Dishes washed, counters cleaned, he had nothing to do but wait. He’d gotten used to his own company in the evenings in recent months. Didn’t mean he liked it.

After turning the burner to simmer, Quinn snuck upstairs and stood in the doorway to their bedroom.

The same faded wedding ring quilt adorned the brass bed. The usual explosion of pillows were piled at the head and the extra wool blanket dangled off the foot.

The room smelled the same, Libby’s cherry-almond hand lotion and a hint of wood from the cedar-lined closet. If Quinn peeled back the bedcovers, he’d catch a whiff of Libby’s apple shampoo and the underlying musky-sweet fragrance of just Libby.

He stared mindlessly, trying to remember the last time he and Libby had made love in that bed. In the months prior to their separation, they may as well have been sleeping in separate rooms.

A memory came to him, leaving him as breathless and embarrassed as he’d been at the time. Missing his wife, feeling adrift and lonely, Quinn had mustered the guts to cross the invisible line running down the center of the mattress, only to have Libby literally give him the cold shoulder. Tired of being rejected, he hadn’t bothered trying to touch her at all, in bed or out, for the next six months.

Initially, he’d blamed their lack of intimacy on a multitude of things, exhaustion, familiarity and laziness. It’d seemed weird to experiment with crazy new sexual positions when the old standbys worked so well. They both got off and wasn’t that the point of sex? Besides, the red-hot-have-to-have-you-now passion had cooled into something more comfortable over the years. Which wasn’t all bad until that comfort factor had turned into a sexual snooze-fest.

But Quinn refused to take all the blame for their fizzling—rather than sizzling—sex life. Heaven knew Libby rarely initiated lovemaking, but left the seducing up to him. Sure, once he’d stoked her fires she was a generous and enthusiastic lover, not particularly adventurous, but then again, he wasn’t exactly the hanging-from-the-chandelier wild sex type either.

If he were completely honest, things had fallen apart on the sexual front when they’d decided to try for a baby. At first it’d been fun, the carefree let’s-have-sex-all-the-time romps. But three years after Libby had stopped taking the pill, she still wasn’t pregnant.

So his practical, organized wife had drawn elaborate fertility charts. Detailed lists of when they could—and couldn’t—make love. First, she’d tossed his tighty whities and bought boxer shorts to keep his balls from getting overheated and inadvertently lowering his sperm count. Then, she’d purchased bottles of vitamins and cheerfully watched as he swallowed every blasted horse-sized pill. When that had no effect, she’d modified their diet and limited their alcohol intake. Finally, she’d insisted on sex in the missionary position only. After he ejaculated, she’d prop her hips under three pillows and stay in that pose for at least half an hour…while he wandered off to watch TV. Alone.

Eventually, sex had become just another one of his daily chores. Charts, cycles, basal temperatures, books and articles on conceiving a baby were the topics of discussion—but only at home. When another two years had passed and she hadn’t filled the heirloom bassinet with a bundle of joy, Libby had suggested they schedule an appointment with a specialist dealing with infertility.

Quinn had flat-out refused. First, because they weren’t that old. Making a baby could still happen the old-fashioned way, given time. Libby was just impatient. True, part of his refusal was masculine pride—no man wants to hear he’s got problems with his Johnson. The other part of his refusal was personal. It seemed his relationship with his wife was no longer based on love, but on his capability, or incapability, as a breeder.

Quinn had told Libby he was perfectly content to spend his life with her, just her, and he wasn’t basing his present or future happiness on whether the stick turned pink or blue every month.

That’s when things had gone downhill.

So Quinn had lied to Ben when he claimed he hadn’t seen the separation coming. He just hadn’t known how to handle it, so he’d done nothing to prevent it. He’d been floating along, hoping like hell Libby would come around.

She hadn’t. In fact, she hadn’t been around at all.

Too little, too late.

Like hell. He might’ve been slow on the uptake, but he was good at playing catch-up. Damn good.

The sound of Libby’s car crunching on the driveway brought Quinn out of his reverie and he headed downstairs.

Her arms were overloaded with bags and Quinn rushed forward. “Lemme help you.”


“Where you want me to put them?”

“Dining room table is fine.”

Libby arranged her belongings to her liking before she looked at him.

God, she was pretty. Old hairstyle or new haircut, barefaced or all made up, it didn’t matter. One glimpse into her eyes was all he needed to see the real Libby. His Libby.

She bristled. “What?”

“Can’t a man admire his wife?” Quinn let his gaze roam over her sweet face and linger on her lips.

“I thought we were gonna eat.”

Staring at her made her nervous. Interesting.

“We are. Go on in and have a seat. I’ll dish up.”

“This is odd, you waiting on me,” she said.

“No more odd than you lettin’ me do it.”

That retort brought forth the cute wrinkle on her forehead and no additional comment.


Soon as Quinn sat across from Libby, she frowned and started to get up. Quickly, but gently, Quinn placed his hand on her forearm. “What do you need? I’ll get it.”

“A napkin.”

He reached behind him for the wicker container and kept hold of her arm. “Here.”

“Thank you.”

“No problem. So what’s been happenin’ in the world of books?”

Libby clutched her fork. “You really interested or are you just making conversation?”

“I’m interested, Lib, I’ve always cared about what you do at the school.”

Satisfied with his answer, she said, “I’m gearing up for the summer reading program.”

“Betcha already got quite a few kids signed up for that.”

“Yes, actually I do. How’d you know?”

Quinn gave her a noncommittal shoulder hitch. “Because you’re you. You never do anything half-assed.”

“My, my, aren’t you full of compliments tonight?”

“I reckon I owe you more than three months’ worth so I’d better start makin’ up for lost time.” He swept his thumb over the smooth skin on the back of her wrist. “That okay with you, darlin’ wife?”

She squirmed at his term of endearment but didn’t try and shake off his hand, much to his surprise.

“I’m not used to you acting this way.”

“Maybe you oughta get used to it. Maybe I’ve realized the error of my ways and I’m a changed man.”

“Is that why you behaved like that last night at Ziggy’s?”

“Like what?”

“You know how you behaved.”

Quinn chewed slowly and swallowed. “You lookin’ for an apology?”


“Okay. I’m sorry that sonuvabitch who had his paws all over you didn’t spend all goddamn night pickin’ his teeth up off the floor after I knocked ’em clean outta his mouth.”

Libby stammered, “B-but, you didn’t do anything! You just left.”

“Huh-uh. Ben said he wouldn’t post bond if I beat the snot outta that snot-nosed punk. With you and me on the outs, I figured I couldn’t count on you for bail money either, so I let Ben drag me away, against my will, I might add.”

“So you’re not apologizing?”

Quinn flashed his teeth. “For actin’ like a man and for protecting what’s mine? Hell no.” He leaned closer. “Does that shock you?”

“A little. Lord, Quinn, that was completely out of character for you, cussing, threatening a guy and causing a public scene.”

He shrugged. “That’s because I keep that side of myself to myself.”


Should he answer? Could he?

Yes. No more hiding. Balls to the wall.


“Because it’d scare you worse than it does me.”

“I’m not exactly a delicate flower,” she retorted. “And I’ve known you all my life.”

“Yeah? Then did ya think I’d go with my original impulse of draggin’ you back home by the hair and provin’ to you just who has the right to put his hands all over you?”

Libby’s amazing blue eyes widened, not with reproach but with…interest.

Goddamn if his cock didn’t take notice.

Quinn grinned at her. “Eat your supper ’fore it gets cold.”

They managed normal conversation for the remainder of the meal. Afterward, they even washed the dishes together, something they hadn’t done since the first year they were married. Over coffee and cake, Quinn said, “I have plans for us for tomorrow afternoon.”

“Plans to do what?”

“It’s a surprise.” He sipped the last of his coffee and added, “A romantic surprise.”

Quinn read the emotions warring on Libby’s face. The need to question him further. The disbelief of his casual use of the word “romantic”. But mostly he saw a response that’d been a long time coming—

hopeful curiosity.

“What time?”

Thank you, Jesus. “I’ll come get ya at twelve-thirty. It starts at one o’clock. We can ride together.”

“You aren’t telling me where you’re taking me, are you?”


Libby smiled. “You know it’s gonna drive me crazy.”


“Why are you doing this?”