THE GIN LOVERS #3: SOCIETY SINNERS (Chapter One)
It was barely a second floor--more like an attic. But there was a bed.
"You're so beautiful," Jake said, those dark eyes of his sweeping up and down her body. Charlotte's heart beat so fast she felt it must be visible.
She sat timidly on the edge of the bed, and he gently pushed her back. Charlotte looked at the ceiling, a faint crack running down the center. He touched her face, then ran his hand slowly down her front, brushing her nipple with his thumb through her dress. Reaching behind her neck, he undid the top clasp of her dress. She raised her arms and he carefully slid it off over her head.
He paused, looking at her inquiringly--she nodded breathlessly--and then pulled off her underwear.
He took in her naked body, his eyes filled with an awe and reverence she had never seen in her husband's.
Jake took of his shirt and his pants, and she closed her eyes, her breathing shallow. He stretched out next to her, his mouth on her neck, and then her breasts. He moved down, kissing her belly, and then between her legs. She'd read about people doing such things, but she didn't believe it was anything more than scandalous fiction. And yet there she was, unfolding herself to him, like a flower in bloom.
"Jake?" She put her hand on the top of his head, mortified but overcome with the sensation of soft heat in the place where she'd felt barely anything before. She knew if she was going to stop it, now was the time. But then he moved on top of her, and she would no sooner stop him than she would stop breathing. If anything else existed prior to that moment, she forgot it in the merging of their bodies.
She wrapped her arms around him, her face against his, feeling that she loved him. But no, it wasn't possible. It was a trick of her body, her body that was rolling with a pleasure that made her senseless.
"Oh, my god," she cried out.
He lay next to her and pulled her against him. She put her head on his chest and he stroked her hair.
She waited to feel ashamed or guilty, but instead she was overcome with a sense of relief. And she realized how numb she had become.
She pressed her lips against his skin, amazed that in the past hour, somehow this had become something she was able to do. For the first time in years, she felt like the girl who had left home for Vassar College, so naively certain that she would find happiness in the world and in love. Jake, with this simple, unexpected, crazy afternoon, had given her back the old Charlotte. It was like breathing life back into the dead.
She didn't know how she would be able to go home, how she would be able to return to her old life.
The dinner table was set with blue and white Wedgwood china, the good silver, and hyacinths in a cut crystal vase. In the center of the table, a fresh salad brimmed with bibb lettuce and tomatoes that were nowhere near in season and must have cost a fortune.
Charlotte could do little more than push the food around on her plate. She shifted in her seat, the dull ache between her legs serving as a shocking reminder of what she had just done.
"Charlotte, is there something you want to tell me?" William said.
She dropped her spoon, and Rafferty moved quickly to replace it with another. As discreet as he was, she could feel her servant's eyes on her. Had he seen her sneaking into William's office?
Or maybe he had seen Jake Larkin drop her off.
It had been folly to allow him to drive her home, but she had been greedy for the last few minutes she could steal with him. Even then, sitting in the car outside of her own house, when the shame of what she had done should have propelled her away from him like a bullet, she could barely tear herself away. If it hadn't been for the urgent business of the envelope on her lap stuffed with thousands of dollars in cash--payment for the jewelry Jake had successfully pawned for her--she might still be sitting in that idling car.
Did she look different? Surely, everything that roiled inside of her must show on the outside. She felt the events of the afternoon were surely clinging to her skin like perfume, shining in her eyes and changing the very way she breathed.
But what did William know of any of it? Nothing, she told herself. He couldn't possibly know. She had replaced the money in his office. And as for the other...
Charlotte's hand shook as she poured herself water from the heavy crystal pitcher.
"Let me do that for you, madame," Rafferty said. He stabilized her pouring, and for just a fraction of a second she felt his hand on her own, as if telling her to be calm. But no, that was impossible.
She was losing it.
"I can't think of anything," she finally said, forcing herself to look at William. It was the first time she'd met her husband's eyes since another man made love to her. And still, she still did not feel guilty.
This, more than anything else, told her she needed to end her marriage.
"What is happening with Mae?" William said.
Mae. That was it? With everything that was going on, he was still obsessing about Mae's behavior? She almost laughed.
"Nothing," she said.
"She's out of control, isn't she? Why haven't you told me things are getting worse?"
She chose to say nothing, instead letting him go on and on. And then, when he took a break just long enough to take a bite of steak, she blurted out, "I'm going to Philadelphia to visit my parents."
She spoke before she'd fully realized she'd been thinking it. But of course, it made perfect sense. She would get away for a few days, and tell her parents that she planned to leave William. Her mother would take it hard but would ultimately understand. And her father, although he didn't offer the most practical life advice, somehow had a way of helping her not take it all quite so seriously. He, out of anyone in the world, would understand about Jake Larkin. It was unspeakable, of course. But she suspected that just being around someone who would, in theory, understand, might help her agonize less.
"Work is too busy for me to go with you," William said.
"Oh, that's a shame," Charlotte said quickly. "But I will be fine. Just a short visit."
"This isn't a good time, Charlotte. We have the fund-raiser for Senator Walker on the sixteenth. At the Waldorf. You didn't forget?"
"How could I forget," she said with a tight smile. "Amelia has been so helpful with her reminder notes and solicitations for donations."
The urgency she suddenly felt for the trip made her wonder how she would wait the day or two it would take to plan her travel.
THE GIN LOVERS #3: SOCIETY SINNERS Copyright © 2012 by Jamie Brenner