I can’t remember the last time a book shook me so much that it took me a week to process all the emotions coursing through me, but once I did, I couldn’t stop talking about it. Tackling one of the most challenging tropes in Romance—cheating—this is the kind of story that pushes the rosy-coloured glasses right off your nose and forces you to truly understand the characters’ perspectives, while silencing your own preconceived notions and judgements. The lead characters are married and we meet them at the very moment when one of them is caught in adultery by the other. What follows is an emotional, at times painfully raw tale of two people who find themselves having to not only re-examine what they thought they knew about each other, but also of themselves and of their own needs and wants. It’s a story of forgiveness and redemption as much as it is a story of self-discovery, and every bit of it is done just right. Without glorifying or trivialising cheating in any way, Alison Rhymes shows that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to exploring sensitive or complex topics in relationships, doing so carefully and thoughtfully, and today, I get to share with you one of my favourite scenes.
“Make your point, Drew. I have dinner to escort my lovely date to.”
“My point is this. If you hurt her, if you leave a single fucking mark on her, I will end you. Do you understand me?”
“Finally, something we can agree on. I wouldn’t dream of ever hurting June. Your wife is charming, kind, smart, funny as hell, and one of the most gorgeous creatures I’ve ever met. I would be lucky to have a chance with her. Any man would. She’s something you should have cherished, Drew, not tossed aside for a conniving lesser woman.”
My hand covers my beating heart. Hearing Noah speak of me like this does great things for my battered ego. It’s comforting to know someone sees the parts of me that are having a hard time shining through these days.
“I know exactly how special June is, you piece of shit. And I won’t let you manipulate her into believing that bullshit you fed her about Lorelai. I know what you did to her.”
“I know what I did to her, too,” Noah says, heat behind every word. “It’s not anything I ever denied, if you remember. I disputed how it happened. And it’s something I regret to this day. But make no mistake, Drew. I’m not that same stupid doe-eyed boy and I know exactly what I’m doing now. It’s unfortunate you don’t, nor do you truly know who you’re doing it with.”
“Lorelai has her issues, but she’s not a manipulator.”
“You’re a fucking fool if you believe that.”
I step around the corner then, sensing that their conversation is escalating to a level that soon will be out of control. They’re both too strongheaded to back down. Besides, I want Drew to know I heard him defend her.
“That’s enough,” I say, drawing their attention, my voice full of bitterness.
Drew stares at me. His jaw drops as he takes me in.
“Noah, could you please get me a glass of white wine? I’ll see you back at the table in just a moment.”
“Of course.” He places a hand on my shoulder, then lets it slide down my arm as he steps away. Noah takes his time retreating, perhaps not sure of the state of Drew’s temper. Or maybe he just wants to do some eavesdropping of his own.
“You have a game tomorrow. What are you doing here?” I ask my husband.
“I came to talk to Noah,” he answers almost dazedly. His hand reaches out, fingers curling around the leather straps that cross over my cleavage, pulling me toward him. “What the fuck do you think you’re wearing?”
“Why?” His voice is a harsh whisper he has little control over.
“It was a gift, and it makes me feel sexy. It makes me feel confident and beautiful in a mysteriously edgy way.”
Drew pulls me even closer, so close I strain my neck to look up at him. He brings his face down to mine, nose to nose.
“A gift from Noah, I presume.”
I nod, though, he wasn’t asking a question.
“One day, I’m going to fuck you raw while you’re wearing this and nothing else. Fuck you so good you won’t have a single memory of any man’s touch but mine. That asshole won’t be a thought or even an idea in that pretty head of yours.”
I rise onto my toes, bringing my mouth nearly to the same height as his.
“Had you been fucking me like that for the last five years, I’d never be tempted to know what another man’s touch feels like. What his body could do to mine, what pleasure he could bring me. How full he could make me.” I dart my tongue out to give the slight cleft in his chin a small lick, followed by a quick bite. “And maybe it would be me you’d be so defensive of, instead of her.”
“June,” he starts.
“Have a good game tomorrow, Drew,” I purr as I walk away.
I make it back to the table with my head held high. Noah stands as I approach and pulls my chair out for me. Drew follows me in, conveniently finding an empty seat next to Nathan. He stares at me as I sit.
“He liked the harness, didn’t he?” he whispers in my ear before taking his seat once again.
I look at him, studying his wide smile. He winks.