She took a deep breath and smoothed down her clothes, which she always did when she was nervous. "Susie's having an affair."
He didn't react as he took in her words. Finally he said, "How long have you known?"
Charlotte looked taken aback by his answer. "You don't sound very surprised."
"I'm not. I've suspected for a while. I came to the shop today to see if you knew anything. Why didn't you tell me then, Charlie? Why?"
"Because I didn't know." She sounded hurt. "I didn't find out until this afternoon. As soon as I found out, I knew I had to tell you."
Charlotte nodded. "Susie took me to lunch but left suddenly after she got a text message. I don't know why I did it, but I followed her. I saw her meet someone. They kissed and then disappeared down Rubber Road in the park."
David smiled. "You actually saw her with someone? Would you recognise him if you saw him again?"
"Of course I would. It was Mike Liggins."
"Her ex? Oh, this gets better and better."
"Better? How? Why? What do you mean `better'?"
"I'm sorry, Charlie. Perhaps I should explain." He refilled their glasses. "I never really trusted Susie. I mean, she slept with her own sister's boyfriend when she was supposed to be in a committed relationship with someone else."
"So why did you marry her? No, don't answer that. It's because she gave you what I didn't, isn't it?"
"You mean Ben?"
Charlotte nodded. "Ben. You have no idea how much that hurt me, David. There I am, less than a year after our false alarm, and you knock up my own sister. My sister, of all people. I might have understood if it had been some tart from work, but my sister?"
"It's not like it's something I planned."
"I know. But after all we talked about. All our plans. Do you remember our plans? A little boy and a little girl, a house in the country and a successful business. Then you left me for her because she gave you a child before me. Your own flesh and blood. You hurt me, David. We were going to have such a good life. A `Charlotte's Secret' in every town--that's what you said. Make the first a success, and then expand. We had it all mapped out. World domination of the lingerie retail market."
"Charlie, you know what things were like for me growing up. I hardly saw my father and when I did, he and my mother were screaming at each other. It was horrible. I was determined Ben wouldn't suffer the same way. I was going to be there for him from the second he came into this world, and if that meant having to make things work with Susie instead of you, then that's what I had to do.
"But I also knew there was a more than fair chance that Susie and I would never make it work. And if that happened I wanted to avoid all the sh*t that my parents put me through. So I had Josh Garman, you remember him, draw up a pre-nuptial agreement. It states that if the marriage breaks down within the first year, then it will be dissolved as if it never happened."
"But what about Ben?"
"Living arrangements and access were all sorted out in the agreement. However, if the marriage lasted for more than a year, then all assets of the marriage would be split equally. Right down the middle."
"Oh, I get it. It's your anniversary next week, isn't it? So you want to put an end to things with Susie before then so that you don't have to give her anything. I mean, it wasn't exactly an equal partnership, your marriage. You had so much and she hadnothing."
"Nothing, except my son. But you're only half right. There's a clause written into the agreement. I call it the adultery clause. If, after the first year, the marriage breaks down as the result of the
infidelity of one of the parties…"
"You're talking legalese. Could you try English instead?"
"If one of us has an affair, and the other can prove it beyond a shadow of doubt, then they get nothing. They walk away with only what they brought to the table."
"So if you can prove Susie's affair, then she's gets nothing from you? But what about Ben?"
"Ben will be taken care of. The courts don't always award custody to the mother. Most times, but not always."
"I suppose that's written into the agreement too, is it? This is a hell of a corner you've backed yourself into. And it's your own fault. You know that, don't you? You'd better take a look at this." Charlotte took her phone out of her handbag and passed it to David. He browsed through the pictures that she'd taken earlier in the day with a big smile on his face.
"These are perfect. She'll never be able to talk her way out of this." He kept cycling through the pictures and smirked. "How long were you watching, Charlie?"
Charlotte blushed and looked at the floor. David knew all about her voyeuristic tendencies. She was the only woman he'd ever know who'd asked him to get hold of pornography for them to watch together. The night of her thirtieth birthday party, one of her presents had been a digital video camera. She'd suggested to him that later that evening they could use it to make their own private movie. But then he'd got drunk and slept with her sister instead. He almost asked her if she'd ever made the movie with someone else, but thought better of it.
He handed the phone back. "Could I get prints of those? I'll need to pass them on to Josh."
Charlotte put the phone back in her bag and took out a CD. She handed it to David. "They're all on there. You'll have to print them yourself. I didn't fancy doing it a Kodak kiosk."
Charlotte's Secret is available now from Phaze Books.
Marc Nobbs - The Known Unknown
"But… If you were… Why didn't you? You must have known…"
A contemporary Erotic Romance by Marc Nobbs
Available Now from Phaze.com
"So you are screwing her. I'm going to make this real simple for you, boy. Get the hell out of River's Crossing or so help me God, I'll dig out my service revolver and shoot you dead."
**LOST & FOUND**
A contemporary Erotic Romance by Marc Nobbs. 16th June 2008 from
Posted by Alternative-Read.com reviewer: Sassy Brit