3 years ago
“You forgot to mention that you’re married.” Lauren holds her phone up as she pulls the sheet over her tits. When I glance at her screen, the “about” page of Walker Industries is pulled up. Two faces smile back at me from the picture. Mine and Whitney’s.
The picture was taken almost five years ago, and yet my wife looked just as beautiful yesterday morning when I left the house.
An aching heaviness pulls at my chest. Where has the delight gone? I used to enjoy thinking of Whitney while I was in the arms of another woman. I sometimes even called her face to mind in the peak of ecstasy. The resulting rage made my orgasm much more potent. But lately, that rage has cooled, and I know what awaits me.
I’ve been fighting it off since that December morning twelve years ago when Whitney confessed her affair. It’s always lingering in the distance, ready to pounce when I let my guard down. It jerks me awake in the middle of the night, ready to wrap its wiry fingers around my throat.
I knew this day would come, and yet I’m still unprepared for it. A part of me wants to head home right now and throw myself at Whitney’s feet.
“This is the first time you’ve ever looked me up?” I ask, able to keep my voice even.
Lauren grunts. “I have a lot going on in my life.”
I tug the sheet up over my hips, for some reason not wanting to talk about Whitney with my dick in full view. Am I finally growing a conscience at forty-five years old?
“I’m not really married,” I say. “Not in that way. My wife knows I’m… She knows I see other women.”
Lauren snorts. “Sure she does. Is that what you’re doing right now?” She twists around to face me, and her gaze drops to my bare chest. “Seeing me?”
I can make out the shape of her perky tits underneath that sheet, and coldness fills my gut. I don’t want to fuck Lauren again, even at the sight of her beautiful body.
This feeling had better pass. I’m not ready for it.
“You’re an idiot,” Lauren says, snapping me out of my daze.
I swallow. “It’s much more complicated than it looks on the surface.”
“Obviously. You’re working through something and using me to do it.” She twists around to lie on her back again. “How like a man. You can’t deal with your emotions, so you go out and fuck over your marriage. I hate to state the obvious, but ruining your life isn’t going to make you feel better. You’re going to feel just as shitty, but you won’t have a wife anymore.”
Her words hit me in the chest, and the breath leaves my lungs. She said it like it’s nothing. Like it’s inevitable.
No. I can’t lose Whitney.
I won’t lose her.
Even if she’ll never love me, she’s all I’ve ever wanted in a wife. It makes me want to scream. I want to beg her forgiveness for letting my rage consume me, for letting it turn my ability to reason into ash.
She’s paid enough. Any reasonable person would say she’s paid enough.
As if by the hand of God, that email flashes in my mind. The one she sent to her lover all those years ago. The one I printed and keep tucked under the metal divider in my top desk drawer. The one I pull out every few months.
It’s become a ritual when I need a fresh fix of euphoric rage. I always wait for an evening when I’m at the office late and almost everyone has left. I pour myself a glass of whiskey and down it fast. I wait for the warmth to settle over me, and I pull out that email.
As I read it, the heat of the whiskey turns to fire in my gut, and my teeth clench. By the time I get to the end—that final line—my rage is so big it could obliterate the world.
My love for you has never wavered. It’s always been you.
I grab Lauren by the hips. As I lean forward to kiss her, she shoots me a scowl.
“I don’t want to kiss a married man. Go shower and get your pathetic ass back to your wife. I’m not ever doing this again.”
I hop out of bed and head into the bathroom, following Lauren’s first command by turning on the shower. But I won’t be fulfilling the second. My beautiful, faithless wife can go to hell.
The front door opens and my stomach jolts. Mark’s hard footsteps sound over the tile before he enters the kitchen.
I brace myself before turning around. He’s been with another woman. I know that for a fact after the DM I got this morning. Why am I afraid I’ll see evidence of her on his body when I’m finally able to look at him? I’ve never seen the cliché lipstick stain on his collar. Never smelled perfume. I’ve never even seen his hair wet from one of the showers I know he must take after he fucks them. Mark is indiscreet but not brazen.
The difference is always in me. Any time I am sure he’s been with someone else, the sight of him is painful afterward. Somehow knowing the specifics makes the chasm between us grow excruciatingly deep. The DM I got this morning wasn’t my first, but it somehow hurt the most. Why? The answer still eludes me. Maybe because she was so young. Even her wording was youthful, like she could be friends with our son.
Your husband told me you’re in an open marriage. ~I’m sure you can guess why, so I won’t go into details. I got a liar vibe from him, so I felt like I had to reach out to you. You’re insanely hot, btw. Way hotter than me. He’s a dumbass. I don’t mean to be insensitive. I’ve never been in this position before. I really don’t know what to say except I’m sorry. Lauren.~
I didn’t know what to say either, so I replied with a “thank you”, and that was that.
Now I have to face him.
When I turn around, chills ripple over my skin. My God, he’s such a beautiful man. It’s not fair that younger women find his lean body and salt and pepper hair so conventionally attractive. I have to work like a dog to “age gracefully” without nearly the same prospects.
The world is unfair.
“Hey, honey,” Mark says with a smirk, and my stomach plummets. He only ever calls me pet names as a taunt. Since Mason is sitting at the kitchen table a few feet away, I’m forced to play nice.
It’s as though Mark is silently telling me this is what I signed up for. This is what it means to stay together for the kids.
It’s my payment. He doesn’t think I’ve suffered enough for what I did all those years ago, so he takes payments of pain. His infidelity is worth more if it hurts.
“Hi.” I don’t say any more, but I let my expression tell him everything. I stare at him with my jaw clenched and accusation in my eyes.
I know where you’ve been.
His brow furrows in confusion. I guess I’ll have to be more blunt. “I got an interesting DM this morning,” I say.
His jaw clenches, but he doesn’t seem surprised. “Did you?”
I swallow. “Yes. Apparently, one of your…” When I glance over at Mason, he’s staring at his phone and shoving a forkful of spaghetti into his mouth. I pin Mark with a glare. “One of your clients had some information for me.”
He looks away from me for a long moment, probably to collect himself, and I expel a shaky breath. When he meets my eyes again, his expression is hard. There’s no remorse in those dark eyes. “I don’t know why one of my clients would reach out to you.” He takes a step in my direction. “My work has nothing to do with you.”
My body grows cold. My God. Could there be a clearer sign that things will never change between us? He doesn’t even think I have a right to be concerned about his affairs.
It takes everything within me to hold his stare. “You’re right.” My voice is a little breathless. “I don’t know why I brought it up.”
His eyes widen minutely. Was he expecting something other than resignation from me? He walks in my direction, stopping only a foot away, and his scent washes over me. Longing clenches my chest.
God, I want to hate this man. I don’t want to crave his touch.
“Is there a reason you brought it up?” His voice is gentle.
When his eyes bore into mine, my throat grows tight. What is this intense look of his? Does he really need more evidence that I’m breaking inside?
“No,” I say. “Just forget about it.”
His jaw clenches. He doesn’t like that I’m brushing him off. After glancing at Mason, he looks back at me, and a small smile tugs at his lips.
I don’t like this look of his. There’s cruelty in it.
“Can I have a kiss?” Mark’s smile grows. “I missed you.”
The breath leaves my lungs in an instant, as if I’ve been knocked to the ground. How could he do this? Does he think I have no heart, that it won’t be devastating to kiss those lips when I know where they’ve been?
I ought to tell him to fuck off, but maybe that’s what he wants. Maybe he wants me to lose my cool in front of Mason and regret it afterwards.
It’s time to prove my strength.
I lower my head and smile up at him from under my lashes. “Sure, honey.”
His dark eyes flash, but I don’t let it deter me. I lift up onto my toes and press a soft kiss on his mouth. His jaw tenses, but he doesn’t move. Before pulling away, I nibble on his bottom lip.
When I finally have the courage to look at him, his eyes are burning.
My smile grows as I turn and walk away with a sway in my step.
You want me to pay, Mark Walker? I’ll make sure I’m not the only one.
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