Home > How The Heart Breaks

How The Heart Breaks
Author: Stacey Marie Brown



Chapter 1




My name rang out from the living room, followed by a frustrated huff. “Have you seen my running shoes?”

“You mean the ones you left at the back door?” I responded, not lifting my gaze to the dirty shoes I already knew were behind me. I continued to slice the juicy tomatoes from our garden, dumping them into the salad I was making.

“Right.” My husband, Ben, strode into the kitchen, his lean body pressing into the back of mine. Ben was only a few inches taller than me, and he was thin but solid muscle. “What would I do without you?” His hands gripped my waist, his lips grazing my neck. “Maybe when I get back, I can get both our heart rates up.” He softly kissed the curve of my shoulder.

“You’re going to make me slice off my finger.” I leaned back into him, a smile playing on my mouth.

“And that’s something new? Probably better if you leave the food prep to my mom.” He lifted the knife from my hands, placing it on the board.

“Shut up.” I elbowed him softly, a laugh puffing out from him. Cooking was not my forte. It wasn’t something I found fun or relaxing. I could make a mean salad, and I enjoyed growing my own vegetables, but not much past that. We had a lot of takeout in the last few years while he was studying for the bar exam.

“Your mother is handling everything else. The least I can do is make a salad.”

“I’m sure she’ll have one of those anyway.”

Yes, his mother was a take-control kind of person. Even if I said I’d be making a salad, she still would bring one, giving me a passive-aggressive response of, “I just wanted to make sure there would be enough, and Ben loves my Caesar salad.” More than yours. She left that part unsaid, but I heard it loud and clear.

Ben’s arms circled my body. “Can’t wait to take you upstairs tonight. Start on our family.”

“Why not start now?” I countered over my shoulder with a wink. I would throw my to-do list out the window if he took me up on my offer. I wanted him to yank my shorts down and take me roughly against the sink because he couldn’t help himself. I loved him more than life, but he wasn’t the most adventurous or spontaneous when it came to sex.

A satisfied noise hummed in his throat. Ben twisted me around and leaned my 5’7” frame against the counter, brushing my long, dark hair from my face. “I don’t want to be the perpetrator getting in the way of my own party.” He wrapped his arms around me with a happy smile. “So, proceed, counsel.”

“Wow, you sound like a lawyer.” I stared at the kind face and light blue eyes I loved so deeply. “Have I told you how proud I am of you?”

He just passed his bar exam and already had offers from reputable practices in the area. Many of them he was familiar with from the golf course his family owned. Benjamin Roberts came from money, but he wanted to make sure he made it on his own merit, taking no handouts from his parents. Though his family connections at the club didn’t hurt getting him a job right out the gate, we both worked long hours to get him through school. I was a dental assistant, which I can’t say I loved, but it helped him get through law school and put us in this comfortable three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath house. Including a tiny garden of my own and enough lawn to give me fantasies of having rescue dogs running around in it.

It was a fantasy because Ben was allergic… to almost every animal.

“How about when I get back from my run? You can show me how much in the shower. Maybe start on a family.” He nuzzled my neck. “Then I can help finish setting up.”

All our friends and family were heading over for a dinner celebration in honor of his milestone. After years of hard work, the family we put on hold and the places we wanted to travel were tangible options now. I wasn’t in a hurry to have kids yet, wanting to travel first and experience more than this town, but Ben was anxious to start one now. He’d have me pregnant already if it was up to him.

“Oh fuck. Can you guys stop making me want to slit my wrists?” A voice came from the side door, my older sister stomping in with her arms loaded with grocery bags.

Ben sighed, kissing me quickly before he backed away. “Hey, Harper.”

“Hey, Ben.” My sister’s tone matched his. They liked each other okay, but they weren’t huge fans either. He felt she was too overbearing and opinionated, and he was too dull and vanilla for her.

Harper really had no room to judge. She had married a guy she met at a sleazy bar. He was supposed to be a one-night stand, but she got pregnant with my niece, Addison. They married right before Addison was born, and Harper suffered fourteen years in a turbulent relationship, only to find he had been having affairs with an endless string of women the whole time.

They were trying to work it out right now, but it was messy.

She followed in our mother’s footsteps. Where I preferred safe, comfortable, and reliable, Harper leaned toward the dangerous and wild. Ben might be boring to some, but he made me feel secure and warm. Something I didn’t have a lot of growing up.

“I brought extra tequila.” Harper yanked two bottles out of the grocery bag.

“You know what Emery is like on tequila.” Ben winked at me, his eyebrow cocking, sending a twinge of embarrassment through me. I tended to get a little horny on tequila. I attacked him last time, trying to play out one of my fantasies. It didn’t go over as well as I had hoped.

“It’s been a crappy day. It demands tequila.” My sister cracked the top.

“Where’s Addison?” I asked, pushing off the counter.

“At a friend’s house. Joe and I had another fight.” Harper’s mouth lined.

I bit my lip, struggling for the hundredth time not to ask why she hadn’t kicked his ass to the curb. She always seemed to forgive him. They’d be good for a while before the cycle started all over. Addison was everything to my sister, but unfortunately my niece had front row seats to her mother and father’s battles her whole life. She was only fourteen, but she was already getting into trouble with boys and school. Another reason Ben got upset with Harper. He criticized how my sister was raising my niece, and Harper not only felt his opinion acutely, but the judgment of his entire snobby family.

“She’ll be here later. You know she wouldn’t miss it.” Harper motioned to Ben. Addy idolized Ben, to the point she came here to hang out with him more than with me sometimes. I think she was desperate for a solid father figure, and Ben was as stable as you could get.

“Should I ask what you and Joe were fighting about this time?” I unpacked one of the grocery bags.

“That’s my cue to leave.” Ben shoved on his shoes, coming back over to me. “I love you.”

“Love you too.” I kissed him quickly before he headed out the door.

“Be back in an hour!” I yelled after him. “Everyone will be here at seven!”

“Okay, babe.” The screen door slammed, the warm summer breeze drifting in. I watched him jog down our drive, my heart filling with so much love. Feeling so lucky to have found the love of my life.


“Where’s Ben?” Alisa, Ben’s mother, asked the moment she stepped into the house, her soft, honey blonde hair perfectly quaffed, her husband John in normal country club golf attire, smiling behind her, holding a stack of food dishes in his arms. Where Ben’s mother was intense and did not exactly approve of me, John was much more laid back and gave me the warmest hugs every time he saw me. He never acted as if I was beneath them. He felt like the dad I never had, always checking in on Ben and me.

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