The Affair, Part 1

(by sstoryman, 13 January 1997)


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    This story contains adult language and themes. If such language and themes
offend you, please do not read further. Copyright 1997 by SSTORYMAN. All
rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce this story in any form and
for any purpose as long as this notice is reproduced and no financial
remuneration is received by the person reproducing it.

    THE AFFAIR


    1. Setting the Trap.

    "Do you need anything before I leave, Anne?" asked a voice from the
doorway.

    Anne Sturges turned around and looked away from her computer. According to
the clock on her desk, it was just past five thirty in the afternoon.

    She smiled. "No, thanks, Robin. I'll be leaving myself in a few minutes."

    "Oh, that's right," came the reply. "Don't forget! Your meeting with John
Crawford is at six fifteen at Robinson's Bistro. Have a good evening!"

    "I hope to," Anne whispered to herself as the door closed. "I certainly
hope to."

    Robin's working out great, Anne congratulated herself. She's a bright,
high energy person. In three weeks she's mastered the job as my
secretary/administrative assistant. Anne closed her computer's email window.
Yeah, she sighed, she needed someone with good organizational skills to keep
track of the paper, the files, and Anne's busy schedule as in-house legal
counsel for Global Technology Solutions. Yep! Robin was a godsend to her and
to GTS!

    She stretched and turned off her computer. No, Robin, Anne smiled to
herself. I haven't forgotten my meeting with John. I've been planning this
little meeting all week.

    She slowly walked to the small mirror on the wall of her office and looked
at herself. Anne nodded silent approval. At 32, she thought, I still look
awfully good. She smiled. Anne had done fashion modeling part-time during law
school. Almost seven years ago. But she still turned heads when she walked
down the street.

    She adjusted her dress while admiring herself. Today she'd worn the
simple, off-white dress which accented her figure. The dress was admittedly
too tight and an inch or two too short. But, after all, that was the point.
The tightness called attention to her big breasts. Nothing like big tits to
get a guy's attention, she chuckled. She fluffed up her long blond hair, which
fell graciously over her shoulders. Her red heels and red and gold accent
scarf completed a nice ensemble. Anne smiled again. It was almost showtime!

   
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    Robin Sullivan opened the door and slid into the driver's seat of her
Honda Civic. Starting the engine, she drove to the parking lot exit to begin
her drive home from GTS.

    Reflexively, Robin opened her purse and reached inside. Then she stopped.
"Shit," she muttered to herself. "Shit, shit, shit! Driving is one of those
times I miss smoking the most!" She sighed with resignation and placed her
purse on the seat beside her. It was not surprising. For the last six years,
every time she got behind the wheel she'd lit a cigarette and felt the welcome
relief of nicotine entering her bloodstream. It was a ritual, a routine she
both looked forward to and at the same time did without thinking. Smoking and
driving; they just seemed to go together. She sighed again. Instead of
lighting a cigarette, Robin put a stick of gum in her mouth. It was a fucking
poor substitute!

    It seemed like only yesterday, but she hadn't smoked for four weeks. Her
car, her hair, her clothes and her apartment no longer smelled of stale
tobacco smoke. Robin pulled her blond hair behind her ears as she pulled into
traffic. Funny, but she missed the smell. She looked down. The car ashtray was
empty except for the pack of gum sitting there. The ashtray always used to be
overflowing with lipstick-covered cigarette butts. She looked at the clean
floor beneath her feet. Stray ashes from her cigarettes used to be everywhere.
But no more. Now she was a non-smoker. God, she hated it!

    Robin knew why she'd done it. She was tired of the shit she took from her
mother. She was tired of constantly wanting (no, needing!) a cigarette, but
unable to steal enough time to go outside for smoke breaks to relieve her
incessant cravings. She was tired of being a pariah; so few other people
smoked or understood why she needed to. So she quit. She still wasn't sure how
long she would last.

    She quit right before she started her new job. If she was going to do it,
she'd decided, it would be easier to do starting a new job. No smoking was
allowed in GTS' offices but, more importantly, no one at GTS knew her as a
smoker. She'd have no routine of stealing away for smoke breaks, going to
lunch only at restaurants with smoking sections, hanging out with her smoking
buddies.

    At GTS it was different. Robin didn't know who smoked or even where to go
for a smoke break. That helped. The routines and patterns were different. By
now, after a few weeks, she sometimes went for several hours without thinking
about smoking.

    But even so, she still missed it. She knew quitting cold turkey would be
hard. Damn! It sure was. She missed smoking in her car. She missed smoking
after meals. She missed smoking at her favorite bar. God, she missed going
out. She used to spend a couple nights a week at the Danube, drinking and
smoking with her girlfriends. She hadn't gone once since she quit. She
couldn't.

    Last night she went out for drinks with Anne, her new boss. To a different
bar, not the Danube. She'd had a good time. But she missed smoking. Still, she
wasn't going to give in. Not yet. One day at a time, she reminded herself. One
day at a time.

   
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    At 5:45, Anne Sturges left the building and walked to her car. The March
winds gusted, but it was surprisingly warm. She got in her red Miata and drove
north to Robinson's Bistro. It was John Crawford's favorite meeting place.
Robinson's was close to his house, on his way home from the office. He and
Anne had met there many times before to discuss business. But Anne hoped
tonight would be different.

    Three years ago Anne became in-house legal counsel for Global Technologies
Solutions. Since then, she'd worked with outside lawyers on many projects.
Their main outside counsel was Cromwell & Houston, the firm she worked for
after law school. A large, old-line firm, Cromwell was expensive. Jim
Thompson, the partner in charge of their account, was a stuffy older man. Anne
didn't like him and didn't like how Cromwell's high fees bloated her budget.
But Jim Thompson was Carl Anderson's buddy, and Carl was her CEO. So despite
high hourly rates, she still used Cromwell for outside legal work. But even
Carl had been upset at Cromwell's fees for GTS' public offering. So last year
Anne got Carl's approval to use a new firm for GTS' purchase of Aggre-Tech.
She'd hired Williams & Connors. And she met John Crawford.

    As a 40 year old corporate lawyer, John had a good reputation. His firm,
Williams & Connors, was smaller than Cromwell & Houston. The rates were more
competitive. The Aggre-Tech acquisition had been complex, and John had done a
great job. Even Carl was impressed. More importantly, Anne liked working with
John. After the Aggre-Tech deal closed, Anne started sending additional
projects to Williams & Connors. An employment discrimination case, a bank
refinancing, a licensing dispute. Of course John didn't do all the work, but
Anne made sure he became the partner in charge of their account. It gave her
an excuse to meet with John regularly, ostensibly to get status reports on
various matters his firm was handling. The truth was, Anne just liked him.
They'd become friends. She liked John's practical approach to solving legal
problems, his sense of humor, and his easy-going, non-pretentious style.
John's practical advice made her life as general counsel easier. So, slowly
but surely, John got more and more of GTS' outside legal work. Growing the GTS
account was important to John, and Anne knew he'd do whatever it took to keep
her happy.

    Anne passed the university on her left. She turned off the CD player to
concentrate on what she was going to say.

    In her younger days, Anne was a party girl. She still smiled when she
remembered the time in law school when she'd slept with four different guys in
three days. She and her ex-roommate, Gretchen, used to keep track of how many
different guys they slept with. Sort of a competition. Anne smiled. It was a
wonder either of them graduated! But Anne always accomplished what she set her
sights on. Despite wild living, she graduated second in her class. After
graduation, she started a big bucks, high pressure job as an associate at
Cromwell & Houston.

    Unfortunately, Anne's social life died at Cromwell. She worked fifteen
hour days. So Anne jumped at the chance to take the in-house legal position at
GTS. However, GTS was a growing company. Things weren't much better as far as
time for playing was concerned. But Anne was going to use her position at GTS
as a stepping stone to an even better and more prestigious one. When the time
was right.

    Now the GTS public offering, the Aggre-Tech deal and a second public
offering were done. Finally, for the first time in a long time, Anne had time
to rebuild her social life. Oh, she was never celibate, even when not seeing
anyone. She'd always been sexually aggressive. The staff at GTS called her
"the Lawyer Bitch" behind her back. It was true; she'd screwed her share of
GTS software developers, often late in the evenings at work. Once she even
screwed a mail room guy in her office. She always got sex when she needed it,
but now that her schedule was clearing out, Anne wanted something more.

    She needed some new friends. Her old roommate now did trial work at the
attorney general's office. Gretchen had no time for partying anymore. Last
night Anne and Robin went drinking. Although she was her boss, Anne enjoyed
going out with Robin. A petite, very attractive, 25 year old single girl with
long blond hair, Robin was even wilder than Anne was in her prime. They'd had
a great time and agreed to do it again. But even more than drinking and
partying, Anne wanted a serious relationship. One with more than just sex.

    That was why she was meeting with John. His marriage was on the rocks.
He'd talked candidly about it. John was blunt when he talked about things.

    Simply put, John Crawford was the man she wanted. She wanted to have an
affair. A real affair. And if it worked out, maybe more. But mostly Anne
wanted to fuck him. He was good looking, smart and fun. If it ended his
disintegrating marriage, so what? That wasn't her fault. But she'd get what
she wanted.

    Anne pulled into Robinson's parking lot. She put on her bitchiest attitude
as she walked into the bar. John was waiting for her. Briefcase on the table.
Ready for business. Well, so was Anne.

    "Hi, John," Anne purred. "Been here long?"

    "Hi, Anne," he replied. "Not long. Five minutes. Sit down. What'll you
have? The usual?"

    Anne ordered red wine. Supposedly she and John were meeting to do business
or she'd have ordered a gin and tonic.

    For twenty minutes they drank wine and talked about the Nevins case, a
matter Anne had referred to Williams & Connors. As the Nevins discussion
ended, it was time to spring the trap. "So, John, tell me. How are things at
home these days?"

    John stopped to light a cigarette. Anne didn't smoke, but she didn't mind
that he did. Her old roommate Gretchen used to smoke like a chimney! And Anne
had dated guys who smoked before. She'd never minded kissing a smoker. Not in
the slightest.

    "Not too well, Anne. Thanks for asking." John frowned. "Sherry and I still
fight. All the time. About stupid things. To be honest, I'm thinking about
moving out and filing for divorce. At least maybe trying a separation."

    Anne smiled sweetly. "I'm so sorry to hear that, John." A long pause
followed while she waited for the sincerity of her remark to sink in. "Tell
me," she went on in a very matter of fact tone. "Do you still sleep with her?"

    John looked surprised. "No," he admitted. "Sherry and I haven't had sex
for months. I don't think she's interested. I know I'm not. Why do you ask?"

    Anne didn't answer right away. She picked up her wine glass and took a
long, deliberate sip. "Oh, I don't know," she smiled. "I just wondered whether
you'd be interested if I knew someone who'd like to sleep with you?"

    A wry smile formed on his face. John took an extra long drag on his
cigarette while the impact of her statement registered. "Really? Who might
that be?"

    Anne smiled back. "Before I tell, I have to know if you'd cheat on your
wife. Divorce or no divorce, some men wouldn't. Are you willing to fool
around?"

    She was toying with him. But he didn't seem to mind playing her little
game. He smiled.

    "Well, I guess that depends. It depends on who the person is. Anyone I
know?"

    Anne took another sip of wine. She was enjoying this. "Hang on. Let me get
this straight. You'd have an affair if you liked her? You'd cheat on Sherry,
even though you're still married?"

    "Christ, Anne," John sighed. "What is this? A morals examination? God,
yes, I'd cheat on her. In a second. She's been a real bitch. She deserves no
better treatment than she's given me."

    "Okay," Anne went on. "But let me ask you this. Have you ever cheated on
her before?"

    John knew Anne was playing a game. She wasn't going to divulge more until
she got what she wanted. "I have nothing to hide," he replied as he crushed
out his cigarette. "Yes, I've cheated on Sherry before. Most men do it at one
time or another. Do you want details?" He didn't sound upset.

    "Yes, please," Anne grinned mischievously. She loved dirt. Friend or not,
it might prove interesting and even helpful.

    "It was about five years ago," John began. "I had a real cute secretary
named Laura. It was the same time Sherry and I started having difficulties.
Laura was single and worked long hours. She was great. She listened to my
troubles. She sympathized and encouraged me to be true to myself. God, I
appreciated her. She was good for me, and good to me. So on more than a few
nights, we did it in my office."

    Anne's eyes sparkled. "So, you fucked her in your office?"

    "Yes, sure," he replied. "I fucked her."

    Anne took a sip of wine. She'd established that John would cheat on his
wife. "Whatever happened to sweet little Laura?"

    John frowned. "She quit two years ago. It was painful. Laura said she did
it to take a better job. I didn't believe it. After she left I wanted to
continue our relationship. I tried to reach her but she wouldn't return my
calls. Eventually she moved out of town. A friend of hers later told me Laura
left because she feared she'd destroy my marriage if we continued to see each
other. Of course, Laura was right. I was prepared to leave Sherry for her. But
I never had the chance." He shrugged. "That's about it."

    An even bigger smile spread over Anne's face. The next lie would be
harmless, but necessary. Even though John would probably see through it.

    "John, that's a good story. You're a typical male. You let your cock do
your thinking. Frankly, I expect that. Now, what would you say if I told you
the woman who is hot to sleep with you is my new secretary, Robin?"

    John was surprised. That was not what he expected. But he recovered
quickly, and smiled. "Your new secretary is pleasant and very attractive,
Anne. I like blonds, you know"

    Anne smiled. Sherry was a brunette.

    "Yes, I thought you liked blonds," Anne smiled. She deliberately fluffed
her own blond hair. Not subtle, but an important part of the game.

    "There's something else," John went on. "One more criterion to be
satisfied before I'd have an affair with Robin .... Or with any other
beautiful blond who wanted to sleep with me," he added.

    "What's that?"

    "Does Robin smoke?"

    Now it was Anne's turn to be surprised. "Why?" she asked, stumbling a bit.
"Why does it matter?"

    "It matters to me," John answered. "It's important. I'll never get
involved with another woman who doesn't."

    Anne was perplexed. What the hell difference did it make if she smoked?
Or, to continue the charade, whether Robin did?

    John saw Anne's look of confusion. "You see, Anne, Laura smoked. For years
I'd been a closet smoker. No one knew. Not even Sherry. Laura helped me face
the fact that I am a smoker. She helped me come out of the closet and tell
everyone the truth. With her help I realized the opinions of others don't
matter. What matters is being true to myself. As a person and as a smoker.
Because that's who and what I am."

    Anne still looked confused. John had smoked as long as she'd known him.
But she'd only known him for the last year and a half. She had no idea his
smoking in public was a recent development.

    "I still don't get it," she replied. "That's great, but it's in the past.
Why do you care whether ... whether Robin smokes?"

    As if to make a point, John paused to light another cigarette. "Because
Sherry was furious when I told her I'd been smoking behind her back for years.
She said she felt betrayed. Said she'd always been afraid of men who smoke.
And she hates the smell. She couldn't accept it." John took a drag and
exhaled. "I did mislead her. I smoked behind her back throughout our marriage,
always very careful not to let her find out." He laughed suddenly. "It
involved lots of breath mints and clever lies."

    He paused. A serious look reappeared on his face. "Even then our marriage
wasn't doing well. My little smoking revelation made it worse. Much worse.
Sherry didn't understand and didn't like it. She thought it set a bad example
for our kids. And now she didn't trust me, either. I mean, if I could hide
that from her, I could hide anything. She suspects I was sleeping with Laura
... excuse me, fucking Laura. To this day Sherry won't let me smoke in my own
house, except in the basement." An undercurrent of anger appeared in his
voice. "I swore that if this marriage ended, I would never again get involved
with a woman who's not a real smoker. Never."

    Anne tried to recover. This was an unexpected setback. "Well, what if I
told you that Robin does smoke?" she asked cheerfully. Actually, she was
pretty sure Robin didn't. After all, yesterday she spent all evening with her
and rode in her car. She doubted Robin did. But it didn't matter. This wasn't
about Robin anyway.

    "Anne, you don't understand. I don't just want a woman who smokes. I want
a smoker, a woman committed to being a smoker whatever happens. Someone who
won't quit in the future. Because I'm not going to, and I refuse to go through
hell twice."

    Anne tried again. "Shit, John, even just for a roll in the hay? Just for a
little affair?" She couldn't believe it was so important. It didn't matter to
her that he smoked. Why would he refuse to fuck her just because she didn't?

    "No, not even for a one night stand," he replied solemnly. "I wasn't
kidding. Never again. Never." He took a drag on his cigarette. "Since emerging
from the closet I've reoriented my life. Except my marriage. The guys I hang
out with? Smokers. The activities I attend? I want to be with smokers." He
lowered his voice. "I was pissed when Williams & Connolly's offices went
non-smoking a couple years ago. I even thought about leaving the firm because
of it. I can't smoke there. Not even at night."

    "Where would you go? Aren't most firms and office buildings non-smoking
theses days?"

    "There's a small firm which split off from Williams & Connors a while
back. About half a dozen lawyers left over this issue. It's called Johnson &
Myers."

    Anne nodded. She'd heard of it. Pretty good reputation.

    "Randy Johnson was a friend of mine at Williams & Connors. There were lots
of reasons why they left, but part of it was because our offices became
non-smoking. Randy and some of the most productive litigation partners were
pissed. They formed their own litigation firm and signed a lease for office
space in a building which permitted them to set their own smoking policy."
John smiled. "As a practical matter, their policy is simple. Almost everyone
who works there smokes. And the firm has grown. Others joined for the same
reason. Randy and I recently talked about me joining them, too. They don't
have much of a corporate practice. I'd be the head of their corporate law
group." He laughed. "Hell, I'd be their corporate law group if I joined them."
He paused. "Anne, I didn't mean to tell you. It's highly confidential. No one
at Williams & Connors knows. And I may not do it. But I'm serious about
smoking. I'm not going to have an affair with Robin or anyone else who's not a
smoker. It's that simple."

    "Well," Anne smiled after she thought for a minute. "I'll have to find out
whether Robin smokes, won't I?"

    John smiled back. "I like Robin," he winked. "And I'd fuck her in a minute
if she's a smoker. Seems like a nice girl, and I love that blond hair. But if
she doesn't smoke, that's the way the ball bounces."

    John wasn't really talking about Robin. Anne was sure. Hell, he'd never
spoken more than a dozen words to her. But the mutual charade allowed both of
them to save face. Because John's answer to the real question Anne was asking
was "no."

    John announced he had a basketball game to attend. One of his daughters
had a game. The meeting ended. Anne drove home in a daze.

    She arrived at her condo after a short drive. Robinson's was a stone's
throw from her complex. Anne poured herself a Diet Pepsi and sat down to
think. She didn't need any more wine. She needed a clear head.

    The original plan had been to invite John back to her place. To start the
affair. Anne still wanted him. But now there was a problem. She wasn't a
smoker.

    Damn, Anne thought. I've never smoked in my life. Well, that wasn't true.
She'd tried smoking a few times as a teenager. Shit, who hadn't? But she
didn't care for it. It seemed stupid. She'd never understood its appeal. Never
wanted to. Until now.

    But I could learn, she decided. It wouldn't bother me, not really. God,
after living with Gretchen for three years I probably inhaled enough second
hand smoke to screw my lungs anyway. Anne smiled. If Gretchen weren't so busy,
I'd ask her to teach me. But Gretchen had no time for anything anymore.

    Anne picked up the phone and dialed Gretchen's number. Maybe Gretchen
would teach her. She'd get a kick out of it. But Anne realized she didn't know
whether or not Gretchen still smoked. They never saw each other. Whatever she
was going to do, it had to be this weekend. Time was of the essence.

    The answering machine kicked in. Damn! Anne left a brief, nondescript
message on Gretchen's machine asking her to call back right away.

    Well, I'll do it myself if I have to. I have to learn to smoke. God, John
practically admitted that if I smoked he'd jump into bed with me. He likes me
blond hair. The thought excited her. She began to fondle her breasts for
several seconds, then moved her fingers down, up under her short dress, and
inside her panties. She began to stroke her clitoris. Masturbation was her
main form of sexual activity these days. But it felt good. It always did.

    But not good enough, she interrupted herself. I'll do it myself. I'll go
to the store and buy some cigarettes. Right now. Then she laughed. God, that
didn't work when I was a teenager. No, I need someone to teach me. But who?

    The unanswered question hung heavy in the air as Anne turned on the TV and
distracted herself with a movie. She'd figure it out this weekend. She had to.

   
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    Robin headed for her car. It wasn't late. Just after ten o'clock. The
cool, outside March air was a welcome change from the hot, smoke-filled bar
scene at The Hole in the Wall this Friday night.

    She'd had too much to drink. But she had to drive home. She sighed as she
buckled her seat belt. She'd make it okay. She wasn't drunk. Robin put another
stick of Juicy Fruit in her mouth and chewed frantically.

    God, why had she agreed to this get together? Usually Robin enjoyed seeing
Lisa, Bonnie and Heather.

    Originally the four of them met two years ago at a legal secretaries
association Christmas party. The other girls worked at Johnson & Myers. Since
then they frequently got together. A girls' night out thing. But Robin had
purposely avoided them for the last month. Because they all smoked.

    Lisa Robinson was the most recent addition to their group. Witty and
friendly, she was Robin's favorite. Lisa worked for her firm's senior partner.
She'd only been a smoker for a short time and, accordingly, was not
sympathetic to Robin's attempt to quit. Lisa'd teased Robin mercilessly all
night, offering cigarettes and blowing smoke in her face. But, frankly,
neither Heather Summer nor Bonnie Robertson had been much kinder. She'd taken
a lot of shit from them.

    As she left the parking lot, Robin knew getting together had been a
mistake as far as she was concerned. She wasn't ready to handle the
temptation. Not yet. It drove her crazy to be the only non-smoker in a group
of smokers. She wanted a cigarette every time the other girls lit up.

    At one point she almost broke down. Robin was sitting next to Heather who
was smoking Marlboro Light 100's, Robin's old brand. As soon as Heather lit
up, she laid her pack on the table directly in front of Robin and exhaled a
cloud of smoke in her direction. God, it smelled so good! Robin almost reached
over, grabbed Heather's pack, and took a cigarette. Oh, how she wanted one!
But somehow Robin resisted the temptation. Sitting in her car, she shivered
thinking how close she came. It would have been four weeks of hell down the
drain! For nothing. Because Robin knew that the first cigarette would have
been followed by another, and then another, and then ....

    The evening proved she hadn't reached a turning point. The struggle was
still real.

    Oh, God, Robin realized. I still want a cigarette! Right now. In the car.
The temptation was irresistible. She thought about pulling into a gas station
and buying a pack of Marlboros. To hell with it! She wanted to smoke, to suck
smoke deep into her lungs, to feel nicotine's pleasures. She clicked her turn
signal to pull into a convenience mart ahead on the left.

    Then she caught herself and instead continued driving straight ahead. She
chewed her gum with all the nervous energy she could muster. She wasn't giving
in. Not tonight.

    She'd have to be careful, not spend time with people who were smoking. The
next time she sat next to someone who lit up a cigarette, Robin didn't know
what she might do.

    For some reason she thought about Anne. She hoped Anne's meeting went
better than her evening with the girls. What a disaster! She smiled. John
Crawford was cute. I wonder if he and Anne are fooling around? Nah, Robin
giggled. I can't imagine it.

   
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    John Crawford sat in his basement. Smoking. His wife was in bed. So were
his daughters. The basketball game ended with a victory for his oldest
daughter's team. Everyone was happy. Everyone but John.

    Anne Sturges was propositioning him. That bullshit about her secretary
wanting to sleep with him was obviously a ruse. John laughed as he lit a
second cigarette. Robin probably couldn't pick him out of a crowd. He'd only
met her a couple times. No, Anne was feeling him out. He laughed again. Bad
choice of metaphors! She was trying to find out whether he wanted to sleep
with her.

    John was attracted to Anne. She was the type of woman that Sherry, his
wife, was not. Aggressive, blatantly sexual, exciting. And blond.

    John liked blonds. They seemed worldly, more sophisticated. Though his
wife Sherry was a brunette, she was still attractive. At 38, she looked good.
She worked out on the treadmill and the bicycle. Her stomach muscles were firm
and her figure was a real asset. Her tits weren't as big as Anne's. But then,
whose were? He sighed. Anne looked great in that tight, short dress. She was
after him. The thought was flattering.

    So why did he refuse her by saying he was only interested in smoking
women? Well, it was true. He loved watching women smoke. At times like this
John regretted having married Sherry. He'd married her when he was much
younger, when he thought he could control his smoking fetish. He knew better
now. His fetish was part of him. It was not going away. He would always be
attracted to women who smoke. It turned him on. But that was beside the point.
He was a smoker. Period.

    He sighed as he thought about Laura James, the other blond in his life.
She'd been everything he wanted in a lifetime partner. She was kind and
considerate. She'd idolized him, pampered him, and she smoked. He'd taken her
advice and come out of the closet as a smoker. He should have done it sooner.
Years sooner. But Laura was gone and wasn't coming back. If she'd stayed
around, his marriage would have ended. There was electricity between them. If
Laura'd been willing, John would've walked out on Sherry.

    But John didn't feel the same way about Anne. Not yet. She was a good
friend, and she'd be a real treat between the sheets. But he wasn't sure he'd
leave his wife for her. Of course, that wasn't what Anne was asking. She was
talking about an affair. That was all. And he wasn't opposed to considering
it. Except that Anne didn't smoke.

    John had sworn to himself that he'd never get involved with another woman
who wasn't a real smoker. He wanted to share his life with a woman who shared
his love for smoking. Someone he could watch light a cigarette, see her take
big drags and inhale. Someone who would make him hard. None of that seemed
nearly so important when he was 22 when he married Sherry. But it was now.

    Even so, despite her failings, he didn't hate Sherry. In many ways he
still loved her. She just couldn't accept him as a smoker. Oh, there were
other problems, too. She resented the hours he worked, the fact that he
brought in four times the income that she did as a librarian, and the fact
that he didn't spend as much time with their girls as she thought he should.
But John knew those other things could be worked out. His smoking was the
difficult point. But he wasn't going to quit. He was through apologizing for
his habit. He had to be true to himself. Even if his marriage died in the
process.

    But he didn't want to hurt the girls. Beth was 15 and Grace was 13; they
both adored him. He adored them, too. Sherry said his smoking was a "bad
influence." Probably was. But so what? If they started smoking they'd join 50
million other Americans who do, too. Big deal. He didn't particularly want
them to smoke, but neither did he care if they eventually decided to There was
a more fundamental issue. John believed that Sherry's alienating him because
of tobacco was more serious than his "bad influence." A divorce would
devastate the girls. Sometimes, however, those things happen. He only hoped
the girls would understand if and when it came to that point.

    John finished his cigarette. Time to go upstairs and lie down next to his
beautiful, cold wife in their king size bed. He turned out the light as he
walked up the stairs.


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