and April 5th, 2016 (Print)
Fiona looked around at the packed event, a total success. Anyone would think she had a full life.
Except she couldn’t bring herself to have sex with husband. She’d been so certain the surgery was the right decision. She’d gone to counseling before and after. Her husband had been completely supportive.
And still the distance between them had grown wider and wider these past months, emphasizing how little they knew about each other. They’re married because of infatuation and great sex. Now that the initial glow of infatuation had passed and they didn’t even have sex to carry them through the rough patches, their marriage was floundering. Badly.
And with a cancer scare looming over her today, she couldn’t bear the thought that he would stay with her out of sympathy.
Henri wasn’t in much of a party mood, no matter how much his brothers elbowed him and teased him about his latest fumble. His Texas cousins weren’t cutting him any slack either.
He’d been thinking about the divorce papers his wife insisted on pursuing.
While the love had left their marriage, he’d heard plenty say that marriage had ups and downs. He wasn’t a quitter. And damn it all, he still burned to have her.
His gaze skimmed along the guests around the pool, landing on his wife. Her loose hair and slim curves called to him, reminding him of the enticing feel of her back as he’d tugged her zipper up.
She smiled at whoever she spoke to – a man with his back to the rest the crowd – and nodded as she walked away. The man turned and Henri’s breath froze in his chest. He knew the man well. Dr. Carlson was a partner in the practice Fiona used to see before they’d transferred her to another physician for the surgery.
Fear gelling in his gut, Henri charged away from his brothers and cousins, shouldering through the crowd to his wife.
He grasped her arm and guided her toward the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. “In a moment. When no one can over hear us.”
Lights from yachts and boats dotted the distance. Along the shoreline, couples walked hand and hand into the distance. Henri opened the boat house door and stepped inside. Moonlight streaked through streaked through the windows, across her face. Confusion and frustration stamped along her lovely features.
He angled them beneath a pontoon boat on a lift. The boat was still wet from use, and water tapped the ground in a rhythm that almost matched his pounding heart. Inhaling deeply, he caught the musty scent of the boathouse with the cinnamon notes of Fiona’s perfume. He’d bought it for her on trip to France before all of these difficulties had really gotten out of control.
“Enough already, Henri. Would you please tell me why we’re out here?”
He clasped both of her shoulders. “Are you okay?”
“What do you mean?”
“I saw you talking to Dr. Carlson.” He looked in her sherry colored eyes, trying to read her. Something flickered there but he wasn’t sure what.
Staring at the floor, she chewed her bottom lip for an instant before answering, “We were discussing a fundraiser and party for the pediatric oncology ward.”
Okay, but why was she looking away? “You’re sure that’s all?”
She hesitated a second too long. “What do you mean?”
Fear exploded inside him. “Are you feeling alright?” He clasped her shoulders. “Physically. Is there something wrong? If so, you know I’m here for you. Whatever you need, just tell me.”
She squeezed her eyes closed, shaking her head, tears sliding free.
“Oh God, Fiona, is it …,” his throat moved in a long swallow, “do you have…”
“What were you laughing so hysterically about?” Anger edged through the fear. “And would you like to clue me in on the joke because right now I could use something to lighten the mood?”
“No joke,” she said with a sigh, meeting his gaze again. “Just so ironic.”
“Then what are you hiding?”
“Not that it’s any of your business,” she chewed her bottom lip again, “but he asked me out for a drink to discuss the fundraiser.”
He saw red. Pure red. “He asked you out for a drink? As in for a date? Not because of the fundraiser?”
“Because of the fundraiser, but yes, he clearly meant a date as well.” She pulled at her curls, tension mounting in her cheeks.
Henri had to stay calm. Had to make it through this conversation. “And what did you say?”
“I told him I’m still married.” Eyes narrowing, the words launched at him like daggers.
“Clearly that wasn’t a problem for him since you are wearing my ring.”
She shrugged her shoulders, chandelier earrings swaying. “That didn’t bother him in the least.”
He turned toward the door, ready to return to the party and deck the guy straight into the pool.
Fiona placed a hand on his shoulder. “Stop, Henri. He mentioned hearing we’re splitting up. He thought I was available.”
“How would he have heard such a thing?” His mind went back to the original concern. “Were you at the doctor’s office where he’s a partner?”
She swallowed hard. “You seem to have forgotten his brother is our lawyer.”
“I was thinking the same thing actually.” She picked at her French manicure. “We should get separate lawyers.”
Damn it. This conversation was not going the way he intended. He just wanted to pull her into his arms and take her here. Now. To say to hell with the past and future. No more jealousy or discussion about … hell.
He just wanted her.
After seeing Henri in his half-brother Dempsey’s book (His Secretary’s Surprise Fiancé), I was anxious to get to this one. It was clear that things weren’t as they should be in his marriage, and equally clear that Henri was upset about it and wanted to change that fact. Second chance romance! With football! Clearly it was going to be a win-win.
In some ways, it was. Seeing Henri in his own book, I liked him even more. He’s a great guy–a star quarterback who loves his wife, gets along (mostly) with his brothers, and cares for his ailing grandfather. He truly doesn’t understand what has gone wrong with his marriage, or what he can do to fix it, though he’s determined to try. It’s doubly hard for him because first Gervais (His Pregnant Princess Bride) and now Dempsey have found the loves of their lives, yet his wife keeps bringing up divorce.
Because he and Fiona have secrets.
They married three years ago after a very short courtship, because Fiona became pregnant–only to lose the baby. Undeterred, they kept trying for more kids–through a second trimester miscarriage and infertility treatments–until her doctors pointed out that her family history of cancer (her mother, aunt, and grandmother all died fairly young) combined with those treatments put her more at risk. So she and Henri decided to go the preemptive route–she had a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. Without telling anyone else.
And now Fiona’s pushing him away. Her justification for this is a combination of 1) the fear that he’ll reject her as she is now (though he makes it clear over and over that he loves and wants her as she is, and that he believes she’s a strong person for all she’s gone through), 2) a belief that he’d only stay with her from a sense of pity and/or obligation (see last parenthesis) and 3) wanting to save him from the pain and devastation that the men in her family went through, losing the loves of their lives by leaving him before she (maybe, possibly) develops cancer and (eventually) dies.
Only she doesn’t exactly tell him any of that. She just says that they need to end their relationship, and that nothing can be done to change the fact that they must split up. And Henri’s just as confused as the reader for a good 50% of the book as to why she could possibly believe that. Especially since they sleep together more than once during the novel (prior to that she’d kept a door firmly shut between their now-separate rooms) and both admit–to themselves and even to others–that they still love each other.
So. Frustrating. Why would anyone choose to throw away the possibility of happiness now out of a fear of what might happen eventually in the future? Especially when they’ve been so proactive and careful to try and keep it from happening? Argh.
Fortunately, she comes around in the end and they manage to get their HEA–it’s immensely satisfying, but pretty last minute. Hopefully we’ll see them again in the last brother’s book (Secret Baby Scandal) finally happy together. Henri (and the readers!) definitely deserve it.
Reunited would work well as a standalone. If you haven’t read the first two in the series yet, any details you need to know are explained for you here. If you have, it’s nice to see the brothers and their fiancees again. Plus, we finally get a glimpse of the elusive Jean-Pierre! Less than two months to go until we find out his story…
Rating: 3 stars / C+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
USA Today bestseller and RITA Award winning author Catherine Mann writes contemporary romance for Berkley, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Tule. With over sixty books released in more than twenty countries, she has also celebrated six RITA finals, an RT Reviewer’s Award finalist, three Maggie Award of Excellence finals and a Bookseller’s Best win. Catherine and her flyboy husband live on the Florida coast where they brought up their 4 children – and still have 5 four-legged, furry “children” (aka pets). Catherine is an active volunteer with an animal rescue, serving on their Board of Directors and fostering over 200 puppies, ill dogs, and dogs with service/working potential.