Software developer Honor Macklin believes she’s equal business partners with her philandering ex-husband, but when family responsibilities take her to Florida, she discovers her ex may have cheated her in more ways than one. Spirits at the Belleview Biltmore hotel try to help Honor by invading her dreams to share memories from the life of Darcy Loughman, a young Victorian woman with big problems of her own. When the two worlds collide, Honor and her new lover, Josh, along with his clairvoyant four-year-old son, try to figure out how Honor can use lessons from the past to change her destiny.
- ·Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 20, 2011)
- Language: English
- Paperback: 430 pages
- ISBN-10: 1468013831
- ISBN-13: 978-1468013832
- Item Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.08 x 8.5 inches
“Rat Bastard!” Honor Macklin slurred between clinched teeth; her green eyes flashing with alcohol-infused anger. “How could you?”
The conversation she had overheard earlier that evening wouldn’t stop echoing in her ears. She had been just outside the conference room door when she heard the handsome new client ask, “How did you let Honor slip away from you, William? She’s gorgeous and her software designs are brilliant.”
Honor had smiled at the compliments and continued to eavesdrop, expecting her ex-husband, William Guard, to give their agreed-upon response: We developed different interests over time and although we are still close friends and excellent business partners here at Soft Fix, ending our marriage was in both of our best interests.
Instead, William snickered. “Trust me, her looks are deceiving. A blow-up doll would have been more exciting in bed than her.”
The client laughed. “I figured she was too good to be true.”
Mortified, Honor hadn’t stuck around to hear any more. It was already past normal working hours, so she slipped out of the office and into the chilly autumn night, fleeing for the solace of her condo in northern Chicago.
By the time her personal cell phone rang, she was well into a second bottle of wine and submersed in a tearful pity-party, wondering what other humiliating tidbits William had been sharing with their male colleagues and clients.
She tucked a wayward curl of dark brown hair behind her ear and eyed the caller ID. Rolling a single pearl back and forth on the gold chain she always wore around her neck, Honor contemplated whether or not to answer. Normally, she wouldn’t be that eager to speak with Charity, but tonight, her younger sister’s palpable contempt for William appealed to her.
Just before the call went to voicemail, she flipped open the cell phone.
“Why do you sound so weird?”
“It’s been a bad day.”
“Are you sick? There’s a bug going around at the girls’ school. I’ve been spraying antibacterial on everything, but I think Mercy’s coming down with it anyway. You know, at times like this, I envy you for not having kids.”
Honor ignored the jab, already beginning to regret answering the phone. “I don’t have the flu. And you didn’t call to tell me one of my nieces has the sniffles. So what’s up?”
“Well, I hate to bug you, but we really need to get down to Florida to get Mom’s house cleaned out and fixed up, so we can list it for sale.”
Honor knew that by we, Cherry really meant she. When could she go? It was an annoying habit and tonight, she couldn’t let it slide.
“Okay. When do you want to head down there?”
“Come on, Honor. You know I can’t get away while the girls are in school.” Cherry paused, lowering her voice. “Listen, I know it’s been a tough year for you, but I honestly believe it would do you good to get out of Chicago for a while. Besides, don’t you want to finish your list of executor duties?”
Honor realized Cherry was pushing her buttons and hated that it was working. She had chosen her words to trigger Honor’s slightly compulsive desire to complete checklists. Honor habitually maintained lists for everything from what she needed to purchase at the store to what steps she would have to take to achieve her career goals. So of course, following the death of their mother, Honor made a list of her executor responsibilities. And she was itching to finish it.
She had already divided most of their mother’s assets between her three sisters. To complete the liquidation of the estate, Honor needed to go to Florida and oversee the sale of their childhood home.
The wine was making it difficult to remain focused.
Unbidden, Honor’s ‘Lifetime To-Do List’ popped into her mind. She wondered how much of her decision to marry William Guard had been based on her desire to check an item off that list.
At least she had kept her maiden name. Though truth be told, she hadn’t done that out of any strong sense of maintaining her individuality, but because her name would have sounded ridiculous if she had changed it to Honor Guard. She shivered at the thought and returned her attention to the conversation with Cherry.
“I have responsibilities, too,” she protested. “William would be lost if I just took off for Florida.”
“Who cares?” Cherry shot back.
Honor had been making excuses for William’s behavior for so long, it had become second nature, but tonight a conflicting desire – to get even – was raging dangerously close to the surface. She struggled to remain in control, to take the high road.
“My engineering staff would eat William alive if I left town.”
“And what – you’re worried about the poor engineers getting indigestion?”
Honor smiled at her sister’s show of support. “Don’t hold back, Cherry. Tell me how you really feel.”
“You want me to lie?”
“No, but tonight I overheard William say something that made me wonder… if I had just tried harder…”
“H-E-double-hockey-sticks Honor! That man has been a lying, cheating son of a-you-know-what from the start. Nothing you could have done would have changed that.”
Honor’s thoughts drifted to the beginning of her relationship with William. Even then, there was no fairy tale ambiance. Their romance, such as it was, blossomed out of their tremendous business success together. Honor thought they made a great team, so when William proposed marriage, she accepted.
“I think maybe our personalities were just too different to make things work.”
“Yeah, you guys are 180 degrees different. You make money; he spends money,” Cherry sniped.
Honor considered this. William did love the trappings that came with their acquired wealth. And he always wanted more. More fun, more parties, more friends, more trips…more space.
“Yeah, it used to piss me off when he acted like there was something wrong with me because my idea of fun was lounging in front of a fire with a good book and a glass of wine.”
At the mention of wine, Honor remembered the open bottle and refilled her glass.
“That’s what made you angry?” Cherry’s sarcasm was unmistakable. “He didn’t spend his evenings reading books with you? Give me a break.”
Honor flinched; her sister’s comment dredged up painful memories.
While their business, Soft Fix, thrived, their marriage spiraled downward, with neither of them paying too much attention to the fall. William took frequent trips with ‘the boys’ and Honor suspected he wasn’t being faithful to her.
Cherry’s voice grew shrill. “William showed his true colors when he was late for Mom’s funeral service and then…”
“Can we change the subject?” Honor pleaded. “My day was lousy enough without rehashing this.”
“I know, but what kind of a blankety-blank does something like that? Frankly, I don’t see how you can stand to continue working with the a-s-s.”
“Don’t spell, Cherry. It makes me crazy. If you’re going to cuss, do it like a grown-up.” Honor took another long drink, trying to gather her thoughts. “I know what William did sucked, but I don’t want to be bitter about him finding happiness with someone else.”
“Listen to you; trying to be all stoic and modern about the whole situation.”
“It’s just that our relationship is complicated. I mean, our company is really important to me and he’s important to the company. It’s hard.”
“Of course, it’s hard. He took advantage of your trust and made a fool out of you. It’s not normal to pretend that’s okay, Honor. You’re going to make yourself sick if you continue trying to act so saintly.”
“Yeah, I know. I thought I could handle it, as long as we kept our personal lives separate from work, but I just found out he lied about doing that, too.”
Honor took a large gulp of wine. She considered telling Cherry what she had overheard earlier tonight, but she was embarrassed. And a part of her wondered if William was right about her lack of prowess in the bedroom.
“Wow. William lied—that’s a shocker,” Cherry deadpanned.
The simple comment was so on target it was as though a light bulb switched on in Honor’s brain. Of course, William lied. He always lied. Why had she ever believed he would uphold their agreement? With another long drink, her fury returned.
“You’re right. He’s the one who ruined everything. What gives him the right to screw me over time and again and expect me to just keep going along with everything?”
Cherry perked up. “That’s more like it. He’s had you under his thumb for way too long and until you take charge of your life again, he’s going to keep making you feel this way. I’m telling you, a trip to Florida will be good for you.”
Honor sneered. “You just want me to get the house on the market.”
“Well, as executor, it is your job.”
Honor bristled. “She was your mother, too. You guys should help.”
“The rest of us have children. We can’t just pick up and go the way you can. Besides, Patty, Chase and I already emptied out most of the house.”
Honor fumed silently as Cherry lectured. “Mom chose you to be the executor. You’ve done a great job so far, and once the house is liquidated, you’re done. You know Mom would want you to finish this and move on.”
Honor and her mother had been close, though they didn’t share many common interests. Faith Macklin had been an accountant who loved baking and enjoyed living in a small town. Those interests didn’t appeal to her, but Honor did possess certain similarities to her mother. She looked more like her mother than her sisters did – tall and lanky, with thick, curly hair. And like her mother, Honor could use her methodical logic to solve problems and get things done. It was the characteristic that allowed her to be so successful in her work… and the reason her siblings expected her to handle the disposition of their mother’s estate on her own.
“Are you listening to me?” Cherry’s piercing tone jolted Honor back to their conversation.
“Yeah,” she grumbled.
Honor polished off the second bottle of wine and stared at her empty glass. Suddenly, she knew what to do to make her sisters happy – and avoid the humiliation of facing everyone at work tomorrow. It was simple.
Two birds; one stone.
“You’re right,” she announced, “I’ll fly to Florida tonight and stay there until I check everything off that damn list.”
“Really?” Cherry was ecstatic. Before hanging up, she reminded Honor, “Don’t forget the house is empty. You’ll need to make a hotel reservation at the Belleview Biltmore.”
Honor dropped her cell phone into her purse and began throwing clothes haphazardly into her suitcase. She grabbed her business Blackberry off the charger to call Julie Wells, her assistant. After instructing a sleepy and confused Julie to clear her calendar, Honor tossed the phone aside to close her suitcase. Then she stumbled downstairs and into a taxi headed for O’Hare—accidentally leaving the Blackberry behind.