David took the pillow off Elena’s mouth. She was still laughing, log rolling back on forth on the bed, propelled by the energy of her stifled hilarity. Her hair had tumbled into ringlets and wavelets, jet black against white hotel sheets. “The look on your face….” She couldn’t finish, her speaking ability taken hostage by another fit of laughter. David was not so amused. He’d jumped a foot when the cell phone rang. Hadn’t he turned it off? In some dumb moment of nooner high spirits, one of them must have hit the “on” button.  “Gotcha!” Elena shrieked before calming down enough to stroke his cheek. “Did you think it was your mommy calling?”

If there were ever a mood-breaker for an afternoon tryst, this was it. David’s nerves were fried today, crisply sautéed with a hint of guilt and a sprinkle of sex drive. He shouldn’t be here in this hotel room with a senior member of his management team. Never, was closer to the truth, but today was an especially bad day. His wife’s birthday, and in less than six hours from now, he was due to give a heartfelt toast about how much he loved her, and unveil the slide show, which would be a version of “This is our life,” the fairy tale of David and Belinda.  And here he was in bed, in a hotel room a few miles from home with another woman.  He excused himself to go to the bathroom, carefully wrapping the sheet around him to mask the fact that the phone call had come at the worst possible moment.

Elena’s good humor had deflated too, faster than the foam on her morning cappuccino. With David in dispose, she had a moment to collect her thoughts. Did she want to be here? Did she want to nuke her life by sleeping with her new boss? She hadn’t meant to. She wasn’t a bimbo – (although, come to think of it, there were a couple of very smart bimbos in her B-school class). She wasn’t even a blonde hottie. For god’s sake, she had two master’s degrees! Why wasn’t she smart enough to see that getting involved with David was a fast track over the cliff? How had it had happened, she wondered?

They’d been working together on an acquisition– a very promising company in Silicon Valley, and Elena was the staff person, but David had been extremely present in all the negotiations.  He’d come to the meetings in California, and sat with the lawyers in New York. The deal was going very well. A few nail biter nights, but the sale was scheduled to close in thirty days. Elena had worked well with David. He’d complimented her on her creativity and her toughness, and she’d basked in his approval, dressing progressively more carefully for each subsequent meeting, hoping to make a good impression on him with her style as well as her substance. She’d bought a new black suit at Valentino or Newbury Street to celebrate, the skirt a bit more form fitting than her usual cut. Was it her imagination, or had David broken out a whole new tie collection too?

On the last trip together, over dinner in San Francisco, a sudden charge flashed between them. Elena felt as if a cone of silence had descended over their table.  They’d had a nightcap in the hotel bar. David had talked, a little tinnily, about his kids and about Belinda, saying nice things, the kind of things Elena wished she had a husband to say about her. Neither of them had said anything, but the offer hung in the air like a cigar ring.

David came out of the bathroom. Already showered, wearing a towel.  He sat on the edge of the bed, kissed her hard, almost forcing the blood out of Elena’s lips. “I don’t know where this is going,” he said. “But we’ll have to follow the road.” Elena, cocooned in the down duvet, began to tremble.  A sharp chill turning her arms to gooseflesh. “Wear something quiet tonight,” he said as he reached for the door. “I wouldn’t want anybody to talk.”

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