Laurel and John were the couple who were meant to be together. Growing up as next door neighbors, their families vacationed together and were as close as any two families could be. John was everything Laurel wanted and needed, even the fact that he had no qualms about turning her over his knee when she was in the wrong. Fate had other plans, however, and when Sylvia enticed John away, Laurel’s heart was shattered.
Twenty years later, Laurel has never given her heart to another. After a disastrous marriage to Sylvia, John – now a handsome fireman – is surprised at his own reaction when he sees Laurel at his mother’s funeral.
Can he make it up to her, after all this time? And will he still be able to give her everything she needs?
Publisher’s Note: Please be advised that Forever in Love is a story of old lovers reuniting, a sweet love story – however, it is also one that contains sexual scenes and domestic discipline.
Enjoy this free sample of Forever in Love by Carolyn Faulkner:
Chapter One
John Howard Beauchamp, of the Weldon, Vermont Beauchamps – a long line of hard-working, early to bed, early to rise, live in the same town all of their lives types – heaved a huge sigh as he sank his muscled bulk down into his well worn recliner. Burying his face in his hands, he let the tears come freely for the first time in a very long time.
It was finally over. No more getting off a twenty-four hour shift at the station and going straight to the nursing home. No more trying to fold his six-foot-four frame into some semblance of a comfortable position that didn’t leave him walking like Quasimodo after sitting for hours in one of those horrid molded plastic chairs, all the while doing his level best never to let go of his mother’s twisted, twig of a hand.
It had been one of her worst fears – really the only one he could remember his exceedingly strong mother confessing to, beyond spiders and the usual concern for her family’s health – she was terrified of dying alone, especially once Dad had died. So all of the kids took turns visiting her more and more frequently as she’d deteriorated, and this last week they had all pretty much been there ’round the clock…
Not that she would have known the difference. She would never again lick her thumb and spit wash the marshmallow fluff off his face, or sit up worrying about him when he was out with his friends, or despair over her lack of grandchildren. Although she had four already, he’d always pointed out with a mock frown, she would pipe right back up at him from her huge five-foot-two stature that she had none from him. He’d never see her performing her own personal tradition of standing on the porch and waving good bye to him as he drove back to school or even just across town to his own place.
He’d lost the loving, wonderful person who’d raised him a long time ago to Alzheimer’s.
The three of them had sat vigil for the past six days as her heart slowly gave out, and she succumbed to the pneumonia that set in – it was a toss up as to which one really was the killer. Evelyn Patterson Beauchamp, or Babe, as she had been known to almost everyone she met, hadn’t wanted any heroic doctoring done to save her life – her children knew that, and as hard as it was to do, they would never think of doing anything but honoring her wishes. Their father, who had died several years ago, before the memory loss had become acute, had been the love of her life, and she missed him with every ounce of herself. All of their kids were grown – hard-working, tax paying citizens every one of them – all of them married except John, the youngest. Her work here was done – joyful as it had been – and she was going on to an eternity of Dean’s arms around her. And she deserved it.
Dean Howard, Jr., Kathryn Marie, and John Howard had glued themselves to her bedside to wait for the worst – and the best – inevitable end. The staff at the nursing home had been phenomenal through the entire ordeal, taking wonderful care of their mother through the years’ long decline, as well as her grieving children when the end finally came. Snacks, drinks, sandwiches and ice magically appeared outside their mother’s door as the staff tried to be as unobtrusive as they could, while supporting the family as much as possible.
They had always been a close family. Heck, they all still lived in the same town – Kathy lived next door to their parents. There had never been any of the in fighting, arguing, and hatred they’d all seen in other families. They might not have said it enough, but they always showed it, they loved each other, and the kids had learned to put that love into action from the excellent examples their parents provided. Their father had never wanted to be anywhere but with his family. His job was just that, a job, not an obsession. He excelled at it and worked hard – often at several jobs at a time in the beginning when he and Babe hadn’t had the proverbial pot – because he knew it meant good things for the family. But they had dinner together every night he was home – at first only at home, because of money constrictions – enjoying Evelyn’s wonderful cooking, but later at various restaurants around town. The Beauchamp dinner table was a thing to behold, and somewhat of a trial for the faint-hearted.
Dean liked to “discuss” all sorts of topics. His interests were varied, and he heartily encouraged Babe and the kids – once they got big enough – to chime in. Although neither Dean nor Evelyn had gone to college, they were smart people who read everything they could get their hands on, and they had passed that trait on to the children, who were read to practically from the time they were conceived.
As a result, the kids all headed for college – not that their parents were going to give them any choice in the matter, anyway – and they grew up having dinner each night with parents who never talked down to them. Dean reaped the benefits of what he and his wife had sown; although manners and courtesy were expected at all times, “polite” dinner table conversation was not for his tribe, and more was the better for it, as far as he was concerned.
Instead, puns and plays on words, in jokes and light insults – anything cruel would result in a deep, warning, “that’s enough of that” from him and that was all that was ever needed – flew like black flies on a Maine summer night. They mulled over everything, religion, politics… all of the topics one was not supposed to discuss and more, as well as what was going on in everyone’s day, including his and Evelyn’s. They firmly believed in keeping their kids informed about what was going on. It was an informed dictatorship, though, because there was never any doubt as to who was in charge of the family: Dean was, although Evelyn was never considered by any of them – least of all Dean – to be the lesser of the two of them in any way.
Some friends the kids brought over fit in really well, weren’t intimidated by the noise, laughter and only slightly smothered shouts. Or the fact that Dean, when he wanted to instigate, would often use his best “boarding house reach” to put his big hairy muscular arm right over their plate while he was, ostensibly, reaching for something, his face a picture of innocence. The fact that Kathy would occasionally sink her teeth full of braces into him in warning didn’t deter him in the least. In fact, he was the one who would laugh the loudest when she did it, protesting his innocence the whole time, of course.
All of these thoughts and memories swirled through John’s mind as if they had lives of their own, increasing the ache of the tears he’d suppressed for too long, as well as his monstrous head ache. He rubbed his hands over his face, hard, and the pain felt good to him as he wiped away the traces of his most recent tears and ran his fingers through his hair. He snorted. Another good thing his father gave him, he was just the other side of forty and still had a full head of, only somewhat graying, black hair. The gray he could handle – but almost every one of his friends was bald. They were always threatening to break into his house some night and scalp him for his pelt.
His father had died at sixty-seven, still with a full head of hair, albeit white. He would’ve said his kids drove him to every single one of the white hairs. But John didn’t have any kids to blame the gray for.
He blamed Sylvia instead.
Feeling every one of his forty-one years, he lifted himself up and stumbled into the kitchen, downed a large glass of tap water, then wandered slowly down the hall to his bedroom.
Sylvia Caulfield. Satan herself. Funny he should think of Syl at a time like this – she’d been no comfort to him when he was married to her – why should she come to mind now? Lord knows, she’d have been of absolutely no comfort to him in this situation, even if they’d stayed married by some miracle. She could never bear to have the attention – especially his – on anyone except her for any length of time.
As he slouched his way into bed, fully clothed, he realized that just rolling her name around in his mind didn’t create that stabbing pain in his heart that it always had.
Compared to the pain of losing his mother, Sylvia’s shenanigans weren’t even a blip on the radar.
Tears filled his eyes one last time as he rolled over, pulling the comforter around him as he curled into a ball and sank into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.