REKINDLE BY ASHLEY SUZANNE
BLOG TOUR APRIL 6-10
Since Christina Mitchell was a young girl, her calling’s been clear: to become a paramedic. Determined to be the best in her field—compete in a boy’s club—she sacrificed everything in order to prove her worth. Before she realized it, Christina was falling in love with a firefighter, Nicholas Conrad. Christina knew the stakes and what it could do to her career, and his, but also recognized her soul mate in the charismatic hero.
In their cocoon, everything she’s dreamed becomes reality until tragedy strikes destroying a part of Nick with it. The happily ever after they’d been living fell apart, leaving her with no choice but to walk away. There was no amount of hope left to cover the pain that twisted in her gut when Nick stepped aside and allowed her to go.
Now, picking up the pieces, she has budget cuts to blame when the pair is forced to work together once again. Determined to remain professional, their past a secret from the rest of the house, they’re both aware it’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed.
With tensions rising every time they’re together, Christina has only two roads to follow: forget the past and risk her heart or disappear forever.
Will Nick and Tina be able to rekindle their love? Or will everything they’ve worked so hard for go up in smoke?
It’s been almost a year—a few weeks shy—and nothing’s changed. He’s not changing. Rolling over, I place my hand on his back, rubbing gently.
“Nick. Wake up, baby. You’re on shift soon.”
Grunting, shrugging me off him, he maneuvers to face me, his eyes expressing nothing. Not hurt. Not pain. Not even love. Just…nothing.
“Thanks,” he mutters. Rubbing his eyes, he sits up quickly and walks into the bathroom. I hear the faint sound of the shower starting, and trying to be the good wife I am, I drag myself from the blankets and make my way downstairs toward the kitchen tugging on my robe as I pass it. Covering my bare body, longing for Nick’s touch, I numbly start the coffee. My thoughts drift to a different time as I go through the motion. Not even Hemingway, our beloved pooch can stirred me from my morning funk. I open the back door, and let him escape my mood and take care of his business while I wait for Nick.
When I can no longer hear the whining of the old pipes, I pour him a mug. Setting it at his place at the table, I take my own across from him, purposefully letting my robe ride high to expose my thigh. Nick strides down the stairs a few minutes later wearing his uniform pants and DFD blue tee shirt slung over his shoulder.
Wordlessly, he sits in his chair and with the mug to his lips, stares past me. This is the rut we’ve fallen into, barely speaking and when we do, it’s short and clipped, no matter how hard I try to pull something more out of him.
“I bet the chief would take you back at 75 if you talked to him. Things are better now,” I offer. At least when we were at the same house, before Nick was transferred to 22, he was forced to interact with me. It was strictly professional, but it was something.
He doesn’t verbally respond, instead gives me a raised eyebrow and a frown to match. Then without a peep he goes back to his coffee. I casually bounce my foot, inching my chair closer, attempting to draw his attention to my needy, bare leg but as usual lately, it’s in vain. He’s not here with me, but barricaded behind the walls in his own world.
He’s been in that damn world for longer than I can handle.
“I gotta go. I’ll see you Wednesday.” Rising from his chair, he pulls the shirt over his head, stops at the couch to shove his feet into his work boots.
Tending to a whining Hemingway, I open the door and the playful pup bounds inside, nearly colliding with the refrigerator as he overcorrects his turn to the living room. Following in his direction, I pause at the entryway to watch Hemingway try, much like I’ve been doing, to get some affection from his owner, but he’s brushed away. Only, Hemingway’s more brave than I am when he goes in again, not caring for the reciprocation, instead leaping up and licking the entire side of Nick’s face. A part of me is happy I’m not the only one Nick’s withdrawn from, a small smile daring my lips, but then the dreadful thought enters my mind that I can’t shake: Is this how I look? While I’m standing here, exposing myself, begging for affection and attention, and going completely unnoticed?
When his boots are laced, Nick grabs his jacket from the arm of the sofa and without a kiss or even goodbye, he’s out the door.
Hot tears break free, falling down my cheeks when his truck fires to life and the power steering pump groans as he pulls out of the driveway. And there it is, another morning, always the same, ever since Yaris died. It’s like Nick forgot he’s not in this alone. He has a support system, and a damn good one. He has a wife. He has people who love him.
It’s got to be hard for him to see that when he’s trapped inside his own head. And no matter how hard I try for him—for us—it’s never enough.
And I can’t take it anymore.
Walking to the bedroom, I slip into a pair of yoga pants, pull on a sports bra and a fitted tee follows. The tears never cease despite my unwavering resolve. Grabbing a sweatshirt from the back of the door, I take my suitcase from the closet and start piling in the rest of my clothes.
I’ll never stop loving him, but until he loves himself again, he can’t love me or give me what I need. What I deserve. And until the Nick I married returns, I can’t keep fighting alone.
Sniffling as I walk down the hallway, past the pictures of our life together, I debate taking them with me. We haven’t been together for a long time, but looking at an image captured of us exchanging our vows, it seems like a lifetime ago. Stopping in front of the last frame, a simple picture of us holding Hemingway as a puppy, I decide against taking them. I don’t have room in my arms and I’ll be able to keep the memories in my heart forever. Maybe leaving them for him to see the images of our happiness will bring him back. Maybe it won’t, but it’s worth a shot.
Snatching my phone off the counter, I call my best friend.
“Lacy,” I sob, a hiccup in my voice.
“What’s wrong?” she asks, already on the defense. She knows what I’m going through, more than anyone else.
“I’m done. I can’t anymore. Can you come get me? And let me sleep on your couch? Please,” I beg.
“Give me fifteen. My home’s your home. You know that. No need to ask.”
Stifling my urge lay down and cry, I hang up, shove the phone in my purse and step into a pair of ballet flats. Walking out the front door, knowing Nick needs him, I give Hemingway a kiss on his snout, my hand scratching the place behind his ears he loves so much, and whisper, “Take care of him. He needs you.” The only reply I’m granted is a wet swipe of his head against my cheek as he nuzzles close causing my heart to break further. I force myself up, snatch my key on the coffee table and lock the door behind me.
And for fifteen minutes, maybe closer to twenty, I sit on the porch hashing through all the memories Nick and I made in this house. All the great times we spent together. None of it in vain.
I’ll be fine. I’ll move on. I’ll get over it. It’ll be hard as hell and it’s not something I pictured doing the day we got married, but I was pushed to this point. I nearly chant it, needing a tangible excuse to ease the pain. Not just my own, but the one I’m adding to Nick when he comes home tonight to find me gone. That is if he even notices. My body slumps forward at the heartbreaking thought.
Lacy’s car pulls in the driveway giving me a short reprieve from the consuming sadness, watching as she steps out and stands beside the driver’s side door, watching me with sympathetic eyes. “Come on. I’ve got you.”
Squaring my shoulders, determined to be strong, I inhale a deep breath and step off our porch for the last time. Once my suitcase in the backseat, I climb in the front and drop my purse on the floorboard between my feet, already resting my head back.
“Wanna talk?” Lacy asks, backing out of the driveway.
“Nope.” I reply instantly then slowly murmur. “I just wanna feel.” And that’s exactly what I do. I feel. Everything. The end of my marriage. The loss of my other half. The realization that I have nothing.
Staring at my wedding ring, I debate taking it off, but it’s too soon. It doesn’t feel right. I’ll wait.
For six months. Until my divorce is final. When I’m no longer Christina Conrad, but back to the name I was given when I was born. Slowly sliding the ring from my finger, I consider shoving it back in place when it gets stuck at my knuckle. Spotting Nick from across the court house lot, he curtly nods in my direction and shatters my heart into a million pieces, more than I thought possible. Gritting my teeth, head bowed and determined, I force the band over my knuckle, fighting through the discomfort until it finally gives. My hands tremble clasping the small, gold circle between my fingers as I stare at it, wondering how a piece of metal ever meant so much to me before dropping it into the coin holder of my wallet.
With a deep, cleansing breath, refusing to look in Nick’s direction again, I pull out of the parking lot waiting for more tears to come. When they don’t, I should feel relieved, happy even, instead there’s nothing more than overwhelming numbness that goes into overdrive, blocking out any other emotion I should be feeling.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Suzanne has been writing as long as she can remember. As a youngster, she was always creating stories and talking to her imaginary friends. Thankfully, her parents also carried this love of fiction, and helped her grow into the writer she is today.
Ashley is a bestselling author and spends equal amounts of time writing and reading. Being the true book whore she is, Ashley would rather dive into a good book before going out of her house. Giving up her career in Real Estate, Ashley has officially moved to hermit status.
When Ashley isn't coming up with her next story, you'll most likely find her on the couch with a kindle in her hand (probably watching some crappy reality show while , annoying her husband by telling him all about her new book boyfriend or spending quality time with her two gremlins ... Sorry, I mean adorable children.
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