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Authors: Bertrice Small

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Women's Fiction, #Friendship, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Romantic Erotica

Private Pleasures

BOOK: Private Pleasures
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

PRIVATE PLEASURES

A
New American Library
Book / published by arrangement with the author

All rights reserved.
Copyright Š
2004
by
Bertrice Small
This book may not be reproduced in whole or part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.
For information address:
The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

The Penguin Putnam Inc. World Wide Web site address is
http://www.penguinputnam.com

ISBN:
0-7865-4873-8

A
NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY
BOOKŽ
New American Library
Books first published by The New American Library Publishing Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY
and the "
NAL
" design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Putnam Inc.

Electronic edition: July, 2004

BOOKS BY BERTRICE SMALL
The Kadin
Love Wild and Fair
Adora
Unconquered
Beloved
Enchantress Mine
Blaze Wyndham
The Spitfire
A Moment in Time
To Love Again
Love, Remember Me
The Love Slave
Hellion
Betrayed
Deceived
The Innocent
A Memory of Love
The Dutchess

THE O'MALLEY SAGA
Skye O'Malley
All the Sweet Tomorrows
A Love for All Time
This Heart of Mine
Lost Love Found
Wild Jasmine

SKYE'S LEGACY
Darling Jasmine
Bedazzled
Beseiged
Intrigued
Just Beyond Tomorrow
Vixens

THE FRIARSGATE INHERITANCE
Rosamund
Until You

ANTHOLOGIES
Captivated
Fascinated
Delighted
I Love Rogues

FOR KATHE ROBIN,
WHO LIKES IT VERY, VERY HOT

Chapter One

"I think Jeff is having an affair," Nora Buckley said unhappily, looking about the kitchen table at her four friends.
The women of Ansley Court shifted uncomfortably, throwing quick looks at one another. It was a difficult situation.
"So." Rina Seligmann, the oldest of them, finally broke the silence. "What else is new, sweetie? I mean who hasn't Jeff hit on all the years we've lived here?"
The silence deepened appreciably with her words.
"Oh, my God!" Rina gasped as the truth hit her. She looked at Nora sympathetically. "You didn't know, hon? You really didn't know? Shit! I'm sorry, Nora. I didn't mean . . ." Her voice trailed off.
"What makes you think Jeff is having an affair?" Carla Johnson, Nora's best friend, asked quietly. "And don't pay any attention to Rina. She's got a big mouth, and a bigger imagination." She gave Rina a sharp look.
Nora Buckley swallowed hard, her questioning glance encompassing the other four women at the table. "Did any of you . . . ?" Her voice trailed off.
"NO!" they all chorused with one voice.
"Then why did Rina say it?" Nora looked as if she was going to cry. She was a pretty woman with fading red hair and soft gray green eyes.
"Because," Carla explained, "there used to be rumors at the club about what a big flirt Jeff was. I suspect a few women even succumbed to his charms, but honey, it's all water under the bridge. No one took him seriously except one or two professional widows, or a divorcée hot to trot. We sure never did. Now, what's got you so damned upset, Nora? Why are you so suddenly certain that Jeff is having an affair, and with whom, for heaven's sake?"
"It's someone at his office, or at least connected with his business," Nora replied softly. "He's in town far more than he is here, isn't he? He's been home once in the last ten days. Just once. I don't know what to do, or think."
"And?" Carla probed as the others tried not to look too interested. Carla was the most sensible of them all. She had taken Nora under her wing from the moment they had met. Carla was no-nonsense. Nora was gentle, almost helpless except where her house and her two children were concerned.
"There have been more and more late nights when he does come home," Nora said. "And calls on the weekends to his business phone in the den. If I pick it up, the caller hangs up," Nora explained. She sighed. "I know the kids have more than consumed me, but raising children is hard work. Maybe I haven't been as attentive to Jeff as I might have been. And I've let myself go a little because I never seem to have enough time for me anymore. Suddenly I feel as if Jeff and I don't have anything in common. He's so distant when he is home. It's like he's paying his mother a reluctant visit instead of coming home to his wife and his family. He doesn't seem interested in us at all."
Rina nodded. "I think you've got it right, hon," she said stoically. "He's sure showing all the signs of a man on the prowl, and don't glare at me, Carla. What else can it be?" She reached for a jelly stick, and bit into it.
"How the hell did you get so smart? And how would you know such things?" Carla snapped. "Sam is so damned devoted to you that it's sickening. You're the luckiest woman on Ansley Court, Rina, and you know it."
"Hey, I read
Cosmo
and
Ms.
too," Rina snapped back. "I may be the oldest of us all, but I'm not dead yet by any means." She took another bite of the jelly stick.
Her companions laughed. Rina was the only one of them who would really stand up to Carla Johnson. They were six years apart in age, but very much alike in character.
"But what am I going to do?" Nora wailed plaintively. "I'm scared to death for the first time in my life. What if he leaves me?"
"Well, you have to consider if you're better with him or without him," Tiffany Pietro d'Angelo, silent until then, said. "Isn't that what 'Dear Abby' asks?" She was a pretty and petite blonde whose lawyer husband was in local practice with Carla's husband.
"I honestly don't know," Nora said slowly, "but if he's in love with another woman, I can't stand in the way of his happiness. But then, do I really want to throw away twenty-six years of marriage?"
"What have you got?" Rina asked bluntly.
"Got?" Nora looked confused.
"Yeah, got. In your name. The house? And if you're smart, you'll clear out all the joint bank accounts right away. Put 'em in your name," Rina advised. "And move your own bank account somewhere your husband doesn't know about. Jeff is at that dangerous age. When they get involved at this time in their lives they usually want to start all over again with the Jennifer."
"Jennifer? You know her name?" Nora looked confused, and the others struggled to keep from giggling. Nora was really such a sweet innocent even after two kids and all those years of marriage.
"The Jennifer is what they call the young girlfriend who usually ends up being the second wife. The trophy wife," Rina explained acerbically. "Who knows what her real name is? Heather. Courtney. Madison. Who cares?"
The others giggled.
"So," Rina repeated. "What have you got?"
"I don't think I have anything," Nora said softly with a sigh. "The house is in Jeff's name. The only bank account I have is a joint one with Jeff. I pay all the bills associated with the house and the children. He deposits my allowance into it once a month. That's what his father did for his mother."
"Jesus Jenny!" Rina exploded while the other three woman just looked disbelieving. "I thought women like you went out in the fifties, Nora. You don't own the house? Not even jointly? You don't have some money of your own put aside for emergencies? Shit! I think that you are in really big trouble, hon."
"Shut up!" Carla said. "We don't know anything for sure. You're scaring Nora to death with all your talk. How do we know Jeff is having an affair, or that he's going to dump his wife for another woman? You're letting that damned imagination of yours run away with you. You all are!" She put a comforting arm about her best friend. "Nora's just down in the dumps because Jeff is being a little worse than his crappy self. Mr. Workaholic. That's Jeff. Nora's lonely. Jill is finishing college, and working so she can support herself at law school. J. J. is graduating high school, and headed off to college in August. Nora's facing an empty nest. You know what I think, girls? I think Nora needs The Channel. I think it's time we shared our little secret with her." She looked about, grinning conspiratorially at the others. "Am I right? Huh?"
"Ohhh, yes!" Tiffany giggled. "I just love The Channel? What would we all do without The Channel? I remember how I always hated Joe's poker night until you introduced me to The Channel. But now Joe can play cards till the cows come home for all I care." She got a dreamy look on her pretty face, her slim fingers twirling a lock of her champagne blond hair. "Thank heavens for The Channel!" She sighed gustily.
"How come we've never told Nora about The Channel before, Carla?" Joanne Ulrich wondered aloud. Like Tiffany she was petite, but where the youngest of them was slender, Joanne was plump in a pretty and comfortable way. "We generally share everything as a rule."
"Do you really think Nora was ready for The Channel before today?" Rina replied with a mischievous grin as she reached for another jelly stick. She was one of those tall women who never gained weight. "Not really."
The other women laughed knowingly, nodding, sharing the secret.
"What channel?" Nora asked them. "What on earth are you talking about?"
"Yeah," Carla agreed. "I think it is time for us to share The Channel with Nora." She turned to her best friend. "It's this interactive thing we get through the television, sweetie," she began. "It's really difficult to explain. You have to experience it to understand it. The next time you're going to be alone for the whole evening, call Suburban Cable, and tell them you want The Channel. That's all you have to do. Try it. I'll bet you'll like it. We all use it, and we all love it. You'll feel a helluva lot better after an evening with The Channel, Nora."
"What channel?" Nora repeated, looking very confused. "Is it like House and Garden? And what's
interactive
?"
The women burst out laughing again, unable to contain themselves.
"House and Garden," Tiffany wheezed, laughing so hard that the tears ran down her pretty face.
Finally Carla managed to get ahold of herself, and said, "No, hon, it isn't at all like House and Garden. At least it isn't for me. It's different for everyone. But who knows with you, Nora? Look, have I ever steered you wrong? Trust me. Just ask Suburban for The Channel. That's all you have to say. 'I want The Channel.' Now somebody pass me a jelly stick before Rina eats them all. Is this a coffee klatch, or not?"
"Like you need a jelly stick," Rina chuckled with a smile.
"What can I say?" Carla replied, biting into the pastry and quickly licking the jelly that squirted onto her chin. "Your homemade jelly sticks are the best! Besides, Rick likes me cuddly and huggable." She grinned at them.
The women of Ansley Court met every Monday morning for coffee and gossip. They had all moved into Ansley at Egret Pointe, an upscale subdivision, twenty to twenty-five years before. Rina and Sam Seligmann had built first on the cul-de-sac. They had been followed by Joanne and Carl Ulrich. The Buckleys and the Johnsons had by coincidence built at the same time. And finally Tiffany and Joe Pietro d'Angelo had constructed their house on the last lot on Ansley Court. Rina and Joanne were over fifty now. The other three were slightly younger.
They had raised their children together, while their husbands supported their families in the traditional old-fashioned way. Rina had once been a full-time social worker. Joanne an elementary school teacher. Carla was a nurse. Only Tiffany and Nora had never held down a job. Neighbors are not always the best of friends, but these five women were. They had done nursery school, PTA, Little League, and soccer together. They had gone trick-or-treating together in costume with their children and weathered chicken pox and flu seasons constantly, exchanging remedies. They even hung their Christmas lights out on the same day so Ansley Court wouldn't be lopsided, as Tiffany liked to say.
Long ago the five families had bought a ramshackle old Victorian house, called a camp, for their summers. The house was set on a mountain lake. They shared their camp together throughout the warmer vacation months, and often into autumn weekends. They taught their kids to swim there, and more important how to identify poison ivy. The children had named it Camp Cozy. It had been a very comfortable and predictable lifestyle neatly bordered by the changing seasons. But now with Nora Buckley's fears out in the open, something was changing, and not necessarily for the better. They could all feel it.
Nora's husband, Jeff Buckley, wasn't at all like their husbands, and he had never made any real effort to be friendly. Sam Seligmann was Egret Pointe's favorite doctor. He had an old-fashioned general practice, rare in this day and age, but he was the kind of doctor his father had been, and he was content to follow in his father's footsteps. Carl Ulrich owned the local hardware store, which continued to flourish despite the Home Depot in a nearby new mall. Carl gave his customers personal service. He was knowledgeable, as were his two longtime employees. They were unlike the kids working at the mall, who didn't know a wing nut from a Brazil nut. Joe Pietro d'Angelo and Rick Johnson had a small country law practice in the village. They handled wills, house closings, a few local divorces, and other small matters usual to a country village. Carla was Joe's cousin. Only Jeff Buckley, partner in a prestigious advertising agency, commuted to the nearby city.
Jeff had been very ambitious and career oriented. He had never been around a great deal. He missed his son's Little League games each year, and despite the fact that the boy, named after him but called J. J., was star of the high school varsity soccer team, Jeff had never seen him play. And his daughter had fared no better. He had never seen her perform in a dance recital or a school play. She had gone to college in California, and had recently been accepted at Duke Law. Jeff enjoyed bragging about Jill's accomplishments.
He showed up at Camp Cozy two weekends a summer: over the Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends. He was pleasant enough when he was around, but the other men had absolutely nothing in common with him. It was Nora they all knew and liked. They tolerated her husband for her sake. Jeff was definitely the odd man out, and he didn't seem to care at all.
Nora Edwards had meet Jeffrey Buckley in her freshman year at college. He had been a senior. He was the quarterback of the football team, captain of the baseball team, and a brilliant scholar. He was the quintessential big man on campus. He had come to the freshman mixer with some fraternity buddies to check out the girls, looking for the sluts who could be easily fucked, and the nice girls who might be eventually seduced. But Jeff Buckley was ambitious, and wherever he was going, he would go to the top.
He had met Nora, and known immediately that this was the girl he wanted for a wife. She was perfect for him. She had the correct ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds. She was pretty in a subdued and ladylike way with her soft trusting eyes and her pageboy hairstyle. She wore a powder blue cashmere sweater set, and a strand of dainty pearls about her neck. She was an only child, innocent, carefully sheltered. She wasn't stupid. In fact she was very intelligent, but she was unsophisticated. Her girlfriends told her how lucky she was to have attracted a guy like Jeff Buckley, and having fallen half in love with him that first night, she believed them. And she believed Jeff Buckley. A pat from him, a flash of his smile, and she was lost.
But most important of all to Jeff was that Nora was a virgin. And he made sure that she stayed that way until he married her. The word went out on the campus that pretty Nora Edwards was the property of Jeff Buckley, quarterback of State's championship football team. On her birthday, November 30, he gave her his fraternity pin. She was serenaded by his fraternity just before the Christmas break, while standing in the cold before her dorm wearing the long dark green velvet formal gown she had worn to the Christmas dance at his fraternity house. Candles burned in the windows of the dorm, and the shadowed figures of the other girls could just be made out. She had almost frozen to death, but she had never shivered because she wanted him to be proud of her.

BOOK: Private Pleasures
7.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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