Forever Eve Chapter One

The Carmichaels have spared no expense. I’m sure they have invited all of Illinois’ most influential and affluent dignitaries, politicians, and socialites. It’s a who’s who of potential leads and allies that will help advance Bo’s career, or so I’ve been told. I won’t know most of my guests with the exception of a few old friends.

It’s a glorious September afternoon. I’m standing in front of the large, ornate mirror that leans against the wall in the bridal party suite of the Waldorf Astoria. I don’t recognize the girl staring back.

I’m glad I went with the strapless, lace vintage dress. Vintage always feels so familiar. All my work at the gym has really paid off. I slimmed down and the silhouette of the dress flatters my new shape. I achieved my goal of getting down to a size six—well, Bo wanted me to be a size six. The diamond-embellished belt that’s tied around my waist is the perfect finish. I look so tiny, and the dress falls elegantly down my hips, snug in all the right spots.

My hair is in loose tendrils down my back, pulled up on one side with a pin and adorned with a delicate cluster of stephanotis flowers. My makeup is light and natural looking, as usual. Too much, Bo says, makes me look like one of those “girls” that hang out on the north side of town, not a future Governor’s wife. I give myself one final look over and can’t help but smile. Yes, Bo will be delighted when he sees me.

Finally—finally—this day is here. We’ve been engaged three very long years. Bo’s father was adamant that he needed to establish himself on the political scene before he got married, even though the Carmichaels have a historic political lineage. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the story about how it all started with Lord Carmichael who served under King George II. From birth Bo was groomed to carry on his family legacy. The right clothes, the perfect connections, acceptable behavior ingrained into his every thought, motion, into his very public being.

Natalie bursts through the door in her usual bull-in-a-china-shop fashion, snapping me out of my reverie. “All right, as much as it pains me to say this, let’s get you married, bitch!” She really needs to work on her graces.

Natalie Spencer is my oldest and dearest friend. We’ve been inseparable since elementary school, even though we’re polar opposites. In high school, I was the smart, studious one and she ran with the Emo crowd. The only thing we had in common back then was that we’d both grown up without a dad. Somehow, it was enough for us. We knew we would have a life-long connection.

Natalie is tall and naturally slim, with ridiculous curves she doesn’t even have to work for. The kind of woman who could make a garbage bag look trendy, she keeps her short, dark brown hair a perfect rock-n-roll mess on top of her head. Anytime of the day or night that hair is ready to party.

Nothing makes her happier than booze, blow, boys, and boobs. She makes no excuses and never apologies for her chosen lifestyle. Natalie has accomplished so much in her life, and I secretly admire her. I would never tell her, but I suspect she knows.

She is openly bisexual. Her words: Love is love, regardless of what’s below the belt.

We tried to fool around once a few years back, after too many glasses of Pinot Grigio, but halfway through I started giggling and couldn’t stop. I like cock too much to ever be a lesbian, according to Nat’s crude theory. I never told Bo. He was raised in a conservative and religious household. It’s easy to turn a blind eye on his miniscule faults because deep down he’s just a big softy, and he’s drop-dead gorgeous, which I don’t mind one bit.

“Izabel Jones, aren’t you a vision of the oppression of women, all dressed in white.”

“Nice, Nat! How many mimosas have you had already?” I try to sound offended, but it’s impossible in the face of her joie de vivre.

“Come on, Jones. It’s your wedding day. Let’s have some fun. Look, I’m even wearing a bra for you.” She flashes me her lace-covered boob with her free hand. The other is occupied by two glasses of champagne and orange juice. She gestures for me to take one of the long-stemmed flutes from her.

“Nat, you know Bo’s not keen on me drinking.”

“Bo, Shmo…he’s so boring…you never have fun anymore.” She pushes out her lower lip in a pout and thrusts a glass at me.

“One drink, Nat, and that’s it.”

She raises hers, and with her worst, uppity British accent, she toasts, “To the future Mrs. Bo Carmichael. May all your champagne wishes and caviar dreams come true.”

“Robin Leach, really!” I giggle, we clink glasses, and take a long sip.

My mother walks in the room and eyes us suspiciously. “You two look like you’re up to no good.”

In the twenty years we’ve been friends, Natalie has never become my mother’s favorite person, but she tolerates her. My mom has always wanted the best for me. She was a single parent working too many hours, determined I would get more out of life than she did. She always said I deserved to marry a rich man to take care of me so I wouldn’t have to work as hard as she did and miss out on the grand privileges of life. Natalie, of course, would never let a man take care of her, so to my mother, Nat was always just an obstacle in her chosen path for me.

“Izabel, you look beautiful. Bo is going to be so pleased!” She gives me a loose hug so as to not pull at my dress. When Mom lets go she holds me at arm’s length, scanning me from head to toe before giving me an approving smile. “Oh, honey, I’m so happy for you. You are going to have a wonderful life. You’ll never have to worry about anything.”

Natalie looks at me and rolls her eyes, and I give her the don’t-start stare.

“Okay, sweetheart.” Mom’s voice is a sing-song testament to her happiness. “Let’s get you married!”

Natalie watches me take a final sip of my drink and flashes me one of her signature smiles, leaving Mom and I alone for my last few single girl moments before we make our way down the hall to the chapel room.

With nerves of delight coursing through me, Mom and I stand arm in arm waiting for the doors to open. On cue, two impeccably dressed men in full tuxedos and white gloves open the double doors. The low buzz of several hundred guests murmuring among themselves greets us as we step into the room. The guests stand and Mom and I start our slow march to the altar where my future husband waits. I float down the aisle to the euphoric melody being played by the string quartet tucked away in the corner.

All I see is Bo’s sweet, genuine smile. He’s fiddling with the boutonniere on his lapel. He looks as nervous as I feel. Man, he is gorgeous. He’s wearing a tailored, charcoal pinstripe suit that drapes without flaw over his 6’3 frame. His blond hair is tousled to perfection. And he’s all mine.

In a blur, we move from being two single people to man and wife. With Reverend Wallace’s, “You may now kiss your bride,” Bo grabs me, dips me down low, and plants a long, deep kiss on my lips. The guests applaud and cheer around us. He stands me back up and steadies me, grabs my hand, and we walk toward the exit amidst smiles and congratulations. When the doors close on the guests behind us, Bo takes me in his arms and swings me around.

“Well hello, Mrs. Carmichael.” He flashes me his perfect smile.

“Hello yourself, Mr. Carmichael. Why don’t we take a quick detour to our room before the party starts?”

His smile fades. “Izabel, we have guests waiting for us.”

I pout and give him my biggest doe eyes. “You can deviate from your schedule just this once, Bo.”

He wraps his hand around my forearm, squeezes, and jerks me toward him. I gasp. “We can’t deviate from the schedule, Izabel. Do you understand?”

I look up at him, and he softens his grip then pulls me into an embrace. I tense up as he hugs me, and memories from our last fight haunt me.

“I’m sorry.” His whisper blows the loose tendrils of hair away from my ear. For a moment, he regards me, his face expressionless. “Come on, darling. Let’s go have a good night with our guests. I’ll make it up to you later.” And with the flash of his pearly whites, I melt a bit and let it go again.

Bo and I spend the rest of the night floating from table to table, greeting our guests, most of whom I’m meeting for the first time. For the most part, I listen in a daze, smiling and accepting their congratulations. I don’t have much to offer when it comes to politics. I guess I’ll have to work on that now that I’m the wife of the future Governor of Illinois.

A shriek jolts me to attention. “Are you kidding me?”

I whip my head around, recognizing Nat’s voice. Bo glares down at me with a get-her-the-fuck-out-of-here look. I excuse myself and rush over to where she is standing. She’s holding her champagne flute in one hand and gesticulating furiously with the other. I smile sweetly at the two elderly gentlemen Natalie has clearly outraged.

“What’s going on?” I whisper through clenched teeth and a fake smile.

“I’ll tell you what’s going on. These two fuckers have just informed me that homosexuality is a sin and any man or woman who decides to become gay will live in eternal damnation. What the fuck, Jones?”

“Nat!” I hiss at her. With a quick apology to the men, I grab Natalie by the arm and usher her toward the door. Without even looking at him, I can feel Bo’s angry glare on my back as we exit the room. I’ll have to deal with that later.

I get Natalie into the hallway and duck into a utility room off to the side.

“What the hell, Nat?”

“I’m sorry, Jones. I didn’t know your hubby invited neo-Nazis to the reception and I would be subjected to this bullshit.”

“Why can’t you just keep your opinions to yourself for, like, ten minutes?” Then, a bit softer, but still firmly, I say, “It’s my wedding day. Please don’t make Bo angry.”

She stares at me for a long while and opens her mouth to say something, but decides against it. She leans in, gives me a hug, and then kisses my cheek.

“Anything for you, Jones.” She holds out her hand. “Come on, let’s go party.”

I let out a big sigh in hopes I’ve just defused one of Bo’s blowups. Hand in hand, we walk back into the reception. I smile and laugh and make my rounds with an unsettling prickling on the back of my neck.

The evening continues in much the same way I imagine most girls dream their wedding will be. I’m sitting at a table with some college friends, giving my sore feet a much needed break. What made me think I could last eight hours in my mile-high Louboutins?

I watch Bo across the room, working his magic, wooing our most prominent guests. He looks the way a man should on his wedding night, overjoyed at the notion of spending endless days and nights with the love of his life. He sees me admiring him and starts the slow progression toward me, one handshake and bout of small talk at a time. When he reaches the table, he offers me his wide, flat hand. Even it is beautiful.

“Will you dance with me, Mrs. Carmichael?”

“I thought you’d never ask, Mr. Carmichael.”

He leads me to the dance floor and pulls me close. We start to sway to the sweet sound of Etta James, and he lip-syncs the lyrics: at last my love has come along…lonely days are over.

I’m suspended—just like that—in his arms, inches from the ground when he dips me low and brushes a feather-light kiss on my lips. Somewhere, seemingly so far from here, our guests applaud around us. He swoops me up, twirls me around the dance floor a few times. The applause grows louder. When I’m steadied back in his arms, I look up to meet his eyes, but he’s not looking at me at all.

Forever Eve Chapter Two

It’s one AM when we finally make our way down the hallway to our suite. Exhaustion has set in and I cling to Bo’s arm for support. My Louboutins are twisted through my fingers in my other hand. I can’t believe I survived the entire day and night without taking them off. Beauty and comfort are not synonymous when it comes to designer footwear.

The tension between Bo and I is palpable. I suspect he’s stewing about Natalie’s outburst, now that he doesn’t have the distractions of our guests. His silent treatment is ridiculous. It’s our wedding night. We should be drunk on happiness and whirling in the anticipation of making love as newlyweds.

Pulling his hand up to my mouth, I kiss his knuckles and gush, “What a day! It was like the perfect fairy tale. Everything went off without a hitch.”

“Not entirely,” he grumbles and opens the door to the suite. I open my mouth to rebut, but decide it’s to my benefit to keep my comments to myself.

The room is beautiful and spacious. An oversized floral arrangement of my favorites, magnolias and freesia, are on the dining table, and there is a silver platter of chocolate-dipped strawberries and a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket. “Oh, Bo, look how beautif—”

The word is lost in a gasp as my shoulders make contact with the wall. He’s up against me with the full force of his weight, forcing his tongue into my mouth like venom from a snake.

“Bo, please, not like this. Not tonight.” My voice is little more than a whisper as I use my forearms to gain an inch of space. “We’re married now. We’ve been waiting for this night for so long. Make love to me.”

He looks up at the ceiling, his frustration apparent. “Turn around.”

The vibration of his growl galvanizes me. He knots my hair in his hand and pulls hard to one side. He buries his face in my neck and bites down until I can feel the skin break. With his free hand, he unzips my dress, and it falls to the floor like a deflated balloon. I hear the quick, practiced undoing of his belt and fly: clink, zip. Silent tears roll down my cheeks.

“Bo, please.”

“Shhhh.” He grunts. “Spread your legs.” He pulls my white silk panties to the side and takes me. It’s devoid of any love. I know that. In a minute, he’ll press my face into a pillow, and I’ll drift to that serene place in the back of my mind where we make passionate love and punishment fucks don’t exist.

* * * *

Sunlight. I fight the instinct to open my eyes and try to keep my face still. It’s useless. I sit up to find Bo lounging on the chaise, reading the morning paper.

“Good morning, baby. I didn’t want to wake you too early. You look so peaceful when you sleep.” He rises and makes his way to my side of the bed and lingers over me. “I had some coffee brought up.” He offers what appears to be an apologetic smile.

I stare up at him, my thoughts a scramble with scenes from last night. Fighting back tears, I reach for the mug. “Thanks.”

He gently wraps his hand around mine, bows his head, and releases a big sigh. After a moment, he begins to pace along the edge of the bed. “Izabel, I’m… It’s just you…sometimes you leave me no other choice. I’ll talk to someone about my anger issues. Forgive me. I will make it right again.”

I won’t let him see me cry. I have to stay strong, but I know if I answer him, I won’t be able to hold back a torrent of tears. I lower my eyes, nod, and hope I look agreeable. He leans down and kisses me on the forehead.

“All right then. I’ll leave you to get ready. We’re having breakfast with my parents. Meet us in the dining room in a half hour.”

The door closes, and I collapse back onto the bed. I turn to my side and cradle one of the pillows to my chest, sobbing raggedly.

Pull yourself together, Izabel. He wants to get help. That’s a good sign. There is a process to this kind of healing. We’ll work on it together. He’ll overcome this. He will. He will.

As I wipe away the tears, I see my wedding dress, a symbol of eternal love and happiness, now a mound of crumpled lace and tulle on the floor. Yes, he will overcome this. He will.

* * * *

I enter the dining room exactly half an hour later with renewed confidence, wearing my new Michael Kors Jersey dress and Espadrille wedges. My hair is a bit frizzy, but presentable enough after brushing out the curls from yesterday—the only thing I could do with only a half hour to get ready.

I spot Mrs. Carmichael waving me over. She likes to be called Tippy, though her birth name is Patricia. I think there’s a story behind the nickname, but it has never been offered to me, and I haven’t asked. She’s petite with golden blonde hair perfectly coiffed, and always so composed in her fitted designer suits.

“We’re over here, sweetheart.” She’s standing now and waving her linen napkin at me.

Tippy’s flare for the dramatic can be a lot to take at times, but she’s a lovely lady and always seems genuine with me. Given that she’s a politician’s wife, I suspect she isn’t genuine with most people. When I reach the table she gives me a gentle hug, air-kissing either side of my cheeks.

“You look lovely, darling. Married life certainly agrees with you.” Her cordial greeting is accompanied by a full glance up and down my body.

Bo and Mr. Carmichael stand to greet me as well. Bo’s dad gives me a clipped “good morning” accompanied by a weak hug. He’s always been indifferent toward me. I think he secretly hoped Bo would marry a girl with a more influential family name, like Bush or Reagan.

I sit in my assigned place, and Bo pushes my chair in for me. He leans down and whispers in my ear, “You look gorgeous, Izabel Carmichael.” With a subtle brush of my hair to the side, he gently kisses the imprint that remains on my neck from last night’s strike. Instinctively, I tense, but manage a feeble smile. He said he was sorry, Izabel. Just relax.

I appraise the buffet of dishes that have already been delivered to the table. It’s impeccably plated, but my stomach is heavier than a brick. There is juice and coffee, and Tippy has her signature pitcher of Bloody Marys in front of her.

“Izabel, darling, let me pour you a drink. They make the perfect Bloody Mary here.” She smiles and waves her glass at me.

“No, thank you.” I decline as graciously as I can. “I’ll eat some breakfast first.” To make it seem true, I shovel some cantaloupe onto my plate.

Tippy dives in about her latest charitable endeavors and lists the events she’d like me to attend. She once told me, Darling, a Carmichael lady has to be omnipresent, look opulent, and appear sober at all times.

I turn my attention to the men’s conversation when I hear them talking about our honeymoon.

“But we’ve already discussed this, Dad. These arrangements were made months ago.” Bo’s face is turning ever so slightly pink.

Mr. Carmichael holds his hand up to interject. “Bo, I told you plans might need to change. The agenda over the next few weeks is too important, and your absence will be detrimental to the campaign. We can’t allow these Limousine Liberals to get a leg up on us.” He pauses and takes a sip of his coffee. “Plus, you kids are young. You have plenty of time to travel.”

Not go on our honeymoon? He can’t be serious. It isn’t fair. He has no right to dictate this too. I hold up my glass and look at Tippy. “On second thought, I’ll have that drink now.”

Tippy’s eyes sparkle and her half-grin turns to a beaming smile as she tips the pitcher into my glass. I take two big, unladylike gulps. Wow, that tastes good. She gives me a wink, and I know it’s because she recognizes my bridled fury.

My poor Bo. He looks so defeated. He’d never question his father’s tactics. He aches too much for his approval and love. A glint of light shines off my ring. I’m his wife. He needs my support. I need to speak up.

“Mr. Carmichael, with all due respect, Bo has been working non-stop for months. The reason we delayed the wedding and the honeymoon—” I want to shout for the last three years. “—was so he could dedicate more time to the campaign.”

Tippy’s head bobs like a buoy, up at me, down at her plate. Even Bo won’t meet my eye.

Mr. Carmichael snorts and gives me an amused look. “Listen, darlin’, we don’t expect you to understand what our business entails. You just keep looking pretty, and Tippy will let you know what events to attend.”

Bo’s fingers grip mine and vise close before he lets go. Tippy hails the waiter and, ever so quietly, regards me over the rim of her glass with what seems to be a supportive wink.

Forever Eve Chapter Three

When I walk through the front door, I kick my shoes into the pile that has collected over the last couple of days. As I sulk down the hallway, I notice the heap of bags on the floor, and another of jackets and sweaters on the dining table. This is so not like me. Who can blame me though? It’s lonely in this big house when Bo is away. When I reach the living room, I slouch down onto the couch and look around. There’s more mess than any Carmichael wife in her right mind would ever allow.

Turtle Island. It’s out there. Somewhere. Somewhere Bo and I are not. Three glorious weeks of honeymoon—I can see them blur before my eyes, a mirage where we are alone, far from reality, and I have Bo’s undivided attention—so, so far away from Jack Carmichael. I’m beginning to think Bo’s dad doesn’t have his best interest at heart. I’ve learned all too well it’s best to refrain from mentioning Jack in any of our discussions.

So, here I am, at home alone for the third weekend in a row since our wedding. The Carmichael men are away again. I think it’s Texas today. Bo used to leave me itineraries for all of his trips, but now he says they’re too inconsistent and he doesn’t want to bother me with all the changes. He says I have my own busy schedule and I shouldn’t have to worry about his.

Tippy’s apathetic words get used to it, dear, play over and over in my head.

I flip from one side of the couch to the other. I can’t get comfortable. Maybe I’ll watch TV. I reach for the remote under the stack of magazines on the side table and everything goes crashing to the ground. I really need to clean up. Maybe I should get a cleaning lady, like Bo suggested.

My mother would have a heart attack if she found out someone else was cleaning my house. Sure, she wanted me to marry into a wealthy family, but she would find it disgraceful if another woman picked up after me. My mother didn’t even do that while I was growing up. I was responsible for half the chores around the house. Even when she worked two jobs, our house was always spotless.

I bend down to grab the remote from under the pile on the floor and notice the memory album I put together for our rehearsal dinner party. That’s strange. Was Bo looking through it? It’s a sweet thought, seeing as he wanted nothing to do with it when I was assembling it.

It was supposed to be a fun project for us to do together, a little walk down memory lane. He was under so much stress in the weeks leading up to the wedding I thought he’d be happy remembering our simpler times. I wouldn’t let up. I wanted him to be involved. He said I was insinuating he had changed, and he was sick of everyone breathing down his neck, telling him what to do and how to act.

He hadn’t meant to hit me with it. I shouldn’t have pulled it away from him. He was only trying to get me to listen to his point of view. My poor Bo, he’s so conflicted. Our lives would have been so different if he had just followed his own dreams. Law is his passion. He should be teaching at The University of Chicago. When we first started dating, it was all he talked about. I was so young and naive then and didn’t know the first thing about relationships. Who does at twenty-two?

I open the front cover of the book and start to laugh. It’s the photo of Bo and me on our first weekend away together. We were eating lobster, and Bo hooked the claw onto his nose as if he’d been snapped. I’d spit wine across the table, all over his face. I was mortified. He was so good about it. He wiped his face and attached another claw to his earlobe.

We had gone to a quaint little B&B in Maine. Every other couple staying there must have been seventy years old. We didn’t mind though. It was…peaceful. There was something familiar, even comforting, listening to their stories about the good old days.

With every flip of the page, more wonderful memories emerge. Bo and I skiing in Aspen, us at New Year’s Eve parties, blowing our horns. I start to laugh again when I see the pictures of me soaked like a drowned rat while we camped in the pouring rain. I detest camping, but he wanted to try it, so I went along.

Here’s the ticket stub from the concert on the night I met Bo. He wasn’t actually there. It was yet another night Natalie dragged me out. There was some new band out at the time that was a big hit with the lesbian crowd. She made me go as a buffer. I was her “girlfriend” when the girls she wasn’t interested in approached her, but I was to beat it if one came around she wanted to pursue. And when that girl did come along—and of course, she did—I ended up on the street, hailing a cab home.

I didn’t go home though, because out in front of the adjacent club was a group of guys hanging out, laughing, and catcalling, all except for one. He came over to excuse his friends’ behavior. He towered over me, his blue eyes apologetic and kind. I couldn’t look away. He asked me if I wanted to go for coffee and dessert, and I accepted.

It took less than five minutes after our coffee to see that Blue Eyes thought, while catcalling was wrong, not putting out after he’d dropped all of twelve dollars on our lattes and ice cream was a far worse crime. He locked his arms around me and grabbed a handful of my ass. I squirmed, looking for anyone to help me out of his virile clutch. Then I heard a voice behind me. “Hey man, I don’t mean to interrupt, but this chick? Herpes.”

“Ah, fuck.”

And just like that, he was gone.

I whirled around, appalled to be mistaken as “Herpes Chick,” then I saw the face attached to the mystery voice, and I knew he’d saved me. We’ve been together every day since.

Now that I feel warm and fuzzy again, maybe I’ll give him a call to say “I love you.” I take my phone out of my pocket to dial, and I see a text from Natalie:

Yo Bo-fo… Haha. I just made that up. No wonder you love me. I’m hilarious. You still good to go out Tuesday?

I reply, Yup.

My phone pings almost immediately with a reply.

Yay! I’ll meet you at your work. We’ll decide where to go then. Ciao ciao.

I haven’t seen Natalie since the wedding. I needed Bo to cool down after her little incident. Plus, I wouldn’t have been able to sneak my troubles past her. I knew she would be able to tell something wasn’t right with me. There’s no way I could’ve told her about what happened after the wedding. She would’ve gone ballistic. She still would, but she won’t notice. She’ll be distracted by other things. She’s always been what I call a “butterfly chaser,” and I’ve always been the rock.

We did a prick-your-finger blood pact when we were twelve. We saw it in a movie once, and she thought it would be a good idea, until we both ended up at the hospital getting a tetanus shot because Natalie said the nail she found on her garage floor would be fine to use. And somehow, even as an adult, I still listen to her.

I dial Bo, but it just rings and goes to voicemail. Why does this man never answer his phone? How many damn meetings can there be?

“Hi. It’s me, just saying hi. I’ll see you after work tomorrow. I’ll show you how much I’ve missed you. Love you. Bye.” That should put him in a good mood for tomorrow. Bo loves frisky me.

As soon as I hang up, the home phone rings. That’s odd. Nobody but Tippy ever calls the landline.

Frantically, I look for the cordless receiver. “Hello?”

“Izabel, darling. You sound out of breath.”

“Tippy. What’s wrong. Is Bo all right?”

“Yes, of course” Her clipped tone suggests she’s dismissing my concern. “Listen, darling. I’ve just spoken with Jack’s assistant, and we are required at a function tomorrow evening. I’ll send the car around to get you at six-thirty PM sharp.”

“But what about Bo?”

“What about him?”

“Will he be there?” Hope cracks my voice.

“Yes, they will meet us there. It’s cocktail attire, so dress accordingly. If you need anything, I can have Damien send something from the boutique. Do you need something?” She’s more curt than usual. Damien is Tippy’s personal assistant. I’m not sure why she needs one, but I stopped questioning anything about that family a long time ago.

“I’ll be fine, thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Goodbye, darling.”

* * * *

The next evening, at six-thirty on the dot, there’s a knock at the front door.

I look far better than I feel. Tippy has given me enough advice for the “dress code” at these functions—modesty, always modesty—nothing above the knee, muted solid colors. Cap sleeves are as much shoulder as we can expose, and forget about showing any cleavage. I might as well have the devil’s tattoo across my chest. Not that I make it a habit of showing off the girls, but something about being told what to wear all the time is unnerving—no, annoying.

I go with my black cocktail dress that flairs out just below the knee. It has a lovely, asymmetrical neckline and thin, black patent belt. Tippy doesn’t have any rules about shoes, so I’ve put on my favorite Mary-Jane peep-toe Louboutins. There is inexplicable power in those red soles. Every woman should own a pair.

I open the door to find a man standing with a large bouquet of flowers hiding his face, like a painting by Rene Magritte. Obviously, they are from Bo, but he never sends flowers. This is such a nice, unexpected surprise. I’m awe-struck and begin to giggle like a young school girl getting her first passed love note.

“I’m sorry. Where are my manners? Let me take these from you.” As I reach for the flowers, the man exposes his face. It’s Bo. My Bo, home at last. I squeal with excitement and jump into his arms, squishing the flowers between us.

He breaks into a spirited laughter. “Easy! I put a lot of thought into these.”

He has such a great laugh. I remember when he used to laugh all the time.

“But I thought…your mom said…”

“I know you’ve been upset with me about the honeymoon not working out, and I wanted to do something nice for you. Plus, I got your message. I think I’d like to take you up on that offer.” He leans down and crushes his lips against mine.

“Bo, you have no idea how much this means to me. I love you. You’re going to want to go away all the time when I’m finished with you tonight.”

He frowns slightly. I’m sure he feels bad about having to travel so much. Regardless, my Bo is back.

“Let me put these in some water, then we can go.” I motion to take the flowers from him.

“No, we don’t have time. Put them on the table and deal with them later.” He shoves them into my hands rather urgently. I’m not sure what’s triggered this change, but I don’t argue, and instead, drop the bouquet on the table and head out the door.

Thankfully, the event doesn’t last long. We’re back in the comfort of our home before eleven. But my night isn’t finished yet. I have plans for my husband.

“How about a nightcap?” The innocence in my voice betrays the burning passion in my stomach.

“It’s late, Izabel, and we both have to be up early.”

I’m undeterred. It’s not unusual after events like this for him to need a while to come down from the shop talk.

“Please…” I exaggerate the word and give him a pout.

“Fine. Just one.” A grin creeps across his lips.

I skip off to the kitchen, and Bo heads into the living room. I’ve been planning this all night. I take down two snifters from the cabinet and fill them halfway with cognac. It smells delicious. I’m not even sure I like cognac, but I’ve seen Bo drink it, and it seems like the perfect drink for seducing one’s husband.

I take off my dress and fold it neatly on the counter. I purposely wore my black lace set and thigh-highs. And, of course, as with any good seduction, the shoes stay on. When I walk back into the living room, Bo’s cradling his head in his hands.

“Hey, are you okay?” My voice is filled with concern. I’ve never seen him look this vulnerable.

“Wow. You look so beautiful. I’ve done nothing to deserve you.” His response sounds more like a confession than a compliment.

I approach when he holds his hand out, inviting me closer to him. Reluctantly, I straddle his lap. His uneasiness is tangible. My earlier vision of straddling him was much more sensual. I hand him a glass, then take a sip from my own. It burns going down, but it’s good. I hope a few sips will lighten the mood. Bo knocks his back in one swift gulp.

“Bo, what’s wrong? Don’t you like my outfit?” I snap the strap of my bra, hoping my levity will break him out of desolation.

“It’s nothing. I was just thinking what a lucky man I am.”

I ignore my own feelings of unease and kiss him. He responds hurriedly. There hasn’t been passion like this between us for so long. My glass clanks onto the side table. He stands with me still wrapped around him, then plants me on the couch. The weight of his body is almost suffocating, but I want him—no, I need him. With his face in my neck, kissing furiously down to my chest, he pulls my breast out of the cup of my bra and nibbles my nipple, sending spikes of pleasure between my thighs. I moan and dig my nails into his back through his shirt.

He pulls at my other breast, but bites harder this time, making me cry out. I feel his hand drop down between my legs. The lace from my panties rubs against me, adding to the sensation as he moves his fingers around my clitoris. With one swift tug, he snaps the delicate string holding the panties together. I gasp as he quickly sinks two fingers deep inside me. I move with them as they slide in and out.

His mouth finds mine and he unleashes a rampage of carnal kisses. Is it going to be like… No, there’s something more behind these kisses. He needs me to love him this way right now.

I hear the clink of his buckle and the zipper of his pants and grab his face with my hands, grateful for the lewd invasion of his tongue. His hard cock sweeps up my wetness before he slams into me.

“Oh, that feels so good.” I groan and push up onto him. I need to feel him deeper inside me.

“I love you, Izabel.” He continues thrusting, deep and slow. My insides tingle. I tilt my pelvis to find friction for my clitoris and begin to gyrate.

“Fuck me hard, Bo.” My whisper is what I hope seduction sounds like.

He halts mid-thrust. “Why would you say that?” His eyes frost over, the passion fading.

Stirring with pleasure, but concerned by his reaction, I struggle to speak. “What’s wrong?”

“You’re my wife, not some slut I fuck.”

“Bo, we were in the moment. I just said it. You haven’t minded before.” I grab for his face to pull him in for a kiss, but he turns away.

He pulls out and stands. Fastening his pants, he completely ignores me, muttering something under his breath. He reaches to the side table, picks up my unfinished glass of cognac, and shoots it back. I lie there half-naked, goose-bumps forming on my arms.

“Bo. Look at me. What…what have I done wrong?”

“Nothing. Forget about it.” His voice is low and flat.

I can’t do anything but lie there in the face of this rejection. What is wrong with me? First I don’t show enough interest, now I’ve shown too much? What is wrong with our marriage?

I watch the back of his head, bowed low, as he skulks away down the hall. When is it safe to follow? What can I say to fix this?

He is already buried under the duvet when I walk into the bedroom. I remove what little I have on and climb in beside him. I don’t want him going to sleep thinking I’m angry at him. Snuggling up behind him, I thread my arm under his, around to his front. He stiffens at first, then relaxes after a few seconds. He takes my hand in his and gives it a little, reassuring squeeze, for both of us, I think.