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Книга Third Degree. Страница 22

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“Did you pay for it?”

“No. I downloaded it off LimeWire. And it’s not really hidden, you know. I made the folder invisible so Grant or Beth wouldn’t stumble onto it if they booted up my computer. By next year, Grant will know how to find that kind of folder.”

Warren’s eyes jerked right and left; he was probably scanning thumbnail images of her explicit video clips. He bit his upper lip, looking angry and disturbed. “Why haven’t you ever told me you look at this stuff?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t think you’d be interested.”

He snorted. “You know that’s not true.”

“Look…I know you, okay? I didn’t think you’d like me looking at that kind of thing by myself.”

His eyes remained riveted to the screen. “Why do you look at it by yourself?”

“Why do you look at porn by yourself?”

He shrugged as though the answer were self-evident. “That’s different.”


“I’m a guy.”

She couldn’t believe it. “So?”

“So I just use it to masturbate.”

“I see.” She waited a few moments. “What do you think I do with it?”

His eyes opened wider. “Are you serious?”

“What else would I do with it?”

Warren wrestled silently with this for a while. “How long have you been doing this?”

“Since it got easy to get video clips like those online.”

“So you’ve been unsatisfied for that long.”

Of course I have, for God’s sake, she replied in the silence of her head. And you should have known that long before you found my porn cache. You would have known, if you’d paid any attention at all. But what she said aloud, considering the gun and Warren’s fragile mental state, was “Haven’t you always masturbated?”

He nodded rigidly.

“Have you been unsatisfied with me all that time?”

“No. But I’m a guy.”


“I mean, of course I’d like to do it more often. I just…you don’t seem like you want to, so I don’t push it.”

She wasn’t sure how to respond. For the past three or four months, Warren had hardly touched her, yet he seemed to be speaking as though this sexual dry spell had not occurred. She decided to take a chance. It was a risk, but if she played doormat and acquiesced to everything he said, he wouldn’t believe she was telling the truth about anything. “That’s not very perceptive. Haven’t you ever noticed that after you finish, I still want more?”

“Not really. You never come out and say that.”

“That’s because I don’t want to hurt your feelings, in case you can’t perform again right away. But I’ve tried to show you.”

“Well, no guy can do it again right away.”

She nodded, though she knew this assertion to be untrue. “I’m sure you’re right.”

Warren’s eyes hardened with suspicion. “Are you?”

“I don’t have much to compare you to, as you know.”

“So you told me. To tell you the truth, I never really believed the number you gave me. Not deep down. How many people did you really sleep with before me?”

Here we go. “Warren…do you see why I don’t talk to you about these things? I’m trying to be honest with you, and the first thing you do is accuse me of lying even before we got married.”

He stared at her a long time before replying, “This isn’t spontaneous honesty. You’re caught in a lie already. And you’re trying to sell me a bill of goods.”

“Two men before you,” she said flatly. “Two boys, actually.” God, don’t strike me dead, she thought, as Warren looked down and clicked the mouse again. Cries and groans came from the laptop’s tiny speakers, as though miniature humans were copulating inside the carbon-fiber case.

Warren would have freaked out at any number higher than two, and even that made him nervous. It bothered him no end that he hadn’t taken her virginity, but at least he understood that. Everyone had to lose it to somebody, and that wasn’t usually the best sexual experience anyway. But the “second guy” had always worried him. Warren wanted to know exactly how many times she’d had sex with him, and every act she’d ever tried with him. Laurel had strained her imagination to invent a bland physical relationship with a college boyfriend of six months, someone from a Northern state whom they would never run into in the future. After seeing Warren’s reaction to even this small “revelation,” it hadn’t taken a brain surgeon to figure out that it was best to banish her other partners to the female Bermuda Triangle of “never happened.” After all, it wasn’t as if she’d slutted around or anything. She’d held on to her virginity until eighteen, which was a record in her high school class. But during college she’d had a couple of inebriated hookups that went further than she’d initially planned. Handsome boys she had screwed on the first date, for no reason other than she was lonely and they’d made her feel good and she just by God wanted sex.

Then there was the architecture professor she’d slept with for eight months, all on the DL because he was married. Warren would have lost it over that. The affair had been Laurel’s real initiation into sex, and if she had left any corner of her body or psyche unexplored, it wasn’t for lack of trying. She’d actually tried a few things she learned in that relationship on Warren, and sometimes they’d worked, after a fashion. But anything really edgy always brought probing postcoital questions, so she’d stopped experimenting. She had mistakenly thought he’d be glad for the variety, but Warren was different from most men. Or maybe most men were more like Warren than she knew. Twelve years of faithful marriage had effectively removed her from the research pool.

She’d had no trouble telling Danny about her sexual past. He wouldn’t have minded if she’d slept with a half dozen or more men before him, so long as she ended up with him. In that relationship, she was the insecure one. Danny had made love with women all over the world, and no matter how much he said to boost her confidence, Laurel felt that she could never outdo the exotic courtesans who now populated her mind. But then trying to was half the fun.

“God,” Warren exclaimed, breaking her reverie, “some of this stuff is sick.

Laurel felt herself blush. “I’m human, okay?”

“This stuff turns you on?”

“Some of it wasn’t what I thought, based on the file names. But most of it does, yes.”

Warren looked at his wife as though seeing her for the first time. “Do it right now, then.”



She searched his face for sarcasm but found none. “You’re joking, right?”

“Not at all.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m dead serious, Laurel. We’ve been married twelve years, and I’ve never seen you do that. Not for real. Today seems as good a day as any.”

“I’m not going to do that, Warren. I couldn’t anyway.”

“Why not?”

She closed her eyes, then screamed her answer at nearly full volume: “Because I’m duct-taped like a fucking Al Qaeda terrorist and you’re holding a gun on me! How about that for starters?”

Warren remained unmoved. “From what I see in these videos, you ought to like the idea.”

“Sorry, wrong girl.”

“Maybe so,” he said softly. “I don’t know you at all, do I? You’ve never really been honest with me.”

She looked hard into his eyes. “You never wanted me to be honest. Not really.”

He drew back, then looked away. “How often do you do it? Play with yourself, I mean.”

In Laurel’s experience, if she wasn’t having much sex, she felt little need to masturbate. She would have thought the opposite would be true, that during dry spells she would need to do it more, but she’d found that the reverse applied to her. It was when she was being well looked after that she needed constant release, whether she had access to her lover or not. After she became involved with Danny, masturbation had become as important a part of her sex life as intercourse. On days they couldn’t meet, it was essential, and when they could meet, she sometimes did it just to warm up for the rendezvous, so that he wouldn’t be ahead of her on the arousal curve. Then they could share everything equally from the beginning.


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