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Always In My Heart-Chapter 1



Gabriella Carter stepped through the patio door and bounded down the steps and through the garden. She stopped by the concrete wall that surrounded the property. She checked her watch, nearly ten thirty at night. She was tired and tipsy. All she wanted was to go home. Nicole Turner had invited her to this party, and Gabby hadn’t known how to say no. She was more of a homebody, preferring to watch movies than be out all night. But Nicole had insisted. They had met a few weeks ago at the supermarket. Gabby found her attractive and interesting, and didn’t hesitate to give Nicole her phone number. They had texted ever since. This was their first proper date, not the kind of date Gabby would have preferred, but it would have to do.


Nicole was still inside, chatting to one of her friends. Hazel. An involuntary smile came to Gabby’s lips, as she remembered their introduction. Haze was cute, short blonde hair and stunning blue eyes. Gabby’s breath had left her when they shook hands. There was something about the feel of that contact that made tiny sparks zip across her skin. Gabby sighed. She was here with Nicole. We’re not technically girlfriends, but I shouldn’t be out here thinking about someone else.


Gabby tilted her head back to look at the sky, the moon just visible behind the clouds. The chill air did wonders to cool her overheated skin. She took another deep breath, then turned to head back inside. Haze was striding toward her, her intense gaze zeroed in on Gabby.


“Haze, hi.”


There was no verbal response. Haze put one hand on Gabby’s waist, the other on her cheek, and pulled her forward. Gabby didn’t have a chance to react, as Haze’s mouth crashed onto hers. Momentarily stunned, Gabby didn’t move, just allowed Haze to kiss her. Need gave way and Gabby kissed her back. She grabbed Haze’s hips and pulled her closer still. The feel of Haze’s tongue duelling with her own sent a flood of arousal straight to her lace underwear. She had never been kissed like this before, with such passion and urgency. Gabby wasn’t sure how long they’d kissed before Haze’s mouth stilled and left Gabby’s.


“What’s wrong?” Gabby asked, her breath coming in quick gasps.


“We can’t do this.”


“Why not?”


Haze stepped back and ran a hand through her hair, then over her mouth. “You’re here with Nikki.”


“This is our first date. Hardly going out with each other.” Gabby took a step forward to resume the kissing. The feel of Haze would forever be imprinted on her skin, and she needed more.


“No. It’s wrong. She really likes you.”


“Then why did you kiss me?”


Haze shrugged. “I’m drunk.”


“Bullshit.” No one who was drunk could kiss like that. “Haze, it’s okay.”


“No. I’m sorry. I have to go.”


Haze turned and sprinted away. Gabby soon lost sight of her in the crowd by the patio door. She slumped back against the wall, her fingers tracing her swollen lips. She had never been kissed so thoroughly. She was attracted to Haze, no doubt about that. I hope I get another chance to see her. She wasn’t going to let this opportunity get away from her.


“Hey, babe,” Nicole said from beside her. Gabby hadn’t heard her arrive. “What are you doing out here?”


“Just getting some air.”


“You look a little flushed. Are you sick?”


No, just incredibly turned on. “Too much beer, I think.”


“Let’s go then. Don’t want you puking.”


Gabby allowed Nicole to take her hand and lead her through the garden and house, then out the front door. Gabby couldn’t help but look for Haze in the throngs of people, disappointed when she didn’t see her. I guess I’ll see her another time.




Chapter One


“I promise, I’ll be back before the meeting starts.” A bluetooth earpiece captured Gabby Turner’s voice, as she sped along the motorway toward her home on the outskirts of Bristol. “I have to give the assignments back today, so the kids can work on them over the weekend.” She glanced at the dashboard, noting the time on the digital clock. Gabby had taught maths at the local high school for the last five years, a job she loved. Yes, the thirteen-year-olds could sometimes get rowdy and refuse to listen, but mostly they were a good bunch. She enjoyed helping them learn something new. There was nothing better than seeing the pride in a child’s face when they finally grasped the equation they were learning. She was due back at the school in thirty minutes for a staff meeting she couldn’t be late for. It would be one of those meetings where nothing was really said, but the headteacher would drone on for ages about attendances and school spirit and the like. Nothing important, but Gabby knew the head would go crazy if she wasn’t there. Edith Drake was a stickler for the rules. As much as her strict attitude frustrated the staff, Gabby was glad for her leadership. Their school was the highest ranked in the district and the most sought after come enrolment time. Edith had brought the school up to that level and Gabby wouldn’t want it any other way.


“I think Edie wants to ask you to be in charge of tickets sales for the end-of-year play,” Sharon said. “You have to be there.”


“I will. I’m on my street now. It won’t take me two minutes to grab the folder.” Gabby disconnected the call and threw the earpiece onto the passenger seat. She pulled up to the terraced, two-bedroom home she shared with Nicole, frowning at an unfamiliar car. She thought, for a moment, a neighbour might have parked in their driveway due to the lack of parking on the narrow street. Glancing up ahead, Gabby dismissed the idea; the street was practically empty at two thirty in the afternoon.


She got out of the car and peeked through the window of the strange vehicle, not seeing anything of note. A moment of panic surged through her as she looked at her front door. Is this a break in? Are they inside robbing me? Not likely. Gabby and Nicole lived in a modest neighbourhood. Everyone knew their neighbours. The virtually nonexistent crime rate was what sold Gabby on the house in the first place. She wanted somewhere safe to raise a family. This part of Bristol was ideal.


Feeling foolish, she walked up the pathway and unlocked her front door. Nicole’s grey, wool coat hung on the coatrack. She had worn it to work that morning and wasn’t due home until seven that evening. Gabby closed the door quietly, her heart pounding against her ribs. She heard movement from upstairs. The sound of laughter wafted down, and Gabby instantly knew Nicole was there. What startled Gabby was that Nicole wasn’t alone. Another female voice giggled.


“Get over here with that and fuck me till I come.”


Gabby’s hand flew to her mouth to stop the sob from leaving her throat. Her other hand rested against the wall, helping to keep her upright.


“You asked for it, baby,” Nicole replied, her voice husky and dripping in sensuality.


Gabby had heard that voice many times, and it left no doubt in her mind as to what was going on in her bedroom. Gabby slowly made her way upstairs, avoiding the floorboards she knew would creak. Halfway up the stairs, Gabby peeked over the landing into their bedroom. There, stood at the foot of the bed, Nicole was screwing a younger woman who looked to be about twenty-five. Gabby blinked, trying to make the visual disappear, hoping it was a dream. No, it was real.
Nicole was cheating on her.


She carefully made her way down the stairs, her hand going to her stomach. She felt sick, but that wasn’t why her hand went there. The baby had kicked, a common occurrence recently. Gabby had joked that she was brewing a footballer intent on kicking around her internal organs for fun. She was five months pregnant with her first child, one that she and Nicole had planned for years. Nicole had wanted the baby just as much as Gabby did.


How could she cheat on me?


Gabby got out of the house and into her car, pulling away faster than what was considered safe. She stopped a few streets away. Her hands went to her face as she sobbed, her shoulders shaking.


How could Nicole do this to her? They had been married for eight years, known each other for ten. They were happy, in love, hardly ever arguing. How was it possible she hadn’t realised Nicole was cheating on her?


How long has it been going on?


She sat there for a long while, her head spinning with the betrayal she felt. She knew she should have confronted Nicole. I should have stormed up the stairs and slapped her. That wasn’t Gabby’s style. She was kind, gentle, and loving. She didn’t do violence, and she was never any good at confrontation. She started the car again and drove to the only person who would have any idea what was going on. Hazel Evens was Nicole’s best friend.


Gabby paid no mind to the homework she should have collected and the staff meeting she would now miss.


The pounding on her front door startled Haze. Rubbing her eyes to clear them of the last of her sleep, she righted herself on the couch and ran a hand through her short, blonde hair. The pounding came again. “Alright, alright, I’m coming.” She stumbled through the living room to the front door and opened it wide. “Gabby? What are you doing here?” It wasn’t unusual for Gabby or Nicole to just pop over unannounced, but it was very rare for Gabby to show up in the middle of a school day. Haze worked from home as a web designer and rarely left the house, unless she had a client meeting or mundane errands. Those she put off until she absolutely had to do them. No one visited Haze during the workday, which was fine with her. Haze preferred to work late into the night and catch up on sleep during the day.


“Is there anything you want to tell me about Nicole?” Gabby demanded, her tone tinged with anger, her gaze so piercing, Haze thought she could feel it blasting through her skin. She studied Gabby’s bloodshot eyes. Her gorgeous, chestnut curls were a mess, and her lips were set in a thin line. Haze had never seen her look so lost and fuming. Whatever Nikki has done, it’s bad. She shook her head, confused over what was going on.


“What are you talking about? I haven’t seen Nikki in weeks.” This was true. They were best friends, had been since they were four years old, but their schedules tended to clash. Arranging time to get together was hard. Besides that, seeing them so happy and in love wore thin on Haze’s nerves. Perpetually single, Haze was sick of being the third wheel.


“Please, Haze. I need to know if you knew. Please don’t lie to me.”


Haze reached for Gabby’s hand when she saw a tremor steal through her body. She pulled Gabby into the lounge and out of the cold. “Gabby, you’re scaring me. What’s happened?”


Gabby stood in the middle of the lounge, wrapping her arms around her growing bump. Haze’s gaze followed the movement, cursing the fact that Nikki had met Gabby first and it was Nikki’s baby in there, not hers. Haze had been in love with Gabby since the moment she laid eyes on her at that stupid party. Those dark eyes had pulled her in and hadn’t let go in the ten years since. It was the classic cliché, in love with your best friend’s wife. She had worked hard to put those feelings aside, over the years, but they still lingered. Haze was happy for Nikki and Gabby. They had found true love and were making a family together. Seeing Gabby on the verge of crying and so distraught confused the hell out of Haze. In all the years they had been together, Haze had never seen them cross words, even once.


“I just went home to pick up some schoolwork, and I saw Nicole screwing the brains out of some young slut.”
Those words released the tears. Haze stepped forward and took Gabby in her arms, holding Gabby’s head in the crook of her neck. Shaky arms around her waist returned the embrace. Gabby squeezed tight as she cried.


She must be mistaken. There’s no way Nikki would ever cheat on her. Haze had known Nikki for thirty years. In all that time, she had never been one to play around. Nikki had always dreamed of having her own family one day. She didn’t date much. Knowing what it was she wanted in a woman, she didn’t feel the need to go out with someone she knew she wouldn’t have a future with. When Nikki met Gabby, things had clicked straight away. Nikki loved her. No, there’s no way she’d cheat on her.


“Are you sure?” Haze instantly regretted her words. Gabby shoved her away, hard, causing Haze to stumble over her trainers. She landed on the couch she had been napping on not ten minutes before. Haze didn’t need to hear the answer. The fire in Gabby’s glare told her she was crazy to even think she would make this up.


“I came home, walked up the stairs, and saw them. Of course I’m sure.” Gabby took a breath and sat next to Haze, resting her head on the back of the couch. “I can’t believe this. We’re about to have a baby.” She turned her head to look at Haze, her eyes wounded. “How could she do this to me?”


Haze lifted her arm and settled it around Gabby’s shoulder, pulling her close. The scent of her coconut shampoo caused her to falter a moment before replying. Gabby always had this effect on her. It always took Haze a second to centre herself and remember Gabby was off-limits. “I swear I didn’t know. I want to kick her ass for doing this to you.”


“I can’t go back there. Not now I know what’s she’s been doing in our bed.” Her hand settled on her bump, rubbing back and forth. “I’m questioning everything she ever said to me, all her late-night meetings, having to stay over at hotels because conferences ran over and it was too late to drive. Was she cheating on me then? Fucking women while I was at home feeling sorry for her because she had to work so late?”


“Don’t do this to yourself. You’ll make yourself sick.” Haze rested her hand on top of Gabby’s where it still lay on her bump. “You need to think about this little one. Second-guessing everything will stress you out. You need to talk to her—”


“I can’t. I don’t want to see her.”


“I know you don’t, but you need to find out the truth instead of worrying over it.”


Gabby didn’t answer for a long moment. She stared at her stomach, her hand grasping Haze’s. “Can I stay here? Just until I can find somewhere more permanent?”
Haze knew she shouldn’t get in the middle of this. Whatever trouble Gabby and Nikki were getting into was none of her business. But Gabby was her friend too. Haze couldn’t condone what Nikki had been doing, and would let her know that. Right now, Gabby is my concern. Gabby’s eyes were hopeful as she gazed at her. Haze found herself agreeing without hesitation. She would do anything for Gabby.


“You know you can stay here for as long as you want. I’ll get the airbed out and set it up in here. You can take my room.”


“Oh no, Haze. I’m not taking your room from you. I’ll be fine out here.”


“No. You’re pregnant, and you need a proper bed. I’ve slept in worse places.”


Gabby stared at her for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. Would you mind if I laid down now? I’m exhausted after all this and just want to rest for a while.”


“Of course. Come on.” Haze stood and helped Gabby from the couch. She led her down the hallway. “I’ll just change the sheets.”


“This is fine, you’re the cleanest person I know.”


That was true, being at home all day allowed Haze the time to keep her two-bedroom apartment spotless. Cleaning was a good way of destressing and helped clear her mind when she was stuck on a particular design she couldn’t get right.


“All right.” Haze closed the blinds and pulled back the duvet, while Gabby kicked off her shoes and removed her jumper, leaving her in just a tight T-shirt and her trousers. She slipped into bed and pulled the duvet over herself. Haze made her way to the door. “I’ll be in the office if you need anything.”


“Actually, do you mind staying a while? I don’t want to be alone.”


Haze only hesitated a second before settling on the bed, back up against the headboard. Gabby rolled over and flung her arm around Haze’s waist, her head settling on her jean covered thigh.


“Thank you.”


“No problem.”


As Gabby drifted off, Haze’s thoughts turned to Nikki. She couldn’t reconcile the woman she knew and loved like a sister to the cheater she so obviously was. How did I miss it? Casting her mind back over the years, not once could she think of a time when Nikki had lied to her. Nikki had never seemed distant or as though she were hiding something. She must have done this sort of thing before. The odds of getting caught the first time were rather slim. To be so brazen as to have an affair in your own home took guts and planning. Someone starting an affair wouldn’t do that, would they? Haze couldn’t come up with any answers. Her loyalty to Nikki was dwindling. She looked down at Gabby, softly snoring next to her. Yes, her loyalty to Nikki had vanished the moment Gabby told her what she saw. Haze’s only concern was for Gabby and her unborn baby. Whatever excuse Nikki came up with wouldn’t ever be good enough to do this to someone as sweet and loving as Gabby. Only a fool would betray her like that. Gabby was precious, the most honourable and caring woman Haze had ever known. Again, she cursed the fact Nikki had met her first. Haze would never have done what Nikki did to her.


Without meaning to, Haze’s eyes drifted shut. Soon, she too fell asleep.




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