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MYRTLE BEACH MEMORIES
South Carolina Sweethearts Book 1
BY BECKY MUTH
Will her husband’s secret rob them of a future together?
Caroline gave up her career to give her husband Tucker her full attention after his early-onset dementia diagnosis. When a clinical trial offered the chance to reverse the symptoms, she gave up her friends and community.
The move was a chance to solve all of their problems, but all it did was multiply them. Caroline had no sooner settled into her new normal when Tucker revealed a secret that threatened their marriage.
Before Caroline can come to terms with her husband’s revelation or throw a proper hissy fit about it, Tucker’s health takes a downward spiral. She’ll have to rely on her faith and her newfound friends if she’s going to find the strength to forgive him.
Guilt wracked every ounce of Tucker’s body and soul. Never one to ask, “Why me?” he instead laid one burden after another on his shoulders until he felt the physical effects of carrying the weight of his worries.
The cat next to him on the porch swing stretched, pawed the cushion, and then settled into a ball against his leg.
“I’m glad you’re here, Pepper. You don’t ask questions I’m not ready to answer, and you don’t talk to me like I’m a small child. I’m growing older, but I’m not stupid. I can still remember lots of things.” He scratched the cat behind its ears and released a heavy sigh. “Too many things, truth be told. If Caroline knew, well, I’m sure you agree it’s better she doesn’t, and I hope she’ll never find out.”
“Hope I never find out what?” Caroline asked through the screen. She bumped it with her hip and emerged onto the porch with two mugs.
“That the cat and I finished the tuna salad,” Tucker quickly ad-libbed a reply. The words had no sooner left his lips when he thought, God, forgive me. It’s not really a lie, because I’m sure Pepper and I likely did finish the tuna salad. He swallowed a mouthful of coffee. “This is good. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. It’s decaf. Also, you shouldn’t feed Pepper people food. You remember what the vet said.”
Tucker refused to answer. Silence passed between them. The longer it dragged on, the louder the crickets at the edge of their property chirped
At last, she asked, “Are you worried about your appointment?”
“No. Are you worried about my appointment?” The question was superfluous. Tucker knew she was worried. Her concerns were etched across her face in lines that seemed to deepen with each passing day. If anyone mentioned them, Caroline was quick to attribute her new facial features to many years of mirth, but he knew the real reason.
“A little,” she confessed, her words so soft that he almost missed them. Somewhere in the distance, the howls and staccato yip-yip-yips of coyotes filled the air. Caroline’s gaze swept over Tucker and their cat. “Is it safe for you two to be out here at night? The coyotes sound like they’re getting closer to the houses.”
Tucker decided not to tell her about the one he saw running through their front yard a few mornings ago. What’s one more secret to keep from your wife? At least this secret isn’t one that could destroy your marriage.
“Tucker?” she prodded. “Did you hear me?”
“What? Oh. We’re safe enough, aren’t we, Pepper?” The cat stretched its limbs in different directions before curling against Tucker’s thigh. Tucker grinned at his wife and said, “See? Pepper agrees.”
Caroline rolled her eyes and swallowed another sip of coffee. When she spoke again, Tucker expected her that she might keep the argument going, but she surprised him by changing the subject. “The visit from Emma and Michael was a nice surprise.”
“That boy sure can talk.” Tucker punctuated his words with a chuckle that shook the chains on the porch swing. “He knows more about baseball than I do.”
“Now that’s saying a lot. Emma is awfully young to be a widow. Raising a child alone can’t be easy.”
“Michael didn’t have much good to say about his father.”
“Oh? Emma only said that he’d passed.”
When Caroline failed to share anything else she might have known, Tucker filled in the gaps. “The man never took that boy to a baseball game. Not even once! He didn’t attend Michael’s little league games, either. He told me that his mother was the only person who ever cared enough to show up.”
“Tucker, we don’t know how much of that is accurate and how much of it is Michael’s limited point of view. Children see things differently than we do, and—”
“And nothing,” he cut her off. “A child needs both parents.”
“No, Tucker. A child needs love. One parent, two parents, a surrogate parental figure, whoever it is, as long as they’re willing to provide love, that’s what matters. You may not remember the stories I shared about some of the children I taught before retiring, but too many of them had it far worse then than Michael does now. Emma strikes me as a good person, and it’s obvious that she puts more than enough energy into providing the love of a dozen parents for her son.”
Tucker couldn’t argue with that, so he nodded once and resumed petting the cat.
“A penny for your thoughts,” she asked.
Tucker flinched as if she had slapped him. “Nothing. You’re right. It is the love that matters.”
“Hmm.” Caroline’s eyebrows knitted together. She didn’t challenge him but instead drained the remaining contents of her mug in one long gulp and stood. “Well, are you ready to go to bed?”
“Not quite yet. We’ll come back inside when we’re ready, won’t we, Pepper?” The cat flicked its tail in its sleep. Tucker could feel Caroline’s gaze upon him but, refusing to meet it, he instead looked out into the night. When the silence became too awkward to ignore, he at last added, “We won’t be too much longer, I imagine.”
“I’ll work on my crossword puzzle book until then.”
It was only when she turned to go into the house that Tucker had the courage to look at his wife. As much as he wanted to open his heart, the best he could do was a silent, I’m sorry, Caroline. If I were a stronger man, I’d tell you everything that’s been on my mind.
Becky Muth is a coffee addict who gives her readers fun escapes into sweet romance and romantic suspense books. She married her real-life firefighter hero, and they live in South Carolina with their adult sons and many pets. She loves interacting with readers on social media and in email. When she isn’t writing, Becky enjoys hanging out at the beach with her family and binge-watching Netflix with her golden retriever.
Links to Becky’s website, blog, books, etc.
Becky Muth – Sweet Romance & Romantic Suspense
R. A. Muth – Quirky Paranormal Cozy Mysteries
**Special Giveaway** One lucky reader who comments on Becky’s Killer Book Bench blog will receive a South Carolina-themed swag pack, including a handwritten note, saltwater taffy, a magnet, stickers, a $5 Amazon gift card, and other surprises.
Thanks, Becky, for sharing your book with us!
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