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Authors: Julia Blues

The Last Exhale

BOOK: The Last Exhale
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Dear Reader:

What happens when two people struggling in individual marriages decide to seek comfort in each other? Chaos, intrigue, drama, and ultimately, clarity. Sydney is married but not happy. She realizes that she made a mistake and was actually a rebound for her husband after losing the true love of his life. Brandon loves his wife but cannot understand why she has turned away from him—both physically and emotionally. When the two of them join a local gym around the same time and Sydney mistakes Brandon for his twin brother who teaches her daughter, they connect and then start making excuses to be around each other. That never works, especially when there is an instant physical attraction.

The Last Exhale
is a novel that many will be able to relate to. When a marriage is on the rocks, some often find it easier to turn to a third party instead of trying to work things out with the people they promised to love throughout eternity. Julia Blues examines how things can fall apart when the realities of life intervene in a seemingly perfect situation. When illness, death, stress, and natural evolution change people. It is a riveting, engaging book that will bring many to the brink of tears in several scenes.

Thanks for supporting the authors of Strebor Books. As always, we strive to bring you amazing stories from prolific authors. We appreciate the love. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter
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and you can join our text service to be aware of upcoming titles and events by texting Zane to 51660.

Blessings,

Publisher

Strebor Books

www.simonandschuster.com

This book is dedicated to marriage.

This book is also dedicated to Barbara & Gary Williams, Sr. Thirty-nine years of marriage and counting. May you continue to be a walking, talking, living, breathing testament to what marriage is all about.
Thank you, Mom & Dad.

1
SYDNEY HOLMES

My hand shakes as I unfold the letter.

I know the words by heart because I wrote them. Wrote them six years ago on the eve of my wedding day. Wrote them to my husband to tell him I wasn't going to meet him at the altar the next morning.

I made a mistake.

That night, I should have gone to his hotel and slid the letter under his room door like I had planned. Should've done that and taken the taxi to the airport, hopped on the flight I purchased a ticket for the night before, and flown to another life where nobody knew my name. Should've done all of that, but I didn't.

“Mommy, are you crying?”

I stuff the letter back in the shoe box, toss a worn pair of shoes on top of it. Shove it under the bed just like I did my heart when I stood in front of family and friends and God and promised to love a man for the rest of my life who I couldn't even love at that moment.

Before my son can see my face, I grab a tissue off the nightstand. “No, honey. Mommy's not crying. It's my allergies.” I blow my nose to emphasize my lie.

I knew the moment the doors opened and I placed my feet on freshly sprinkled rose petals that I was making a mistake. My heart
begged me to turn around, save myself before committing to a lifetime of insecurity. But my right foot betrayed me, then my left. Moments later, there was only a breath standing between us. I closed my eyes as his lips touched mine. Deep down, I prayed that when I opened them, it would have all just been a dream. A really bad dream.

It wasn't.

Almost seven years later, I'm still hoping to wake up and realize I'd been placed in the
Guinness Book of World Records
for the longest uninterrupted nightmare.

My son stands in front of me, stares me in the face to see if I'm really telling the truth. “Your eyes are red.”

I pick him up and sit him on my lap. “Well, that's what they do this time of year, EJ. Let's just pray you don't grow up to be allergic to everything like your mother.”

He shakes his head so hard it makes me feel like I have a bad case of vertigo, then runs his tiny finger down my nose. “I don't want to be allergic 'cause it makes you look bad.”

Wow. I don't know if I should be insulted or laugh at his truth-telling innocence. I catch a glimpse of myself in the full-length mirror in the corner of the room. Bags under my eyes large enough to incur an overweight baggage fee. There's nothing laughable about my image. I put Eric Jr. down and pat him on the butt. “Go tell Kennedy it's time for bed. I'll be in to check on you two in a minute.”

“But I'm not sleepy, Mommy.”

I give him the look of looks, one that lets him know I mean business tonight.

He shuffles out of the room, yelling for his sister to go to sleep before she gets in trouble. Just like him to threaten his sister with his punishment.

Kids.

I go in the bathroom, grab a rag, and saturate it with cold water. Lay it over my eyes until it loses its cool. Rewet it with more cold water. Then I add a few drops of the liquid that promises to take the red out, let it marinate behind my eyelids. I do my best to get rid of any evidence of breakdown. Not that my husband would notice anything is wrong, I'm just not in the mood to tell any more lies. This might be the one night I set the truth free.

“Mom.” This time, my daughter comes barging in the room yelling at the top of her lungs. “EJ just squeezed all my toothpaste in the trash.”

“Kennedy, calm down. I've told you, no one can hear you when you yell. Now, what's the problem?”

Why do these kids insist on working my nerves tonight? Don't they know I'm near my breaking point? Don't they know that if either of them so much as sneezes, I will walk out that door and not look back?

My daughter repeats her distress and marches down the hall to their bathroom to show me the evidence. “See.” She points to the trash. Pink gel with a ton of sparkles is splattered all in the trash and on the floor.

“Eric Thomas Holmes, Jr.,” I call out. No response. I look under the cabinet and hand Kennedy a new box of her favorite toothpaste. “Brush your teeth and get in the bed.” That seems to settle all her problems for now.

Heavy footsteps climb up the stairs. “What's all this noise up here?” the man of the house questions.

I tell him, “Your kids doing what they do best.”

He pulls a smaller version of himself from behind his back. “This one was hiding under the dining room table.”

I point to EJ's room door. “Bed. Now.”

He scurries to his room like a dog with his tail tucked between its legs in its moment of chastisement.

“I'll have them asleep by the time you get downstairs.” My husband kisses me on the forehead, tells me, “The dishes are done and I left the DVR up so you can catch up on your shows.”

I stare at him momentarily. Do my best to convince my conscience that I did the right thing six years ago by not giving him that letter. And for a moment, it works.

I wink at him. “I'll be up shortly.”

2
SYDNEY

D
ownstairs, I stare at a blank TV screen. Can't bring myself to scroll through the list of recorded shows. I'm so overwhelmed with my life, overwhelmed with the decisions I've made that have brought me here. It was my choice to keep dating Eric when I knew something was missing. I'm the one who chose to say yes when he proposed. And now I'm here, with two kids added to the equation.

In a way, it pisses me off that he can't see how unhappy I am. How can he claim to love me and not feel my pull in another direction?

Movement in my peripheral draws me from my thoughts, puts my attention on Forrester, our tabby cat, as he rolls over in front of the fireplace. He's so big, rolling seems to be all he can do. I watch him as he stretches his paws from the Atlantic to the Pacific, looks up at me, and lets out an exasperated yawn as if he's overworked and underpaid. He gets up, turns around, plops back down, shuffles until he finds the perfect position to drift back into the wonderful world of chasing birds and squirrels, and probably indulging in steroid-filled Thanksgiving turkeys at will. The vet says he's severely obese, but if Forrester could talk, he'd have a different story to tell.

Watching him makes me think about my own life. Forty is a few blocks away, and I have no idea the last time I've had a genuine
smile cross my face. This is not the life or marriage I imagined for myself. I always saw myself married to a man I'd travel the world with and create so many beautiful memories to share with our children and our children's children. Now, all I want to share with Kennedy and EJ is not to get married.

This is the bed I committed to when I agreed to take Eric's hand in marriage.

And this is the bed I have to lie in.

•  •  •

Long after the shows have gone off and my tears have dried, I make my way back upstairs.

I look in on Kennedy and EJ before heading to my room. Both of them are knocked out. When the kids are asleep or sick, I swear they're perfect angels. When they're awake, well…

As I open the door to the master bedroom, Eric staggers out of the bathroom. He says, “I was just about to come down and get you,” his voice groggy.

“Why? You know how my insomnia can get.”

He looks at the clock on his nightstand. “And you know how you don't like to get up in the mornings.”

It's a few minutes after one a.m. In less than five hours, my world of wife and motherhood begins again. Sleep is the only time I feel like it's just me. I always dream I'm someone else, married to someone else, living somewhere else. Anyone but me, and anywhere but here. Sometimes, I swear sleep knows this, which is why it hides from me.

I go to the bathroom to empty my bladder before hopping into bed. I lean over and give Eric a goodnight kiss. His lips linger a little longer than mine. I pull away. “I don't like to get up in the mornings, remember?”

He rubs a hand up my thigh, suddenly wide awake. “What's a few more minutes?”

What's the point of avoiding this? Eric's manhood will spend the next few hours throbbing against my backside anyway. I shrug and let him kiss me again, let his tongue dance around mine until I feel the familiar tingle traveling down south. Eric's always been a good kisser. Had he not kissed me the way he did on our first date, I might not have gone out with him again.

My gown is lifted over my head and my breasts are sucked to erection. I rub my hands along a broad, muscular back, try to massage away the roughness of his skin. “We've got to get you some more exfoliant,” I say.

“Mmm hmm,” he mumbles with my nipples in his mouth.

The teasing way he licks my nipples makes me forget about exfoliating his back and focus on the wetness accumulating between my thighs. I let my legs ease open as his pelvis inches closer to mine. He eagerly slides into my womanly haven. His penetration has always sent my arousal to the umpteenth notch. I rock my hips to his rhythm, feel the groove he creates. Just as my eyes begin to roll their way to the back of my head, I feel warm liquid dripping down my thigh.

BOOK: The Last Exhale
6.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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