Beautiful Storm - Signed Paperback
Beautiful Storm - Signed Paperback
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One call from an entitled city girl turns Marcus's world upside down. He’s a master of reading people, but the feisty newcomer poses an interesting challenge.
Unfailing Love Series Book 4.
- Opposites Attract
- Instant Family
- Starting Over
Tori’s life was perfect - a successful job, a doctor for a husband, and a pristine loft in Chicago - until her husband left her for someone else. With her divorce comes a surprise cabin in the Deep South, and she wants nothing more than to get rid of it so she can get her life back in order.
Marcus is the self-appointed guardian of his sister and three brothers, while their mother lives a toxic lifestyle, but one call to his auto repair shop from an entitled city girl turns his world upside down. He’s a master of reading people, but the feisty newcomer poses an interesting challenge.
As their lonely hearts search for help and healing with each other and God, the dangers of the world come knocking. Will Tori be able to save Marcus’ family and make him see that their differences aren’t enough to keep them apart?
A sweet, Christian romance that shows us that love is greater than our circumstances.
Beautiful Storm is book four in the Unfailing Love series, but the books can be heard in any order.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Tori massaged the aching muscles in her neck with one hand and gave a half-hearted wave to the nurses at the nursing station with the other as she passed. Only one woman with a phone pressed to her ear acknowledged her farewell. The others were wrapped up in charts and orders.
The squeak of her sneakers on the tile floor as she made her way for the exit was monotonous enough to almost lull her into the well-deserved sleep she craved. It was the end of her third twelve-hour shift in as many days, and she always reached her physical limit around this time every week.
When Tori reached the parking deck and flopped into the driver’s seat of her Mercedes, she cursed as she remembered she had forgotten her end of the week espresso shot—the one she relied on like a crutch to make it home on fumes.
Forget it. The blasting radio would have to do. She’d done this dangerous dance before, and her loft was only a mile away.
As she drove, flashes of street lights and store signs lit her way home through the dark Chicago night. She turned the volume on her stereo higher and tapped her fingers in a rapid dance against the steering wheel as she stopped at the last red traffic light before her loft.
The commute to work was generally a breeze. She and her husband, Scott, agreed that living close to the hospital was the most logical option when they began searching for a place to move into together. Scott was a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center, and she was a nurse in the Labor and Delivery Unit.
After she graduated nursing school, Tori first met Doctor Scott Wright when she transferred to the cardiology department four years ago. After running into each other in the sterile halls and taking second glances with each encounter, they had started up a casual fling that lasted for months.
When their informal relationship didn’t fizzle out on its own, they chalked up the phenomenon to natural staying power and decided to go for broke. Neither of them had much to offer a relationship, and they both understood the demands of the long work hours that come with being successful in the medical field. Scott proposed within six months, and they were married in two more.
Tori wouldn’t have described it as a whirlwind romance simply because the romance part wasn’t something either of them subscribed to. She and Scott were practical people, and romance wasn’t practical.
She pulled into the parking garage, parked her Mercedes, and continued on autopilot until she was walking through her door without much recollection of how she had gotten to that point. No matter how tired she was, toeing off her work shoes at the door was automatic. Those things didn’t come past the entry alcove. There weren’t many things more disgusting than a hospital floor.
Tori had taken two steps into the living room before she remembered to grab her phone from her purse. Throwing her head back in exasperation, she turned and backtracked to retrieve the device.
She didn’t get many calls, but working in the medical field was enough to understand that sometimes being able to communicate when needed could be the difference between life and death. As usual, only a text from Scott lit up her screen.
Text when you get home.
Tori fired off a simple response and moved toward the paradise that awaited her in the form of a warm shower. Scrubbing the grime and foreign bodily fluids from her skin was always her favorite part of the day. Other women relished taking off their bra at the end of the day, but her release was the well-earned cleansing.
She’d changed her shift to three twelves a few months ago in the hopes that she’d be able to see more of Scott. Most of the time, their work schedules didn’t line up, and having four full days off every week sounded like a good way to catch more time with him. But once she saw that the open hours hadn’t produced a different result, she took a clinic job during the week to fill the gap again.
Tori stayed tired, that bone tired that ached in the center of her spine and never let go, but at least she was fulfilled. Her work was certainly rewarding, and sometimes she rationalized that the success balanced out the lack of social or home life. The patients at the hospital needed her, and Scott could take care of himself.
The steaming water on her body was divine. Tori relished the burn and rolled her neck back and forth beneath the pounding current. After scrubbing her skin until it was smooth and a rosy shade of pink, she stepped from the shower and lazily dried off. She couldn’t wait to fall into her memory foam mattress.
Wrapped in a terry cloth robe, Tori padded barefoot toward the kitchen for water, breathing deeply and smiling as she remembered that her down duvet was only a few moments from being wrapped in her arms.
Movement caught her eye as she passed through the living room and she let out a scream, clutching her robe at her chest as if she could prevent her heart from jumping out of its cavity.
“Are you trying to give me a heart attack?” She bent forward at the waist and breathed in deep lungfuls of air, trying to regain her resting heart rate.
Scott had been sitting on the couch with his elbows propped on his knees. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t think I would freak out when I walked into the quiet living room to find someone sitting on the couch?”
The television was off, but that wasn’t unusual. Neither of them had much time to keep up with a series or any regular shows.
“I was just waiting for you to finish your shower.” Scott’s clinical voice was kind as usual, but she heard an undertone of uncertainty. Why did he sound nervous?
She righted herself and realized he’d been sitting in a quiet common room waiting for her. Why hadn’t he waited for her in the bedroom? He knew she usually passed out at the end of her last shift, and it wasn’t unusual to find him in a deep sleep when she crawled into bed.
Instead of returning to normal after the unintentional scare, her heart rate continued to patter on with an added dose of adrenaline that gripped her chest.
“I feel like I haven’t seen you in ages. How are things at work?” Maybe their normal small talk would ease her misgivings.
Scott stood to his full six feet and ran his hand through his graying chestnut hair.
Now, she knew he was anxious. Touching his hair was his nervous tic, and he hadn’t made eye contact with her yet.
Scott was different in some way she couldn’t put her finger on. He looked tired, but an unfamiliar glow lit his face. He seemed younger somehow. How long had it been since she’d really looked at him?
“I need to talk to you about some things. Maybe you should have a seat.”
Her palms were starting to sweat now. Scott was thirty-four years old and had weathered medical school and many years in operating rooms with ease because of his notorious calm. Whatever had him on edge was something she shouldn’t take lightly.
Tori stepped to the couch and slowly lowered herself into the plush seat. A sudden insecurity had her tugging at the hem of her short robe. She had no reason to feel over-exposed in her own home with her husband, right?
Infinite seconds had passed, and he still hadn’t looked at her. Surely, the suspense would choke the life from her soon if he didn’t say something.
“Scott, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong?” Her voice was a whisper she didn’t recognize.
Tori had always been confident and assertive, two of the main reasons she had trouble making friends or connecting with anyone. Scott understood her, but that was probably because they were the same in that way.
She rubbed her palm hard against her bare knee. The pressure felt like proof of life, almost as if she needed to pinch herself to see if she was dreaming.
Finally, he looked at her, but his eyes darted away just as fast as they’d settled on her.
“There’s someone else. I mean, I’ve been seeing someone. A woman.”
Tori shook her head. She was confused and too tired to be jolted with adrenaline for a conversation like this.
Scott was having an affair.
Eventually, she was able to speak the question on her mind. “What?” The solitary word lacked finesse. She really was dipping into energy reserves. It was possible this was a weird dream she was having from her comfortable bed at this very moment.
But no. She could see Scott standing in front of her, pacing like a caged animal. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I do care about you, and I respect you. I just…”
Her breath stopped with his unfinished explanation. This was really happening.
“Wh-what does this mean?” She was too tired to process what he was saying.
Shouldn’t she want to know about the woman her husband preferred? Should she ask how long he’d been seeing someone behind her back? Who knew? Did their coworkers at the hospital know?
Tori couldn’t voice the questions. She just sat waiting for… she didn’t know what.
She felt the pang of betrayal, but the true hurt she should feel hadn’t surfaced yet. Maybe she’d feel it tomorrow.
Scott pushed his fingers through his hair again and faced her. “I met with my attorney today. He has drawn up some parameters we both believe are fair—”
“What?” Was that the only thing she was capable of saying? At this point, she didn’t even understand what she was asking with that single word.
“Since I’m the one who…” Scott had stopped pacing, and he propped one hand on his hip and the other cradled his lowered jaw as he contemplated a way to continue. “I know I messed up, so I told the attorney I’m willing to give you more than half of everything. I don’t want this to cause a rift.”
What in the world was he talking about? Did he really think she wouldn’t be hurt by what he’d done?
“You cheated on me, but you don’t want this to cause a rift between us?” There it was, that shock and understanding she’d been missing before. Her voice was high-pitched and shrill. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
He held out his hands, palms facing her as if to say easy, tiger, but she would not be tamed. “Listen, Victoria—”
“No, you listen.” Her finger pointed accusingly at him, she stood and raised her chin. “You’re throwing away our marriage. You’re the one who messed up here.” She felt the skin between her brows crinkle.
Scott only met her fury with acceptance. “I know. I’m trying to tell you—”
“I can’t believe this is happening.” She turned and started her own pacing. In a split-second decision, she turned again and pointed toward the door. “Get out. I don’t want to see you.”
Scott looked at the floor and rubbed two fingers over his dark eyebrow. “We both know you can’t afford to keep the loft.” His voice was low, as if he hadn’t wanted to say the words and hoped she hadn’t heard him.
Tori’s rage built higher. She made great money, and she’d always been financially responsible. But he was right. She couldn’t keep it alone. The briny taste of iron hit her tongue, and she realized she’d bitten the inside of her cheek hard enough to draw blood.
“Really, Victoria. I’m trying to make this right. I’ll get out of your way while you pack and find another place to stay. I’ve already moved a lot of my things out to give you space.”
“Where are you staying?” She knew the answer, and she was a glutton for punishment.
Like the embarrassed little mouse he was, Scott didn’t look at her as he whispered, “With someone else.”
Her chest rose and fell with her heavy breaths. Scott had moved enough of his things out of their home to stay with someone else for an indefinite amount of time, and she hadn’t even noticed. She pushed that thought from her mind to let the anger rule her.
She couldn’t speak, couldn’t stop staring at him like he was a stranger. In truth, she didn’t know this man. She’d devoted as much of herself as she could to making him happy, and it hadn’t been enough. Rejection stung in her throat.
Scott walked to the recliner and sat slowly but didn't relax. He continued to lean forward and examine her as she stared in fury. His calm was back, and she envied his unaffected position in this mess he’d created.
“I’m not going to leave you without enough to get by comfortably. I’m deeding the cabin to you. I’ve already told the attorney I’ll move it to your name.”
“Excuse me, but what cabin are you talking about? I’m not being exiled to the woods, Scott.”
A headache was coming on strong between her eyes, but she didn’t reach up to pinch the bridge of her nose like she wanted. She couldn’t wait to hear his explanation for this one. A secret cabin? Really? How had she not known he owned a cabin?
“I had a cabin in Georgia before we married. I haven’t been there in fifteen years, but I have someone check on things from time to time. It’s a nice place.”
No, their loft in Chicago was a nice place. She wasn’t made for cabin life in the Deep South, no matter how nice.
“How gracious of you.” Her voice dripped with sour honey. “You can expect my thank you card in the mail.” She was being petty and immature now, but she didn’t care. She was hurt in the worst possible way.
Rejection. The ache in her gut felt familiar.
“Don’t be difficult about this, Victoria. I’m trying to do this right.”
“Right. What would have been the correct way to dissolve our marriage?” Her sarcasm was meant to hit him like a knife. She’d never intentionally said hurtful things to Scott, but now she wished her words could hit him like a lightning strike.
“Staying faithful would have been a good start, or telling me how you were feeling before you cheated on me. If you needed more from me, you should have said something...”
“It just happened!” Scott’s booming voice echoed through the room, and the silence that lingered after paralyzed her.
She’d never heard him raise his voice before. Her heart beat hard enough that she imagined she could hear its pulse in the eerie quietness.
When he spoke again, it was almost a whisper. “We met by accident. I wasn’t looking to find someone like her, but it just happened. We had a connection from the start. A real connection.”
Her cheeks burned at the truth of his missing words. The implication that she and Scott didn’t have a real connection. Not like what he wanted now.
The injustice, the betrayal, and the death of her marriage all hit her at once. Everything had changed in ten minutes. How could this be happening? Their marriage had always been exactly what it was supposed to be—comfortable, convenient, and responsible. Love hadn’t been a requirement before now. How dare he change the rules in the middle of the game!
Scott continued. “You know good and well that you and I don’t have that.”
There it was—the verbal slap to match her thoughts.
He rubbed the front of his shirt as if wiping off a speck of dust. “We’re still individuals, and that’s how we would always stay. I didn’t know I wanted more until I met her.”
Her. He couldn’t even say the woman’s name in front of Tori. Would it taint the blissful love that he and the unnamed woman shared? Or was he trying to spare her feelings with his vagueness?
Scott closed his hand into a fist and rapped a steady beat on the marble surface of the table beside him. “I woke up yesterday, and it hit me. I knew I had to tell you. I took the day off yesterday and today to get things straightened out with the attorney and move some things out.”
He’d taken days off work. Doctor Scott Wright never took days off work. He hadn’t even attempted to schedule time off for their honeymoon.
The magnitude of the situation hit her in the gut. Everything was painfully real, and her throat tightened up like a vise.
There was no way to change what was happening. She’d lost the fight before she even knew she was in it. She would have to accept it and move on. Tomorrow would be a killer.
Her fire had flared hot and burned out. Now only the sick feeling that came with extreme exhaustion lingered as she whispered, “I’ll pack my things,” and turned toward what had once been her bedroom.