Home > Roman Crazy (The Broads Abroad #1)(3)

Roman Crazy (The Broads Abroad #1)(3)
Author: Alice Clayton, Nina Bocci

Every bauble was an affair. Every gemstone the equivalent of hush money.

A giant art deco Colombian emerald was thanks to an indiscretion in Las Vegas. A pavé diamond and white-gold swirl from a gaffe in Chicago. An impropriety in Paris resulted in a cushion-cut canary diamond.

“Powerful men like Daniel and his father have needs, Avery.”

I always hated the way she said my name. Hearing it sneered while discussing her husband’s womanizing was even worse.

“There are all kinds of women, Avery, all kinds. And some are more . . . suited . . . for these needs.”

“What exactly are you saying?”

Cracking the tiniest of smiles, she drove her point home. “He’s already purchased your gift. He’ll be bringing it shortly. You’ll learn to live with it. You’re certainly not the first wife to turn a blind eye to her husband’s extracurricular activities.”

I had nothing to say. I did, however, drink half of my Bloody Mary in one enormous gulp. She went on. “Jewelry is always first. Then a new car. Apartments and vacation homes in faraway places are after that, perhaps Provence or Saint Moritz,” she explained with a hint of excitement.

I immediately remembered her house in the south of France. Oh my goodness.

Penis gifts. They were penis gifts.

You know how there is that Hallmark list of suggested gifts for what to buy for anniversaries? I wondered if there was a ranking system for philandering.

Standing, she patted my hand with her forty pounds of priceless gems. I sincerely hoped she had a bodyguard waiting in the wings to escort her home.

“I’ll see you Sunday.”

She actually thought I’d attend brunch! She felt quite sure she could swoop in, explain these new rules for a happy home, and sparkle right out of here, secure in the knowledge that I’d follow suit.

In walked Daniel, wearing a freshly tailored suit in my once-favorite shade of blue. He air-kissed his mother on her cheeks and smiled. All veneers and confidence. She’d teed me up, and he now was here for the hole in one.

Scooping up the phone from the bar, I told Daisy, “Round two.”

I dropped it into my lap, facedown.

“Baby,” he said softly, looking both handsome and pathetic at the same time. “We need to talk this out.” He sat down next to me, his hand reaching out to touch my bare arm. The second his skin touched mine, a familiar feeling spread through me.

Maybe it was comfort from being with him for so long. Spending so many years with someone, you adopted a certain sense of contentment. Looking at him, he was so handsome, so put together and the safe choice. Perfect for this life, but . . .

Where was that guy I’d loved? The one who took me for Indian food on our first date even though he was allergic to it? The one who brought me pudding when I had my wisdom teeth out sophomore year or the guy who screamed “That’s my girl!  ” when I crossed the stage at graduation? Was he ever that guy? I hated that everything I thought I knew about him and our life was now in question. Untrusted and tainted.

A very small part of me considered taking him back in that instant. How easy it would be, to forgive and forget it all. To learn to live with the pattern of guilt and then a gift. Realizing in twenty-five years that I’d become Bitsy, a shell of what I was and being content with living with the knowledge that I’d never been enough. The echo of her explanation reared its bedazzled head. What had felt like comfort for years now felt like an uncomfortable sweater: itchy and tight and smothering. A knowledge that my skin was even aware of, that I didn’t have a clue who my husband really was.

I remembered the secretary. The hair pulling, the sweaty, rough-and-tumble sex that he was having.

Ignoring him, I picked up the phone and pretended like he wasn’t even there.

“Daisy, you still there?”

“Jesus Christ, yes I’m still here, what happened?”

“What happened?” I laughed darkly. “Hilary happened.”

“Clinton?” she asked incredulously. In spite of the chaos about to rain down on my personal life, I couldn’t help but laugh a little.

“Hilary, his secretary. She prefers administrative assistant, but I think once I found her and Daniel having the down-and-dirty sex, she pretty much gave up the right to a preferred name. Although I have a few preferred names running through my head right now.”

Daniel’s deep intake of breath put a twisted smile on my face.

“Baby, don’t do this,” he begged, turning the barstool so that I faced him. Baby. I’ll baby him. Did he call her Baby, too? Who else was there? Or is there? Had I really been oblivious to it for all these years? What gift on the twisted ladder was I on? I thought back to the diamond studs he gave me on a random Tuesday a few years ago. Then the Louboutins that I came home to after a Junior League meeting.

Most recently, the Mercedes sedan that I woke up to in the driveway after his trip to Tahoe.

“Oh you slick son of a bitch,” I sneered, the phone still at my ear. Daisy was across the ocean, on pins and needles, so instead of ending the conversation with her, I kept going, plucking the celery from my Bloody Mary and taking a big, loud bite off the end. “The secretary. Ha! Can you believe it? Cliché.” Looking him dead in the eye, I took another huge bite, this time showing my teeth.

“Are you fucking kidding me? Who would cheat on you? You’re the wife that men want to nail on the side!” Daisy exclaimed, loud enough that Daniel heard.

“She doesn’t mean anything, Avie,” he whispered. He focused on the shiny bar top, his finger absently swirling along the grain.

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