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By Candice Poarch
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
It was Thursday, and Kimberly Canter was rushing to finish her dinner preparations. Her husband, Jack, had called earlier promising he'd join themfor a changeand she'd fixed his favorite beer-battered chicken. Although he could order it any time in one of their brewpubs, he'd always liked hers better. Kimberly heard the garage door rumble. He was home.
Jack had been disgruntled lately because Kim-berly's part-time, morning weather forecaster job at a major Washington, D.C., television station had increased to full-time. During the week, she was at the station by three-thirty each morning, and since Jack worked most evenings and weekends, they rarely saw each other anymore. Rarely did he make it home until late, and both she and the children missed him terribly.
She missed Jack most of all. She missed going to bed with her husband sleeping beside her, instead of waking for work to find him fast asleep on the other side of the bed. Maybe tonight they'd close the door to their bedroom suite and retire early. She'd already put the CD in place and could envision the soft, sweet music piping throughout the room.
Jack breezed into the kitchen from the garage, his powerful, well-toned body moving with easy grace. He wore beige slacks and a black golf shirt with "Jack's Place" emblazoned in gold on the left breast. And he carried himself with a commanding air ofself-confidence.
Kimberly's heart jolted and her pulse pounded as she stared with longing at him. Even at thirty-eight, Jack radiated seductive vitality. He hadn't lost any of his punch in the nearly seventeen years they'd been married. But they'd been without sex much too long now, and her body longed for intimacy.
A daily exercise regime kept his wide shoulders and six-one frame perfectly fit. Kimberly's gaze ran lovingly over him. His hair was cut short, and the shirt complemented his walnut complexion. Lord, he was still one great-looking man, and she was as in love with him today as she'd been when they started dating during her freshman year in college.
"Hi, honey," Kimberly said, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and feeling dowdy by comparison. She'd planned to shower and dress in something a little sexy before he arrived. No such luck. What woman who worked full-time and had a couple of teenagers could ever get everything done on schedule? As soon as they got home she'd sent them upstairs to start on their homework.
"Hey. Something smells good. I can barely wait for dinner," Jack said before he passed her, barely glancing her way.
Suddenly deflated, Kimberly regarded his retreating back as he strolled out of sight. A kiss would have been nice, but Kimberly let that small lack of affectionsomething that had stopped latelyslide and pressed the intercom button. "April?"
"Yeah, Mom," her fourteen-year-old daughter's winded voice rang out. Kimberly grimaced. She must have been doing a cheerleader routine instead of her homework. During the spring, April took cheerleading at a dance studio and participated in competitions. In the fall she cheered at school, but she was supposed to be doing her homework.
"Can you come to the kitchen to help out?"
"I'll be there in a minute."
Kimberly called her son, who thought he was nearly grown at sixteen, and beckoned his assistance, too, then smiled and turned the sizzling chicken over in the pan. Since picking up her daughter from cheerleading, she'd gotten a late start. In addition, her son's car was in the shop for a recall, forcing her to pick him up from baseball practice. If she were smart, she would have had dinner delivered.
In the distance, Kimberly heard a cell phone ringing and the low timbre of Jack's voice as he climbed the stairs. A few minutes later Jack returned, but he'd changed into a navy polo shirt without the bar's logo.
"Honey, how much longer before dinner is ready?" he asked, frowning as he checked the contents in one of the pots. "I thought you said we could eat as soon as I got home." Jack glanced impatiently at the clock. "Dinner smells great, but I could have brought something with me if you were busy. You have to be halfway starved by now."
"You are hungry, aren't you? Well, it's almost ready."
"What can I do to help?" he asked, just as the kids thundered in the kitchen. Their smiles brightened when they saw their father.
This was a good plan, Kimberly knew, even though dinner was a little late. At least they were all together for a change.
Jack helped the kids set the table as she dished the food on platters. When they sat around the table, Jack said grace, and Kimberly felt a degree of contentment. They had their problems, but this was the first step in working them out. They'd have the evening together, and she and Jack would talkamong other things. Warmth and desire spread through Kimberly.
But as soon as she opened her eyes, Jack was quickly shoveling food on his plate, and not very much of it. It was his favorite meal. Did he eat before he came home? Kimberly wondered, as she slowly filled her own plate.
Before she could take two bites, Jack was pushing back from the table. "Dinner was delicious," he said, wiping his mouth with the napkin.
They hadn't had time to share a conversation with the kids. "Where are you going?" Kimberly asked, puzzled by his actions.
"I'm sorry, honey, but I have to go back to work. I have a meeting I can't get out of." He headed to the door. "See you later, guys."
Tossing her napkin on the table, Kimberly got up and followed him, shutting the garage door after her so the children wouldn't overhear their conversation.
"You said you were going to spend the evening at home," Kimberly said. "We rarely see you anymore."
"I only planned to stay for a little while." With keys in hand, he used the remote to unlock the car door.
Kimberly had been running on all barrels all day. Jack's impending departure brought to the fore the tiredness that had waited to suck her under.
"You've only been here a half hour, if that much."
"I thought food would be ready when I got here, then we could have spent the entire time together." Jack sighed. "Honey, I keep telling you you can't do everything. Working full-time isn't working out."
"Let's not start on that again. I love my joband this has nothing to do with my schedule."
"Then at least hire full-time help."
"I want us to be a regular family."
Jack massaged his temple. "We aren't a regular family. We barely have any time together. I've been saying that for months. I miss the mornings we used to spend making love after the children left for school."
"If you came home early sometimes, we could spend some evenings together."
"I run five brewpubs. My busiest times are the evenings."
"You hire managers to run them," Kimberly said, repeating herself like an old, scratched record. "You hired an assistant to help you. Let her relieve you some evenings."
"Kim, I don't have time to argue tonight. I'm late as it is."
Jack activated the remote to raise the garage door and then settled in the car. Slowly, Kimberly went inside the house and sat at the table with her children.
"Mama, dinner is good," April said.
"Thanks, honey." Kimberly noticed her son was watching her, and she smiled even though she felt like crying.
She and Jack couldn't go on this way. They shared very little these days. It was as if they shared the same roof but lived separate lives.
Weekdays, Kimberly was on the air at 5:00 a.m. with the first edition of the weather. She had to leave the house at three, so it wasn't as if she could spend half the night waiting for Jack to come in. More often lately, he'd come in long after she'd gone to bed.
Kimberly couldn't eat very much. The food could have been cardboard, for all she tasted. April had lost her appetite, too, but she forced down half of what was on her plate. Byron attacked his like a human garbage disposal. Nothing interfered with his appetite. As thin as he was, she didn't know where it all went, and he seemed always ready for more.
Already, Byron stood eye-to-eye with Jack, and April had his dimples on her cheeks and his pretty eyes. Jack hated for her to describe his brown eyes as pretty, but they were.
Kimberly asked the kids questions about school and their friends, and they answered in their usual disinterested fashion. But she kept talking until they became engaged in the conversation.
"Mom, I want to go to cheerleader camp this summer. It's only a week. It's someplace in Pennsylvania, only a six-hour drive from here. You can take me."
"I don't know. You're spending a couple of weeks with your uncle in the Caribbean, a week on a college campus for that science camp, and another week with my mother. As it is, I have to schedule time to get to see my own daughter. Do you think you'll have time for cheerleader camp, too?"
"I don't know, but I need to go."
And Jack wanted her to quit her job. The kids were already out of the house most of the time.
They launched into a discussion about Byron's summer schedule, none of which included time with dear old mom.
Jack wanted Kimberly to hire a full-time person around the house, but although the place was enormous, she liked having privacy, having a one-on-one relationship with her children, and she loved to cook.
Stacking a few dishes in the dishwasher wasn't that big a deal. She hired a cleaning service for twice a week and felt that was enough.
After dinner, Kimberly sent the children to finish their homework, and after cleaning up the kitchen she showered, spread on face cream and then rubbed her favorite scented lotion all over her body. Today was one of those days when she felt every one of her thirty-five years.
Lately, Jack had complained a lot about her absences and their lack of time together. He complained more bitterly about the lack of sex. Men got crazy when they went without for too long. They hadn't had much of a relationship lately. And truth be told, she missed their lovemaking, too.
Kimberly remembered the little surprises she used to plan for Jack when they were younger. Jack's sister would babysit so they could have some time alone together. When was the last time she and Jack had gone out on a date? Of course he would blame her working hours for that, as well. Weekends were his busy time, but a couple of months ago he hired an assistant to take up some of the slack. The woman should be working most of the weekends by now.
The problem was that Jack was too controlling. But Jack visited each pub sometime over the weekend, often in connection with a business meeting, or just dinner or drinks with friends, or business associates and his suppliers. He should let his managers do their jobs and run the brewpubs. They were all well qualified. She'd pointed that out to him several times, but he never listened to her.
* * *
Jack felt restless. He didn't know why he was so dis-combobulated lately. Home life was falling apart. He'd attacked Kimberly unfairly, but seeing her in her jeans and T-shirt, her hair gathered in a ponytail, just set him off.
What happened to the time she'd let her hair hang loose, shiny and full? Kimberly knew how to dress to tempt him without being obvious or lewd. The kids were clueless to the simmering sexual tension between the adults. He remembered her wearing lounging wear that seemed perfectly chaste and sedate, but clung loosely to her curves, tempting him, because he knew the softness of her skin beneath. Her sensual movements and smiles seduced him. Jack shook his head. He couldn't wait for them to close their bedroom door and cling to each other.
Now she was fast asleep when he got home.
To top that, dinner wasn't ready, and he had to meet with Lauren Dorsey soon.
He realized Kimberly ran after the kids with a million after-school projects. She was a good mother, but Damn it, he wanted a wife. Was that asking for too much?
He sighed and drove to the brewpub closest to where they lived. Lauren was waiting for him on the sidewalk.
The truth was, he felt guilty about checking out a bar with Lauren. Guilty because Kimberly didn't want him to open another brewpub. She was always complaining about his hours. But he was a businessman, and although she owned a half interest in the pubs, she hadn't worked with him in more than ten years. She'd pitched in to help the first few years, but after they purchased the second one, she began to get more involved with her own work.
But any business must grow or die. Didn't she understand that?
A new bar had gone on the market. The man who owned and ran the place for decades had passed away and his nieces and nephews wanted to sell it and split the profits. One of the nephews had approached Jack.
"You're early," Lauren Dorsey said, sliding into the seat. She wore a pair of black slacks with a matching blouse and a beige jacket. "I thought we were going to check out the place later on."
"Change of plans. We'll have dinner there, get a feel for their customer base."
Lauren placed her huge purse on the floor by her feet. At thirty-three, she was at least five-seven to Kimberly's five-five. Lauren had shoulder-length brown hair, unlike his wife's, which was a rich shade of midnight black. Most black hair actually contained hues of brown, but not Kimberly's. He loved to see it hanging loose down her back, and run his fingers through the long, silky strands. He compressed his lips in irritation. Another treat he was denied of late. By the time he made it home she had it all rolled up and a scarf tied on her head. Was this how life and marriage was supposed to be?
Jack thought of his father. How had his parents made it without fights like this? He didn't remember that his father wasn't there for dinner.
Excerpted from Loving Spoonful by Candice Poarch Copyright © 2009 by Candice Poarch. Excerpted by permission.
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