UPSIDE DOWN is almost ready!
Would you like to get a peek? Here's a brand-new scene for you to get a taste of what's to come:
Mark squeezed my hand lightly and gave me one of his trademark smiles. But the sincere kind. I had seen Mark dazzle people with the widest, fakest grins and they would never have guessed how angry or annoyed he really was. The oven timer went off, I put the steaming pot on the table in the dining room and we finally attacked it.
“Hmm, Carol this is divine. I had forgotten how well you can cook.”
“Oh, I’m more than a pretty face, you know.”
“I do know that,” he replied as his hand traveled slowly up my arm. “You are a gorgeous face, a hot body, a sharp mind and shrewd business instincts - all wrapped up in one glorious woman.”
When he finished his sentence, his hand had closed behind my nape so he pulled me towards him for a kiss. It started as a gentle exchange but I knew it could easily get as hot as an open fire. That was always the case with us. So I pulled back, smiled at him, returned my attention to my plate and made a joke to cool down the temperature in the room which had escalated to boiling hot.
“Flattery won’t get you anywhere, young man.”
He chuckled at my feigned outraged tone, winked and sat back straight on his chair.
“You can’t blame me for trying, though. Maybe you give me a promotion or a position as your personal assistant or something. No, wait. I already have that! Silly me! I take all that back.”
“Too late. I’m already walking on air with all your compliments.”
We laughed and the friendly exchanges continued throughout our meal. I enjoyed Mark’s company more than I was ready to admit to myself. I was having a great time until the phone rang and an ominous feeling made me answer it without checking the caller ID thinking it might be my mother with more bad news.
“Hello, there, beautiful,” a very familiar voice greeted me causing a huge smile to light up my face and a sigh of relief to escape me before I answered his heartfelt greeting.
“Oh, gosh, sweetie, I missed you so much. I have so many things to tell you! When did you get back, Dave?”
I hadn’t seen Dave since he had gone to India, two years before. And I got so excited to hear from him that I forgot all about Mark and our dinner.
“I haven’t gone back, silly, I’m still in London.”
“But it’s three o’clock in the morning there. How come you’re calling me?”
“Do I need a reason to call you, now?”
“No, you don’t, honey. Besides your reasons aren’t usually very good.”
“If you must know, smarty-pants, I couldn’t sleep and I missed you.”
“Oh, Dave, I’m so happy to hear your voice right now, anyway,” my voice broke off as I remembered my father’s health problems and everything else I was facing. “I wish you were here with me. There’s so much going on, so much I need to talk about.”
“Be a good girl and tell me all about it.”
“I can’t right now.” I sighed then changed back to a lighter tone. “And you know I’m not a good girl.”
“That is true. You are a naughty, naughty girl but I love you.”
I laughed at that but the sound was so hoarse I drank some wine to clear my dry throat. I did it so fast, though, that my head got dizzy and I felt my cheeks burning. I had to fan myself to cool my face down a little.
“You can count on that, hon. What have you been up to?”
“Not much. Jerry has been working his ass off at the hospital and I stay home, bored to death,” I heard a deep, exaggerated sigh on the other side of the phone line and smiled. “I should be writing my next best-seller novel but I spend the day stuffing my face with chocolate, instead.”
“Oh, that sounds sexy,” I chuckled at his usual drama queen tone.
“I never thought married life would be this boring for us. We had so much more fun when we were just dating.”
“Oh, so that’s why you called! You miss our crazy nights, huh? I miss them too, honey.”
It was his turn to laugh. All of a sudden, I remembered Mark and looked up to apologize to him for having been on the phone for so long but I found out he was no longer sitting across from me. It seemed he had taken our half-empty plates away, judging from the clattering sounds I could hear coming from the kitchen. I frowned but kept talking to Dave as I stood up and went to the kitchen to check on Mark.
“Since that’s the case I assume you are coming back home soon.”
“As soon as Jerry finishes his work here which means not for another month. Or ten - who knows? This research is taking forever! Then, we’ll both be home bugging you until you beg us to get on the next plane to Katmandu, or somewhere equally far. By the way, can you check on our place again to see if everything is fine there?”
“Don’t worry your pretty head about it. I’ll have everything shipshape and waiting for you whenever you are ready to come back. I can’t wait for you to be back in New York, though, Dave.”
“Tell me about it! Oh, look at the time! I gotta go, Carol. I need to start packing. We’ll go to my villa in the Amalfi Coast, as soon as Jerry arrives from the hospital, for the weekend. Talk to you soon, babe. Love you!”
“Love you, too, baby.”
I shook my head and smiled at Dave’s last remarks as I put the phone down thinking it was so typical of him - complaining about boredom and lack of fun while planning to spend the weekend in one of the most romantic, most beautiful places on Earth. I was still smiling when I looked up at Mark. He was leaning on the kitchen counter, arms crossed on his chest, a dark expression on his usually friendly face. I shrugged and frowned back at him.
“What!? How can you even ask, Carol?”
His anger got me by surprise and I took some precious seconds to process that novelty, to adapt to such a new situation. When I didn’t answer and just looked at him with a blank expression, looking for something to say, Mark seemed to get angrier.
“For Christ’s sake, Carol! How can you be so insensitive? Or are you just cruel?” Mark was almost shouting. I had never seen him lose his temper like that. “You tease me at the office; invite me over saying you had planned a special night for us; then interrupt our dinner to talk to a man who has clearly been your boyfriend. Or who still is your boyfriend, for all I know! Then, you don’t expect me to get upset? Really? Do you have such a low opinion of me? Don’t you care about my feelings at all?”
“Look, Mark, I’m sorry if you got the wrong impression but I can assure you there is nothing going on between Dave and me.”
He was still fuming and cut me off before I could go on with my explanation.“It’s hard to buy that, Carol. You got all worked up talking to the guy to the point you had to fan yourself,” he used his fingers to count and emphasize what I had done wrong, in his opinion. “You giggled like a school girl. You said you wished he were here. You said you had tons of things to talk about but not in front of me. You said you missed your crazy nights together. Damn, you even said you loved him! You told me you’d never said that to anybody.”