Learning to Trust<br/>(Sacred Vows, book 4)

Author: Michelle Sutton
Publisher: Healing Hearts Books
Published: 2013-06-16
ISBN(s) 978-1490448015
Language(s): English
Category: Fiction
Audience: Adult
Genre(s): Inspirational, Women's Fiction, Romance & Friendship Read Excerpt >

Chapter 1




Once Hope Williams recovered from jetlag as the result of her European vacation -- at least enough to feel halfway normal -- she texted Matthew Wheeler that she was ready to go out on their first date. Today happened to be New Year's Eve, so their options abounded. She couldn't wait to see what he came up with.

While they'd been in contact often by e-mail and text since he'd driven her home from the airport several days ago, they had yet to get physically close. Other than the brief hug when he'd picked her up near the baggage claim area, Matt hadn't touched her. So far they had never even held hands.

In some ways she liked how she'd challenged him to make their one date memorable, and on the other hand she regretted giving him an ultimatum. What if he felt too much pressure to make her happy? What if she wasn't good enough at dating to make things work?

After all, she was the old lady here. Right? He was the handsome younger man with many prospects left for his future. She shouldn't be pushing him at all. At the same time, she worried about having a new romantic interest since James had been the love of her life for over twenty years.

Her cell phone rang and she saw Matt's handsome face appearing on her phone. "Why, hello there. How've you been?"

"Missing you." His voice sounded husky.

"You're such a sweetheart." She chuckled. "And a flatterer."

"I meant it sincerely." His deep, masculine laugh touched her deeply and stirred something inside her soul. "Seriously, Hope. I've missed seeing you. A lot."

"Me, too," she whispered, almost afraid to admit the truth.

The tingle in her stomach and the flutter from her heart made her realize how much she wanted to see him. Those sensations were vaguely familiar to her. She remembered experiencing them in the past, when she'd dated James many years ago, and he would call her "just to talk."

That's how she'd known she'd fallen in love the first time. No man other than her husband had ever made her feel that way. Not until Matthew Wheeler had come along. And Tony didn't count because their relationship had been wrong from the beginning. Not that she wanted to dredge up those feelings of loss again now that she'd finally started to move on. Yet even hearing her former lover's voice hadn't made her heart flutter like Matthew's voice did.

In fact, the strength of her feelings terrified her. Maybe this was a bad idea. Not that she could back out now. She hated to disappoint him. Plus, she had promised him one date. Just one.

If it didn't work out between them, they'd go back to being friends. Not that she could actually do that at this point. But it sounded like a good plan regardless.

"Hope, you still there?"

"Yes. What did you have in mind?"

"I plan to spoil you like you've never been spoiled before."

"Sounds good." Her throat tightened. She needed to feel treasured. It would be good for her. But she didn't want to lead him on if it wouldn't work. He told her it was up to God whether or not they had kids, but she knew her heart. God would have to change it because as far as she was concerned, she was done with childbirth and raising little ones. Jimmy had been enough.

"Then a few days after our New Year's Celebration, we'll get that home closing over with. I'll help you get moved out and into a new place. Okay?"

"I'm glad they delayed the loan's closing because I'm still tired from my trip. I'm not as young as I used to be and there's no way I could have packed up my stuff that soon after the wedding."

"That can be said for all of us, Hope. See you tonight." She could hear the smile in his voice and responded in kind. For some insane reason she actually entertained the idea of being with this younger man for the rest of her life. She must be losing her mind.

At forty-four, her biggest worry was having another baby. She normally didn't plan her future after meeting a guy, but at the same time didn't see the point in dating a man when it couldn't go anywhere. It didn't seem fair to Matt if she didn't want another child. In fact it was the last thing on her wish list.

She'd told Matt that very thing when they first met. She told him she had no desire to conceive another child, but he'd said it didn't matter to him. Not that she fully believed him. What normal man didn't want offspring that shared his genetic makeup?

She remembered the first time he'd told her he just wanted to be with her, and how flattered she'd felt. Sometimes the temptation to cast him aside for his own good hit her hard. He would get a bum deal with her. It might hurt him at first, but he'd find someone else eventually.

The selfish part of her wanted to hold on to him and never let go. His encouraging words were like water to her parched soul and she couldn't get enough lately.

What mystified her was the fact several younger men had been attracted to her at all. About nine years ago when she'd been involved with a younger man it had nearly destroyed her marriage. Didn't he realize that being almost ten years older meant he'd have to deal with her "change of life" when he was still young enough to want tons of sexual contact? Not that she foresaw herself losing interest in sex anytime soon.

She stopped her thoughts dead in their tracks. They hadn't even gone on an official date yet and she was already thinking about having sex with him? What was wrong with her anyway?

Glancing one more time at Matthew's picture on her cell phone, she concluded that nothing was wrong with her. She appreciated a good-looking, kind-hearted man. There was no crime in that, right? It just meant her heart still beat in her chest, and right now, that was a good thing.




 Hope glanced in the mirror one last time. The circles were no longer visible under her eyes and she managed to get her hair styled just the way she liked it, for once. Her sparkly hair clip showed off her slender neck and the maroon dress revealed just a hint of cleavage. If nothing else, her dress might lure him in. Then again, if he were a leg man, he'd appreciate her stilettos.

She checked her legs from several angles. No doubt those strappy little heels were sexier than she typically wore. She had purchased them for the holidays last year, but given her husband's heart attack and sudden death, she'd almost forgotten them until she rummaged around in her closet hoping for a good match to go with her dress and she saw the box.

During her search she also discovered a sparkly little clutch she'd forgotten she had because it had been stored in a separate box on the top shelf. The last time she'd used the tiny clutch had been when she and James had gone on the cruise after renewing their wedding vows.

She remembered the warmth of her husband's body as he'd held her close the night following their first real fight since they had reconciled. Once they'd gotten back together after the affair they made sure to keep communication open between them… even when it hurt.

A knot formed in her throat as she recalled the painful conversation they'd shared that first night before bed.

She remembered how she attempted to entice her husband through a strip tease and how he'd asked in a raspy voice, "Why'd you do it, Hope? Why'd you give your body to another man? Why did you let him touch you places that were reserved for your husband, and then hide it from me?"

Her eyes filled with tears at the memories, and she allowed them to come. She might look good on the outside, but inside she still bled and carried a stain that nothing could erase. If Matt knew what she was really like in the dark recesses of her past, and how she'd been unfaithful to the man that she'd loved with her entire being, would he still care for her?

She should tell him the whole truth tonight. Up to this point she'd only hinted at the situation, and he'd never asked for details. The first time they met she remembered him looking at her business card -- the one that detailed the memoir she'd written about the affair -- and having a stumped expression on his face. But he'd never asked her about it.

Had Matt read her story like Tony mentioned that he had? For a moment she regretted writing the memoir at all. The whole world would know about her infidelity in detail. Why had she expressed the most intimate emotions and mistakes of her adulterous experience in a book?

Worse, why hadn't she thought of those ramifications when James had encouraged her to write her story? He knew it would help her to heal and God would use it to minister to someone else in a similar situation, of course.

At the time, however, she never thought she'd lose her husband to a heart attack and believed she'd always be safe with him. She never planned to be alone, or on the search for a new love in her life. Not that she was searching. Men tended to seek her out even when she showed no interest in them.

Anger sparked in her heart toward James for the first time since his death. If only he hadn't allowed his emotions to flare up to the point that they turned into a hot rage over Jimmy's disclosure. Then he wouldn't have died and she wouldn't be single and lonely right now.

Sure, she'd been heartbroken when her only son first admitted his attraction to men, but James had gone ballistic and it ultimately cost him his life. How she wished she had prepared him for the disclosure instead of waiting on Jimmy's plan.

Now that Jimmy had married Nina, the stress had all been for naught. Except that Nina happened to be the daughter of her ex-lover. James would have had trouble stomaching that revelation as well. But if he hadn't gotten so angry at Jimmy, maybe she wouldn't be going on a date with another man tonight. She'd be lying beside her husband and spooning him with her body.

She clutched her forehead and sat on the bed. She needed to slow down her thoughts or she would be a miserable date tonight. Maybe if she told her husband about her feelings it would help. Not that he could hear her, but it would still feel good to say her thoughts out loud.

"James, I miss you so much. I don't want to hurt you, but I also don't want to be alone for the rest of my life. Not when I'm so young. I'll always love you no matter what happens. Always."

Hope meditated for a few moments longer, then stood. She glanced at her tear-streaked face in the mirror and suddenly she felt her true age as opposed to a young woman readying for a hot date with a Christian guy who happened to be a sexy young man.

Her shoulders sagged until something touched her heart, like a still small voice, only it felt more like a spiritual hug. It felt as if James had heard her cry and had reassured her that everything would be okay. Not that she believed the dead communicated with the living on the other side, but something comforted her.

Maybe God had wrapped His arms around her heart and she had wished it was James instead. The thought even sounded blasphemous because she should long for God above all things, but she'd take all the comfort she could get, however she got it.

After rewashing her face and putting eye drops in her eyes, she marveled at the fact she couldn't tell she had been crying. As she stroked on a fresh coat of mascara until her lashes were as long as she could make them, she smiled at her reflection. Not a bad patch-up job. Tonight she refused to be a downer on her first -- and possibly only -- date with Matthew.

She'd save her full confession for later. The truth would come out eventually, right? Why spoil their time together with her desire to share the ugliness from her past just to get it over with?

Tonight was about starting a year with new beginnings. If she got lucky, she might even get a kiss at the stroke of midnight. Spilling her guts wouldn't accomplish that end.

And right now, more than anything, she wanted a kiss from Matthew. She needed some assurance that she could have a second chance at love. Something told her Matt personified that opportunity, and she didn't want to blow it on their first date.

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

Learning to Trust is the final book in the Sacred Vows series. Three couples in love learn that building trust with a new spouse is more difficult than they expected. Since two of the couples have been married before, they know that truth all too well.

Follow three newly married couples as they navigate the difficult waters of marriage and remarriage. Each battles trust issues as they become parents. Jimmy has a past that includes intimacy with men. His wife wonders if she'll be enough to keep him from returning to that lifestyle. Tony had a number of affairs before finding peace with God and changing his ways. His new wife was burned in her prior marriage because of unfaithfulness.

Hope is the most conflicted of all. A widow, she desires marital love again, but her past has been littered with bad choices. Her new husband, Matt, is much younger than she is, so their relationship feels awkward to her. She is afraid of what the future might hold and that her new husband will lose interest as the years go by and she grows older. Matt longs to convince her of his love to help her overcome her insecurities. His former marriage was cold, but everything about Hope heats his blood. If only he could convince her that he will always love her despite their age difference.

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