Since the new Rubies books have been up on Amazon, it has been exciting to see the series come to life again. In Rubies – Book Two – The Widening Road, we have watched Stacey and Katherine build their lives in separate cities but still always remain joined in heart. If you have been following along in the series, you know from our last excerpt that Stacey was brutally raped by her husband. In today’s excerpt we see the outcome of the trauma she suffered. Unfortunately, her own problems overshadow her normal perception and she is unable to see the tangled web that is slowly becoming a great part of Katherine’s existence.
Chicago, January – 1969
Katherine yawned and took a sip from her morning coffee. Sometimes she was thankful Edward had insisted on a nanny for the children. At least she didn’t have to worry about them until she’d had her coffee. She looked at her watch and picked up the morning paper from the table. What was keeping the Professor? He was usually up at dawn reading the stock reports. Of course, he had been sleeping a lot lately. Mellowing at the age of forty-nine?
“Well, darling,” Edward said as he stood in the dining room doorway, his hands snugly embedded in the pockets of his silk smoking jacket. “You certainly have become the early riser these days.”
Katherine stood up and stretched. “I wouldn’t call nine- thirty early, Edward dear.” She planted a kiss on his cheek. “What’s your pleasure this morning, Professor?”
Edward didn’t answer but picked up the newspaper. “More Vietnam propaganda. I thought now that Nixon was in office, that senseless conflict would be over.”
“Perhaps it’s putting too much money in the wrong pocketbooks.” Katherine slid her hands around Edward’s waist.
“Why do you always worry so much about politics and money, darling?”
Edward exhaled sharply and pushed her aside. “Someone in this house has to worry about money, Katherine. You only know how to spend it.”
Katherine tossed her head back, lifting her chin defiantly. “I should make an excellent politician then.”
“Your inept attempt at humor mystifies me, Katherine. My god, the country is falling apart, and all you can do is jest about it. Nobody’s alarmed about inflation. They’re just obsessed about cancer and enamored by the Olympics. They scream about tobacco and cyclamates, but care little about poverty, instead applauding the use of billions of tax dollars to put a man on the moon.”
“What turned you into such a pessimistic snob, Edward?” Winking, Katherine promptly grinned.
“I mean, you were always a snob, but at least a good humored one.”
“I see nothing to be positive about,” Edward added, scowling. He poured himself a cup a coffee and sat down at the table.
“For example, my family has a great deal of stock invested in the tobacco industry, and I’m set up lose millions if it falls apart. Mother is none too pleased.”
“Ah, so that’s it? Mummy is unhappy with your investments.”
Edward cleared his throat. “Mother has just cause, I think. Don’t forget the earthquake in Iran last year. My foreign investments took a huge loss in that catastrophe.”
“In other words, darling, you haven’t made the wisest decisions lately. I suppose Mother blames me since she thinks I’m your first major mistake.”
Edward crossed his arms and eyed her uncertainly. “You can leave Mother out of your self-imposed censure.”
“Well, Professor,” Katherine said with a provoking smile. “Since you’ve resorted to your sanctimonious mumble jumble, I’ll leave you to your paper.”
She turned and walked from the room.
Duluth, June – 1969
Stacey sat on Ginny’s back porch enjoying the cool June breezes blowing across Lake Superior. She had really learned to appreciate the air-conditioned city since she’d been pregnant. The baby was due in August; a summer in Minneapolis would have been hell.
Gary never touched her after that terrible night, but it didn’t matter. The damage was already done. When she’d missed the first period, she’d convinced herself it was only nerves. The following month reality pounded her in the face, and she was forced to make an appointment at the hospital clinic. She didn’t know how she’d managed to get through Christmas with the family.
“Stace, the sun’s going down.” Marty stood at the door with a sweater across her arm. “You’d better come in before you catch a chill.”
Stacey turned and smiled. “Mom, you always come prepared to take care of your children. Is Katy here yet?”
“Not yet, honey, but we expect her any time now.”
“I’ll be in shortly,” Stacey said.
Marty placed the sweater around Stacey’s shoulders and patted her cheek. “Here you go. Don’t be long.”
Stacey watched her mother walk into me house and turned back towards the lake. How she wished she could go back to those innocent days when she and Katy would spend hours laughing and playing down the rocks, feeding the sea gulls. How did it all slip away?
She rubbed her hand across her protruding stomach. The baby Gary wanted would be here soon, but he wouldn’t be around to share that happiness. That dream was gone forever. Gary never spoke about the rape but rarely came home evenings after he discovered Stacey was pregnant. He had found someone else to share his bed again. He never blinked an eye when Stacey announced she was spending the summer at Ginny’s. Having Ginny and Marty there for the summer was just what the doctor ordered for Stacey. It got even better when Edward agreed, although reluctantly, that Katherine and the boys could also spend the summer in Duluth
“Hey little mom.” Katherine’s voice echoed from the doorway.
Stacey turned and stretched out her arms. They clung to one another, the tender quietness of their embrace saying more than words. Stacey could feel the tears creeping into her eyes. If only Katy could make all the bad things go away like she did when they were young.
Katherine broke their grasp and leaned back. “Hey, sis, you don’t look so good. Aren’t you glad to see me?”
Stacey’s lips curled into a smile. “You’re the best medicine I could have.”
“It’s your old man again, isn’t it? I never did understand how you could make a baby with him after he cheated on you.”
“I guess Momma is probably the only person who would understand, but I guess it’s bad enough that she knows Gary and I are separated.” And if the true were known Katherine would kill Gary. Stacey choked back a sob.
Katherine put her arm around Stacey’s shoulder. “You know what? It’s been years since I’ve roasted marshmallows. How about it?”
Stacey brushed a teardrop from her cheek. “If you promise not to burn them to a crisp.”
“Get real. That’s the way they taste the best.”
Their arms linked together, they giggled and walked into the house.
The next two months passed by quickly for all of them. In the evenings, Katherine and Stacey took long walks by the shores of Lake Superior, while during the day they relaxed on Ginny’s porch or sat dipping their toes in the shallow coolness of the Lester River.
Edward arrived in July to visit his family, and they all watched in awe as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. The excitement of watching the lunar landing was overshadowed by Edward’s obsession with the expense of the expedition. Stacey was intrigued by his comments, but couldn’t help noticing how he’d aged. He was much thinner than she recalled.
Katherine ignored Edward’s ranting until the end of the evening. Stacey, Katherine, and Edward sat in Ginny’s living room.
“You know, Professor, you almost spoiled history in the making for Chris tonight. He didn’t need to hear a lecture on the economy.”
“Don’t be absurd, Katherine. Boys need to be educated on finance. Speaking of which, I’ve begun to re-think my position regarding this summer outing. Your credit card balances are beginning to look like the national debt.”
“Come on, Professor, as if you need to worry.”
Stacey cleared her throat, trying tactfully to remind them she was still in the room.
“Perhaps not,” Edward continued, brushing aside Stacey’s attempt to speak, “but I do think you should return home by mid-August at the latest.”
Katherine’s eyes widened as her mouth opened. “What? You want me to leave before the baby is born? No way.”
“You needn’t raise your voice, darling, I just think your own family should take precedence over the birth of your sister’s baby.”
Edward proceeded to fill his pipe. “Where is her husband, anyway?”
“Please, Katy,” Stacey pleaded. “Don’t argue on my account.”
“Never mind, kiddo,” Katherine answered, scowling at Edward. “This really isn’t a problem.” She linked her arm in Edward’s. “Come on, Professor, you need to take your wife for a moonlight walk by the lake.”
Edward gave Katherine a peevish snort, but allowed her to guide him towards the door. Katherine glanced back over her shoulder and silently mouthed at Stacey, “don’t worry.”
The two of them walked out into the cool night air.
Duluth, Fall – 1969
“I can’t believe the doctor is letting you walk around when you’re dilated on two already.” Marty stood cross- armed in front of Stacey.
“They don’t induce labor unless you’re two weeks overdue,” Stacey answered. “Besides, the baby isn’t officially due until September fifth.”
Stacey rubbed her sore back and glanced at Marty’s suitcase. “You go ahead on home, Mom. Chris needs to start school and Katy’s still here.”
Katherine had never revealed the conversation she’d had with Edward that evening in July, but he’d stopped insisting she return to Chicago and left the following week for Boston, taking the boys with him.
Marty sat down on the bed and patted her hand on the space beside her. “Come sit down, Stace. We need to talk before I leave.”
Stacey hesitated, hearing a lecture in Marty’s tone of voice, but sat down next to her despite it.
“Don’t you think it’s time you call your husband?”
Stacey stared at her clenched hands.“Why, Mom? He hasn’t even called me since I’ve been here. It’s pretty clear he doesn’t love me or this child.”
Marty reached to cradle Stacey’s hands in her own. “Sometimes we have to swallow our pride for the sake of the children.”
“That’s a bunch of bull!” Katherine stood in the doorway, her eyes flashing in anger. “The best thing she ever did was leave that creep!”
Marty promptly stood up. “Katy, stay out of this. Stacey’s not like you.”
“Maybe not, but she doesn’t need to lie down and let that soldier boy walk all over her the way you let Sonny walk all over you!”
Stacey cringed inside. Katy knew part of the truth. If they both knew the whole truth, they’d want him boiled in oil.
“Stop it, both of you!” Stacey suddenly screamed, doubling over in pain. “Oh, god. I think my water just broke.”
Katherine grabbed a towel while Marty rushed to the phone.
Stacey moaned and closed her eyes as another sharp contraction seared through her. Her breathing quickened as beads of sweats formed around her mouth.
“Take some deep breaths, kiddo.” Katherine squeezed Stacey’s hand and wiped the sweat from her forehead. “The doctor says you’re dilated to six already.”
“It– hurts so much, Katy,” Stacey moaned again.
Katherine gave her a sympathetic smile. “I know, kiddo, but just wait until you hold that new life in your arms. It’ll be worth it all.” Katherine looked up long enough to see Gary’s face in the narrow door window. “Hang on, Stace, I’m going to get a nurse in here to check your progress.”
Gary was standing in the hallway looking pale and glum.
“Well, soldier, you decided to show your face after all.”
Gary’s blue eyes iced. “Why did you call me if you feel that way?”
“I called because my mother insisted, and because, unfortunately, I think Stacey still loves you. I’d do anything to make this easier on her.”
Their eyes locked together, saying more than words could reveal.
Gary was the first to speak. “Can I see her?”
“Only if you promise to behave like a husband should.”
Moistening his lips, Gary wiped his hand over his mouth. Obviously, the bitch didn’t know the truth. And — it was his baby. “I’ll do what I can to help.”
Katherine waved him towards the door.
Stacey’s eyes were closed. She was gripping the metal bed railings
Gary crossed the room and covered her hand with his. “Stace, it’s me.”
Stacey winced as another pain shot through her. She opened her eyes only to have them flood with tears. “Why are you here, Gary?”
“I was wrong to do what I did. I want to make this right, Stace.
Crying out in pain, she squeezed his hand. “I love you, Gary.”
Gary bit his lip, unable to speak. He stood silently by the bed.
Hours later, Gary sat next to the bed cradling his six-pound baby daughter in his arms.
“She’s beautiful, Stace. I think she’s going to be a blond.”
“I certainly hope so. It’s awful growing up with a face full of red freckles.”
Gary looked over at Stacey and winked. “Bet the boys teased you, huh.”
Stacey nodded. “Especially the blond ones.”
He let out a robust laugh.
She’d forgotten how much she’d missed his smile and his laughter. “I’m going to breast feed her. The doctor says that’s best.”
“I hope it’s not too late for me to be part of her life.” He looked up to gauge Stacey’s reaction. “I mean, if you can forgive me, I want us to try again.”
She considered his eyes. “I can’t go back to what it was like before.”
Gary reached over and took her hand. “I know I was a real jerk. I want us to start over again, Stace, like we were before Nam.”
Stacey’s heart was pounding; there was an aching in the pit of her stomach. Did they really have a chance? “I want that too, Gary.”
Gary smiled and looked down at the baby. “Can we name her Victoria after my great-grandmother?”
The name Victoria meant conqueror. A sad sort of irony. “I think Victoria would be wonderful.”
Tears filled Stacey’s eyes as Gary placed his lips on hers.
Stacey has decided to try to make her marriage work. After everything Gary has done, she still loves her husband. She remembers her own heartache growing up with a father and she is determined that will not happen to her daughter. Soon she will discover her desire to seek the best option for her daughter becomes a nightmare from which she can no longer awaken.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to read the first Rubies Book — The Curse Begins, a free summary is available below or you can read all about it on my author’s page on Amazon.com.
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