The rain was, quite simply, pouring down in sheets.
Michael’s hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that his bloodless knuckles stood up in bony ridges. Light from the street lamps, blurred where reflected through the rainswept windshield, lit a harried, anxious face. Dark eyes behind black-rimmed glasses swept the roadway from side to side, attempting to pierce the rain and gloom enough to see the roadway. North Carolina hadn’t seen a rainstorm of this magnitude in years. Just his luck, he reflected glumly as he navigated his Ford Taurus through the wind and rain back home, to his wife Sharon.
How could this have happened to him? Was it the fight they’d had this morning, the way she’d turned her cheek to him instead of offering her lips to him for a kiss? Was it that they’d been together for over seven years now, touching none but each other, kissing none but each other, making love only to each other? Was he feeling stifled?
Images of their years together flashed unbidden though his reluctant mind, images of the day they’d met, she in her little old-lady cardigan, all chunky shoes and messy ponytail, chewing her lower lip as she studied her laptop screen in the little coffee shop around the corner from his office. He’d been so busy staring that he’d tripped and unloaded the contents of his coffee cup on her lap. She leapt up and dislodged her laptop from its precarious perch on the table, swearing colorfully as she looked around, then glared at him from behind her smudged glasses. Fast forward to their wedding day, her eyes so gentle beneath her makeup and lipstick, with her hair arranged painstakingly just so, with just a shadow of apprehension lurking behind her eyes as if she wondered what he thought. He remembered the day she told him she was pregnant, and the day she gave birth to their first son. Moments and memories from the last seven years cascaded through his brain, each one a reprimand for the events of this evening.
He shook his head angrily and tried to return his attention to the road, but within moments he was lost in thought again.
Maggie had been working in his department for the last six months. Every man on the floor was panting after her. She seemed to be everything that Sharon wasn’t – polished, supremely confident, put together. Her wardrobe seemed to consist of all the things that Sharon had never considered wearing – skinny black pencil skirts, blouses with enough buttons undone to give a tantalizing hint of tanned cleavage, she was all high gloss and high maintenance shine. And she was smart, too. Smart as a whip. She’d started as a low level manager in a different department three years ago and moved steadily up the chain of command since then, until finally she was promoted into one of the junior vice presidents of his team. That was six months ago.
Michael had long since learned how to distance himself from physical attraction. How to notice it, acknowledge it, and move past it. But something about Maggie just wouldn’t let it go by the wayside. He had been pretty oblivious at first, not noticing the way her gaze lingered on him as she walked past his office, how she would edge closer to him on the elevator when they were in it and others got in, how she would often enter his office and sit on the edge of his desk, as she shared some thought or idea with him, hands gesturing and eyes afire with her excitement.
Until finally one day, she made it clear as glass that she was interested. In him! How that had happened, he’d never understand. He’d made it clear to her that he was a happily married family man, with kids, and that in no way was he interested in any extra curricular activities. He started to avoid her whenever he could, which was increasingly difficult since his refusal, as if the fact of his recalcitrance served to just fire her up even more. Although he was unnerved by her attentions, there was something about her pursuit of him that was strangely exciting. He hadn’t been pursued like that in…well, ever.
So at the end of the workday today and he’d been gathering his briefcase and jacket, looking forward with no excitement to the long drive home, when she’d stopped by offering to buy him a drink, he’d agreed. No problem, he reasoned with himself, just have a drink, wait for the traffic to die down, and head home. He’d apologize to Sharon, help put the kids to bed, then romance her within an inch of her life.
A grin on his face, he agreed, and they grabbed their cars and met at Tini Biggs, a nearby martini bar. One martini led to two, which led to three, which led to a heated makeout session in the dimly lit booth.
He’d finally come to his senses when her hand had drifted from his neck to his chest, and started inching lower. Suddenly it was as if a glass of cold water had been dumped all over him, right in the places that needed a little cooling off. He’d jumped up as if he’d been scalded, stared at her for a moment, mumbled something about having to get home, threw a couple twenties on the table, and rushed out of the bar. He’d left her there, too shaken to speak with her rationally, and now he was on his way home through the rainy North Carolina night, castigating himself for his weakness, thinking about his wife and how much he loathed himself for what he had done.
The reality was, he loved her. More than life itself. And no high maintenance, high gloss junior executive could change how he felt. He should never have gone to the bar. There was ducking fate, and then there was tempting it, and he had practically thrown himself in front of the train on that one. Funny, it was such a vivid mental image that he could almost see the train lights bearing down on him through the hazy rain.
Suddenly he jerked upright. That was not a mental train, it was a very real semi, horn blaring, coming straight for him, blurry but very, very real, heading directly at him through the rain. Frantic, he spun the wheel as hard as he could and the car swept to the right, lights and trees blurring into one long stream as the car spun out of control. The spinning landscape slowed as he finally lifted his foot from the brake and let the car drift to a halt. He realized that his eyes were squeezed shut and he slowly pried them open. He saw that his car was perched on the edge of the road, close to a ditch. But he was alive. He was in one piece and he was alive. His heart was almost jackhammering out of his chest. A car screamed by on his left, horn blaring, and he closed his eyes once more, taking deep breaths to calm his heart rate.
Once calm, he edged the car back out onto the road, getting up to speed as carefully and slowly as possible. The rest of the ride home was spent in fierce concentration on the road ahead.
When he finally arrived home, Sharon was standing in the doorway, waiting for him. He walked slowly through the rain, toward that rectangle of warm light and the sweet shape of his wife, his life, waiting in the doorway, representative of everything that was good, and beautiful, and pure in his world. He stood in front of her, rain dripping down his dark hair and off the tip of his nose, clouding his glasses but not obscuring the sight of her, the delicious, sexy sight of her, waiting there for him, welcoming him. Even though she might smell the lingering scent of Maggie’s perfume, even if she might sense that something was off, something was wrong, she still welcomed him.
He pulled her into his arms and she came, heedless of his wet coat and the expression in his eyes that said maybe something was wrong. He wrapped her in his strong arms and his masculine scent and she lost herself, as she had that first time he’d kissed her, feeling that intensity that had first drawn her to him and had kept her captivated ever since.
After a moment he pulled his head back and looked into her eyes, smoothing an errant lock of hair off her forehead. He pressed his lips to the place he had just touched with his fingertips, and murmured, “Baby, I love you. I love you so much.”
She murmured back to him, meaningless love words, and searched his face with her eyes. He returned her gaze, and finally spoke.
“I need to tell you something, honey. I’m getting a new job. Tomorrow.”
She sighed, knowing on some level, and forgiving. He pulled her back into his arms and carried her inside, upstairs, and to bed.
This has been a Loaded For Blog production. A little different this time, a little more serious, about workplace temptation.