But things that first seemed sweet and reasonable given her painful situation soon produce a bitter taste when combined with the overwhelming guilt. No substitute will ever replace her love and desire for her husband. If only he would touch her like he used to. If only they could make love again. She misses him so much and wants to tell him the truth hoping it will propel him to do something to fix their problem, but she fears his rejection. Yet, she can't continue living such a hypocritical life. She knows it's wrong even though she continues to crave physical intimacy. Steeped in the quagmire of adultery, Hope must find her way back to solid ground to save her marriage. But will she lose everyone she loves in the process?
Once we arrived home, I wondered if James had really understood what I’d done. What I’d tried to tell him. He acted like nothing had changed. I readied for bed, wearing my short pink silk gown with the low cut neckline, his favorite. My long brown hair caressed my shoulders like silk. I draped a section over the front of my gown so it covered part of my breast.
I knew he liked my hair this way, so I gave it all I had, including the bedroom eyes. He gazed at me with sadness, and yearning. I wish I could take everything back and start over again. But some things couldn’t be undone.
“Come here.” My husband reached for me.
My skin tingled at his command, and he hadn’t even touched me yet.
I threw myself into his arms. “Oh, James. I love you so much.”
He held me tight for several minutes, then drew back until he could look into my eyes. “You’re my best friend, you know that? I thank God for you every day.”
Closing my eyes, I turned my head away. When he looked at me with such emotion, it haunted me. How could I have hurt him like that? I hated myself.
“Look at me, Hope.” He touched my chin and guided my head. “I want you to look me in the eyes.”
I lifted my lids and peered at him, wondering what he’d say next. Trembling at his touch. Pouring my heart out to him, but without words. I ached for intimacy and held my breath as I waited for his declaration of love.
“I’m not the man I once was, Hope. I can’t satisfy you anymore. I’m sorry.” His eyes filled with tears, and I felt lower than dirt.
Resting my head on his shoulder I held him tight. What did that mean? Was he telling me we’d never have sex again? I didn’t get it. With my face burrowed into his shoulder, I inhaled the scent of his musky skin, then asked, “What are you saying, James?”
“You deserve a younger man, a man with some life still in him. I just don’t feel well anymore. My drive is gone. I don’t know what’s wrong.” He sighed and turned away.
Maybe he hadn’t heard me when I’d told him what I’d done.
Maybe I was too vague, or he really didn’t get it. Now another chance to tell him presented itself. I could make sure he understood this time. I opened my mouth, but the words wouldn’t come.
His gaze slowly covered me from head to toe and back again.
“You are so beautiful.”
Tears now cascaded down my cheeks. “Don’t give up, James. See the doctor and ask him to help you find out what’s wrong.”
“No!” he yelled, making me jump. He shoved his finger in my face. “I’m not telling anyone about this. And you better not, either.”
“But how will it get fixed if you don’t—”
His face darkened. “I said no. I’m not talking about this anymore.” He stomped toward our bed and pulled back the sheets, then slid under them.
I stood with my mouth gaping. “Does this mean that we won’t ever—”
“Hope, honey, it’s not that bad.” His voice softened. “We love each other. What more do we need?” He peered up at me with a distant look in his eyes, like he’d resigned himself to a sexless marriage.
I hadn’t thought I was being selfish, but was I?
“James, there are things we can still do. Your hands work just fine. Sometimes I just like to kiss, you know? Nothing expected, just a kiss.”
He grunted. “Yeah, right, Hope. Come on. You know what you want.”
Was that so wrong? To want my husband? I didn’t get it. “Of course I want that, but I’ll take anything you give me, honey. Anything.”
“No! Not if I can’t follow through.” Frowning, he rolled over until he faced the wall, just like that.
Anger welled up in me. He’d given up too easily. It wasn’t right.
My fists clenched. I’d make him respond to me. I just needed to try harder to get him aroused. So I slid under the sheets and pressed against his back. With our son staying at his friend’s house, we wouldn’t have to worry about him barging in on us. So I kissed James’s hair, his neck, and inhaled deeply. My hand rested on his abdomen. I slid it lower. “Baby, let’s make some noise.”
He wedged himself between my arm and his torso and flung my hand off him. “Stop it, Hope. Just let me sleep.”
Let him sleep? Was this what I had to look forward to from our marriage from now on?
I folded my hands over my chest, stormed into our guest room, and turned on the computer. I hadn’t checked my e-mail yet, so until I cooled down, at least that would distract me from wanting to use his back as a punching bag.
After deleting junk mail, I scanned my list. Tony had e-mailed me. Excited and terrified, I gave in to the urge to find out what he’d written. My blood pumped so hard it made my ears ring.
Clicking on the message, I held my breath…
I still can’t believe what happened. It was like a dream. You make me happy.
Well, at least I made someone happy. I swallowed hard as I decided what I’d say in return. After deleting several potential replies, I ended up with this…
You were great. I will never forget what happened either. I’ll dream about it tonight, for sure.
Within seconds, he responded.
We can meet again. My wife, she is gone for two days so I am home tomorrow until I must leave for work. Call me?
His wife would be gone? Wow. That meant I could see him one more time. So what if all he wanted from me was the same thing I wanted from him. It helped me cope with a miserable situation, and from what he’d already told me about his wife, Tony wasn’t getting any action at home, either.
Okay, I’ll call you tomorrow.
Yawning, I stretched and started when my husband suddenly appeared behind me.
“Who is that e-mail from, your boyfriend?”
My face heated and I shrank from him. “Would you care if it was?”
He flinched. “Come on, Hope. I was being sarcastic. I know you’d never do that to me. Now let’s go to bed.”
“But I don’t want to sleep yet.” I gave him my most pleading look and raised the skirt of my nightie. “Touch me, James.”
“Dang it, woman! I told you how I felt! I just want you to come to bed. To sleep.”
“Then I’ll stay up.” I turned away from him.
He stormed into the other room and I heard him crack open a beer. Well, he could have his beer. I decided to watch a chick flick, since that would be the only romance I’d probably get. Too bad it had to be a fantasy, a work of fiction. I wanted the real thing, and from the looks of things, sex with my husband would never happen again.
Suddenly I felt less guilty about wanting to see Tony. If my own husband didn’t want me, then what other option did I have?
Besides, I’d only see Tony one more time. Then we’d end it. I’m sure he’d agree it was simply too risky to keep meeting, because one of these days we could get caught in the act.
Joy Tasmin David
The word on the 'net is Christian fiction doesn't come any edgier than Michelle Sutton. In the last few weeks, I've been all over the World Wide Web professing my love for edgy inspirational romance, so I decided it was time to pony up and try the edgiest on the market.
Sutton's reputation is well earned.
But along with the edgy content- and I do mean edgy, is an equally powerful message about forgiveness and God's grace.
Hope's life is such a train wreck, I wanted to reach right into the book and pull her off the tracks. She's cheating on her husband, lying to her family, and sleeping around in cars (okay, technically just that once- but still). She's headed for disaster.
Sutton built a sense of urgency in the first half of the book which made it hard to put down. I just knew this situation would blow up in Hope's face, and couldn't stop reading until it did.
I would consider this a nontraditional romance because the heroine spends the first half of the story with a man who is not the hero. This leaves the reader with a sense of unease that I can't help but think was intentional on the author's part. We feel the despair and the weight of her sin right along with Hope.
That connection to the characters is where Sutton really shines. Their emotions were authentic and heartbreaking and sometimes scary. She showed just how easy it is to fall into temptation when we don't keep our guards up. But best of all, she showed that with repentance, forgiveness exists for everyone- adulterers included. When you let Him, the Lord can repair even the most broken of marriages. With that knowledge, we're never without hope.
(And bonus points to Sutton for a rockin' book cover!)
Jeannie Campbell (The Character Therapist)
Under normal circumstances, I don't buy books about a woman cheating on her husband. I've rejected well-known authors simply because I didn't want to "go there" in a book. But I'm glad I did.
I was sucked in immediately. I thought of all the people I have counseled and am currently counseling who have been led into adultery. How the other man/woman suddenly becomes a fixation...like an addiction. The heady sensation of losing yourself to something you know is wrong, but which feels so good (at least in the moment).
Michelle went the extra mile and demonstrated how sex is an emotional connection to someone else. It would have been easy to leave that part out (and no doubt easier to get this puppy published), but I'm so glad she didn't. I've counseled so many women whose guilt overwhelms them....because even though they know what they did was wrong, they still have an emotional connection to the person they cheated on their spouse with. Yes, even love them.
I also appreciated Michelle showing how a man's problem with erectile dysfunction can lead to significant problems in marriage when pride is allowed to run rampant. I just sighed when I read the parts with Hope's husband because it was so true to real life. Men don't want to admit they "have a problem," and many are willing to let their wives' sexual needs go unmet rather than seek medical attention for such a taboo subject.
Really, this is an incredible book that I'd recommend to any woman (Christian or not) in my practice who has had an adulterous encounter or is considering one. I think Michelle's book lays it out in pretty stark terms what can happen to a marriage, even one with Christ in it. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series already.
Michelle is an edgy Christian fiction author of over a dozen novels, a book reviewer, an avid blogger/alliance member, a mother of two teenagers, a wife, a social worker by trade, and follower of Jesus Christ.
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