Andrew wondered what his wife was thinking. Sam’s second set was nearly over and then it would be time to go home. Carla seemed a little distant tonight. To be honest, she’d seemed a little distant for the past couple of months. As if her heart wasn’t in anything right now. He wrapped a lock of her chestnut hair around his finger and she turned to look at him, her eyes warm and promising. Okay, her heart had been into something. She’d been incredibly horny. Even for her. Every time he touched her, she was quivering with excitement. Not that he had a problem with that, except for keeping up with her, but it made him wonder what was going on in her head.
Forty-two years old, chief financial officer of a regional magazine, and owner of a large four bedroom house with a four car garage and more than enough income to afford it. He had a beautiful, eager wife, and a very talented best friend, but something was missing. Maybe it wasn’t Carla who was distant. Maybe it was him.
Sam ended his set with the usual flourish and Carla leaped out of her seat applauding. Unable to resist her, the rest of the crowd joined in. Andrew glanced around the Firehouse Bookstore and Coffee Shop. Sometimes he suspected the only thing keeping Carla’s little shop in the black was her personality. The location sucked. This little city rolled up its sidewalks at five thirty, transferring all the action to the suburbs. When Carla set her heart on turning the city’s original firehouse into a bookstore and coffee shop, he couldn’t refuse her. Her friend Lydia couldn’t refuse when Carla had asked her to run the coffee shop and Sam couldn’t refuse when she asked him to help her book talent. Carla had even lured two people from the local chain bookstore to operate the books and magazines.
Andrew stood and followed Carla to the stage. The eyes of every man in the room following her too. Curvy and soft in jeans and a pink cashmere sweater, he knew many of them were imagining her in nothing but bed sheets. She threw her arms around Sam’s neck and gave him a smacky kiss on the cheek. “You were marvelous!” she declared.
“Thanks.” Sam wrapped his arm around her waist and turned back to the person he had been speaking to before Carla broke in.
If any other man had done that, Andrew would have claimed her back immediately, but he’d been friends with Sam since high school. Sam had carte blanche to flirt with Carla all he wanted. Watching them now, Andrew wondered if they were having an affair. Sam’s hand seemed tight on her waist and Carla’s head leaned on his shoulder so familiarly. She had her hand on his stomach as she smiled at what the patron was saying about the show. A lot of things about Sam could be attractive. He had charm and was the best blues guitarist in the city, possibly the state. Of course, his bank balance didn’t show that. In order to be wealthy as a professional musician, Sam would have had to be a lot luckier than he was. At forty-two, Sam didn’t have much to show for his years of devotion to his craft.
Andrew just couldn’t see Carla having an affair. She’d been too libidinous lately to be burning off any passion anywhere else.
Unless she was just thinking about it.
A cold lump jelled in his belly. They had been married for nineteen years and she was the bright spot in his universe. Everything he did, he did for her. He wanted her to be happy, even if that meant being with someone else, but he couldn’t imagine what he would do with the rest of his life without her.
“What’s the matter?” Carla slipped away from Sam, without interrupting his conversation. She put her hands on Andrew’s shoulders, concern filling her hazel eyes. They looked so green tonight. Her fingers brushed across his cheek. “Sweetheart, is everything okay?”
“It’s fine.” Smiling, he gathered himself before he spoke again. He hated stammering like some lovesick teenager, but emotion choked him tonight. “I just love you.”
“Just? Well, I just love you too.” She stretched up on her toes and kissed him. Her lips opened against his drawing his tongue into her mouth, hot and soft in his arms. Bending her knee, she rubbed her leg along his.
He started calculating the exact number of minutes until he could be alone with her and wondering about his own rule against having sex in the store’s office.
“That’s lovely, you two. You recall there’s an audience,” Sam said.
Carla released Andrew from her spell with a lingering look that promised more later before turning to Sam. “Jealous?”
Sam smirked. “Maybe a little. But I think I’m gonna have something going on myself pretty soon.”
He leaned toward Carla with a devilish grin. “Yeah, I’m involved in a very serious flirtation with the mice in my apartment.”
“Oh Sam!” Carla shoved his face away, giggling. She turned back to Andrew. “Why do you subject me to this man’s presence?”
“Because you love him almost as much as you love me,” Andrew pointed out.
“Carla.” Dana, the store manager, broke in. “We need some help at the register.”
“Oh good. I love to run the register.” Carla slipped away from Andrew’s arms and bounced toward the front of the store.
“Mice?” Andrew asked. He grabbed a cable and started winding it up.
“I thought it had a nice ring to it. The new neighbors brought some critters with them. They also have regularly scheduled fights.” Sam looked at his watch. “If I hurry home I can still catch the finale. I love to listen to them make up. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Almost rattles the pictures off the wall.”
“Sounds great. Why don’t you move out of that tenement?”
“Because I can’t afford it, Daddy Warbucks. Unless you want me living in your basement.” Sam closed the guitar case. His long black hair slid forward to cover his face.
“I can remod–”
“But it’s a big–”
“Carla would love–”
Sam picked up his two acoustic guitar cases and carried them to the door. When he returned, he leveled a glare at Andrew. “Listen, I don’t want your charity. I made my bed and I’m going to sleep in it. With the mice.” He rolled his brown eyes. “It’s not like you and Carla aren’t already subsidizing my lifestyle with this crazy gig.”
Andrew frowned. He wrapped up the rest of the electrical cords to the various mikes and speakers and dropped them into Sam’s bag. The store was emptying out. They timed the shows that way. People shopped around before the music started. Once it ended, some of them milled around a little more, but mostly they took their finds to the register to pay before heading home. Andrew heard Carla at the register. She had a gift for chatting with people for the length of time it took to ring up and bag their purchase and then shuffling them off for the next customer without anyone feeling rushed or forced to wait. By the time they loaded all of Sam’s gear into his van, the line had dwindled to the last few customers and it was almost time to lock up.
“Good night, gang,” Carla called back from the door as Andrew escorted her out into the bitterly cold February air. A chorus of farewells followed them until the doors closed. “Great show tonight, wasn’t it? Everybody seemed to have a really good time.”
“Spent a lot of money too.”
“I noticed that. Maybe we’ll do better than break even this month.” Carla grinned up at him. “We should celebrate.”
“Oh?” Andrew raised an eyebrow as he ushered her into the car.
“I have a plan.”
Thanks and good luck!