Althea closed her Bible and placed it back on the coffee table. She felt like Judas because she had betrayed Tyson. Guilt racked her but if she were brutally honest with herself she would admit that what happened between Greg and her was something she had wanted for a very long time–even before she started dating Tyson.
Last night when Greg took her home after working together over time on a pending project, she invited him in to have a hot chocolate. After he went in and she closed the door, she unbuttoned her coat, with her back to him. She felt him pull it off her shoulders, discard it then, he pulled her back against him, so that she could feel his hard body pressing into hers while he buried his face in her hair. She closed her eyes as desire raged through her. Then, she turned to him, her eyes meeting his in a steady stare. She reached out and unbuttoned his coat.
His coat was soon disposed of, his tie followed and then, with trembling fingers, she loosened the buttons on his shirt, her heart pounding with anticipation. She could feel his warm breath on her temple and soon he was shirtless. Eagerly she ran her hands over his chest and before reaching up and pulling his head down to hers, her fingers gripping his hair as their lips fastened. His arms went about her waist, pressing her into him as they exchanged passionate kisses.
Several minutes later, Althea drew back, gasping for breath as she dragged off her jacket and everything from the waist up, longing to feel his skin against her. Greg groaned as she pressed against him, her eyes feverish as they met his smoldering ones and he swept her up into his arms and carried her into the living-room. They made love on the sofa. He ended up spending the night and the following morning, they made love again before he left after having breakfast.
Running her hand over the cushion where his head was, she trembled as she recalled how explosive the lovemaking was and it was something she had never experienced with anyone–not even Tyson. Greg excited her like no man ever did and she wanted to be with him again. She wasn’t satisfied with having just a working relationship with him. She wanted more…but what about Tyson?
How could she face Tyson after what she did but how could she stay with him when she wanted Greg? And what about Greg’s girlfriend, Audrey? She had completely forgotten about her. She remembered the first time she met the willowy blonde and her jealous reaction. It was at one of the company’s picnics. She was there with Tyson and Greg was there with Audrey. They were sitting at the table with the director of the company and his wife. Tyson and she joined them. She was sitting between Tyson and Greg who introduced them to Audrey. He and Tyson had met before.
Audrey was what most people would consider to be classically beautiful with her fine features. She was regal and elegant. When she was introduced to Tyson, she smiled and was very gracious to him but when she was introduced to Althea, she was a bit aloof and the smile on her lips didn’t reach her light blue eyes. The two women barely said anything to each other and Greg commented on that when they were in the office. “I couldn’t help but notice that you and Audrey didn’t hit it off. You’re usually get along with everyone and Audrey too but somehow, you two didn’t warm up to each other. How come?”
Althea had shrugged and offered him an offhand explanation. “I guess we can’t always get along with people.” She couldn’t let him know that she was jealous of Audrey and for some reason Audrey didn’t like her. Perhaps she sensed that Althea was attracted to her boyfriend. Women were more intuitive when it came to those things.
“Tyson and I get along even though he’s your boyfriend,” Greg had remarked and she looked at him, quizzically. His expression was inscrutable. What does he mean by that? Before she could ask him, his cell rang and he excused himself. Ever since then, she had been meaning to ask him about the remark but just hadn’t gotten around to it.
The ringing of her phone brought her back to the present and she got up from the sofa to answer it. It was Tyson. Heart thudding and hand gripping the phone, she said, “Hello, Tyson.”
“Hi Baby, I tried to get you last night but your machine came on and your cell was turned off. I thought about coming over but I didn’t want to drop by just like that.”
Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t, she thought. Or you would have caught me with Greg. “Tyson, I’m fine. I was wiped so I must have been sleeping and that’s why I didn’t hear the phone or the cell ring.” Lying came so easily to her that it startled her.
“Okay. I called to remind you that we’re going to the Blue Note tonight to see the John Scofield Quartet. I’ll pick you up at seven.”
She had totally forgotten about tonight. The last thing she wanted was to be at a jazz club but what excuse could she give? “All right.”
“Great! Oh, I invited Greg and Audrey to join us. I hope you don’t mind.”
Her heart was racing now. She was going to see Greg. And Audrey was going to be there. How was she going to be able to hide her feelings or stop the images of Greg and her making love from popping into her head? “I wish Audrey weren’t coming,” she said. “The woman doesn’t like me.”
“Maybe she’s jealous of you,” Tyson remarked.
Althea stiffened. “Why should she be?” she asked warily.
“You are a gorgeous woman, Althea and you work closely with Greg. I would be jealous too if I didn’t trust you.”
She closed her eyes as the guilt consumed her. He trusts me. I feel like a traitor. What am I going to do? I never meant to cheat on him but my feelings for Greg got the better of me. I was a fool to have a relationship with Tyson when I really wanted to be with Greg but at the time Greg was already seeing Audrey. Oh, what a mess I have gotten myself into…
“Althea? Are you still there?”
“Yes–yes. I–I have to go now.”
“All right. I’ll see you at seven.”
“See you then,” she replied and hung up, her head throbbing. She went back over to the sofa and sank heavily down, her brow knitted, frantic about how the evening was going to pan out and that she might do or say something to give herself away. “Dear Lord, please help me to keep it together tonight,” she begged.
Several hours later when Tyson picked her up, she was composed or appeared to be. The closer they got to the Blue Note Jazz club, the more nervous she became and by the time they walked into the place, her palms were sweaty and her legs felt like jelly. Thankfully, Greg and Audrey weren’t there as yet. It gave her time to collect herself.
It was a nice club. The atmosphere was casual and intimate. Their table was situated in such a way that all four of them would be able to get to see the band. The band had already set up and in ten minutes they were going to play. She looked up just then and her heart somersaulted when she saw Greg and Audrey approaching their table. Audrey was wearing a red top with a black pants. Her hair was pulled back in a chignon giving her an elegant look. She gave Althea a frosty smile and greeting before she sat down opposite her.
Althea’s eyes shifted to Greg as he sat down beside Audrey and opposite Tyson. He was dressed in a black dress shirt with black jeans. He looked so sexy that it was hard for her not to stare. Their eyes met and she smiled nervously as she greeted him, acting as if they hadn’t seen each other since yesterday at the office.
They ordered drinks, appetizers and dinner and settled down to enjoy the band which was starting up. As the sounds of jazz filled the air, Althea sneaked a peek at Greg whose head was turned toward the stage and her heart skipped a beat when she caught him looking at her. She quickly turned away and tried to concentrate on the music and enjoy the dinner but she could feel his eyes on her.
After dinner and during a break, Audrey excused herself and went to the washroom while Tyson went to the bar to order a Club Soda. Althea had passed on having anything else to drink and was nursing her Cranberry Juice. Alone with Greg, she couldn’t resist looking at him and her mouth went dry when she saw him looking at her intently. “You look amazing,” he told her. “I can’t keep my eyes off you.”
She was wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps and her hair was pulled back at the nape. “Thank you,” she replied, feeling shy and thrilled at the same time. “You look incredibly sexy.”
“Althea, I can’t stop thinking about last night and this morning.”
“Me neither,” she confessed. “What are we going to do? I feel like such a traitor because Tyson trusts me but I can’t help how I feel about you, Greg. What happened between us last night and this morning happened because I wanted it to.”
“We have to tell them,” he told her. “We can’t continue hiding our feelings and pretending that we are happy in our relationships when we’re not. I want to be with you, Althea. I’ve wanted it ever since we started working together.”
She stared at him. “Why didn’t you tell me this before I started dating Tyson?” she demanded. “I only went out with him because you were with Audrey.”
“I thought you loved Tyson and that’s why I didn’t do anything. You have no idea how hard it is for me to see you with him. I like him and we get along but I’m jealous of him because he’s your boyfriend.”
“And I’m jealous of Audrey because she’s your girlfriend.”
“I think she suspects that I have feelings for you. She didn’t want to come tonight because of you but I managed to talk her into it. I came because I wanted to see you. Can I come over later?”
“Yes,” she said. “We’ll talk more later.” Just then, both Tyson and Audrey joined them.
The band came back and played for another hour. It was time to leave. The four of them walked out of the club and to the parking lot. They said their goodnight and parted. As Althea walked to Tyson’s Land Rover, she watched Greg and Audrey walk to his Jaguar. Seeing them together made her decide that she was going to end her relationship with Tyson. She wouldn’t do it tonight, though. Tomorrow was Sunday. On her way to church, she would call him and suggest that they meet in the afternoon at Bryant Park.
It was after ten when she got home and she quickly undressed and took a shower. She changed into floral print Chemise which flattered her figure and complexion. Her hair was loose about her shoulders and after dabbing a little of her favorite Ralph Lauren perfume behind her ears, she went into the kitchen. She just finished pouring hot toddies into two glass cups when the doorbell rang. Her heart racing, she hurried to answer the door, smiling when she saw Greg’s eyes travel over her.
As soon as she closed the door and locked it, he pulled her into his arms. “I’ve wanted to do this all night,” he murmured, his eyes restless on her upturned face. He was wearing a navy blue shirt and blue jeans. His hair was slightly damp and he smelled really good.
She put her arms around his neck. “I fixed us some hot toddies. Let’s sit on the sofa and drink them before they get cold and then…”
He smiled and released her. “You’re right. If I kiss you now, I wouldn’t be able to stop.”
They walked into the living-room and while he relaxed on the sofa, she went and got the hot toddies. She handed him his before she settled down next to him. She reached for the remote for the stereo and turned it on. Smooth jazz played in the background. “I am going to break up with Tyson tomorrow,” she announced quietly. “I’m going to do it in the park. I read that a lot of couples call it quits in a park because it’s a public place so not much drama there and it’s quiet and relaxing. I will call him in the morning to arrange a time when we will meet. I’m not looking forward to it at all.”
Greg sighed. “I know what you mean,” he said. “I broke up with Audrey tonight and it was terrible. She was hurt and angry. After she screamed at me and slapped me in the face, she stormed out of the car, slamming the door so hard, I thought the window would break. I felt like a jerk. I never meant to hurt her but I should never have gotten involved with her when it was you I wanted to be with. That was unfair to her.”
“Does she know about us?”
He nodded. “I didn’t have to tell her. She figured it out and I couldn’t deny it.”
Althea pursed her lips. “She must really hate me now.”
“I feel really badly about Tyson. He’s a really nice guy. Under other circumstances, we could have been good friends.”
“When he asked me to go out with him I should have turned him down. It would have been the decent thing to do. And now, what I have to say to him tomorrow will break his heart and completely destroy his trust in me…” Her voice trembled and tears came to her eyes.
Greg took her toddy and put it and his down on the coffee table. He put his arm around her shoulder and she rested her head against him. “I know that you feel badly about Tyson. Breaking up with someone is never easy. It can be very painful. All I can say is that Tyson and Audrey deserve to be with people who will love them in return.”
“You’re right,” she said and brushing the tears away she drew back to look at him. “You and I never meant to hurt them but we can’t help the way we feel about each other.”
His eyes darkened on her face. “I love you, Althea,” he murmured huskily. “I have loved you since the first time we met. I tried to fight it because of Audrey but it was no use. And those nights when we worked overtime, were torture. It was hard not to touch you. Last night my feelings were too strong to ignore. I wanted you so much.”
“I love you too, Greg. I fell in love with you the first time I saw you but I didn’t do anything about it because I found out from Krystal that you had a girlfriend. Seeing you everyday and working late with you was bittersweet. It wasn’t easy hiding my feelings for you or coming home to this apartment which felt empty and thinking about you, wishing you were here. You have no idea how often I have fantasized about you and…” her words were smothered against his lips.
The next afternoon, she met Tyson in the park. Dread filled her as they walked to a bench in a quiet area and sat down. Taking a deep breath, she repeated the words she had rehearsed on the drive over. By the time she was finished, he was livid. “So, when I called you on Friday night and yesterday morning, Greg was there with you?”
“So, he spent the night.”
“I don’t believe this. When I asked you why you didn’t answer my calls you lied to me. You told me that you were sleeping but the truth is you and he were doing it on the sofa. Oh, hell, Althea, I trusted you and you betrayed me.” He jumped to his feet.
“Tyson, I’m so sorry–” she said, rising from the bench.
“I don’t want to hear you say you’re sorry. You know I had many opportunities to cheat on you too but I couldn’t because I cared about you and besides, when I’m in a relationship I don’t cheat. Last night when we were at the Blue Note having a good time, not once did I suspect that there was anything going on between Greg and you. But Audrey knew something and that’s why she didn’t like you. She saw you for the liar and cheat you are. I’m going to leave now before I say something I will regret.” He looked her over with an expression of disgust on his face before he turned and walked away.
She watched him go and then sat back down on the bench. She sat there for a long time, feeling awful that she had hurt someone so badly. Tyson was a terrific guy who didn’t deserve what she had done to him. She couldn’t blame him if he never forgave her.
After leaving the park, she went straight to Greg’s place. As soon as he closed the door behind her and turned to face her, she went straight into his arms and clung to him. “It’s over between Tyson and me.”
He held her tightly. “It’s better to end the relationship than to continue cheating,” he said. “We don’t have to sneak around. We can love each other in the open.”
She drew back to look up at him. “You’re right,” she agreed.
He bent his head and kissed her, thinking of Bill Russell’s quote: “To love someone is nothing, to be loved by someone is something, but to be loved by the one you love is everything”