Fire Down Below by Gwynne Forster
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Fire Down Below contains four short stories and one long novella. In the first story, a woman who knows her husband is crazy about her over-plays her hand, and her husband's reaction stuns her, as it will stun the reader.
The next tale is about a woman who believes previous surgery has left her incomplete as a woman and unable to enjoy love-making. Her surgeon's advice encourages her. She falls in love with a man who cherishes her, and she is never again the same. It is a tender story that will tug at the reader's heart.
In another story, a psychiatrist departs from his own professional standard and takes a sex-starved married female client to bed, ostensibly to demonstrate technique. She wants and demands more, and on her terms, finally resorting to blackmail. What they experience entraps him, and he has cause to remember his father's long-ago advice, that his penis and the problems it can cause could ruin his life.
The novella tells of the slow disintegration of a once upscale family when the father, an arrogant man who overestimates his own worth, loses his job. Chickens come home to roost when the verbally abused, browbeaten wife comes into her own, rising like a Venus from the sea. In the turmoil, the son, scorned and rejected by the father, triumphs, and the daughter whose father spoiled and pampered her heads toward a life of destruction.
Sneak Peek at Fire Down Below by Gwynne Forster
FIRST THING MONDAY MORNING
“Never declare war unless you mean to do battle.”
During the eight years that she had been married to Jeb Harrison, Lettie Harrison had spent practically every Friday and Saturday night with her girlfriends. Jeb had designated Friday night as “boys’ night out” and Saturday night as “girls’ night out.” Naturally, he saw no reason to stay at home on Saturday nights by himself. At first, she had thought it a cute idea, but as the years passed, she saw it as Jeb’s way of getting for himself two nights every weekend to do as he pleased.
One Saturday night in late June, Lettie sat on her front porch, fanning the heat, slapping at mosquitoes and cursing the stench of magnolia blossoms that permeated the air. She had hated magnolias ever since she first heard Billie Holiday sing “Strange Fruit.” It was hot for June in the small Maryland town of Hedgewood that embraced the Chesapeake Bay like a hollowed-out orange section and boasted as its chief advantage its nearness to Baltimore, fully eighty miles to the west.
The last thing she wanted to do on a Saturday night was play dirty hearts with Ethel and Roxie. After all, she had a husband; her girlfriends passed the time that way because they didn’t have a man. Perspiring from the heat and smoldering with anger at Jeb, she vowed to change her life. When it came to Jeb, though, her mind acted as if it wasn’t normal. She couldn’t count the times she’d sworn to Jeb that she was going to leave him; and just as many times, he’d grinned or winked at her and told her he wouldn’t last a day without her.
Lettie went inside and drew up a long list of grievances against Jeb so she’d be sure to get them all in before he started feeling all over her breasts and belly and messing up her mind. She wrote that he could have only one night out a week, and that he had to stay home on her night out. Along with that, she listed his habits of dropping his socks on the floor, tuning her out when she was giving him what for, not rolling up the tube of toothpaste, insisting on sleeping with the bedroom windows open on cold nights, and leaving the toilet seat up.
“I’ve got a thousand other complaints against you,” she wrote, “things that love don’t cover. And these days, love don’t cover much.” She pinned the note to his pillow, got in bed and went to sleep.
Calloused fingers skimming up and down her arms awakened her around one that morning. She slid further over to the edge of her side of the bed, but Jeb slid over after her. Annoyance shot through her, and after nearly ripping the cover off him, she drew the blanket to herself and curled up with her back to him.
“Haven’t I told you, Jeb Harrison, that thoughts of sex don’t enter my head after ten o’clock at night? And wanting it is out of the question. My clock quits ticking.” She didn’t intend to let him manipulate her.
“Who were you out with?” she asked him. Jeb curled up to her back.
“The boys. You know I hang out with the boys.”
“Doing what? Talking about what?”
Jeb kissed the back of her neck. “Honey, you don’t expect me to remember all that, do you? Nothing. We just talk about…you know… Nothing.”
“Humph. Boys, eh? From what I’ve been hearing, they must’ve vacationed in Denmark.”
“What? What on earth does that mean?”
“I mean if they’re boys it’s because they had a sex change. You don’t expect to have secrets in a town this small, do you? It’s been fifteen years since Martha Brixton left her house, but I’ll bet she can tell me who called here today. You get your act together, mister. If you don’t, I’m hightailing it out of here.”
“What’re you talking about, woman? I was out with the boys, just like I told you.”
Lettie got out of bed, stuck her fists on her hips and glared at him. “Peaches Johnson ain’t no boy, Jeb Harrison. And if you think she is, I’ve got a bigger problem than I thought I had.” Jeb rolled over with his back to her. “Honey, for the Lord’s sake, come on back to bed and quit all that drama. I’m sleepy.” She wanted to take her shoe to his behind, but controlled the urge.
“You just wait,” she grumbled. “This time, I’m not fooling.”
* * *
“What you so down about?” Roxie asked Lettie as they left church the next morning.
“I’m not down, Roxie. I just been makin’ up my mind about things. I’m gonna leave Jeb.”
“Oh hush, girl, you said that before.” Lettie took a tissue out of her purse and wiped the perspiration from her forehead, pushing back the curls of her newly permed hair.
“This time, I mean it. First thing Monday morning I’m packing my bags.”
“I’ll believe that when I see it. You mean tomorrow?”
“I said Monday, didn’t I?”
Roxie slanted her head a little and looked toward the sky. “Yeah, you sure did. But tell you the truth, I don’t believe a word of it. You’re not going to walk out on what you said Jeb’s puttin’ down.”
“He’s not the only man who can put it down.” Lettie thought for a minute. “Maybe that’s Jeb’s problem. Maybe I’ve been making him think he’s Hercules in the sack.” A smile skipped like waves over her face, painting there an expression of sweet remembrance.
“Honey, if he’s not the real thing, I sure don’t want to traffic with reality.”
Remembering her vow, she quickly sobered. “Yes, indeed. First thing Monday morning.”
“I don’t understand you, Lettie. Don’t you remember what happened to Effie Strong? Reverend Lucas got engaged to marry her, and the whole town said she was a whore in her mini skirts and spiked-heel shoes, not fit for a minister’s wife. So he broke the engagement. She sued him, passed a court-ordered virginity test and won a bundle of dough for defamation of character. Don’t listen to everything that falls off the loose tongues in this town.”
“I don’t care what you say. He’s fooling around with Peaches, and I’m leaving him—”
“Yeah. I heard you. First thing Monday morning.”
( Continues in the ebook on Kindle... )
© 2012 All rights reserved. Fire Down Below. Kindle Edition. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Gwynne Forster. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the publisher's written permission. Copyright infringement is a serious offence. Share a link to this page or the author's website if you really like this promotional excerpt.
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by Gwynne Forster
About the Author
Gwynne Forster has many national awards for fiction. She is a national best selling author of forty-five works of fiction, including the latest of her ten mainstream novels, BREAKING THE TIES THAT BIND (winner of the RT Book Review award for best multicultural general fiction novel of 2011) , WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN, A CHANGE HAD TO COME and A DIFFERENT KIND OF BLUES. GETTING SOME OF HER OWN was nominated by RT Magazine for best book of its kind in 2009.
Her series of the Harrington brothers and their family is one of the most popular in romance writing. The fifth book in the series, A COMPROMISING AFFAIR, is in stores now. Ten of her romance novels have won national awards.
She is also winner of the RT Lifetime Achievement Award and is a member of the Affaire de Coeur Magazine Hall of Fame.