Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Denver Cereal - Chapter Ten : One step forward....


Mike slipped Val’s long hair over her shoulder so that he could caress her back. He was sitting behind her in the big bathtub tucked against a glass block window to the Castle’s backyard garden. Her elbows wrapped around his knees. The light from the setting moon danced against the wavy glass.

“Are you going to ask me for a divorce?” Mike asked.

Val turned to look at him. Her motion in the warm water caused her breast to float into Mike’s hand. He smiled. Unable to risk looking at her face, his eyes focused on the beautiful nipple rising to his touch.

“No,” Val said. “I was going to ask you if you’d like to make a go of being married.”

Mike’s head jerked up in surprise.

“I’ve tried to love without you. I’m incapable of loving anyone other than you, Michael Roper. And too terrified to let myself just love you.”

Mike nodded.

“Say something,” Val whispered.

“I’m afraid if I say anything you’ll change your mind,” Mike said.

She turned and leaned back against him.

“What about this Wes guy?” Mike asked.

“I had this dream… I… I saw Mom. She was knitting this beautiful golden blanket. When I got closer, I saw that every strand of the blanket was one of the people she loved - me, you, Jakey, Jill, Delphie, even Dad. The sun surrounded her in the hazy warm light. She smiled at me and…. When I woke up… I guess it was yesterday… I realized that I only want to be with you. I think about you all the time, every day, almost every minute of every day. I…”

“I think about you all the time too,” Mike said. “Is this guy gay?”

Val laughed. “You mean, am I back because my fiancĂ© is gay? No. I’m back because I want to be with you.”

“I heard that….”


“That you have a movie coming out on Friday. You said told TMZ that you were going home to your husband to generate press for the movie,” Mike said. “Candy watches Entertainment Tonight for me when I’m working. I… It’s the only way I get to hear about you every day.”

“I don’t know why I said that. It just came out,” Val whispered. She shook her head, “I… I’m sorry. I’ve really hurt you. I… I don’t have any excuse….”

“I’m sorry for everything. I never should have left you. I regret it every single day,” Mike said. “I can’t imagine what it was like for you. You lost your family then me… To lose your mom….”

“It was the baby that really did me in.”

“What baby?”

“Before I tell you, I want you to be clear: I left Wes. I left the ring, the beach condo, and everything. I don’t want to be with him. Tomorrow, Wes is going to say that he loved me enough to encourage me to sort out my life. My publicist talked him into it as a way for him to save face. He can be vicious if he’s humiliated.”

“But that’s not true?”

“No, that’s not true. I left him a note saying I was leaving. I don’t know why I said that at the airport. It’s like my soul spoke the truth - I wanted to come home to my husband,” Val said. “I was just one of Wes’s women, one in a long line of trophy brides.”

“Why would you want that?” Mike asked. His voice held hurt and confusion.

“It’s safe. I don’t have to risk….”

“Losing again,” Mike finished her sentence. He settled her back against him and kissed her head.

“I want to be here with you. This is my choice and my choice alone. It’s been a long time since I’ve made my own choice…. It feels good… right.”

“What about the meeting tomorrow?” Mike asked. “Jake said you have a….”

“The meeting got me off my ass yesterday. I’ve wanted to come a million times, a billion times. I’ve wanted to beg you like I did when we were kids. I just never had the courage.”

“And now?”

“I just want to see if we can make it work. I mean… If you …”

“There’s nothing in this world that I want more than to be your husband every single day,” Mike said. “But Val, what baby? How…?”

He didn’t know how to ask the question. He knew she wasn’t pregnant with his child.

Val turned again to look at him. He looked away when her eyes filled with tears.

“We were pregnant - you and me. I didn’t tell you because I wanted to be sure. Remember you asked me if my breasts were bigger or if I’d gained weight?”

Mike nodded his head. “Your body changed. I could see it in the photos.”

“Couple days after Mom died, I lost the baby.”

“Oh Val,” Mike said. He held his arms out to her. She nestled her head on his shoulder. “Oh God….”

For the first time since that awful month in Hollywood, Mike cried. Lying together in the bath, he cried for himself and her. He cried for their baby. Then in jerky unplanned sentences, he told her about the days and nights he was dead to the world.

When the bath water cooled, they migrated to soft blankets in front of the fireplace. With his head on her lap, he told her about the one thing that got him through - the unbreakable love in his heart for Valerie, for her.

When the sun peaked over the horizon, Mike slipped Val’s original wedding ring from her right hand. His eyes held the question which she answered with a nod. He slipped the ring where it belonged, on her left ring finger.

And they began again.


Jill woke when the early morning light hit her eyes. Stretching in Jacob’s comfortable bed, she smiled. The sheets smelled like Jacob. She turned toward the warm body next to her to find Sarah. Sarah licked her face and Jill laughed. Hearing the odd sound that woke her, she sat up to see what was going on.

She wandered across the open loft toward the sound. Passing the sagging couch, she saw Jacob sitting at his round dining table. Wearing only his white boxer briefs, he spoke quietly into a Bluetooth device connected to a cell phone. He was also texting someone on his Blackberry. His fingers blazing across the Blackberry keys was the sound that woke her.

Unsure of what to do, she stopped walking. Her eyes darted from his muscular legs, flat belly and round muscular shoulders. Her hand moved instinctive to hold the rising heat in her belly while her eyes settled on the dark line of hair that ran like an arrow from his belly button. In that moment, Jill noticed something she hadn’t allowed herself to see.

Jacob was a hunk!

Embarrassed, she turned to go back to bed when Jacob smiled and winked at her. She smiled at his greeting. She waved her hands to indicate that she didn’t want to interrupt. But Jacob walked to her. Without breaking the conversation, he kissed her lips and hugged her.

“Good morning,” he murmured.

She sighed. She melted into his embrace

“Ok, you know where to find me if you need me,” Jacob said. “Right. I’ll be there.”

Jill moved to step away from him but he held her in place.

“Thanks,” Jacob said. He pulled the ear piece from his ear and tossed it on the table. Returning his attention to Jill, he said, “How are you feeling?

“Really good,” she said. “You’re a balm for any insomnia.”

“I’m glad. Katy is doing very well. They’ll release her to our care this morning. Rest, quiet, stuff like that. I was able to cancel most of my day, but I have to attend a meeting at eight-thirty. I shouldn’t be too long, but I have to go,” he said. “I thought Mike could take you to the hospital. That way, you can be there when Katy wakes up. I’ll come and get you when I’m done. Will that work?”

“I know that you have a company to run,” she said.

“Help my father run,” he said. He kissed her nose. “The company runs itself. I mostly run interference for my father. That’s what the meeting this morning is about - one of my father’s messes.”

Jill smiled. “I’ve never been with anyone who had a job, so I don’t really….”

Jacob laughed.

“How about some cereal?” Jacob asked.

“I understand it’s the house specialty,” she said. “Crunch Berries?”

“Mike finished them yesterday. I was going to get more at Walgreen’s but I talked to the pharmacist for too long. But I can go right now.”

Jill shook her head. Wandering to the table, she saw Jacob’s Blackberry vibrate. She felt a flush of guilt. She shouldn’t distract this important man.

“You have a phone call,” she said.

“Also I have an assistant. If anyone really needs me, they text,” he said. Jacob pulled the boxes from the cabinet. “Would you like me to go get some Crunch Berries or can you choose something from my vast selection?”

Jill’s pierced brow relaxed. She laughed. “I love cereal.”

“See I knew you were a girl with taste.”

“What are you working on?” Jill asked. “Oh, I probably shouldn’t ask.”

“No, it’s Ok. There’s a group that estimate jobs. They estimate we’ll spend down to the gallon of gasoline, what company resources will be required and how much we’ll make from each project. It’s a hard job, really hard. We have some talented people who keep us in business.”

Jacob sat down in his chair. He turned the laptop for Jill to see.

“They send me these projections and I look them over. I run the numbers, double check their numbers, look at the work schedule, stuff like that. If it seems reasonable, I send the entire thing to my father to see if he wants to do the project. Pretty boring. I get a bunch of these every Monday morning.”

“Can I see?”

“If you sit on my lap,” Jacob said.

Jill plopped down on his lap.

“Mmm.” His hands stroked her legs.

“I’m pretty good at budgets and numbers, so this is interesting to me. I never knew how companies did this kind of thing.”

Jacob kissed the back of her neck while Jill pretended to study the spreadsheet.

“You have beautiful skin,” he said.

Jill turned her head to look at him. “Jacob.”


“You have a busy morning,” she said.

“Mmmm,” he said.

She leaned away from him to catch his eyes.

“Yes, busy morning,” Jacob said.

Jill stood from his lap. “I don’t want to get in the way of your….”

Their eyes caught with a jolt.

Jacob lifted Jill off her feet. Jill wrapped her legs around his hips. Their lips caught and he carried her to bed. There was no hesitation, no sadness this morning. Jill was hot, relaxed and ready for him. He pulled off her t-shirt and panties at the same time she dragged down his boxer briefs. They joined with fast rising heat. Jacob kept a slow easy rhythm but Jill pulled for him. They rose in fast union. In one blinding flash, Jill stopped moving.

“Oh,” Jill said.

Jacob pulled back to check if she was all right. He smiled. She began to release in waves of pleasure. Patient, but insistent, he continued the pace until she began to rise again. Caught in her rising heat, he gave in to his passion. Together, they slipped off a cliff. They held each other tight through the rise and fall of blissful sensation.

“Stay right there.”

He kissed her lips, her nose, then rose to attend to the condom. When he returned, she held her arms out to him. He dropped into her arms.

“How are you?” He said.

“Really, really good, thanks. You?”

“I feel amazing. You don’t feel funny or sad or embarrassed….” He stopped talking when Jill laughed.

“Oddly no,” she said. “If you do that again, I’m your slave.”

He laughed. “I hate leaving you, but I need to take Sarah out for a bit before I get ready to go. Would you like to come with us?”

“I think I’d like some time to myself,” Jill said. “Is that all right?”

“Of course. I washed your clothes from yesterday but they aren’t quite dry. I have sweats that might fit you.”

“Sweats are great.”

Getting up from the bed, he began to dress in running gear. He gave Jill a pair of sweats. She rolled down the top to make them work. In the t-shirt and sweats, she had a charming sexiness that almost dragged them back to bed. She smiled at the look he gave her.

He scooped her up in a hug. His lips found her mouth. With effort, he broke from the kiss.

“This is so not how I wanted to do this,” he whispered.


“Only that I have to keep moving,” he said.

Jill stepped back from him to help him gain some control. He smiled his thanks.

“Delphie would love to see you. When you’re ready for company, just open the door to the house. I’ll be back soon.”

He brushed her lips with his mouth. He picked up Sarah’s leash and Sarah waited at the door to the stairs. Opening the door to the stairs, he turned to look at her one last time.

“I love you, Jill. I always have.”

He closed the door before she could respond. Jill went to the windows to watch Jacob and Sarah but the iron fence perimeter of the Castle front yard was surrounded by paparazzi photographers. She saw Jacob whistle for Sarah then head around the back. Unsure of what to do, and not wanting her picture taken, she plopped down in the sagging armchair.

Yesterday, her mind was consumed by her Trevor screwed up life. Today, she was…. She smiled. Happy.

In a blaze of emotion, her fear and guilt returned.

What would Trevor think?

She heard Trevor screaming voice telling her that she was a worthless whore. Jill pressed her hands against her ears. But the voice in her head continued its rampage. She was almost in tears when she heard a knock on the door to the apartment. Without thinking, Jill walked across the apartment to open the door.

“Don’t let that man steal your happiness, sweetie,” Delphie said.

Jill dropped into her arms.


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