Carmen Green.

The Husband She Couldn't Forget






Kneeling beside him, she put her hand on his forehead and saw the mark on her finger from the absent ring. The reminders of her past life.

Rolland held her until she was still. Besides liking that youre blocking the sun, I would really like to kiss you.

His lips greeted hers in a kiss that defined perfection in its simplicity. There was a knowing about the way his mouth moved over hers, an assuredness in how his head tilted, and hers dropped to the side and back to accept his mouth and tongue, that made her know this wouldnt be the last time. That thought brought reality screeching back.

She planted both her hands against his chest and moved herself away.

Melanie?

Wait. I need a minute. All of her senses began to work again and she heard birds caw. Squirrels hustled about their business and a deer ran past heading east.

Rolland got closer and though she didnt want to, she had to stop him.

About the Author

CARMEN GREEN was born in Buffalo, NY, and had plans to study law before becoming a published author. While raising her three children, she wrote her first book on legal pads and transcribed it onto a computer on weekends before selling it in 1993. Since that time she has sold more than thirty novels and novellas, and is proud that one of her books was made into a TV movie in 2001, Commitments, in which she had a cameo role.

In addition to writing full-time, Carmen is now a mum of four, and lives in the Southeast of America. You can contact Carmen at www.carmengreen.blogspot.com or carmengreen1201@yahoo.com.

Dear Reader,

This is my inaugural book for Mills & Boon Cherish, so I thought I should introduce myself. I am Carmen Green and Ive been a writer since the mid-nineties. I love writing funny, offbeat novels, but I have a serious side too, so youll never really know what to expect. I love learning, flowers, family, friends and food. I never go on loops, but I dont mind talking to people, doing interviews or appearing at conferences. I love travelling and experiencing new things. I have great friends in this business and those that know me well know that Im funny, straightforward and honest.

This book is quite special to me. Traumatic Brain Injury is a very serious condition, and for those that suffer from this condition and their families it is often life-altering. My prayers and thoughts go out to all of those who continue the battle to improve their lives and the lives of those affected by TBI. I try to reply to all of my readers. My e-mail address is carmengreen1201@gmail.com, and my website is www.authorcarmengreen.com.

I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Peace and blessings,

Carmen Green

The Husband

She Couldnt Forget

Carmen Green


www.millsandboon.co.uk

This book is dedicated to the US Military, and to Lori Bryant Woolridge and Nina Foxx, two of the women along with myself who founded the Femme Fantastik Tour.

Its been a humbling experience travelling to bases and speaking to the soldiers and their families. I became interested in the subject of Traumatic Brain Injury because of an injury to a soldier, and I have a healthy respect for all that they and their families must endure on the path to recovery. Im very proud of our soldiers, and I hope to see you all again soon.

Prologue

Melanie stood on the top step of her Atlanta, Georgia, home and wondered how any woman in her right mind could be wearing stockings in this kind of June heat. The tall black woman whod just rung her doorbell smelled faintly of cigarettes and looked as if she needed one bad.

An odd expression crossed her face, and Melanie looked at her own left hand and jerked it behind her back, embarrassed. She was still holding the Not Pregnant test stick from the pregnancy test shed just taken, and her flush of disappointment sizzled into nothingness under the bright noon sun.

Im sorry, I just heard the door a second ago, Melanie said, pocketing the apparatus.

Mrs. Melanie Bishop?

Yes, thats me.

Regret passed over the womans face before she tapped Melanies arm with a large manila envelope. Youve been served.

Hubert, Boyle and Stein. Divorce attorneys. Shed heard whispers about them in the ladies locker room at the country club her husband had insisted they join. They were the best. Or the worst. Depending on which side of the table you were on.

Her smile felt parched and false.

The woman took the winding steps down to the sidewalk in a hurry but sensing no threat, slowed down as she walked to her old grayish-looking Civic and got in. The car rumbled to life, but she didnt pull off.

Melanie stared at the envelope, knowing, but not wanting to know, why Deion was having her served.

The massive front door was blue. Deion wasnt fond of blue, but he hadnt said he hated blue. She couldve changed it. Wouldve, had she known.

Maybe they shouldnt have compromised on the Porsche hed wanted, and should have gotten it instead of the Lexus SUV.

But where would he put the baby when they had one?

That had been her argument.

Maybe hed gotten tired of her arguments for everything.

Maybe Deion hated

Melanie?

Yes? she said, looking around, unsure of who was calling her. It was the process server.

The woman had leaned over the passenger seat and was looking out the window. You got a mama? she called up to her.

She died seven years ago. What an odd question coming from a stranger.

A sister or best friend?

A friend. Him. Only him.

Go in your house and call her right now. Okay?

Okay. Melanie turned the knob and put her shoulders into pushing the heavy door open. Thank you.

Youre welcome.

Inside the house, her sneakers made hush, hush sounds on the nearly black hardwood floors and not for the first time, she felt as if the cool silence was mocking her. Shed only agreed to this house because shed thought theyd fill it with children. But theyd been trying for five years and she didnt need telepathy to tell her that the papers in her hand were her expiration notice.

Dial Deions cell phone, she said aloud to the voice-activated system that controlled everything in the house.

She walked to their bedroom to Deions closet and didnt notice more than the usual amount of clothes gone.

Deion was in New York at a conference for portfolio managers. She could hear his cell ringing, then roll over to voice mail. She sat on the end of their bed.

This is Deion Bishop. Im making deals happen, and if youre ready, Ill make them happen for you. Leave your name and number. His voice was still sexy after seven years of being together. She hadnt tired of it. Would never.

Honey, we need to talk, she said, injecting a smile into her voice. There has to be some way we can make this work. We can talk about anything. Please call me here at home. I love you. Goodbye. End call.

Two weeks after she was served, Melanie slid her maids paycheck through the crack in the front door, but wouldnt open it all the way. I dont need you this week, Juanita. Im just not feeling well and I dont want you to catch my germs.

Mrs. Bishop, I clean two times a week, every week for five years. Mr. Bishop says so. He doesnt like his bathroom with any dirt. Im coming in.

No! Melanie swallowed her tears. Mr. Bishop isnt here right now, so theres no need to worry about his bathroom. Here, Ill pay you for the entire month. Ill call you when I need you. Thank you, Juanita.

Mrs. Bishop, you okay?

Im fine, she said, closing out the concerned-looking woman. Goodbye. Ill call you. Really. Bye, now.

Mrs. Bishop.

Melanie closed the door and walked back to her bedroom. Call Deion at work, she commanded, relieved when she saw Juanitas car slowly leave the cul-de-sac.

Good morning, MJM Portfolio Management.

This is Melanie Bishop. May I speak to Rod Burke?

Just a moment, please.

At least this time she didnt get the baffled silence from the receptionist.

Melanie, its Rod. I heard that youve been calling.

I have, Rod. Deion isnt home from a trip he left from two weeks ago. Im worried. He hasnt answered his cell and Im not sure where exactly he is. Shed been weeping so long, her throat was raw. She cleared it, knowing she sounded like a desperate housewife. Where is he?

Melanie, Deion quit working here two weeks ago.

What? Shock and panic and a desperate sense that everything was coming to a close enveloped her. He loved his job and if he quit there, he had much bigger plans.

Deion walked in one day, said he had an opportunity he couldnt pass up and handed in his resignation. I wasnt happy at all, but I couldnt stop him.

When was this?

Exactly two weeks ago today.

Rod, do you still hold his license?

No, I gave it to him. We severed all ties, and he left. Funny thing, though, I thought he was going to try to undercut me and take his top clients, then Id have recourse to sue him, but he hasnt touched them.

Melanie knew better than to say Deion wouldnt cheat Rod, but thats how Rod had gotten his startby avoiding his former firms client list.

Nothing at all, Rod?

Not a peep. Mel, I wish I could help, but Ive got a meeting. I dont know any more than Ive told you.

Sorry to bother you.

No bother. Bye, he said and hung up.

Melanie listened to the dial tone. All communication between her and Rod was probably over forever.

The tears poured from her as she walked from room to room, opening doors, letting her pain fill each space. Open-mouthed she cried out her sorrow in the nursery that would never know the rhapsody of her childrens glee. The guest room that had never experienced the joy of a guest, and the master bedroom that had lost its master and mistress.

Tripping on her slippers, she tumbled down the step in the den and lay there, wishing her pain would end. Why hadnt he just told her face-to-face it was over?

How could he break her heart this way?

A hand touched her shoulder and she jumped.

Mrs. Bishop, why are you crying?

Juanita? Youre back.

Yes, maam. I was worried about you. Come on, get up. I was afraid. This is my husband, Jusef.

They helped her off the floor and to the sofa. Juanita dispatched her husband to the kitchen for a towel and glass of water. Whats wrong?

He left me and I dont know why. Just served me with divorce papers weeks ago and hes gone.

Juanita rubbed Melanies back and closed her eyes. Let me pray for you.

Softly in Spanish she prayed for Melanie as Jusef stood in the doorway and waited. When his wife was done, he brought the water. May I see the papers? Im in law school.

You are? Juanita, I didnt know.

Shame filled Melanie because shed never gotten to know the woman who cleaned her house and had indulged her and Deions nonsensical wishes. Im so sorry.

No. I came here to do my job not to talk, talk, talk. I do enough of that at home. Im helping Jusef through law school and then he will help me through culinary arts school. We will do well together.

There was love in this family, Melanie saw, and respect. She wished shed been able to have that with Deion.

Melanie finished the water and felt better.

Jusef, the papers are on the dining room table. Theyre clear-cut and he even signed them. Im leaving. I was just walking around thinking about all the dreams that were lost, and I guess I got overwhelmed. This morning I accepted a job in Kentucky.

Are you sure you wont give him a little more time? Juanita asked, her own eyes sympathetic.

Melanie wiped her tears and accepted Juanitas hug. No. I talked to his boss and he said Deion quit his job. Ive called everyone and nobodys seen him. Nobody knows anything and if they do, nobodys saying. He doesnt want me to find him. Its time to face reality that hes gone for good.

Jusef returned, reading the papers. You can take what you want. Do you want to contest this?

No. Hes being more than generous.

He may have more assets.

No, Im not going to fight over anything. I put some things in the car and I shipped my gardening tools and seasonal clothing yesterday.

Juanita looked around. You didnt take anything.

I did. Some papers and other smaller things I wanted. I kept the personal things he gave me, but overall I want to make a fresh start. I have money, so Ill buy whatever I need once I get there. Do you need anything, Juanita?

No, maam. We are just fine.

Juanita, we need a bed. Our bed is twenty-five years old and we are only thirty. Why are you saying no? Jusef said. You didnt learn anything from church on Sunday.

Melanie smiled for the first time in days. Jusef, Ive got just the bed for you.

The next morning, Melanie felt the tears building, but kept them at bay. She swept up the last of the trash and pulled the garbage can to the curb, waited as the garbage man dumped it, then dragged it back to the garage where she hosed it down. She washed her hands, then walked back down the driveway.

Mrs. Bishop, you sure you want me to take all of this?

Yes, please enjoy everything.

Melanie looked at Juanitas overloaded Chevy Trail-blazer. Shed filled the SUV with all the items a new couple would need to start a home. Jusefs brother had brought his big truck and had carted away the bed this morning after Jusef and Juanita had awakened. Theyd been kind enough to stay overnight with her.

Melanie stood by Juanitas side, then hugged her fiercely. Jusef came down the driveway and handed her the keys. The house was locked up and she couldnt look back.

Ive paid the utilities and taxes. Youre going to come by every two weeks to check on the place and make sure nobody bothers it, Melanie said to Juanita, looking at the ground.

Thats right, Mrs. Bishop, I mean, Melanie.

Heres my number if you need me. The alarm company has your number. If you want to quit, move, or whatever, please call me.

I wont quit. You paid me a years salary in advance. If he comes back, shall I call you?

No. Just tell him all the bills have been paid, and hes officially divorced.

Melanie climbed into her car, which had been backed down the driveway by Jusef moments ago. Hed turned the Volvo around and positioned it on the cul-de-sac so she wouldnt have to look at the house as she drove away.

You are sure? Juanita asked.

Stop, Nita, Jusef cajoled. She is ready.

Melanie took a deep breath, then stuck her left hand out the window, and they grasped it and blessed her. She let go first and drove away, tears blurring her eyes, listening to the recording as she drove, Im sorry the number you have reached is not in service or has been temporarily disconnected.

Chapter One

Rolland, youre doing great.

Rolland Jones didnt doubt for a minute that he was doing better than great. When hed first arrived at Ryder Rehabilitation and Spinal Center, he couldnt even sit up without help. Now he was in a mad race to the finish on his stationary bike against Horace, his physical therapist.

Horace perspired like crazy as if theyd been riding for hours, when theyd been on for only twenty-five minutes. Rolland couldnt help but laugh at the enthusiastic man who never seemed to have a bad day.

Okay, big Ro, Horace challenged. What is a biathalon? Forty-five seconds.

Rollands legs were longer but he stayed at a moderate pace as hed been taught. A biathalon is a cross-country skiing and shooting event.

Correct. Horace pumped his arms in the air cheering. He picked up his water bottle and used it as a pretend microphone. And now for the final two thousand points, and to be crowned the unofficial, unolympic winner of the miniature-size trophy of a chocolate candy bar with peanuts, you must answer this question correctly.

Rolland was already laughing. Give me the question.

Sir, dont rush the announcer. Who is the all-time highest scoring male basketball team of the U.S. Olympic Games? Sixty seconds. He started an offbeat drumroll that spun crazily throughout the workout room to the other patients and therapists.

Shelby, a physical therapist who occasionally worked with Horace, stopped by. Youre looking good, Rolland, she said, mischievously.

Rolland had no problem identifying Shelby because of her green eyes and red hair. One of the first things hed learned with his injury was how to associate people with their eye and hair color.

Shelby, dont cheat and help him, or when you need chocolate, Im not going to help you.

Shelbys mouth dropped open in mock hurt. Are you accusing me of impropriety? I thought Horace and I were friends, right, Rolland?

Thats right, Shelby. Im hurt for you.

Shake your head, Rolland, she told him, and he did.

Horace didnt buy it for one second. You two are full of hot rocks. Shelby, Horace stood pedaling fast, if you tell him, youre going to suffer. You know how you get. Youre gonna need some chocolate.

Rolland laughed. Give me a hint, Shelby. Come on, my friend. I know where he keeps the candy stashed.

She pretended to fall asleep, with her hands by her cheek. Im so tired. I cant wait to go home and have sweet

The Dream Team! Rolland shouted just as Horace hopped off the bike and ran after Shelby who sought refuge behind two large male nurses.

They grinned at Horace who was the most senior therapist because of his candidacy for his Ph.D. But he maintained a sense of humor about himself and made everyone laugh by jumping around, never quite reaching Shelby.

Horace went around the room, harassing other patients by doing a couple squats with Harold, and some legs lifts with Lavenia, and some arm curls with Maven, until their therapists shooed him away.

Rolland mopped his brow while Horace guzzled water. Four miles, man. I swear, I think youre trying to kill me.

Me? Horace shook his head. Ive lost fifteen pounds since you got here. My wife thinks Ive got another woman. I keep telling her its you. He chuckled. She cant believe Im losing weight because of a dude. Horace tried to look disgusted, but lost his frown to a smile. Youre not even my type.

And people think I have the brain injury, Rolland said, playfully shoving Horace as they headed for the weight room. Everyone applauded as they walked by.

Horace bowed on his way out. Second show, three oclock, he called.

Do you think I was in shape before the accident? Rolland asked him when Horace caught up in the state-of-the-art weight room. They passed the therapy tables where Rolland remembered spending many a day getting his knee back to working order.

Yes. You had good muscle tone when you got here two months ago. You spent a month in that hospital in Las Vegas and that was to heal the fractures and for reconstructive surgery of your knee. You had good muscle memory. That told me youd been athletic.

They passed a mirror and Rolland didnt stop and look at himself as he used to. Hed had work done on his face, too, but he was healed for all intent and purposes.

Most of the people here were in some form or another of reconstruction. Be it physical or mental. Fortunately, he was, physically whole. It was his brain that didnt know who he was.

Come on and show me what you got, Horace said, adjusting the weights to forty pounds for the chest press.

Rolland sat down, planted his feet and breathed through the first ten reps.

Good. You got ten more in you?

Rolland nodded. With this brain injury, do you ever remember your favorite color?

Possibly. Good, Horace praised. Even if you dont, you develop new taste. Its like, do you like green now? Is that important? Is your wife green? Does that matter?

Rolland laughed. Youre sick, you know that?

Horace shrugged. Yes, sir, I do, and I appreciate my gift. Youre meeting someone new today. Melanie Wysh. W-y-s-h. Wysh. Its not the conventional way youd spell wish.

No?

No. Thats w-i-s-h. A good sentence would be I wish I was taller than you. Youre an average-looking bloke at six-feet tall, and Im smashing looking at five-foot eight. Want to try ten more reps?

Yes. Rolland did eight and struggled through the last two. He was almost done at Ryder and this Melanie would have a lot to say about his next steps in his life.

Horace handed him ten-pound weights. Are you comfortable with the weights?

Yes. Is Melanie already here? Rolland asked the same questions each time he was introduced to someone new, but Horace never got tired of them.

Yes, she is.

Have I seen her before?

Occasionally. Shes a tiny woman. About five-four. She wears dresses all the time. Brown-skinned. Nice lady.

Is she black?

Yes, shes a black lady.

Okay. Rolland closed his eyes and tried to picture her, as his brain flipped through the women hed met at the facility. He still couldnt place her, but the frustration he used to feel from not remembering someone didnt come today. What else do you know about her? Is her hair short like Purdys?

Nobodys hair is like Purdys, and you dont want it to be with that permanent hairnet she wears.

Rolland laughed and pumped the weights. I dont think Ive met Melanie. Has she seen me?





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