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Breaking Point

Vanessa looks for a way out.
ONE WEEK BEFORE THE EQUINOX PARTY
Vanessa Allen set down her phone on the dressing table in front of her and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her skin was too pale; a stark contrast to the dark curls that hung loosely down over her shoulders. She let out a slow breath and leaned back in her chair. Her husband James had just given her another of his infamous ‘working late’ excuses and right now the last thing she wanted to do was host their anniversary party. It had been his idea in the first place and like an idiot, she’d thrown herself into organising it, believing it’d give them a chance to have fun together, to put that spark back into their crumbling marriage. But now he’d bailed on her altogether.

She buried her head in her hands trying to control her emotions as she wondered where he really was. She knew he’d be with another woman – he always was on nights like these. It hadn’t even taken a private investigator to figure him out; he was so bad at covering himself. Bastard. She swallowed her tears, not wanting to ruin the makeup she’d spent the last hour perfecting.

Her green eyes flicked to the bed across the room, the bed where they’d had sex not more than twelve hours ago. It wasn’t real sex though; not the passionate exciting type they’d had back when they first got married. It was the empty kind these days, another mundane routine that filled her meaningless days. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes wide, until she was sure she could hold herself together. The buzz of music and chatter could be heard from downstairs and despite the fact that there were more than thirtyguests in the house, she still felt lonely. They were all James’ friends; his business associates, golf buddies and old college pals. Sure, she knew them on a shallow chat-to-in-Starbuck’s level but beyond that there was nothing.

She stood up and gave herself a final look in the mirror; hoping no-one would be able to pick up on her fragile emotional state. Her black silk dress hung down to the base of her spine, revealing her slender back and she swept her hair to one side. You look good, she told her reflection, you look really good.

It was almost as if she was making up for the lack of compliments she received from James. It’s fine, was the best he could ever come up with (when prompted) and as much as she hated to admit it, his lack of attention left her feeling needy and unwanted. She wondered if he would even notice if she walked around naked for a day.

Forcing an artificial smile onto her face, she made her way back downstairs to continue the routine of greeting, chatting and hosting. The music was on and the wine was flowing but she could sense the lack of excitement. The usual flow of energy was missing; people were chatting like they were at a conference rather than a party.

“Cool party,” Nick, one of James’ old friends, said to her.

She’d known Nick as long as she’d known James and he was one of the few she felt familiar enough with to be honest. “Stop lying. It sucks, doesn’t it?”

Nick pretended to think about it. “Okay, it does. Where’s the man of the house anyway?”

“James?” Vanessa asked. “Oh, he had to work. Such a shame.”

“Work? Right. Uh-huh.” Nick nodded but his eyes flicked away from hers and she couldn’t help wondering if he knew more about her husband’s indiscretions than even she did.

“Well happy anniversary anyway,” he said in an attempt to cover the awkward silence. He wrapped her in a brief hug before making a hasty detour to the alcohol.

Vanessa watched his retreating figure as he wove his way through the other guests and for one crazy second she wanted to call him back and ask him what he knew about James and where he really was. But what would she find out that she didn’t already know? All she’d do was embarrass herself and incur the pity of all those around her.

She made her way through the French doors and out onto the decking. Her head thumped and she found herself wishing away the hours. It hadn’t always been this way. When she and James had first got married, they’d been a model couple. The parties then had been as fun and enjoyable as their marriage only now everything had gone wrong. She wondered if the guests could tell. Who was she kidding? Of course they could tell. She leaned against the stone wall of the house and closed her eyes.

She was sick of the confrontations, sick of the arguments and most of all, she was sick to death of James’ dishonesty. He would look her in the eye and tell such blatant lies and turn the whole thing around; making her feel like it was all in her head, like she was insecure and constantly accusing him of things he hadn’t ever even contemplated doing. But it wasn’t in her head. It was all around her, suffocating her, almost mocking her. There were the endless texts and emails she’d stumbled across and then there were all the confirmations from her friends who’d seen him out with an endless array of thin, blonde, beautiful women.

The evidence was there, but something inside her couldn’t do anything about it. In a way she was afraid of the inevitable shame if anyone else found out. She herself could take it; the hurt of being cheated on had stopped when James had hit double figures but for other people; her family especially, to find out would make it infinitely worse. She’d always been the good girl; the one who worked hard through school and who’d never been in trouble; the one who got a good job and then a good man to spend the rest of her life with. To fail in their expectations would make her a failure forever. She knew it was stupid but even now, at almost thirty years old, she was still afraid of disappointing them.

“Where the fuck is he?”

Vanessa was jolted out of her thoughts as Dan Neil, one of the directors at the company where James worked burst through the doors and out into the still night. He looked agitated, irate even. His dark hair was rumpled like he’d been running his hands through it and the blazer and tie Vanessa was accustomed to seeing him in were absent. His flashing green eyes locked onto hers.

“Tell me where he is.”

“Who?”

“Who?! Who the fuck do you think? Your husband, Vanessa! Where the hell is he?”

Vanessa raised an eyebrow. “Your guess is as good as mine. He told me was working late so if he’s not at the office I haven’t got a clue.”

“He’s not there.” Dan paced up and down in front of her. “Why isn’t he here? Isn’t this your fucking anniversary?”

“Yes it is and it’s so nice of you to celebrate with us,” Vanessa said sarcastically. “I hope you’re enjoying yourself by coming here and yelling your head off.”

Dan narrowed his eyes at her. “Very funny. I don’t give a damn about your anniversary. I came here to talk to James. Are you telling me you have no idea where your husband is?”

Vanessa was glad it was dark as he couldn’t see her indignant blush. “I don’t have a damn GPS on him,” she snapped, “and what are you so mad about anyway?”

“He fucked me over!” Dan snarled, “I didn’t get reappointed to the board, okay?”

“And what does that have to do with James? Maybe you’re just not as valuable as you think you are.”

“Like hell,” Dan scoffed, “everybody knows I was the best damn person the company had. He made this happen, I’m telling you. Couple of cash bribes here and there; I should never have fucking trusted him!”

“Aw, come on!” Vanessa laughed. “What would he get out of doing that? He doesn’t even have anything against you. You’re acting like a sore loser!”

Dan gave a cold laugh. “He doesn’t have anything against me? What about everything I know about him? About how he makes his money? About the fraud? It was too dangerous for him to have me around.”

Vanessa stared at him. “Have you actually gone mad? James doesn’t do any of that. He’s not like that. He’s honest.” The irony of her words struck her even as they left her mouth and all of a sudden she became afraid that Dan was telling the truth.

“He’s honest?!” Dan laughed coldly. “ Honest? I think you’re a little disillusioned here, Vanessa. How else do you think he affords all this?” He gestured at the towering Victorian house they were stood outside. “How? On a director’s wage? I don’t think so.” He spat the words out like they were poison in his mouth. “He doesn’t declare cash, Vanessa; there’s no record. It just goes straight into his own pocket. No trace. All this that you have; it’s stolen money.”

“No.” Vanessa shook her head. “You’re lying. You’re just angry ‘cause you didn’t get re-elected. James hasn’t done any of this. I know him!”

“Do you? Do you really?” Dan asked levelly.

“Yes. I do.”

“Well then you know that your faultless husband is cheating on you, right?” Dan said, and it was more of a statement than a question. “God, Vanessa, I don’t know why the fuck you’re even defending him.” He spun around to glare at her and all of a sudden looked shameful at her stricken expression. “Shit, I’m sorry, it’s not my place to - ”

“No, carry on,” Vanessa interrupted, her head spinning at his words, “tell me. And I don’t want your goddamn sympathy. All I want to know is that I’m not the only one who thinks this, that it’s not all in my head like he says it is, that it - ” She let out a long breath and stared up at the inky sky, trying to stop herself reaching breaking point as the freight train full of revelations threatened her resolve.

“Hey,” Dan grabbed her hands in his. “It’s not in your head Vanessa. Don’t think that. It’s not. I’ve seen him, okay? I’ve heard his PA booking rooms for him and random women.”

“And?”

“And what? What more do you want to know?” A crease appeared between his eyebrows. “Are you guys getting a divorce?”

“No! I mean… maybe. That wouldn’t be such a bad idea.” Vanessa pulled away from his grasp and paced along the decking, her high heels clicking on the polished wood. “I don’t know. What should I do?” She turned to him, hoping for an answer to all her problems but Dan merely shrugged.

“I can’t help you. It’s not my decision to make.”

“But?” Vanessa sensed the word he’d held back.

“But nothing.”

Vanessa narrowed her eyes at him and he shrugged, merely watching her, waiting for a reaction. Her eyes flicked to the glass doors and through to the party that was still in full swing; the party that was celebrating her fifth wedding anniversary to a man she apparently knew nothing about. She felt like screaming, getting it all out of her head until there was nothing left to wreak havoc on her aching mind. Nobody knew who James Allen was, not even his own wife.

“I’m sorry,” Dan said all of a sudden, alerting her back to his presence. He seemed to have calmed down. Maybe it was the realisation that his problems didn’t hold a candle to hers or maybe he just pitied her.

“Don’t be.” Vanessa swallowed her tears and forced a smile onto her face. “I’ve had this coming for a long time. I kind of needed a wake up call. No more hitting the snooze button.”

Dan laughed softly. “You told a joke. That’s got to be a good sign.”

Vanessa sighed and smoothed her hands down the front of her dress. There were still a couple of hours left until the party ended. She gestured at the door. “I should go in - ”

“I know.”

Vanessa gave him a tight smile, unsure of how to respond.

“Call me,” Dan said, “if you need anything.”

“I will.” Vanessa took one last look at his dishevelled appearance and smiled briefly before disappearing amongst the crowd of guests invading her home.

She finished her rounds, making sure she’d met and enthusiastically greeted everyone who’d taken the time to attend the party. Despite the lack of affection she held for most of the crowd, they had at least bothered to show up and she guessed she was meant to appreciate their presence. She acted like she always did; laughing at their jokes and talking the same meaningless talk to anyone who wasn’t content with the basic ‘I’m so glad you could make it.’

Vanessa kept the smile on her face until she’d hugged the last guest goodbye and finally got rid of each and every one of them. But then she didn’t know what do with herself. She wasn’t tired. She cleaned up after them all meticulously. Champagne and wine glasses were to be washed and put away first; nothing else really mattered. It gave her something to do, rather than mourn over the ashes of a marriage which had all but gone up in smoke.

When it was all done and there was nothing left to procrastinate over she headed upstairs to the master bedroom. It was dark, cold and empty. Methodically, she got ready for bed before slipping between the soft sheets and finally allowing the bundle of wound-up thoughts to unravel in her head.

She was sick of never having the children she’d always wanted. That was the first thing. It was the way she’d always pictured her life; husband, house and adorable children running around everywhere. She got the husband. She got the house. But once they were married, James had been putting off kids like he was genuinely afraid of being a father. The bitter contraceptive pill was getting harder for Vanessa to swallow every morning. She hated James for denying her the one thing he knew she’d always yearned for.

But then again, maybe it was all a blessing in disguise. No kids meant an infinitely easier and smoother separation. Was that what she wanted though? A divorce? It seemed so final and depressing; a bleak end to what should have been a happy lifelong relationship. She’d never been the type of girl who’d have ever contemplated getting divorced. She thought she was smarter than all that. Marriage was meant to be for life; a symbol of just how much two people loved each other.

She wasn’t even sure she believed in love anymore. Sure, she thought she loved James when they got married but now their connection didn’t exist anywhere but on the surface. They played it out well though. Everyone thought they were still in that hazy-young-love stage but when they were alone together there was nothing. There was the sex of course, but to Vanessa it had no more meaning that a one-night-stand. There was nothing left. She let out a long sigh and closed her eyes. The scariest thing was that she slept easier without James lying next to her anyway.

***

Every September, Vanessa and James would host their annual autumn equinox party. It was another excuse for a celebration and at first it had been fun, but this year Vanessa found herself dreading it. It coincided with the bonus that James received at the end of August and it was almost a modern version of celebrating a good harvest, with good cash presiding over a good crop. Still, it was a tradition, and one which everyone enjoyed keeping up. This year though, Vanessa couldn’t help wondering how legitimate all the money was and whether she had any right to be spending it on a party of lavish excess.

She knew the bill for the party was bound to the higher than that for all the other events they hosted throughout the year, Christmas included. The food bill alone was astronomical. Everything was the best quality and everything was in ridiculous quantities.

The box of invitations had arrived fresh from the printers that morning. Everyone who was anyone in their social circle would be there. Vanessa picked up one of the stiff cream envelopes, her stomach churning with dread. It would be more of the same; people she hardly knew and instinctively disliked. And she already knew somewhere deep inside that James wouldn’t even contemplate showing up.

She tapped the envelope against the table thoughtfully. She didn’t want to have another night of acting like Wife of the Year around people she didn’t care about. She thought back to the parties that she’d been to back before everything had gone downhill. The parties where people actually partied, and didn’t just go to show their faces.

She picked up her phone and called the printers.

***

Autumn came as early as summer came late; the 22nd of September was merely a day to mark the transition. By late August everybody had accepted that the great British summer had well and truly gone on vacation, leaving behind an abundance of grey rain and biting winds.

The night of the party dawned and Vanessa opened the door to welcome everyone to the last party she would host in the house. It had been surprisingly easy to make the decision to leave but it still left her with a nervous fluttering of leaves in her stomach. She hadn’t told anyone she was going, James included. She wondered how he’d feel about it when he finally came home but she was glad she wouldn’t be there to witness the reaction.

The house was aflame in shades of reds, warm yellows and oranges, copper and gold. The steady stream of guests poured through the old oak front door. It wasn’t the usual guest list; Vanessa had made sure of that. Alongside the usual suits and accompanying pearls, there were normal people; jeans and t-shirts who knew how to have a good time. It was an odd mix that shouldn’t have ever come about. Everyone was looking around as if they were wondering whether they should really be there but to thwart the initial awkwardness Vanessa switched the music on and let the evening take its course.

The long table in the kitchen-diner was laid with a deep red tablecloth and the food was displayed in gold dishes. It was a culmination of a week’s worth of hard work in the kitchen but Vanessa had been glad of the distraction; it had taken her mind off what she’d planned to do. As the rain and wind had hurled themselves at the leaded kitchen windows, she’d painstakingly resurrected her grandmother’stakes on spiced blackberry-apple pie, butternut squash soup, pumpkin empanadas, cornbread and dozens of other autumn-inspired recipes.

Alongside the food table was the makeshift bar, stocked with red, white and sparkling wines, the staple apple cider and plenty of upmarket beer. And then there was the champagne. Vanessa didn’t usually bother with champagne for the equinox party but this year she had an ulterior motive. All the bottles that stood on the table were from James’ collection; the alcohol he bought but never drank; the alcohol which he’d spent tens of thousands of pounds on. It was a hobby of his she’d never understood but one which he lavished attention on, apparently fancying himself something of a champagne connoisseur. She knew she was being petty but that hadn’t stopped her from bringing his prized bottles up from the cellar and setting them neatly down next to the other drinks.

Somehow, in a weird eclectic way, the party seemed to work. After realising that they were in fact welcome, the guys in the jeans and the girls in the short skirts did what they did best; partied. The guests from the original list who hadn’t quite been consumed by the trappings of a corporate world full of snobbery and wealth seemed to go with the flow. After all they were having more expensive champagne than they’d have ever set their eyes on and for once the music made them want to dance.

The majority of the rich regulars looked suitably appalled though as if they couldn’t quite believe they were at such a party. Their eyes passed over the other guests with such disdain that Vanessa felt like telling them to pull the sticks out of their arrogant asses and suck up the fact that they too were human and no better than the other six billion people on the planet.In fact, they were worse because they were pretentious, they were ostentatious, and they were full of bullshit.

Metro Station’s Shake It was playing at a deafening volume. The house was in chaos. Everywhere Vanessa looked there was pandemonium. She imagined the very foundations of the building shaking under the strain of the countless people who were coming in and out of the door. They were drinking James’ precious champagne like it was cheap beer and it made a satisfied smirk creep onto her face.

“What’s so funny?”

She spun around to see Dan standing behind her; the only person in the house who hit the perfect balance between reticent and hedonistic.

“What are you doing here?!”

He frowned as if insulted. “You invited me, remember?”

“Oh…” Vanessa eyed him speculatively. “I didn’t expect you to show up. What with the James thing.”

Dan shrugged and took a swig of champagne. “I figured he wouldn’t be here. Who are all these people anyway?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Vanessa smirked. “I got tired of the same old guest list, y’know? Decided to liven things up.”

“Understandable.” Dan clinked his glass against hers. “Here’s to a real party.”

Vanessa smiled. “Are you enjoying the champagne?”

“No,” He grimaced, as he lowered the glass, “I swear to god, it tastes like piss.”

“Dan!”

“I’m serious! I bet that’s what they do; piss in the bottles and sell it off to rich bastard’s who are too thick to realise. They just drink it saying ‘hmm… I like the hint of pear and is that cinnamon I taste?’ when in actual fact, they sipping at a random stranger’s piss!”

Vanessa didn’t know if it was his words, or the deadpan way in which he delivered them but she found herself unable to stop laughing. As she threw her head back and succumbed to her emotions, she realised she hadn’t laughed in way too long and it felt incredibly cathartic, so much so that she was almost disappointed when the humour faded away.

“Now there’s a sight I’d pay to see,” Dan smiled, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you laugh before.”

“Really?”

“Well you do that ladylike tinkly one at times but that doesn’t count, right? What’s the point in laughing unless you’re actually laughing?”

“True,” Vanessa agreed and as she sipped from her glass she was suddenly aware that he was right about the champagne. “You wanna get a proper drink?” She jerked her thumb towards the kitchen.

“Sure.” Dan followed her as she wove her way through the crowd of people and to the far end of the gleaming white kitchen.

“So any idea where James is?” Vanessa threw out the question nonchalantly as she grabbed a bottle of cola and searched for some accompanying rum.

“You’re asking the wrong guy,” Dan said wryly, “I shouldn’t even be in his house yet here I am drinking with his wife.”

“Yeah, well, I may not be his wife for much longer,” Vanessa divulged as she handed him his drink and took a hasty gulp of her own.

“So you came to a decision?” Dan’s eyes searched hers.

“I guess so,” Vanessa wandered over to the table and distracted herself with a slice of apple pie. “It’s got to the point where I get sinking feeling when I see him. Not ideal, right?”

“Fair enough,” Dan leaned against the counter watching her. “He’s an idiot anyhow. When you get a good girl you should hang onto her.”

“Exactly.” Vanessa continued, “I mean, where is he now? It’s like I’m single or something. I’m so tired of being what he wants. What about what I want? Doesn’t that matter anymore? If he came home right now, he’d probably have a heart attack seeing the people I’ve invited to this goddamn party. But I like these people. He’s become such a snob, so… different to what he was.”

“People change,” Dan said simply and he crossed the kitchen to take her half-eaten slice of pie.

“I thought he might change back though.” Vanessa said wryly, “Stupid, I know.”

“It’s not stupid,” Dan said with his mouth full. “You believed in him, that’s all. That’s no crime.”

“Still,” Vanessa sighed, “I should have seen it coming.”

“Hey,” Dan caught her chin between his finger and thumb and tilted her head back so he could look her in the eye. “You need to stop blaming yourself. It’s not your fault.”

“Isn’t it?” Vanessa held his gaze.

“It’s not,” Dan insisted. In an apparent attempt to lighten the mood, he dipped his finger in some whipped cream off a dessert and wiped it on her cheek.

“Hey!” Vanessa reached up to wipe it off but before she could protest Dan leaned in and licked it away.

“I can’t believe you just did that.” Vanessa frowned but instead of letting her go, Dan let his tongue linger for longer than was necessary, his thumb and forefinger holding her chin in place. Vanessa stood perfectly still, though her heart was anything but still.

“What are you doing?” she asked quite seriously.

“I’m not sure,” Dan murmured as his lips trailed lightly across to her ear. “But I like it.”

He traced the shell of her ear with his tongue making her shiver. “If you’re leaving James, then technically, you’re single, right?”

“I…” Vanessa tried to think of an answer but all her attention was riveted to Dan’s tongue and the amazing way it felt against her skin. She knew she should pull away but nobody else seemed to care what they were doing and so she couldn’t understand why she felt like it was wrong. Surely, something that felt this good couldn’t possibly be wrong.

“Anywhere we could go?” Dan murmured and when she didn’t reply, he released her. Taking her drink, he set it down on the table, his hand grasping hers and pulling her through the guests and out of the doors onto the decking where they’d spoken the week before.

The crisp autumn air whipped through Vanessa’s hair and she felt goose bumps rise along the length of her bare arms. It was a clear night; she could see the stars in the night sky. The bright lights from inside the house cast a luminous yellow glow across the garden.

“Yes? Or no?” Dan asked. “’Cause I’m no mind reader.”

Vanessa didn’t know where her voice came from; all she knew that her reply was affirmative and that the uncertainty in Dan’s expression was replaced with a smile.

“All this time; watching… and now I finally get to touch,” he whispered. His searing green eyes locked onto hers with a passion she hadn’t seen for far too long.

Vanessa simply stared at him. Her heart thumped with excitement and fear, two contrasting emotions that twined together to give her the sharpest adrenalin rush she’d ever experienced. She wanted to back away but at the same time she could feel the lacy fabric between her legs being soaked with her arousal. She wanted him; that much she was sure of.

Dan’s hand slid around the back of her neck, holding her in place as he kissed her, devouring all the words she wanted to say. He tasted like mint and rum and coke and he smelt like heaven. She hadn’t been kissed with such passion in an age. Her lips opened to his, yearning for more as she granted his tongue access into the mouth that had felt nothing but tedium for years. The unfamiliar touch felt magical.

His tongue danced with hers, his hands moving to slip the straps of her gown off her shoulders so the deep V-necked dress fell to expose her chest. Her breath caught in her throat as he cupped her breasts in his hands, his rough thumbs brushing against her nipples. His mouth left hers and she drew in cold air as he kissed down her neck, sucking on her collarbone in a way that made her want to succumb to his mouth for eternity.

She was faintly aware of a cold breeze on her legs as he pulled her dress up, pulling her against him so their hips met and she could feel his hard cock pressing against her. He was moving fast, like he was afraid she might have second thoughts but Vanessa was only too happy with the direction the night had gone in. Her plan had been to host an unconventional party and maybe trash the house a little; she hadn’t reckoned on hooking up with anyone.

But Dan felt too good to resist. His hand pushed her panties aside, his fingers exploring the inflamed wetness that signified her arousal. Her mouth sought out his again, moaning into it as his fingertips passed over her clit, as though teasing her about what was yet to come.

“Are you sure you wanna do this?” His voice came out in a hoarse whisper and his breath felt wonderfully warm against her cheek.

“One hundred percent sure,” Vanessa whispered back and her hand ran down his clothes to feel the hard bulge contained in his pants.

Dan smiled. He spun her around to hold onto the railing. Vanessa held her breathas he pulled her dress up around her waist for the second time. With both of them facing away from the house, she knew it was more likely that someone might see them but at that moment, she couldn’t have cared less. All she cared about was the sound of Dan’s zipper going down. She heard him inhale deeply as he tugged her panties to the side and the head of his cock brushed against her entrance. His hands gripped tightly to her narrow waist and then he sank his hard throbbing cock into her pussy.

Vanessa let out a low groan as he penetrated her. Her pussy stretched to accommodate the size of his length. It felt unbelievably good. But it felt even better when he started moving. He slammed in and out with even strokes that made her catch her breath every time he bottomed out deep inside. Her hands clung to the railing and if it were daytime she would have seen how white her knuckles had become.

Dan’s hands gripped tightly to her hips as he moved faster, his breath coming out in short, sharp gasps. He was experienced; that much her hazy mind was aware of. Each time she thought he might finally tip her over the edge into orgasm, he would slow his thrusts until the sensations faded and then he would start the torture all over again.

She lost count of how many times she gasped out his name into the still autumn night. She didn’t know when she made the decision to urge him on by pushing back into every thrust. All she knew was that their bodies were moving as one, dancing to the tune of their raucous moans that drowned out the music still pulsing from the house.

His fingers toyed with her breasts, tugging at the nipples to the point of pain before travelling south to rub her clit until she felt the orgasm was inevitable. But then he’d stop and repeat it all again until she was just one lost heap of sensitivity and pleasure. She didn’t know how long they’d been there; it could have been minutes or hours until she finally heard him cry out with pleasure as he jerked and spasmed deep inside her.

His thumb pressed down hard onto her clit and stayed there throughout her intense orgasm, his hand pulling her chin round so he could kiss her and absorb all the whimpers of pleasure and relief that emitted from her trembling lips. It was too much but then it wasn’t; she let her body surrender to the crashing waves of pleasure until reality faded back into significance and her body relaxed. She felt hot. That was the first coherent though that came to mind when her legs finally felt steady again. Dan’s grip on her was gentler now and she let her sore fingers release the railing to which they’d all but bonded.

His arms wrapped around her, holding her close for a few precious seconds. His warm lips pressed to her temple. She felt him slip from her pussy but the emptiness there was bearable, because for once she was content. Dan released her gently and she was aware of the sound of his zipper being pulled up. She wondered what to say to him but words failed her.

“Oh fuck…”

She turned at Dan’s exclamation and followed his gaze through the open French doors to the man Vanessa would never have expected to turn up; James. His expression was a mixture of horror and disbelief and Vanessa was vaguely aware of his eyes travelling up and down her semi-naked body in speechless incredulity.

She didn’t know how long he’d been standing there. She had no idea what his wide eyes had seen. She wondered what the best words were to say to her husband at a time like this. Surely, she needed to control the damage. But what was the point? It was over.

She straightened out her dress and put her panties in place, feeling Dan’s cum seeping through the material even as she stood there. Then she walked forward with more poise than anyone else in her position could have mustered.

Approaching James, she let her eyes linger on his messed-up hair. If she leaned in close enough, she was sure she’d get a hint of some random woman’s perfume off him. She looked him in the eye and even though she was the one who’d just been fucking a relative stranger, it was his eyes that were full of shame.

Vanessa slipped the platinum wedding band off her ring finger and pressed it into his palm, closing his fingers around it. There was no need for words. The relationship had finally reached breaking point and the end was long overdue. Oblivious, the party inside the house continued and not knowing quite what else to do, Vanessa headed back inside for another rum and coke. Her bags were packed and already in her car but she figured she might as well stay for what was left of the night. Drinking seemed like an infinitely more appealing option than driving.

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