For all of you hesitators out there, here's a freebee for you: Chapter 1 of my novel Relative Sanity, currently available on Amazon for Kindle. Enjoy!
Nick Grimmer drained the last of his beer and placed the bottle on the coffee table next to an abandoned Jonathan Carroll novel. He decided Carroll was okay to read when sober, but alcohol made his subtle reality shifts feel a little too familiar. Especially lately.
He leaned back, fished between the cushions for the TV remote. Across the small living room Cassie cleared her throat, an eyebrow slowly inching up. He nodded, leaned forward and placed the empty bottle on a coaster.
Cassie had been home for a little over an hour. Nick didn’t know where she’d been, only that if she wanted a little “her time” she got it. She’d come home flushed, a little jittery-perky, as though she’d had a hit of speed and was on the downhill slide. But there was no point in asking, no point in beginning a conversation that could only end badly. Now she was lounging in the overstuffed leather chair wearing nothing but her tanned skin and a man’s long-sleeved white dress shirt, toned legs tucked out of sight except for a few inches of golden thigh, a slender finger marking her place in a Sue Miller paperback.
She smiled, nodded toward the empty bottle. “You want another one?”
That empty bottle had been his second—twenty-ounce Kilt Lifters that ran around nine percent alcohol. He should have been well on his way to a mellow buzz but all he felt was a thick-headed sluggishness; a third would not improve that feeling. On the end table next to Cassie sat a condensation-studded tumbler of Tuaca she’d been sipping at for the last half hour. The sweet Italian liqueur had eased the nervous edge off her voice, adding a throaty huskiness that Nick still enjoyed, despite everything else.
And she had that look in her eye. Sue Miller must have turned up the heat. Or maybe not—these days it could be anything. Or nothing, he thought; didn’t have to be a damn thing at all lately.
Nick smiled back at his wife of twenty years and it almost felt real. “You trying to get me drunk, ma’am?” Part of him hoped she was, if only for the sake of old times. A larger part hoped not.
She set her book aside, picked up the Tuaca, licked the rim of her glass with a pink tongue. “Drunk or not, Detective, I’d appreciate it if you’d get over here and fuck my brains out.”
“I see.” He used to love this game…used to love a lot of things. “With or without my gun on?” The words were rote, stale. If she noticed, she gave no indication. He figured it was unlikely that she noticed.
“Bring the gun…might be fun. Hey, I’m a poet and don’t know it!” She giggled. The childish, babbling brook sound he’d fallen in love with so many years ago.
She sipped her drink, ran her tongue across her bottom lip to catch a drip. This time it was not calculated sensuality, it was just she being herself, vintage Cass, and the utterly unselfconscious mannerism accomplished what the rim-licking, suede-throated come-on had not. He wanted her.
Cassie’s drink seemed to float out of her hand to the coaster as he stood and walked slowly to her. Her eyes widened slightly, glistening.
Would it be different this time? Probably not. Why should it?
He stopped before her, took her in with his eyes, something miles deep inside him still marveling at the way she seemed sharper—more substantial—than everything around her, as though her presence required more energy than her mass could supply and had to borrow from things nearby. What he’d always felt for her was beyond love and without definition, although he’d tried once explaining it to Alex: It’s suffocating sometimes, he’d said. Actually more than sometimes. And it’s more than suffocating; it can be nearly debilitating.
His feelings at this moment were no less extreme than they’d been, but now there was an element of panic, a terror at the possibility of losing her to something unknown.
She did not raise her head, simply gazed upward at him through the wisps of blonde spritzed across her unlined forehead, a crooked grin tugging at the left corner of her moist lips. Her crisp man’s shirt was unbuttoned halfway down, creating a V that pointed at a spot an inch above her belly button. His eyes followed the edges of the opening up to where the gap widened to accommodate her breasts: perfect, natural, round and muscled. The areola around the nipple of her right breast was just visible as a small crescent of pink. The light caught a tiny bead of sweat—or maybe it was a drop of moisture from her glass—inching slowly down the elegant curve and into the shadowed cleft. She was, as she had always been, beyond compare, beyond adequate description.
“Why do you love me?” It was his voice but it seemed to come from somewhere far away; and the words felt wrong, as though they’d gotten mixed up between his brain and his lips and should have been: Do you still love me? Apprehension clogged his throat, a need that had very little to do with sexual desire causing his heart to thud painfully in his ears. He needed this to work.
She lifted her head, a quizzical look producing the hint of a line between her pencil-sketched eyebrows. “Why not,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper filed at the edges. And it was not a question—it was a challenge.
She shifted a little, her legs unfolding and opening slow-motion, delicate fingers sliding down her thigh, under the edge of her shirt, disappearing between her legs. “I think I found something you’ve been looking for,” she said. A fine sheen of perspiration glistened on her upper lip.
Nick smiled. “Is that where I left it?”
And it was going to work this time.
Please, God. This time.