“Would you like me to look at his work?” she offered casually.

Again her daughter mulled over the question. “He’s not ready yet, but I think he will be soon.”

“That’s fine, then. Whenever he’s ready.”

“The thing is…” Tanni paused.


“The stuff he draws might bother you.”

“I can look beyond the subject matter,” she assured her daughter.

“Could you…” Tanni seemed uneasy about whatever she wanted to ask.

“Could I what?” Shirley pressed.

“If you think his work is good—and I do, Mom, I really do—could you talk to Mr. Jefferson about Shaw?”

Shirley needed a moment to make the connection. “You want me to find out if he’d be willing to display Shaw’s art?”

Tanni’s eyes met hers and she nodded.

“Well, if he’s as good as you say, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

Tanni smiled at her, something she hadn’t done in months. Granted, it was more of a quirk of her lips than a real smile. But it would do.

“So…you think he’s got talent.”

Tanni nodded.

“More than you?”

Her daughter hesitated and then responded without vanity. “No, but then he doesn’t have a mother who’s an artist or a dad who was really interested in art, so he hasn’t got that advantage.”

Her heart warmed at the acknowledgment—and at Tanni’s reference to her dad. She hardly ever spoke of him, let alone in such a natural, easy way.

“I’m teaching him everything I learned from you guys,” she was saying.

In the early years, before Shirley had begun to work with fabric, her daughter would play at her feet while Shirley drew. She gave Tanni her first sketchbook when she was four and the girl had been drawing from that point on. Shirley was devastated when she’d learned that Tanni had destroyed those early sketchbooks after Jim’s funeral.

“I’m happy you’re teaching Shaw.”

“The relationship isn’t as one-sided as that makes it sound,” Tanni said, smiling again. Her fingers crept up to cover the hickey on the side of her neck. “Shaw’s teaching me quite a bit, too.”

That was exactly what she was afraid of.


The tension between Dave and Emily had escalated until he found it almost intolerable. Whenever he tried to talk to her, she acted as if he were invisible. As soon as he made an attempt, she simply walked into another room.

Although they were civil in front of the children, Emily avoided him as much as possible. She didn’t speak to him unless it was to answer a question, and then, only if others were present. Moreover, she’d answer it with the minimum number of words. Her blond hair taunted him. Still, Dave was reluctant to tell her the truth, fearing what that would do to their marriage.

Sunday morning’s sermon was the most difficult Dave had preached in all the years of his ministry. Afterward he knew, deep inside himself, that he’d let down his congregation, his family and, most important, his God.

By the time the church emptied, Emily had already taken the two boys home. Dave stayed behind, sitting in the front pew, feeling like a complete failure. He’d lied to his wife, misled his staff and tried to hold everything together on his own. He’d failed every person in his life.

The only thing to do now was admit to his shortcomings. This situation couldn’t go on.

Dave accepted what he had to do, but wasn’t sure how to do it. For a full thirty minutes, he sat there in church, pondering the conversation with Emily. Who would’ve guessed he’d have such a problem telling the truth?

He bowed his head and prayed, asking God to forgive him. When he finished, he left the church to seek forgiveness from his wife.

As he walked into the parking lot, he felt as if someone had poured lead into his shoes. He would’ve welcomed some kind of interruption, anything that allowed him a few minutes’ reprieve while he tried to overcome his qualms, his feelings of inadequacy. He’d never meant for things to go this far. If he could have turned back the clock, made better choices, he would’ve done so. Instead he had to confess his pride and where it had led him. Now he had to confess to his wife that he’d fallen into the trap that very pride had set.

When he arrived at the house on Sandpiper Way, he sat in his car for several minutes. Emily loved this house. She’d wanted it so badly and because he loved her and tried to please her, he’d done everything possible to make it happen. He hadn’t predicted all the grief this house would bring him. Yet he had no one to blame but himself.

The boys, who sat at the kitchen table, looked up when Dave came in.

“Hey, Dad, Mom made macaroni and cheese.”

Dave ruffled his youngest son’s hair. “Yum.”

“What took you so long?” Matthew asked. “Mom said we shouldn’t wait lunch for you.”

“Where’s your mother?” Dave asked, instead of answering his son’s question. He’d do his best to make it up to his sons, compensate for all the time he’d cheated them out of. He hoped to make it up to Emily, too.

“In your room, I guess,” Mark responded. His face was concerned. “Mom’s not feeling good. She made lunch and then went to bed.”

“Yeah,” Matthew said. “She was crying, too.”

The boy seemed to look straight through Dave, as if silently blaming him for his mother’s tears. Dave’s stomach tensed.

“I’ll go check on your mother. Listen, you two, save some of that macaroni and cheese for me.” He added this on a cheerful note, although it sounded forced even to his own ears.

Dave made his way down the hall to the master bedroom. He hesitated before opening the door and stepping inside. The drapes were closed. It took him a few seconds to adjust to the darkness. Once he did, he saw that Emily was in bed, either asleep or pretending to be.

Undecided, he hesitated once more, weighing his options. He was tempted to delay this, and yet he knew his confession wouldn’t be any easier if he put it off.

Slowly he approached the bed. When he sat down, the mattress dipped slightly with his weight. Emily lay on her side, facing him. Even after four days, he wasn’t used to seeing her as a blonde. The new color and style had received plenty of attention at church that morning. Of course, that was what she wanted. Attention. Love. Recognition. All of which Dave had failed to give her.

Her eyes remained closed. If she was awake, she certainly succeeded at pretending otherwise. But then, she’d become an expert at ignoring him.

“I think it’s time for us to resolve this, once and for all,” he said. His voice was tight and controlled.

In response Emily rolled over, now facing the opposite wall. Apparently she wasn’t interested in clearing the air. He understood her anger; nevertheless, he forged ahead.

“You think I’m having an affair, don’t you?” He realized almost immediately that he shouldn’t come at her with questions. What his wife needed was reassurance. “Don’t answer that,” he said quickly. “It’s not important.”

“Not important?” Emily startled him when she bolted upright and glared at him.

Once again Dave saw his mistake. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Oh, but I think you do.” She folded her arms across her chest, her body language unambiguous.

“Emily, on my life, I swear I’ve always been faithful to you and I always will be.” She deserved that assurance, that pledge. Everything else could wait. It was crucial that she know he’d never betray her or the vows they shared.

Her face soured with skepticism and doubt. “Every husband who’s cheating swears he’s being faithful.” She spoke with open sarcasm. “Shall I bring out the Bible so you can swear on it?”

“Emily, please…”

“You think I don’t know the signs? Well, I’ve got them memorized and frankly, the evidence damns you.”

She sounded so knowledgeable that her unwavering certainty struck him dumb.

“You think I’m naive and stupid, don’t you?” she demanded, eyes narrowed. “I’ve read articles on the subject. All wives know. This kind of betrayal is too deep, too fundamental not to feel it, not to recognize it on a gut level. Some women choose to ignore the signs, but on a subconscious level each one knows.”


“They say the wife’s the last to find out. Wrong. We’re the first.”

“Emily, if you’d listen—”

“No. It’s your turn to listen to me. Do you honestly believe I didn’t notice those two and three nights a week you were late? It got to be like clockwork. How stupid do you think I am?”

“It was three nights.”

“So you’re admitting an affair!”

“No.” He had a hard time getting in even one-word responses. He decided just to let her vent. When she’d finished, he’d explain.

“I didn’t think so. You’re going to try and talk your way out of this. But I won’t pretend any longer, Dave. If you want a divorce, you can have one. I’m through.”

Nothing could have shocked him more. “I don’t want a divorce! If you’d give me a chance, I could—”

She cut him off yet again. “Of course you don’t want a divorce. It wouldn’t look good on your pastoral résumé to say you’re a divorced father of two, now, would it?”

“Emily, stop! This is crazy.”

Tossing aside the covers, she rose onto her knees. “I’m not going to stop! There’s a lot of anger stored up inside me. I’m ready to explode with it. How dare you embarrass me in front of my family and friends! Even my mother said she thought something wasn’t right.”

“You talked to your mother about this?” It was all he could do not to groan out loud.

“Does that surprise you?”

It did, and it humiliated him even further. “You shared your suspicions with your mother and not with me?” That hurt. It hurt more than the fact that she’d brought her doubts to his mother-in-law.

“At first, I didn’t want to know,” Emily said. “No wife cares to admit that her husband’s involved with someone else. According to the articles I read, that’s common.”

“Emily,” he began forcefully. “I’m saying it again, and it’s the truth. I am not having an affair.”

She rolled her eyes toward the ceiling, her arms still crossed, blocking him out. “Right,” she muttered with more than a hint of sarcasm.

“I took a part-time job.”

Her arms fell to her sides as she studied him, her eyes puzzled. Confused. Dave met her gaze full on, not flinching.

“A…job?” she asked after a moment.

“I’m working at First National Bank as a security guard after hours, three nights a week.” He’d considered it the perfect solution. He was inside the building ninety-nine percent of the time, so no one saw him. Very occasionally, he filled in for someone else, like the afternoon he’d gone to Olivia’s house. Normally, though, he did swing shift, from four to ten. Not much was asked of him, other than to watch a series of television monitors. It was a position created after a series of break-ins in the area. He didn’t carry a gun, just a radio.