Below are a few chapters from A Woman's Affair, a standalone novel.

Prologue

Everyone says I’m a woman who has it all.

Mason, my hardworking and loving husband, who would do — and has done — anything for me since the moment we met in our sophomore year of college.

Dean, age ten, and Jenna, age thirteen; my two beautiful, smart, and amazing children who are my pride and joy.

I live in a beautiful neighborhood, in a suburb outside an ever-flourishing city, in a gorgeous house my husband had designed and built just for our family.

My family and I want for nothing.

And for years now, it’s been this way. It’s peaceful, and secure, and never-changing much in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, I feel as if I’m missing out on something, but then remember the grass is hardly ever greener on the other side, as they say. It’s enough to ensure I stay happy with what I have.

Until, one day, it all changes.

I meet him.

Cole Vaughn.

At twenty-five, he’s ten years younger than me, but to him none of that matters.

To him, I’m his ultimate goal, and his prize.

Chase, conquer, and keep is his plan.

I wish I could say I make it clear I’m not interested.

I wish I could say I tell him no and make sure we never see each other again.

I wish I could say I made him chase me at all.

But it doesn’t happen that way.

No, in the end, there is no resistance, only passion, and I’m sure I’ll end up paying for it.

Only nothing is as simple as it seems, and my fragile shell of a life is about to explode, exposing everything for what it is, and everyone for who they truly are.

Even me.

Chapter One

“Mom, we’re gonna be late!” Jenna yells up at me from the bottom of the steps, her voice filled with an impatience that makes me feel like I’m the child in our relationship. “I can’t be late again or I’ll get a detention!”

“Well,” I holler back, my words filled with amusement and exasperation. “Why change your habits now? Maybe a detention is just what you need so you’ll quit sleeping in.”

“You’re my mom, it’s your job to get me up and to school on time!”

“You’re almost fourteen, Jenna.” My response results in the sound of her stomping off in a huff before I can remind her that her counselor even told her she needed to have more responsibility for herself and her education.

After all, nobody would hold her hand forever, something I know too well.

Shaking my head, I finish getting ready for the day. My shoulder-length hair, which is curly and light brown, is a pain to put into a semblance of decency every morning. Today, I just decide to brush it and leave it hanging, then move to putting on my eyeliner, which really makes my dark blue eyes pop, followed by the signature red lipstick I’ve worn since the day I turned seventeen.

Mason adores when I do my make-up every day. Oh, he’ll tell me how much he loves me whether I wear it or not, but I know the truth. He thinks I’m more beautiful when I’m done up, and because he’s worked and continues to work hard so I may be at home for our children if they need me at any time, I aim to please always.

With a final glance in the mirror, I smile at my reflection, making sure to keep it on my face as I exit the bathroom, and head down the steps before entering the kitchen. Dean’s scarfing down a bowl of cereal while Jenna sits at the kitchen table with her phone in hand, looking up to glare at me as I walk past her. Mason, on the other hand, is standing against the counter drinking his coffee while reading the paper, and grins as I approach him.

“Gorgeous, as always,” he murmurs while leaning down to kiss my cheek as he does every morning once I’m standing before him, his hazel eyes twinkling as if he hasn’t a care in the world, which I suppose he doesn’t. “Long day today?”

“Yes,” I say, walking over to the fridge to open it up, and pull out a bottle of water along with an apple. Looking back at Mason, I watch as his eyes darken upon me biting into the apple, and I shut the fridge door with my shoulder. Swallowing the bite, I lick my lips to tease him before beaming at him while reiterating what my schedule is for the day. “I have to go dress shopping for April’s wedding which is next month, help the ladies at the club with a few upcoming fundraisers, and I was informed yesterday I have to go have a chat with Jenna’s math teacher because she’s failing already and it’s only two weeks into the school year.”

“I hate math,” Jenna mutters as Mason’s gaze leaves mine and locks on our daughter. “And the teacher’s an asshole.”

“Jenna—”

Mason cuts in, standing up straight as he sets his empty mug on the counter, and takes a step toward her as he asserts, “You will not curse in this house, young lady, or you’ll find yourself grounded with nothing to do except stare at your wall for a long while.”

Jenna, in her usual manipulative fashion, stands up with watery eyes and wobbly lips, and screams as she walks out of the kitchen, “I hate you! I hate all of you!”

Before Mason can go after her, as I know he wants to, I grab his arm and shake my head with a soft smile when he looks back at me. “Just let her go. It’s a teenage thing, and I was told if they don’t hate us, we’re not doing our job right.”

“Right.” He snickers, leaning down to capture my lips in a soft, sweet kiss before releasing me with another grin. “My parents used to say the same thing.”

“They were smart. After all, they told you marrying me was the smartest decision you ever made, remember?”

“Yes, and they were right.” He laughs as his words, along with his suggestive wink, make me blush, and shoves a hand through his shortly cropped brown hair while looking down at his watch. “All right, I’ve got to get to the office. It’ll be another late night, I believe.”

He sets the paper down on the center island, pecks my lips once more, and before walking off murmurs, “Love you.”

I don’t get a chance to say it back as he walks out the back door not even two-seconds later. He rarely ever hears the words from me because he’s always off before I can reply, but he doesn’t seem to care one way or the other. We both know I’m not going anywhere, not when he gives me everything I can possibly want or need.

Dean is finishing up his cereal, slurping the milk obnoxiously as I take another bite of my apple and grab my purse. Shoving the not yet opened bottled water inside it, I call out to my daughter. “Let’s go Jenna. Time to leave.”

My son jumps off his stool, puts the bowl in the sink, and runs around me to quickly put on his shoes, then grabs his book-bag as I pull out my keys and stand by the back door. Dean’s the first out the door, Jenna dragging her feet with a glum look on her face as she follows a minute later, and I refrain from saying anything to her as I lock up the house and get into the car.

The high school is only about ten minutes away by car, and when I pull up in front after an amazingly silent commute as neither of my children said a thing the whole way, Jenna turns to look at me with a frown. “I don’t want to go. Don’t make me.”

“Don’t be absurd.” It’s hard to keep the exasperation out of my voice, since she says this every morning, and I’m getting real tired of it. “You have to go, you know you do, so stop whining and get going.”

She stares at me for another moment, biting her lip in a way that looks so painful I want to ask her to stop, and finally drops her tear-filled gaze from mine as she grabs her book-bag from the floorboard. “Fine.”

“I’ll pick you up after the meeting with your math teacher. Be sitting out front, and don’t try anything funny.”

“Yes ma’am,” she mutters sarcastically as she opens the door, steps out, and makes sure to slam it shut before heading toward the building.

I wonder what her problem is, as always, which makes me want to start cursing in frustration. I don’t, of course, since Dean is in the car, but I’m saddened a few minutes later when he finally speaks as we drive to the middle school.

“She’s been so mean for the last year mom. She was always so nice. Why is she so mean now?”

“I don’t know honey. I wish I did.”

“Me too.” He doesn’t say anything else, so neither do I, and when we pull up to the school he says, “Hey mom?”

“Yes?”

“Even if Jenna hates you, I don’t. I love you.”

With a soft laugh, I place the car in park at the curb, and turn to look at him. “She doesn’t hate me, she’s just mad at the world I guess. And I know. I love you too sweetie. Now go have a good day.”

In his usual fashion, he exclaims while opening the door and climbing out, “I will!”

A moment later, he’s gone and I’m driving off, my thoughts instantly moving to everything I have to do today.

And for the majority of it, the day is like every other one has been in my life.

Until it isn’t.

Chapter Two

My heels tap-tap against the floor of the hallway as I head to my daughter’s math classroom, where the teacher said he would be waiting for me. School’s just let out, and I didn’t see Jenna on my way in, yet I’ve no doubt she’ll be waiting for me outside like I told her to. She might be mouthy and a big brat lately, but she’s never disobeyed her father and me in such a direct way. She wouldn’t dare.

As I enter the room, a man about my age stands up with a smile, and holds out his hand as I approach.

“Thanks for coming in, Missus Wright,” he says as I slip my hand into his, which he shakes firmly before dropping, and sits down while smoothing his tie. He nods at the seat across from the desk. “I’m Mister Graham.  Please, have a seat.”

I do, and while he starts talking about Jenna’s complete lack of cooperation in class, I study this man my daughter calls ‘an asshole’ and wonder what she’s talking about the more he speaks. He comes across as smart, is direct, and has excellent manners.

When he pauses after explaining Jenna hasn’t turned in any homework in his class since school began, I can’t help but frown. “I’m sorry. Jenna’s been having a lot issues for a while now. We’ve gotten her into counseling, but she just seems to be getting worse, and doesn’t even want to come to school.”

“I taught Jenna in middle school, and she was such a bright student in sixth grade, really excelling when I tutored her as well. But now…” He sounds almost as sad as I feel about this whole thing, which makes me truly wonder what the hell my daughter is thinking. “I moved up to teach ninth grade this year, which is what I wanted to teach originally, because a spot opened up. It’s sad to see one of my best students failing so miserably.”

I nod in agreement with him. “She’s struggled ever since about halfway through seventh grade. We got her more tutoring last year and such, it helped for a while.”

“I appreciate you coming in, Mrs. Wright. I will continue to keep you updated about Jenna’s performance in this class. I’ve got some papers here…”

For the next fifteen minutes, he shows me various options for helping Jenna with her studies, many of which we’ve already tried. I mostly worry about having a conversation with Mason about what to do with our daughter who apparently has given up on school completely from the sounds of it. I promise him I will check in with him as well if anything comes up, and I pull out my phone as I leave the room to text Jenna, letting her know I’ll be outside in a few minutes.

And just as I’m hitting the send button of the text is when I walk straight into a hot and extremely hard wall of male body.

The force has my heel slipping on the floor and strong arms wrap around me just before I hit the floor, although it doesn’t prevent my phone from flying out of my hand, making me wince as I hear it clatter and break apart when it meets the tile.

“Whoa. I didn’t see you there.”

His voice is rich and deep — you know the kind where it’s incredibly sexy now but if it went much deeper it would be scary — and my body responds instantly with an arousal unlike any I’ve ever experienced, catching me off guard and stealing my breath before I can even take one. I lift my head from where it rests against his chest, his strong and firm yet gentle grip on me lessening as he makes sure I’m steady on my feet, and my eyes meet his as my heels touch the ground once more.

I can’t believe the masculine younger man standing before me. He’s got eyes the color of jade, curly black hair pulled back into a short ponytail, an equally black goatee trimmed short, and he’s tall. So tall, which is amazing since I’m five-eleven, and meeting a man who can beat me out by six inches at least — like the man before me does — is rare.

He smiles as I stand there gawking at him, the look in his eyes knowing as he sweeps his gaze from the top of my head to my toes, before coming back up with an even wider grin on his face. “The name is Cole. And you are?”

My first name tumbles from my lips before I even think better of it, my brain short circuiting as my body reacts in a way I’m trying to ignore with every fiber of my being. “Leighton.”

“A beautiful name for a lovely woman.” He winks at me before walking over to the wall and picking up the pieces of my phone.

I know I should probably do something other than stare — like pick up the other pieces which are close to me — but my whole body isn’t able to do anything except gape at this man who ran into me and turns me on with the mere sound of his voice. Not even Mason has ever managed such a thing when it comes to the chemistry between us.

Cole walks back over to where I’m standing once he has all the pieces, putting it back together and holding it out to me as the start up jingle plays. “You really should get a case for that,” he says with a soft chuckle as I take the phone from his hand and blush while sliding it into my purse. “Are you just going to continue to stare at me…Leighton?”

My name is music on his lips and much as I wish I could speak, somehow my ability to do so coherently is gone.

And I’ve no doubt he knows; the way his gaze keeps dropping to my lips tells me so. His desire to kiss me is written all over his face, and I wonder if we weren’t in a school, if he wouldn’t hesitate another second in giving in to his natural urge — and if I would let him without protest.

“I’m just leaving for the day.” He holds his arm out for me to take as he offers, “Would you like me to walk you out as well?”

As my phone buzzes loudly in my purse, I find my voice, and give a small shake of my head. “Ah, I think I’ve got it.”

“All right.” He drops his arm like it’s no big deal — it’s not, I have to remind myself — and slides his hands into his jean pockets. “You look familiar. Have we met before?”

“No, but my daughter Jenna Wright and I look a lot alike I’m told. You probably know her—”

His eyes round, darting down to take in my svelte form and back up again before the wicked gleam in his eyes returns as he gives out a low whistle. “I do and I see the resemblance, but you can’t be Jenna Wright’s mother. You don’t look a day over twenty-five.”

I can’t help it; I laugh at his blatant flirting. “Add ten years to that, buddy, but I appreciate the compliment all the same.”

“No shit,” he blurts out, his eyes getting more round than I would think is possible, and he just stares at me as if he doesn’t believe I’m possibly that age. I could ask his age, but I’m sure it’ll be easier to find in the school directory online, and less embarrassing than me asking as if I’m interested.

I am. Well, my body is, but my brain knows better.

Ugh. I shove the whole thing to the side and clutch my purse closer to my side, keeping both my hands occupied to keep them out of potential trouble.

With another laugh, I say, “Well, I’ve really got to get going; Jenna’s waiting for me outside. It was nice to meet you.”

As I start to walk away, he falls into step beside me, his voice filled with amusement as he tells me, “Like I said, I’m leaving as well. And by the way, I am the PE teacher and baseball coach.”

“That explains why you look like you could pick me up and break me in half — you spend your whole life exercising.”

“Not all of it,” he teases as we reach the main hallway, the doors to the exit outside rapidly approaching. “Do you work out?”

“Sometimes, when I’m bored.” I snicker when I hear him make a slight choking sound of laughter beside me, clarifying my statement with, “I mean, I will do the treadmill, run a little, but really I don’t like working out like that in general.”

“Well,” he says in a low voice, placing his hand over mine as I go to open the door so I can’t and leaning in close to my ear before he continues with a whispered, “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up. Your body is smokin’, Leighton.”

I should tell him to stop, to back off, to not talk to me that way.

But, this younger man is looking at me as if he wants to eat me up, and a big part of me wants to let him. It’s the part that wishes for a life with more excitement and less of the same stuff day in and day out; the things my husband can’t give me because he’s just who he is and I’m me.

I don’t reprimand Cole. I don’t give him a dirty look.

Instead, I gently slip my hand from underneath his, smile nice and wide until he’s wearing an equal expression, and then I dip around him to another door, slipping out and away before he can say anything else.

Jenna is waiting outside as she should be, and is so silent on the way home, I have time to contemplate what the hell just happened. Mostly, its left me thinking if I hadn’t run into him before now, the chances of running into him again unless I visit the school is slim, so I can easily avoid the temptation to give in to the blatant invitation in his gaze.

We quickly arrive home after picking up Dean, who darts from the car as fast as he can, while Jenna fails to notice the car has stopped moving since she’s lost in her own world.

She jumps when I touch her arm, jerking her head to look at me with a glare as she snaps, “What?”

I’m so sick of her attitude, but mostly I’m just tired, and I simply let out a heavy sigh. “You’re welcome to stay in the car all evening, but if you hadn’t noticed, we’re home now.” Without waiting for a response, I grab my purse while opening my door with my left hand, and get out, slamming the door behind me with childish satisfaction before heading inside.

Jenna follows minutes later, heading straight upstairs to her room just as her brother has, leaving me with nothing to do except make dinner a few hours from now. So, I head to my room which has its own little office area connected to it, and relax while reading a book, hoping it will take my mind off all my worries for once.

But it doesn’t. Nothing ever does.

And now the attraction I felt to Cole is another thing added to the pile, mostly because it reminds me of how long it has been since Mason and I even fooled around, let alone had sex. Our sex life had been great up until I gave birth to Dean, and after that, it slowly dwindled down to nothing as of three years ago. Wasn’t for my lack of trying either; Mason would just give me a kiss and say, ‘not now’ until I gave up attempting to start anything.

I long ago assumed him of having an affair, but he never gave me a reason to think so, nor did I ever find any proof. Either way, it wouldn’t matter; as I remind myself every time something makes me think about leaving, we both know I’m not going anywhere. I promised him I’m his forever, and he’ll always make me keep my promise.

For a brief second though, I wonder what it would be like to have Cole give into the desire I saw in his eyes, and whether or not it would be worth the consequences.

The fact I can’t answer that with a definitive yes or no means I need to avoid Cole as much as possible.

I just sure hope the universe listens.

Yeah.

It doesn’t.

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