Authors: Travis Thrasher
© 2006 by
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
Cover Design: LeVan Fisher Design
Cover Image: Steven Puetzer/Masterfile
Interior Design: LeftCoast Design
Editors: LB Norton and Ali Diaz
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Thrasher, Travis, 1971-
Blinded / by Travis Thrasher.
1. Husbands—Fiction. 2. Temptation—Fiction. 3. Manhattan (New York, N.Y.)—Fiction. I. Title.
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For Ben, Brandon, Jeremy, Mark, and Scott.
Five men who will always have my respect
In New York freedom looks like too many choices
In New York I found a friend to drown out the other voices
—“New York” by U2
These are not the words you expect to hear. Not now, on a Friday midafternoon in Manhattan. Not after the two days you’ve had. Not after the cancelled dinner and the cancelled merger. And positively, definitely, not from the beautiful woman in the black skirt and heels standing before you.
For a moment you’re lost for words. You’re never lost for words. But for half a second, you can’t say anything.
Only half an hour ago you watched her settle into her seat and order a glass of wine and cross her legs and gaze out at the sidewalk close to Rockefeller Center. Sipping a red and people-watching, just as you were doing. Your glance shifted, first to the table in front of you, then to the half-glass of Pinot Grigio, then the empty chair facing you, then the glisten of
your wedding ring in the sun. But your eyes found their way back to the blonde sitting in front of you, her profile in full view, her eyes glancing over and easily spotting your gaze.
You were the first to look away.
This sort of fun, innocent glancing went on for half an hour as the motion of the city blurred behind. People getting off work, tourists roaming, couples strolling. You are here because you’ve ordered wine from this place before. It’s a hobby you’ve only picked up the last couple of years; harmless, yet you keep it from some of the couples you know. Some of your church friends who still make a big deal out of drinking. But in a city far away from the suburbs of Chicago, nobody is going to see you. Nobody is going to care if you’re on your second glass. Or if you’re staring at one of the hottest women you’ve ever seen.
It doesn’t hurt to look.
But for some reason she’s now standing in front of you, looking down at you, smiling, waiting for an answer.
That’s all you say.
She sits down across from you, a glass in her hand. For a moment she continues watching the sidewalk.
You have no idea how your life is about to change.
Full lips that curl into a smile captivate you. You wait for her to say something.
“Enjoying your glass?”
“Very much,” you reply.
“What do you have?”
“A Pinot Grigio.”
Her voice is soft but confident, more mature than her twenty-something appearance suggests.
“Much of a wine connoisseur?”
You shake your head and ask, “Are you?”
“I come here to observe people. It’s always fascinating who you might run into.”
Her soft, flawless skin almost glows.
“Where are you from?” she asks after a moment of silence.
“Do I look like a tourist?”
“You don’t look like a New Yorker.”
“Chicago,” you say. It’s easier than saying Deerfield, Illinois.
“You don’t have an accent.”
“Neither do you.”
“I haven’t stuck around anywhere long enough to pick up an accent.”
Her greenish-blue eyes, model’s eyes, would seem manufactured if they were in a magazine. Blonde hair that might be real or colored falls several inches below her shoulders. The look she gives is confident, curious, and relaxed.
You think it’s a dangerous look. Women might be the ones who claim to have intuitions, but you have some yourself.
“Where are you from?”
“Florida. And California.”
“Which one first?”
She shines another smile. “Does it matter?”
“Florida,” she answers.
A waiter comes up, and she preempts his question by ordering another glass of something called The Prisoner.
“That’s the name of a wine?”
She nods. You tell the waiter you’ll try a glass.
It’s the end of a long week and you didn’t ask for her to be sitting there and there’s nothing wrong with sharing a glass of wine with a stranger in the middle of hundreds of other strangers. A single snapshot might look scandalous but you have an explanation and you don’t need an explanation anyway.
You’re too fried to even think about anything except wondering who this woman is and what she really wants.
“Heading back soon?” she asks.
She has a strong voice. Nothing about her is weak. Her gaze doesn’t waver as you keep your eyes on hers and avoid looking at anything else. Or any other part of her.
“So with all the sights to see in New York, and all the things to do, what brings you here?”
“I order wines from this place. Thought I’d check it out in person.”
“First time to New York?”
“First time sitting here,” you tell her.
You came to New York first with Lisa.
Lisa is your wife, just in case you need someone to remind you.
The blonde takes a sip from her wine and you look at her lips for a second longer than you probably should.
, you think.
Tired and fed up and not wanting to think
Perhaps this is rationalizing.
“And you’re all alone?”
Now you’re the one to smile.
“Am I missing something here?” you ask.
“Uncomfortable with questions?”
“I’ve seen stuff like this on television shows. People getting pranked.”
“I just figured you might like some company. And I thought you probably wouldn’t take the initiative to join me.”
“And you’re all alone?” you repeat her question.
“At the moment, no. Just making light conversation to pass the time.”
You wonder if this is a New York thing.
“I’m Michael,” you tell her, finally being friendly.
“And what does Michael do for a living?”
You smile. “Michael works in technology.”
“You sell it?”
“Does it matter?” you ask, teasing her.
“Come on. You already told me your name.”
“I could’ve made up it up. There are thousands of Michaels.”
“There are thousands of salesmen.”
“I don’t sell anything. I’m a VP of finance. It’s a small company.”
Hoping to be bought out by a conglomerate. Hoping to capitalize on growth. Hoping to seal a deal that would set me for life
Hope has many meanings. You don’t want to think about hope anymore.
“You don’t look like the accountant type.”
“Trust me, I’m not.”
She looks at you and doesn’t look away. The sidewalks are getting busier but you’ve stopped watching people.
“So what are
selling?” you ask.
Her gaze doesn’t waver. “Please.”
“A lot of women might take that as an insult.”
“A lot of guys might be too stupid to ask.”
She sips her glass again and for the moment continues to watch the crowd. As if she’s done, at least for the moment, with the conversation. You don’t know if she’s out on business, but she might be. Wearing a suit with the skirt cut above her knees and a white blouse that looks expensive. Black pointy heels. A little purse that can only carry sunglasses and a couple of credit cards.
This is the way your luck goes. A beautiful outgoing
woman with that look in her eye comes and sits down at a table with you to share a glass of wine and some light banter. There is nothing more that can happen because you are a married man with two children. And Lisa might wonder what in the world you’re doing with this woman in the first place, talking and smiling and sharing a glass of wine.
It’s harmless and you didn’t do anything to prompt it and nothing else will come of it because nothing
come of it. And that’s your luck. Because as beautiful as this woman is, she is not yours and can never be yours and all she will be is a seductive smile to look at.
“Tell me, Michael,” she says, stressing your name. “Are you an adventurous man?”
You feel a chill go through you. Not a warm chill. It’s the kind that scares you. Her question is loaded, and both of you know it.
“I like to think I am,” you say, feigning control, feigning an adventurous spirit.
You bet she sees right through you.
“You look like you’re two seconds away from sprinting out of here.”
“I’m fine right where I am,” you say, doing your best at acting cool.
“Do you know that the other day I saw George Clooney on that very sidewalk? Probably in town doing press for a new movie.”
“You probably get a lot of that around here.”
“I’m not often starstruck. In fact, I never am. But George. He’s in a different class.”
“Would you approach him?”
A hint of playfulness flickers in her eyes. “No. But I’d do my best to try to get him to come up to me.”
“So what does that make me?”
She laughs. “A very lucky man.”
“Probably,” you say, your eyes locking onto hers and, for a brief second, sharing something unspoken but powerful. “So what do you do for a living?”
“Lots of things.”
“Lots of jobs?”
She smiles. “I own my own business, among other things.”
“Not really, but I’ll take it.”
“What sort of business?”
“A little bit of everything.”
You don’t mind her vagueness. Maybe she has wealthy parents. From the look of her, she has money, wherever she’s getting it from. She wears a thin watch with diamonds around its face. A small necklace with a diamond pendant dangles from her neck. There is a ring on her right hand that looks pricey.
“So have you enjoyed your time in New York?”
“You sound like a travel agent,” you say.
“And you sound nervous. It’s just a question.”
“Actually, it’s been pretty lousy, to be honest.”
Where do I begin?
She looks, waits for something more. You’re not about to get into it here and now with this stranger.
“I came here hoping for more. Things just—they didn’t work out.”
“But you’re here now.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Things can still work out for you.”
She smiles. Once again, you feel a slow-growing sense of alarm.
You take a sip from your glass. But it doesn’t help.
Your fears (and part of you wonders what exactly you’re afraid of) eventually subside when the unnamed woman says she must go.
“Thanks for the chat.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve already paid for my wine.”
“It’s fine,” you say.
She looks at you as if she’s contemplating something, sizing you up.