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The first four books in the “Cassie” series.
Book One: Cassie’s Space
Meet Cassie, a former wild child, who meets her match, and creates the match of a lifetime. To nearly all who know her now, Cassie is a vivacious, sweet southern lady, who is the epitome of grace and proper behavior. Look a tiny bit closer and you'll see that Cassie has another side - the one whose language could make a sailor blush as she drinks him under the table.
Thanks to her loving husband Tom, who even after thirty years of marriage never hesitates to put Cassie over his knee when she strays too far from his view of ladylike behavior, few people other than close old friends know this side of Cassie exists.
Cassie and Tom show that love and passion are not the sole property of the young. Love and passion grows and changes with age. While aging may bring on challenges, the love and passion between these two people only grows stronger.
Book Two: Cassie’s Tale
Cassie continues to live life to the fullest. From wheeling around in her new sports car to mastering the art of riding a motor scooter with no hands, she manages to keep Tom on his toes. The fly in the ointment is that Tom's firm wants him back for a project and Cassie wants him all to herself. Tom takes the job, leaving Cassie lonely and bored - never a good combination.
Left to her own devices, Cassie makes some poor decisions, frightening Sue and causing Tom to lower the boom. Tom's new schedule for Cassie, including her getting a job, leaves her little time to get herself in trouble - yet she still manages.
Book Three: Cassie on the Move
Cassie's on the move and loving life. Through paint ball game in the woods and water park adventure she's gets to know her new neighbors as the new house is renovated.
Cassie is traveling too, from trips with just the girls, to conventions, vacations, and cruises with Tom and friends, she's always ready for the next adventure. But when Cassie begins having dizzy spells Tom thinks a slower pace is in order. Getting Cassie to slow down and take care of herself proves to be quite a challenge. A challenge Tom is more than determined to take on.
Book Four: Cassie’s River Living
Cassie and Tom are happily settling into River living. Cassie is sure this peaceful new home is enough to keep her out of trouble, but with Sue living there too, staying out of trouble proves just too difficult.
Cassie is further concerned about what relationship advice Tom may be giving Ryan. Overheard conversations and statements from Ryan has her worried that Tom may have shared ideas of adult spanking in his advice to Ryan. But when it seems Allie knows too, Cassie realizes she is going to have to try to explain things more fully. Can Cassie explain their way of life to an eighteen-year-old Allie?
Book One: Cassie’s Space
Have you ever wondered how others view you? I recently had the privilege of accidentally overhearing two ladies discuss me. While I realize most people frown upon eavesdropping, I couldn’t stop my ears from perking up and listening.
“She’s such a lady. Wouldn’t you love to be like that someday, refined, gracious and elegant? I think she could wear a potato sack and still look like a queen. I love to hear her laugh: You can tell she just enjoys herself wherever she is. She’s fun to be around.”
“I think it’s Tom who keeps her so happy,” the other lady chimed in. “He’s pretty darned good looking for an older man. And they are so sweet together. He holds chairs for her, opens the car door even, they hold hands � I think they’re precious. I want to be her when I grow up � the perfect, southern lady.”
As soon as I moved out of earshot I laughed. Never before had I heard such a mixture of tiny bits of truth with the most ridiculous misconceptions in the world. I knew the truth. For much of my life, I do not think people would have used the word “lady” as the first word to describe me. In fact, “lady” may have been way down the list. I might never have made it to that lovely description had I not met Tom Duff. Perhaps these women described the ‘lady’ always buried within me, but Tom gave me the space, protection and courage to allow her to come to the surface. I owe Tom everything.
* * * *
Please forgive me: I haven’t properly introduced myself. My parents christened me Cassandra Jacquelyn Wentworth. A bit pretentious, don’t you think? But my parents were pretentious people. I’m Cassie to those who love me and “Cassie Jane” when I displease Tom. I often think back to our beginning as a couple � so much has happened since then.
I was twenty-nine when Tom came into my life. At that time I found myself often the fifth wheel when I partied with my best friends, Sue and Steve Moore, and Annie and Andy Holmes. Tom joined the firm where Steve and Andy worked. He had known both men for several years, but he had recently moved to our area.
Tom came to a party thrown by their new firm and, as he tells it, he walked in to see a wondrous sight. He saw me dancing, and for a moment, he tells me, all else faded into the background. I suppose I did look pretty good back then. I was young and I had a curvy figure back then when women were supposed to have curves � I had countless hours and money to devote to my wardrobe, make-up and hair. I liked to look good when I went out. But Tom claims my looks alone didn’t attract him. He liked the whole package. He liked the way I danced, the way I smiled and the way I laughed. He tells me he might not have experienced love at first sight, but certainly infatuation. Now I’ll admit the first time I saw him, I felt lust at first sight, but Tom has higher moral fiber.
Tom didn’t approach me at the party. He has always believed in studying a situation before plunging in. So he says he spent the whole party watching me from a distance. He stayed in the background and I never saw him. He noticed several things right away � I drank too much, I could be very forward, and I used unladylike language. After a time, he made his way over to Steve and Andy. Motioning toward me, he asked one question, “Who’s that?”
Both men turned to look at the subject of Tom’s interest and burst out laughing. “That, my friend,” said Steve, “is Cassie, and she’s one of a kind, a very interesting woman. She’s a beautiful, rich widow. Wild as a hare and someone you definitely don’t want to get tangled up with. Men who get involved with Cassie say it’s like cozying up to a wood chipper � she grinds you up and spits you out.” Steve laughed again and shook his head. “Come with me,” he told Tom. “I know a beautiful woman who will suit your taste much more.”
Tom frowned at him and looked back at me. Then he turned to Andy and waited.
Andy laughed, too, but in a much nicer way. “Steve’s not wrong. She’s hard as nails if you cross her: She’s got a temper for sure. But Cassie has a sweet, gentle, loving side, too. I think the temper may just be a cover because she’s scared. I don’t know of what, exactly. We dated for a while and I think the world of her, but I swear dating her is like herding cats. I think she’s obstinate to the point of being self-destructive. I tried to get her to stop drinking one night and instead, she began doing shots. She’s like a kid who won’t turn down a dare. Another time, she and I had a minor disagreement. The next thing I knew, she’d picked up some guy on a motorcycle and taken off with him, her dress hiked up around her ass. Couldn’t find her for two days, then she called Sue to pick her up at the hospital. She had a dislocated shoulder. She never told any of us how it happened, not even Sue. She’s too wild to deal with, Tom. I think she’s determined to kill herself before she’s through.”
Even today, I can just picture the look on Tom’s face at all the tales they told him. But I still wonder what went on in his mind. Why didn’t he run for the hills as fast as he could? Instead he wanted to know more. “You say she’s a widow? She’s young. What happened?”
Steve turned serious for a moment. “Now her husband was a real prick, used to beat the shit out of her. When he died of a heart attack every last one of us wanted to throw a party to celebrate. Left Cassie a ton of money, though. I guess she can party for the rest of her life � however long that may be.”
“How did she end up with him?” Tom wanted to know.
Andy took up the story. “Her loving father picked that sorry asshole for her. The guy was in his forties and Cassie was barely twenty. Her old man wanted a merger with the guy’s company and I think he threw Cassie in to sweeten the pot. That sick old bastard knew the guy beat her and never said a word to him. Once she escaped her family and the abusive husband, I guess she decided she’d take care of herself. I just don’t know if she can keep it up.”
“Quite a story,” Tom mused.
“She’s quite a woman,” Andy agreed. “But honestly, Tom, she’s got more baggage than even you could help carry. She’s not for you. You’ll get hurt. And I don’t want to see that happen.” Andy and Steve wandered off, leaving Tom watching me and thinking of all they had said.
Without even knowing it, I had made an impression on the man I would love for the rest of my life.
Book Two: Cassie’s Tale
“Cassie Jane, where are you?” I heard Tom call. Oh dear, it never bode well for me when he used my middle name.
“Tom,” I called to him from the attic, “I’m up here, honey.”
Tom came to the top of the stairs. “I’ve searched this whole house for you. What are you doing up here?”
“I just finished unpacking and I was putting the bags away.”
“You shouldn’t be carrying those heavy bags up here, I’d have gotten them.”
“Oh hush,” I told him. “I’m not too old to carry some empty suitcases. But once I got here I began looking at a few of our old treasures and lost track of time. Did you need me for something?”
“No, but when I couldn’t find you I was beginning to worry you’d run off and left me.”
I reached up to give him a kiss. “Not likely.” I laughed and we headed downstairs.
I’d been leafing through old pictures and I smiled at the memories. Leave Tom? Of all the worries we may have had over the years, the idea of one of us leaving the other had never been one of them. Tom and I had been married for more than thirty years. He was my world and I knew he felt the same about me. When I thought back over my life, I knew I wouldn’t be alive today if I’d never met Tom.
I’d been married once before, at my father’s insistence, to a man with whom he wanted to do business. I know that sounds crazy now, but I really didn’t have a choice. The man was violent and abusive and I was so young, barely twenty when we married. Five years into the marriage he died of a heart attack. Through what I’m sure he would have felt was poor planning on his part, having not expected to die in his forties, he left his entire estate to me. I realized I was free � free from my uncaring parents, free of an abusive husband, and free to live anyway I chose.
My choice at the time was to dive into life, often without checking the depth of the pool. I lived in the best hotels, ate the finest foods, and drank the most expensive wines. I shopped, traveled and partied with the best of them. To be completely honest, I also slept around a good bit and, according to my two best friends, hooked up with the most horrible men I could find.
Although I thought I was enjoying myself at the time, I have no doubt that had I continued that lifestyle it would have killed me � or some of the men I picked up would have done the job.
Tom was not one of my pick-ups; Tom found me. And through the grace of God alone, he fell in love with me. We married less than three months after we met. Tom’s cocoon of love has surrounded and protected me ever since. But my man is an old-fashioned man. Before we married he explained his ideas of marriage: He was the head of the family and I, as his wife, needed to calm down and let him take care of me. I only had to act like a lady at all times and keep myself safe.
I knew Tom led an orderly, disciplined life. But I admit at that time I wasn’t completely aware just how “disciplined” my life was going to be. We certainly had some rocky times, especially at first, but our love has grown deeper each day. Although I suppose not all our rocky times were so long ago.
A few weeks ago, I confessed to Tom that I’d been writing an online blog about our marriage. I had met some lovely people, but Tom only saw them as “strangers” and he expressed his displeasure so thoroughly, I was sitting sensitively for days. But with much explanation and by letting Tom read all I’d written, I was able to persuade him to let me keep writing.
Coming home from our trip yesterday, I found the most impressive birthday present in the driveway � a beautiful BMW convertible. I’d been begging for a little sports car for years. “The Toy," as Tom dubbed it, is perfect. I know you shouldn’t go to church to show off, but that’s where I’m taking my sleek, sexy looking toy tomorrow. I’m ready to show her to the world.
Coming downstairs, Tom said, “There isn’t much to eat here. Where would you like to go for dinner?”
I really didn’t feel like dressing and going out. I opened the French doors onto the veranda. “Let’s enjoy being home. It’s just cool enough to have a fire out here and we can order pizza.”
It was a perfect evening. We sat together in the big porch swing eating pizza, sipping wine and watching the fire. Then again, any evening with Tom is perfect.
Book Three: Cassie on the Move
The gift of the river house was just the latest amazing gift from my wonderful husband, Tom. He has been surprising me over and over throughout our marriage. Truly the fact that he’s stuck with me for over thirty years may be the greatest surprise of all. Sometimes I think back to when we first met all those years ago. Tom occasionally looks for polite ways to describe the woman I was back then. One word I’ve heard him use was uninhibited. I supposed that was a polite way to put it.
In truth, I was as wild as a hare. I’d had a less than loving upbringing with two cold, uncaring parents. I’d married young, at their insistence, to a horrible man twice my age who was extremely abusive. An unexpected heart attack took his life in his forties and I found myself a wealthy widow at twenty-five.
My parents cut off contact with me once they found I was not inclined to turn the management of my newly acquired fortune over to them, and I decided I would begin enjoying life. And I did. I was like a child turned loose for the first time. I discovered the joys of dating, drinking, shopping, and traveling. I turned this lifestyle into a full time career, and oh my, I was good at it.
During those five years after I became a widow I did much of my traveling and partying with my best friends, Sue Moore and Annie Homes. These wonderful women and their husbands probably kept me from coming to a bad end during that time. With the possible exception of those two loving, loyal women, I listened to no one. I simply did exactly what I wanted.
I was determined to have Tom from the moment I first saw him at a party at Sue’s home, and thanks be to God above, the man fell in love with me. Looking back now, I know it truly was a match made in heaven, but we did butt heads frequently at the beginning, and sometimes still do.
We married barely three months after we met. Tom worried about my wild ways, my excessive drinking, my recklessness, and my less than ladylike vocabulary and manners. Actually, he did more than worry � he put a stop to them. It was a struggle at first. Change is always hard, and we both changed. Tom saw me as the loveliest lady he’d ever met. Bless him, he saw qualities in me I didn’t believe were there. With his old fashioned views of marriage and what you might call a firm hand, he helped me become the lady he had seen all along.
Now I felt we had begun a brand new chapter in our lives. He had given me the house, a place on the river I’d longed for over the years. Now it was ours. I was amazed at the intensity of my excitement. My mind teamed with ideas for the new house, having a place to come right on the river any time we wanted, new scenery, new people. As my mind whirled with plans, the years fell away and I felt like a young bride again.
Book Four: Cassie’s River Living
How many more surprises could I take? I married the best man in the world, Tom Duff, more than thirty years ago. He’s managed to keep me happy, and more than satisfied, all those years. Just over a year ago, Tom bought me a house on the river that was the home of my dreams. The house formerly belonged to friends of ours and we’d often stayed there as guests. When Tom found out the owners were selling, he signed the papers at once and I had a surprise birthday gift like no other. Originally we thought to keep this river house as a weekend get away, but after remodeling and making the house exactly what we wanted, it became our permanent home.
I knew how much I’d love the house, but I never realized what wonderful neighbors I’d have. Kate and Chris Daniels are exceptional people. I had hoped that Kate and I would become close friends, and we are friends, but what I never imagined was the extremely close friendship that developed between their teenage daughter and me. Allie is only seventeen, but we have bonded as true friends despite the fact I’m old enough to be her grandmother.
I felt everything in my little world was wonderful, except for one big old, nasty fly in the ointment: Tom chose to go back to work. Tom supposedly ‘retired’ nearly three years ago. I was so happy. I foolishly believed that meant he wouldn’t be working all the time, and we could spend our time together. Evidently that was not Tom’s definition of retirement. Nearly from the moment he was to become ‘mine’ again, several companies have been on him to take consulting jobs. He’d taken several during those three years, which annoyed me enough, but recently he’d signed on to work again for the foreseeable future.
He tried to get me on board, explaining he’d only be going in three days a week, and that he’d been able to hire anyone he wanted for his team. He went on about an old colleague coming to join him until I wanted to hear no more about it. As it turned out, this was just one more wonderful surprise from my husband.
The old colleague turned out to be Steve Moore, Tom’s best friend. Steve’s wife is Sue � the best friend I’ve had in my life, not counting Tom. I’ve known Sue and Steve since before Tom and I married. They were there for me during my first marriage, a period of my life that was pure hell, as I struggled to survive the abuse of the sick man my father ordered me to marry. Sue and Steve, and another couple Annie and Andy Holmes were my only true friends during that time, and they definitely kept me going.
My first husband died unexpectedly five years into the marriage and these four friends continued their vigil and kept me alive in the years that followed. It was a wild time for me, exciting, fun and often dangerous, as I used my inheritance to party as if there was no tomorrow.
They gave up the full time job of keeping me somewhat reined in when I married Tom, but Sue and Annie are still my closest friends, despite the fact we’ve lived across the country from one another for over fifteen years.
Now Sue and I were to be together again, and not just close, neighbors. Sue and Steve ended up buying the house on the other side of Kate and Chris. The night I found out was one of the happiest nights I can remember. Tom was happy too, but I knew his excitement was tempered by his concern over just what trouble Sue and I could find for ourselves. I suppose some of the stunts we’ve pulled over the years gave him reason for concern. But nonetheless, I was overjoyed with their relocating, and I threw myself into helping Sue get settled.