"I'm sure you must think I'm the most wicked thing ever."
Susanna watched her friend Alaina delicately scrape up the last bits of chocolate edging her desert plate and lift the fork to her moist lips. "Mmmm," she sighed, closing her eyes and tilting her head back slightly, savoring this final morsel of a dessert that had been meant to share between the two of them. "I just can't help wanting to have it all...even though I know I shouldn't."
If only Alaina had been speaking about this slice of chocolate torte, Susanna thought, eyeing her friend with a familiar mixture of envy and distaste. Taking the last sip of her coffee, now grown cold and murky at the bottom of her cup, Susanna replied in the way she knew Alaina expected her to.
"You're not being wicked, exactly," she ventured, wishing she had the courage to lay bare her true feelings. "But you could be setting yourself up for a lot of problems and heartache down the road with this relationship."
"Susanna, honey," Alaina said, "if I worried about what might happen 'down the road' I'd never have any kind of life at all." With a characteristic toss of her head, black hair coming to rest languorously over her shoulder, Alaina leaned across the table conspiratorially. "Besides, I just cannot ignore this marvelous chemistry between us~it's irrefutable."
Susanna sighed, having heard this tone of voice many times in the 20 years she and Alaina had been friends. Not for the first time, she wondered what had drawn the two of them together, back in Mrs. Allen's seventh grade history class. Susanna, though pretty and popular enough by junior high school standards, was certainly no match for Alaina's fiery beauty and burgeoning sensuality. Even in those simpler days, Alaina's desires were not easily sated. Susanna remembered her friend's dangerous relationship with the mechanic at Steve's Garage, who had been less than pleased when he discovered his eager girlfriend had lied about her age, and was in eighth grade at St. Andrew's. Try as she might, Susanna had been unable to convince her friend that dating a 23 year old wasn't a good idea. Green eyes alight with excitement, Alaina had merely tossed Susanna's objections aside. "Why shouldn't I do whatever makes me happy?" she said.
Alaina glanced at her watch and reached into the slim Prada handbag lying at her elbow. "Have to run," she said, placing a twenty dollar bill on the table. "I'm meeting him at the Hyatt for drinks before we head to the airport."
Susanna knew that this "he" was the latest in a long string of Alaina's forbidden lovers. Mostly older, mostly married, usually rich, and always completely smitten with her dark beauty. Susanna couldn't help but feel fascinated with this woman's ability to entice any man she wanted, and even those she didn't. There is something almost wicked about her, Susanna admitted to herself. Yet, somehow, I don't think she realizes it.
Alaina leaned down and brushed Susanna's cheek with an airy, Chanel scented kiss. "Darling, you do worry so," she admonished. "Haven't I always managed to come out of these things on top~so to speak!"
Susanna's narrowed eyes remained on Alaina's back, cutting an elegant swath around the other diners on its path to the door. "Perhaps you have," she thought, taking her cellphone from the leather case she wore attached to her belt. "But you know what they say, my wicked little friend...all good things must eventually come to an end."
Clicking through her speed dial directory, Susanna stopped at Martin's number. Dialing her husband's phone, she hoped she could catch him before he arrived at the Hyatt's lobby bar. She had a feeling he would want this conversation to be held in private.
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