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Authors: Patricia Watters

Never Too Late

NEVER TOO LATE

Patricia
Watters

 

SOMETIMES
WHEN IT'S LEAST EXPECTED, LOVE FINDS ITS WAY... When Andrea and Jerry set out
on a luxury cruise neither want, before long they find themselves drawn into a
drug-smuggling scheme by the smooth-talking Italian who singled Andrea out for
flattery the first day aboard. That's also when Andrea and Jerry begin to
see
each other in a whole different light, one that ignites
a flame that had long since died.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used
factiously. Any resemblance to events or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental

Copyright © 2012 Patricia Watters

Created by Patricia Watters

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or
mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Watters, Patricia

Never Too Late / by Patricia Watters

ISBN-10:
1479118990

ISBN-13:
978-1479118991

ASIN:
B007WV4R4K

SERVICE REQUEST
1-810105014

Printed and manufactured in the United States of
America

CHAPTER 1
 

Andrea Porter
tapped away at her memoires, her fingers punching the keys on her laptop with
more force than needed to input the letters, yet enough to release the pent-up
venom over what was coming next...

…I was three hundred miles from home,
completely on my own to arrange my belongings, make up my bed, run my life—at
least without the daily micromanaging of my parents (i.e. my father), and make
my own decisions. Little did I know, my first day at college, that I was about
to make the biggest mistake of my life. That was the day I met...

"Andrea?"
Her mother appeared in the doorway to the bedroom that had been Andrea's when
she was growing up, a spacious suite with hand-finished Venetian plaster walls,
a bathroom with a bidet imported from France, and a sitting room with a window
that looked out on an estuary dotted with boats, and said, "James has
cocktails ready for us on the veranda. Your father wants to talk to you there.
I had
Florie
prepare the lobster dip you like, and
your father's waiting for you to join him for cocktails."

"You know
I rarely drink, Mother, and never in the afternoon," Andrea said, wanting
to delay the inevitable. Having her favorite lobster dip prepared was her
mother's ploy to deliver her to her father, a sure sign that whatever he had to
say would not be good.

Her mother eyed
her with vexation. "James prepared a Shirley Temple for you."

Andrea drew in
an agitated breath, while silently framing her
modus operandi
for evading her father's questions about why she was
home for another long weekend. She was running out of excuses. And her father
was becoming suspicious that her marriage was in trouble. But the day Carter Ellison
III learned the truth about his daughter's marriage would be the day he'd roll
out the big attorney guns—he had a whole battalion of them waiting to spend a
chunk of the Ellison fortune—and make sure Jerry didn't get a single Ellison
dime. But Jerry was too proud to take so much as a Ellison penny, so it was a
moot point. However, she and Jerry weren't there yet. Although the D word had
been bantered about, neither had acted on it. And the girls still had no idea
that the home they grew up in had become a battle zone...

When she
realized her mother was still standing in the doorway, Andrea said, "Tell
Daddy I'll be down in a few minutes."

"Don't
keep him waiting," her mother clipped. "You know how that irritates
him."

Andrea was
familiar with men who got irritated when kept waiting. She'd lived with one for
just short of twenty-five years. Odd how alike the two men were in some ways,
and how completely poles apart in others, though neither would admit to the
former. If truth be known, neither would like to acknowledge the existence of
the other. Sucking in a long, nerve-calming breath, she filed away her
memoires, shut down her laptop, and grudgingly went to face her father.

***

On a covered
veranda that featured a wet bar, a barbecue pavilion, and a fully equipped
kitchen with an eating area that overlooked a swimming pool faced in Italian
travertine marble, Carter Ellison sat reclined with his wife on the plush
cushions of a double rattan lounge chair, a hand-rolled cigar in one hand, his
signature whiskey sour in the other. Still fit and trim at seventy-four, with a
crop of silver hair that showed no sign of thinning, and dark eyes sharp with
awareness, his attention was drawn to Andrea when she stepped out of the
solarium.

Flicking ashes
into an alabaster ashtray on a table beside his chair, he leveled his eyes on
Andrea, and said, "You look like hell."

"Thank you
Daddy. I knew you'd brighten my day," Andrea replied, catching the glint
of vexation that flared in her mother's eyes with the exchange of barbs. From a
bowl on the butler's tray, Andrea took a square of bread with crusts removed,
scooped up some lobster dip from the chaffing dish, and popped it in her mouth.

"I'm
serious," her father said, his tone less confrontational. "You've got
circles under your eyes, you're nothing but skin and bones, and your hair looks
like a rats’ nest."

"Your
father's right," her mother said. "You do have circles under your
eyes, and your hair could use a good cut and styling. It gets to looking a
little matronly when you do nothing to it."

Andrea really,
really
didn't need this right now. It
was bad enough being middle aged. She didn't need a reminder of just how bad it
was.

Her father drew
on his cigar, exhaled a blue smoke ring, and said in the calculating tone he
used when about to close a deal, "It's that bastard you ran off with,
isn't it?"

Andrea eyed her
father with irritation. "I know you feel nothing but disdain for
Jerry," she said, "and it's well established that he is in fact a
bastard, like you so frequently point out, but he's also a self-made man, which
is more than I can say for—" she stopped short. Reminding her father that
he had nothing to do with building the Ellison cotton gin fortune was tantamount
to self-destructing.

"Inheriting
old money and holding onto it are two different playing fields," Carter Ellison
III pointed out. Funny how Andrea always thought of him that way when he got
huffy.

"And
making one's own fortune is considered out in left field, as far as you're
concerned," Andrea retorted. "But to get back to your pet peeve about
Jerry... Yes, he was raised by an unwed mother who gave birth to two other
children by different fathers, and no, he never went to college because he had
to make his own way in the world. But he's managed to keep the girls and me
living very comfortably over the years." She was surprised to be defending
a man she'd like to see disappear from her life. Permanently! She shoved a
toast round mounded with caviar into her mouth, and said, without thinking it
through, "The problem with you is, you can't stand it that I married a man
who refuses to jump through your hoops."

"Please
don't chew and talk at the same time," her mother commented. "You
weren't brought up that way."

"Give it
up, Barbara," Carter said. "Andrea made her bed twenty-five years
ago. Now she's lying in it."

"Actually,
Daddy, it's a very comfortable bed," Andrea countered. "And I happen
to share it with the man I love." She shoved a cracker with
pate fois gras
into her mouth then found
she couldn't
swallow,
her mouth too dry to get it
down. After a swig of what tasted like maraschino cherry juice with a squeeze
of lime, she said, "I think I'll stroll down to the water and take the
kayak out. Will I need to dress for dinner?"

"It would
be nice," her mother said. "The Hartfords are coming."

Andrea didn't
have to ask what to wear. Her mother would have clothes laid out on her
bed—several sets of casual dinner wear to choose from, recently purchased from
Charleston's most fashionable shops in preparation for the day the prodigal
daughter would return to the proverbial nest for good. Her mother had no idea
how quickly that day was approaching. But before that day would arrive, she'd
be forced to celebrate yet another wedding anniversary with a man she no longer
loved. A man she dreaded even seeing again.

***

The following
afternoon, Andrea swung her metallic-blue BMW around the circular driveway to
the upscale home she and Jerry built in Myrtle Beach twenty years earlier, and
punched the garage-door-opener, but as she pulled the car into the garage, she
could already hear the TV blaring from the great room. She braced herself for
Jerry's usual diatribe that would follow her appeal to turn down the volume...
 

...yeah well a man's home is his castle so
get over it" ... or
  
"...cut
me a little slack. I'm busting my butt to keep you in designer jeans and
two-hundred-dollar sneakers..." or "....it drowns out the sound of a
nagging wife...

Or, she could
slip off to their bedroom suite and see how long it took for Jerry to realize
she was home. Opting for the latter, she was in the process of making her way
up the stairs when Jerry's voice blared from below. "I suppose you're
going to shut yourself away for the evening?"

Andrea turned
and peered into a pair of cold hazel-brown eyes in a hard face. "You're
right," she said, "because at least I can concentrate without having
to listen to the TV blaring away. But it shouldn't make any difference to you.
When we're together it's not exactly quality time. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm
going to continue my memoires. I've just come to my first day in college,
which, if you recall, is the day we met."

As she
continued up the stairs, Jerry called after her, "Be sure to mention that
you never worked a damn day in your life after that, thanks to me."

Andrea stopped
midway up, hands gripping the handrail, and said over her shoulder,
"Yeah... right. And while I was sitting on my butt sipping daiquiris and
eating caviar, the kids were getting themselves up in the morning and off to
school, and fixing their own
meals,
and driving
themselves to music lessons and brownie scout meetings and soccer practice
because their father never had time to do it!"

"That's because I have to work 24/7 because
I have a wife whose sole purpose in life is to spend my money as fast as I can
make it!"
Jerry yelled up
.

Andrea turned,
and said between agitated breaths, "If I had been able to finish college
and start a career before you got me pregnant, five minutes after we were
married, I might be earning my keep, so don't lay that guilt trip on me."

"You're
the one who insisted on dropping out of college to marry me," Jerry yelled
up after her. "And I didn't exactly drag you screaming and yelling to my
bed. Back then I couldn't keep you out. You were ready and willing anytime, day
or night."

"That's
because I thought that's what you wanted!" Andrea snapped her jaws shut
and continued up the stairs.
  

"Hell, you
wanted it as much as I did!" Jerry started up the stairs after her.

Andrea glanced
back. "Maybe from your viewpoint, but it was no picnic for me, having a
husband who was hot and horny every second of the day and night, keeping me
pregnant or nursing with three kids the first five years of our marriage, and a
fourth about the time I thought we were done!"

"Well, you
pretty much shut that off when Scott was born," Jerry countered.

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