Solomon Greene made a deal with God.
If He’d send him an unattractive woman, he’d marry her on sight and do what was spiritually right. After all, he needed that kind of wife to help him escape from his sordid past.
Celeste Martin made a deal with Solomon. She’d be his ugly wife. All she wanted in return was his name. She was in love with her sister’s fiance and he would be the only man she’d ever love.
Solomon had no idea that he’d find his wife fascinating. Celeste didn’t know that one taste from her husband’s lips would have her wanting more. Yet many strange women were between them.
Could Solomon ever escape from his past?
Could Celeste ever love her husband?
“What! He married you because he thought you were ugly? Icy, are you serious?”
“Wholly,” Celeste responded to her sister Leah as they sat in the kitchen eating her sister’s homemade crumpets. They were in Columbus, Ohio, a few hours’ drive from Mr. Greene’s home in Michigan. Although they could have easily driven back to the house, Mr. Greene scheduled a flight from Columbus to Detroit, where his driver would meet them.
“And you married him?” Leah’s voice screeched like an antique record, and her eyes grew to the size of pincushions. Celeste had a fanciful notion they were set to fall out. She didn’t answer but took another sip of her tea.
After a few moments, Celeste heard Leah sigh. “Icy, you gotta be kidding me.”
“These are exquisite, Blaze,” Celeste remarked as she took a bite of her crumpet.
“I’m glad you like them. You’re the only one who eats them.” Leah leaned back in the chair and folded her arms. “Since we’ve gotten that useless comment out of the way, answer my question.”
Celeste continued to chew as she studied her sister. Blaze had everything she didn’t. She had accepted it some time ago. Very pretty, her sister possessed the subtle blend of baby innocence enhanced by adult maturity. One admirer compared her to a mythical Pillsbury Doughgirl with stilettos.
No one had ever taken a second glance at Celeste. Instantly she stopped that train of thought and allowed a mental picture of ice to freeze over it.
“I have my reasons,” Celeste finally remarked.
With a sense of detachment, she watched as Leah pulled at her curls in a manner of frustration and howled a groan. “Icy, for Pete’s sake, just tell me!”
“I don’t intend to, dear sister.”
Solomon had forgotten houses could be so small.
In the Martins’ living room, the coziness of the place enveloped him. His family home loomed like a giant hidden in the forest. Huge with the living areas divided into suites. What the Martins’ home lacked in size was made up in the warmth that exuded from it. Pale blue walls with white trim gave the living room a happy, carefree feel. To his left, an L-shaped creamy white sectional surrounded a glass table topped with a vase of fresh flowers, and an unlit fireplace to his right. He saw a number of pictures interspersed with various knickknacks on the mantle. He sauntered over and studied it.
One picture showed a young woman with caramel baby skin, thick curly hair, and chocolate chip eyes. She had a bright smile, and it blazed from the photograph. Juicy. I wonder what she would be like.
Stop it, Solomon! You have your wife. That was the deal, correct?
He pinched his nose and sighed. He took off his jacket, placed it in the crook of his arm, and jammed his hands into his pockets.
A picture of a young Celeste caught his eye. Not much to look at even as a child. She could have stepped off the set of The Big Valley. Two long braided ponytails nestled on either side of her head. Once again, she was dressed in pioneer clothes, her face devoid of expression.
Does she ever smile? he wondered.
“Are you my son-in-law?” a woman’s voice said from behind him.
He turned and looked down and saw the modern version of a hobbit.
An older woman with toffee-colored skin met his gaze. Her black hair streaked with gray was neatly styled in a French roll. Milk chocolate eyes crinkled and blazed with vibrancy as they assessed him. Her nose turned up at the tip. A beautiful smile made her thin lips attractive. She wasn’t a slender woman but nicely shaped in a motherly way, dressed in a light blue dress and sandals.
“Are you my mother-in-law?” Solomon asked as he bent to give her a hug, inhaling a flowery scent.
“I certainly am. Though I must tell you, I was surprised to find out my dear Celeste had gotten married. I can’t possibly understand why she would marry a complete stranger in a matter of days. I know sometimes that it can happen—one can find true love in a matter of minutes and know instantly he or she is the right one.” For the next five minutes, Mrs. Martin babbled on. Before she finished, he’d hear about two different couples, eight children, and a bear. How all of it related to his and Celeste’s marriage was anyone’s guess.
“Why’d you marry my Celeste anyway?” The question came at the end of her soliloquy.
Solomon rocked back on his heels. He’d have to be very careful how he answered the question too. It would have to be as succinct as possible without giving too much away. He felt shame wash over him as he realized the fact if his mother-in-law knew why he married her daughter, she’d give him an earful. “She was the answer to my prayers.”
I prayed to God for an ugly wife, and I got one.
“Are you a church man, son?”
“Not until lately, Mrs. Martin.” Not until three days ago, mother-in-law.
“Well, I’m glad to hear that at least. My Celeste is not a real church-goer herself. I raised her like I did my other daughter, but one has to make up one’s own mind. I remember when—”
“Is this my son-in-law, Brenda sweet?” a frog-like voice croaked.
Solomon lifted his head at the masculine tone. A tall older man dressed casually in a pair of black jeans and a polo shirt gazed at him. Celeste shared her father’s complexion. He had shoulders like a linebacker and a small afro. His face could have been carved out of granite and just as expressionless except for his eyes. Underneath a pair of thick eyebrows, the coffee-colored eyes glittered with bone-penetrating scrutiny.
“Hello, Mr. Martin.” Solomon reached out to shake the man’s hand.
Mr. Martin didn’t take his hand but left it suspended in the air.
Surprise swept through his body. He hardly expected hostility of any form. He had married their daughter, hadn’t he? It didn’t take long for anyone to know his wife was a bit of an oddball without her daily habit of dress-up.
“I will be upfront with you. The fact you’re my daughter’s husband means little. I don’t know you, Solomon Greene. I am extremely skeptical of a man who marries a woman after a week and does not have the decency to meet her family. And you expect me to shake hands with you? You are mistaken. However, I will give you the benefit of the doubt. You must have some sort of feelings for my daughter, and as such, you will have to earn my respect. My daughter deserves a very special man, and I don’t believe it is you. Only time will tell.”
Solomon felt his eyebrows take residence in his hairline, and he withdrew his hand as it began to tingle from the lack of circulation. This man had to be out of his mind. He should be on his knees thankful he’d even had a husband for his daughter.