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When Amelia stumbles upon Marcia and Derrick’s BDSM lifestyle, she doesn’t realize it will lead to her escaping a loveless, dying marriage. She thought that was the stuff of romance books, not real life. Even better, she didn’t realize Marcia and Derrick operated a BDSM club and can introduce her to their friends.
Don and Carl are coworkers and platonic roommates. Divorced Carl walked in on his wife’s affair, and never-married Don hasn’t met the woman to make him “risk half his stuff.” The men agree to play with Marcia’s friend as a favor. Amelia’s new to BDSM—the last thing she needs is to get hooked up with a predator.
After some obvious meddling by Marcia, the men ask Amelia to be their roommate while she goes through her divorce. Once the dust clears, will she want more from the men, or will they be forced to say good-bye to someone they never realized they needed in their lives?
Amelia Parsons sat on the picnic table and watched the storm blow in off the Gulf. One of those grey, blustery, cloudy Saturdays, a late-winter weather system where it felt like Florida was simply phoning in its rep as the Sunshine State because it was too damn hungover from partying with the tourists to give a shit.
She watched this frontal boundary coming in through the bull’s-eye formed by pinching her wedding band between her left thumb and forefinger and staring through it. But peering through this ring didn’t bring the Eye of Sauron swinging around to pointedly look at her.
It only brought her a lot of sadness.
There wasn’t much left to do except file the paperwork and move out. Mike refused to talk, refused to go to a counselor, refused to see there was a damn thing wrong with their marriage.
And now that her eyes had been opened, she couldn’t look away from the truth burning a hole through the middle of her gut.
Her husband was happy phoning their marriage in. Had been for several years now.
She’d just been too blind to see it. Willfully ignorant, thinking this was the best it would ever get, that she was stupid and ungrateful to the Universe if she challenged the way things were.
That she was lucky he was a hard worker, had a decent job, and didn’t cheat on her.
It saddened her even more to realize that, at some point, she had fallen out of love with him. She wasn’t even exactly sure when that had happened. Did she still love him? Oh, absolutely. He was a good man, overall.
In love with him?
No. That ship had sailed.
And then it hit an iceberg and sank.
When she’d first showed up at her friend Marcia’s house to talk about it three weeks earlier, Fate had stepped in. From what she’d read via joining the book club Marcia had steered her toward, to accidentally discovering her friends’ secret hobby. She’d never suspected Marcia and Derrick were into anything kinky in their private lives, much less that they ran a BDSM club. Looking back, she could clearly see their relationship dynamic, yes, now that she knew what signs to look for.
After twenty years of marriage, her friends were still happy and in love with each other. Which proved it was possible. That Mike was wrong about how the passionless rut they’d settled into was “normal.”
Just because it’d been good enough for his parents and two older brothers and their wives didn’t mean it was good enough for her. She refused to settle.
And now she knew why her two sisters-in-law always looked miserable at every family get-together, always grousing about their husbands. Why her mother-in-law always seemed to be grumbling under her breath about her husband—until he died—and about her sons and who knows else.
I’m an idiot.
She and Mike, fortunately, didn’t have any kids.
Then again, you usually needed to have sex to actually have kids.
I’m thirty-seven and have to start my personal life all over again.
She didn’t know when her charming, handsome husband, who’d worked his ass off to win her over in college, had turned into a moss-covered rock.
Today, his big plan was to sit in front of the TV in the living room and watch hockey, or basketball, or maybe cricket or something. She didn’t know. Sports. That was what he’d said when she’d asked him last night if he had plans.
When she’d asked if he’d like to go out to eat, or see a movie with her, the reply had taken a sledgehammer to what little hope she’d held onto.
“You’re an adult, Amy. You don’t need me to go with you. If you want to go out to eat or see a movie, go. Or call one of your friends. I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything today.”
That was another thing. He was the only person who called her Amy. Everyone else called her Mel. It’d started out as a joke in college, when he’d called her that and teased her when she corrected him.
At the time, it’d seemed playful, and a wee bit attractive, that he had a backbone and stood up to her, took a little bit of control.
It was only later that she realized no, it was just him being stubborn and not giving a shit about her feelings.
It finally hit her.
She hated being called Amy.
And, for the first time, she could admit it to herself.
“I am not Amy,” she whispered. “I’m Mel.”
Crushing the ring against her palm in her tightly clenched fist, she finally burst into tears.
* * * *
Mel breathed a sigh of relief when Marcia answered her phone. “Hey, sweetie,” Marcia greeted her. “How you doing?”
She’d moved to her car for this conversation. The winds had picked up, and now drops of rain were starting to spatter against her windshield, making marks in the salt-spray residue that had already coated the glass while she’d been parked there.
“You know how you and Derrick offered to let me stay at your place for a while?”
Marcia’s tone changed. Concerned. “Yeah?”
She took a deep breath. “Is that offer still good, to stay in your spare room for a while?”
“Aww, sweetheart, of course. Are you okay?”
“No. But maybe I will be once this is all over.”
“He’s still refusing to go to a doctor or counselling?”
When the truth had exploded in Amelia’s face that Saturday she’d spent with Marcia and Derrick and their friends at the BDSM club, it had taken her nearly two weeks to finish digesting the information, everything she’d seen, her own feelings. To research.
Only then had she approached Mike again, asking if he’d reconsider going to counselling.
Another vocal, emphatic no.
She asked if he would go in for a check-up with his doctor. He was due anyway. She could go with him and ask about—
Not just no, but a hell no, from Mike.
“I don’t ask to go to your lady doctor. You don’t need to go to mine. I’m not a kid.”
Yet, he was acting like one.
A spoiled one who didn’t want to do any kind of hard work to earn or keep what he had.
She’d tried initiating cuddling and sex with him and got turned down, his usual excuse being that he was too tired and not in the mood.
She doubted he was cheating on her. He never tried to hide his cell phone, there were no suspicious changes in his activities or schedule, and if he wasn’t at work, he was usually at home, either doing chores or sitting in front of the TV.
There was no more “try” inside her. The well had completely dried up.
“I’m so sorry,” Marcia said. “Do you know when you want to move in?”
“I don’t know. I wanted to make sure it was still available first. You sure you guys don’t mind?”
“We wouldn’t have made the offer if we minded,” she said. “You’re family.”
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the divorce,” she said. “I’ll need to talk to Ed and find out how much it’ll be. And whatever equity we have in the house will probably be eaten up by legal fees for both of us. I can’t afford to keep the house alone.”
“It’s okay,” Marcia assured her. “This will work out the way it should. Just keep remembering that.”
“Mike was supposed to be my happy ending. I thought he was the guy I’d spend the rest of my life with.”
“People change as they age. Sometimes for the better, sometimes…not.”
“He sure as hell has.” They used to do things together, like go biking, hiking, walks. Movies. The beach.
Nothing expensive or ritzy, but…time spent together.
Now it felt like Mike could barely stand the sight of her despite what he’d said.
“Where are you right now?” Marcia asked.
“I drove down to Manasota Key. I was looking for sharks’ teeth.”
“It’s a pretty crappy beach day.”
“I know. It was perfect. I had the place to myself.”
“Ah. Do you want to come over and go to dinner and the club with us tonight?”
“I was going to ask if I could spend the night.”
“That’s fine, too.”
“Thanks. Sorry to invite myself over like this.”
“Honey, again. You’re family. We extended the offer and we meant it. Go home and pack some stuff. We’ll do a late brunch tomorrow with some of the girls.”
When was the last time she’d just gone somewhere and hung out with friends?
Wait, what happened to all her friends? Sure, she still had acquaintances, but for the most part she rarely hung out with friends anymore. She and Mike had a bunch of friends when they were in college. Then…
Like with the rest of their marriage, somehow the slow creep of decay had rotted those, too. First, it was Mike was too tired or had too many chores to do, let’s put it off. Then again…
She wasn’t fond of going out with other couples when Mike wouldn’t go.
Yes, they were still “friends” with the people. She saw them on Facebook more than she did in real life.
On the other hand, when she filed for divorce he would probably be in a rush to go telling all of them how pervy and disgusting his wife was, which was why the divorce happened. Because she wasn’t happy with a hardworking husband who spent his time at home with her.
And she had no doubts that was what he’d say. He’d told her as much when she’d first mentioned BDSM several weeks ago.
That would be the ultimate irony, that the moral outrage of her leaving him finally got him off his ass to complain to people about her, instead of letting the fear of his marriage dying motivate him to save it in the first place.
No, she didn’t want to be like that. She didn’t want to demonize him. Not when she had loved him, and had been in love with him, when they got married.
But that was fifteen years ago. Another lifetime ago, it felt like.
She wasn’t that woman anymore.
He damn sure wasn’t the same man she married.
Or, maybe he’d never been the man she’d thought he was at all.