FIFTY-ONE

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Skipped chapter fifty? It was marked PRIVATE. You must follow me to read private chapters. Please refer to Delicious Details at the front of this book for further instructions. 

Virginia had a Friday night to herself, which was a rarity these days. Mark had been in New York for two weeks on business and was not due back until Saturday. He had complained about going, saying he didn't want to leave her, but she knew he had been putting off these kinds of trips and had encouraged him to go. They needed to be normal, or as normal as possible given their situation.

She missed him—big time—which was both delightful and disturbing.

Janine was spending the weekend at her parents and Paul was out with friends. Probably picking up another one-night stand, she mused. He never brought them home so she couldn't really complain, but she was going to have to talk to her brother about his commitment issues someday.

She was in her room, having decided to tackle one of the mundane chores she never seemed to have time for anymore—cleaning her bedroom closet. The small television perched on top of her dresser was turned down low, quietly droning out the eleven o'clock news. Reaching up to the top shelf, she pulled down a box that hadn't quite made it to the unpacked stage since her move. Must be books, she thought, feeling the weight of it. Lifting the lid, her breath caught at what was sitting at the top.

Her wedding album.

Virginia lifted it out and sat on the bed, placing the reminder of her past down on her lap. As her fingers brushed over the raised edges of the embossed white roses patterning the linen cover, a myriad of feelings clogged her focus. Easing it open, a young bride greeted her, looking happy, hopeful, and eager to get on with the next phase of her life, a future with her new husband. Flipping the pages to a picture of the two of them, she traced the lines of Tom's face with her finger, remembering the moment he had seen her walking down the aisle. Such a glorious smile he had given her. They had been happy once, hadn't they? Looking down at the man she had once envisioned spending the rest of her life with, she felt only a sad emptiness now.

In the months since his imprisonment, she hadn't been to see him, hadn't contacted him. A few letters had arrived in the mail, but the first one had been so full of recriminations, she hadn't bothered to open the subsequent ones. According to Tom she was still to blame for all that went wrong in his life.

Janine didn't say much about her father. She knew he was in jail but had no idea as to the extent of Tom's wrongdoing. Someday, when she was old enough to know the truth, Virginia would tell her. And she'd tell her all of it, the good along with the bad, because in spite of everything, she owed Tom that. They had shared a love, a marriage, a daughter, and at one time, a healthy sex life.

Tom had been her first lover. He'd had a little more experience than her in the bedroom but not much. Eventually, they had figured out what worked and what didn't, the initial awkwardness fine-tuning its way into pleasurable before disappearing altogether. Tom had made love with little wasted effort or time. Mark, on the other hand—she blushed with the thought—was a turbulent rollercoaster ride, determined to draw her out, make her climb higher and higher to reach that glorious peak, the ensuing rush back to the ground so intense she often wondered how she survived it. She pictured the grin he would give her as she struggled to regain her composure—smug and adorable.

Smiling, she closed the cover on the man of her past as the man of her present took center stage in her mind. The television in the background seemed to echo her thoughts, and it took her a moment to realize it wasn't just her imagination. She had heard his name.

With a twist of her body, she looked to the source. Mark was on screen, stepping out of a limousine. A female voice confirmed what she had heard, continuing with, "Yes, it is Mark Spinelli who has exited the car with Mariah Post, the actress who plays the daughter of John Henderson in the movie. This is her first leading role. Mark Spinelli and his business partners are said to be big investors in the film, trying to get their foot in the door in movie production. And why not? They seem to be dabbling in everything else these days."

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