Step 5: Try to Find Happiness Elsewhere
Six Months Earlier
I may be falling in love.
I tried to fall in love with Douglas. I truly did. I thought that he would grow on me. I thought that he would change—the same way I changed when I picked myself up by my bootstraps. Douglas has no idea how amazing he could be if he bothered to take care of himself or got a little plastic surgery or fixed that crooked tooth. (For God’s sake, what multimillionaire walks around with imperfect teeth? Does he think this is England?)
But Douglas has no interest in any of those things. He doesn’t have any interest in being the man I want him to be. He only wants to be himself.
Russell, on the other hand…
Even though we’ve been sleeping together for six months now, I can’t stop gazing at this man across the table. At his thick dark chocolate-colored hair cut short on the sides but long enough on the top to curl just slightly and his thick powerful eyebrows. I’ve never described a pair of eyebrows as “powerful” before, but the man could command a room with those eyebrows. It’s my favorite of his features. But to be fair, I love everything about him.
Except his bank account.
The waitress approaches our table, an ear-to-ear smile plastered on her face. At a restaurant this expensive, the waiting staff is always unwaveringly nice. Douglas hates places like this. I don’t like it when they fuss over me so much.
“Would you care for any dessert?” the waitress asks us. “We have an incredible flourless chocolate cake.”
“No, thank you,” Russell says.
I nod in agreement. We never get dessert. Like me, Russell takes good care of himself. He goes to the gym several times a week, and his body is all sculpted muscle, with only a tiny bit of unavoidable middle-aged paunch. Too bad Marybeth doesn’t appreciate it. She doesn’t even bother to dye her blond hair—in a few years, she’ll be gray as a mule.
Russell reaches across the table for my hands. Given that we are in public and both married, it’s completely inappropriate. Yet in the last few weeks of our torrid affair, we have thrown caution to the wind a bit. Part of me almost wants to get caught. Because for the first time in my life, I am in love.
If Douglas wants to divorce me, I’ll take my ten million and be on my way.
“I wish I didn’t have to get back to work,” he murmurs. “Maybe you could be late?” I suggest.
A smile plays on Russell’s lips. I love his eagerness. Douglas hasn’t been this way since soon after we got married, and even before that, he was never quite as skilled in the bedroom as Russell is. He just didn’t have as much stamina.
For a while, we were reserving hotel rooms for our trysts, but lately, Douglas rarely goes to our penthouse apartment, so I’ve just been taking Russell there. There’s the back entrance, where I know for a fact there are no cameras, so we don’t have to deal with the doorman’s judging eyes.
“I shouldn’t,” he says. “The store has been busy lately.” “Isn’t that what salespeople are for?”
Russell usually has one other salesman working at the store, although he might be able to afford another since I have been practically financing the store with my purchases. To be fair, I have loved every single beautiful antique item I have purchased there. Russell has impeccable taste. If he had money, he would truly know how to spend it.
“How about tonight?” he suggests. “What about Marybeth?”
His lips curl in disgust like they always do when the topic of his wife comes up. It’s something that he and I have bonded over—our mutual distaste for our spouses. “I’ll tell her I’m working late again.”
The waitress returns with the check, and I hand over my platinum card. I always pay when we go to fancy restaurants, because although he doesn’t like to admit it, Russell is a bit strapped for cash. But that doesn’t bother me. I don’t like him for his money—I’ve got plenty of my own right now.
“I’m going to be counting the seconds until I see you tonight,” Russell murmurs. Under the table, his fingers move up my skirt until I start to feel a little breathless.
“Russell,” I giggle softly. “Not here. There are people around.”
“I can’t help myself around you.” “Russell…”
My enjoyment of what my lover is doing under the table is interrupted by the waitress clearing her throat. She’s got my platinum card in her hand. “I’m so sorry, but this did not go through. It was declined.”
I roll my eyes. “It’s an issue with your machines. Please run it again.” “I tried it three times.”
I let out a sigh. My God, the people at these restaurants are nice, but sometimes painfully incompetent. There’s a reason they are waiting tables for a living. I dig into my purse and pull out my Visa. “Try this one.”
Except a minute later, the waitress comes back with the second card. “This one was declined too,” she informs me. Her tone is not quite as gentle as it was while she was waiting on us. And the people at the table next to us have started to stare.
I don’t know what is going on. I am married to Douglas freaking Garrick. My credit limit is infinite. Clearly, it has to be an issue on their end, but it doesn’t look like anyone else is having a problem.
“Try my card,” Russell speaks up. He takes his credit card out of his wallet and hands it over.
As the waitress dashes off to try the new card, I cast him an apologetic look. “I’m so sorry about that. I don’t know what’s going on.”
“No problem,” he says, even though he really can’t afford a restaurant like this. It’s not the sort of place we would have gone if we knew he would be paying. But there’s not much we can do at this point.
Russell’s credit card goes through without an issue. Something is happening with my cards. Are we having some sort of financial problems that I’m not aware of? People like us do not have credit card debt. But the truth is, I’m not up on the finances. I have my credit cards, and I use them without thinking about it.
I’ll have to talk to Douglas about this tonight.