Pearls of Pleasure – September 24, 2012 – ISBN: 9781301892068
Fireman David Coffey and his childhood sweetheart, Gwen, had the perfect marriage—until a deadly blaze almost cost them everything they cherished and left their small town in mourning.
Three years later, David is recovered from his injuries and back at work, trying to move on. But Gwen is falling apart. Debilitating panic attacks strike whenever they make love, driving her away from David and threatening the heart of their relationship.
Gwen's escalating fears land her on the therapist's couch at David's insistence, but as they struggle toward a solution, one question burns in their minds—will the doctor's sensual treatment plan save their once fiery passion, or will the flames of Gwen's fear devour their sex life and incinerate the bonds of their marriage?
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"Chantilly White has done it again. . . you can't help but loving these characters, and Ms. White pulls you deep into their story and has you rooting for them from her opening page. . . I definitely cannot wait for her next book." ~Carol Hughes, author and instructor
". . . I cried at their pain and laughed at their gentle teasing. Once again, Ms. White delivers to her readers a tremendously emotionally satisfying ending." ~Amazon reviewer
"This was a much 'bigger' book than Ms. White's previous two. . . it was also much more emotionally intense. . . The love between these two characters is amazing and inspiring. I highly recommend this third book by Ms. White and once again eagerly await her next." ~ Amazon reviewer
Extra Info For Pearls of Pleasure:
Pearls of Pleasure is a story of the struggle between a husband and wife to save their marriage after one tragic night changes everything.
Gwen Coffey: An artist and teacher, she is married to her childhood sweetheart, David Coffey, a fireman who was seriously injured on the job. She is suffering delayed-onset panic attacks as a result of the fire her husband nearly died in.
Secret fear: That her panic attacks will continue to worsen until she completely drives David away.
David Coffey: David is a firefighter with the Big Bear Lake fire department. He was seriously injured in a fire that claimed the lives of his two best friends, Scott and Tony, three years prior to the opening of the novel (alluded to in the prologue.)
Secret fear: That Gwen's "panic attacks" are an excuse to avoid intimacy with him because she is repulsed by his scars from the fire.
Julie Carlisle: Gwen's best friend and widow to David's best friend, Scott, who died in the fire in which David was injured.
Biggest regret: That Scott didn't live to see his sons grow into men. She is determined to keep him present in their lives and raise them to honor his memory and sacrifice.
Dr. Ernest Sloan: The therapist Gwen and David see for help in overcoming the panic attacks Gwen suffers.
Philosophy: Healing takes guts and determination. He doesn't believe in babying his patients—they're going to actively work toward recovery, or else.
Settings & Locations
The primary locale for the novel is Big Bear Lake, California. Other places mentioned or traveled to include Highland, CA, San Bernardino, CA, Costa Mesa, CA, Riverside, CA and Victorville, CA.
Big Bear Lake: A small lake resort town in the San Bernardino mountains, Big Bear Lake, CA, is a popular all-season tourist location, but is especially popular in winter for the skiing available.
South Coast Plaza: Gwen and her friend Julie take a trip to South Coast Plaza, a popular, upscale shopping mall in Costa Mesa, CA.
Big Bear Lake, California ~ September, 2009
Gwen Coffey hugged her secret to herself like a warm, fluffy blanket. One covered in bouncing baby bunnies and sweet little kittens with drippy milk mustaches. She didn't have a fluffy, oh-so-cute blanket, though, so she hugged the sofa pillow instead, and grinned like a fool.
Tomorrow. She would tell David tomorrow, and watch his sapphire eyes light up like Christmas, New Year's and the Fourth of July all rolled into one. He'd be off-shift for a few days, and they could celebrate in style.
She'd make a special dinner—prime rib, that was his favorite—and wear something lacy and see-through and absolutely useless for anything but ripping off. And later. . .
Her belly quivered, just thinking of the hours they'd spend in their bed, enjoying a more intimate celebration. The way he would run his hands over her skin.
The pleasure they'd share.
A jaw-cracking yawn interrupted her musings, and that made her smile, too. Her cheeks ached from smiling so much, smiling nonstop for the past two days, but it was impossible to quit. It was a wonder David hadn't clued in already. Even the dragging fatigue couldn't dim her joy.
Snuggling further into the sofa pillows, she spun fantasies full of fun while the sunlight lazed across the floor in a slow-moving arc—family gatherings, shopping excursions, trips to the zoo.
That was for later, though. For now, they had so much to do, so many changes to make. So many people to tell. They could take her famous banana muffins to the firehouse and announce it to everyone. David would strut like a peacock, she had no doubt. She laughed to herself, picturing the scene.
Maybe Julie and Scott and Tony and his new girlfriend could come over for dinner next week, too, and she could start pumping Julie for tips.
She yawned again. She'd have to make some lists. Plan a few menus. . .
Drifting to sleep with a smile still curving her lips, Gwen slid warmly into dreams. Strong arms came around her and held her tight. Safe and secure in the place she most wanted to be, always, nestled in her husband's embrace. Their dream-fingers entwined lazily, and their voices, though indistinct, rumbled in comfortable murmurs. David's deeper tones blended with her lighter ones, forming their own special, familiar music. She floated through the dream, cocooned in a cloud of soft contentment.
The sirens woke her. She came out of the dream slowly, disoriented by the late nap, and sat up on the couch, pushing the heavy length of her hair out of her face. She felt fuzzy and gummy and a little nauseous.
Padding to the kitchen for a glass of water, she stood at the sink, sipping slowly to rinse the cottony coating out of her mouth. A wave of dizziness swept over her and she swayed, grabbing the edge of the counter to right herself.
"Whoa," she said. "That's new."
Belly rolling uneasily, she made her way out to the deck for some fresh air. The lake was still as glass in the late-afternoon light, the only ripples flowing from a family of ducks passing by the end of their dock.
Slow, deep breaths seemed to help her equilibrium. She stretched lightly, side to side, changing hands with the water glass as she moved.
Sirens sounded again, drawing her eyes to the left and over the tops of the trees toward town.
Black smoke boiled into the sky in thick, curling clouds. Black and oily and heavy, smoke only a building fire could produce. It was hell smoke, shot through with deep red flames.
And David—David was working.
The back of her neck prickled and goose bumps shot across her skin, making her shiver. Sending a quick prayer heavenward for David and his fellow firefighters, she hoped they'd contain the blaze quickly, before any people or any more buildings were jeopardized.
She couldn't smell it yet, or taste the acid of it on her tongue. The breeze blew the spiraling smoke away from her for now, but it wouldn't be long before the searing brimstone of it overwhelmed the wind and swept over the lake.
Gwen tamped down the usual urge to go investigate, to hover, just as she tamped it down every time her husband worked a blaze. She'd do more good at home, preparing for his return and staying out of their way at the scene.
Later—later, she and Julie would take food to the station.
David would be tired when he got home. He'd be hungry. He'd. . . he'd—a brutal pain stabbed into her chest, making her gasp, and the dizziness swooped over her once more.
Shaking it off, a hand to her chest, she struggled to draw a deep breath. The pain faded slowly. She rubbed the ache over her heart and strove to regain her train of thought.
Food. She'd been thinking about food.
Her belly rolled again. Maybe something more bland than the spaghetti with meat sauce she'd originally intended.
Mentally adjusting their dinner plans, Gwen had half-turned to go back into the house when the explosion sounded. The boom of it shook the ground, the house, rattled the windows. It startled the birds from the trees and sent the ducks flapping across the lake.
The churning cloud of deep black smoke tripled in size in an instant and violent, multi-hued flames spewed into the sky like lava.
But it was the second, sharper pain arrowing into her heart that had the water glass slipping from her fingers to shatter at her feet.
And she knew.
And she began to run.
And she began to scream.
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