Decision to Love<br/>(Sacred Vows, book 3)

Author: Michelle Sutton
Publisher: Healing Hearts Books
Published: 2013-06-14
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Inspirational, Women's Fiction, Romance & Friendship Read Excerpt >

Chapter 1




Seven years later…



"I need you, Tony."

He turned up the volume on his cell phone. "Who is this?"

The woman's voice was so faint he had to strain to hear her even with the volume cranked up.

"Brenda. Come over. I need you."

Her voice sounded broken, contrite even. He hadn't talked to Brenda in months. Why now?

"I'm still at work."

"Please, Tony." She cried softly. "Please."

He still had an hour on the clock before it was time to leave, but something in his gut told him Brenda was serious this time, and not just playing him like she had in the past. Thankfully, he had enough staff to cover for him so he could leave. "All right. I will be there in ten minutes."

"Thank you."

He'd heard a gasp in her voice and he sighed. His ex-wife experienced regular mood swings, and this past year she'd been more depressed than usual. He hoped she hadn't cut her wrists again, but the last time she'd done something like that she had told him the moment he'd answered the phone. Today she just sounded sad and tired.

Tony locked up his office and headed to the front desk. "Janie, I will be back Monday morning. My ex calls me and says she needs to talk to me. She is upset."

"Which one?" His secretary smirked.

He hadn't had that many exes. "The one who was my wife when I start my job here."

The office phone rang. Janie gave her usual spiel when she answered. She glanced at him a moment and held up a finger.

He waited. When she peered up again, he waved to show he was leaving and not sticking around until she got off the call.

"See you Monday," she mouthed as she wiggled her fingers to say goodbye.

He walked to the car and called his elderly neighbor who watched Mikey every day after school so he wouldn't be home alone. Her grandson and Tony's son were best friends, so it was a convenient arrangement for him.

"This is Tony. Tell Mikey I will be late coming home."

Mildred chuckled into the phone. "He won't even notice. He and Jeremy have already started playing that crazy brawl game, and you know how they are once they get going."

"That I do." He ruffled his bangs and blew out an exhausted breath. "I am not sure why Brenda wants to see me, but I may not be home for hours. I am sorry."

"Stay out all night if you want. We're fine here."

The last thing he wanted to do was spend the night with Brenda. Her latest boyfriend was a bit too possessive, according to Brenda, and with Tony's luck he'd get knocked out if he was caught in her apartment. He had to be careful.

Too bad Brenda's marriage to that last guy hadn't survived. He'd actually liked the previous man she married, until he found out the guy had relapsed on drugs and got Brenda using with him.

She'd cleaned up her act over the past year and he couldn't help being proud of her for dumping the druggie. Now if she'd just dump the latest idiot, things would be better. While Brenda didn't visit Mikey often, she always made sure she was clean and sober when she did see him.

"I plan to be home tonight, but I may be late. Thank you."

"No problem."

He hung up and hopped into his jeep. He checked his cell phone battery and saw it flashing. He needed to charge his phone before it died. Hopefully their meeting would be brief and he could get home before the battery had totally drained.

Brenda hadn't moved from her apartment in years, so he wouldn't have any trouble finding the place. Unfortunately, it was in a low income housing area, and not very safe. But it was all she could afford with her disability checks.

Ten minutes later, he arrived at the door and knocked. No one answered, but he could hear a television playing in the background. Maybe she'd fallen asleep. He knocked again.

After waiting what seemed like forever, he decided to try the door to see if it was unlocked. He turned the handle and stepped inside. The first thing he noticed was a strong, tinny odor that reminded him of blood. That was odd.

"Brenda? You home?"

No one answered, but he could still hear the television in her bedroom. He hated to go into her room. But one time when she called him she had been too depressed to even get out of bed, so he had to check before giving up and going home. What he saw the moment he entered the room made his stomach lurch.

Brenda lay on her bed, her face as pale as her sheets. He could tell she wasn't wearing any clothes under them. At least not a shirt. Blood stains covered the sheets over her torso, resembling a wilting rose, and her face had swollen as if she'd been recently beaten.

"Oh my God. What happened to you?"

She opened her eyes and offered him a faint grin. "I'm dying, Tony. Now you'll finally be rid of me."

"What? Don't say that." He knelt beside her on the bed and said, "You and I have had our differences, but you'll always be my son's mother." He kissed her blood-stained knuckles.

A few tears trickled down her cheeks.

"I need to check your injuries, okay?" He didn't want to peek at her bare chest, but he had to see what was causing the bleeding. She wore no clothing underneath the sheets as expected, but the deep gashes in her abdomen were what drew his attention. It looked like someone had dug a hole in her gut and tried to rip something out. Had she been pregnant?

"Who did this to you?"

Brenda coughed and whispered, "Tell Mikey I love him."

He gently shook her shoulders and fought tears. "Don't you die on me. Hold on while I call the police."

He found her cell phone near the pillow by her head. Though it was still slick with blood, he grabbed it and dialed 911. He kept his eyes glued to her chest to make sure she was still breathing. He pressed the sheet against the seeping stomach wound to staunch the flow of blood.

The operator answered just as Brenda sucked in another deep breath, coughed, and breathed her last.

He ran his fingers through his bangs. "No!"

"911. What is your emergency?"

He sobbed so hard he couldn't stop long enough to take a breath. Brenda was dead? But who would do this to her? He remembered the pain he'd felt the night they'd lost their baby girl. Losing Brenda hurt as much as losing their child all over again.

He didn't love her like he had when they were first married, but she was Mikey's mother, and on some level he would always care for her. He'd pitied her these past few years as her life became more and more pathetic. And now she was gone? He couldn't let her die. He had to do something to revive her.

"Hello? Is anyone there?"

Tony dropped the phone and tried CPR for several minutes. When it was obvious his efforts were doing no good, he rested his head on Brenda's still chest and he pled for her life. "Please God. Please don't take her from our son."

After crying hard for several minutes, he heard sirens approaching and snapped back to reality. This was not what he'd expected to find when he'd agreed to come over. He wasn't prepared for this. What would he tell them? He glanced down at his hands and shirt and realized he was covered in her blood.

The police entered the apartment with guns drawn. "Put your hands behind your head!"

He raised his hands and said in heavily accented English, "Is not what it seems. I find her like this. I try to save her life."

"Right." One officer re-holstered his gun and pulled Tony's arms roughly behind his back while the other checked the room and the closet. The first officer slapped cuffs on Tony's wrists and began reading him his rights.

This couldn't be happening. It had to be a bad dream. He was the one who had called them, and they thought he'd done this?

"What's your name?"

"Tony Perotta."

"Do you know the victim's name?"

"Yes. Brenda Perotta. She's my ex-wife."

The officer gave him a knowing look and pushed him toward the door. An ambulance had arrived along with several other police cars. Everything blurred as his disbelieving eyes filled with tears. He allowed them to shove him toward the cruiser's open door knowing that he didn't deserve to be arrested. But shock had frozen his brain and he couldn't seem to think straight.

"Watch your head." The officer who had handcuffed him now directed him toward the back seat of his cruiser.

As reality hit him and he realized he was being taken downtown, he said, "But this is mistake. I find her like this. I did not kill her."

"That's what they all say. Save it for the judge."

At that moment, Tony realized he was in deeper trouble than he'd ever imagined. He decided to remain silent as they instructed when they read him his rights. And for the first time in years he cast his gaze toward heaven. This problem was too big for him to handle alone. He needed divine help.

Then the truth struck him in the chest like a fist. Mikey would think he'd killed his mother. His name would be plastered all over the news. Oh God. This was bad. So bad. Why, oh why, had he agreed to come when she'd called him?

But it was too late for a do over now. Too late.

Decision to Love ~ (Sacred Vows, book 3)   by   Michelle Sutton   |   See Bio >
Book 3 of 4 in the Sacred Vows Series.
Fiction making an impact on real lives...

Eight years after Tony and Hope's affair ended, new problems arise. Jimmy has gone off to college, but returns home with a startling revelation that devastates his father and causes his final heart attack. Now Hope is grieving the loss of both her husband and their son. She tries to make sense of everything, and in the end she decides to love her son through the grief. More than that, she makes the decision to love whoever her son chooses to love, whether she agrees with his choices or not. 

Tony's life has its own disaster tearing through it. First, he is accused of killing his ex-wife, but he is soon released once the authorities realize he had nothing to do with it. The tragedy with his ex led to some major changes in his life, however, and some soul-searching that ultimately turns Tony's life around. While he is still adjusting to his new perspective on life, his long-lost daughter Nina contacts him and has some secrets of her own. He is overjoyed to be reunited with his daughter, but with their relationship comes an entirely new set of challenges. 

Jimmy is confused about his faith, his life, and ultimately, whom he should love. After some severe trials knock him off what he thought was the right course for his life, he makes the decision to love himself enough not to be used by someone again. But will his decision protect him in the end?

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