuck in the same old place.”
“Viv, I know she drives you crazy,” she says, “but you’re lucky to have a mother that loves you, worries about you, and wants you around. Don’t ever forget that.” Her face turns sad, and I’m having one of those all too frequent “foot in mouth” moments. “Some of us don’t have that. You have no idea how much I would love to have a nagging, bitching mother.”
“Oh God, I’m such a bitch. I know you’re right. You know my nagging, bitching mother loves you like her own, right?” And she does. Most of the time I’m convinced she would take Cass over me as her daughter any day. “I know it’s not the same thing, but you’re family. You have a family. Don’t ever doubt that.”
“I know it. I do,” she says as she wipes the tears just beginning to form in the corners of her eyes. “Gah, how did girls’ night turn into a pity party?” Cassie sniffs. “Get your ass up out of that chair and shake that sexy booty, Momma!”
For the next two hours, my best friend and I drink margaritas and dance until we drop. Then, we cuddle up on the couch in front of the fifty-inch flat screen to catch a few DVR’d episodes of American Idol. It’s nice to spend time with her like this. Just the two of us watching mundane TV. Just like old times.
Halfway through the second episode, I receive a text from Abbott. It’s a picture of him and Tillie at the show that he must have had someone else take. I can’t help the smile that spreads across my face at what a beautiful pair they are. She is his spitting image. Where I am unremarkable with my brown hair, brown eyes, and freckles, they are breathtakingly beautiful. I will never understand what Abbott saw in a plain Jane like me. Whatever it was, I hope he never loses sight of it.
“What are you making that shit-eating grin at over there? Is Abbott sexting you? He is, isn’t he? Gross!” Then, she runs over to check it out because the girl does not know the meaning of the word boundaries. She snatches my phone out of my hand, and she too cracks a huge smile. “Wow, Momma. They are something, aren’t they? Tillie is such a lucky girl to have a father that adores her the way Abbott does. Neither of us had that, ya know? I’m so happy our baby girl does.”
Before I have a chance to respond, the phone dings again. And, being the nosey bitch that she is, Cass reads it. “It’s lover boy again. He says I better be gone by the time they get back. They’re leaving now. Damn. And all this time I thought we were cool,” she jokes.
Thirty minutes later, as Cassie is packing up her things to head home, my phone rings. I don’t recognize the number, and since it’s after nine o’clock, I get a nervous feeling in my gut as I press the phone to my ear.
“Hi, is this the wife of Abbott Parker?”
“Yes, this is she. Who’s this? Did something happen?” Oh my God. Oh my God. Please let them be okay.
“This is Officer Thomas. There’s been an accident . . .”
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Heather M. Orgeron is a Cajun girl with a big heart and a passion for romance. She married her high school sweetheart two months after graduation and her life has been a fairytale ever since. She’s the queen of her castle, reigning over five sons and one bossy little princess who has made it her mission in life to steal her Momma’s throne. When she’s not writing, you will find her hidden beneath mounds of laundry and piles of dirty dishes or locked in her tower(aka the bathroom) soaking in the tub with a good book. She’s always been an avid reader and has recently discovered a love for cultivating romantic stories of her own.