He Took My Child

HE TOOK MY CHILD

By

  1. K.Lorraine

Reading Room

FREE Edition

Story # 2

 

K. Lorraine Books

Email: klorraine@klorraine.com

This publication is also available online at

www.klorraine.com

Also at Amazon.com and Kindle Books

Copyright © 2017 by K. Lorraine Books

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced or broadcast in any form or by whatever means without written license From the author.

This story is taken from the Mia Perez series

The stand alone books are available for purchase

At CreateSpace in paperback format

&

Kindle E-books downloadable

Editor: Louise Stone

 

Cover Design by: Bing Public Domain

Genre: E-Book, Adult Fiction, romance, medical, mystery, family

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

I Do

 

Mia loved how Robert took control. He asked for the van keys and told Berta she could take the rest of the day off.

He liked to give her directions. “Sweetheart, wait here for me. I need to talk with Dr. Cotter about my position at the hospital and then we can go home?”

Berta was angry and she shook her head in disgust. She tossed the van keys to Robert. Catching the keys, he hurried out to find Dr. Cotter.

Berta wheeled Mia to the reception area.

Berta said to Nick,  “Well, Mr. Testosterone, Dr. Chase said I’m not needed anymore today. How about a lift? I could sure use a drink and a friend right about now.”

Nick hugged Berta. “Guess we can cry in our beers together. But it looks like you’re picking up the tab. I’m not sure I still have a job after today.”

Mia was alone as she waited for Robert to return. It pleased her to have two men fighting over her. She couldn’t wait for Robert to take her home.

When he returned, he was happy.  “Sweetheart, while I was away, I was on a paid leave of absence. And since I am an asset to the hospital, they welcomed me back. I‘ll again head the Department of Neurosurgery.”

He kissed her and turned her toward the elevator. Separation had kept him from his beauty queen for too long. There was nothing more important for him to do now except to make love to Mia.

He carried her into the bedroom and helped her undress. He removed his own clothes. It wasn’t long before intense, sensual pleasure consumed them. There wasn’t much need for talking because their bodies said it all. Robert was with the woman he longed to be with. And Mia was happy, content and satisfied to have her Robert home at last.

“Sweetheart, I’ll help you get dressed and then I have to go back to the hospital. I need to get some things done in my office and pick up my car. Will you call Berta and tell her to come home? Have her help you put on your prettiest dress. I want to take you out for a special dinner tonight to celebrate our reunion.”

In a soft, sweet, and submissive  tone she said, “Yes Robert. I will be ready and extra pretty for our reunion dinner.”

When Mia called and asked Berta to come back, there was a long silence on the phone. Finally Berta said she would get a taxi since Nick was too drunk to drive.

Mia was so happy that Robert was home. She ignored Berta’s disapproval and Nick’s sadness. She knew Berta was hopeful that the reunion would be short lived. But she also knew that Berta loved her as a daughter and would take care of her regardless. Mia was in love with Robert and he was the father of their baby. And nothing would change that fact.

“Berta, I need your help to get ready for my special dinner date with Robert. While you get everything ready for me to shower, I will pick out my dress.”

She picked out her sheer, sexy white summer sundress. She told Berta that the white, flowing gown would make her look angelic.

She showered and dressed. Mia did look like a beautiful angel. Her long, dark, hair fell in spiral curls around her shoulders. She gave Berta a mother of pearl hair comb to put in her hair.

The comb had been a gift from her mother when she turned fifteen.  She wanted to wear it on this special night. With a touch of eye shadow and extra mascara she was ready.

“Wow! Sweet thing, you will knock the fella’s socks off tonight.”

They were still in the bedroom when Robert returned home from the hospital. Mia’s heart fluttered when she heard the front door open and shut. She wheeled out to meet him and Robert stopped to soak in her beauty.

His smile spread across his face. The corners of his mouth turned upward. He winked and said, “Mia, you still take my breath away.”

He walked toward her and fell to his knees. He wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her soft pink lips.

“Mia Perez, you will always be my South American beauty.”

He extended his arm to Mia and together they began to leave.

At the door Mia called out, “Goodnight Berta. Don’t wait up for me. My Robert will take good care of me.”

Mia heard her soft reply, “May God be with you tonight, sweet thing.”

Robert pulled the van into a visitor parking space at the Rehabilitation Center. It surprised Mia to see that they were at the Center. She guessed they were going to the solarium. It was where they had celebrated her birthday last summer.

A dozen battery operated flickering candles lit the room. Soft music was playing in the background and there was a delicious aroma of food in the air. Robert wheeled her to the same table by the window. This time there was a gorgeous bouquet of fall flowers on the table.

Robert kissed her and then went down on bended knee. She was  elated, to hear him say, “Mia, I was going to wait until after dinner to do this. But I’m feeling like an impatient school boy who has a surprise for his best girl.”

He held her hand and raised it to his mouth. After kissing it, he said, “Mia, I have been in love with you from the moment I saw you. I fought those feelings for over a year until we celebrated your birthday right here. On that night we became one in our hearts, body and soul, and I knew that there just wasn’t any getting over you.”

He took a breath and released it. “I am so grateful that you’ve given me a second chance to love you.”

Robert paused… “Pretty one, tonight is about forgiveness. I know I’ve let you down in the past and now Sweetheart, I’m on bended knee to ask for your forgiveness. I have changed, Mia.”

She touched his cheek with her fingertip. “Of course I forgive you Robert. You are the love of my life.”

With a deep sigh of relief, Robert continued. “I’m in love with you, Mia, and I want us to be a family.”

He removed a small velvet box from his trouser pocket. Mia opened the box. She saw the sparkling diamond engagement ring and her smile broadened.

“Mia Perez, will you marry me and be my wife?”

Through tears that welled in her eyes, she said, “Yes, Robert. I will marry you and be your wife. You have made my deepest wish come true. I promise to love you and to be a good mother to our children. I want for us to be a family.”

Robert was a romantic by nature. “Marry me here, tonight, in the Center’s Chapel. I don’t want anything or anyone to get in our way or stop us. I want you to be my wife. Please say ‘Yes’ that you will marry me tonight.”

Mia’s response was joyful. “Yes, Robert. I will marry you tonight.”

Mia loved Robert, but she was also worried that he would change his mind if she waited too long. She did not want to risk losing him again.

Instead, she asked, “Can we do it that fast? In America, don’t we need permission or papers or something to get married?”

Robert chuckled. “I thought of that and I have our papers. Darling all you need to say is ‘yes.’  We can sign the document in front of the clergy.”

“I say yes, Robert, I will marry you here in the Center where our hearts first came together.”

“Mia, we will need someone to witness our marriage. Let’s call some of the team and share the news. Maybe they will be happy for us and want to be at our wedding.”

They called their friends. Those who had played an important part of Mia’s life and recovery. They had become friends with Robert and family with Mia. Dr. Cotter, Dr. Fishman, and Dr. Lisa Long planned to come and help. They couldn’t reach Dr. White, but Robert called Cameron, his ex-wife, and asked her to join them.

Mia called Berta.

“No, Mia, although it is hard for me to refuse you, I will not be part of this sham that you call a wedding. Dr. Chase may be a good physician, but he is not a good man. I know this is a big mistake, and yet no one can change your mind. I see you are intent on being Mrs Robert Chase, but it will never be a true marriage. I won’t help you do this today, but Nick and I will be there when he breaks your heart again.”

She hid her disappointment. Mia asked Dr. Long to assist her in getting ready for the ceremony. Dr. Long told her that it wasn’t proper for the groom to see the bride before the wedding. So she took Mia and the flower bouquet into a vacant side room near the chapel.

There she transformed Mia from a lovely beauty queen into a beautiful bride. She took some baby’s breath from the bouquet. She tucked the small flowers beneath the decorative Mother of Pearl comb. It was a gift from her mother and Mia wanted to wear it in her long dark tresses.

Dr. Long added some subtle touches of make-up to Mia’s eyes. She brightened the bride-to-be’s tempting lips with blood red lipstick. The red shade gave her a Hollywood celebrity look.

In the mirror, Mia saw herself as a gorgeous bride and she was happy to wed the man she loved.

A white dinner napkin wrapped around the stems of the remaining flowers to make a wedding bouquet. Dr. Long asked Mia to remove the ring that Robert had given her earlier. Dr. Long explained that she would give the ring to Dr. Fishman to keep until the ceremony. He and Dr. Cotter were to be the witnesses.

The wedding ceremony would begin when Dr. Cotter found the Chaplin. Robert’s heart skipped a beat as the door to the chapel opened. His palms were damp from perspiration and he tried to move his feet, but in his mind they were cast in cement.

He questioned himself again – was this love? Or infatuation? Or, did he just want to control her?

Mia moved down the aisle in her wheelchair.  She was a beautiful bride waiting for her groom.

The Chaplin repeated some lines from the bride’s favorite song:

“There is no life, no life without its hunger.”

Each restless heart beats so imperfectly.

But when you come and I’m filled with wonder,

Sometimes I think I glimpse eternity.”

Dr. Robert Chase hoped that he was doing the right thing. And when Mia was beside him, he reached for her hand and squeezed it with love and emotion. As he did so, he pushed the negative thoughts from his mind. In the silence of his mind, Robert realized that the Chaplin had been talking to him.

The Chaplin repeated the question. “Dr. Robert Chase, do you take Mia Lucia Perez to be your lawfully wedded wife? Will you cherish her, and promise to protect her throughout the days of your life?”

His doubts were gone. Robert knew what was on his mind and in his heart. “Yes. I take you, Mia Lucia Perez, to be my lawfully wedded wife and to love you all the days of my life.”

He took the wedding ring from Dr. Fishman, raised it to his lips, and kissed it. Then he placed the ring on Mia’s finger and looked into her eyes.

The Chaplin looked at the bride and asked. “Mia Lucia Perez, do you take Dr. Robert Mercer Chase to be your lawfully wedded husband? Will you love him throughout the days of your life?”

She answered with a smile. “Yes. I, Mia Lucia Perez, say to you Robert, that I am grateful to the angels that they gave me to you. I’m grateful that you could heal my body. And now I ask God to heal my soul. I am strong when you are holding me in your arms. I promise to respect you and to be a good wife and mother. Our hearts will talk of love and trust for all time and eternity.”

Mia did not have a ring for Robert to signify her undying love. Instead, she pulled a piece of ribbon from the bouquet and tied it around his finger.

The Chaplain then asked the question. “Is there anyone present who knows of any reason why this man and woman should not wed? Please step forward now or forever hold your peace.”

Nick and Berta stood in silence in the shadows in the back of the chapel. Robert knew that they wanted to stop the wedding. But, he held his breath. He hoped their love for Mia would keep them from objecting and ruining her happy day. They uttered not a word and Robert was grateful for their silence.

With Joy, the Chaplain announced. “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”  And with that proclamation, Robert kissed his bride.

Their colleagues and friends joined them for a celebration in the solarium. The staff had put a small reception together for them. The guests hugged the happy newlyweds as they entered the room. Everyone gathered around a table set with cake and champagne. Only Berta and Nick remained in the back of the room and watched from a distance.

Dr. Cotter stood, raised her champagne glass and said, “This tribute is to Dr. Chase and his lovely bride Mia. May blessings fill your life with happiness.”

Everyone stood, raised their glasses, and in unison said, “Here’s to Robert and Mia.”

Motioning for the guests to sit, Dr. Cotter continued.

“Robert, the hospital and I welcome you back. The hospital needs your talents as a neurosurgeon. We are also happy for you and Mia in this union as husband and wife. Again, I raise my glass to you and say; health, love and happiness to you as you begin a new life together.”

“Robert, your friends and colleagues have put together a ‘roast’ on this special occasion. They each have a few words to say to you as we send you off into wedded bliss.”

Dr. Fishman now stood and said, “Robert, this is for you, my friend and colleague. You are like a kid brother to me and that’s why I say, ‘Rope ‘em and ride em cowboy.”

Next, Dr. Lisa Long stood and said, “We have spent many long and tedious hours together in surgery. You were always a good sport when the gang kidded you about your active sex life. But now, Doc, I hear that Mia has finally trained that horse!”

Dr. Cotter stood again. She raised her half full glass. “Congrats Robert, the Lone Ranger doesn’t ride solo anymore.”

Dr. Cameron Wood rose to poke fun at her ex-husband. ”Yup, Robert, it’s a mighty fine horse you’ve got and I see that you have put it to good use. Congratulations on your marriage and your baby to come.”

Cameron took Robert’s free hand and kissed him on the cheek. Then she smiled and said, “I’m happy for you Robert. I think that Mia will be good for you. I can see how much you love her and how happy you seem in becoming a father.”

Cameron added. “Robert, we tried, but we just weren’t meant to be. I did love you and I think you loved me too, but we couldn’t make it work. We didn’t want the same things. I don’t think I will ever want to be a mother, but it is obvious that Mia is happy about this pregnancy.”

“Remember Robert, a marriage and a family takes commitment and work. I hope your marriage with Mia lasts a long time – not like ours. There’s no doubt that we had the shortest marriage in recorded history.”

Robert had not told Mia of his brief marriage to Dr. Wood. He glanced at Mia and saw her startled eyes, but she remained quiet and calm. He tried to assure her with his eyes and how he squeezed her hand, that she was the woman he loved. Cameron was nothing but a fleeting moment in his past.

But Mia saw that Cameron’s love for him had not faded.

Cameron sighed and whispered beneath her breath,  Robert, be happy.

In the awkward silence, Berta came forward, walked up to the doctor, and glared at him.

Her curt comment hit Robert hard. “You can put that horse back in the stable now and leave it tied up.”

Nervous laughter erupted throughout the room. Berta continued to look at Robert with an evil eye until the laughter died down.

Then she finished saying what was on her mind.

“Robert, you and I have already butted heads a few times. I’ve spoken what’s on my mind and I stand by my words. You are not the right man for my beauty queen and I’m opposed to this marriage. But Doc, I will give the devil his due. You are quite the stud muffin, and a stallion to boot. But, I swear if you don’t treat our queen right, I’ll come after you with a vengeance.”

Robert laughed, lowered his hands to cover his groin, and exclaimed.

“Berta, I know that I’m not high on your approved list. But, I vow to you, that from this day forward, my ‘horse is in the stable.’  I no longer will stray.”

He raised his glass to his wife and friends.

“Ha, ha, funny guys. You think it’s so humorous that I’m known as a man who is good in bed. I guarantee you, there’s not one of you who can do it as good as me.”

At the end of his speech, Robert noticed that Nick turned away in disgust. It looked like he was going to leave, but then he paused and raised his glass to Mia in a silent toast. When Berta returned, they slipped out the door.

With them gone, Robert relaxed and enjoyed having his friends around him. They seemed to ease his fears and smooth his transition into a new marriage and fatherhood.

Chapter 2

Flashback

Mia loved it when Robert took control. Throughout her life, her father controlled every aspect of her existence. He picked her friends, her schools and even her husband. Now that she was with Robert, it felt natural for him to make all the decisions.

Berta’s approval didn’t matter much. Robert had complete emotional and physical control over his beautiful Mia.  He didn’t feel threatened that Berta would leave her because she loved Mia like a daughter. Robert was aware that Mia lived a life of privilege.

Servants were a part of what made her a prima donna. So Robert knew she would listen to him over taking Berta’s advice. Besides, Senor Perez was now sending Berta’s monthly salary to him. Robert figured only a crazy person would turn away from a cushy job.

Mia was happy, content and satisfied to have Robert in her life. Regardless that she was a paraplegic. Having sex was at the top of Robert’s intimate priority list. He had spent a lot of time coaching Mia. Their first sexual encounter started in her hospital room behind a locked door.

Mia had said to herself, Self, sexual pleasure is for everyone who wants to have a deep and satisfying sex life. Mia was a young and eager student of life who fell with ease into the doctor’s pleasure palace.

Robert had installed a hidden camera for the purposes of videotaping Mia. He helped her learn how to explore her ability to relax and enjoy the art of sensual touching.

Robert reassured her. “Mia, part of your body doesn’t function any longer. This doesn’t mean you’ve lost sexual desire. Your physical limitations only mean that you need to learn some new lovemaking techniques. All there is to it, is mind control. It’s a simple shift of focus  to the brain center where sexual arousal occurs.”

Before making love, Robert assured Mia that it wouldn’t be long before she was able to climax. It wouldn’t be any different that it was before her accident.

But she failed to share with Robert that her only sexual experience was ‘petting’ with Chaz. Robert did not know he was about to marry a naïve virgin.

Marriage in the world was not a prerequisite to having a baby. Even if you’re a doctor or a woman with a disability.

Dr. Chase was somewhat naïve too. He was zealous about another man making love to his beautiful Mia. He hadn’t bothered to take responsibility for his actions and use protection. The doctor’s cavalier ways, and his patient’s naivety were a formula for certain disaster.

Dr. Chase ended up crossing the line between a doctor and patient. He crossed the threshold of a doctor’s oath of ethics when he had sex with Mia Perez.

Dr. Robert Chase left his position at the prestigious hospital. The hospital CEO thought he needed to let ‘things’ cool down. Against his better judgment, Robert Chase was gone a year. But when he returned, Robert was ready to make an honest woman out of Mia Perez.

His friend, Dr. Eric Fishman, told him of Mia’s plight. Robert’s obsession of Mia’s youth and beauty had not diminished. So why not go back home to the beauty queen and her family’s money too? He had spent all the money Senor Perez had given him to divorce Mia. It could only become a win-win situation, and Robert was at the top of his game.

Chapter 3

Friends

It shocked  Jayne Anne when she came in on Monday. She’d heard the rumors that Robert and Mia had married and that he was the father of her baby. Mia confirmed the rumors when she came in later that week.

She opened the session by talking about Robert and how he was the man of her dreams and the father of their child. She said Robert adored her and he was the only man she could ever love.

Jayne Anne commented that the last time they had met, she was talking about her love for Nick.

Mia explained.

“I do love Nick, but it is not a wild, passionate kind of love as it is with Robert. Robert completes me in a different way.”

“I feel a kind of security with Nick and that is a special feeling that will never fade. But I don’t have deep romantic feelings for him like I have for Robert.”

Jayne Anne said, “Mia, what do you think makes you feel so secure with Nick?”

Mia thought a moment.

“I guess because Nick is different than my father. He understands and loves me. He doesn’t see me as disabled.”

Jayne Anne probed a bit further.

“And how do you think Robert sees you?”

Mia was quiet for a while as she considered the question. “I think that Robert sees me as a beautiful beauty queen. And he adores me like my papa did before the accident. But Dr. Jayne, what I worry about is that he won’t accept my less than perfect body for long.”

Jayne Anne persisted.

“And how do you feel about your disabled, less than perfect, body?”

Mia began sobbing.

“I am ashamed and saddened for being so helpless. I feel like the failure my father sees.”

The outburst of tears and sobs were sudden. And this prompted her to say. “Dr. Jayne, I want to be normal again. I’m tired of being different. Why couldn’t Robert fix my legs?”

Jayne Anne noted that Mia was good at pretending. And she still struggled with feelings of self-doubt. She seemed to be incapable of getting beyond helplessness.

She thought to herself. It didn’t help that she’d dropped out of college to become Mrs. Robert Chase. And having a baby so early into a new marriage was going to be tough. But having a baby as a disabled woman was going to be doubly tough.

The doctor further noted that Robert was a strong and controlling man like Mia’s father. They were both men of prominence and wealth.

On the up-side, Senor Perez just might approve of Dr. Chase as a husband for his daughter. The down-side was Nick Starks would never be able to give her a wealthy lifestyle. She was sure that he would never win Mia’s father’s approval.

**********

Later in the day Nick got a memo from the administration that he needed to report to Dr. Cotter. Nick’s nervousness was visible as he entered Dr. Cotter’s office.

“I understand that you want to talk to me?”  Dr. Cotter motioned toward the opposite side of her desk.

“Yes, Nick we need to talk. Please have a seat.”

Nick sat down and questioned in his mind why Dr. Cotter had a concerned look on her face.

“Dr. Fishman has informed me with the results of the paternity test on Mia Perez. I have decided that it would be better if you suspend working with Mia. Nick, your work is excellent. But I am concerned about the hostility between you and Dr. Chase.”

“I am also disappointed with your unprofessional intimacy with a patient. Especially after seeing what happened with Dr. Chase. But after reviewing your accomplishments, I have decided to let you off with a warning. I am assigning you to a different patient and I have hired a new therapist for Mia.”

Looking relieved and sad, Nick thanked Dr. Cotter for her generosity and also for not firing him.

He then said, “Thank you for a second chance. You were right what you said about learning from Dr. Chase’s mistakes. I have definitely learned my lesson and this will not happen again. I mean getting involved with a patient. It’s not only wrong; it’s definitely unprofessional.”

Taking a deep breath, he asked, “Would it be possible for me to tell Mia about the change myself? I think she needs to hear this from me.”

“Yes, Nick, as long as you can keep it professional. Will that be a problem?”

“No, Dr. Cotter, I won’t let it happen again.”

Leaving the hospital, Nick drove straight to Mia’s condominium. When Berta opened the door, she called out, “Hey Your Highness, you’ve got a visitor.”

Mia saw Nick standing in the doorway.

“Hello Nicky, it’s good to see you. What’s up?”

There was a tone of excitement in her voice. But, Nick did not share her enthusiasm. He walked across the entry hall and into the front room. He pulled up a chair and sat down beside her.

Her long, dark lashes fluttered. Her flirtatious gesture was obvious.  Why did it have to come to this? He thought.

“Mia, I thought I would come in person to congratulate you on your marriage.”

 “I’m sorry that I couldn’t be happy for you on your special night. But since I’ve had time to digest everything, I hope you will forgive me for being less than a friend. I might not like the man you’ve chosen, but I do wish you a lifetime of happiness.”

His chest heaved in a deep sigh.

“Mia, I have something we need to talk about. It might not be easy for you to understand, but it is necessary that I tell you.”

“What is wrong, Nicky? You are scaring me.”

He looked down at the floor.

“Nicky, look at me.”

 He raised his head and looked into her brown eyes. They no longer had that come-on, look.

“Sweetheart, I’ve come to tell you in person that Dr. Cotter has assigned you a new therapy coach. She has reassigned me to a new patient.”

“Why Nicky? Why would she do this?”

Nick sucked it up, but it broke his heart when he saw her surprised expression. Tears began to form in her eyes.

“Nicky I don’t understand, why would Dr. Cotter want to separate us?  Nicky, we are a team and I have made so much progress with you as my therapy instructor. Nicky, I don’t want a new coach, I want you.”

He touched her hand.

“Mia, sometimes change is good and Dr. Cotter is right when she said that you need to go forward with your new husband. Just think about it for a moment Mia, you have a baby to think about. Your life is changing. And you will need to take some time off from water therapy; at least until after the baby is born.”

Regardless that Mia’s heart was breaking, she giggled. She tried to make a joke.

“Nicky, I know that I do not move like a small fish any longer, because I am now a big whale”.

Nick smiled, but his heart wasn’t into his response.

“Yeah, Mia, but you are a beautiful and glowing whale.”

 He looked at his watch. And before his heart shattered into pieces, he said, “Mia, it looks like our time is up and I’ll be moving on now. I didn’t want you to hear about the reassignment from anyone except me. Please believe me, I wanted to keep working with you. But it is Dr. Cotter’s decision and we need to be okay with it.”

Mia tried to hold back her tears.

“Please Nicky will you come back after I have the baby? I need you to be my friend. You are my only friend and my rock. Tell Dr. Cotter to make it okay. I am caught in an unfamiliar world. I live among a ‘normal’ and ‘crippled’ world. And I need your strength to help me find the world where I belong.”

Nick stood up, touched her shoulder and tried to reassure her. “Mia, you have a husband and many friends.  In time you will forget all about me.”

Mia grabbed his hand and held it tight. “You are wrong, Nicky. I do not have any friends except you.”

She could see it in his face that her comment cut deep.

“Nicky, it was a mistake for me to marry Robert. He is not the man I believed he was. I do not want to stay in the marriage, but I am too afraid to back out. Mama had always said it was a woman’s place in life to be a wife and a mother and that I would be nothing without a man.”

He struggled to keep his distance and remain professional.  Nick pulled his hand away and it made him wonder what had happened since the wedding. Nick tried to reassure Mia that it was only newlywed jitters and they would pass.

“I promise you Mia, you will be fine. You married Robert and he is now your rock. Give him a chance, okay? You need to move forward in your marriage and it is his job to keep you safe. Remember, it takes two to make a marriage and you are not alone. Robert is with you.”

Nick tried to be reassuring. Regardless, that his heart was breaking.

“Mia, will you promise me that you won’t give up on your dream? Hey, remember you are more than just a pretty face. You are as strong as steel, and you have a will of iron. I know you don’t understand the meaning of some of my words. But I promise you that one-day you will understand. Be happy and have a healthy baby.”

He touched her stomach, kissed her cheek one last time, and said “Good-bye Mia Chase.”

Berta had been eves dropping in the other room. She walked in on them and gave him a big hug.

“Nick, I’m sorry to see you go. But, I promise that I will keep our beauty queen safe.”

“I know you will, Berta. You love Mia as much as I do.”

Nick knew Mia had a bumpy road ahead. When he looked back, she was crying. She was once again alone.

Chapter 4

Happily Ever After?

When Mia told Robert that Nick was no longer her coach, he did not understand why she was so sad. She was his wife now. Instead of understanding, he scolded her and his remark was cold.

“Grow up Mia.” And he walked away.

His insensitive comment startled her. Her thoughts drifted. Robert those are the words of my father and you sound just like him.

Robert spent the first few weeks after the wedding looking for the perfect home for his new family. He wanted to live large. He needed a house with at least five bedrooms, four baths and an indoor swimming pool.

He knew that the house wasn’t going to be easy to find, and it would come with a high price tag. Robert was aware that his six-figure income he could not provide a high end lifestyle.

He remembered Mia’s lavish condominium which Senor Perez had purchased. She had always lived a life of privilege and Senor Perez would settle for nothing less for his daughter. He now focused his thoughts on how he would support his pampered bride.

A multi-million dollar home would take him over the edge. But Robert’s pride kept him from sharing his worries with Mia. He vowed to find a way to make his dream happen. Even if it meant he had to manipulate his wife’s wealthy family into paying for it. He felt certain that he could get Senor Perez to help him secure a new home for Mia and her child.

But he had a few concerns. Mia’s family did not know about their marriage or a pending grandchild yet. Would this news please them? Would Senor Perez remember that he had abandoned his own daughter alone and crippled? Robert was hopeful that Mia could use these things for their benefit. He was hopeful that she could win back her father’s approval.

Robert’s realtor called him at work and he left the hospital to look at the house of his dreams. It had all the features that he was looking for, but the 5. 5 million dollar price was way too high. He needed half a million for a down payment and the monthly house payments ate up most of his income.

His only recourse was to convince Mia to go to her father for help, but he wasn’t sure how to move forward. She had not spoken to her father in a year.

He began by scheduling a time to show the house to Mia. If he could sell her on the house, maybe she could sell her father to help them.

Beautiful trees lined the long driveway. Mia loved the large yard and its beautiful landscaping. As they got to the house, Robert explained.

“Mia, the real estate agent has placed a temporary ramp at the back entrance of the home. There were fewer steps there. Once we buy the house, I will have an architect design a proper entrance at the front door for you.”

Miss Johnson, the agent, greeted them.

“Welcome, Dr. and Mrs. Chase. Please accept my apology. I’m sorry that we had to begin the tour in the kitchen. It was the only door that Mia could access. But I think you will find the home is beautiful and meets all the requirements on your wish list.”

Robert exclaimed. “Darling, I can’t wait for you to see the open floor plan. And, Mia, there are two pools. The outdoor pool is much larger than the inside one. But I plan to have each pool equipped with a hydraulic lift just for you.”

They toured the spacious entry hall, formal dining room, family room, and accessible bathroom.

Miss Johnson said, “Mrs. Chase, the master bedroom is on the second floor, but the home has a chair glide. The previous owners were an elderly couple and they had it installed as a convenience for the husband. I think you will find the glide easy to use.”

Mia managed the device with ease. At the top of the stairs Robert and the agent lifted her into the manual wheelchair that was waiting there. He kissed her cheek and added a twist of manipulation with the hope it would seal the deal.

“Darling, the house is great, and it has all the features that we need. Honey, think about it, we do need five bedrooms.. We need a room for Berta, one for the nanny, another for a nursery, a master room for us and a home office for me. You need an indoor pool so you can continue with your water therapy. You know, there will be times when the weather doesn’t permit you to be outdoors.”

Mia smiled regardless that her heart wasn’t into shopping for a house. She was happy and content with the condo. She knew that they couldn’t afford anything else right now, but she wanted to please her husband.

“Robert, the home is beautiful and much more than I expected. But I am concerned that it might be a lot more than we can afford right now. Please be truthful with me about being able to afford this home?”

Right on cue, Miss Johnson chimed in.

“Dr. Chase, I will leave you and Mrs. Chase to discuss the details in private. I will be in the kitchen when you are ready to leave.”

“Mia, I know the price of the home is steep, but it has everything that we need to be comfortable. Also, it is great being this close to the hospital. I can even ride my motorcycle to work and that convenience will save us on gas. I agree that finances might be tight for a while, but I can schedule more surgeries. Berta will be here to take care of you and we can interview applicants and have a nanny ready for when the baby is born.”

 Without allowing for  a response, he blurted out.

“Mia, maybe you can ask your father for some money. Do you think he would give us some financial help?”

Mia didn’t expect the request. She gasped and choked on her response.

“Robert, why would you think my father would help us? I haven’t spoken to him in a year. His silence tells me that he has disowned me as his daughter. I can’t imagine he will listen to me now.”

But Robert persisted.

“Honey things are different now. There is a grandchild coming and she needs expensive care. Surely he will want to help.”

 Mia was silent for a long moment as she seemed to consider her husband’s request.

Finally, she responded.

“Robert you are my husband and I must be obedient to you. I do not think it is a good idea to contact my father, but I will try this one time just for you.”

Before she could change her mind Robert had dialed the long distance telephone number. He handed the receiver to Mia. She protested about calling right then.

When the call was answered, she began speaking in Portuguese.

“Speak English and put the phone on speaker. You know I don’t speak Portuguese. I want to hear what you and you father are talking about.”

“Hello Mia. Why have you called? It has been a long time since we last talked. What is it that you need?”

Mia took a deep breath and tried to show good will toward him.

“It is good to hear your voice. Are you well Papa, and Mama too?”

Senor Perez’s response was gruff as he made an incoherent noise.

“Hmm, is this the reason for your telephone call? Did you call to ask about our health?”

Robert nudged her to continue.

“No, Papa. I called because I need your help. Papa I need to talk to you about how my condominium is too small now.”

But Senor Perez interrupted.

“How can it be too small? It is just you and your nurse.”

“Papa, will you please try to listen and not judge me as I explain? Papa, I am married now. I know that I should have called before this to tell you about my marriage. I didn’t think you would want to hear from me.”

She hurried on.

“I am married to Dr. Chase, Papa, and isn’t it exciting that we are pregnant? Our little girl, Lourdes Lucia Chase, will be born soon. And then the condo will be too small for our growing family. Papa, will you help us buy a larger home?”

Senor Perez didn’t immediately respond. “Mia, your mother has informed me that Dr. Chase left you without cause or reason. He betrayed you. And a man of honor would not have left in silence. I told Lucia that you should not accept him back into your life. Did she not tell you that?”

Mia raised her voice.

“No, Papa. I know nothing about this.”

Her father’s response was firm.

“Mia, you are a useless cripple, and you will be a dependent burden on a man for life. As a doctor, he would know that you are not a whole person any longer. How can you be a wife to him?”

Senor Perez’s words were harsh. Mia began to cry. The Senor was heartless as he continued.

“Silence Mia, crying will not change my mind. You married Dr. Chase without consulting me and that was a mistake. I am not suggesting Mia, I am demanding that you leave this marriage. You will return to your father’s home and I will provide for your care. I will provide trained nurses for you and a nanny to take care of my grandchild. I suggest that you don’t refuse this generous offer.”

Hearing these words from her father’s demanding lips, Mia’s tears dried. A fighting gleam came into her eye. Her own father had humiliated and insulted her and she was not going to take it any longer.

She yelled, “No, father I will never come home! I humbled myself in asking for your help, but now I would rather live in a hovel than accept your money.”

Senor Perez was silent for a long time. In anger, his remark was curt.

“I will give you the money Mia, to buy your new home. But listen closely because the price you will pay in return will be high.”

At this point Robert relaxed, but Mia grabbed his hand for support. Her father continued.

“If you accept my money, your mother and I will disown you for life. I will forbid you to ever communicate with us again.”

Mia held back her tears and answered her father with respect.

“Thank you Papa for your help and I accept the terms and conditions for this money. Will you please kiss mama for me?”

Senor Perez said, “Mia, you grovel like the helpless woman that you are. Give the phone to Robert. I have nothing more to say to you.”

She was about to say, “Papa, do you wish to see your granddaughter after she is born?”

But, he didn’t want to hear anything more. He just said, “Good-bye.”

There was a long pause. Robert could hear a woman’s voice speaking in Portuguese in the background. Although he didn’t understand, Mia translated what her mother was saying.

“Robert, Mama said ‘Juan, I will quit speaking to you. I will move into the servant’s quarters if you will not allow me to see my grandchild.’”

Senor Perez groaned in defeat and the next voice they heard was Senora Perez.

“Mia, this is your mother. I need to see this child after her birth. Your father promises to send a nurse for the child.”

“No Mama. I will not allow my daughter to leave this country without Robert and me. Tell Father to send his private plane for us, or you will never see your granddaughter.”

In the background Senor Perez’s loud and demanding voice.

“Finish your conversation with your daughter. This discussion will conclude man-to-man.”

“Mia, your father insists that I must say goodbye. He demands to speak with Robert now.”

Mia gripped the phone and slapped it hard in Robert’s palm.

“I hope you are happy now, Robert.”

Mia began to cry.

It broke Robert’s heart to see his wife crying, but he knew that he was sinking in debt fast. This seemed to be his only option. After all, the rich father should bail him out for the sake of his disabled daughter. Plus, she was about to give him his first grandchild.

“Hello, Senor Perez. This is Dr. Chase. I understand that you want to talk with me?”

Senor Perez’s voice was stern when he said, “Robert, I suggest that you listen to me because I do not repeat myself. I will give you the money to buy a larger home, but my conditions are steadfast. First of all, you must handle the transaction without consulting Mia in any way. Is this understood?”

“Yes, Senor Perez. I will do as you request.”

“See that you do, Robert. Know too, that my grandchild will replace her mother as heir to the Perez fortune. Mia is not to receive any of the Perez fortune. Good bye.”

When the call ended, Mia asked, “Robert, why would you allow my father to abandon me? I am his flesh and blood. Is the house more important to you than me?”

But he didn’t have an answer. He knew he had crushed his wife’s heart for the sake of money and his pride. He waited until her tears stopped and she seemed to accept her father’s terms. Then he called the realtor and made a generous offer on the house, which the seller accepted. By the end of the year they would be able to move into their new home.

 

Chapter 5

Shattered Dreams

Mia felt more and more helpless and trapped. Robert had shown an alarming tendency to be controlling, jealous, and possessive. His treatment toward her became dismissive and sharp.  She realized again how much he was like her father and she detested it.

At her next therapy session, Mia shared her feelings. She felt trapped and helpless. She tried to explain that Robert had become demanding. It made her feel small and insignificant.

Dr. White explained that it was normal in a marriage to have disagreements. And communication was always the best remedy. But this advice didn’t help much because Robert didn’t want to talk; he yelled and made demands.

The rest of their counseling session focused on her role as a mother with a disability. Dr. White seemed concerned about her abilities to be a mother. She suggested that Robert might also have concerns. She said there would be many challenges and new experiences ahead.

Mia was not at all worried about her impending motherhood. A nanny had raised her and a nanny could raise her daughter in the ways of her culture too. Dr. White suggested that she begin to interview possible nannies. Taking charge might assure Robert of her ability to take care of their children. This confidence might ease the tensions.

When Mia approached Robert about a nanny, he immediately took charge. He pushed her aside and began to interview nanny applicants. He excluded Mia from the interview process and again she felt helpless.

She wasn’t too surprised when Robert settled on the young registered nurse, Grace Lisbon. Grace was quite pretty, which seemed to be one of his requirements.  She had light brown hair that was always pulled up in a bun.

Mia noticed how attractive she was when her hair fell in loose curls. The tendrils rested on her shoulders and framed her face.  Unlike her brown eyes, the woman’s eyes were a beautiful pale blue.

She knew that Robert loved beautiful women and this concerned her. He seemed to light up when Grace came into the room and always had special comments and compliments just for her. And once she happened upon Robert watching Grace arrange the nursery.

Mia confronted him and asked why he was watching the nanny.

“I was thinking about how happy our daughter will be in her beautiful nursery.”

But Mia had suspicions that his thoughts were about Grace and not the décor. After that, she was careful while watching Robert’s interaction with Grace.

Mia worked on being the best wife she could be. She knew their marriage needed help. As the pregnancy progressed, the less interest Robert took in her. His focus was on Grace.

Mia  couldn’t wait until their baby was born. She needed to feel beautiful again and save the marriage.

As planned, Lourdes Lucia Chase was born by cesarean section in the spring. She was a beautiful classical South American princess just like her mother. Mia recovered well from surgery and Lourdes was healthy.

Grace took wonderful care of the baby and even assisted Mia. She seemed to fit well into their growing family and was earning Mia’s  gratitude.

One day she reflected on her thought.

At last, life will be perfect and Robert will love me and Lourdes forever. We will have a happy family.

Yet, Mia had grown more unhappy and depressed. Robert continued to focus his attention on Grace and not enough on her and the baby. They began to fight more about money. And Robert persisted in working double shifts to support them. Their love life had become non-existent because he was rarely home.

Mia knew the loss of her father’s allowance hurt them. And the larger mortgage payment was straining their budget. Robert kept the finances from her, as did her father from her mother. She was helpless and alone.

Robert was good at blaming their money problems on Mia and he made his resentments clear. She felt it was all her fault. But she knew better. It was she who had gone to her father for his financial support.

Robert and Mia didn’t make it to their first anniversary. Lourdes was six months old and it seemed like Robert was only coming home just to see Lourdes and Grace.

Mia had suspicions that Robert was trying to start something sexual with Grace. She decided to confront him about Grace. Yet Robert beat her to the punch.

After tucking the baby into bed one night, Robert went into the living room. “Mia, we need to talk.”

He settled in his easy chair.

“I was once in love with you Mia, but we have not had sex since before Lourdes was born. I once loved you with every inch of my being, but I can’t do this anymore.”

“I married you because you drove me crazy, and all I could think about was to have sex with you. I became obsessed with you like an alcoholic who can’t survive without liquor. My obsession with you started to fade when you treated sex with disgust.”

Mia listened in amazement.

“Now you drive me even crazier. We haven’t slept in the same bed in over six months and you act like you don’t want me to touch you or kiss you anymore. I want you and I need my wife, but the girl I fell in love with and married doesn’t exist anymore. I’m sure that you blame me for your father’s abandonment and all our money problems. Your father was right when he said that your disability would lead us to the poor house.”

Robert cleared his throat.

“Mia, I can’t do this any longer. I want a divorce before we completely destroy each other.”

She gasped, and tried to get him to stop. But he continued anyway.

“I have seen a lawyer and I have the divorce papers here with me. All you need to do is to sign them. I’ve left everything to you. With me gone, perhaps your father will reconsider his decision and reinstate your allowance.”

Mia was crying, but she said nothing. Robert had everything planned and there wasn’t any room for her wishes. Through her tears she signed the papers.

She had already experienced depression, hopelessness, isolation, and abandonment. Now her plans for a future were gone. He was right about one thing. She did blame him for her father’s abandonment.

It was painful for Mia. She  became aware that it wasn’t her disability postpartum baby blues or paranoia. It wasn’t her lack of interest in sex; it was Grace. With the divorce papers signed, he kissed her one last time.

“I promised you that I would never leave you as I had done before. I am sorry Mia, but it is time for me to say goodbye. Try to remember that you will always be my South American Beauty.”

She could see the goodbye in his eyes. Robert stood, walked to the door, closed it behind him, and this time she knew he was gone forever.

Early the next morning, Robert telephoned Senor Perez. He told him that Mia had signed the divorce papers.

He then reported.“Sir, I’ve done as you asked. I cleaned out the savings account of the money you deposited as my payment for leaving Mia.”

Chapter 6

Counseling

In her grief, Mia turned to Dr. White for help. She learned that the end of a marriage is often like a death. There were different stages of grieving that everyone goes through, but not in the same way. Dr. White assured her that healing occurred after she went through the steps of grief.

Dr. White emphasized that it was normal to feel pain after a loss, but Mia felt she would never see an end to the pain. One day she felt angry and the next day she couldn’t believe that this was happening to her. Confusion and doubt had set deep into her psyche. After all Robert had done so much to save her life so how could he walk away from her? And how could he leave their beautiful child?

She felt so alone in her feelings. Berta didn’t seem to understand how she could grieve over Robert’s leaving. According to her outspoken assistant, it was Robert’s unfaithful nature rising up. She also blamed Grace, but Mia had gotten past any infidelity.  Grace had withstood Robert’s advances without any romantic involvement.

Mia shared her recurring dreams with Dr. White. It was the same dream nightly when Robert would come back and they were a happy family. She admitted that sometimes she dreamed about saying the right things. And then, Robert was happy with her again.

Dr. White asked, “Did this make you feel good Mia?”

Mia sighed. “Not really, Dr. Jayne. I usually spend my days crying and staring at Lourdes in shock and disbelief that Robert is gone.”

It surprised her when Dr. White said that the pain of loneliness was common and she shouldn’t fear it.

“Mia, there are more changes ahead. But until then, you will have the need to cling to familiar habits. Familiarity gives some comfort for feelings that may be too scary to deal with.”

It took time before Mia realized that she still had Berta and Lourdes. They were blessings to be grateful for. She had Nick too. He came back to help her. Berta let him know that Robert had left and took all her money.

When Mia learned that Robert was selling the house, Nick was there for  her. He helped Mia move back to the condominium, which her father hadn’t sold.

Nick also stepped in and negotiated with Senor Perez. He asked the senor to reinstate an adequate monthly allowance. Mia agreed that she would not return to her marriage to Dr. Chase.

Nick gave Mia a final message from her father.

“Honey, Senior Perez said. “As long as you refuse to come home, you will not have any further contact with your parents.”

The hurt was deep. It meant that she no longer had parents and Lourdes would never get to know her maternal grandparents. Mia chose to stay in California. Together, she and Lourdes settled in the condominium with Berta.

Mia found out that with Berta’s help she was a good mother. Mia loved spending time with her daughter. She loved doing the small everyday tasks of brushing her daughter’s hair. Helping her with her nightly bath and playing together in the swimming pool.

Mia’s favorite part of the day was bedtime. She would cuddle close to Lourdes and read fairy tale stories about princesses. They were her favorite kinds of stories.

As Lourdes grew older, Mia decided to return to Cal Tech and resume her studies in business. After Nick’s nudging, Mia finally returned to the pool and her water ballet training. Nick honored Dr. Cotter’s orders. She wanted a new coach to take over Mia’s therapy.

Mia continued her therapy sessions with Dr. White. They had now delved into her taking responsibility for her actions.

Jayne Anne warned Mia.

“These changes are good and bring you comfort, but they can also bring about a false sense of healing. To heal, you need to look within yourself. It’s important to confront the dysfunctional part of the marriage you created.”

“This is the part of the journey where you take responsibility for your part. And stop laying all the blame on Robert. When you can do this you will uncover the real you.”

Dr. White then asked.

“What part do you think you played in the failure of your marriage?”

The words stunned Mia. She couldn’t believe the words that rushed out of her mouth without giving them any thought.

“It was all Robert’s fault. Dr. Jayne, he left me. I did everything I could do to save our marriage.”

Dr. White persisted.

“Mia you must acknowledge your part in distancing your marriage. I recall that you blamed Robert for your father disowning you. Can you explain why you think it is Robert’s fault for something that your father did?”

“Because Robert made me ask my father for money to buy a big house that we couldn’t afford. And he was the one who wanted it. I didn’t want to go into that much debt. He didn’t want the house as a comfortable place for his family to live; he wanted the house for his pride. Robert is just like my father when it came to money and pride. I lost my father due to pride.”

Dr. White continued to probe.

“Why did you let Robert do his bidding?”

Mia’s smile said a lot. “Robert kept pushing and pushing at me to call him and beg for money. I didn’t want to call my father. But I finally gave in to satisfy Robert.  My mother would say that a proper wife does what her husband demands.”

“Mia, did you want to ask your father for the money?”

Mia scowled and answered in one word.

“No.”

“So tell me Mia, why did you feel uncomfortable asking your father to help his daughter?”

“The answer is simple Dr. Jayne. Because I knew papa would not like my asking him for anything.”

“So Mia, how often do you let others make decisions for you?”

After a long pause, Mia said, “I guess always. But it was papa who made the decisions in my family. Mama and I didn’t have many choices. In my culture, it is the head of the family that makes the decisions. So I never thought about it until after the accident and I began working with you, Dr. Jayne.”

“Nicky also helped me understand that I had a right to decide what I wanted for my own life. Or who I wanted to love and who I wanted to marry. But then Robert started telling me what to do.”

Mia was in tears by now. “Dr. White, I think I married a man just like my father. And he used me to get what he wanted. Robert never cared what I might want.”

Dr. White’s words were gentle.

“Yes, Robert seems to be like your father. But what was your part of the relationship. Did Robert hold a gun to your head to make you call your father and ask for money?”

Mia laughed. “No. But I knew he would never stop pressuring me to call and he would be angry with me if I refused.”

“Mia, looking back, do you see that you had a choice? Robert might not have been happy about your refusal. But there wasn’t much he could do if you’d said, No.”

“I suppose so.” Mia answered.  “I could have said ‘No’ but I fear how Robert would have reacted.”

“Mia, can you explain what you mean by how he would react?”

“Dr. Jayne, my father is a man who demanded respect. He said… never say ‘No’ to him. Robert is like my papa. He demands respect from his colleagues in his profession, and he is a man who is always right. He would not take ‘No’ kindly. Robert is the same kind of man. He never takes ‘No,’ for an answer. Dr. White, isn’t a wife to obey her husband no matter what? This is what my mama taught me.”

“Not exactly, Mia.” Dr. White said.

“You see Mia. That philosophy is from your mother’s generation. A modern philosophy says that marriage is a partnership between a man and a woman who love each other. And they also respect one another. Together, they make decisions that affect the family.”

In the silence that followed, Mia struggled to understand. She paused and then burst out in anger.

“So, Dr. Jayne you think the divorce is my fault?”

“No, Mia I didn’t say that or even imply it. What I did say was that it wasn’t all Robert’s fault. You both had a part in the marriage coming apart. The healing process is easier when you own your responsibility for why the marriage failed.”

Then in the silence, she sighed, her eyes opened wide and she said,“Oh, I think I get it now. I gave in to Robert pushing at me. I allowed him to control me even though I knew deep inside I didn’t like it and wanted him to stop.”

“Mia, co-dependency is a situation or a relationship in which one person controls another. After your accident, you felt helpless and incapable of taking care of yourself. Codependency can occur in any type of relationship. Including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships.”

“You chose Robert because he was like your father. You drew Robert close to you because he was like your father. A man looking for someone he could control. You gave Robert the control mechanism.  He manipulated your cultural values, and your father, to get what he wanted.”

“So, Dr. Jayne. What you’re saying is that I shouldn’t have let papa and Robert control me? I only did what my mother taught me. This might not sound good, but I still don’t think Robert would have stayed with me. I feel that my disability was too much for him to handle. He is a doctor and I was his unsuccessful surgery patient.”

She paused and added.

“I still feel that my father believes that I am a helpless cripple.”

Dr. White remained silent and then said, “I think you’ve learned an important lesson.  Yes Mia, You do have the right to choose and make decisions that are good for you. There will still be bumps in the road, but your new life’s path will lead to happiness.”

Chapter 7

Ashton

It was at the campus pool that Ashton Callan met Mia. As an alumnus, he daily enjoyed the school’s Olympic size pool, or the campus jogging trail. When he arrived, a pretty young woman was swimming. He dove into the pool, swam up to her, and introduced himself.

“Hi, I’m Ace.”

To his surprise, she responded.

“Yes, I know who you are. You were a football player here and now you teach here. There was an article in the paper about your return to campus. It’s nice to meet you, Ace.”

In high school and college, Ace had played sports. It was in college where the sandy blonde, blue-eyed athlete picked up the nickname ‘Ace’. Although Ace liked sports, academia came first in his life.

Ace graduated from Cal-Tech and earned a Master’s degree in Seismology. And a PhD in Earthquake Engineering. As a celebrated author in his field, he returned to Cal-Tech to teach.

The corners of her mouth turned up.

“Hi, my name is Mia Perez. Is Ace your real name?”

“No, actually my name is Ashton Callan.”

Mia’s startled look brought forth a sigh. This was a common reaction. His brother was a famous movie star, but, he hoped she hadn’t heard of his brother.

A brazen woman approached them. Ashton wondered who she was. Mia looked forlorn and said, “Carson, I’ve just met someone new. I don’t want to leave.”

“The clock is ticking, Mia. You have fifteen more minutes of exercises to complete before you are free to socialize.”

Mia’s expression became awkward.

“Ace, this is my water therapy coach, Carson. She is a real slave driver, and if I don’t keep her happy she’ll snitch on me to Berta. I better finish up.” And then swam in Carson’s direction.

She called out to Ace as she floated away on her back. “Would you like to join me for a fruit drink when I am done with my exercises?”

His voice carried out over the water. “Sounds good, Mia.”

It amazed him how Mia used her arms to pull herself through the water with such strength, ease and grace.

 He watched her swim about in the water for a few minutes longer. He also watched in surprise as Carson helped Mia sit in the pool lift. He had seen a wheelchair by the edge of the pool, but it hadn’t crossed his mind that it belonged to her.

He was all the more intrigued by Mia. He hoped their common interest of swimming might open the door to getting to know her. When Carson wheeled Mia out of the dressing room toward him, he stood up. He removed the chair beside him, and turned to Carson.

“Could I walk Miss Perez home? I promise she’ll be safe with me.”

“That’s up to Mia. You’ll need to ask her.”

Mia giggled like a giddy school girl.

“It’s okay with me, Carson. I’m sure that Ace isn’t a serial killer who preys on unsuspecting young college co-eds. I’m sure I’ll be okay. Besides, I know that if I don’t arrive home right on schedule, Berta will send the hounds out to find me.”

Once Carson had left, Ace said, “Mia, I enjoyed watching you practice. You are amazing in the water. Why aren’t you on the water ballet team?”

“Actually, I am training to compete at the Para Olympics. I usually train at home, but my condo pool needs some repairs. I’m glad that I came to the campus pool today.”

“So am I Mia. Um, I hope this isn’t being too nosy, but I’m also curious as to why you are in a wheelchair?”

He paused and then asked.

“Was it a swimming accident? You are so comfortable and confident in the water. Do you mind me asking?”

“It’s okay Ace.  I don’t mind. I  know you are curious. Most people are curious.”

He ordered fruit drinks and encouraged Mia to continue with her story.

“I was in a severe car crash a few years ago. A drunk driver hit the car that my boyfriend Chaz was driving. He died and I ended up paralyzed.”

“I’m sorry Mia. God, I can’t imagine how awful that must have been. We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

After a moment of awkward silence, she said, “It might seem strange, but I do want to talk about it. Maybe because I am just now realizing how much of a friend I lost that day.”

“Chaz was too young to die. He was handsome and charismatic – kind of like you. He had a nice smile too.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment. But, who was Chaz?”

“He was my friend; the boy next door. A lot of girls wanted him to look at them, but he only had eyes for me. Our fathers had betrothed us to marry – this is common in Brazil. But I did not want to marry him.”

Ace heard the determination and independence in her voice. But she had an irresistible vulnerability too.

“Tell me more, Mia, or is it too painful to talk about him?”

Mia looked into his eyes and seemed to like what she saw. She began to share her thoughts and started to reveal her story.

“Chaz had come to visit me for a few days. He was from near Rio too, the same as me. It was a beautiful summer day and Chaz thought it would be fun to spend the day at the beach.”

“Ace, it happened so fast. Chaz could not avoid the small truck that came at us on the freeway.”

His eyes relayed sympathy.

“I can’t imagine how terrifying it must have been to see a vehicle coming toward you, and going the wrong way.”

“I felt so helpless, Ace. All I could do was scream. There was a terrible screeching sound when he slammed on the brakes. I could see pieces of rubber flying away just before the car hit us.”

Her sigh was full of remorse.

“Ace, I hit my head.  Everything in my body hurt. The steering wheel crushed his chest. There was blood everywhere. It was his side of the car that hit the railing. I was hanging upside down by my seat belt. And the dash crushed my legs. The pain was so bad that I passed out.”

The way that Mia told her story was so vivid and heart wrenching.

“Mia, are you sure you want to continue?”

“Yes, Ace. Dr. White, my therapist, tells me that I shouldn’t repress my memories. She says that my life will have a better chance to move forward and I will be happy if I try to get past the trauma.”

Ace was sympathetic. He held her hand and she continued. And she acted like she was enjoying his touch.

“I was semiconscious when I arrived in the emergency room.  I could hear the doctors and nurses clambering about. But, I didn’t know that I was unconscious. I didn’t know what had happened. There was nothing except black all around me. I was later told that I had been in an induced coma. I guess the doctors were hoping my spine would heal.”

He squeezed her hand, but he couldn’t seem to find the right words to say how he felt.

Mia’s bravery was healing. And Ashton was thinking about that bravery. He wondered if he could’ve been that brave if the tables were turned.

“Months later, when I came out of the coma, It confused and frightened me. People dressed in white surrounded me. It’s kind of funny now when I think about it, but I thought they were angels. I guess my mind couldn’t tell that they were doctors and nurses.”

She laughed a little to lighten the mood.

“Ace, I felt numb when I heard that Chaz had died in the crash. It seemed so unfair that he died and I was alive. I just prayed that Chaz didn’t suffer and that he did not feel any pain.”

“Chaz was a kind person. I feel so much guilt about not telling him the truth. He died thinking that I loved him and that I was going to be his wife. I wasn’t a true friend to him.”

Tears stained her cheeks. He put his arm around her and she leaned into him. After several minutes, she sat back in her wheelchair and said, “It is getting late Ace, and I should go home. Berta will wonder what has happened to me. And I assure you, she will send the hounds to find me.”

Ace chuckled.

“We wouldn’t want the hounds tearing up campus to find your trail. And anyways, I promised Carson that I would get you home.”

Mia was easy to talk to and Ace definitely wanted to see her again. They exchanged phone numbers and planned to talk again soon.

At their next session, Dr. White asked, “Mia, did you also tell Ace about Robert, Lourdes or Nick? Does he know about your previous marriage and that you have a small child?”

Mia’s cheeks turned a rosy pink.

“No Dr. White, I didn’t say much about all that because I didn’t want to scare Ace off with my suitcases.”

Dr. White laughed and corrected her reference to the suitcases.

“Mia, I think you meant to say baggage. Is that right?”

“Yes, Dr. White. That’s what I meant. I still get some words mixed up. I don’t know. I don’t think I can talk to Ace about my ex-husband and daughter.”

“Well, Mia, I can see why you hesitated. But will it scare off Ace if he learns about your past from another source? You have the opportunity to make a choice Mia. You can tell him yourself or run the risk that he will hear it from someone else.”

“Mia, what about Ace? Have you seen him lately?”

“Not much, Dr. White, I like being with him, although, I’m a little afraid of getting too close. I get scared that he will leave me too.”

“Why do you think he will leave you, Mia?”

Mia’s answer was quick.

“Because they’ve all left me. Tobias put a crown on my head and he was gone. Chaz died and he was gone. Robert divorced me and he was gone, and my papa threw me away like I was garbage, and he was gone too. I haven’t had much luck with men hanging around, have I?”

Dr. White’s reminder was gentle.

“Mia, a lasting relationship has a strong foundation of truth and trust. Go slow with Ace,

and find a way to be true to yourself and honest with him.”

For the next few weeks, Ace and Mia met often at the campus pool. Being in the water was a comfortable place for them to be together. At poolside, they shared stories about where they came from. And details about their families. Ace questioned Mia more about her life, especially her life since the accident.

She remembered what Dr. White had said about sharing, about her marriage and Lourdes. She had been vague with Ace long enough. Mia decided it was the time to talk to him about Robert and Lourdes.

**********

“Ace, I have something difficult to share with you. Do you remember that I was in a coma? Well, my doctor at that time was Robert Chase. He is the one who did many surgeries on my spine.”

She bent her head down in shame.

“He was also my husband for about a year. And he is the father of my daughter, Lourdes.”

Ashton’s face became flush. Mia glanced up and saw his expression of shock. Ace watched her look away to avoid him, seeing his element of surprise.

 With concern, he said, “Mia, there’s no need to cry about a failed marriage. And besides, I like kids.”

“Are you worried that I won’t want to see you because of this? No way Mia. In fact, tell me about your daughter. I can bet that she is just as pretty as her mother.”

But, few people wanted to know about her daughter. Especially her own grandfather. It brought joy to Mia to talk about Lourdes.

“Ace, Lourdes is two years old now. And she’s a happy, handful for Berta and me. She’s also quite the “fish” in the water. Berta watches us as I teach her things in the water. We have formed a comfortable rhythm of love.”

Mia bid Ace goodbye that afternoon, and he said, “When will I get to meet your little fish, Mia?”

Mia’s smile was full of excitement.

“Soon, I hope. Perhaps she can come and swim with us one of these times.”

But the swim date was not to happen. A few weeks later, Mia waited for Ace at the pool side. Instead of being ready to swim, she was crying. When he came up to her, Mia turned her tear stained away to shield her sorrow.

Instead, Ace held her close. He removed a handkerchief from his pocket, and wiped the tears that trickled down her face.

She sniffled, cleared her throat. “Ace, Robert took Lourdes away from me!”

“Why Mia? Tell me what happened.”

“The family court took her today.”

“Why Mia? I don’t understand. “I don’t understand Mia. Why would your father help take Lourdes away?”

“It was because Robert told the judge that he was better suited to raise our daughter than me. He told the Judge that he was a well-respected and wealthy neurosurgeon. And that I was a cripple who lives on an allowance from my wealthy father. Robert told the Judge that my father has little regard for me as a person. It was because of my disability. I don’t have any income other than my father’s charity. My father even sent his lawyer from Brazil to communicate his lack of confidence in me as a mother.”

“I told the Judge how precious Lourdes is to me and how she is a happy child that laughs and makes me smile. I explained how Berta and I can take care of her. But the Judge listened to Robert and my father’s lawyer more than me. He agreed that Robert had proven he could provide a better home for Lourdes. So he took my child away from me immediately.”

Mia broke down crying again.

“She’s gone. My little sunshine is gone”.

Chapter 8

Empty and Broken

Once again Mia found herself in Lourdes’ room staring at her empty bed. Berta came in and sat down beside her in the rocking chair where she often rocked Lourdes asleep.  Soon they both were crying.

“Berta, how can I go on without my little girl? The sunshine is gone in my life and the rain won’t stop. My days are empty without her silly smile and endless questions. I can’t get to sleep without our bedtime story time. Berta, she isn’t here to read to anymore.”

Berta sniffled a little.

“I know princess. I miss her too. I even miss her temper tantrums when she refused to go to sleep.”

Then Berta stood and touched Mia’s shoulder.

“Princess, life will move forward and right now you have a pool session with Carson. Do you want to swim here or at the campus pool?”

Mia shuddered at the thought of swimming without Lourdes there cheering her on.

“I want to swim on campus. Berta, I can’t face getting into the pool here without Lourdes. I keep expecting to see her swim up to me for a hug.”

“No problem, beauty queen, I’ll let Carson know she needs to meet you on campus. We better get moving. You will feel better after some exercise. Is Ace going to meet you afterward?”

Mia let out a loud sigh. “Not today. He wanted to, but I’m too sad. I don’t know how to focus on anything except that my baby is gone.”

As Berta helped Mia get dressed and prepare for the pool, she said, “What did Dr. White say about grief? Aren’t there some kind of stages that people go through?”

Mia sighed again  as if she was thinking, life is too hard. Why should I pretend to be happy?

“Yes, Berta. But there are too many stages for me to remember and I don’t want to think about it right now.”

“Believe me Mia. I do understand your depression. But, I just remember something about denial.”

Berta prodded her to think about the positives in life.

“Maybe you should talk with Dr. White about it at your next therapy session? For now, we better get to the pool.”

Mia didn’t need to bring up Lourdes at her next session with Dr. White. She had already heard Robert boast about how he had “won” his daughter, and now he had a family with Grace. Dr. White chose her words with care.

“Mia, I’ve heard the remarks on the hospital grapevine. How do you feel about that Mia?”

Mia screamed at the top of her lungs.

“I feel like I want to kill the bastard!  Not only did he take Lourdes away from me, but he smeared it in my face. He has it all. He took my life and he is spreading lies about me not being a good mother.”

 “Mia, do you think that Robert took your pride by saying those unkind words?”

“Yes, and I feel anger towards him.”

That’s good Mia. Anger is one of the stages of grief, and that means you are dealing with your feelings. But, Mia, I have a concern about something that Berta told me in our phone conversation. She said that you were spending a lot of time in Lourdes’ room alone and crying.”

“She told me that it worried her seeing you so sad. We talked about the stages of grief. So that if you need a little extra boost, Berta would be a good strong shoulder to lean on.”

Dr. White looked at her in an assuring way.  She wanted to put Mia at ease.

“Mia, you are working through the stage of denial. And isolation feels comfortable. Does this sound familiar?”

Mia looked up at the doctor.

“Yes, I don’t want to be around people. I’m so angry at Robert. I can’t explain why I am so mad at him, but I feel like I want to hurt him. I think I would feel better if I could punch him hard in the stomach so he would feel nauseated like I feel all the time.”

“I wish that I’d never married him!”

 “Mia, I want you to understand what just happened. You moved into another stage of grief. It’s called the ‘If Only’s. Do you think it would have been better not to have married Robert? Were there not some good times during the marriage?”

Mia’s silence said it all.

“Well, a few I guess. I was so happy at first and then there is Lourdes. We were so happy about having a baby.”

 After a pause, she said, “You know, Dr. Jayne. I often think that sometimes I was in love with being in love. Perhaps, I wasn’t in love with Robert after all.”

 After another pause, Mia said,“Dr. Jayne, the truth is, I didn’t believe that any man would want to marry me. You know, marry someone with a disability. And if my injuries weren’t so bad, then my dream to see Tobias Callan again would still be possible.”

Dr. White’s words were firm.

“Mia, did you hear that ‘what-if’?  That’s called Bargaining. This time you included ‘maybe’. Mia, why don’t you think that Tobias Callan is a realistic goal? I’m afraid that you are still mixing dreams up with goals. And bargaining, even with God, isn’t a realistic way to change things.”

“Dr. White, I’ve already tried talking with God about how I promise to change if only he will give my daughter back. I would even give up the idea of marrying Tobias, if I could have Lourdes, home with me again. But, God hasn’t given her back. And Ace doesn’t talk about his brother. So you are right, Dr. Jayne, bargaining doesn’t change things.”

“Mia, you have been making good progress, even if you don’t think so. It’s natural to get depressed as long as it doesn’t become a habit. There will be many ups and downs before you find peace of mind and heart. It’s a natural part of life.”

Dr. White gave Mia a brief moment to think about their conversation. They had covered several steps of grief.

“Mia, do you have a favorite way to remember your special times with Lourdes?”

“Yes, Berta suggested I write my thoughts to her in letters, even if I don’t send them. So I have been doing that and then saving them, although I don’t know why.”

“So, Mia, does this help?”

 I don’t know. I still cry a lot while I write, but at least I still feel somehow connected to her.”

Dr. White’s eyes and smile were comforting.

“Loss is the most difficult form of grief, but it will ease in time. Allow yourself time without feeling guilty about the sadness.”

“Mia, do you have an answer why Robert took your child?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Well, Mia. I want you to think hard about your answer.”

At her next meeting with Dr. White, Mia reported, she had thought about the question. She just said that she’d had fewer days of depression. And she was able to start sharing happier thoughts with Lourdes through her letters. She began training in the condo pool again. And the childish laughter that had haunted her was starting to fade.

**********

 “What about Nick, Mia?” Dr. Jayne asked.

Startled, Mia looked chagrined.

“Dr. Jayne. Nicky was my best friend, and Dr. Cotter took him away. So, he is gone. But, I didn’t think about Nicky as a boyfriend, he was just my best friend.”

After a few moments of thought, she added.

“Maybe if I give Ace chance, he won’t leave. Maybe I should give him another chance, but I want to go slow. My heart is still empty and broken.”

Dr. White talked about the fact the fall season was fast approaching. She questioned Mia about resuming her college classes. Mia hadn’t given school much thought, but the idea began to excite her. She  needed to repeat some classes that she hadn’t finished from the last term.  But this time, she decided to set a new goal and finish them this time.

This thrilled Dr. White. Mia’s optimism was improving.  They talked about how Mia might become involved with campus activities and service opportunities. And then Dr. Jayne approached the subject of dating.

Chapter 9

Homecoming

Ace made it a practice to walk Mia to her classes when he was on campus.  He liked introducing her to his Alma mater and American ways.

They made a handsome couple. And soon they became known as the Geeky Science Guy and the Disability Rights Dynamo. Ace was proud of how she had started the “YES, I Can” campaign on campus. He even surprised her by getting a slogan banner for her wheelchair.

She asked him if she should enter the Homecoming Queen contest. It didn’t surprise him to learn that she had won the Miss Junior Brazil contest. His enthusiasm was a positive way that he cheered her on to enter.

“Sure!  You could  win hands down.”

 She responded with a bit of hesitation.

“But, Ace, this time I am in a wheelchair. Can I still win a beauty contest?”

Ace just pointed to the banner.

 “Yes, you can. You are amazing and the most beautiful girl on campus.”

Mia’s laugh was like a choir of angels singing in a heavenly choir. He was beyond liking her. He was in love with her.

“Besides, Miss Perez, being Homecoming Queen at Cal-Tech is more than a beauty contest. You also need to be smart and involved in campus. You are already involved in raising the student body’s awareness of disability issues.”

“That’s a great idea Ace!  I could talk about ‘people first language’. And the ‘Yes, I can’ campaign is making headway. And you know, the older buildings still need curbs and ramps.  And that there isn’t any transportation or campus housing for those with disabilities.”

The ‘AND’S’ kept coming.  But, there was a ‘BUT’ thrown in for good measure.

“Ace, would those issues qualify?”

“Hell yes, Mia. It is a human rights issue. Those with disabilities have the same rights to get involved as everyone else – or so you have taught me. Now you can teach more people.”

Mia’s face was bright with optimism. She felt something in her change. She thought about asking him to kiss her, but instead she said, “Ace, you are such a good friend. I love how you don’t see me as a needy cripple. I need to remember that ‘I can’!  Will you be my campaign manager?”

Ace had not asked Mia on a real date yet. They were swimming buddies. And now, he was her campaign manager. But Ace had not found the courage to go to the level beyond friendship. Regardless that he was in love with her.

Mia hadn’t brought up the topic of Lourdes and Robert in weeks. And Ace was becoming more confident that she was ready for an adult relationship.

Homecoming was in a few weeks. Berta mentioned to Ace that she didn’t have a date for the dance. It was at the pep rally when he finally asked, “Mia, will you be my date for the homecoming game Friday night?”

Mia was becoming more seductive in her body language.

“I would like that Ace, but only if you will be my date on Saturday night for the dance.”

He felt relieved that Mia didn’t shoot him down flat.

“It would be my honor and pleasure, Miss Perez, to escort the campus queen to the dance.”

“But Ace, I’m only a nominee. I’m not campus queen yet.”

“You will be.” He said in a confident tone.

 Her radiant smile in response brought joy to his heart. He looked forward to Homecoming weekend.

The 1965 red Mustang convertible pulled up to the condo and Ace walked to the door.

Berta opened it. “Good evening Ace. My, my you’re a handsome sight for sorry eyes. Please come on in. Mia hasn’t finished fussing with her hair yet. Would you like a soda or maybe some water?”

He cleared his throat. “Um, no thanks, I’m good. A little nervous, but I’m good.”

Just then Mia called out from the bedroom.

“Berta, could you come here please?”

Berta pointed to the sofa and said, “Sit and take a load off. I’d better go see what the beauty queen needs now.”

Ace waited in the front room with his sweaty palms resting on the pant legs of his suit. He hoped tonight would go well and they could become more than friends.

When she entered the room,  his heart raced. He’d wished he had worn a tuxedo instead of just a suit.

Mia was wearing a strapless evening dress. The top of the dress sparkled with sequins and beads.  And the tight bodice showed her fleshy bosom. The skirt cascaded down in a sea of white tulle.

She left him speechless. It seemed awkward when he bent to kiss her hand.

Even though Mia said he looked nice, he felt the disappointment that he wasn’t her prince. He was quick to explain. “I wore a suit instead of a tuxedo because the night was about the queen and not me as your date.”

His explanation pleased her, and her smile was coy and said, “It’s too bad that you aren’t an eligible Campus King. Ace, we are certain to be the most beautiful couple at the dance. Regardless if you wore a tuxedo or a suit.”

His face reddened from embarrassment.

“Are you ready to go, your Highness?”

Mia waved to Berta.

“Goodnight Berta.  Wish me luck!”

“you don’t need luck. You’re a beauty queen. You’re a shoo in.”

Mia’s face looked puzzled. “Ashton, what did Berta mean… “Im a shoe in?”

The dimples in his cheeks deepened. “It just means that everyone will love you.”

Ace picked up Mia’s petite frame as if she was a rag doll. He lowered her in the bucket seat of his car. The evening air was soft and warm for a fall day.

The gentle breeze brought a hint of her sweet perfume to tease him. It was the beginning of their first official date. An evening full of hope for a first kiss. And the anticipation of a first kiss.

An old time rock ‘n’ roll station began to play the song “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”, and it filled the still night air. Ace tried singing along with the radio making up his own words as he sang.

“Gee, you’ve really got a hold on me. Seems like I’m always thinking ‘bout you ‘cause you’ve really got a hold on me.”

Mia giggled and together they sang the song making up words as they went along.

Ace had predicted that Mia would wear the crown and he was right. She won the contest by a landslide. She was beautiful, intelligent, and elegant. And she became the first campus queen with a disability.

The Campus King and his Queen spent a lot of time together that evening. It was their job to socialize and pose for pictures.

This left Ashton on the sideline looking the part of a wall flower.  Mia showed the student body that a queen in a wheelchair can still dance and celebrate.

Meanwhile, Ace stayed in the shadows and fought off feelings of being a jealous date. He wore his heart on his sleeve. And he prayed that he’d be the man who would capture Mia’s heart that night. He was more than smitten with the brown-eyed beauty. And his greatest wish was to make her his that night.

The dance was almost over and Ace had not spent more than a few dances with Mia. He approached her and said, “Excuse me guys. I would like to spend a few uninterrupted moments with my queen.”

He extended his hand to her and said, “Queen Mia, will you allow me to have the last dance?”

 Her smile was all he needed. And her voice was soft and sweet when she said, “Yes, Ace. I would like that.”

Ace sat beside his lovely date and embraced her. His arms fell loose around her waist.  A love song began to play and together they swayed to the music. The world whirled around them, and Ace dreamed that he was her King. She found him handsome and sexy. Holding his queen, his soft whispers sent shivers down her neck.

“My queen, open your heart to me and let us build a life together. We will dance forever on the sweet notes of our own song, and float to heaven in the arms of the angels.”

Mia felt her heart flutter. His warm breath shook her to the quick of her soul. She felt lost when she looked into his soft blue eyes. All she wanted was just one kiss. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and begged her heart to not go there. Could she trust herself?  Could she trust him and get close to a man again?

Lost in her thoughts, the ride home was quiet. For Mia, the night had been a fairy tale come true. A night with the brother of the king who had stolen her heart years ago. But, she was once a queen, and Ace was  a chivalrous knight.

They had danced in a room full of  beautiful princesses and princes. And now she rode in a royal carriage, looking beyond the cities “fairy lights.” She was now going to her castle where she would kiss the knight and he would become Tobias, the man of her dreams.

In her magical world, she watched as “Sir” Ace pulled the “carriage” into the driveway. He removed her “throne” and set her upon it. With her crown still atop her head, she was a beautiful queen.

“Would you like to come in?” The queen asked the frog.

In her mind, the frog croaked, “Yes, my lovely queen.”

 Mia handed him the front door key. The unsuspecting frog opened the door and let her pass before him.

“My Queen. When I was here earlier waiting for you, I was nervous and excited. I didn’t realize that you live in a castle befitting of a queen.”

 “Thank you Ace for the compliment, but it’s a gift from my father. It is more what he wanted for me than what I wanted. He doesn’t listen to me. He never has.”

An element of surprise appeared on his face. She looked like he was going to ask questions that she didn’t want to answer. She cut him off and tried to lighten the mood. She removed the diamond pendant from around her neck. And put it on the entry hall table.

“This was a gift from my father that I cherish. He gave it to me when I became Miss Junior Brazil. That was when I first met your brother Tobias. I wore it tonight for good luck. But, I don’t want to think about my father tonight. The night belongs to you.”

“Mia, it is as beautiful as you are.”  The comment about Tobias didn’t set well with him, but he still asked.

“Mia, would you like to sit here by me on the sofa?”

 “That would be nice, Ace.”

 He lifted her from her wheelchair and settled her on the cushion next to him. She adjusted the flowing skirt of her gown.

She began humming the song playing in the background. Ace joined her and together, they sang, “I’m gonna love you ’till the stars fall from the skies.”

Mia yearned to see Tobias in his eyes. Her soft fingertips brushed across his cheek and touched his lower lip. Her lips brushed his earlobe as she whispered, “Ace, do you mean those words?”

But her thoughts were wrapped around Tobias Callan.

Ace fixed his eyes on her.

“Yes, Mia. I’ve fallen in love with you.”

He took her into his arms and ran his fingers through her fragrant hair. She waited for his kiss, but it didn’t come. And even though her breasts had spilled out of her bodice, he didn’t reach for them as she expected. He seemed frozen.

Just as she wondered whether to kiss him first, he said in a whispered voice. “Mia, my fingers are stuck in your hair. And if you don’t help me soon, I’m going to burst out laughing.”

She started laughing too. One-by-one, she removed the hair pins from the curls that held him captive. At last, all the pins were out, and Ace could pull his fingers free.

Mia shook her head from side to side to loosen the curls. And it was a sensual movement. He wrapped his arms around her. He drew his lips nearer to her mouth.

The mood seemed right. And then the music on the radio changed. The soft, love songs, became hot and sultry sound, of Louisiana Saturday Night Blues.

In an exasperated voice, Ace groaned, “I want to kiss you like no one’s ever kissed you before. But I’m as nervous as hell.”

He wasn’t Tobias, but she did think Ace was adorable. She loosened his tie and slid it off. She unbuttoned his shirt one button at a time.

“My God, Ace, I’d better get your shirt and tie off before you pop a blood vessel.”

She snuggled closer and began stroking his chest. He didn’t know why his nerves were so jagged. He lifted her chin to kiss her, but the movement knocked her tiara off and it fell to the floor.

In the silence there was a loud knock on the front door and Berta came inside. She kind of looked surprised.

“Guess I’ve come at a bad time, huh?”

In his frustration, Ace blurted out.

“God, no Berta, you’ve just saved me from the most embarrassing time of my life. I guess I should go before this first date becomes a disaster of epic proportions.”

The interruption had broken the romantic mood. But, this was the moment when Mia decided Ace was the type of man she needed in her life. He wasn’t perfect and neither was she. She was comfortable with him. And it felt like she could let him into her life.

She took his hand. “No, Ace. I don’t want you to leave. Please stay.”

She turned to Berta.

“Since you’re here, I could use your help getting out of this gown.”

Berta picked up the tiara, and she followed Mia to the bedroom.

“So you did win!  Congratulations, beauty queen.”

With Berta’s help, Mia was soon dressed in a soft pink lounge dress. Berta came out, and looked at Ace. She gave a good ole belly laugh, and then waved goodnight.  She went to her room, and now, they were alone.

Ace settled Mia beside him again on the couch. She opened his shirt and began kissing his bare chest, then his neck, his chin, and his cheek. Her moist lips parted and she kissed his lips. He closed his eyes and encircled her with his arms. Their kisses kept going and going as the pressure of their lips intensified.

Ace gathered her up and carried her into the bedroom. Sitting beside her, he calmed his nerves and said, “You may need to help me understand how to have sex with you.”

She reassured him. “Ashton, having sex with me is the same as having sex with any other girl. Don’t be nervous, I’ll guide you every step of the way. Robert taught me well.”

Then she said, “Relax Ace, having sex is 90 percent mental and ten percent physical. So don’t worry if we don’t get it right the first time. Exploring the possibilities is fun. Just remember, that practice makes perfect.”

He cupped her face in his hands and their lips met in passionate sweet kisses. Mia helped him remove his shirt. And he slipped off her soft dressing gown.

Underneath it, he found nothing but her soft skin. He slipped the rest of his clothes off and stood there as if he didn’t know how to begin. But in her mind, he was the Greek mythological God of desire, Adonis.

Ashton played the role of the life-death-rebirth deity Adonis that night. Mia considered herself as Aphrodite. And she was falling in love with Adonis. An arrow from the Greek mythological character, Eros shot an arrow from his bow. It pierced her heart and she was in the throes of passion.

She lay back on the bed, and coached him.“You’ll need to put my legs up on the bed for me because I can’t lift them myself.”

Ashton’s face flushed a soft shade of pink. He joined her on the bed and the rest of the romantic ritual fell into place. Mia found his hesitancy helped her focus on him, instead of remembering Robert. At last, she could enjoy intimacy without shadows from the past.

During the night of lovemaking, she found a new freedom of self. But, Ashton was unaware their sexual encounter was being videotaped. Ashton Callan and Mia Perez were finding pleasurable ways to make sex perfect for them. She saw her life changing as she began to plot a life with Ashton.

She knew that ‘King Robert’ was dead to her and she could now begin a life with her ‘Sir Ace.’

The tape in the hidden camera was rolling. It recorded everything that happened in the bedroom during the night. Would this unsuspecting videotape destroy a love connection with Ashton or Tobias Callan?

Will the love of a man fill the void of a child taken by the child’s own father?

Coming Attraction

Play Me

STORY THREE

Based on the

Me-Time Mia Perez Series

Here’s the story you’ve all been waiting for… taken from the Mia Perez series, book four, ‘Locked Away.’

In a seductive and sexy glance, he was holding Mia’s hand tightly. He raised it to his lips and said. “It’s nice to see you again, Miss Perez. I don’t blame my brother for keeping you a secret.”

It was years later and obvious that he still had lustful thoughts about her. She laughed recklessly. “Your gentleman’s kiss has re-awakened some wanton desires in me.”

She was terrified and panicked. Mia was sure that Ashton Callan would leave her too. But she decided that she wasn’t going to be left alone again.

Mia couldn’t afford to lose Ashton Callan before she trapped the man of her dreams; Tobias Callan, rock star and movie superstar.

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