The night was dark, almost moonless, and the air was cold. He forgot to grab a jacket when he left their flat; misty condensation from the damp night air is collecting on his shirt. His breath is steaming in front of his face. His hands have gone numb.
He doesn't notice any of it; he doesn't even know where he's going. When he trips over an exposed tree root in front of a neighbor's house, the fall onto his hands and knees is a sharp slap back into reality. Now he can feel the wetness of the mud seeping into his trousers, and the tingling numbness in his hands when he pushes himself up off the ground.
He's walked quite a ways from their tiny flat, down the deserted lanes of the surrounding rural village.
Up ahead is the house he grew up in. Just beyond that: Amy's childhood home.
He stands there for a long time, just staring at the bend in the road that marks that familiar path. He's walked it so many times, he could close his eyes and find his way there now just by counting his steps.
A thought comes to him: you can never go back. He turns around and starts walking.
It takes him more than an hour to get back to the tiny flat he shares with Amy. He expects to find the place a mess, his things tossed out and scattered 'round the garden. Instead, the place is eerily quiet, still and deserted, and that state unnerves him even more.
He finds her in their bed. She's lying on his side of it, facing the wall. It's hard to tell if she's asleep or not: she's fully clothed, and he can't hear her breathing over the noise of the radiator.
"Amy…" He whispers her name and switches on a lamp. She doesn't move.
When he peers into her face, kneeling down by the bed, her eyes are open, but she doesn't look at him; the only movement is a big, heavy teardrop that forms in the corner of her eye and slides slowly down to the tip of her nose.
She flinches when he reaches out to brush it away. He sighs.
"Amy, why didn't you tell me?"
He's sure she isn't going to answer. He's just about to stand up, to leave their room and make a bed for himself on the sofa, when finally her voice creaks out: "Why do you think?"
"I suppose that's fair enough." His knees are aching from his crouching position. Reaching out behind him, he braces himself and sits against the bedroom wall.
When he does, some small, almost infinitesimal degree of tension evaporates from Amy's face; her shoulders relax just a fraction of a degree. She reaches up a hand to quickly swipe at her dripping nose.
To her, it's a signal: he's not leaving; at least, not for now. He's going to stay.
Rory draws up his knees, resting his elbows and cradling his head in his hands. When he speaks, his voice is careful, quiet. "Amy, I know why you were afraid to tell me, but you also know that you should have told me anyway."
She doesn't answer, and so he looks up at her until she meets his eyes. Slowly, she nods.
"I mean, were you...safe?" There are a million questions he wants to ask. This one sounds like a reasonable start.
"Of course I was!" Once again, her indignation has broken through her reluctance to speak. "You know you can trust me to take care of myself…"
He laughs without mirth. "Can I?"
She meets his eyes, and now it's her turn to concede the point.
"Amy, I want to know…I mean, you kept yourself safe, obviously, but were you…happy?"
She hasn't expected this question. Still lying on her side on the bed, she stares back at him. He fidgets nervously, poking at a hole in the knee of his jeans.
"What I mean is: did you enjoy it?" He has to look away for this part, staring at his hands and the carpet and anywhere but Amy's face.
She pushes herself up onto one elbow and waits until he looks at her. "Yes," she whispers.
There is a spark inside his gut that flares to life when she answers; he can feel it heating the blood in his veins, warming his face, his chest—and his groin.
"Did you enjoy them, those people—was it better than with me?" He doesn't look away this time, but locks his gaze onto hers. She's sitting on the edge of the bed now, feet dangling just inches from his knees.
Amy considers before answering. "Not better—it was just…different."
When he tries to swallow, his mouth is dry. "Exciting?"
Again, she whispers, "Yes."
With shaking hands, he pushes himself onto his feet so he can sit next to her on their bed. The duvet beneath him is still warm from her body.
She's waiting for him to touch her, but he doesn't; not yet. There's a question written on his face, but she isn't sure she knows how to answer.
Still, she has to try.
"Rory, I love you. That's why I never told you, and it's also why I stopped. I didn't want to keep anything from you. I gave it all up for you."
She won't be the one to reach for him first. Silent tears start sliding down her cheeks. "Rory, please…"
When he leans in to kiss her, it's a relief for both of them. Her mouth is trembling; her tears wet his cheeks.
Inside him, the flame still burns.
He lowers the hand that was cupping her cheek and rests it on her shoulder. "Amy..." His voice is a whisper, thick and hoarse. "I want you to tell me about them."
Her brow furrows. "What?"
Rory licks his lips and nervously twists his wedding ring 'round his finger. He darts a furtive glance at her face before trying again. "I want to know about your clients, what you did with them."
She shakes her head. "Why do you want to torture yourself?"
"I want to hear…"
"Why on earth would you?"
"Amy!" He squeezes her hand to stop her speaking.
Something in the tone of his voice gives her pause. She looks into his face, and she's shocked at what she sees: his cheeks are flushed, his pupils are dilated…
"Amy," he tries again, and this time he kisses her, tender but passionate. "Amy, please."
She reaches out her fingers to touch his lips, and his breath feels heavy against her skin.
He kisses the palm of her hand.
"Where should I start?" Her voice comes out as barely a whisper.
He smiles at her, shyly. "Start at the beginning."
She starts to tell him about Susan, and the night of her 40th birthday party. She tells him how she felt standing outside the woman's home, half-naked and exposed, and how nervous she was. He stops her to ask what costume she was wearing, and she tells him about her French maid outfit. Of course he's seen it before: like her, it had been one of his favorites. She describes it for him anyway: the short frilly skirt, the low-cut top, the tiny little apron, and the red garter belt that held up her black fishnet stockings.
As she speaks, Rory starts kissing her neck: slowly, languorously. He runs his tongue over her collarbone, and sucks gently at the pulse at the base of her neck. Amy closes her eyes and pictures that night: Susan's long blonde hair with the streaks of silver-gray, and the soft curve of her breasts beneath the black silk of her dress.
Rory takes every word that leaves her lips and marks it onto her body. He can picture her, his Amy, and how she would have looked that night with her cheeks flushed from the champagne. He can picture what the other woman's hand would have looked like when it reached up to stroke across Amy's soft, pink lips, and Amy's gasp of surprise when she did. Each image stokes the flame, and he spreads that heat in a line down Amy's neck to her breasts, and starts to unbutton her shirt.
Amy reaches the end of that first night. He grabs her waist and half-lifts, half-drags her up the bed so she's resting against the pillows. He uses his knee to urge her legs apart, and settles into the space between them. His pelvis pressed against hers, she can feel how hard he is already. This is a reaction she never considered, every time she thought about telling him her secrets.
"What next?" he whispers against her ear. His breath is hot against her skin, still wet from his mouth, and she shivers.
"She called to book me again a couple weeks later, and I went to her house. She made dinner – oysters, I think – then we drank champagne and kissed on the sofa."
Rory has pushed up her bra, and he's teasing her nipples with his tongue while one hand softly strokes her inner thigh. He looks up at her with eyes dark from lust: "What was her kiss like?"
Amy is lost in the feel of his hands on her body; he pinches her nipple, gently, to get her attention.
"Ah!" she hisses. "What was her kiss like? Well, it was soft, which was nice at first. I thought…well, I thought because she'd been the one to pursue me, that she'd take the lead, but she was shy."
"And you encouraged her?" Rory prompts.
She smiles, then moans when Rory slips one finger under the waistband of her knickers. "Yes. I…pushed her back against the sofa, and snogged her senseless. When she was panting and breathless, I reached my hand up under her skirt, just like you're doing now…"
Rory groans as he pictures it, rubbing himself up against Amy's side. He'd had fantasies before, of Amy with other men, other women-but that was all they'd been, just stories in his head. He never thought they could be real; more than that, he never knew he wanted them to be.
Amy felt the hot, hard length of his erection poking her in the side as he lay close, burying his face in the curve of her neck. Her old life, her secrets: they excited him. When he'd walked out the door earlier that evening, she was so sure she'd lost him. She had hoped for forgiveness: this was so much more. She could hardly believe it was real; it might be a dream, if not for the painful, aching throb of arousal between her legs. She reaches for Rory, and realizes that he's wearing far too much clothing.
"When we went back into her bedroom," she continues, "I made a show of stripping off all her clothes, piece by piece." As she speaks, she unzips the hoodie he still wears and slips a hand inside, smoothing over the front of his t-shirt. He's so warm; heat radiates from his body like a furnace. She pulls off the rest of his clothes just as she had Susan's, piece by piece, desperate to feel his skin against her own.
Rory helps her off with his clothing, and the rest of her own. When his erection springs free from his boxers, Amy takes hold of it, possessively, using the grip to draw him close for another kiss.
She pulls back to look at him: his face still holds that strange animal intensity, like a hunger. When he speaks, his voice is raw.
"Tell me about the men. Who was the first?" He kisses his way down her stomach and to the apex of her legs.
Amy closes her eyes, remembering. "David. He was the first."
"What did you do with him?"
"We went out to dinner, and to a jazz club..." She has to stop to catch her breath; Rory has worked his way down her thighs to the hot, slick folds of her labia. He tongues them apart, lapping at her core, and while he workes nudges his nose against the hard, swollen nub of her clit.
She closes her eyes and moans, long and loud.
Rory stops only long enough to urge her on. "What then, Amy?"
"We...at the club, he put his hand on my knee. Just his hand, moving slowly up skirt, stopping on my thigh...oh..." It's hard to concentrate when Rory is bringing her so close. Each word, every detail seems to spur him on, and he works between her legs with a feverish intensity. Every time she stops, he stops, until the words are pouring out of her in a babbling rush of feeling, description-anything to keep him moving his tongue and his fingers against her, inside her.
"I closed my eyes...the music was so loud. I could feel the pulse of the bass between my legs... We kissed in the alley behind the club. He pushed me up against the brick wall...ah! He knelt, pushed up my skirt...I lost my knickers..."
Once again, she loses herself in the feeling, loses her train of thought...
Rory urges her on. "Did he make you come?"
Amy takes a deep breath. "Yes..."
He works one finger and then another inside of her; his thumb presses against her clit each time he moves his fingers in and out. "Did you cry out?"
She can feel the scream building inside her throat as he moves. "Yes!" She's so very close to the edge now...
He pulls his fingers out of her dripping cunt and wipes his hand on her thigh.
Amy moans in frustration, and looks down to see what made her husband stop. His eyes are still dark and shining; his face, wet with her juices, is still flushed.
"Rory?" she asks.
Slowly, he crawls up her body until they are face-to-face. He takes his hard cock and rubs it along her slit, so swollen from the nearness of her orgasm.
"Ohhh, yes..." her groan is just as much pain as it is pleasure.
He nudges her chin with his nose, and when she looks up to meet his gaze, his face is intense, but also a little shy.
"Did you..." He starts, but his mouth is dry. He swallows, breathes deeply, and tries again. "Did you ever think about me when you were with them?"
"Yes..." she answers without hesitation.
Her answer floods him with relief. They both moan appreciatively when he slips inside her.
He thrusts into her slowly, placing soft kisses on her neck, reaching up to stroke her face gently.
She pulls his face down to her for a kiss. "Ohh, Rory...as long as you want me, I'm yours, but you have to remember: I am mine, too."
The flame is still burning inside him, flickering like a candle. Rocking slowly against her, he nods, his face buried in her neck. "I know..."
Amy's heartbeat pulses in time to her husband's thrusts, moving faster now. It's an effort to speak. "I enjoyed what I took from them, what they paid me for-that's what it was, a transaction. But you...ohhh, Rory!" She can feel her climax building like a storm. "Rory, I love you, you love me-that will always make us so much more..."
Steadily, he's moving faster; Amy has never been one for romantic speeches, and this moment feels more intimate, more real than even their wedding vows. He pictures all those hands that have touched her, that have pleased her; he thinks of how beautiful she always looked, as a nurse, as a policewoman, as a French maid...he thinks of all the eyes that have looked on her and wanted; all the mouths that have tasted the saltiness of her skin. The flickering candle inside him bursts into a brilliant flame.
Dimly, he's aware of Amy crying out as he thrusts into once, twice more; he shouts out her name as he spills himself into her.
The sound of their breathing is loud in the hot stillness of their bedroom.
He pulls out of her, but he doesn't move aside. Her chest is heaving against his.
"I love you," he whispers. "I love all of you."
Amy smiles and places a gentle kiss on his mouth. "That's why you're the one I chose."