The Ground Rules

The Ground Rules Trilogy – Book 1

(contemporary erotic romance)

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Two beautiful couples. Five simple rules. One hot mess.

 My name is Mirella. I’m happy. I have it all: a great job, two beautiful girls, a lovely home in the suburbs, and a gorgeous husband (my high school sweetheart) who still rocks my world.

But by chance, one fateful night in the city, Gabe and I meet a mysterious, peculiar man and his beautiful wife. Weston and Bridget Hanson are no ordinary couple; they’re stunning, enigmatic, and sexy as hell. And of course, our ordinary life falls apart immediately. How can it not when Weston and Bridget propose the unthinkable.

I’m scared to death – Gabe is the only man I’ve ever been with. But Weston is so beautiful and mystifying – I am inexplicably drawn to him. Yet I can’t help but worry about the risks of this arrangement, about my marriage.

But eventually, it becomes inevitable… the pull is just too strong.

The ground rules are clear, but as I discover the kind and gentle loving man hidden under Weston’s cold, rigid exterior, I soon fall for him. Hard. And as Weston’s walls begin to crumble, he starts to break his own rules as well.

As I fall deeper, I’m torn between my feelings for Weston and my love for Gabe. Gabe is a rebel; he’s volatile and passionate, and of course, he knows I’ve fallen. And as he becomes increasingly jealous, I realize my entire world is tearing at the seams.

Excerpt: Chapter One

PREFACE

FEW WORDS were spoken. Yet I knew. I can’t really explain it…physical attraction is a powerful thing, an all-consuming thing. I didn’t want it, and I certainly wasn’t looking for it, but there it was, nevertheless.

I should have run in the opposite direction. But I didn’t. No…I yielded to it.

It’s amazing how life can change so easily—veer off the path. A single moment, a decision you make, however insignificant, can change the course of your destiny.

For me, it all started with a pink dress.

CHAPTER ONE

The pink dress…

GOODNESS…MY TOES are a disgrace. I haven’t looked at my feet in a while, and as I stare down at the faded, chipped blue polish on way-too-long toenails, I realize I might be letting myself go.

I really need a pedicure.

I can’t remember the last time I gave myself a pedi. Chloe’s toes are perfect little shiny red buds—I just did her nails yesterday.

When did my daughter’s toenails become more important than mine? Probably about eight years ago or so. I first painted her toenails when she was just a baby—just wanted to see what it would look like.

I suppose that’s what happens when you become a mom. One day you have a life. You look hot. Other men (men who are not your husband) want to do wicked things to you.

And then…you’re painting your baby’s tiny toenails.

I sigh as Chloe wraps one of my colorful scarves around her neck, her dark brown curls caught under the silk. We’re playing dress-up.

She twirls in front of the wall mirror. “Do I look grown-up, Mommy?” Her gorgeous eyes gaze at me intently. “Well, do I?”

“Yes, sweetie. You look very sophisticated.” Classier than me, I muse—ghastly toes, shabby sweats, and all. Every time I look at her, I see her father. She looks so much like him—the crazy dark curls, the gorgeous, sleepy hazel eyes and the slightly off-kilter, devilish smile.

She’s precious, standing in my over-sized black pumps and red cocktail dress, a hodge-podge of necklaces draped around her neck.

Her little sister stands on a vanity chair, arms stretched as she reaches for one of my dresses. “How ’bout this one?”

I give Claire the pick of the crop. I never wear them anymore. And I do have a lot of dresses—when a pretty one catches my eye, impulse overtakes me. I never ask myself, “When am I ever going to wear this?” If I did, I probably wouldn’t have this overstuffed closet.

I’ve taken over the closet, in fact—Gabe’s clothing is stuffed in an armoire, but I don’t think he minds. He’s a simple guy—he wears mostly jeans, T-shirts, and plaid button shirts. He doesn’t need a closet.

Well, that’s what I tell myself anyway…

I study the dress Claire has picked out—it’s one of my favorites, probably the favorite. It’s a fifties-era dress I spent a small fortune on at one of those posh vintage stores—pink chiffon over taffeta, a corset-like bodice with lacy straps, and a flowing skirt that falls just above the knee.

The pink dress brushes the carpet, hanging off Claire’s tiny six-year-old frame. She looks so sweet in it. I can’t help but stare. I’ve only worn it twice—once at the theatre, the other time at a wedding. Gabe’s oldest brother tied the knot on a beautiful July day, which somehow managed to turn into a torrential downpour. We all got drenched. Gabe and I sprinted to our hotel room, undressed in a fury, and made love. Gabe’s wet shirt was plastered on his body, the tribal tattoo covering half his torso peeking through the soaked fabric. It’s one of my favorite (very hot) memories.

I looked really nice in that dress.

“You look like a princess,” Chloe tells her little sister. Claire, seemingly pleased with this observation, flashes her adorable toothless smile.

The dress seems so small. Would I still fit into it? No way. I’m almost thirty-five years old, and I’ve had two kids. But… I just need to know.

“Claire,” I venture softly. “Can you take the dress off?”

She shrugs, tiny brows furrowed. “But you said I could wear any of your dresses.” She’s not taking it off. “It’s my favorite,” she says with pursed lips. Even when she’s being difficult, she still manages to be adorable.

“Well, it’s my favorite too actually,” I tell her, stroking the chiffon between my fingers. “But it does look very nice on you.”

She ponders me for a second, and I can almost see her little mind working. She stares at me with those big brown eyes of hers—she’s so sweet. “Do you want to wear it?” she asks softly.

“You think I should. You think I could fit into it?”

“For sure,” she says with conviction. Well…she’s definitely more optimistic than I am because I’m pretty sure I won’t fit into that dress.

She wiggles out of it, and I quickly get out of my shabby sweats. I’m down to my undies and undo the side zipper.

“The moment of truth, girls…”

As I carefully slip the dress over my shoulders, I’m surprised. It falls to my knees and seems to still fit. But whether I can zip it up or not is the question. I make it three-quarters of the way there, and the dress fits more snugly than I remember…but it fits!

I kneel down as Chloe assists me in zipping it to the top. “It looks really nice on you,” she tells me as we study my reflection in the mirror.

It does.

I’m happy I still fit into my favorite dress. But on the other hand, I’m a little depressed. I’ll probably never get to wear it again. Let’s face it—my life is not exactly full of charity balls and glamorous events. Gabe and I don’t get out much—our idea of a date night is a hearty meal at the local family restaurant and a movie, or perhaps the occasional dinner with friends.

“Why do you look so sad,” Claire asks, a dash of concern in her sweet voice.

Because Mommy has no life.

I smile to reassure her. “I’m not sad, Claire. It’s just…I’m probably never going to wear this dress ever again.”

She looks at me like I have three heads. “You’re wearing it right now, silly.”

I laugh at her. She has a way of making me giggle, and right now, my life is wonderfully perfect—I have her and Chloe, and Gabe.

“You’re right, Claire,” I pipe up. “I am wearing it. We should do something special. We’re all dressed up.”

“How ’bout a tea party in my room?”

I smile. “Sounds wonderful.”

 

“So tell me, Mirella,” Claire starts. “How have you been?” she asks, her sweet voice laced with pomp and circumstance.

Her expression makes me laugh. “Why, I am just divine, Claire. Thank you for asking.”

I sit at the tiny yellow table in my vintage pink chiffon dress, nibbling on animal crackers and drinking iced tea. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to wear the dress somewhere—perhaps Gabe and I could go see a show—it could be a lot of fun. I should speak to him about it.

And there it is…that “defining moment” wrapped up cleverly into an “ordinary moment.”

What if we hadn’t been in that closet playing dress-up? What if Claire hadn’t picked out that dress? What if it hadn’t fit? What if…

Copyright © 2015 Roya Carmen. All rights reserved.

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