Page 7 of The Other Man

I’d started attending these get-togethers just after she’d gotten married to a great heaping hunk of a man that put on one of the most successful magic acts on the strip.

“He’s not much older than my children,” I said, eyes swinging to Lucy, the therapist and voice of reason of the group.

“Don’t do that to yourself,” said Danika.  “He’s twenty-five.  Hardly a child.”

Easy for her to say, I thought, as she was sitting somewhere in her late twenties.

“I don’t honestly think I’d have done it,” I said, words still aimed at Lucy, “if I’d had a clue he was that young before we hooked up.  Unfortunately, I only asked him his age after.”  I knew that was likely bullshit.  My lust had been too overwhelming to be stopped at the word twenty-five.  I was trying to save face, though I didn’t actually need to, not in front of this group.

“Stop that,” Lucy said gently.  “Don’t beat yourself up.  You didn’t commit a crime.”

“What’s the lowdown on a cougar relationship happening, doc?” another one of the ladies, Candy, spoke up, asking a question I didn’t have the balls to.

Lucy held up her hands in a sort of c’est la vie gesture.  “It just depends on the individuals involved.  I don’t hand out verdicts for relationships.  You know this.”

“But what is the usual pattern for a thing like this playing out?” I asked her.  I knew better than to accept her pat answer.  She had all the likely scenarios, all the usual dysfunctional relationship patterns memorized.

Ugh, I’d thought the word relationship about a guy I’d only met twice.  I was so old school.

I’ve been out of the dating pool too long, I thought.

Lucy looked amused.  “What, you want me to cite off the statistics for you?”

“I wouldn’t mind hearing them,” I mused.

“I’m not going to do that.  You are a responsible woman.  A good woman.  As long as no one is being exploited, and no one is feeling used, I say do as you like.  How’s that for a lowdown?”

Less than satisfactory, I thought.  But I’d take it.  At least she wasn’t outright cautioning me against it.

“I’m encouraged, frankly,” she continued.  “I see it as a good sign that you’re finally willing to enter the dating world again.”

“Don’t sound like dating to me,” Candy muttered, but there was nothing catty in the way she grinned at me.

I couldn’t argue with her.  “It definitely wasn’t a date.”

“You should never give it up that fast, sweetie,” Sarah, another lady in the group, one well into her sixties, told me.  “I’m not judging you.  It’s just, well, men never come back when you give it up that fast.  Any chance at a relationship flew out the window when it resorted to sex that quickly.”

She wasn’t wrong.  I opened my mouth, mostly to say, rather defensively, something like, oh I don’t know, ‘Who said I was looking for a relationship?’ but I never got the chance.

Bianca, one of the quieter members of the group, shocked us all by butting in.  “That’s just not true.”

Every single one of us looked at her.  She was a woman that stood out in a crowd, no matter how exceptional her company.  She was beautiful, tall, with pale blonde hair and abundant curves.  She had just the sort of eye-catching beauty that one expected to see in the wife of a famous billionaire, and it just so happened that she was one.

Her expression was calm, her face angelic, both in its beauty and peacefulness.     There was something so suppressed about her manner, as though she’d learned to avoid making much noise in a very profound way.  She participated in the group, but she rarely added in her two cents like this.  That role was usually reserved for the louder voices.  And when she did pipe in, I noticed that everyone usually took it to heart.

“James and I,” she continued, a becoming blush breaking out across her cheeks.  “We . . . didn’t wait to have sex.  Not at all.”

“But I’d bet money you weren’t hooking up that soon after you met him,” Candy pointed out.

Bianca’s blonde brows shot straight up.  “You’d be losing money on that bet.  He was going down on me in an airplane galley, it had to be, God, like only the third time I ever ran into him.”

That was met with a pregnant moment of shocked silence, then a brief burst of awkward laughter as everyone came to the conclusion that she was putting us on.

She was not, her expression told us.

“Him getting you off is a far cry from you getting him off, in terms of keeping him on a string,” Candy shot back.

“That is fucking hot, though,” someone put in.  I glanced at the source.  It was Sandra.  She was a bit older than I was and worked in the Cavendish art gallery with Danika.  It was a well-known fact that she was semi-obsessed with Bianca’s husband.  She was always a little too fascinated with the subject when he came up.

Bianca’s blush got a few shades darker, her eyes darting around the room.  “I’d already gone down on him, by then.  Technically, I think that was the second time we ran into each other.  Still turned into a relationship.  A marriage.”

Danika let out a low, appreciative whistle.  “Wasn’t he your first?” she asked her, sounding impressed.

We were getting a rare gem if even Danika hadn’t known about that, as the two women were close friends.

Bianca nodded.

“That brazen fucker,” someone muttered.  Frankie, I think.

We were all just staring at Bianca.  I, personally, wanted to hear the rest of the story.  I’d read some of the tabloids about them, but this was different.  This was the real story, the most I’d ever heard from Bianca about her much talked about relationship with one of the hottest men on the planet.

“What about actual intercourse?” Sarah asked, like it was a perfectly reasonable question.

“That same night, after the galley incident,” Bianca answered matter-of-factly.

“Brazen fucker,” Frankie repeated.

“He’s so fucking hot,” Sandra muttered.

“How’s it going, in general, and also with your ex-husband?” Jackie asked me, bringing the subject back around since it’d clearly gotten out of hand.  Bianca had started to look uncomfortable.  “Is he still being antagonistic?”

“He is, but it’s tapering off, I think.  And things in general have been good.  It took some time.  The divorce was a big readjustment for me, but now I’m . . . content with having him gone.  I have more free time now.  Free time that I value.  I find that I enjoy a good book over a bad husband.  No contest.”

That was met with a round of elaborate toasting.  We had some enthusiastic readers in the group.

“What about your kids?  Has there been any communication between your ex and the kids lately?” Lucy asked.

I shook my head.  “He alienated his children when he mistreated their mother, and rather than take responsibility for that, he’s decided to blame me.  It’s baffling, to be honest.  I knew how my boys would react.  I don’t understand how he’s surprised by it.  They’re overprotective and loyal to a fault.  Frankly, I’m a little worried that they’ll never forgive him.”

“It’s not your job to mediate their relationship with their dad,” Lucy told me in her no nonsense voice.  “That is their business.”

I nodded that I understood her.  I tried to take her words to heart.  It was a burden I’d be happy to set down for good.

CHAPTER SEVEN

When the gathering wound down at an early hour, I was still wired.  I did not want to go home to an empty house.

I told Danika so.

She grinned.  “Me neither.  Tristan’s working tonight, and he has a good hour left of his show.  We should take a taxi to the casino and enjoy another round.”

“No need to take a taxi,” Bianca added, having overheard us.  “I have a car and driver right outside.”

We all smiled.  Sometimes it was very cool to have filthy rich friends.

But still, I mulled it over.  My oldest son, Rafael, worked at our friends’ bar there, and I didn’t think he needed to see his mother tipsy.

“Rafael . . . ” I began.

Danika waved her hand in air.  “Your boys adore you, we all know that.  He’ll be happy to see you.  Stephan and Javier both work tonight, too, so it’s the perfect time to do it.”

Stephan was Bianca’s best friend, and Javier was his husband.  They owned the best bar on the Cavendish property, and soon after meeting and hitting it off with them, they’d offered Rafael a job there when they’d heard he was looking for a bartending gig.

They were delightful, and Danika was right, it was perfect timing as I was always looking for an excuse to see them.

“Sold,” I said easily, as it had not been a hard sell.


Tags: R.K. Lilley Romance
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