Here’s a taste of my latest novel, Something Forbidden, a story that demonstrates that even the most normal of couples and the strongest of relationships are looking for something a little forbidden to spice things up. This will be available on Amazon around September 22. You can sign up for alerts on my author page.
I nodded at the man’s half-empty pint. “Refill?”
“No, I’m fine for now.”
I knew the look in his eyes. He was a guy with a secret he was dying to tell. I’ve been in the bartending business close to 15 years—recognizing that look was second nature.
I cut right to it. I found that most people in his situation appreciated that. “Want to talk about it?”
The guy’s brows went up. He glanced behind him, thinking that maybe the question wasn’t directed to him. Seeing no one else, a smile spread across his face. “Am I that obvious?”
I shrugged. If he wanted to talk, then he’d talk. No point in forcing it.
Before he could decide whether to share his secret, a blonde entered the bar sporting the kind of little black dress I’d never be able to convince my wife Katie to wear in public. Her honey platinum hair curved around her angular face, ending in a sharp bob just below her chin.
I knew her look as well as I knew the guy’s: she was here to get laid. And the man who got to take her home was going to have a very good time.
The blonde crossed the room, all eyes on her, including my own. She wore a towering pair of black heels that stretched out her petite body and made her legs look like works of art. She seemed impervious to the attention, although not oblivious. She smiled, tracing her eyes down the bar, where she met the man in front of me.
They shared a look packed full of meaning. They knew one another.
“Excuse me,” I said to the guy, and left him to attend to the blonde. The predators were already pouncing before I even reached her.
Starlight Lounge was my foray out of the pub-scene. As the name suggested, Starlight was more bar than lounge, an attempt for me to diversify my business portfolio, as my accountant wife had encouraged. Callahan and Callahan 2 were both Irish-themed pubs, something that I was comfortable with. Their clientele was like me: thirty-somethings discovering what it really means to be an adult. Starlight’s clientele skewed younger and more polished, a post-college group just looking for a good time. Like the blonde in the black dress.
A tall man—too good looking for his own good—stood at her side. I ignored him, focusing on the blonde. “What can I get you?”
She eyed me up and down before answering in a husky voice that matched her look. “Gin and tonic.”
“Put it on my tab,” her would-be suitor offered, turning his thousand-watt smile on the blonde.
I glanced at my friend-with-a-secret sitting at the corner of the bar. He was hunched over his drink, but was riveted to this encounter. Curious.
“I haven’t seen you around here. You from out of town?” the guy hitting on the blonde said.
I suppressed a groan as I fixed her gin and tonic. Nice try, buddy, but you’re not getting anywhere.
“That doesn’t normally work, does it?” The blonde glanced at me, a half smile on her lips.
“What?” the man asked, confused.
“Your opening line. Are you from out of town? Really?” she said.
I smiled back at her, placed a lime wedge in her drink, and set it on the bar. “Gin and tonic,” I said. To the guy: “On your tab.”
The woman picked it up and took a sip. “Thanks for the drink from the town welcoming committee. Bye now.”
The guy didn’t seem to know what emotion to settle on. I saw confusion, anger, and then embarrassment war across his chiseled face. In the end, he settled on getting the fuck out of there, and left.
To me, she repeated: “Are you from out of town?”
We laughed. Already another man was making his way in her direction, this one tall, dark, and handsome. For his sake, I hoped he was wittier than the last. “You’ve got another incoming,” I told her.
“Thanks for the warning.” She winked and I preened inside at the attention, despite myself.
“Good luck.” And off I went, checking on the drink levels down the bar. I was just out of earshot when I heard the new guy tell her that she looked familiar, and that he swears they’ve met before. I chuckled at that.
By the time I made it back to the guy with a secret, I’d started to put it all together, and he knew it.
“She’s sexy, isn’t she?”
“Very. She’s with you?” For whatever reason, my pulse began to quicken. What kind of game were these two playing? I saw his ring, and a quick check confirmed she had one as well. “Your wife?”
“Right again, barkeep.” His smile was proud, but there was a hint of embarrassment in his eyes. “Wife of five years.”
I stared at the guy. He looked normal enough—attractive, even, with broad shoulders and a friendly face. He looked a little older than me—his late 30s or so—with a head of tight, curly hair just beginning to recede. He seemed like a family man, like me, someone I’d feel comfortable talking to at a barbeque.
And yet there was that edge…
“Explain that one to me,” I said. The strangeness of this whole encounter made me bold. I would probably never see this couple again, so why not ask the hard questions? “You’re married to a woman like that, and yet you’re not over there, keeping the wolves at bay? “
He smiled broadly and nodded. “It’s tough to explain…” He finished off his beer. “But I’ll try, if you get me another.”
I poured him another and set it down, leaning conversationally on my side of the bar. “On the house.” This ought to be good.
He inclined his head in thanks. “I guess I’m one of those guys who gets off on his wife being with other men.”
I’ll never forget that line. He just came out and said it, leaving me blinking and stunned. I’d heard of the fantasy before, of course—even suspected that’s where this was going. Call me naïve, but I’d never thought I’d witness it, and I’d never met a man who just admitted to it.
And as crazy as it was, I felt myself harden.
“So you like to watch?” I asked.
“Yeah, but that’s not really what it’s about. Not for me, anyway.”
“So what is it?” I probably asked it too quickly. I felt like I was watching something on the Discovery Channel, not in my own bar.
“You’re married, right?” He glanced down at my ring. “And you think your wife’s attractive?”
“Absolutely.” I thought about Katie, her auburn hair spilling around her bare freckled shoulders. All husbands are biased but Katie was indisputably attractive. I had the stares of other men to back me up.
Suddenly, it began to dawn on me where this guy was headed, and when it did, I felt my gut churn. He must have seen the look on my face because he nodded enthusiastically.
“You don’t mind showing her off, do you?” he said. “It’s kind of validating, right? You have what others want?” He cocked his head in the direction of his wife, where a new man was hitting on her—this one actually had her laughing at whatever he’d said—in a good way.
“This is like the next step,” the husband said.
“The next step after showing her off is to let her fuck other guys?” Despite my incredulity, I felt my blood pump hard. This was insane. I could never imagine Katie doing what this guy’s wife was doing, right? And yet even my internal question had me hard enough that I was glad I could hide behind the bar.
“Can there be any greater compliment?”
My brain couldn’t make that leap, but my body was already way on the other side, racing into the distance. “I’ll have to chew on that one.”
The guy grinned. “It’s not for everyone, but don’t judge right away. Think about it.”
“Hey, I’m a bartender. We don’t judge. Otherwise we wouldn’t be cut out for this job.”
“Right on.” The guy nodded. “Thanks for the drink.”
“Thanks for the story.”
I moved on, tending to a few other drinks, but my mind was on high alert. The blonde’s third suitor, a good-looking man still wearing his suit and tie, seemed to be hitting it off rather well. He summoned me over and ordered a pair of gin martinis. The blonde glanced at me without a hint of apology or shame in her crystal blue eyes.
“Thanks, Max,” she said, reading my nametag. For a moment, I was at the very center of her world.
Then she turned to her latest Romeo and the spotlight shifted to him. I felt a twinge of jealousy I didn’t have a right to, reminded myself of my role as audience in these bar room dramas, not participant.
Still, I couldn’t help thinking about my own situation. As I worked my way down the bar, I kept one eye on the blonde and the other on her husband. He didn’t get up a make a scene. He didn’t approach her at all. He just…watched.
I thought of Katie in this situation and my chest tightened. What if it was her wearing that tight black dress, enjoying a cocktail on another man’s dime? What if it was her—my wife of over eight years and mother of our bright little three-year-old—laughing at a stranger’s jokes? That spark of jealousy I felt a moment ago turned into an inferno, and yet at the heart of it all was something else. Excitement? Arousal?
I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why would any man put his wife in this situation? I thought about returning to the guy and picking his brain some more, but at that moment, his wife stood up with the stranger and excused herself for the restaurant. The stranger summoned me over.
“I need to close my tab.” He had a crazy wide grin stretched across his face.
“Sure thing. One sec.”
I glanced at the blonde’s husband, but he was already packing up his things. He’d paid in cash so had nothing to settle. He met my eyes, a touch of embarrassment in his smile, and left. Five minutes later, his wife left with the stranger.
I’d seen a lot of strange things in my years running bars. I’d seen men fight over women. I’d seen women fight over men. I’d seen the beginnings of more one-night stands than I could count. I’d even seen a man come into a bar, find his wife flirting with a stranger, and accuse her of being a whore. But I’d never seen anything like I did that night at Starlight.
It did something to me. Changed me. Awoke something. Whatever it was, it made me feel ashamed. I wanted to bury it in the darkest recesses of my mind and forget all about it. Which is what I did…for a while, anyway.
By the time it resurfaced, six months later at Nadia and John’s wedding, the roots were deeper than I could ever have imagined.
The rest will be coming to Amazon on September 22, 2013. You can sign up for alerts on my author page.
Read more about Something Forbidden here.