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.”
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.”
* * * *
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.