Publishing “Courage Lies Within” made me the most nervous of all the books in the series. I had always wanted to explore Brittany’s assault in much more detail than I had and the hypnosis sessions needed to be real and difficult to get through; not only for her, but for the reader as well. It wasn’t the graphic nature, as I have never really needed to be overly graphic to get the horrific nature of the attack across. I just wanted it to be clear just how strong she is and how much she endured to be where she is today.
The other major story in this book is Bill coming to terms with Julie’s kidney issues and a threat to his family that he can’t fight. He has never had to face a life without her and it hits him in a place he can’t comprehend. I love writing the vulnerable side of Bill because he is such a stoic and deeply personal man. He struggles so much with his feelings of being undeserving of this family and this life. The way her reacts isn’t always right, but I hope it’s true to character.
The two scenes I chose to post are a little different. For Tommy and Brittany, the joy of normalcy is something they rarely get to experience. I had a blast writing them shopping for Naomi and realizing that there was much they really didn’t know!
As for the second scene, I focused on a memory of Bill and Julie. I would like to explore more of the time Bill was gone for a year, and this scene shows how Julie is truly his soul mate. She and Bill have the kind of love that is truly magical.
I would love to hear your thoughts on your favorite scenes!
“The hospital called,” she said.
His heart lurched. “What happened?”
She shook her head. “Nothing. If the morning tests are stable, Naomi will be released tomorrow afternoon. We can pick her up after my hypnosis session.”
“Oh baby, that’s amazing,” he picked her up in his arms and twirled her around.
“Oh,” she giggled and he put her down.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to just grab you like that,” he stammered.
“Stop, it’s fine. If I could pick you up I would do the same,” she smiled.
“In that case,” he picked her up again in a bear hug.
After a few more minutes of reveling in their good news, they sat down to eat. Brittany poured them each some wine while Tommy put some pasta on their plates. They began to eat and she looked at him. “We need to pick up a few more things, and we need to put the crib together.”
He nodded. “I can’t believe we are going to be here together, all of us under one roof.”
“I can’t wait,” she said and they ate their dinner.
“We should go to the store,” she said as they finished.
“Yes. I don’t want to bring her home without a few more things,” she said, so excited, he couldn’t possibly say no.
“Okay. Let me take Tramp out and we can go.”
She jumped up and ran to change. She was truly excited and this was her life in the here and now. She would not allow her fear and sadness to take this moment from them. She and her husband would shop for their baby like every other couple. They would do something normal for a change. She laughed as she put her hair up in a hat and got her fake glasses out and the baggy clothes. Not everything could be normal, but so what.
Tommy finished cleaning up their dinner so Tramp wouldn’t get into anything and he smiled when he saw her come out, looking adorable in her disguise. “I see you’re ready.”
She grinned and put on the glasses. “Let’s go shopping.”
A little while later, they pushed the cart up and down the aisles at the store. Brittany looked at the toys and Tommy beamed at her, leaning on the front of the cart, his foot resting on the bar. She glanced at him and blushed. “What? I wore this disguise so no one would notice me. You are staring at me like I have three heads.”
He smiled. “Sorry, I just love watching you shop for our daughter.”
She held up an object. “Too advanced?”
He stifled a laugh. “Maybe a little. I don’t think she is going to be doing math problems yet.”
Brittany put the baby Einstein toy down. “It’s never too early to learn numbers.”
“I agree, but maybe something a little less challenging until she weighs at least seven pounds,” he teased.
She grinned. “Fine, but then do we really need this?” She reached into the cart and pulled out the box he insisted they get.
“Every baby needs a play tool kit,” he pouted.
She walked over and kissed him. “You are adorable. Are you sure we have enough of the special formula and the right bottles?”
“Yes, and they will give us some tomorrow when we pick her up,” Tommy said.
They walked over to the diaper aisle and looked. “We need tiny,” she said.
He picked up a package and she shook her head. “Nope, that says 8-12 pounds. We need tiny tushie.”
Laughing, he kept looking and they found the preemie package. He grabbed a bunch and she smiled. “Well how many should we get?”
“I don’t know. How often will we change her?”
They both looked at each other. “How do we not know that? Is there a book? We need to read everything tonight,” he said.
“New parents?” A couple about their age walked by after observing the exchange.
Brittany smiled and Tommy shrugged. “That obvious?”
The man laughed and nodded. “A little.”
“We had a preemie, too,” the woman said, seeing the bag of diapers Tommy held. “They are a handful, but so worth it.”
“Our little Albert was only 3 pounds at birth. He is two years old now and you could never tell. Cherish this time, they grow up so fast,” the woman said.
Brittany smiled and nodded. “We will, thanks.”
The couple walked away and Tommy looked at his wife. “We should stop them.”
“Because we still don’t know how often to change her,” he said.
She laughed. “I’ll tell you what. We will just have to figure it out as we go.”
He grinned. “I suppose you’re right. Come on, we have one more aisle to go down.”
“Wait,” she said and he stopped.
“What is it?”
“Those people approached us, and I didn’t feel afraid at all. I didn’t freeze up and I didn’t worry that they were here for any other reason. I didn’t even question it, I was just in the moment.”
He felt tears come to his eyes as she realized the huge step she took. “Isn’t that something,” he said, emotion in his voice.
She grinned, “That’s everything.”
“Come here,” he said and she moved to him. He leaned in and kissed her softly. “I’m so proud of you.”
She touched his face and smiled. “This is just the beginning.”
He swallowed the lump in his throat and sniffed. “You’re turning me mushy.”
“No, don’t you remember what Courtney said? You’re squishy.’
He rolled his eyes and she smiled. “Alright, we need to make sure we have enough of the medical pads to keep over her scar. The doctor said the diaper might irritate her still healing skin.”
He nodded. “Right, and we should get more blankets. We only have a dozen.”
“How many do we need?” she asked.
“I don’t know, I’m telling you, we have to get a book,” he said.
She laughed. “Come on, one more aisle.”
He rolled his eyes as she added another stuffed animal to their basket. “Red, this is ridiculous. We can’t buy every stuffed animal in the store.”
“It’s not like we don’t have the money,” she pouted.
“That’s not the point. We will lose her amidst the toys,” he grinned. “Most of these are bigger than she is.”
“Okay, but just one more, I mean look at this face,” she held up a cute little dog. “It looks like Tramp.”
“You do realize he won’t be happy with this. He likes being the only cuddly thing in the house,” Tommy said.
“Well then you will have to have a man to man talk with him. I trust you’ll figure it out.”
They made their way to the cashier when he stopped. “We have to get this.”
She laughed. “Now who is going overboard?”
“I loved Richard Scary books growing up. She has to read about Lowly Worm.”
She smiled. “If she must, she must.”
He put it in their overflowing cart and they made their way to pay. They stopped at the ice cream drive through and each got a cone as they made their way home. Tommy pulled the car to a lot by the water and they ate their ice cream as they looked out over the beautiful lake and the night sky. She moved closer to him in the seat and held his hand.
“What a beautiful evening,” she said.
He nodded. “Thank you for it.”
She turned and faced him as they finished their ice cream. “Why thank me? I don’t recall doing anything deserving thanks. It isn’t really a good idea to celebrate the fact I was able to function without having a meltdown,” she smiled, showing her playful tone.
He rolled his eyes. “How about thanking my beautiful wife for this life? How about the fact that I am happier than I ever thought I would be and when I watch you smile, my whole world just feels right.”
She turned and smiled at him. “Okay, I’ll accept that.”
He laughed. “Good.”
She touched his face and he turned to look at her. “You know what I was thinking?”
He grinned. What’s that?”
“There is something I would like to do,” she said as her eyes twinkled.
“Okay, should I be nervous?”
She shook her head. “Nope.” She unbuckled her seatbelt and moved closer to him.
“Ever make out in a car?”
He grinned as she pulled him to her and kissed him passionately.
(Four years ago)
Bill was working out in the Police gym after a particularly frustrating day of work. He had been back on the police force after coming back from Iraq and he and Julie were planning their wedding, or trying to. He was having a lot of problems and as much as he wanted to be the man she remembered, he wasn’t and he was afraid he would never get back there.
“Hey, someone is here to see you,” a man yelled for Bill.
He grabbed his towel and looked up as Julie walked in. “Is everything okay?” He asked her as he took a drink of water.
“We were supposed to meet for dinner,” she said and crossed her arms in front of her. “If you had to release some energy, I would have been happy to help,” she tried to joke with him, but he knew she was hurt.
“I’m sorry. I lost track of time,” he turned to walk past her and she grabbed his hand.
“Don’t do this, Bill. We need to talk.”
He took a deep breath and looked at her, his eyes wet. “I can’t talk about this. I have to go,” he stared at her for a minute and walked to the locker room. “Shit,” he swore as he smacked his locker. He turned and saw her standing. “Julie, please. This is the men’s locker room.”
“I don’t care. I need you to talk to me.”
He grabbed his bag and looked at her. “Not here,” he walked out and she followed into the cool night air. The thunder began as he walked and she had to run to keep up with him.
“Bill, stop, please,” she cried as the rain began to pelt down.
He turned to her as they stood in the parking lot. “I can’t stop. I try and I try but I can’t let it go. Why can’t you just let me be?”
She took his hand in hers. “Because I can’t live without you. I spent my whole life waiting for a love like we have found and it’s stronger than whatever it is that you’re going through.” The rain fell hard on them and she took his face in her hands. “I love you and I will never know what you had to endure this past year. I can’t take your memories away or your guilt at the friends you lost, but I can be here with you now, and hold you and love you until it hurts a little less.”
He looked into her eyes and his face was wet with tears and the rain. “What if it never goes away?”
She smiled and wiped his face as the rain slowed a little. “It has to.”
He looked at her with a question in his eyes.
“When have you ever seen anything stand up to the power we have when we are together?”
He pulled her into his arms and pressed his mouth to hers as his love for her was simply everything to him. She was right. With her, he could do it. He could find his way.
“We are soaking wet,” he said to her as they continued to stand in the rain.
“So what? I won’t melt,” she said as she held him. “I need to know that you hear me. I need to know that you will let your guilt and your anger go. I need to know that marrying me and building a life with me is what is in your heart and you don’t regret being here because you’re settling for what you think you should do. I need you to want me as much as I want you. I need you to feel me in your heart like I feel you; like I need you. I won’t settle for anything less.”
He looked into her eyes and touched her face. “How can you even ask me that?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know how to do this half way. I don’t know how to make you see that our life together can be amazing. I,” she was stopped by his mouth on hers and his hands on her, pulling her to him and pressing his body to hers. She wrapped her arms around his back and moved her face to kiss him deeper and then she pushed away from him.
“I can’t do this. I’m going home and if you want to meet me there, fine. I need you to think clearly and know that you always have a place to feel safe and feel welcome, but I can’t keep chasing you. I can’t come in second to your memories.”
She turned and walked away, getting into her car and leaving him stranded. She made her way home and wiped her tears as she wondered if there was any way to reach him. Her heart broke at his torment, and there was nothing he could say that would make her love him any less, but he had to want to be with her. She peeled her wet clothes off and ran a bath, wanting to soak her troubles away. She lit some candles and filled the tub with bubbles before she sat down in the hot water and cried.
Bill drove home soon after and felt like everything he had been fighting within himself was pointless. Julie was his whole life and it killed him to know she doubted his commitment to her. He pulled up to the house and walked in, seeing the table set for the dinner he had missed. He walked to the bedroom and heard her in the tub. He didn’t think; he just walked in, startling her. “Can I just say something?”
She wiped her face and nodded.
“Every day I was away from you, my only thought was to come home to you. I would sit in the dark, sweltering piece of shit campsite we had and wonder if you were safe and happy. I wondered if you regretted pledging your future to me and then saying goodbye for so long. I wondered if you would be able to look at me the same way, knowing what I had to do while over there.” He walked to the edge of the tub and sat down. “I have a lot of issues to deal with, and a lot of demons to exercise, but the only time I am truly alive is when I’m with you. From the moment I first saw you, I have been a better man. I want you every minute of every day and it isn’t because it’s what I think I should do. How can you ever think I would be settling by being with you? You are my strength and my hope. You are my truth and my future. I love you so much and there is nowhere else I want to be.”
She looked at him and nodded. “Okay then.”
He stood up and she reached for him. “Why don’t you join me?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m not about to beg,” she smiled and her dimple was deep and inviting.
“Not even a little?” he smiled as he pulled his clothes off. “Scoot forward a little.”
She did as he asked and he sat down behind her, stretching his long legs out next to her. He pulled her back against him and wrapped his arms around her waist. She ran her hands over his thighs and he kissed her neck. “I love you, and I will always be here for you.”
He couldn’t express how much those words meant to him, and how safe she made him feel. “I love you, always and forever. I will never let you down and I will protect you and our children forever.”
She turned her head and looked at him. “Our children?”
He kissed her. “Yes, many of them, all like you.”
“I want one like you, too.”
He moved his hands up her chest and she melted against him. “I need to get up my back hurts.”
He was concerned. “Because of the rain?”
“No, because something is poking into me,” she grinned at him and he laughed.
“Sorry about that. I think you are the only one who can help take care of that,” he grinned as she turned to face him.
“Don’t you ever forget that,” she murmured into his mouth as they came together.