Saturday, lunch was in Brooklyn, with Lucy and her mother, who were in town to look for an apartment, since Lucy was aiming to go back to school to pursue a doctorate.
“You can’t go anywhere in policy circles without a doctorate,” she’d explained, alluding to her attempt to move from the declining world of journalism into a career in policy, which seemed to Hugo more worthy than his move into PR—if she could make the finances work out.
Madeleine was in top form, ecstatic that her best friend was coming to live in New York.
Lucy’s change in life direction had not only been taken because of the latest purges at the Globe: she’d recently split from her long-term boyfriend, which had also made it attractive to her to make a fresh start in a new city.
It also meant she was in a mood to complain about men.
“He just got so angry all the time,” she said over a chicken pesto salad, “I should never have let it go on so long.”
“Well you did the right thing,” Madeleine’s role was simply to be supportive, of course.
“I said you could do better,” said Lucy’s Mom, a small woman who gave Lucy the Asian part of her mixed heritage, and now seemed to disapprove of all men, flashing Hugo the occasional dark look as though disappointing women was innate to all mankind.
Hugo kept quiet, kept his head down.
But at some of the complaints that strayed close to being targeted at men generally, Madeleine would secretly cast a mischievous look toward her husband, or quietly raise an eyebrow, or even chance a quick eye-roll, letting Hugo know she thought he was perfect, despite everything Lucy was saying about his gender.
“He was so immature,” Lucy said, “If we went to a party or a dinner or something together, and I even looked at someone else—far less talked to another guy—he got so mad.”
“It’s weird he’d be so insecure after all the time you’d been together,” Madeleine said. “He probably knew he was losing you ‘cause he was being such a jerk.”
Lucy nodded. “One time we were at this gallery opening down on Peyton, and our arts editor kissed me on both cheeks—which he does to anyone, by the way, men and women. And he’s so obviously gay. Greg went nuts.”
“He is butch gay, though, not camp gay,” Madeleine said, playing devil’s advocate for a moment.
Madeleine skewered a shrimp, and said innocently: “I don’t think Hugo would get jealous even if another man kissed me.”
She flashed her husband a wickedly suggestive look that quite clearly alluded to their recent bedroom discussions.
Hugo smiled back at her, but did actually feel a slight tickle of jealousy at what Madeleine was hinting at—along with a stronger tingle inside his body and between his thighs at the thought of what his wife was picturing.
Lucy, who seemed mildly surprised that Hugo and Madeleine were still tight after everything that had happened that night, said: “God, you two are so great together.”
“Hugo knows he’s the only one for me, so I don’t think anything could faze him like that,” Madeleine said. “I’m sure I could flirt and chat with other guys all night, and he’d always know he was the only one for me—wouldn’t you sweetie?”
Hugo raised his own eyebrow, wondering what she was doing, but said: “Of course, honey.”
Was she trying to make him jealous? Was she trying to get back at him for prying into her masturbatory fantasies? Forcing her to hint that sometimes she thought about other men while touching herself, particularly the guy across the street.
“I need to get married,” Lucy sniffed. “To someone who’s not going to go nuts if I’m in the same room as a hot guy.”
“Not to somebody like Greg,” her mother murmured.
Madeleine said, “Sometimes it’s kinda nice having your guy getting a little jealous. You know—that he wants you so much for himself.”
“I guess… to a certain extent,” Lucy said.
Madeleine cast her husband an impish smile, said: “I remember one time we were on vacation in Rio, the two of us were standing at a bar by the beach, this guy was hitting on me while Hugo was trying to order margaritas.”
Hugo felt a burst of heat inside his chest, remembering the occasion well. It had probably been six or seven months into their relationship, Madeleine had been wearing a bikini in the hope of getting some color into her pale skin, and she had looked incredible—drawing stares from all male eyes anywhere near their vicinity. She’d given up wearing bikinis soon after that.
Madeleine said, “He was this Brazilian guy—gorgeous body, permanent tan, Rolex watch—and so charming. But he had an enormous hard-on while he stood there trying to ask me out—you could see it through his trunks.”
“EEeeewww,” Lucy said.
Madeleine bobbed her eyebrows at Hugo suggestively at the memory of her Brazilian encounter.
Hugo remembered how angry he’d been at the time, although he had managed to keep his cool, merely telling the guy she was with him, to go find some other American girl to charm. Madeleine had merely giggled, making him feel she was testing him, though clearly enjoying the attention from the Brazilian with the Rolex.
“Hugo was just about ready to call in the army back then,” Madeleine sniggered. “I think it was fun having boys fighting over me.”
Hugo felt himself blushing, and perhaps even a little afraid his wife was now going to blurt out his secret fantasy to her friend and her friend’s mother, although he was pretty sure Lucy was going to learn the full details soon enough. Madeleine told her everything.
But he also now thought about that little scene at that beach bar in Rio with a new attitude. It was actually hot to think of the interest Madeleine had attracted from other men, how they had lusted after her—quite blatantly on many occasions—and yet she was only with Hugo. Madeleine was beautiful then as she was now, but she was with him.
And dark little thoughts now made Hugo feel his own manhood thickening between his thighs. What if Madeleine had been single—would she have gone off with that Brazilian guy with the flashy wristwatch?
Lucy said, “Yeah, but after a while it’s a pain. You just wish they’d stop being so God-damn immature.”
“Hey,” Lucy’s mother chided her daughter’s blasphemy. “Burning fires of hell. Waiting for you.”
“If you’re with the right person, there’s the kind of trust that means none of that matters,” Madeleine said, giving Hugo the sense that she was mulling over these thoughts, considering what their recent discussions really meant. “You know he can sit on the couch watching Baywatch…”
Lucy gave a longing sigh in response, and even cast Hugo an admiring glance.
“It’s not on any more,” Hugo said a trifle defensively.
“…ogling at all the pretty girls in swimsuits, and you can just let him have his fun, because at the end of the day you know he loves you, not them.”
Another sigh from Lucy.
“And I can point out a cute guy on the street, or wear a bikini on the beach, or go out for dinner with a hunky friend, and he knows I’m only his.”
Hugo found himself twitching in his pants at her less than subtle suggestion that some guy might ask her out for dinner.
Lucy’s mother excused herself to the bathroom, and Madeleine said to her friend, “You know, I think Hugo even enjoys it when other guys flirt with me now. Guess it makes him think he married the right girl.”
Lucy and Madeleine laughed as Hugo protested, but through it all Madeleine gave him a very personal, penetrating gaze that made it clear she knew she was on to something—and Hugo felt his insides catching fire with the sense that she was not even a little bit wrong.
“So you guys... You sorted out what happened with Fabian?” Lucy said in a loud whisper, able finally to get her burning question in, now that her mother had left them.
“We did,” Madeleine said, her eyes blazing as she teased her husband. “Hugo says he doesn’t have a problem with it.”
Lucy giggled and egged on her friend, saying: “Seriously? Even though he’s the hottest guy in books?”
Madeleine chuckled, “He is a bit of a dreamboat...”
Hugo smiled beneficially on their attempt to provoke his jealousy, but for some reason, the way his wife spoke like a swooning schoolgirl did tickle his fancy.
Lucy groaned and said: “I bet Hugo is horribly jealous really—just doesn’t want to show it.”
Madeleine shrugged. “I don’t know… maybe, maybe not. Maybe he wouldn’t have even batted an eyelid if I’d shared a cab home with Fabian.”
Hugo felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise, the dark tendrils of jealousy snaking around his heart. And yet, for some bizarre reason, he found it thrilling, his blood flowing more quickly around his body, his loins fizzing at the thought of his wife taking someone home. What would he do if that happened?
“I thought you were more interested in the guy from across the street,” he said coolly.
“Oh, he’s gorgeous as well,” Madeleine teased, twirling a strand of hair with a couple of fingers, gently biting her lip, pretending at some kind of nervous teenage lust. “I’m surrounded, huh?”
“Maybe he doesn’t swing your way,” Hugo suggested.
Madeleine chuckled, “Oh, Connor is all into the ladies.”
Connor. So that was his name.
“Maybe he’s got a small dick.”
“Oh, I know that’s not true.”
Hugo felt his pulse quicken, his fullness beneath the belt was making it uncomfortable to sit as he was in those jeans.
They saw Lucy’s mom heading back towards the table, and shared a look that said: not now. Later. Hugo felt as though his insides were on fire.
Lucy looked at them both with unabashed envy at the sizzling chemistry between them, and said: “God, sometimes I do wish I was married. I know what you two’re gonna do when you get home.”