My Lover Died In The Saddle (On Top of Me)


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Couple in ecstasy

“I don’t feel good about this.”

My sexy lover placed a hot kiss on my mouth. Behind us was the cabin we were renting for the weekend, located hundreds of miles from civilization. We stood beside the Jeep we’d rented. “I told Anthony I’d be out of range so he wouldn’t try to call me.”

I’d told Anthony that I’d volunteered to chaperone a camping trip for a friend whose daughter was in the Girl Scouts. My friend really was camping with her daughter, but I wasn’t with them.

I was in the mountains with my virile, inventive lover. His kiss turned even more demanding, his hips grinding into mine.

“You may not feel good now,” he growled, “but you will later. . . . ”

If my husband had murmured something that cheeky and conceited, I would have laughed it off, knowing he’d never live up to such a promise. But now I shivered with anticipation, knowing from experience what I could look forward to.

He squeezed my waist. “Can you believe it?” His sexy brown eyes were bright with the eagerness of a teenager, although he was forty-eight. “We’ve got three days and two nights without a soul around. No phones, no television, and no interruptions.”

I smiled. He was just so vibrant and lustful. “No lumpy hotel beds, no uncomfortable backseats . . . ”

His grin was naughty as he continued the game of naming all the illicit places where we’d managed to make love. “No grass-stained clothes, no imbedded rocks in the skin . . . ”

I burst out laughing as I remembered one particular incident that had stayed with me for weeks. “No poison ivy!” It was a mystery that still puzzled my husband, how I’d gotten poison ivy when we lived in the city, surrounded by concrete and glass. For hours and hours I’d tried to think of a good explanation and kept turning up blank. Finally, I’d shrugged my shoulders and told my husband I didn’t have a clue.

Sometimes I felt ashamed, but I was too happy to stay down for long.

Anthony hadn’t made me feel that alive in several years. Deep in my heart, I knew our marriage was over, but I just couldn’t bring myself to officially end it. We had three kids—two in high school and one in junior high. I wanted to hang on, at least until they graduated.

The sad part was that Anthony didn’t seem to have a clue that our marriage was in trouble. I think that he believed it was normal not to make love for weeks on end, or to kiss or hug or just have a “moment” when we stared deeply into each other’s eyes.

So I sought out my lover whenever and wherever I could, for the fulfillment that I could only find in his arms.

“Let’s go inside and take a shower,” I suggested.

It had been two whole weeks since we’d last managed to see one another, and then only for a brief time. The cabin we’d rented was simply furnished, with a full-sized bed, a couch, and a tiny table with two chairs. There was also a small kitchen and a fireplace.

I was in the shower when I heard my lover call out, “Did you bring the handcuffs?”

A delicious shiver stole down my spine as I imagined the fun we were going to have with those cuffs. “Yes, I did!” I called back, deciding I’d go first. Handcuffing each other was only one of the dozens of fantasies we’d discussed but hadn’t tried.

Red Lace Underwear and Passion

“Baby, take all of me.”

He started singing a country ballad as I finished up in the shower and wrapped a towel around me.

“Your turn!” I told him as I hurried into the bedroom and shut the door. I wanted to get everything ready while he was in the shower and surprise him.

Racing around—because he never took long in the shower—I lit candles, turned back the bedcovers, and began to rub scented lotion all over my body. Then I combed my hair and slipped into a sexy red teddy. I laid the handcuffs on the bed.

I was ready.

When he came into the room and saw what I’d done, his brown eyes darkened. He flicked his wrist and the towel fell from his waist. Slowly, he advanced. I giggled and scrambled onto the bed, pretending to be alarmed. He caught my wrist, snagged the handcuffs, and anchored each wrist to the bed post. He almost spoiled it by asking, “They’re not too tight, are they?”

I shook my head, my heart racing. Despite my excitement, it was a little unnerving to be so completely at a man’s mercy. But I reminded myself that I trusted him. I watched his sultry expression. His face was flushed and a line of perspiration had formed above his lip. He was breathing hard, like I was.

When he put a hand to his chest and grimaced, I thought he was playing. “What’s wrong, baby?” I crooned teasingly. “Did I break your heart?”

But he didn’t answer. Instead, his grimace became a twisted mask of agony. His eyes went wide with shock. In a second, he tipped forward onto me, his body heavy.

“Hey, this isn’t funny!” I felt a twinge of fear. “I don’t like this game.”

I couldn’t feel him breathing, and I didn’t feel his heartbeat. The upper half of his muscular body was lying on the bottom half of mine. I wiggled my hips, refusing to panic. I still thought he was teasing me.

“I said it’s not funny. Get up, okay?”

Finally, fear got the upper hand. I bucked hard, knocking him from me and flipping him over onto his back. His head lolled over the side of the bed. His lifeless arm followed. He wasn’t moving; he wasn’t breathing.

Nobody can hold their breath that long, I thought. A scream was building in my throat. Oh, God. He’s had a heart attack! But how was that possible? He was only forty-eight years old. He worked out three times a week. He was a health nut. He didn’t smoke and he rarely drank.

This could not be happening.

After fifteen minutes of denying it, I was forced to realize the absolute horror of the situation: I was handcuffed to a bed in a cabin miles from anyone or anywhere, and my lover was dead or dying.

In a blind panic, I twisted my head around to study the bed and the handcuffs. I nearly fainted with relief as I realized that I could lift the handcuffs over the bedposts. It wasn’t as easy as it sounded, however, and by the time I managed to get one wrist freed, I felt as if my arms were detached from their sockets.

The moment I was free, I scrambled from the bed and found the duffle bag where I’d left the keys to the cuffs. My hands were shaking badly. I kept dropping the key, sobbing now as the horror of my plight sank in. My sexy teddy was drenched in sweat by the time I got the key in the lock and freed my wrists from the handcuffs. I spent another harrowing thirty seconds untangling my bracelet from the cuffs.

I stared down at the open bag at the array of sex toys I’d acquired in the past six months since the beginning of our affair. The sight of them made me feel like a pathetic idiot.

Forcing myself to be strong, I slowly approached the bed again. My lover’s lips had turned blue, his skin as white as the sheet on the bed. I started shaking and couldn’t stop. I had to stick my fist in my mouth to stifle the screams, although no one would have heard me.

Inch my inch, I reached my trembling free hand out to his chest. Pressed flat against his chest, I held my breath, waiting for some sign that he was still alive.

Nothing.

But I wasn’t a nurse or a doctor, I reminded myself. Maybe he was in a coma and I just didn’t know it. Maybe he wasn’t really dead. I remember reading somewhere that many people had been accidentally buried alive back in the days before modern medicine.

I had to get help, just in case there was some slim chance that he was still alive.

Gently, with tears streaming down my eyes, I lifted his head and used my body to push against him until I could lay his head on the bed. I don’t know why I felt so strongly about making him comfortable; maybe it was hysteria. Whatever it was, it helped me get dressed instead of crawling into a corner and staring at the wall, like I wanted to do. I hated leaving him, dead or not, but I knew I had no choice.

Outside the cabin, I ran into another obstacle: the Jeep we’d rented was a stick shift, and I’d never learned to drive a stick. Sobbing with frustration, I got inside, determined to give myself a crash course. How hard could it be?

I managed to get it in reverse, but the moment I let out the clutch, the Jeep lurched forward, then died. Five more times I tried—and failed. Finally, I lowered my head to the steering wheel and sobbed until my throat hurt and my eyes were nearly swollen shut.

Then I tried again. I had gone maybe ten yards in reverse, but it wasn’t far enough to be able to try driving forward. After a few moments, I put the Jeep in neutral, got out, and tried desperately to push it backward.

It was no use. The rutted path was too deep and my strength too puny. With a cry of rage, I slammed the Jeep door with enough force to remind me that I’d nearly dislocated my shoulder while getting out of those handcuffs. It was almost dark, so in a matter of moments I wouldn’t be able to see my hand in front of me.

The realization lessened the possibility of me striking out on foot after sunset. Defeated, I returned to the cabin and my dead lover. I sat on the couch in the ever-darkening living room until I was forced to light a lamp. Taking the lamp with me, I walked slowly into the bedroom. Had I really expected him to suddenly be alive again? He hadn’t moved, of course.

Although I was cold, I used the only blanket to cover him up before returning to the couch in the living room. I could have built a fire, but it seemed somehow wrong to enjoy even a simple thing like the warmth of the fire with my lover dead in the next room.

So I sat on the couch with the single lamp burning beside me, shivering with grief and horror and watching the shadows play on the wall. Sitting in the quiet gave me too much time to think. It didn’t take me long to convince myself that God was punishing me for my sins. I wasn’t overly religious, but I knew that what I had been doing was wrong and that sooner or later I would have to pay.

I just hadn’t expected it to be so soon. Finally, hours later, I drifted into an uneasy slumber.

I woke with a scream locked in my raw throat and the sun peeping through the window. I closed my eyes tightly, praying it had all been just a nightmare, that when I opened them again I would be home with my family and yes, my husband, and not in a cabin with the dead body of my lover.

Killed for money

But I wasn’t so fortunate. I wasn’t dreaming and I had to do something. The light of day hadn’t revealed any answers, other than the one I’d decided on the previous night: I was going to have to strike out on foot.

I moved like a robot, gathering my clothes, the sex toys, and anything else that could be even remotely connected to me. I hesitated over the body, reminding myself that I hadn’t touched him and that he’d just gotten out of the shower. Using the teddy, I wiped the bedposts and everything that I remembered touching, as if I were cleaning up after a murder.

I was fairly certain he’d died of a heart attack, but I didn’t see the point in confessing that I’d been there when it happened. What difference would it make? None that I could think of.

As a result, I left the cabin with everything that I’d brought, including my fingerprints. With my one suitcase and the bag full of sex toys, I started out along the dirt road leading away from the cabin. I walked about two miles before coming to another dirt road. This road was wider and looked well-used. I followed it for some miles before I reached a black top.

I don’t really know how many miles I walked in all before I reached a small frame house, but I had blisters on top of blisters, and I was so thirsty I could scarcely swallow. I hadn’t thought to bring water with me, although I knew there was bottled water in the cooler in the back of the Jeep.

My knock brought a middle-aged woman to the screen door. She eyed me with mild suspicion when she saw me.

I tried to swallow but my voice was a hoarse croak as I said, “Could I use your phone?”

She hesitated, nodded, and opened the screen door. “It’s in the kitchen.”

“I could use a drink of water, too. My car broke down.”

The woman gestured toward the old-fashioned wall phone. “If you’re looking for a towing service, the number’s on that magnet on the refrigerator. Might cost you a pretty penny for coming out this far, though.”

“Thanks.” I mentally calculated the cash in my purse. I could have taken my lover’s cash from his wallet, but I hadn’t thought that far ahead. As I dialed, the woman handed me a glass of water. I downed it without pausing, not caring if it dribbled down my chin.

Once my thirst was quenched, I asked the lady for her address, then called the towing service. I didn’t need a towing service, of course, but I didn’t want to make her suspicious by calling a cab. Once the towing service got there, I planned to explain to him that I’d been deserted by my friends. I’d offer to pay whatever rate he charged for towing if he took me into town.

It took about a half hour for the tow truck to arrive. When the horn blared I hastily thanked the lady and rushed outside. I got in on the passenger side and looked at the driver. He was young, perhaps late twenties, with bad teeth and wearing smelly overalls. But his demeanor was friendly, so I grasped at that hope and smiled at him.

“I have a confession to make,” I said. “I don’t really have a car for you to tow. My—I had a fight with some friends. They left me on the side of the road.”

The name tag stitched to his overalls read charlie. He spit a stream of brown tobacco juice through the open window before replying. “Wasn’t very nice of them, was it?”

I looked away. “No, it wasn’t. Will you take me into town? I’ll pay whatever it was you were going to charge to tow my car.” In my lap, I crossed my fingers, praying I had enough cash on me. I didn’t want to write a check, leaving a paper trail.

For a long moment, Charlie didn’t speak or move. Finally, to my relief, he put the truck in reverse and backed out of the driveway.

“It’ll cost you a fifty bucks,” he said. “Normally I’d charge a hundred, but I figure that wouldn’t be fair, with you being kicked out of the car and all.”

“Thank you.” My relief was so great, I felt faint. I had a hundred and fifty-seven dollars on me. If there was a bus running through whatever town we were going to, I thought I’d possibly have enough left to buy a ticket.

But before I left for home I had to find a pay phone and report my lover’s death. I knew my call would arouse suspicion, but I couldn’t leave him to rot there. It might take weeks for someone to find him. My plan was to tell them I was camping in the area and stumbled upon the cabin, giving them the directions.

It was late in the evening before I made it back to my hometown. I’d left my car in a parking garage several blocks from my house, so I was able to take a cab to my car, then drive home.

Along the way, I dumped my bag of sex toys into a dumpster, choking back fresh tears as it hit me hard that I would never see my lover again. My world turned gray and lifeless at the realization. Without the affair to look forward to, how could I go on living with Anthony?

The house was silent and empty when I got home. I knew that Anthony had taken the kids to the mall, just as he did every Friday night. What he had failed as a husband he excelled at as a father, always eager to be a part of their activities and their lives. Sometimes I wondered if he’d just gotten married so he could have kids.

I took a shower, then made myself a sandwich. It had been more than twelve hours since I’d left the cabin, and more than ten hours since I’d reported his death to the local police in that area. How long would it take for them to notify next of kin?

The phone rang, making me jump. I stared down at my half-eaten sandwich, my stomach rolling with sudden nausea. My legs felt like rubber as I got up to answer the call.

It was my mother, and she was hysterical. I gripped the phone so hard, my fingers went numb.

“I just got a call, Kathy,” she said, sobbing, “from the Mississippi state police. “They said—they said that Jack was dead!”

I closed my eyes, swallowing a sob. So they had found my lover—my mother’s husband.

My stepfather.

Mom went on, oblivious to my silence as she continued to alternate between sobbing and talking. “Kathy, what am I going to do? They said they found him in a rented cabin down in Mississippi. He was supposed to be at one of those salesmen conventions. . . . They think he died of a heart attack.”

“Is—is someone with you now?” I was amazed at how calm and rational I sounded.

“Yes, your sister was here when they called. She came over to borrow my steam cleaner.”

Good. That meant I didn’t have to rush right over. I was glad, because I had some thinking to do. “I’ll come over when Anthony gets home with the kids,” I told her before hanging up.

I stumbled to the kitchen table and sank into a chair, my eyes burning with bitter tears. Mom would never in a million years suspect me of having had an affair with her husband. Jack and I had talked about telling her when my kids got older, but we’d never come to a solid decision. I think we were waiting to see if the affair would burn itself out.

Ironically, I was the one who introduced Jack to my mother. I was a realtor, and Jack had just moved into town and was looking for a house to buy. After showing him several small houses, we went to dinner to discuss the possibilities. Jack was not only fun and engaging, he was a great conversationalist. The fact that he was handsome and fit was an added bonus, but I was married, so I kept the flirtation to a minimum. At the time I hadn’t thought about having an affair, although I knew our marriage was in trouble.

“Do you have any sisters?” Jack had asked me during dessert.

The teasing light in his eyes told me that he found me attractive. I admit that I was flattered.

“Yes, but she’s married.” I paused, thinking of my mother and how my sister and I had tried to get her to get out more to meet other people. My dad had been dead for five years, and we both knew that Mom was lonely. Impulsively, I said, “My mom’s a widow. Would you like to meet her?”

His eyes glistened. “Is she as sexy as you are?”

I laughed, trying to see Mom through Jack’s eyes. Mom was fifty three, but she looked forty-five. I didn’t know how old Jack was, but I did know that he was handsome and had to be at least forty-five.

“Yes, in fact, she is. She plays tennis and she’s a member of a health club.” My smile was wry as I added, “Most people think she’s my sister instead of my mother.”

“Then I’m game! Why don’t you have me over for dinner—and invite her, too? That way, it won’t be so awkward if we find out we’re not compatible.”

That dinner was a success. Mom and Jack talked nonstop and often had to be reminded there were other people in the room. I remember feeling a little envious, but I was happy that Mom had found someone like Jack. It turned out that he was seven years younger than her, but that didn’t seem to bother them.

Mom saw a lot of Jack over the next few months, and we had them over often to play cards or to have dinner, so I saw him a lot, too. I knew that I was growing increasingly fond of him, but I passed it off as infatuation. Jack was outgoing, whereas Anthony was quiet. Jack was courteous and sensitive, whereas Anthony didn’t seem to remember I existed half the time. Just being around Jack made me feel warm and beautiful.

When Mom told me that Jack had asked her to marry him, I realized that I felt more than infatuation for Jack. My response was spontaneous and alarming.

“But you can’t marry Jack!”

She had looked at me in surprise. “Why not?

“Well . . . because you haven’t known him for very long.” Even to my own ears, my excuse sounded lame. “I mean—are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. After being married to your father for thirty years, do you think I’d jump into something this serious without thinking it through? I don’t take marriage lightly, Kathy.”

Several days later, I managed to get Jack alone in the kitchen while Mom and Anthony checked the barbecue on the patio. “Jack, are you sure about this?”

He winked at me almost jauntily. “Yeah. If I can’t have you, I’ll take the next best thing.”

I’d believed he was joking at the time, although his words had made me blush. Later, after our affair began, Jack had confided that he truly had married my mother so that he could be close to me. He claimed he had fallen in love with me from the day we’d met.

Mom and Jack had a small wedding and honeymooned in Jamaica for two weeks. When they returned, Jack looked more handsome than ever, with his golden tan and even leaner form. He and Mom settled into a routine, and even I could see that they were more friends than lovers. They got along great, but the sexual spark was missing.

Two and a half years later, Jack and I were alone in our pool when he confessed to me that he and Mom were having problems. Anthony and Mom had gone to pick up my youngest daughter, Lindsey, from the movie theater. My oldest son and daughter were staying the night with friends.

 

Couple lounging on towels poolside

Jack told me that he loved my mother, but he wasn’t in love with her, and their sex life was almost nonexistent. I swam to the side of the pool and held on, staring at him with a shameful mixture of dismay and elation. Over the years, my infatuation with him had grown into something bordering on a secret obsession. The man made me quiver, and the only thing he had to do to accomplish that was to give me one of his incredibly hot smiles. I had also taken to fantasizing about Jack when Anthony and I made love—which was only occasionally.

As I was fumbling for something to say, Jack swam up to me and put an arm on either side of me, pinning me to the side of the pool. He looked at me with open desire, making my mouth go dry and my legs go weak. He kissed me then, and I let him. It was something I had fantasized about. He more than lived up to my fantasies.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone, because he lifted his head and whispered hoarsely, “I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time now.”

I stared at him as if mesmerized, fully aware that his lower body was pressed against mine in a way that told me exactly how he felt. Instead of reminding him that he was married to my mother, I found myself saying, “Me, too.” I did have the presence of mind to add weakly, “But we shouldn’t be doing this.”

“I know,” Jack sighed, “but I can’t help myself.”

With a groan, he kissed me again, his hand sliding from my waist to my breasts. I felt as if I were on fire.

“Meet me somewhere tomorrow,” he gasped then.

That’s how our affair started. We met the next day in a hotel outside the city. Jack told me how things were with Mom, and how much he cared about her. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he didn’t want to lose me.

In return, I told him how things were between Anthony and myself, how I didn’t want to ask for a divorce until my kids were out of school. The conversation lasted ten minutes, and then we were frantic to get each other undressed.

We made love three times before we left the hotel. I was exhausted but pleasantly sated for the first time in a long time. I should have felt guilty, but at the time I really believed it was only sexual and that it wouldn’t last long. I never intended for Mom or Anthony to find out, and I was certain Jack didn’t want them to know, either.

Only our attraction never faded. It just got hotter and hotter, until we were having trouble being in the same room together without scorching each other with our eyes. I learned to be an excellent actress, hiding my feelings from both my mother and Anthony. Of course it helped that they would never have thought something was going on between us. Mom joked about Jack being an excellent stepfather, and Anthony often commented that Jack was a perfect father-in-law.

Sneaking around turned out to be remarkably easy. At that point in my marriage, Anthony was taking me for granted to the point of stupidity. He thought we had a wonderful marriage, therefore he had no reason to become suspicious when I started doing “charity” work at the hospital—or any of the numerous excuses I made up to see my lover.

Jack being a salesmen made it easy for him to mess around. He was often away at conventions or going out of town to meet with junior salesmen, so his excuses were seldom questioned.

Now Jack was dead, and I felt as if I had died with him.

Later, when the family gathered at my mother’s to comfort her and help her with the arrangements, I was able to show my grief without arousing any suspicion. It wasn’t a secret that Jack and I had gotten along great. He’d been well-liked by everyone and would be sorely missed.

Mom tried to be strong, but I could see she was hurting inside. I realized that she’d truly loved Jack. For the first time, I felt a very real shame for what I’d done. If Jack and I hadn’t been having an affair, would he have died anyway? It was a question that I asked myself many times over the next few days.

When the police came to the house to inform us that an autopsy would be have to be performed before they could release the body, my mother became hysterical.

“Why?” she demanded, tears streaming down her face. She looked her age that day. “Didn’t you say that he died of a heart attack?”

“Yes, ma’am,” the investigator answered, looking ill at ease. “But we don’t think he was alone when he died, Mrs. Solten, so we have to make sure there wasn’t any foul play involved.”

Bad choice of words, I thought, quickly squeezing Mom’s shoulder for reassurance.

“What was he doing at that cabin anyway?” she asked me the moment the investigator left.

I knew she wasn’t really expecting me to answer, so I kept quiet.

“Could he—do you think he might have been having an affair?” Her expression was tragic, making me feel about two inches tall.

Thank God she would never know what I had done to her.

Swallowing hard, I said, “Jack loved you, Mom.” It wasn’t a lie, exactly, but he hadn’t loved her the way a man should love his wife.

She wiped her tears away with a clenched fist. “I know, and I loved him, too. But I can’t imagine what he could have been doing in that cabin! He was supposed to be at a convention in Tupelo.” Her face crumpled. “Why would he lie to me?”

It was ironic, I suppose, that I had experienced little guilt during my affair with Jack, yet now I was wallowing in it. Seeing how much my mother had truly loved him shed a different light on things. I was more determined than ever to hide my shameful secret.

Then Mom said something that caused my heart to pound.

“Maybe the investigation will uncover some clues.”

“In-investigation? They—they said they were going to do an autopsy.”

“Yes, they are, and they also told me on the phone that they’re going to ask around, see if anyone can tell us what he was doing at that cabin.”

“But . . . if he died of a heart attack, what difference does it make why he was there?”

“It makes a difference to me.” Mom’s eyes glowed with a fierce light. “If only for my peace of mind. If Jack was having an affair . . . ” She choked on a sob. “If he was, then I want to know about it. I’m not going to grieve for a man who was sleeping around.”

I went home, feeling worse than ever.

The funeral didn’t take place until four days later. As we filed past the coffin to pay our last respects I lingered, staring at Jack’s white, handsome face until his features began to blur. Impulsively, I leaned down and kissed his lips. I just couldn’t move forward until I had kissed him one last time.

When I straightened, I caught Mom staring at me. I quickly buried my nose in my handkerchief and moved on, praying that she would think my actions innocent. She knew how much I’d admired Jack; she just hadn’t known how much I’d loved him.

A week later I answered the door to find two “suits” waiting on the threshold. They introduced themselves as Detectives Maynard and Branch. My gut clenched as I invited them inside and shut the door. What did they want with me? Had they found out I was at the cabin?

They couldn’t have, I tried to reassure myself. I’d wiped the place clean and taken all my stuff with me.

Nervous and trying to hide my emotions, I followed the detectives into the living room. “Can I get either of you something cold to drink?”

They both shook their heads and remained standing. Detective Maynard was the first to speak. “We have some information about your stepfather, and we thought it would be best to come to you first.”

My hands began to tremble, so I thrust them behind my back. “You—you have some new information?”

“Yes,” Detective Branch said. He withdrew a plastic bag from his pocket and held it out to me.

Slowly I took it from him, staring down at the gold dolphin. I felt instantly sick to my stomach. The dolphin had come from the bracelet I always wore on my left wrist, given to me by my kids on Mother’s Day several years ago.

I wanted to hide my arm, deny that it was mine, but I knew it was too late. I looked at the detectives, my heart in my throat.

“How did you know who this belonged to?”

Detective Maynard nodded at my bracelet. “I was at the funeral, and I noticed there was one missing. We found this under the bed at the cabin.”

I realized that I must have lost it when I was trying to free myself from the bed posts. Shame filled me. I could feel their accusing eyes on me as I kept my head bowed.

“We also conducted a door-to-door investigation. Mrs. Freeman lives in the house closest to the cabin; she told us an interesting story about a woman who matches your description showing up on her doorstep, asking to use the phone. After talking to Charlie’s Towing Service, it wasn’t hard to put two and two together . . . and come to the conclusion that you were with Jack Solten when he died.”

Was there any use in denying it? One look at their stoic faces and I knew that I was truly caught.

My first thought was of my mother. Strange, probably, to worry more about her reaction than my husband’s. “You—you don’t have to tell her, do you?”

“That depends,” Detective Maynard said. “Will you tell us exactly what happened so that we can officially close this case?”

I sat down before my rubbery knees gave out. Quietly, I told them the truth, that Jack and I had been having an affair for six months. If they disapproved of my actions, they kept it to themselves well.

When I finished, I kept my head bowed, waiting for the verdict. What if they decided they couldn’t keep the information to themselves? What would I do?

“Thanks, Mrs. Griffith, for being honest.” The edge to his voice hinted that he was surprised. “I don’t see any need to make this public, do you, Branch?”

Branch hesitated. I held my breath and prayed.

Finally, he shook his head. “I guess not. Cause of death was ruled a heart attack.”

I was so grateful, I could have kissed their shiny shoes. After they left, I sat down and cried again, wishing I’d never met Jack in the first place. I’d been selfish and reckless, and there was no excuse for my actions. Finding out about our affair could have destroyed my mother—not to mention my husband, who believed I was happy.

Then and there I vowed to make it up to my mother, even if she never knew why. I also made a vow to talk to Anthony about my unhappiness. If there was any chance we could recover what we once had, I was willing to give it a try.

For my sake, and for Anthony’s and my children’s sake.

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