And where one millionaire in particular has just CLAIMED HER "EX" AS HER OWN
All of Jester is abuzz with news of Air Force captain Sam Cade's return. Sources say he has come home again to win back his wife, Ruby. Fed up with her military husband's daredevil ways, "Main Street Millionaire" Ruby filed for divorce months ago. But the pair has been spotted around town looking as cozy as can be, sharing romantic candlelit dinners and slow dances. The sparkle in Ruby's eyes has everyone wondering if the two have resolved their marital woes and recaptured their past love. Will their purported reunion lead to a second honeymoon?
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By Bonnie Gardner
Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.Copyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTrembling with excitement, Ruby Cade stumbled back into the Mercantile, the closest thing to a department store in hardscrabble Jester, Montana. She turned the sign to Closed, then locked the door behind her. Whether she was shivering from the bitter January cold or the startling, wonderful, absolutely fantastic news she'd just received, Ruby didn't know, and she didn't really care. All she knew was that she couldn't contain her excitement anymore. She had to share the news with her husband, Sam.
The unbelievable had happened!
She'd won! They'd won!
One of the Big Draw lottery tickets that she and her friends purchased every week had actually won!
They were rich. No, more than rich.
They were millionaires!
The twelve of them would split forty million dollars! Ruby was too excited to do the math about what the total would be after taxes, but whatever their share was, she and Sam would be millionaires!
As she rummaged frantically though the cubbyholes of the ancient rolltop desk in the store office, her mind reeled with the implications of what this unexpected infusion of money would do for the town of Jester, which had been barely holding on during the recent economic downturn. Finally, Ruby located the emergency contact number that Sam had left her.
Sam was an elite Air Force Special Operations combat controller who was currently stationed overseas, close to one of the dangerous hot spots in the Middle East. Usually, she waited for Sam to call her from his overseas military base for their twice-weekly chats, but this news was too spectacular to put off until Saturday. Sam had left the number in case of an emergency. Her good news wasn't an emergency, but it certainly was urgent.
Sam was going to flip! Their whole life was going to change, Ruby couldn't help thinking.
As she dialed in the endless string of digits to connect with the base where Sam was stationed, Ruby hoped that this would be the news that would finally bring her husband home. For good.
Brimming with excitement, she listened impatiently as the phone on the other end seemed to ring forever.
Finally, someone answered. Sam's commanding officer, she realized.
Ruby drew a deep breath, swallowed and managed to steady her nerves in order to speak around the enormous lump in her throat. "This is Ruby Cade. May I speak to C-Captain Sam Cade, p-please," she stammered, hoping that Sam would be nearby and available to take the call.
Excitement turned to shock. The answer the faceless voice on the other end of the line gave her was not the one Ruby had expected or wanted. Sam was not at the base at this time, the officer said. He had volunteered for a mission, the nature of which the man could not divulge. He wasn't expected back at headquarters for several days.
"No!" Ruby gasped. It couldn't be. Not again! Sam had promised not to volunteer to go into danger again. He had sworn he wouldn't leave her alone at home, worrying, anymore.
Her body went weak with the impact of Sam's lie, and the phone fell out of her nerveless hand to the cluttered desk.
"Mrs. Cade, do you want to leave a message?" the tinny, faraway voice asked.
Ruby picked the receiver up again, holding it gingerly as if it were hot. "No. No message," she mumbled. Then she carefully placed the receiver back on the hook and sank into the swivel chair.
Shock and fear for Sam were quickly replaced by anger at his duplicity. He can't do this to me, Ruby railed inwardly. He had promised. With the world in chaos, he had sworn that he would leave the dangerous missions to the younger men and that he would stay safely behind the lines.
If Sam valued the excitement and danger of his career in air force combat control more than he did his wife or their marriage, then so be it, Ruby thought. She wasn't going to waste her life listening to empty promises or waiting around for him to come home to her anymore.
This was the last straw. She was tired of playing second fiddle to Sam's career. He could have all the freedom he wanted. She was done.
With the lottery winnings, she was now a woman of independent means, Ruby realized. She didn't need Sam, no matter how much she loved him. She'd spent most of their ten-year marriage worrying and waiting at home while he'd gone gallivanting around the world into all sorts of dangerous situations, some so top secret he wouldn't even talk about them. She had hoped that her good news would be the one thing that would finally allow him to leave his dangerous job and start to build a real life with her.
But now all that had changed. He had lied.
He had broken the one promise that had kept her hanging on until now.
She couldn't take the worrying and the waiting anymore. She wouldn't take it.
If Sam wanted to live his life without regard for her needs and feelings, that was fine. But she wasn't going to stand helplessly by and watch. First thing in the morning, she decided, she was going to file for divorce.
Then Ruby crossed her arms over the clutter on the desk, rested her head on them and cried.
Excerpted from Priceless Marriage by Bonnie Gardner Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.
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