When there is pain, humiliation, domination and constant submission, what is a lonely woman to do after thirteen years of marriage? Her husband’s answer is simple. Give in before you get hurt and enjoy the slow painful ride with him.
Eartha’s life with Clint has descended into misery and loneliness, and then she meets Anthony. Anthony is a little younger and very single and makes it obvious he is interested in her knowing she is married. Even though her marriage is dying, Eartha still feels the bitter angry bonds of wedlock and somehow still hopes Clint will come back to his senses. After a couple of violent episodes, she has to admit Clint is too far into his sexual submission and domination lifestyle and she has to break free for her own peace of mind and safety. But Clint has his own ideas of how and when to let go.
Finally, Eartha is ready to start a new life on her own. Anthony shows her that on her own does not mean she has to be alone. After accepting his love, things began to take unexpected turns which lead Eartha to make even tougher choices than ever before because this time her heart is bound by love.
A few patrons in the hotel dining room turned to see who had just walked in, some nodded or said hello. Two ladies, who were sisters raised their brows and began to whisper. Veronica believed their names were Mabel and Moella. They were smiling but not back at her.
“What’s on the menu today, Molly?” Veronica asked pleasantly of the waitress and owner.
“Chicken and dumplings and vegetable beef soup with corn bread.”
“I’ll have the chicken and dumplings and a glass of milk,” Veronica decided.
“Be right back,” Molly said slowly. She looked back at Veronica then disappeared in the kitchen.
Veronica stared out the window at people passing by and waved at a few she knew. When she brought her attention back to the dining room, she noticed a couple of open stares.
“Here you go, Miss Murray.” Molly placed a large plate and glass of milk on her table. She reached into her apron pulling out some silverware wrapped in a napkin. “Have a good day at school today, did you?”
It was a simple question, however the smirk on Molly’s face let Veronica know she was privy to Rhonda’s visit.
“Yeah,” Veronica said crisply. “Today was very productive.” She tasted the food. It was good and hot. She took a couple mouthfuls and noticed Molly was still standing near her table. “Yes, Molly?”
“Huh? Oh, I was just admiring the way you go for my dumplings.”
A man Veronica was sure she never met, casually strolled into the dining room. He checked out the room as he chose a table that positioned his back to the wall. What interested Veronica was the fact that he wore two guns.
Molly started greeting him before making it to his table. “How are you this evening, Mister Williams?”
“Just fine. Thank you, ma’am.”
“Ma’am? I told you my name is Molly.” She grinned, showing her missing tooth on the left side. “All my friends call me Molly.”
Mark eyed her roguishly. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Is there something I could do for you – Mark?”
Mark Williams! Veronica nearly choked on her milk coughing up a storm.
Molly scowled at her briefly with distaste. “We have chicken and dumplings and veg-”
“Miss, you okay?” Mark was on his feet assisting Veronica with her coughing fit. “Molly, she needs some water over here.”
“No, please. Milk just went down wrong.” She rubbed her throat then looked at his face. He was definitely Gerald’s cousin. He had the same yellowish complexion and although they bore a striking resemblance, Mark had a harder and leaner look, which made him more attractive in Veronica’s eyes. “Thank you, Mister Williams.” She sneaked a peek in Molly’s direction. Molly had gone to stand beside Mabel and Moella’s table and she was not pleased one bit.
“Are you eating alone? Come join me, please.” He pulled her chair back, not waiting for a reply.
“I’m nearly finished, Mister Williams,” she protested.
“Then have another glass of milk or something.” He led her by the elbow to his table. “And call me Mark.” After he had her all seated, he asked her name. “Is that Spanish?”
“I don’t know,” she said feeling a little nervous to be sitting with the man who had threatened to harm Caine.
“Molly, bring this lovely lady a fresh milk and I think I’ll have some of that beef stew.”
“It’s vegetable beef soup,” Molly corrected tartly.
“That’s fine,” he said turning backing to Veronica. Molly stormed away to the kitchen; a loud crash was heard a few seconds after she disappeared. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but those two girls over there by the window have been shooting daggers at you with their eyes,” Mark whispered.
“You don’t care?”
“It’s nothing new, but I don’t know what I’ve done to them.”
“Maybe, it’s because you are so pretty,” he said with a wink and a grin. “Don’t worry. I know I’m old enough to be your pa.”
“I wasn’t worried,” she replied and smiled.
“No? Darn it, I guess I am getting old.”
“Judging from Molly’s reaction, I’d venture to say you still have all the charm you’ve ever had.”
“Molly is a good enough looking woman, but…” His voice trailed off to silence.
“Well,” he said sheepishly. “I’m in love with a beautiful lady.”
Molly came out with a tray and set the table in silence. She started to leave and Mark grabbed her skirt.
“You forgot the milk, Molly.”
“Oh, did I?” she dripped with sarcasm.
“That’s okay. I don’t really need it,” Veronica said.
“Are you sure? Because I can go back and-”
“Please, don’t put yourself out, Molly.”
“Enjoy your meal, Mister Williams,” Molly said stiffly and left.
“Mark, why do you wear two pistols?”
He sipped at his soup then regarded her in a quiet fashion for a while. “If you have specific questions go ahead and ask them.”
“Are you a professional gunman?”
“But you do stuff?”
“I rob trains,” he stated bluntly. “Most people in these parts know that. And yes, I’m damn good with my guns. Do I kill for money? No. So, if you want someone dead-”
“Me? I don’t want anybody harmed!”
“Then excuse me for the misunderstanding.” He went back to his soup.
“Men like you don’t come around towns like this for no reason.”
“I guess we don’t.”
“You staying long?”
“I’ve been here two weeks.”
“Really? I never saw you. But then again, I don’t roam around that much.”
“It’s probably a good habit to keep with you being so pretty.” He wiped his mouth with a napkin.
“I bet she misses you being gone so long.”
“The lady you love.”
“Then why are you staying away? Is it business?”
“Veronica, why are you asking these kind of questions?”
“Well, you said you were in love, but pardon me for saying it, you don’t seem all that happy.”
“Is that what love is supposed to do? Make you happy?”
“Maybe if you weren’t an outlaw,” Veronica ventured.
“That ain’t it. Fannie doesn’t mind my lifestyle one bit. Seems like she prefers the type,” he commented with bitterness.
“Why don’t you just go back home and be with her?”
“Because I have to take care of him first.”
“The sidewinder that came between us. I warned them both and I was even a gentleman about it. And I aim to call him out for it.” He watched her face a moment. “You ain’t shocked.”
“I’ve met obsessed men before,” she said evenly.
Appalled at her assessment, Mark deliberately dropped his spoon into the bowl of soup letting it splash. He wiped his mouth with his hand then scooted his chair closer to the table. “You think you know anything about me, or my life?” he queried with controlled anger.
“I’ve seen your kind before,” she answered coldly. “If you can’t have her love, you’ll kill what she loves.”
He slammed his hand down hard. “You have no idea what you’re even talking about. I’m a man. He defied me and disrespected Fannie and me. He took her off and just dumped her. I can’t let that go.”
“You think he forced her to leave?”
“No. Persuaded or tricked,” Mark allowed.
“Have you considered you might be the one to get killed?”
“No, I have not!”
Veronica raised her voice. “Well, maybe you should!
He stared at her confused at her strong feelings. “What’s got you so riled anyhow?”
“Men like you so ready to kill your own kind over nothing! You may as well cover your face with a sheet and carry torches and join the night riders!”
“There ain’t no call for that kind of talking, Veronica! Girl or not you’ve gone too far!”
“Well, think about this,” Veronica said pushing out from the table and got to her feet. Leaning across the table with her hands balanced on the table, she said. “If you find that man and kill him, what do you think your woman is going to do? If I were in her place, I know I’d hate you.”
“What’s going on over here?” Molly interrupted, nearing the table. “People are trying to eat in peace.”
“Mind your own business, Molly,” Mark suggested quietly.
Veronica turned to Molly. “Don’t worry, I’m leaving.”
“You better come back here and pay for your meal!” Molly shouted after her.
“Put it on my bill,” Mark said distractedly pushing out from the table. “Who was that girl?”
“You buying her supper, but don’t know who she is?”
“Molly,” Mark said impatiently towering over her.
“She’s Veronica Murray, the schoolteacher. What was she shooting her mouth off at you about?”
Instead of answering her question he sat down to finish his soup.
Grace got an almost perverse satisfaction from his discomfort. She’d told him it was a lousy idea and it served him right for trying to keep tabs on her, tagging along where he wasn’t wanted.
She glanced at her watch not believing only twenty minutes had passed. She loved her parents, but she found them incredibly dull half the time. And Christmas dinner was the dullest event of them all.
“Mom, this dressing is the best you’ve ever put together,” she said, and thought that wasn’t really saying much.
“Thank you, dear,” Vera Miller smiled at her beautiful daughter, content to ignore Hector as well.
“And thanks for the luggage, you guys. I just love it.”
“You’re more than welcome, honey.”
“You know, Grace, everyone asks about you all the time. Aren’t you keeping in touch with your friends?” her father asked buttering his roll. Which his daughter translated to mean eligible bachelors as opposed to that old fool sitting across from me.
“Sure Dad. But since my promotion, I don’t have all the time I used to.”
“I’ll vouch for that,” Hector said attempting to join in. No one even looked at him.
“We don’t see much of your friend anymore. What was her name, dear?” George Miller asked his wife. “The plump one?”
“Beatrice,” Vera guessed. “Yes, she was a lovely girl. Too bad she didn’t go to college. Who knows what she could have made of herself.”
“Her name is Bette, Mom. And she swears ,she’s doing just fine as a secretary.”
“She can’t really meet any eligible young men in that capacity can she?” Vera looked to her husband for confirmation. “I mean, aren’t most of the clients married or old?” George nodded in agreement.
“I wouldn’t know about that.” Grace recognized the subtle dig at Hector. “Most men I meet are single.” She filled her plate with green peas. “Anyway, Bette is relying on God to send her a man. She says she intends to be snatched up within five years.”
“Well, God sent me your daddy.”
“Vera.” George looked at his plate.
“Well, he did,” she insisted
Grace giggled drinking her wine. “Did you have to pray hard, Mom? Did Daddy resist?”
“No. It was out of his hands anyway. But Bette is a bit older,” Vera pointed out. “And worthwhile men aren’t as abundant as they used to be.”
“Here, here.” George commented.
“Maybe you should pray for the poor girl,” Hector suggested then swallowed seeing he had everyone’s attention. “I mean, the effort wouldn’t hurt.”
“Actually, she has a prayer partner,” Grace happily informed them. “I met her over the phone. They support each other and pray in each other’s behalf.” Grace shook her head laughing at the notion. “I keep telling that girl-”
“Grace, if your friend is serious, leave her alone,” George advised sternly.
“The fact that she’s so serious is what makes it so funny.”
“Wanting to find a suitable mate is not funny, Grace.” George raised his voice, which was unusual for him in his own home. “You would do well to take a page out of her book.”
“I doubt Grace has to pray-” Hector interceded. “All the good men are not in church.” He laughed and Grace joined in.
“Maybe not.” George wiped his mouth then placed his napkin on the table. “But I doubt, as a result, that Bette is subjecting her parents to Christmas dinner with her old, bald and probably married lover who is about as interesting as mud.” George pushed back from the table and left the dining room without another word.
“Hector is not married,” Grace rose screaming after her father. “At least he has table manners! Mom-”
“Excuse me, please,” Vera said, pushing out from the table in a fashion similar to her husband.
“Was it something I said?” Hector feigned ignorance reaching for the cranberry sauce. “I don’t know why but I seem to have an appetite. That duck looks wonderful.”
“Let’s go to your place, Hector.”
“Why? I have nothing prepared. The staff is-”
“Who said anything about eating? It’s Christmas and I’m sure you haven’t given me all my gifts yet.”
“You’ll spend the night and the next day?”
“If you make it worth my while.”
“Rubies?” He put down his silverware and grinned . “Come here,” he ordered getting to his feet.
“You said rubies.” Grace allowed him to kiss and bite on her neck. He was trembling already.
“And perhaps emeralds,” he said backing away going to sit in a chair.
Grace went to lock the dining room doors. She doubted her parents would be leaving the library anytime soon just to ensure they did not have to endure Hector for the rest of the evening. When she turned around she was surprised that Hector was ready, needing no manipulation from her. Good she thought, lifting her skirt to straddle him. It took all of two minutes before he went soft. Somebody didn’t take his pill, she thought critically of him and got off his lap.
She snatched up her purse, dug out her compact to reapply her lipstick. “You ready?” she asked snapping the compact shut.
“Grace, my dear,” he began and tried to kiss her.
“Oh, for goodness sake.” She pushed him back, making him wobble a bit on his bow legs. “Can’t you see I have my lips on?” Then softening, maybe because it was Christmas, she took his arm leading him out through the foyer.
Near the door, stood her mother’s butler Fenwick, giving her the disapproving eye. “You ought to be ashamed, Miss Grace,” he said opening the door.
“I’m sure your job description does not involve giving unsolicited commentary,” Hector stopped in front of the tall butler to say.
“Sir,” Fenwick replied coolly. “You have no idea what my job description involves.”
“How dare you speak back to me! Grace?”
“Are you going to stand for this?”
“Oh, Hector,” Grace groaned, pulling him along out to the car. She climbed in and rearranged her mink. She watched him sit across from her massaging his sore knees. “You just had to meet my parents.”
“You knew they’d treat me deplorably,” he said.
“And what parents wouldn’t?” Grace asked lighting up a cigarette.
“You are such a bitch.”