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CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE






Jill noticed the nights were getting warmer as she walked silently across the deck and slipped onto the swing. Most of the trees had already budded out, obscuring the night sky. She smiled, remembering Carrie's excitement at lunch as they sat at the pier, the sunshine warm upon them. The green was returning and Carrie talked animatedly about all the different things she wanted to paint.

" I want to do you in the flower garden and right here on the pier."

Jill had laughed. " Do me, huh? "

Carrie smiled wickedly. " Yes, do you in watercolors."

Jill put the swing in motion and her thoughts, as always, lingered on the other woman. It scared her to admit it but she knew she was falling in love with her. And she didn't have a clue as to what she was going to do about it. They were just so connected on every level, it was as if their souls had called out to each other, not resting until they were joined.

But they were both married, both with children. What were they going to do? How long could they continue this affair?

How long could she go before Craig demanded answers, demanded she be a wife to him in all ways? How long could she avoid him?

Because that was one thing she was sure of. She could endure sharing his bed, she could even endure the chaste good night kiss on the few occasions they actually went to bed at the same time, but she could not—would not—endure his touch.

And eventually he would demand it. Oh, she could put him off for awhile. It was baseball season. He had an activity to keep him occupied. But in little more than a month, school would be over with and summer would be upon them. And he would be home more unless she convinced him to join a fourth Softball team.

She sighed and sipped from her glass of wine. It was becoming too much to think about. So she pushed all of it aside and closed her eyes, remembering Carrie's touch upon her skin instead, her lips upon her breasts, her hands as they parted her thighs.

Oh my.

She took a deep breath, still amazed that the touch of another woman could bring her to such heights, could bring her such complete satisfaction. And amazed that her own touch had the power to make Carrie tremble in her arms, make Carrie beg for release, make Carrie scream her name.

" Babe? "

Jill jumped, nearly dropping her wineglass. She was so lost in her thoughts, she never heard Craig come home.

" Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you, " he said. " Thought you heard me."

" No. I was... I was far away, I guess. What are you doing home already? "

" It's nine thirty."

Her eyes widened. " I had no idea it was that late. Did Angie ride with you? "

" Yeah. She's upstairs already." He walked closer, finally sitting down on the swing beside her. " Do you feel like talking? "

She wondered if she said no, would he leave it at that. But she nodded. " Sure."

" I know my mother came over the other week. I just want you to know I didn't ask her to do that."

" It's none of her business."

" I know. But I've always been able to talk to her about stuff, this was no different." He shrugged. " You say it's not another man, and I want to believe you, but it's the only explanation we can come up with."

" We? You and your mother? "

" Yes." He stood up and walked to the edge of the deck. " Please, Jill, just tell me. This speculating about who he is just makes me crazy."

" I'm not seeing another man, Craig. I don't know what's going on with me, I really don't. I only know I don't have the... the desire to sleep with you, to be intimate with you. I'm sorry. I don't know what else you want me to say."

He nodded. " Then maybe we need to see someone."

" See someone? "

" A marriage counselor."

" Arlene wants us to see a marriage counselor? "

" It couldn't hurt."

" It couldn't help."

" Why not? Why won't you even try? "

Jill stared at him. " What makes you think I've not been trying? All these years, what makes you think I've not tried? "

" So now what? We go on like this until you say you want a divorce? "

" What do you want, Craig? "

" I want our life back, " he said loudly.

" What life is that? Where you're gone four or five nights a week and I'm here, tending to the house and laundry, doing your shopping and cleaning. And on the few occasions where we're actually home and awake at the same time, I'm in your bed so you can have sex. Is that the life you're talking about? "

" Is that... is that your version of our life? " he asked quietly.

" Yes. Do you see it differently? "

" I'm a coach. I have obligations. You know that. Other wives understand."

" Name one other coach at Kline who is as involved in three sports as you are. And then find one who is on three softball teams during the summer."

" Oh, now you're bringing up my one leisure activity? Softball is the only time I get to relax. You think coaching is a piece of cake? "

" No, I know it's not. Obviously it takes up most of your time."

" What do you want me to do? You want me to quit coaching? "

" Craig, you love coaching more than anything in this world. More than me, more than Angie, more than our marriage. How can I possibly ask you to give it up? It's what makes you who you are."

He shook his head but didn't attempt to deny it. " So what do you want me to do? "

" I have no idea, Craig. You can be patient with me and see what happens, you can say the hell with it and file for divorce, I don't know."

" I don't want a divorce, Jill."

She shrugged. " Then I guess we'll go on and see what happens."

" Do you want me to move into the spare room? "

" Is that what you want to do? "

He shook his head. " Not really, no."

" Then don't."

She let out a heavy breath as he walked back into the house, feeling somewhat relieved that they'd talked but still wondering what she was going to do about her life. It wasn't fair to Craig to go on like they were if she had no intention of being his wife again.

And as the weeks went by, she realized how likely that was. The more time she spent with Carrie, the more time she wanted. Yet she didn't dare to dream they might have a life together. Carrie had her own family, her own husband.

 


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