Susan, a beautiful former Hollywood movie actress, and Ted, her handsome husband, a retired Cal Berkeley swimming coach, are the envy of the neighborhood. But within the walls of their glamorous and beautifully decorated home, they harbor a secret. The passion is gone.
Their friends, Jack and Beverly Edwards, suspect the truth, but good manners keep their suspicions in the shadows of their curiosity. They know the malaise of a long-term relationship all too well. They love one another but no longer make love.
As both couples struggle to maintain appearances, Ted and Beverly fall desperately and secretly in love. At least, they think it's a secret. When Beverly confirms Ted's impossible secret-the same secret that always brought Susan back to him-she doesn't know how to react. Mired in guilt and terrified that Jack and Susan will learn of their affair, Beverly does the unthinkable: she reaches out to her friend and rival. Following a shaky truce, the two women devise an audacious and exciting scheme to save both of their marriages by opening them up.
But in order for their new plans to succeed, the two women must convince Jack, a pragmatic and traditional ex-cop, to join in. Susan manages to get him to try, but the first experiment is a disaster. It will take all of their considerable feminine wiles to lure him back for a second session.
Can two fading and mature relationships be reborn in the exhilarating new passions of erotic polyamorous exploration?
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.71(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Magnificent Agony
A Love Story
By Barbara Ann Barrett
iUniverseCopyright © 2015 Barbara Ann Barrett
All rights reserved.
Beverly Edwards backed her Pacifica station wagon out of the driveway of the big gray and white Cape Cod that sat high atop Ridgecrest Drive and headed down the hill toward the village. The large two-story house that overlooked the bay and the mile-long spit that separated it from the ocean was on California's beautiful Central Coast almost exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The climate was moderate year-round, with just the right amount of rain and fog to break the monotony of the otherwise year-round perfect weather.
As an amateur chef de cuisine—a title loosely derived after completing a weeklong course at the famous Le Cordon Bleu Institute in Paris—Beverly loved to cook. Not only was it her hobby but also her passion, and she had recently discovered a new recipe for "triple death by chocolate" brownies that she intended to try out on Davenports. She and Jack had made a host of new friends since moving to the small town several years ago, but none was closer than or as intimate as Susan and Ted Davenport.
She followed the winding road that led down the hill and provided fabulous views of towering Morro Rock, from which the small fishing village took its name, and the expanse of ocean beyond. Depending on the season, there were frequent sightings of deer, and quail and an occasional flock of wild turkeys. The narrow roadway was nearly deserted this time of day until she turned off onto Main Street where the Davenports had a comfortable home on a wide corner lot. The place was on a quiet, tree-lined street just two blocks up from the beach and situated in one of the cozier parts of town.
"Hello! Anybody home?" Beverly entered through the garden gate and had called out after knocking on the kitchen door and letting herself in as she usually did. She heard a TV on somewhere inside.
"Come in, come in! Who is it?"
She heard Ted's baritone voice and looked around. "Hi, it's me. I brought over some goodies. Where are you?" she said and sat the plastic container of freshly baked brownies she had prepared for them on the granite countertop.
"Ah, the People's Choice! In here, my dear! Come in, come in. Sue's stepped out. She'll be back."
Ted's spirits lifted and he felt a slight edge of excitement when Beverly entered the room. She was wearing designer jeans and a dark velour sweatshirt that clung to a figure that caused men to stare at her wherever she went, and women to glare enviously, instantly on guard, disliking her immediately. At five-feet ten, she was taller than most women, had a slender figure, and weighed not much more than she had in high school. She had large expressive eyes that were as dark as roasted chestnuts. Her features were soft and feminine with a straight Roman nose and she often wore a mysterious Mona Lisa-like smile that made you wonder what she was thinking. Her silky hair fell in soft swirls just above her shoulders and was the color of burnt-honey with subtle highlights running through it. Her perfect makeup completed the classy image and Ted knew she liked the way it all went together. Beverly knew from the way he undressed her with his eyes that he liked it too.
Beverly smiled briefly at the compliment when she found him on the sofa in the living room watching the sports channel. He was in his usual cotton sweats, complete with the UC Berkeley logo where he had been the head swimming coach until his recent retirement. He had a thick mane of silver hair, iceberg-blue eyes, and the lithe physique of a serious swimmer and a former Olympic champion.
"Where's Sue?" Beverly asked brightly as she entered the large tastefully furnished room. Susan possessed an outrageous personality that had attracted Beverly from the moment they met and she had quickly become the big sister Bev never had. The room was filled with expensive antiques from the upscale shop Susan had opened when she retired from the movie business, ending her Hollywood career after winning an Oscar for best supporting actress for her last film that had garnered no fewer than four Academy Awards that year. She was past the age of being offered the leading roll in her next film and decided to quit gracefully—when she was on top.
"Sue's out. She'll be back later. Off to the club for a meeting of the dance committee and bridge afterward, I think she said. The Commodore's Ball is coming up." He did not get up but patted the cushion next to him. "I hope you and Jack are still going. Sue's reserved a table for us."
"I think I've talked him into it," Bev said with a doleful look. With Susan gone, she did not intend to stay, but sat down briefly. Ted leaned over with his usual peck on the cheek.
Ted had never hidden the fact that he thought Beverly gorgeous or that he was attracted to her. He had even confessed that he had hopelessly fallen in love with her. And he often displayed his affection in the form of a full-body hug when the opportunity presented itself, an occasional kiss on the lips if she failed turn her head in time and a rare pat on the fanny when Susan was out of the room. But she had never been offended by his display of affection, and since he was at least twenty years her senior, she suspected that his age had something to do with it. Still, she smiled inwardly when the look on his face said differently, that there might be more on his mind than benign fatherly affection.
"How are you and Jack getting along these days, my dear?" Ted gave her shoulder a friendly pat and reached across her with the remote control to turn off the TV, his forearm lightly brushing the swell of her breast as he did. "You two still having problems?"
Beverly felt a slight tingling where he was touching her and then a pang of guilt when she hesitated too long before shifting her weight, causing him to withdraw his arm. Lately, however, she was not so sure if her guilty conscience was because she was a married woman, or if it was because Susan was her best friend.
"Not much change," she said after a moment. "Actually, sometimes I think he cares more about work than he does me." She had casually mentioned the problems she'd been having with Jack in the past, but not recently and glanced at him. "Has Susan said anything to you about Jack and me?" The two women shared everything. But she hoped her personal life was still just between the two of them.
"Not much, actually," Ted said. There was no guile in his handsome face, but there never was. He was as easy to read as an open book. "Only that you haven't been getting along for a while and it hasn't gotten any better the last I heard. I just wondered if that meant ..."
She looked up again when he hesitated. "Meant what?"
"You know, meant that you weren't sleeping together." He grinned awkwardly now that he had stepped across that unseen line that formed the boundary between friendship and something more.
They held each other's gaze for a moment while Beverly decided how to answer. "Yes, we still sleep in the same bed," she said finally, deciding to be honest and tell it like it is, but not elaborate and to tell him that was about all they had been doing in bed lately. Their love life had not been all that great lately and she was happy to see that Susan had apparently not discussed that part of her personal life with him.
Ted's smile held as he casually rested a hand on her knee and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I wish there was something I could do to help. It must be hard for you. I don't like to you see you unhappy, my dear. You know I've been secretly in love with you from the first time we met." His look was one of friendly concern, but there was also something more.
Beverly had always felt comfortable with Ted and liked being with him, but they had rarely been alone together. And this wasn't the first time he'd said he was in love with her. Still, the shadow of a smile crept into her face with the obvious double meaning. She'd bet he wished there was something he could do for her, she thought, and decided to test his playfulness with a little of her own.
"I could tell Jack how friendly you've been lately. Or I should say overly friendly." Just in case the veiled threat and what was showing in her face wasn't enough, she removed his hand from her leg. "And he carries a gun, remember?"
In the past, she had mentioned Ted's affectionate behavior to Susan, who said she thought his age might be catching up with him since he had shown little or no interest in sex lately. In fact, she had confessed, it had been more like living with her brother than her husband for nearly a year. But Bev wondered if something hadn't changed all that. She noticed lately that when he gave her one of his affectionate hugs, there was definitely something very firm between them.
"I just wish there was something I could do to help, that's all," Ted said in his own defense and smiled at the threat. "But I don't see any reason to say anything to Jack, my dear."CHAPTER 2
One night Beverly had mentioned Ted's growing affection to Jack when they had returned home from one of their three-martini dinners where she had caught him ogling the young woman who had waited on them.
It had taken a full fifteen minutes for her to fully relate the details of how Ted sometimes kissed her on the mouth instead of on her cheek as he usually did. She told him about the hungry looks he gave her if Susan happened to step out of the room, how he occasionally touched her leg or brushed against her breast, and the intimate way he spoke to her if they were alone for a few moments.
Jack had listened quietly to the account, knowing that three martinis was her absolute limit, and wondered if it was the gin that was causing her to be so chatty. But he had noticed her glaring at him at dinner as he watched the waitress clear their table, and wondered if Ted wasn't retribution for his bad table manners.
When she finished her story he said, "Ted's always had a thing for you. But it sounds like you might be leading him on by putting up with his hanky-panky. Or have you all the sudden taken an interest in Ted Davenport?"
Bev had just given him a blank look that did not really say how she felt. "Well, how about it, which is it?" he asked more seriously. "Are you all the sudden attracted to him? From what you've just said, you apparently don't mind him copping a feel once in a while." But there was no denying that the thought of what she had just told him was beginning to aggravate him.
"What if I was?" she said. The three martinis she'd had for dinner were making it easy to be honest and she paused just long enough to make him think she might be serious. "Not that I've actually thought about him—like that," she added, trying to blunt her honesty. "But he's certainly attractive." She knew her answer would not escape the curious mind and suspicious nature of the excop turned PI she was married to. In fact, she was counting on it.
"I'm sure you mean for an older guy." Jack had no idea how old Ted was, only that he was definitely too old for Bev.
She bristled when he put words in her mouth. It was one of the things she had come to resent most about him lately. "That's not what I meant at all," she corrected him sternly. "If you want the truth, I think Ted is ..." She paused, purposely fueling the fires of suspicion in him again, adding to his discomfort.
"Think he's what?"
"Sexy, if you really want to know. Very sexy, in fact. And I think the feeling's mutual. He calls me 'The People's Choice,' and said he's in love with me." The seeds of doubt she had been sowing since starting the conversation were bringing to show up in his face.
Jack was sitting on his side of the bed and half turned to face her when he saw that she was staring at him. "Maybe he just wants to get in your knickers," he said, his irritation no longer confined to just his expression but showing up in his voice now as well.
She could tell he was beginning to wonder why she had even brought up Ted Davenport in the first place. Actually, the idea had come to her at dinner when she caught him leering at their young waitress, who had failed to use the customary "Bunny Dip" when she cleared away his place setting. The view down her low-cut blouse was matched only by the oily look on her otherwise pretty face when she saw him gaping at her; making it obvious the gesture was on purpose and not simply a breach of etiquette. Bev had shot them an icy glare they were both too busy to notice. Her story about Ted's escalating affection was simply payback time.
"I'm sure that's exactly what was on his mind," Bev said answering his question, certain that it would further agitate him.
"And what makes you so sure?"
She could only imagine the havoc his over-active imagination was causing him at that moment. Then, in retaliation for his voyeuristic table manners, she said, "He's a man, that's what. And it's exactly what you think about whenever a woman happens to show a little cleavage."
The frown on his face deepened at her suggestion that all men were lechers—all the time, anyway. "First of all, cleavage doesn't just happen on its own, Bev. It's on purpose, by God. And of course that's what we have on our mind. Because it's exactly what women want us to think when your boobs are hanging out all over the place."
"That's not only a sexist thing to say, Jack, but it's chauvinistic as well." Then, less defensively, she said, "Why do men make such a big thing over boobs?"
"How the hell should I know?"
"Well, don't tell me that's not exactly what you were thinking tonight when you were looking down that little tart's blouse at dinner. You were practically drooling all over her while she made goo-goo eyes at you the whole time."
An attack of male guilt flashed over him. "What I was actually thinking about was whether or not I should thank her or just add a little something extra to the tip," he said stiffly. "And, just in case you hadn't noticed, she was a little young." He tried to make eye contact with her but she wouldn't look at him. "Any guy beyond high school would probably get twenty years in the slammer for just thinking about something like that," he groused back, sounding like a cop again.
"Tits is tits," she clucked at him flippantly, dismissing his explanation and her poor English at the same time, still miffed, no matter what he said.
"So, is that what you think we have on our mind all the time?"
"If you mean sex, yes. That's exactly what I think. We can tell what's on your mind when you get that dumb look on your face." Beverly shrugged, as if it really did not matter what she thought; men were men, they were all that way when it came to the opposite sex, and that's just how it was.
Jack shook his head. He wasn't about to win a battle that had been raging since Eve ate the Apple. And since he had already been accused of being a sexist, he decided to take a more direct approach. "So, does that mean you want to fuck Ted Davenport?"
Beverly twitched inwardly and looked directly at him now with a defiant expression, knowing he was trying to shock her. It wasn't exactly what she expected, but she wasn't shocked either and decided to retaliate.
"What if I said, yes?" she shot back, just as flippantly as he had given. Then a more provocative thought popped into her head. "Ted's enough to make any woman curious."
"Like ... well, like big." She suppressed a vengeful grin.
Jack knew she was playing with his mind now but bristled just the same. "Would you like to tell me how the hell you know that? I hope to Christ he hasn't been waving it around the room at you. Has he?"
She dared not crack the smile that was lurking just below the sober look on her face and aimed directly at his wounded ego. "As a matter of fact, he didn't have to. Susan told me. She says he's hung like a mule. And—" She purposely demurred, as if she had caught herself just in the nick of time, sure that it would add to his frustration.
"And what, for God's sake?" His voice rose, challenging, when she did not finish.
Beverly donned the half smile she often gave him when she wanted him to think she knew more than she really did. "And ... well, sometimes it's obvious," she said finally. "You can see it. Down there." Her look said she was giving up a major secret normally shared only between women. His brow arched questioningly, his green eyes flashed, shooting daggers at her. "He has this, this bulge—sometimes."
"Jesus H. Christ, Bev!" he protested. "That's obscene! The man is old enough to be your goddamned father, and he's parading around with a ... like that, in front of his wife's best friend? For God's sake! That's going too far. Not only that, but apparently you've been staring at his goddamned crotch to boot."
It was a weak attack, but she realized it was probably the best he could come up with about Ted on such short notice. In the years they had been friends, Jack never had a reason to dislike him—until now.
"I just said it's hard not to notice when ... that happens, when he gets like that." The ghost of a smile lingered on her face, the reason for it all too obvious. "And what does his age have to do with anything?" Her expression turned impish, meant to aggravate him even more, and was doing a good job of it from the look of him.
"Does this happen just around you? Or does he show off in front of all your friends—that women's social club you belong to?"
"How should I know? What a silly question. Does it really matter?" she said, as if she wasn't reason enough to cause such a display.
"Maybe it does," he answered testily. "So, what we're talking about here is this old guy, with a big schlong, that apparently turns you on. Is that it?"
Excerpted from The Magnificent Agony by Barbara Ann Barrett. Copyright © 2015 Barbara Ann Barrett. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
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Table of Contents
ContentsTHE FIRST VISIT,
THE COMMODORE'S BALL,
THE MORNING AFTER,
THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY,
THE THIRD VISIT,
THE PHONE CALL,
THE MÉNAGE À TROIS, PLUS ONE,
THE PILATES CLASS,
THE SECOND CHANCE,
THE GOOD LIFE,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Exciting and true to life with a brilliantly told story full of intrigue and mature sex
This is by no means your usual romance novel. It is a strong and compelling story that makes the reader want to turn the page is see what is coming next. The characters are so vivid and alive that it makes you think they must have been real. However, the explicit sexual content make it definitely not for the faint of heart.