BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES
Sunny Gail Briscoe is loved by her famous childhood sweetheart,country music star, Zane Winters. He brought her back to him by recording her original song, "For the First Time". The song was about his betrayal of their youthful love but only the two of them knew that part of the story.
Sunny is now an undercover, VIP bodyguard, hired to protect Zane from an escalating stalker. When he proposes marriage at a Country Music Awards program on stage, conflict reigns. They win the Country Music Video of the Year for "The First Time" which they recorded together. Their lives are plunged into havoc when the stalker tries to punish Zane by attempts to kill Sunny, believing her to be his intended bride.
Their lives are further complicated by the appearance of the man from Sunny's past who was the "main character" in her song. "The man who stirred her body and her soul, when she experienced love for the first time.
As the danger escalates it will touch the lives of their extended families and threaten their personal and professional futures with the revelation of a "secret love child."
As the reader you may cry for the heartbreak of young love betrayed, cheer the triumph of single parenting, relate to the ultimate tests of friendships, bow to the wisdom of family, mentors, and applaud the victory of the love child finding their way in the world. Ultimately, bond with a "woman's woman" who brings dignity as she brings justice, and lives her life without apology. Meet the men who love her equally, but cannot share her.
A word from the "Author from the Grassroots,Joyce Godwin Grubbs.
In this suspenseful and romantic accounting of power and destiny, true love comes together through faith, an abundance of humor and determination. Even wrongs are made right. This story of loss brought full circle, is shared through endearing and enduring characters to be carried forward in the readers' heart. Grandma Lady,Jim Kent, Shiloh, Zane Bennett, and Stormy will render your hearts committed to looking at people and their circumstances forever in a new light.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you tonight’s winners of the Country Music Video of the Year, Mr. Zane Winters and Miss Sunny Gail Briscoe”.
Zane was escorting Sunny to the stage, though in truth it was more like being dragged. She had surrendered to his pleadings that she attend the award ceremony with him, but steadfastly made it clear; she would not go up on stage to accept the award with him. Her focus now, needed to be on how to look confident, relaxed, and not fall on her face in five-inch heels.
“Thank you, thank you every one.” Zane was waving like the pro he was as he spoke to the enamored audience. “ I would first like to thank the person who wrote my hit song and inspired the video. There is no doubt, it would not exist today without her. Miss Sunny Gail Briscoe”.
The thunderous applause was unnerving, not because of it’s volume, but because Sunny, being such a private person, avoided crowds and adulation of any kind. This was overwhelming to a true, born and bred, country girl. Only the sight of Zane and his happiness made this moment bearable as he continued.
“If I may ask your indulgence as an audience, I know Sunny won’t utter a sound while she’s up here. It’s just her way. I think now would be a good time to take advantage of the situation. I’d like to do a little something I learned from Johnny Cash when he pursued June Carter Cash for a number of years and was unsuccessful in getting her to marry him. He asked her on stage, in front of their fans. So, here goes.”
“Sunny Gail Briscoe, I have proposed to you every year since you were eighteen and you have said no. I am asking you again, right now, in front of all of these fine folks. Consider that I have loved you from the first time I saw you, and I love you now unconditionally. Will you do me the honor of marrying me?”
The crowd was on their feet clapping and chanting in unison, “You can do it”.
Sunny’s head was spinning. This could not be happening. He wouldn’t dare put her in this spot, but he had. She gave him a look that warned him that pay backs are hell; but the mischievous glint in his eye showed he was not backing down. The moment seemed to take on a life of it’s own. How was she going to handle this? Sunny moved toward him smiling. The crowd became even more boisterous in their support of the effort. Putting her hands on either side of his face, she whispered in his ear, where upon he turned to the audience with a grin splitting across his face.
“She didn’t say no” he yelled.
Hurriedly, he took her in his arms and silenced any retort with his passionate and familiar kiss. It was the kind that she knew was one of triumph. She gave him a look which conveyed her message of “later”, and hoped he’d get this whole affair over with in a hurry.
Zane grinned and it was the only forewarning she had that he had not finished with the night’s surprises. “I have been asked by the CMA to perform the award winning song we based the video on. So for the first time, performing live and on stage together, I present the team of “Skinner Beggs” singing, “For the First Time”.
Now Sunny was stunned as she comprehended the meaning of the announcement. He expected her to sing with him in public. Not only sing, but sing the song that she had written from her heart that changed her life forever. What the hell was he thinking? He had even used their old made up name, Skinner Beggs, from when they were kids and used to perform. No doubt, it was to make her remember and to be partners; like when they were growing up.
The orchestra was already cued up and began to play the introduction. She looked into his eyes expecting to see the wicked look of victory he usually displayed when he defeated her at a challenge; Instead there was a look almost begging her to join him. His imploring look was one he rarely used, and only if it really meant something to him. Lifting his microphone, and continuing his imploring look for her to join him, Zane began to sing.
“For the first time,
it was schemes and dreams and needs,
For the first time, we had planned our touch
and knew our needs”.
Sunny found herself raising a microphone someone placed in her hand.
“Our first touches,
our kisses and our place,
But when it happened,
I wasn’t looking at your face”.
Together they sang on,
“Now it’s his touch,
that haunts our memories,
Keeping us far apart,
with his grip upon our hearts”
Thankfully at that moment, the video cut in on the large screens on stage and the sound of those pre recorded voices took over, so no one heard Sunny’s voice break, unable to continue. They also never heard Zane’s emotional voice as he whispered in her ear.
“Sunny, let’s break his grip. Marry me. For real.”
The audience was back on it’s feet applauding and then Zane and Sunny lifted their award in unison. As the last refrains and frames of the video played, they left the stage and headed to the off stage news interviews.
“Zane, Zane, over here. Is it true you and Sunny are going on a week long cruise promoting your new CD and your hit single?”
“Yes, we’re leaving tomorrow morning and will be aboard “The Tribute”. It’s a great new liner making her maiden voyage. We’ll be traveling with several celebrities from the Country music field, and we’re looking forward to a little R&R while we’re board.”
“Sunny, why haven’t we seen you before? Where does he keep you hidden”.
“If I told you, I couldn’t hide there.” she quipped.
“Have you set a date?”
“I’m not sure she has even absorbed she’s going to marry me, yet. Let’s let her catch her breath.”
The interviews seemed to go on forever, and it was an exhausted Sunny that arrived back at the hotel with Zane. They entered the suite laughing, and Sunny was in a state of forgiveness, which boded well for his plans for the rest of the night.
“Sunny, I know your rules, but how about sleeping with your fiancee tonight? It’s not like it would be the first time. No pun intended.”
Sunny looked at him and knew he was trying to appear very nonchalant and open to the suggestion, but she could read this man after all these years on and off together. He needed her and it was written on his face. She had needs to, and she did love him, so it took only the slightest hesitation on her part to give him hope; then the barest start of a smile, to have him grab her up and swing her in his arms and head for the bedroom.
The sight of the bed stopped them cold. A beautiful Victorian china doll, lay in the middle of the pillows with what appeared to be blood smeared on it, and a knife had been plunged into it’s chest. A note attached to the doll’s dress read; “There will be no first time married, the last time will happen first.”
Zane put her down and they stood looking at the ominous sight of a stalker’s warning.
Sunny’s assessment was grim. “Well, at least we know the reason why I’m here still exists. There’s no doubt, whoever the stalker is, has access, intent and now has escalated.”
“Sunny, you know I didn’t want to bring you into this. I think it’s too dangerous. I think we need to rethink this plan before the ship.”
“We’ve been over this, Zane. We staffed it with the agency, and even Tucker and Mandeana think it makes sense for me to be the decoy. No one knows you better; and no one could dispute our relationship if they ever track me. They won’t be able to track me to the Twyner Agency as a bodyguard, as I’m one of the shadow division for underground and anonymous assignments. It’s perfect. And I’m in no more danger than one of my counterparts would be.”
“Sunny, if anything ever happened to you, what would be the point in living? You know I meant every word I said tonight. It’s time to get past all that’s held us apart all these years, and get on with our lives. We need to be together. As man and wife.”
“Some one’s at the door. I’ll check it. It should be your new security that is going with us.” Following security procedures, Sunny opened the suite door and admitted a stunning red head dressed in formal attire.
“I have to tell you, I am loving this assignment. Our agency wouldn’t even have to pay me. Congratulations you two, on the award and the engagement. I’m Mona Powers. ”
Sunny looked at the congenial red head and thought that she was perfect for the assignment. She was from a different security agency than Sunny worked for. It was a deliberate attempt to double secure the situation and keep certain details undercover. Mona was to know about the stalker that Zane had been dodging, and she would be privy to all the details; except for the fact that Sunny was really undercover as Zane’s fiancé through the Twyner Security Agency .
“Glad you’re here. There’s been another contact, but this one is in house, and personal.”
They walked to the bedroom and Mona examined the threat. The camera she pulled out of her bra was very small but digital and showed the resulting pictures clearly. She photographed the scene and told them she would handle the contact with the FBI for evidence collection and processing.
Sunny and Zane went into the living room of the suite and sat together on the couch. They reviewed the plan and the events leading up to tonight’s incident. It was something many celebrities went through, but it was becoming a real threat. The FBI profiler, thought the stalker could go either way, by harming Zane or his love interest.
The plan was simple. After the last few months of small innuendos and calls, the stalker had escalated steadily. It was decided to try to smoke the stalker out in a contained environment. Thus, the cruise ship with plenty of security and opportunity for the stalker. The cruise had been well advertised in advance so the stalker could make themselves available for close contact.
“Zane, Sunny, I spoke with my agency, and they have a contingency plan on the table. The security chief of our company has decided to make this a personal assignment. Aside from being a big fan of yours Zane, he feels he and I can travel as a couple on the ship and keep elbow to elbow, so to speak, with you two at all times. It increases our opportunity to intercept any direct threat.”
“Great, I’m all for maximum security where Sunny is concerned. I can’t tell you how impotent I felt walking in that bedroom and feeling they could have done this with us in the bed. God, when I think of what could have happened.”
“I just want to point out that when Zane said he felt impotent walking into that bedroom, it was just a figure of speech. That was not what I was feeling from him” Sunny mischievous smile and humor achieve its goal to make everyone take a deep breath and move on.
Sunny was grinning and with her usual pattern of levity and seeing the glass half full. She tried to redirect some of Zane’s stress about the level of danger. She looked at Mona who took her lead.
“I am sure that goes without saying.” She too grinned and looked at Zane who managed to be embarrassed by the two women. He thought it spoke well of the compatibility of the three of them working together. It would be reassuring if everyone was in sync and on the same wave length in these efforts.
“Zane, why don’t you go lie down in my room. You have appearances on the networks early morning programs, and I need to go over things with Mona and the agent the feds are sending over. ”
Zane flashed her an impudent look which conveyed to her he knew that meant he would sleep alone tonight. He also knew in light of the circumstances, it made sense. He had looked forward to finally having her in his arms again, and he thought he had a shot at getting her to commit to a real engagement. Anything to end this stalemate that had gone on for so long.
“Good night then. I trust you’ll be tucking me in at some point” he offered with a grin engaging Sunny’s eyes directly.
“He’s a good man, but a man. You know what they say, Mona. "Men. Can’t shoot ‘em, and can’t shoot ‘em.”
Sunny's suggestion caused Zane to retreat quickly into the available bedroom. Zane was being obliging for now, but Sunny knew from past history they needn’t think they could put anything past him
When Zane Winters wanted his way, he usually got it.