Consenting, his hands travel greedily down my body until they reach my waist. Easily unfastening my jeans, he tugs them down slowly, his eyes feasting on my exposed flesh as he realizes I am without underwear. He doesn’t acknowledge it, not vocally, but the corners of his lips curl and he hastily removes his shirt and denim shorts.
Stopping me from pulling him back to me, he instead leans back on the sand, using his shirt as a poor attempt at a pillow. Reaching for my hips he guides me until I am straddling him. I am already so turned on that I instantly fall into a rhythm of gliding over him, coating him in my wetness. Gentle hands stroke the curves of my breasts, holding their weight as his thumbs circle my diamond-hard nipples.
“You are stunning. You’re beautiful every minute of the day, but in this moonlight, on our beach, you are out of this world beautiful.” His words are a whispered song, hitting all the right notes. I need him in me now. We both do. I angle myself over him and fall slowly, treasuring how deeply he fills me and how, as he controls his excitement, I can feel him throbbing so hungrily inside me.
“Slow baby,” he moans, as he lifts my hips, prompting me to move. The sand shifts under my knees, moving in tandem with my lifting, allowing the movements to come slow and cushioned. The feeling is exquisite. Reid thinks so too, throwing his head back for a moment, allowing me to enjoy the blue of the moon as it highlights the sharp line of his stubbly jaw and the way his brow is furrowed with deep concentration. His mouth hangs open but his jaw is tense, a sure sign that he is enjoying this as much as myself.
The moonlight bounces off of his sculpted chest and abs. I notice with faint awareness that Gram is right; he’s lost a little weight. He’s still defined but has less bulk. It doesn’t take away from how artfully chiseled the contours of his body are. My hands run over every muscle I see, the hard bumps quiver at my touch and I can see he’s so close.
I move quicker, sinking deeper until he’s so embedded in me it’s almost painful. In my pace I find my own release approaching, beckoning me with thick, intense contracting. Reid’s fingers dig hard into my skin, as groans fall plentifully from his slack mouth. I move them away, needing some support as I battle my impending orgasm. He clasps my fingers in his as he thrusts into me at the same time as my own movement, bouncing us together so perfectly.
“Yes, Reid. Together,” I cry, so close and so in need of this.
“I’m waiting, baby.”
With a deep push against my womb I am undone, every muscle of my body is rigid with an intense sensation that throbs in my center but pours heatedly through my veins and blacks out every thought in my mind. The only thing I am conscious of is Reid’s hands around my back as he sits up, holding tight as his mouth bites down on my shoulder with his own release. We rock to the rhythm of the waves behind us as we come down from such a powerful high.
“It’s been a while,” Reid breathes with his lips at my cheek.
“Since the beach has seen us so indecently?”
He chuckles and nods. “I’ve missed it.”
“Me too. Although, I don’t miss the sand getting everywhere,” I groan, wondering if I will wake Gram and Gramps if I shower this late.
“Sand?” he repeats. I nod, kissing him once before lifting myself off of him. I’m poised to put my jeans back on when I’m tackled from behind and lifted high into the air.
“Reid!” I squeal as I’m thrown over his shoulder.
“You shush! Put me down!”
He’s walking with determination toward the ocean. “We can’t have sand in all the wrong places, can we?” he says, and even with his ass as my only viewpoint I can tell he is smiling.
“Don’t you dare!” With my challenge he swats me on my bare ass and propels into a jog. The waves hit Reid’s legs and I already know that it’s cold from his sharp intake of breath.
“Fuck,” he bites, still going in deeper. I’m insanely mad, so why am I laughing? It’s uncontrollable. He tries to lift me off of his shoulders but I cling to him like a cat, wrapping my legs around his waist and locking my arms around his neck.
“If I go, you go!” I laugh.
“Oh, it’s totally worth it.”
He fucking dunks.
We are completely submerged in ice cold water for what can only be a second but what feels like a lifetime. We are both gasping with shock and laughter as he brings us to stand, cursing repeatedly as Reid lowers us again. This time he descends slow, allowing us to acclimatize to the chill. It’s not so cold second time round, just without the warmth of the sun.
“You’re such a jerk!” I snap, mocking strangling him.
“I had to get you in the water somehow.”
“Why would you want to...” I trail off as Reid’s tongue grazes my ear. “Oh...”
Even in these short few days the sun has brightened Darlene’s skin. Her smile is more present than ever and she has taken Cash everywhere with her. She’s the old Darlene again. With our approaching flight comes the guilt that I am stealing her away from where she undoubtedly loves so much and taking her back to what very nearly broke us. I find myself contemplating what it would mean to move our lives back here, whether I could find a job equal to what I already have. I doubt it. I was lucky to get in where I did at the level I’m at and after all of my success there it would be stupid to throw it all away. But, I’d be willing to. If it’s going to make Darlene happy, then I need to.
We’ve spent our time here doing nothing much at all, rarely leaving the beach in the daytime and then catching up with old friends at night. College friends that we grew up with, that came to our wedding and saw us off to Chicago with a huge party. With them now, it feels a little strained. Their lives are so static here. There lives unchanged from what they were months ago while Darlene and I have had our world shifted. Darlene is quiet as she speaks with them and I sense she feels it too.
Privately, we take time to go back to our favorite restaurants and we hike, we run, we swim, we drive. Every sunset is admired on our beach. In all honesty, I feel like I could have taken us anywhere and we’d have had just as much fun. It’s being together that makes me happy, not our location. I think Darlene feels the same way too. After that first night here she has barely taken her hands off of me. We are in our own little love bubble and it’s exactly where I want to be. I can only hope it doesn’t burst when we head home.
Our last night sees us having dinner with my grandparents on the back deck. Gram goes all out with steak and all the trimmings. I think she’s planning on sending us off with stomachs stuffed to the brim. It wouldn’t surprise me if we leave with packed lunches.
Darlene is quiet throughout and I can’t help concerning myself with whatever it is she is thinking about. Her little V has been present through dinner but she shrugs off my worry.
After we have helped clean up I ask Gramps if we can borrow his car. I know exactly where I’m taking her, and for once Darlene doesn’t ask. She’s brooding and it’s completely disconcerting.
We drive for some time. The radio is the only noise between us and Darlene is flicking endlessly through the stations. She settles on a song for mere seconds before sighing and finding another. As we approach Mulholland Drive she finally settles on Sailing by Rod Stewart and hums softly to herself. I find myself concentrating on the lyrics that I already know pretty well, but have never properly listened to. I wonder if she chose this song for a reason. I squeeze her thigh and she warms my hand with her own, offering me a tight smile.
Heading west, high into the mountains, we can already see the amazing view beneath us, but when I stop the car the stillness adds to the magnificence. I jump out, walk around to Darlene’s side and open her door. She takes my hand and I help her onto the hood of the Volvo. She’s wearing little denim shorts that showcase her browned legs, prompting me to hook my hand over her slim thigh. Leaning her head on my shoulder, she sighs.
From here we can take in our old home in its entirety; The Valleys, LA and even the Pacific. The night sky is hazy with the light that pollutes from below, the stars struggling to shine. The city is alive even at this hour and the bright specks of light spread for miles into the distance, appearing never ending.
The sight is majestic. I know that this isn’t the side of LA living that Darlene favors. No, that lies in the beach life, the warmth, the people she came to know as family. But I came here because I want to show her what she is missing should we leave. I want her to be sure of our future and I want to offer her LA if that’s what she needs.
“We missed the sunset,” she says, her voice low as she wraps her arms around herself.
“I wasn’t bringing you the sunset, not today.”
“Were you bringing me here to say goodbye?”
“No, not if you don’t want to.”
There is only a second before she lifts her head from my shoulder and eyes me curiously, as if I’m testing her rather than offering her everything she wants. I stare right back. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, I’ve seen how happy you are here and I can’t be the reason...I can’t take that away from you. If LA is what you want then we’ll have to work it out.”
“No, baby, that’s not at all what I want. What I want is...” “Don’t, Darl. You can’t deny it when you’ve been like a different person these last few days. You’ve loved being here.”
Turning with a little difficulty on the slippery metal of the hood, Darlene places her hands around mine. “I have. I’ve loved every second of being here. You know why? Because it feels like a vacation. It’s not home anymore, Reid. It’s wonderful, but it’s not home. Don’t get me wrong, feel free to fly us over here anytime,” she jokes, smiling warmly. “But I’ve treasured your time more than I have LA. This is the most time I’ve spent with you since we first moved from here. I’m going to miss that more than I will this heat, this city.”
“I told you, you don’t ever have to miss me again.” She nods but her eyes are sad. “Believe me,” I stress.
“I do,” she lies.
“So why have you been so down tonight?”
“We’ll talk about it when we’re at home...if we need to.”
She hops down from the hood, coming to a standstill in front of the car. From behind, the expansive view of LA encloses around her. Her arms are folded, making her look even more vulnerable. I hate when she’s like this. If I shower her with too much worry I get scolded for victimizing her, yet if I ignore her then I am cold.
Eugh. Here goes.
“Darl,” I say, falling from the car and walking to her side. “Please tell me. I hate seeing you so quiet. Not when I only just got you back.”
She turns to me, her eyes glossy as she fights back tears. She opens her mouth but closes it soon after. Unable to bear neither the silence nor the distance, I pull her into my arms. When her head falls against my chest I hear a sob break free.
“No, baby. Tell me, please.”
She sniffs, wiping her nose on the back of her hand and stares at my chest rather than my eyes.
“My period’s late.”
“You’re pregnant?” I choke.
The air I breathe is thick and the breaths I take feel strained, like my chest is bound and weighted.
She shrugs. “I’m never late.”
“You’re on birth control.”
She nods. “That’s why I’m never late. I only realized when I was packing up my things and saw that I hadn’t had to use my...you know.”
The restricted air supply is leaving me lightheaded. I fall back onto the hood again, breathing long and deep to counteract the blurred vision.
In, out. In, out. In, out.
With a little clarity I see Darlene move to stand in front of me. She doesn’t touch me but she glares at the dirt before me. “I’m sorry.” She closes her eyes.
“Why? It’s not your fault, right? It’s an accident.” My tone is sour, even to my ears.
I hate this. On the many occasions I envisioned Darlene uttering those words to me I imagined the joy they would bring. I pictured Darlene jumping into my arms and crying with glee, not remorse. I’ve wanted my own family for as long as I can remember. I wanted to do it right, how it was never done right for either of us. We deserved that. This isn’t what I had mapped out for us. I didn’t anticipate worrying about whether I was the father. The shittiest thing of all? Not being able to explain this gut-wrenching hurt to Darlene.
She wipes a tear from the corner of her eye and steps closer, offering her hand. I accept. It’s instinct. “We’ll talk about it at home, okay?” Her voice wrings out emotion, her blue eyes dull and pained with barely controlled tears. Exhaling a long, forced breath before chewing on the inside of her mouth, she’s determined not to cry, but there’s something else. She seems resigned. To what?
“Hey,” I call as she moves to get into the car. I pull her hand around my back so that we are chest to chest. “Whatever happens, we’ll get through it together. I’m here for you. Despite anything, I’m here for you.” I kiss her forehead rather than her lips because I don’t want her to see how much that hurt me to say.
Reid is quiet on the plane journey home. He collects our bags and navigates us to our car with no shared deliberation. I, on the other hand, find myself yearning for his touch, his kiss, his voice, needing to make the most of this short amount of time we have left. I need to soak up the last of Reid because I know that the dirty little secret I have been harboring is due to be announced.
It’s time is up.
If I really am pregnant then I can’t allow Reid to buy into another lie. I just couldn’t do it to him. He’s wanted a child for so long and while I want nothing more than to give him one, eventually, I have to face facts that there is as much chance of it being someone else’s as it is of being his.
What’s confusing me the most is Reid’s own upset. It’s no secret that he’s wanted us to try for a baby for some time, so why, when on the surface it would appear that he has gotten all that he wants, does he seem just as upset as me? He says the right things and responds when I seek out his touch, but he offers nothing of his own.
I guess wanting something and having it is a little different. I would say that maybe all he needs is time, but I know that I can’t give him that. I’ll be doing a test as soon as I can muster the courage to and if it’s positive then I’m telling him everything.
Arriving home, we park, collect our bags and head to the apartment in an uncomfortable silence. How telling. I kick off my shoes the moment we are on home ground and place Cash in his rightful place beside my chair. I soak in the faint feeling of being home and marvel at how it took a trip away to make me feel this way about our apartment.
For the next hour we move like people who know each other well, because we do, unpacking and organizing laundry. It’s late but we haven’t eaten so I offer to cook.
“I’m pretty beat,” Reid responds. “I think I’ll just go to bed. Work in the morning, ya’ know.” He does look tired, but I can’t help crumble a little at his distance. He seems to realize this because he closes the gap between us and takes both of my hands in his, swinging them gently at our sides. “Okay?”
“Okay. Well, I’m going to eat. I’ll come to bed in a little while.”
He nods and sighs heavily. Bringing his head to mine, his eyes down, we stand for some time just...breathing.
Then he shocks me.
Lifting one of his hands, still coupled with mine, he places them both over my stomach. I actually gasp at the contact and the significance.
“I love you,” he whispers, and with his eyes down I’m not quite sure who he’s talking to. He brings his lips to mine, but the sentiment is thoughtful rather than loving, and then he leaves me hanging as he walks to our bedroom.
I am left standing barefoot and maybe, just maybe, pregnant in the kitchen.
Feeling more alone than I have ever felt having spent the last few days in a Reid filled bubble, I stand in complete silence. It’s some time before I am aware of the tears that fall so naturally from my eyes now that my body is so easily attuned to my emotions. I wipe them away but they are as stubborn as the woman that they wet.
No longer hungry, I walk to my chair. Cloaking myself in the thick throw from the coach, I curl around my favorite cushion and allow myself this moment to let go of the upset I have been so desperately holding in. It actually hurts to fight it anymore. The sobs are silenced as I bury my face in the cushion but they devastate every part of me. My chest quakes and my shoulders shudder. My hands are fisted and yet they still tremble, but nothing compares to the storm that ravages my mind.
Just when I think my life has come full circle and my mistake is being amended somewhat, this happens to bring the guilt right back to the surface.
We can’t survive this.
And without Reid I don’t know how I’ll go on. He’s lived my life with me, from college at least, but he knows my life so well that I feel like he has been there from the start.
He’s more than just an accessory to my life; he is all that is extraordinary about it.
He has brought me my highs and he has seen me through my lows. He has pushed me to explore what I think I am capable of in terms of my music and my teaching, and he has been my inspiration to push those limits. He has shown me what it is to feel loved, truly loved in the conventional sense, and I both love him and hate him for it. To feel loved is the richest feeling in the world, but when that love is taken away it takes much more than it ever gave. It takes a part of who you are. I’ve been there already and I don’t want to go back. I’ve been without Reid’s warmth. I don’t think I can handle a perpetual winter.
Tired from such laboring self-pity I close my eyes. It does nothing to stop the tears but my raw eyes are thankful. My crying softens until all I am left with is empty sobs that steal my breath.
I must fall asleep because I open my eyes to find that I am moving. Reid’s arms have me cradled to his chest and I bury myself into the nook of his neck, rejoicing in the brief moment of security.
Reid lowers me into bed before moving over me to his side and pulling me close. Face to face, he wipes my cheeks with the pads of his thumb.
“Two things. One: Please don’t sleep out there, ever again. You’re my wife and I want to wake up with you at my side. Two: Don’t cry without me. If you’re upset you come to me. I want to be there for you.” His kind words deliver the final blow to my heart and I fall asleep after another strenuous round of sobs, with a naive Reid’s arms tight around me.
I left Darlene in bed this morning, foregoing our usual run. She must have been exhausted after last night because she didn’t even flinch as I kissed her head and left for work. I wish she had been awake so I could have comforted her some more.
Last night was difficult. I went to bed tired, both physically and mentally, and yet I couldn’t sleep a wink. When I woke in the night and realized Darlene wasn’t sharing our bed I sought her out in her damn chair. A wave of annoyance had coursed through me before I saw her tear-ridden face, her cheeks damp and caked in dried black makeup around her eyes. Why does she try and hide this side of herself from me?
I understand her tears, I feel her upset and mirror her concerns, but I can’t tell her that. So instead, I’ve remained quiet for fear of saying something I shouldn’t. In all honesty, I don’t know what to say. I love Darlene and I don’t want this to end us, but I don’t know how we can overcome this.
Part of me is annoyed that Darlene would even consider going through with the pregnancy without telling me of the affair, but then I’m also in agreement with her. I don’t want to have that conversation because I know where it will lead. However, without that conversation we will both be living a lie; her lying to me about who the father may be and me lying about how much I actually know.
I guess in nine months time we would know anyway. Blue and I couldn’t look more different. His black hair to my fair. His dark skin and dark eyes to my naturally pale skin and green eyes. It would be obvious immediately. I don’t know how we would cope with that level of anticipation and possible upset.
Then, to factor in Blue himself.
Would she tell him?
I can’t bear the thought of them ever even speaking again let alone discussing the possibility of raising a child together.
Damn it. I’ve got to stop thinking about this. I’ve done jack shit at work and it’s almost two o’clock. I really shouldn’t have come in at all. There’s so much that needs to be discussed with Darlene and I don’t want us to wait so long that the impending conversation becomes too daunting to actually have. We should be having it now, before the test is even done.
“I need the confirmed manuscripts by end of day,” James calls from the door to my office.
“Sure thing,” I answer, attempting to look like I am busy at my computer. He nods but says nothing more before leaving. Things are strained between us since all that happened at the benefit but I’m not worried. From the talk I have been hearing round the office I am the only one excelling expectations in his department, and if anyone’s job is being questioned it’s his. No wonder I have been so overrun with work; I’m the only one he’s giving it to.
Things really could pick up for me here, and with Darlene’s new job fast approaching I really thought we were on our way out of this bumpy detour. The marriage we had once had was back in sight and now it feels even further away.
Mentally and physically, I am closer to Darlene now than maybe I have ever been. The vacation really was everything we needed. But it’s the circumstance that could see the end of us.
If we let it, anyway.
Worst case scenario is that she is pregnant and that I am not the father. I don’t know how I could possibly prepare for that but I also don’t know how I would begin to turn my back on her. I’d accepted the affair and I was prepared to move on from it, and this is just an extension of that, right? If I was able to learn to accept the affair then perhaps I could learn to accept what may very well be the outcome of it.
Could I raise another man’s child?
Would Darlene even let me?
Or would it be the excuse she needs to run back to Blue?
Would he want her?
The thought alone would be enough to kill me if the overwhelming need to never let that happen wasn’t enough to distract me. I can’t let her be with anyone else and if that means travelling down another path to get to our happy ever after then so be it.
I scrape by what remains of the day at the office, barely able to concentrate on the manuscripts that I chose for James to pursue their authors. I’m out the door the second I’m able to and driving with determination.
Once home opening the door is a struggle with my work bag in one arm and the biggest bouquet of flowers I could find in the other. I had to bribe the store to let me in after I caught them closing their shutters and I still paid over the odds for these flowers. But knowing that they may produce a genuine smile from Darlene makes the price and effort irrelevant. She didn’t seem so pleased with the last couple of bouquets I’d gifted her.
I find Darlene playing her guitar on the couch, her back to me.
“Hi,” she calls as her fingers continue to strum, and then she continues humming along to a familiar tune. She’s played it before, but never this melancholically.
“Hi,” I greet. “What song is this?”
“Will you still love me tomorrow? Winehouse’s version, not The Shirelle’s.”
I wonder at the significance when I see the little paper bag from the pharmacy. Unopened. She’s yet to turn around so I’m free to close my eyes and breathe a little respite.
“I haven’t cooked. I thought we could just order pizza tonight.”
“Great,” I reply, knowing that she only ever orders pizza when she is trying to please me. “Shall I put these in water?”
Turning in confusion, Darlene’s eyes find the flowers before they find me. A smile sweeter than any rose blooms over her features, her eyes twinkling in harmony. Placing Cash down, she moves from the couch and walks to me. She takes the flowers, sniffing them with closed eyes before lingering at my side and gazing at me adoringly.
“They’re absolutely beautiful, Reid. Thank you.”
“Anything for you.”
Her smile broadens and she turns to lay them on the counter. Leaning over, she rummages in the draw to find some scissors. Her ass is enticing me, inches from my hand and bound in a tight jersey skirt that sits at her knees.
Only now do I see my kryptonite.
She’s barefoot. In my kitchen. And...
“What’s the occasion?” she calls over her shoulder, standing up and cutting away the paper from the bouquet.
I link my arm around her waist and bury my face into her thick, vanilla-fragranced hair. “The occasion is…I’m home, you’re home, and we’re exactly where we should both be.”
“I don’t think flowers are standard protocol for that,” she whispers, a little giggle slipping off the end of her words when my tongue tastes that magic place below her ear.
“Oh, really? What is then?”
Turning ever so slowly, she drops the scissors onto the counter, freeing her hands up to run them over my chest and up to my face. She lifts my glasses and folds them, sliding them into my jacket pocket. Biting her lip and shrugging innocently, she looks up at me from beneath her thick lashes. “A kiss,” she answers. Impossibly soft lips press briefly to my cheek before she hovers over my parted lips invitingly.
“I can manage that.”
Holding her head in both of my hands I bring her onto her toes. The faintest moan escapes her lips as my tongue glides with hers. Her body drops, weak from the sudden chemistry that’s thick in the air between us, so in one quick movement I lift her onto the counter of the breakfast bar. With elbows rested on my shoulders, her delicate fingers run circles in my hair. Watching her intently, I notice her smile falter briefly.
My hands had already begun pulling up her skirt so that it sits around her waist, but I stop. “Are you okay?” I ask, my voice breathy with anticipation. She nods and touches her forehead to mine. “We don’t have to...I just...you look beautiful and I...”
“I want this,” she whispers, moving herself to the very edge of the worktop. “I need this, please.”
Not one to deny my wife, I kiss away the sadness that I see in her eyes. I coat her mouth with my love before moving to her favorite spot on her neck. She makes light work of leaving me shirtless before reaching to undo my pants. The shared need for this is building, our fingers become less agile as the desperation sores. I manage to pull off her shirt and rejoice in the fact that she is bra-less. My hands fit her breasts like they were made in unison and I know how to work them as if they are an extension of me. Pink buds immediately harden at my touch and I can’t resist tasting them while I pull her panties down her legs.
“I want you so badly. Please be ready for me, baby.”
She nods frantically, sighing, “I am, I am.”
My fingers make sure, gliding over her tight stomach, forgetting anything that could be in there. They slide into her easily and she clenches so responsively around them. Adding another finger, I curl them gently and she breaks out a needy moan.
I could come right now.
Dropping my slacks to the floor along with my boxer shorts, I tease her opening until her feet push against my ass, telling me to hurry up. I can’t help but smile. Knowing I can get her so worked up is the biggest turn on ever.
I bury into her slow, getting as deep as I can with the added pressure of her legs around my backside. “Please, Reid,” she beckons and I oblige, moving faster, spurred on by her erotic sighs. I roll my hips and cup her ass, pulling her closer with each thrust.
“Oh God,” she cries, falling back onto the cold kitchen counter, her hands landing on her breasts. The sight of her massaging herself like that brings me to the very edge, but I can’t get as deep as I’d like this way. I push aside the flowers and throw the scissors to the floor. Lifting Darlene, I move her up the counter, a little diagonally so that there’s enough room for me. I pull myself up and over her, taking her nipple into my mouth again as I work on getting her hers before mine. She’s close. Her eyes are fixed on the way my tongue laps at her breast and she pulls me tighter to her with her hand knotted in my hair.