Bittersweet (Xcite Romance)

BOOK: Bittersweet (Xcite Romance)
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BITTERSWEET
An intimate tale of love, sex and loss
ALYSSA TURNER

Published by Accent Press Ltd – 2010
ISBN 9781908006035

Copyright © Alyssa Turner 2010

All rights reserved. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be copied, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publishers: Xcite Books, Suite 11769, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London EC1V 4PY

The story contained within this book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Is it possible to miss arguing?

As I lay there next to Keith one Sunday morning, the thought wound rope like through my mind. This time last year, we’d reached the point in our relationship where you either decide you thrive on the constant drama of your fiery disagreements, or you are just so exhausted that you say to hell with the entire marriage. Ceasing to argue didn’t even seem like an option for us; it was who we were. It was what we knew. I smiled in the early light of the winter sunrise, remembering my very first tangle with him.

Doctoral studies at NYU placed me in Keith’s ‘Culture in Late Antiquity’ course. I think he decided from the moment we met that he was going to relish challenging me to within an inch of my sanity. There I was, with my rather well-developed sense of self, and he was all but pre-coming from the prospect of knocking me off my high horse. With just a few more credits to hook under my belt before my dissertation, I was feeling more cocky than usual.

Keith was new to the professorship, but he was well respected in the Anthropology department for his two books on the cultural rituals of Ancient Greece. I had read them both and found his descriptions of matriarchal ritual to be blatantly sexualized.
Just like a man,
I thought and vehemently made my position known, if not in so many words.

I can still hear his response: ‘Sabrina, your opinion is merely born of your contemporary perspective. Women of Ancient Greece were considered dangerous for their sexual power; therefore, their sexuality is the most poignant topic to explore.’ He took off his glasses, sizing me up for the challenge with an unwavering glare. ‘Perhaps you will learn something in this course after all.’

As it turned out, I would have plenty to learn from Keith – especially how a man could come to know my body better than I did.

It started with one seemingly innocent invitation to share a table at the corner coffee shop before class. The energy between us was undeniable, and I even hesitated a bit before sitting down with him. I wasn’t a rule breaker, and something told me that I would be tempting fate if we gave ourselves a reason to violate the non-fraternisation policy. Still, I spent an hour with my espresso just as captivated by his confident smile as I was by our cerebral acrobatics. I could tell he was enjoying himself too, and it wasn’t long before sidelong glances and witty double entendres turned into secret meetings for a more hands-on approach to learning. By the time I earned my degree, we had been fucking for months. And with the conversation as stimulating as the orgasms, I agreed to marry him a year later.

Many of those late evening romps in his paper-laden office began with a debate that had spilled over from class. Nothing seemed to get either of us hotter than a healthy battle, and somehow, no matter the tenacity or thoughtfulness of my argument, I found it most arousing when Keith turned out to be right. The relaxed certainty in his specific point of view would bite me as much as ignite me. Though I would never freely admit that he had the upper hand, he knew when I’d been outdone and preferred to take his spoils in the sound of my pleasured sighs. Disputes always led to sex. Arguments equalled passion. With Keith, it was an outright brawl every time; one that made my eventual submission a delectable turn-on for both of us.

I wasn’t used to being one-upped and foolishly thought I could turn the tables on him one evening at the end of the semester. He argued that modern society draws its contemporary standards for women from the notoriously jealous and exceedingly vain Goddesses of Ancient Greece. I challenged that only his chauvinistic perceptions were revealed in his point of view. Turning on my heel, I threatened indignant superiority and flipped him a dismissive retort: ‘If that’s how you want to see women, then we have nothing else to discuss.’

He grabbed my wrist, stopping me in my tracks. ‘What I see is fire in your eyes when you look at me, and the way you make sure I can’t possibly find anyone else more attractive.’

He proved his point, dressing me down with his firm grip on my wrist and his blunt exposure of my deliberate seduction, making me instantly wet. Though I attempted to dismiss both his argument and the combustible spark between us, he seemed to rule the flame – stoking it at will. It was becoming clear that for once, I was out-matched, and I floundered a bit, stunned from the unfamiliar sensation and at a loss for a comeback. I pulled my arm and he grasped me tighter. I sighed and tried to sound contrite: ‘This is the part where you let go, and I walk out.’

‘I’ll let go,’ he said, ‘but Sabrina, don’t you think for a minute that the truth will be any less true.’

‘What is the truth, Keith?’ I asked as his hold softened.

‘That you can’t stop this. And you won't deny yourself the chance at the kind of happiness you can only find with your equivalent.’ His fingertips only barely grazed my wrist now, but his hold on me was never greater.

Keith was like a magnet and even as I attempted to shrug him off, I was drawn to him more than I wanted to be. He closed the distance between us and I seemed controlled by kinesis as he commanded me with his gaze. When finally he kissed me, I melted in the undeniable hunger for his mouth on mine. His mouth was hot and luscious beyond the trim beard of brown streaked with grey. And his hands were large and gripping my hair, holding my head at attention as he sampled my cheeks and my neck. I loved the power in his grip and the wildness of his impatience. It was a surprising contrast to the relaxed confidence he most often wore with a corduroy sports jacket and his favourite jeans.

This man, who neither spoke before carefully crafting his words nor ever rushed in or out of a thought, was pushing me onto his desk and stripping himself of his clothing without skipping a beat. In his office, he could have been discovered at any moment with his face buried in my blouse and his cock disappearing beyond my panties. The power of his thrusts made me hold tight to the edge of his desk, as I clung to the remnants of my decorum. He moved inside me at a feverous tempo, needful in his pace. And the sound of flesh on flesh was like applause in the room among my stifled moans. It was dangerous and forbidden; a risk that was a more potent stimulant than either of us could resist. The memory of that thrilling day had my hand meandering around the waistband of my flannel pyjamas as I absently toyed with the idea of a solo re-enactment.

Keith inhaled deeply next to me in the bed. He was still asleep but apparently entering REM state. I wondered if he was dreaming about me – about waking up to slide my legs apart and fill me with his swollen dick. ‘Dream on, sweetie,’ I muttered sarcastically and instantly felt guilty. Keith hadn’t been able to get hard since the near-fatal car accident that left him paralysed from the waist down, and we hadn’t had sex in more than ten months.

We hadn’t had an argument since he came home from the hospital, either. Silence can truly be deafening, and Keith’s increasing disdain for conversation was like a noose around my neck. A kiss amidst his steady breaths was a reassurance for myself as much as for him that our love was still strong, even as the beguiling man I knew was slowly slipping away.

I slid out of bed to put on some coffee and retrieve the paper. Keith would be awake soon and looking for both. Next, I would help him into the shower. From the waist up, he still looked like the same sexy brainiac I fell in love with – olive-skinned and naturally toned from his rowing club days. His rapidly deteriorating legs were always the cruellest reminder of what he’d lost. It wasn’t that he couldn’t walk anymore or fuck anymore. It was because he couldn’t walk or fuck that he had become lost inside himself. As much as I wanted to wave a magic wand and make it all better, I couldn’t. Keith would have to find his own peace, and I would have to learn where to find mine.

We employed a full-time caretaker/assistant during the weekdays who helped him with the basics around the house and chauffeured him to the few appointments he still kept. Keith had written three more books in the five years we’d been married and, on occasion, his colleagues would cajole him into guest speaking for a class or two. After the accident, Keith said that he hadn’t the stamina to return to a permanent position, though we both knew that it was more than a lack of energy keeping him sequestered in our four-bedroom suburban home for days on end.

The house was way too big for the two of us and only served as yet another callous reminder of how different things had turned out than we planned. We’d left Manhattan two years earlier for a quaint Hudson River view 20 minutes north and a promise to start a family. That dream was irrevocably deferred, yet there was no telling how long it would be before the real estate market rebounded enough to sell without losing a fortune. How terribly strange it was, to live in a house where you barely even use half of the rooms.

On Sundays, I would usually keep myself busy on the sofa with the
New York Times
crossword until I came up with a reason to get out of the house. I never wanted to bail on Keith during the only day I was sure to be free, but I inevitably found myself crawling out of my skin from the misery of it all before long.

When the doorbell rang unexpectedly that day around 1 p.m., I glanced at Keith with a quizzical look. ‘I can’t imagine who that could be,’ I said, sliding my bare feet into some goatskin loafers.

‘Do you know what day it is, Sabrina?’ Keith asked as I approached the front door.

‘Yeah, it’s Sunday. Maybe it’s your mother – did she say that she was coming to visit?’ I peeked out of the sidelight. ‘It’s Evan. You asked him to help you with something on his day off?’ My facetious question came as I opened the door before Keith could answer. I greeted Evan with familiar sarcasm and a plucky smirk. ‘Don’t tell me, you just couldn’t stay away.’

He stepped in from the frost and began to take off his coat. ‘Hello, Sabrina,’ he said simply and nodded in recognition of Keith sitting in his wheelchair by the sofa.

I noticed that Keith’s assistant looked a little more dressed up than usual in a pair of black twill trousers and a grey cashmere sweater over a fine-collared shirt. Evan was my age, about 15 years younger than Keith. At 32, it seemed that he hadn’t neared his full potential. He reminded me of the flaky guys I went to college with who missed class half the time, satisfied with merely C-ing their way through one semester after the next. He’d been working for Keith for about two months since his previous assistant moved back to Ohio to shack up with her boyfriend.

It was clear right from the start that he’d made up his mind about one thing: his next assistant would be a male. The search for a suitable replacement, however, was long and tedious, with Keith deliberating obsessively over each applicant. And then Evan appeared, with a travel-beaten, leather knapsack slung over his lanky torso. I’d been enjoying the view ever since. It was unusual, though, to see him for more than just a few minutes when I arrived home from my curatorial position at the Met and he was preparing to leave. All the while hoping it wasn’t obvious to Keith that I was suddenly able to make it back by 6.30 every evening.

Calling it my own form of self-prescribed therapy, I had made a habit of immediately changing out of my work attire in the only spot where Evan was sure to be able to watch my reflection in the dresser mirror. I never failed to give him a good show as I stripped down to just my panties, and he never failed to give me his undivided attention – though neither of us ever spoke of it. Very soon, our secret game became the highlight of my day. It was incredibly stimulating to have a man look at me with raw lust again, a feeling that I was sorely missing in my marriage.

Elegant
is the word I would use to describe Evan: long and leanly built with thoughtful, deep-set eyes and a curly mop of dark hair to ensure no one ever took him too seriously. On the days when he left a soft shadow accentuating his angled jaw, I locked his image away in my mind as a reliable source of inspiration for some “me time” in the shower. This was one such day and the “go fuck yourself” stubble on his chin provided an irresistible contrast to his otherwise impeccably neat appearance.

‘This is a surprise. Keith didn’t tell me you were working today,’ I said.

Evan furrowed his brow. ‘You didn’t tell her, did you?’

‘No, I was just about to when you rang the bell,’ Keith responded.

‘Tell me what?’ I asked, very curious now.

‘Sabrina, it’s Valentine’s Day,’ Keith began. ‘I asked Evan to take you out ... for some fun.’

‘You want Evan to take me out on a date?!’ I was taken aback by the sheer oddity of the proposal.

‘Not just a date, Sabrina – I want you to have an entire day of fun and adventure.’ When I stared at him like he had finally gone mad, he continued, ‘Modern day rituals are just as important as the ancient ones, but I can’t sweep you off your feet like I used to, love. Go out with Evan and let him stand in for me–’ he chuffed in acerbic irony for his unintended pun ‘–quite literally.’

‘You’re out of your mind, Keith. I’m not going to spend the whole day with Evan and leave you here alone,’ I contested, plopping into a chair to hold my ground.

‘I guess this was a bad idea,’ Evan mumbled, awkwardly grabbing for his coat.

Keith held up his hand as a signal for him to stay.

‘Sabrina,’ he said calmly, ‘this is exactly why I didn’t tell you until now. I knew that you would stubbornly act like this was a ridiculous proposal, when not one of us in this room is blind to the attraction between the two of you.’ I frowned and Evan looked mildly embarrassed. Keith went on, ‘Don’t even bother to deny it, love. Just get your ass upstairs and change into something breathtaking.’ I raised an eyebrow, testing him a moment longer before getting up. The hairs on the back of my neck were at attention, spurred forward by the sudden glimpse of the fearless, straight-talking man I’d thought was lost forever in the accident. I had to smile.

‘I hope you have made some interesting plans, Evan.’ I called out the snarky challenge as I disappeared past the landing.

Keith responded with stern authority instead: ‘I hope that you intend to be on your best behaviour and give Evan a chance to show you a good time.’

BOOK: Bittersweet (Xcite Romance)
13.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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