Strong Silent Type(5)

By: Lorelei James


Libby kept her gaze steady and retorted, “Just as long as you understand that sharing a meal doesn’t mean we’ll be sharing a bed, Quinn McKay.”

Quinn’s hand dropped and he stepped back. “I wasn’t tryin’ to… I never thought…” He smiled with deliberate slowness. “Hell, Libby, if I woulda wanted to be in our bed again, I woulda said so up front. You probably don’t believe me, ’cause you seem to think the worst of me these days, but I didn’t fix a quick supper in exchange for a quickie.”

Heat climbed up her neck, setting her face aflame. She’d jumped to the wrong conclusion. Again. Not that Quinn pointed out her faults and failings like she’d freely done with his.

In his understated, gentle way, he said, “I’ll see you back at the house.” He hopped in his mud-covered truck and roared away.

*

Quinn had set the kitchen table with their wedding china before he’d left for town. He snagged a beer from the fridge, but hesitated before popping the top. Would Libby attribute his openness and willingness to talk to alcohol? Probably. He slid the Budweiser back on the top shelf.

Dishes washed, counters cleaned, he had nothing to do but wait. He’d gotten used to his own company in the evenings in recent months. Didn’t mean he liked it.

After turning the burner to simmer, Quinn snuck upstairs and stood in the doorway to their bedroom. The same faded wedding ring quilt adorned the brass bed. The usual explosion of pillows were piled at the head and the extra wool blanket dangled off the foot.

The room smelled the same, Libby’s cherry-almond hand lotion and a hint of wood from the cedar-lined closet. If Quinn peeled back the bedcovers, he’d catch a whiff of Libby’s apple shampoo and the underlying musky-sweet fragrance of just Libby.

He stared mindlessly, trying to remember the last time he and Libby had made love in that bed. In the months prior to their separation, they may as well have been sleeping in separate rooms.

A memory came to him, leaving him as breathless and embarrassed as he’d been at the time. Missing his wife, feeling adrift and lonely, Quinn had mustered the guts to cross the invisible line running down the center of the mattress, only to have Libby literally give him the cold shoulder. Tired of being rejected, he hadn’t bothered trying to touch her at all, in bed or out, for the next six months.

Initially, he’d blamed their lack of intimacy on a multitude of things, exhaustion, familiarity and laziness. It’d seemed weird to experiment with crazy new sexual positions when the old standbys worked so well. They both got off and wasn’t that the point of sex? Besides, the red-hot-have-to-have-you-now passion had cooled into something more comfortable over the years. Which wasn’t all bad until that comfort factor had turned into a sexual snooze-fest.

But Quinn refused to take all the blame for their fizzling—rather than sizzling—sex life. Heaven knew Libby rarely initiated lovemaking, but left the seducing up to him. Sure, once he’d stoked her fires she was a generous and enthusiastic lover, not particularly adventurous, but then again, he wasn’t exactly the hanging-from-the-chandelier wild sex type either.

If he were completely honest, things had fallen apart on the sexual front when they’d decided to try for a baby. At first it’d been fun, the carefree let’s-have-sex-all-the-time romps. But three years after Libby had stopped taking the pill, she still wasn’t pregnant.

So his practical, organized wife had drawn elaborate fertility charts. Detailed lists of when they could—and couldn’t—make love. First, she’d tossed his tighty whities and bought boxer shorts to keep his balls from getting overheated and inadvertently lowering his sperm count. Then, she’d purchased bottles of vitamins and cheerfully watched as he swallowed every blasted horse-sized pill. When that had no effect, she’d modified their diet and limited their alcohol intake. Finally, she’d insisted on sex in the missionary position only. After he ejaculated, she’d prop her hips under three pillows and stay in that pose for at least half an hour…while he wandered off to watch TV. Alone.

Eventually, sex had become just another one of his daily chores. Charts, cycles, basal temperatures, books and articles on conceiving a baby were the topics of discussion—but only at home. When another two years had passed and she hadn’t filled the heirloom bassinet with a bundle of joy, Libby had suggested they schedule an appointment with a specialist dealing with infertility.

Quinn had flat-out refused. First, because they weren’t that old. Making a baby could still happen the old-fashioned way, given time. Libby was just impatient. True, part of his refusal was masculine pride—no man wants to hear he’s got problems with his Johnson. The other part of his refusal was personal. It seemed his relationship with his wife was no longer based on love, but on his capability, or incapability, as a breeder.

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