Every marriage has its secrets.
They were reconciling. That was all Caleb Callaghan could focus on when his estranged wife, Vicki, shared the news of her pregnancy. He was determined that this time, the marriage would succeed, no matter what it took.
But was Vicki’s price too high? She wanted more than his love and support…she demanded honesty between them, starting with his secrets. But there was something in Caleb’s past he could not—would not—share. For the truth would only destroy them.
Caleb's heart rocked to a standstill. "What?"
"I said I'm pregnant. Three months along--the doctor just confirmed it." Shoving her fingers through her shoulder-length blond hair, Vicki sat down in the chair across from his desk.
His entire mind restarted with a kick-this was the chance he'd been waiting for, for two long months. He would not let it slip away. Rising, he moved around the desk to kneel beside her chair. "You're carrying our child." Wonder held him in its grip. Within the space of a few seconds, the hell of his life had turned into heaven.
Vicki can't divorce me if she's pregnant.
As if she'd heard him, she shook her head. "It doesn't change anything." But her voice held the tiniest hint of uncertainty.
He seized the moment. No way was he going to fight fair, not when this was the most important battle of his life. "Of course it does." He took her fine-boned hand, delighting in once again being able to lay claim to her.
"Yes." In the months since their separation, he'd tried everything he could think of to win his wife back. And failed. But this, this would not allow Vicki to so easily justify a divorce. "How can it possibly not change everything? That's my baby you're carrying."
Her hand tensed in his. "Don't bully me, Caleb."
Warned by her tone, he rapidly recalculated his approach. Though he had no intention of letting her shut him out any longer, he knew that if he pushed too hard, he might lose her. But his Victoria had always had a soft heart. "I have a right to experience this with you. This is my first baby, too. Maybe my last."
Emotions he had no hope of understanding flickered across her face at the speed of light. "You want to move back in," she said, referring to their restored villa above St. Marys Bay, not far from Auckland's city center.
"I am moving back in." That was non-negotiable. "I'm not letting you divorce me while our child is in your womb." That gave him six months in which to convince her that their marriage was worth saving, that five years of commitment shouldn't be thrown away so quickly.
She'd asked him for space when they'd separated and he'd given her that as far as he was able--limiting himself to a phone call a day and a couple of visits a week to ensure that she was okay, but that was all ending as of this moment. He wanted his wife back. "This baby is a gift, Vickie--our chance to make it. Don't throw that away."
Her eyes seemed to soften.
Standing, he tugged her up and into his embrace, her slender body a perfect fit against his larger frame. "I'll get my stuff delivered from the hotel this afternoon." He hated the damn place because it wasn't home, would never be home. "We'll be alright." He'd ensure it. No matter what, he wasn't going to lose her.
She was his everything.
Vicki let Caleb hold her and knew she was making a terrible mistake. But God, she'd missed being in her husband's arms. For two months she'd missed him every single day. Each time he'd invited her to lunch, each time he'd dropped by for coffee, she'd known she should back away but had instead always said yes. Now that dangerous pattern threatened to continue. "You don't need to be at home to share this with me."
He loosened his embrace enough that she could look up into those hazel eyes, shades lighter than his dark brown hair. "Hell yes, I do. You want to raise our kid like you were raised? Barely knowing his, or her, father?"
She sucked in a breath. "You know exactly where to aim, don't you?" If there was one thing she didn't want for their child, it was for them to grow up thinking they were unloved by either parent.
Letting Vicki go, Caleb put his hands on his hips, under his suit jacket. "I'm not going to sugarcoat the truth--if you insist on this separation, it's going to lead to divorce and eventually to a child shuttled from home to home."
"You think it's better for our baby to grow up in the middle of a battlefield?" She would not bring an innocent soul into the wreckage that was their marriage right now.
"Of course not." His voice rose. "But Vicki, you can't have it both ways. Either you let me in and we start working on things, or you accept the alternative."
"This is moving too fast--I need time."
"You've had two months." His jaw was set. "More than enough time."
It was nowhere near enough, she thought. They'd seen each other several times a week during the separation but had yet to talk, really talk. "Caleb, look at it from my point of view. I just found out I'm pregnant. Having you back is going to be too much to cope with."
"And the longer you keep me away, the less time we'll have to fix things before the baby arrives," he responded. "I'm not backing down on this so you might as well say yes."
If she hadn't already made her decision before walking into this firm that he'd built with sheer determination, his statement might've rubbed her raw. But though so much of him was a mystery to her, this she'd predicted--from the second she'd discovered her pregnancy, and though she'd had every intention of trying to convince him otherwise, she'd known that Caleb would refuse to keep his distance.
With that in mind, she'd thought long and hard about the conditions under which she'd allow him back into her life. "All right." Even as she said those words, she was regretting them--give Caleb an inch and he'd take a mile. But this was no longer just about the two of them.
"That's the right decision, honey," he said. "You'll see. We'll be okay."
Frowning at his tone, she started point out that things were going to be a little different this time around. "Look, you can move in but…"
"Shh." He smiled and put his hand on her abdomen, startling her with the gesture. It made her pregnancy feel real in a way even the doctor's announcement hadn't. "Don't want the kid to hear us arguing, do you?"
Her stomach twisted. Already, it was starting--she spoke and he didn't listen. "Caleb, I want to tell you…"
"Later." He raised his hand to push her hair off her face. "We have all the time in the world."
All his things were in the guest bedroom.
"What the hell is this?" Caleb turned to find his wife standing in the bedroom doorway, arms folded and eyes narrowed. No trace remained of the woman who'd let him hold her only a few hours ago.
Straightening her spine, she met his challenge head-on. "This is you not listening--you steamrolling over my objections to your moving back in as you steamroll over everything." There was steel in that soft voice he was used to hearing murmur in agreement.
"Later, you said. Well, this is 'later'. You can stay in the house but don't expect to move back into my life like nothing ever happened. As far as I'm concerned, we're still separated."
Secrets In the Marriage Bed was actually one of my easiest books to write in terms of research. I've visited the area the book is set in - St. Marys Bay, Auckland, several times. Caleb's work scenes were also simple to craft. As a former lawyer myself, I've had first-hand experience of seeing tense business situations develop.
What I did have to research for this book was how fundraising and charities work. I found out a lot of information, most of which didn't make it into the book, but which gave me a very good background for Vicki.
I've had mixed feedback on the cover for this book, but I personally love it. I think it gets the characters exactly right. Caleb is a strong, dominant man used to taking charge. Vicki is his younger, gentler wife. Both those things come across very well in the cover.
I love hearing from readers, so drop me a note if you have an opinion on this.
The Story Behind Secrets In the Marriage Bed
A lot of people have commented that Secrets isn't like the 'usual' romance novel, in that the protagonists are already married and have been married for several years. I've even heard it said that it feels like a book about what happens after the happy-ever-after.
You can't imagine how happy that makes me, because that was exactly what I was trying to achieve with this book. The story began when I wondered: What if Cinderella wasn't ready for the Prince - after all, she'd just gotten away from a horrible home situation. The magical ball and love at first sight were beautiful, wonderful things, but what if she wasn't prepared to deal with the challenging reality of her alpha hero?
However, much as I love fairy tales, as those of you who've read Craving Beauty or Desert Warrior know, I didn't want to write this story as a fairy tale. I wanted instead to explore the deeply honest and sometimes painful emotions, of two very real people--two people who are meant to be with each other. The only problem is, they met far too early, before they were ready for the demands of a love that comes along once in a lifetime.
Would they wait for each other to grow, or would they break under the power of that love? That's the question I tried to answer in Secrets. Did I succeed? Only you can decide that.
Secrets In The Marriage Bed by Nalini Singh