Veronica Shay was born in my imagination more than two years ago. Today, the final installment of her love story hits the shelves of digital bookstores everywhere.
It’s bittersweet for me. I rejoice in the birth of another book into the wide world (and hopefully into the hands, heads and hearts of hundreds of readers). But it’s also a goodbye.
If you’ve been following Ronnie and Marcus’ romance, grab your copy of the final chapter now.
Maybe you’re new to the world of Sharon Hughson. Let me introduce you to my friend (and ofttimes nemesis) Veronica Shay. She had a little problem at her sister’s wedding (now that’s a story no one has read…and I have a surprise for you) and it sent her straight to Virtual Match. Anything to stop the well-meaning set-ups and continual nagging of her family—especially her mother.
You can read all about that in Reality Meets its Match.
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a romance if Ronnie kept her Virtual Match at arm’s length. Things get real for her and Marcus in Reality Bites. And if the title doesn’t give you a clue, I can tell you reality slams Marcus and Ronnie hard in the second installment.
Grab your copy of Reality Bites now.
Marcus pulled Ronnie against his side, and she nestled under his arm like a kitten seeking warmth. His hand squeezed her waist while his chin tapped the top of her head.
“Thanks for coming.” Her voice was hushed, as if a normal tone might wake the babies.
“Stop thanking me. I wouldn’t have let you come alone.”
An independent part of her raised its back at what sounded like overbearing words. Ronnie shoved the ire away. Marcus wanted to take care of her in the same way she wanted to take care of her brother.
Movement beyond the second nursery caught her eye. A dark-haired man stood up, his face covered by a mask and body engulfed in a yellow paper gown: her brother. He spoke with a nurse before walking out of sight.
Ronnie scanned for an exit, shuffling toward the nurse’s station visible through the nursery’s glass wall. She drew slightly away from Marcus, preparing to be strong for Tony.
Her brother was discarding the paper robe and mask when she rounded the corner. He swiveled toward her with military precision and wrapped her in his arms.
“How is Jen?” Ronnie pulled away slightly and watched his face for tells. Dark circles smudged his eyes and wrinkles drew his mouth into a firm line.
“Stable. She lost a lot of blood, but they saved her uterus.”
Ronnie had been reading about placenta previa and the related side effects during the flight. About five percent of women needed a hysterectomy to staunch the blood flow associated with the misplaced placenta. As much as Tony wanted to father a son, it would have been heartbreaking for them if this was their only child.
“She’s plugged into a breathing machine and hooked to a dozen different monitors. Most of her vitals are good, but she didn’t breathe on her own at delivery.”
A girl. This tiny one didn’t know how lucky she was to have a loving, protective father watching over her. A tug in her chest distracted. Was she wishing for a father? The one who sired her had walked away, and the replacement her mother chose had done unspeakable things.
She shook her head, tucking a strand straying from her upswept hair behind her ear. That was old news. This was the future.
Ronnie squeezed her brother’s fingers. “What can I do for you?”
“Are you ready to sleep?” Ronnie peered into the tired lines of his drawn face. The adrenaline she imagined fueling him all day had run out, but behind the hazel eyes like hers, she saw anxiety, and she’d been reading those eyes for three decades.
“How about a walk?”Tony says this?No, Ronnie. I think I fixed it…
Ronnie wasn’t sure if it would help him, but anything had to be better than sitting in a hospital room.
Marcus squeezed her waist. Ronnie glanced up at him, breath catching at the tender look in his cobalt eyes.
“I’ll book a nearby hotel.” It was the one thing he hadn’t done in advance since they might have stayed at the hospital with her brother. Marcus wouldn’t expect to share a room with her and understood she wanted to pay her own way.
Ronnie rose on her toes and nearly touched his ear with her lips. His indrawn breath made her heart vault against her chest.
His eyes widened. She pressed her lips to his in a perfunctory kiss then turned to thread her arm through Tony’s.
“There’s a waiting room down that hall.” Tony gestured to the opposite side of the nurse’s station.
As he navigated the maze of halls to another bank of elevators, Ronnie fell into step with her brother. On the ground floor, he led her into a walled-in garden. Their shoes thumped against the paved path around the edge. Minutes passed in silence, and she drew a deep breath of temperate air, so different than the chill moist air near her apartment.
“Greg and Angie will be down tomorrow.”
“When’s Mom going to be here?”
“Dennis wanted to drive over and stay through the holidays.”
The holidays? It was nearly three weeks until Christmas. Ronnie shook her head and drew a breath to comment.
Tony continued. “She doesn’t want to fly in case she has an episode. It embarrasses her to lose control of her limbs.” He sighed. “While Dennis relayed their plans, she never stopped blathering about this being the only grandchild she’ll ever meet.”
Ronnie hugged his arm. The firm bicep bulged beneath her fingers, reminding her of Marcus’s very un-engineer-like arms. She pushed thoughts of him away. He was a distraction, and she needed to focus on her family. Hadn’t she told him as much on Sunday?
If she could shake her mother right now, Ronnie would do it. Couldn’t she see that Tony needed encouragement? Obviously, this terminal illness was going to exacerbate her mother’s self-centered tendencies.
“How can I help?” Please don’t say handle, Mom. But, she would do it if that’s what he needed.
Tony stopped walking and faced her. A desolate look stared back at her. “I don’t know how to be a good father. How could I? I never had one.”
Ronnie’s stomach nosedived into her feet. The truth was too much of a burden for her brother, which is why she had kept her secret for so long.
“Stop.” Her voice broke. She stiffened her spine and squinted at him. “You are three times the man of anyone who ever claimed to be your father.”
His ragged breaths did nothing to cool Ronnie’s flaming cheeks. If she could go back, she wouldn’t tell him anything.
STILL not sure if this series is for you? Check out this review of Reality Ever After.
Remember how I mentioned Ronnie’s sister’s wedding? Well, I’ve written a short story recounting that delightful event. If you want to read it, FIRST sign up for my newsletter.
Once you’re a subscriber, drop me a quick email (info at sharonleehughson dot com) to say you’ve subscribed and you would LOVE to see how Ronnie was driven to the desperate place of hiring an invisible boyfriend.
I hope to hear from you very soon!