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by Nesly Clerge
Publisher Clerge Books, LLC
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Lust, deception, betrayal, and their inevitable outcomes weave a web nearly impossible to escape. Chelsea Hall is certain her husband is cheating. Again. How far will a wife go when her adulterous husband pushes her to the edge? Garrett Hall wants what and who he wants. His behavior leads Chelsea to seek what she needs elsewhere, and onto a path that leads to bliss. What begins as a dream-come-true soon becomes a nightmare when the line between who is innocent and who is guilty soon blurs. Until the horrifying truth becomes clear. And, the question becomes, Who will survive?
Innocent or guilty? Dr. Bernadette Moore studied the faces and mannerisms of the people seated and those filing into the room. Seldom did anyone volunteer to admit which category they fit into, at least not in a public forum—not that she ever asked. No Show of hands, please, for this type of crowd. However, their questions, comments, and body language informed her of more than they realized or meant to reveal.
A bead of perspiration trickled from her breastbone to the fabric of her bra. It wasn’t nerves. She’d gotten used to audiences during her extensive weekends-only book tour that included open forums. Like this one. Inevitable discussions tended to get heated; hence, her request to the manager to adjust the air-conditioner.
This was the last such event before resuming her usual counseling routine at her office. And was why she’d scheduled it in her own town of Waltham, Massachusetts. It would be her bed she climbed into later. Alone. None of the people in attendance needed to know that. Unless someone asked. If asked, she’d answer honestly. It was vital she be an example, not just for the sake of her reputation, but also for the sake of those who sought what she provided.
Dr. Moore shook her shoulder-length blond hair from her face and smoothed the fabric of her jacket and skirt tailored for her tall, slender form. Ready to face advocates and detractors alike, she tapped her pen against the top of the lectern.
Audience members grew quiet as they fixed their attention on her. Dr. Moore’s hazel eyes focused on a few faces. “Thank you for joining me tonight. Please respect your fellow attendees and turn off your cell phones now.” As nearly every person did so, she added, “That’s one of two rules I have. The other is that you never hesitate to ask questions.”
A woman in the front row said, “We can ask about anything?”
“Whatever you want. Don’t be shy. We’re here to discuss and discover intricacies of the compelling and, more often than not, painful topic of infidelity.”
Several attendees shifted nervously in their chairs. Others positioned pens over notebooks or tablets opened to a clean page.
Dr. Moore held her book up, showcasing the title, The Anatomy of Cheating. “I’m grateful to those of you who purchased my book, and I’m delighted to say it’s now a New York Times best-seller.” She smiled in response to applause that was genuine from some, tepid from others, and made a small bow at the waist.
“I see a number of you brought your copies. Extras are on the table at the back, for those who wish to purchase one either during the break or after the forum.” She put the book down. No notes on sheets of paper or index cards were present—she knew the subject and people’s natures too well to need them. “Now, let’s delve into this topic that affects the lives of so many. Perhaps, even some of you.
“Anatomy is defined as the study of structure, a detailed analysis, rather than solely knowledge of what a body is comprised of. Infidelity—more commonly called cheating—is the action or state of being unfaithful to one’s partner when a promise or mutual agreement of exclusivity exists.
“We’re here to explore and analyze the internal workings of being unfaithful, as well as the different aspects of such behavioral choices that lead us to the ultimate question: why do we cheat on our spouses or partners?”
The same woman in the front row blurted out, “Men cheat because they’re dogs.”
Dr. Moore fixed a small smile on her lips and remained quiet.
The woman’s face blazed red. “I know how bad that sounds, but I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with a few no-good, cheating, conniving men.”
“It’s okay. I welcome the conversation. I’ll answer your question, but let me first say that it isn’t only men who cheat. Women do, as well; though, there are those who prefer to believe otherwise. And, honestly, women are more adept at it because they’re better planners.”
Another woman spoke up. “Seems like a blind statement to me.” She glanced around to see if anyone agreed with her. No one acknowledged whether they did or didn’t.
Dr. Moore took a sip of water. This subject was an uncomfortable one for many, but people in each location she traveled to, showed up and warmed the seats, even if only motivated by vicarious curiosity. “There are any number of reasons why people cheat: Physical gratification, revenge, lack of emotional intimacy in their current relationship, falling out of love with their spouse or partner, lack of appreciation or respect from their spouse or partner, sexual addiction, to list several.”
The woman in the front row said, “There’s more?”
Dr. Moore nodded. “We’d need to go beyond our scheduled three hours, maybe days, if we were to discuss the myriad reasons people cheat and how they justify it to themselves and others. The bottom line is this: there’s a need not being fulfilled, so people look for that fulfillment elsewhere.”
Several hands raised. Dr. Moore pointed to a woman in the back. “The lady in red.”
“Maybe that’s why some women cheat, but we all know men cheat more than women, and why. They want to screw everything that moves. They don’t care who they hurt. It’s not a big deal for them. Women don’t act like that. At least, not the women I know.”
A number of women nodded their heads. The men, with the exception of a middle-aged man in the front row, looked at their shoes, the floor, the ceiling—anywhere but at the women—and remained silent.
Dr. Moore said with a knowing smile, “Some women resist owning up to what their gender is capable, as well as guilty, of. It’s one reason they get away with it more easily than men. People tend to not expect women to cheat, whereas they do tend to expect it of men. It’s one reason why husbands or significant others are so often stunned when it happens to them.
“I’ve counseled hundreds of couples and individuals over the years, and,” she tapped her book, “I’ve conducted extensive research on the matter. While it’s true that most men express themselves through physicality, the consensus is that women cheat for emotional reasons. However,” she looked straight at the woman, allowing her pause to hang in the air, “you’d be surprised at how many women cheat solely for sexual satisfaction.”
The middle-aged man cleared his throat loudly. He fiddled with his silk tie and said, “Aside from your ‘extensive’ research—whatever that means, what qualifications do you possess that permit you to call yourself an expert? Personally, I find your position—if you’ll pardon the pun—awkward and unsubstantiated.”
Dr. Moore grinned. “It’s obvious you didn’t read my book or, at least, my bio.” Light laughter rustled through the room. “I hold a medical degree in psychiatry and a doctorate in human psychology, with emphasis on human sexuality. Additional qualifications are my life experiences.”
The man smirked. “I suppose you also consider the fact you were married twice contributory to your expertise. You were married twice, weren’t you? Or was it three times?”
Murmurs rippled through the audience.
Dr. Moore did a visual assessment of the man. “May I ask what you do for a living, sir?”
“I’m a psychologist.”
“That explains it.” Dr. Moore smiled at the people waiting for her response. “Our fellow attendee’s demeanor isn’t uncommon. People in the field of counseling and psychology sometimes come to my open forums with the intent to discredit me. They say these types of forums are inappropriate; that my public discussions of something so private are unorthodox, even in this day and age. I have nothing to hide, but I can’t say that about many of the people who attend.”
Some in the room snickered, others sat motionless.
The man leaned forward and aimed a finger at her. “You didn’t answer my question, Dr. Moore. In my professional opinion, that’s a telling sign. It’s avoidance, when called out.”
She ignored him. “By show of hands, how many of you are parents?” The majority raised their hands. “How many of you have children involved in sports?” A few hands lowered. “Do you prefer your children to be coached by someone who actually played the particular sport your child is involved in, or would you rather a coach who never played a day in his or her life?” She pointed at a woman in the middle row.
“Someone with experience, naturally.”
Dr. Moore turned to the psychologist. “Indeed, because knowing something intellectually and real life experience are two different things. When you combine the two, the result is wisdom.”
The man curled his lips in contempt and pretended to evaluate the manicured nails of his left hand.
Dr. Moore stifled a grin. “I don’t see a wedding ring on your hand, sir. That could mean nothing,” she winked at the audience, “or it could mean a great deal. Don’t worry. I have no intention of probing that potential minefield.” Most in the audience laughed.
Dr. Moore moved a few feet to her left. “I’ve been divorced twice, cheated on, and did the cheating. That’s why I’m more than qualified to do what I do.”
She glanced at the psychologist and said, “I don’t hide behind theory,” then returned her attention to the others. “I understand exactly what individuals and couples go through when they sit in my office. I understand the pain and humiliation. The devastation. The animosity and bitterness. The mechanism behind it all, and from both sides of the experience. I understand the anatomy of cheating.”
Garrett rested both hands on the lavatory countertop and stared disapprovingly at himself in the gilded mirror. “You’re a disappointment, son.”
He shook off disparaging himself, finished shaving with a fresh razor he kept stashed in a drawer then got into the shower, letting the steaming water sting his skin. It wasn’t required that the water be that hot to act as some version of spiritual cleansing. It was that every part of his body had to be all but sanitized. He never knew where Dr. Jacobs’ tongue would travel.
Of course he realized he asked a lot of Chelsea, particularly because he knew if circumstances were reversed, he wouldn’t be able to handle it. Kayla Starks’s rampant cheating was well known in their circles, a fact that had crushed Frederick Starks.
That wasn’t the worst blow she’d dealt her husband. As Starks’s attending physician, he’d found himself unexpectedly thrust right into the middle of that couple’s intrigue. What a shitty task it had been to confirm to Starks that his son Blake wasn’t his, a thirteen-year deception brought to a gut-wrenching halt. Had Starks not needed a blood transfusion recently, he’d never have had the heart ripped out of him by that revelation. He’d still be blind to the truth.
Thank God Chelsea respected their marriage too much to ever cheat. Kimberlie was his, without a doubt. She’d inherited his ebony eyes and dark curly hair, the latter for which she jokingly chastised him. Had he desired to have another child, he was certain the parentage would have been guaranteed, as well.
His promise to never betray Chelsea again after his last infraction, had been broken almost as soon as he’d uttered the words to her. It was far easier to say the words than to follow through.
His phone buzzed again with a reminder of the anticipated rendezvous.
Did you leave yet?
See you in thirty-five.
It took twenty desire-filled minutes and a heavy foot on the accelerator for Garrett to drive from his home in Waltham to Brookline. The birthplace of one of America’s most beloved presidents, whose extramarital activities were well known, seemed an appropriate location for his trysts. And far enough away so that no one who knew him or his family would see him or his car and report his whereabouts to Chelsea.
He sped alongside Olmsted Park, not as famous as Central Park in Manhattan, but still worthy of admiration. When his assignations happened during daylight hours, he took time to give the park its due.
After driving another two miles, Garrett turned his Porsche into the parking lot of the five-star hotel and waited. Minutes later, the car he watched for backed into the space next to his. The woman got out of her car. She flicked her wavy blond hair from her shoulders and smiled at him. Darkness hid the deep blue of her eyes, but the fire in them was evident. She knew how to handle herself. And him.
The woman held up a hand, indicating he was to wait before leaving his car. He complied. She turned in a slow circle, modeling the prize of her body under the second-skin mini. She caressed her breasts then slid her hands to her slim waist and along her hips, turned and bent over just far enough for him to see the only thing between him and euphoria was the flimsy silken sheath she wore.
Her confidence in her sexuality was enticing.
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Nesly Clerge received his bachelor’s degree in physiology and neurobiology at the University of Maryland, and later pursued a doctoral degree in the field of chiropractic medicine. Although his background is primarily science-based, he has finally embraced his lifelong passion for writing. Clerge’s debut novel, When the Serpent Bites, is due out in 2015, with the sequel to follow. His debut novel explores choices, consequences, and the complexities of human emotions, especially when we are placed in a less-than-desirable setting. When he is not writing, Clerge manages several multidisciplinary clinics. He enjoys reading, chess, traveling, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with his significant other and his sons.