Authors: L.C. Fenton
I froze as one of them detached himself from the group to stare at me with hard, mocking, and all too familiar eyes. Crispin approached me slowly, his smile widening into a predatory grin. I glanced back to see Anders still standing in the doorway, a worried expression on his face as he watched Crispin approach.
“Go!” I mouthed silently to him. He looked like he would argue for a moment, but, mercifully, he shut the door.
Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion as my life as I knew it was sucked into a black hole of my own creation. There was no mistaking what Crispin had seen. I couldn’t lie my way out of this, even if I wanted to. A small part of me was stupidly glad, relieved that the issue was going to be decided finally, but the larger part was devastated and bracing for the painful events about to create a wreckage of our home.
“Well, hello there, Kate!” he drawled and started to circle me. “Tell me that wasn’t what I thought it was.”
“No, it was exactly that.” There was little point in denying it.
“Does Jack know?” he asked with a wide grin.
“Of course not,” I said shortly, trying to keep track of him as he moved around.
“Well, I’m not going to keep your filthy little secret,” he breathed too close to my ear. “Unless…”
“Unless what?” I wasn’t hoping for anything, not from Crispin.
“Hmm…Turns out you
a dirty little slut, and that’s something that appeals to me. You know, I had a bet years ago that I’d do you. Better late than never…” He laughed and I flinched. “I’ll call you,” he said in a mocking voice while waggling his fingers to mime a phone. Then he walked off, chuckling to himself.
That was Crispin to a T and why I had despised him since a hunting weekend at Clouston Hall, shortly after Jack and I had become engaged. Everyone was drinking a lot on the Saturday night, me included. We were still sitting at the dining table, drinking red wine. The conversation had turned a bit bawdy, everyone talking about their sexual fantasies.
“So, what’s yours Katie?” someone had asked.
“A pool of melted chocolate and a sexy man to take a dip in it with me,” I’d said, making it up on the spot. Crispin was next.
“I’d like to tie someone up and have them any way I like,” he’d said, grinning darkly.
“That’s definitely in the BDSM spectrum!” I’d laughed at him, in my inebriation, making a mental connection I should never have voiced out loud. “You must have some serious mummy issues.” Everyone had laughed, seeing as it was actually true. Crispin had just glowered, and the conversation had moved on. I’d thought nothing more of it.
Jack had gone up to bed, and I’d stayed up talking to Bats and Rupert. Everyone else had drifted off, and I’d been last to leave, turning the lights off as I went. I’d been walking along the underground corridor that connected the kitchen to the north wing where our bedrooms were located when I was grabbed from behind. One hand covered my mouth, and the other arm clenched painfully around my waist. The unmistakably male body had forced me up against the wall, the skin of my cheek being grazed by the rough surface.
“You laugh at me, but I know you want it.” Crispin had ground his hips against my buttocks. “I will fuck you hard until you scream for more.”
I’d bitten his hand as hard as I could, and he’d yelped, his grip loosening. I’d turned and kneed him in the balls. He’d fallen to the ground groaning, cupping himself protectively.
“You are delusional!” I’d hissed at him. “I wouldn’t sleep with you
, you freak.”
“Bitch!” he’d snarled, and I ran away before he could follow me.
Needless to say, things were a bit strained with Crispin after that, and I made sure I was never alone with him. The brothers had always had a difficult relationship, and after I told Jack what happened, he went after Crispin. I don’t know what was said, but Crispin turned up with a black eye and a lame excuse about a cupboard the next morning.
Now he had something over me, and there was no getting around it. Despite giving up Anders, I was going to have to tell Jack anyway. The alternative was unthinkable. There was no way I was leaving myself to the mercy of Crispin. It was only a matter of time before he called.
No moment would be right, but every time I started to tell Jack in the days that followed, we were interrupted or I chickened out. It had been a week since I’d last seen Anders, and I was missing him fiercely. Giving him up was harder than I had imagined, and I was wavering. I was going to hurt Jack anyway when I told him, so why not go the whole way now and tell him that I was leaving him too? Imagining Jack and I fully reconciled was a castle in Spain. The best I could hope for was more of the same. With Anders I could be happy. Would the loss of this life mean more?
I didn’t know what to do, so I Googled Anders just so I could see his face. It wasn’t like I could carry a picture of him with me, and there were so many to choose from: young Anders, older Anders, sexy Captain Milton Anders. That was when I saw the new paparazzi photographs. They were a bit fuzzy, but even so, it was clearly Anders. He was all over some tiny skinny blonde in designer jeans, his tall and lanky frame bent down, kissing her. The gossip articles gushed about their “hook ups” in the last six weeks accompanied by a gallery of photographs and dates. They also thoughtfully included headshots of them both, so I could see her exquisite and delicately pale beauty in glorious Technicolor. All those Internet articles about the other blondes that he had told me were not true flashed into my mind. I ran to the bathroom and vomited.
Anders had felt too good to be true, and he was. In a way, I had been waiting for something like this, not truly believing that I would be lucky enough to be with Anders fully, in an everyday way. Being caught by Crispin had almost seemed like a sign that the way might be opening up, but it was really just my last door shutting. I had tried to have everything, and I would end up with nothing. Now both my relationships were going down the toilet.
Andres’ betrayal had shown me that if my time with him was food, it would be homemade marshmallow: sweet and delicious, light and fluffy, but no substance. It hadn’t been real, just wishful thinking. I felt sad and embarrassed that I had been taken in, sold on his professions of love, despite my determination to remain clear headed and see the relationship for what it was. He had seemed so sincere, but then he was an actor. I was angrier at myself because I had known better but had still been so stupid.
I wish I had never met him
, I whispered to myself as I lay on the bathroom floor. Then giving in, I curled into the fetal position, holding a towel over my mouth to muffle the sound of crying.
“Did you see the pictures?” Anders’ call came later in the day.
“Yes, I did.” I was proud of how emotionless I sounded. In truth, I was just drained and tired after crying for hours already.
“It’s not what it looks like,” he said uncomfortably.
“Your tongue wasn’t down her throat?” I asked caustically.
“Yes, no, not really. It was all staged. It’s to get publicity for the movie. Two stars hooking up is big news and raises interest in the film. They asked us to do it months ago. I didn’t know they were going to release the photos yet. It’s just a publicity stunt, I swear. I was going to tell you about it last time we met, but I got distracted. I love you.”
“Maybe that’s true; maybe it isn’t.” I’d never know, though, and I’d always wonder. What do they say about smoke and fire? Maybe if he’d told me before it happened, it would have made a difference. Now it was too late. “I could handle anything except you lying to me.”
“I know I made a mistake not telling you, and part of me wanted to make you jealous. I was stupid.
“So, which is it? You forgot, or you wanted to make me jealous?” I couldn’t believe he couldn’t even get his story straight.
“I wanted to make you jealous. I thought it would make you see that you wanted to be with me. I fucked up!” he said miserably. I had a sudden epiphany, and it wasn’t a good one. I was nearly choking on the lump in my throat.
“You leaked the stories about us.” My voice was low and barely controlled.
“Why would I do that!” he said unconvincingly.
“How did they know all the details, then? Only you and I knew about the food.”
There was a long pause.
“You’re right,” he admitted finally. “Not everything, but some of it. I did it because I knew that you would be forced to choose. I thought you’d choose me,” he rasped. “I’m so sorry I fucked this all up.”
“I think it is best for both of us if you don’t call again,” I said stiffly. “If I’m not in the background, you can find someone…” I was trying to be generous, but mostly I wanted to scream. It was too much.
“You were never going to leave him, were you?” Bitterness had crept into his voice. “You’re just using this as an excuse.”
“It was never going to end well. We both know that.” I fought to keep my voice calm. Whatever warped trust we had placed in each other had been completely destroyed.
“Why? Why wouldn’t it?” he demanded.
“Because we’re both untrustworthy. You because you had no problems seducing a married woman, and me because I chose to sleep with you, even though I was married. We can’t trust each other not to do it again.”
“That’s bullshit! It was a first for both of us.”
“We crossed that line. We have to accept that it wouldn’t have worked between us out in the open. My career would be over and yours hampered by being labeled a home-wrecker.”
“This is fucked.”
“I know,” I whispered.
“You know we belong together. It’s just unfair that he met you first,” he said, his voice urgent. “I can make you happy. I know you’re unhappy with him.”
“I have to try to make it work.” I sounded so wooden, but I was holding on by my fingertips. “We have children…a house…history…” It sounded weak, even as I was saying it. “Please just accept it.”
“I love you!” he said desperately, as if that could magically make everything better. Maybe if this was a fairy tale it could have.
“I love you too…Goodbye, Anders.” I put the phone down softly and only then did I allow myself to crumple.
around two hours later, and I hauled myself off the bed, washed my face in the bathroom, then I went to find Jack and tell him everything. There was no point in putting it off anymore. Although this would probably end it, all I could think about was how it had begun, our marriage at least.
My parents and close relatives had flown over for the wedding. The dinner to introduce them to Jack’s parents had been interesting. My parents as usual had been lovely, though slightly emotionally detached. I think that’s why I was an only child; they had me because it was the “done thing” for their generation, but they found out that they had little interest in children so didn’t bother again.
My father was a doctor who worked long hours, and my mother the curator of an art gallery. They lived their lives consumed by their own passions and interests but with no friction. They were glad for my happiness, but they would have been equally satisfied if I’d been marrying an impoverished goatherd, as long as it was what I wanted. They’d seemed rather startled by Jack’s parents but too polite to comment, for which I was grateful.
The wedding was extraordinary, or at least the bits I can remember. It all went by in a blur, and it is like I have only small fragments of it committed to memory. I can remember nothing of what the minister said in the beautiful old stone church, just that he was there, Jack beaming at me from the front, and that so many of the guests were wearing hats. I’d felt an overwhelming happiness at marrying someone I loved so much and that the world was a beautiful place, particularly the lovely part of Gloucestershire where we had been.
The marquee had been set up on the lawn next to the formal gardens, and inside there’d been a vision of abundant white and green flowers in the soft light of a summer afternoon. I cannot recall the food or the speeches or who exactly had been there, though there had been an unspoken divisive undercurrent of the Australians being “them” while the English were “us.”
I’d felt bad that my relatives hadn’t been invited to the dinner dance later, despite having traveled so far, but supposedly that’s the way it was done. I have flashes of clarity, like at the dinner dance, moving in Jack’s arms to our song—Leonard Cohen’s darkly beautiful “Dance Me to the End of Love”—and the fireworks later on. But my clearest memory is sneaking off with Jack later in the evening and running away like delinquent children into the hedge maze, giggling from the champagne and sheer joy of it all. We’d gone deeper into the maze, and Jack had led me to the fountain in the middle. We’d sat on the sandstone edge and drank from the bottle of champagne Jack had brought with us.
“Hello, wife,” he’d said, smiling his beautiful slow smile.
“Hello, husband.” I’d smiled back and leaned over, kissed him gently on the lips, and then snuggled closer to him, his arm around my shoulders. At that moment, I’d known a pure happiness and contentment so perfect, and I had thought the rest of our lives would just be an extension of that feeling. God, we’d been so happy.