eBook Details


By: Margaret Ethridge | Other books by Margaret Ethridge
Published By: Turquoise Morning Press
Published: Jan 16, 2011
ISBN # 9781935817383
Word Count: 59,000
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Categories: Romance>Contemporary Drama Fiction


Paramour by Margaret Ethridge - Romance>Contemporary

Camellia Stafford has never been alone in her room. For twenty years, she’s been engaged in a fierce power struggle with her bedroom’s previous tenant, Frank DeLuca, the ghost trapped in the light fixture above her bed.

Caustic and cranky, Frank has one soft spot—Cam. Over the years, their feelings for one another have evolved from grudging friendship to an enduring love that burns white-hot until Frank puts his feelings for Cam on ice.

When she suffers the loss of her beloved father, Cam returns home to say good-bye, and confront her feelings for Frank. She finds an unexpected shoulder to lean on in neighbor, Bradley Mitchum. Cam falls hard and fast for the handsome ad man’s charming smile and passionate nature, but Brad’s easy-going exterior masks a steely backbone tempered by adversity.

Two men: one living, one dead, and both vying for her love. Now Cam must determine if her heart is strong enough to choose which dream could lead to a love that will last a lifetime.
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I break everything I touch.

That’s what my mother always told me. She thought the whole, See, Frankie? This is why we can’t have nice things, bit was invented with me in mind. I don’t think I was a particularly destructive kid—I was just a normal boy.

Stepping into the room, I pitch my voice at a whisper so I don’t startle her. “Mom?”

She doesn’t answer. She sits frozen on the edge of my old bed. Her hands are folded in her lap, her legs crossed at the ankles. Her long, graceful fingers coil into her palm. I open my mouth to speak, but no words come out.

I want to tell her I’m okay, by some miracle I’m alive, but the words gurgle in my throat, trapped in my chest. I glance down. The shirt I wore earlier has been cut away. I blink to clear my vision, stunned to find only the faintest smears of dried blood on my skin. And a hole. A hole no bigger than a dime.

I raise my hand. The metal studs on my leather wrist band flash in the light from the cone-shaped sconce on the wall above my bed. I press my fingers to the hole, hoping I can muffle the faint sucking that should have been my breath.

It doesn’t work.

The hole is empty, dark, and fathomless, burrowing straight through me. I bend my arm and grope at my back. My own blood chokes me when I touch the ragged edges of a much larger void. There had been no miracle. I’m not okay.

I grasp the closet doorknob and yank. Empty wire hangers rattle and clatter on the rod, but still she doesn’t stir. My fingers close around something soft, and I pull with all my strength, needing to prove I have some strength left.

My prize is a faded Metallica concert tee shirt I snagged at the Goodwill Store the summer I turned seventeen. The summer I let her down. I don’t care if the shirt is two sizes too small. I don’t care if the album the tour supported sucked. I don’t care about anything but covering the empty spot where my heart once beat.

The hem of the shirt barely skims the top of my 501s, and the sleeves choke my arms. I tug at one, but then figure it doesn’t matter. She’d never let me be buried in this anyway. I take a step closer to the bed, trying to sneak a peek at her face.

Stoic. I know that face well. She wore the same look when she poured me bowlfuls of Count Chocula in the mornings. The same mornings we pretended her eye wasn’t swelling shut.

Silent. She stares at the wall, not uttering a word. My mother remains clammed up like she was on the nights my father would stumble home sober enough to give her a good beating.

Stone-faced. Her fine features tight and chiseled, like she’s carved from granite. Mary Katherine DeLuca never showed any emotion. Years of living under the threat of Big Frank’s fists taught her well.

I guess the silence held her together the night Dad’s buddies from the Force came to tell her that her husband was dead. I suppose the stoicism is what kept her from rushing down to the lock-up to thank the punk whose convenience store robbery my father had interrupted.
But the stony planes of her cheekbones cut me now. I hate her and her stony, silent stoicism.

She doesn’t appear surprised I had somehow managed to break my life. I guess I still can’t help it. Breaking things seems to be my fate.

Still, I ached. I’d never hurt her. At least, not with my fists. I wanted to believe deep inside she knew I never would. I’m sure it had to be pretty deep because from the time I’d grown taller than Big Frank, I’d catch her flinching if I moved too fast. I stopped touching her long before my father did. I didn’t want to be the one who made her jump like a frightened rabbit.

I hurt her in other ways.

I couldn’t be what she wanted me to be. Lord knows, I tried. I swear I did, but school bored me to tears. I couldn’t imagine ever facing the pressing need to diagram a sentence, employ the Pythagorean Theorem, or recite the Gettysburg Address.

The only thing I ever found useful was Mr. Williams’ shop class. There, I learned how to break things down and build them up again, using my own two hands. I’m good with my hands. So good that Rusty Matteson offered me a part-time job at his restoration shop.

My mother hoped it was a passing phase. She made comment after comment about boys and their obsession with cars. She’d hum Greased Lightning under her breath while I’d stand at the kitchen sink, scrubbing my nails with a bar of Lava and a brush. I played along, counting the days until August.

My eighteenth birthday was three days after my senior year of high school started. I put in those three days, kissed Warrenton High goodbye, and never looked back. My mother was stunned. She never dreamed I wouldn’t finish. She didn’t care about my dreams. She only wanted me to live the life she dreamed for me.

Moving closer, I kneel beside the bed. My hand hovers over her knee. She doesn’t flinch, but she doesn’t reach for me either. That hits me harder than the bullet.

My hand falls away, clutching at the too-tight shirt, stretching the cotton away from my skin. There are things I need to say to her. There are things I need her to hear. I’m scared. I need her. I need her like I haven’t needed her since I was a little boy.

I want her to brush my hair back from my forehead. I need the whisper of her breath as she tells me to hush, and the caress of her hand when she promises everything will be okay.

“Mom,” I croak, fighting past the bubble in my throat.

I raise my hand and touch her knee. No response. She just sits and stares. Tearless, unflinching, stoic—like I’m no better than my father, and she’s not surprised.

I start to pull away, but she stands. The abrupt movement knocks me back. She takes two steps and snatches the tallest trophy from the top of my bookshelf. It’s the MVP trophy from my last year of Junior League baseball. The summer after my father died. The summer I thought we’d both finally be free.

The trophy is spotless, gleaming bright gold in the light cast from the cheesy 70s directional sconce mounted on the wall. She runs her fingertip over the engraved plate bearing my name, Francis DeLuca.
Her fingers close around the tiny gilt batter on top. I roll to my feet when she starts into her wind-up.

A scream rips from her throat, and I flinch as she hurls the trophy across the room.

My last breath, the one I’ve been clinging to so desperately, seeps from my lungs. The trophy hits the light, shattering the bulb into a million pieces.

It’s disappearing. I’m disappearing. The darkness draws me away from the safety of her embrace, into what had moments before been a circle of light.

On August nineteenth, nineteen-eighty-seven, I died.

She broke. I broke her. I didn’t think it was possible. My whole life, I thought she was indestructible. But she’s not. She’s broken, and I broke her. My mother crumpled in a heap on the floor. For a moment, I was happy. I finally got a rise out of her.


By: Margaret Ethridge