Risking It All Ch. 02

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Risking it all (Ch 2)

Note to readers:

Thanks to everyone who posted comments, voted or emailed me with feedback. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts. I have tried to incorporate that advice in the second chapter of the story. A few people indicated that the story was too long and detailed. I completely understand that perspective. In retrospect, I should have posted a short preamble on the first chapter to sign post the story. I tend to write the types of stories that I would like to read. I have a strong preference for stories where the characters and storyline are more fully developed, believable and it doesn’t feel like the author is just scrambling to get to the juicy bits. For these reasons I don’t tend to write stories that run 2-3 pages. That said, I have heeded advice on the level of detail. This story can’t be read as a stand-alone, so if you haven’t read the first chapter, I encourage you to give it a go first. All the best, Ozscribe.

Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Helen Keller

I realised with sudden clarity that I had spent the past several years walking away from myself. The feeling of Chloe’s touch, seeing the desire that she had for me, listening to her cry out as I brought her to climax, were needs that I had learned to suppress. I hadn’t extinguished them altogether, but controlled them enough to make a life with Jessica bearable. I did it for a marriage that had no possibility of being salvaged and for a daughter who was too young to understand what I sacrificed. It had hurt me in ways that I am still trying to understand. But once Chloe had reawakened those desires in me there was never going to be any turning back.

Ironically, when I saw the light on in the work area outside my office – a giant fishbowl where I had just, very vocally, inseminated my young female staff member – my immediate concern was the risk discovery posed to the toxic existence I called a marriage. This reaction had little to do with a desire to salvage my relationship with my wife, but was grounded more in concern for my daughter, Christine, and the home I had painstakingly built. Why then had I taken such a brash risk with being discovered? While opportunity and temptation had certainly played their part, I must confess that I found the risk of getting caught in the act to be something of an aphrodisiac. Moreover, in my brief time with Chloe, I could tell that she suffered the same affliction. That said, I had no interest in handing out ringside tickets to the main event. I certainly did not want to become a cliche in the office as the married, middle-aged male boss nailing his stunning, younger employee.

Our apparent discovery by a workmate totally deflated my mood, but it left Chloe looking shell-shocked. The flush in her cheeks from our earlier exertions had bled away leaving behind a ghostly pallor. She looked physically ill as she hurriedly pulled on her clothes. My attempts to talk were brushed aside in her haste to leave the site of her apparent humiliation.

I was caught off-guard by her sudden change in mood. I could still feel Chloe’s touch on my skin. The echo of her moans seemed to fill the vacant space. She had lifted away the fog and shown me what I had missed. However, the years watching the void grow between my wife and I had imprinted themselves on me and seeing Chloe now withdrawing following our discovery was causing a pavlovian response. I felt the corrosive self-doubt and frustration return.

Sliding on her shoes, Chloe turned to me, concern etched on her pretty face.

“I have to go,” she finally uttered and then abruptly turned and left. I sat there on the edge of my desk and collected my thoughts, shaken more by Chloe’s actions than by the thought of having been seen by someone else. I was frustrated that the night had ended as it had. In so many ways it had been a watershed moment for me.

As I lay in bed that night I agonised over whether to text Chloe. I had been wrestling with it for over an hour when I heard the telltale tone from my phone that told me that I had received a text. The message from Chloe was brief. “I’m sorry I left like that,” she wrote.

“Can we talk?” I quickly responded.

“Not tonight, Alex,” she typed back after a short pause. “I need to get a few things straight first.”

Deflated, I bid her a good night. It would be hours before I fell into a troubled sleep.

The following Monday in the office was an uncomfortable experience. Each time one of my staff walked in to talk to me I wondered if they had been the one to see Chloe and I in my office. Yet no one came forward. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised as it would be a difficult subject to broach. But it was unsettling not knowing who had seen us or whether others would come to learn of our dalliance. I could see the anxiety etched in Chloe’s face. She looked like she hadn’t slept and she yalova escort avoided making eye contact with me as she buried herself in her work. Annie was talking to me about her selection of fascia for a housing project that she was leading, but I barely heard a word, preoccupied as I was.

I wanted to call Chloe into my office so that we could talk, but it was clear that she wasn’t ready for that. I resolved to give her the space she needed, in spite of how anxious I was to talk. But by the end of the day as I sat tensely in my car in traffic, I began to question whether I could continue without confronting the issue head on. I just wasn’t good at letting problems fester.

Finally, about five minutes away from home, I pulled the car to the side of the road and took out my phone.

“Chloe, we really need to talk,” I typed quickly.

There was a long, unnerving pause. Finally, a single word flashed up, “OK.”

I pressed the phone icon next to her name and waited for her to pick up.

Her greeting was subdued.

“Chloe, I’m really sorry this happened,” I began. “Are we OK?”

Another long pause followed.

“Is it really over with Jess? She enquired timidly.

“You know it is,” I replied a little taken aback. I thought she trusted me and it stung that she now questioned what I had shared with her about my marriage.

“Are you going to leave her?” She responded, the subtlest lilt to her voice betraying the anxiety which lay beneath the calm facade.

It was a remarkably simple question. In retrospect, I should have anticipated it. But I hadn’t. I had been so absorbed in my own concerns that I hadn’t really given any consideration to how our ‘arrangement’ would impact Chloe. The fact that she had initiated our complicated relationship and had thrown herself so willingly into her pursuit of me had led me to assume that she was comfortable with our current circumstances. But on reflection, Chloe had only shared her feelings with me after I confided in her that my marriage was over. Besides, deep down I knew that she wasn’t the kind of girl who would settle for waiting in the wings for seconds from a married man who didn’t value her. She was too intelligent and accomplished to ever allow her worth to be demeaned in that way.

The great irony of the situation was that I didn’t see Chloe as “the other woman”. I knew I was falling for her and I didn’t consider myself married. I had no relationship with Jess. We were total strangers. I felt that I was trapped in a complicated living arrangement that was about preserving my contact with my daughter and holding onto the business I had spent so long building.

However, to those around me, I was a dutiful father and husband. I was expecting Chloe to maintain our secret tryst in the interests of preserving this lie. It wasn’t fair to her.

I knew I wanted to be with her. She was caring, demonstratively affectionate in a way that Jess had never been, funny, intelligent and stunningly beautiful. Her absence made me feel the loneliness more acutely. But was I prepared to throw my life into complete disarray to be with her? Could I do it to my young daughter?

However, as quickly as the thought had occurred to me, I realised that I was coming at this the wrong way. I couldn’t be assessing whether I should separate from Jess based on how much I wanted to be with Chloe. If I made this call, it had to be because I needed to move on with my life. I also couldn’t foist this mess, or the consequences that would surely follow, onto Chloe.

“Are you there?” Chloe interjected, making me realise I had been silent for some time now.

“Chloe, I’m sorry that I haven’t been more thoughtful about how this situation is affecting you,” I began. “It all happened so fast I haven’t really thought through where things go from here.”

I tried to collect my scattered thoughts and make some sense of all of it.

“I haven’t lied to you. My relationship with Jess has been over a long time. But, the truth is I wasn’t expecting someone to come into my life and I haven’t thought through how I take the next step. None of this is your problem and I get that it is totally unfair on you. But, if I leave Jess, I will lose the house, I may have to contest custody of Christine and I could lose control of the business. I know it must seem like a cop-out, but the decision isn’t as straightforward as it seems.” I continued.

“I know, Alex,” Chloe replied sombrely.

“Chloe, I’m not trying to string you along and I don’t see this as some fling. You mean more to me than you realise and I don’t want to lose you.” I confessed. “But to come out in the open is a decision that will have a huge impact on my daughter and my staff as well as you, Jess and I.”

I felt defeated. I couldn’t find a solution and I could see that my newfound happiness would be short-lived.

The drawn out silence on the other end of the line made clear that the ball was in my court. I ran my yalova escort bayan fingers through my hair.

“Perhaps it would be better if we pause things for a while until I resolve what I do about my situation and then we can work out where we take this once we have clear air.” I suggested, resigned to the fact it was the only reasonable course of action.

“Look, I need to go,” Chloe said abruptly. “I’ll talk to you later.” Without waiting for a response, she hung up.

I sat in stony silence as the reality settled in. Just a week ago I had been happier than I had been in many years. My business was flourishing and I had found someone who cared for me and enjoyed my company. One person was the common denominator in both and I had just pushed her away.

About ten minutes later the phone rang again. Relief flooded me as I picked up the phone.

“Hi Chloe” I began.

“Sorry Alex, it’s Matthew. Is this a bad time?” the Corilion CEO interrupted.

My elation evaporated and I settled back in my seat. “Hi Matthew, how can I help you?”


Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,

And each will wrestle for the mastery there.

Johann von Goethe

As is my way, I replayed my conversation with Chloe over and over, dissecting every missed step and mulling what I could have said that would have made a difference to the outcome. I was frustrated. I didn’t want things to end with Chloe and I felt trapped by my situation.

It wasn’t simply the physical aspects of the relationship I sought. I had never been the type to play the field, preferring instead to find that connection with someone that would elevate those fleeting moments of pleasure to an almost spiritual plane. Against the odds I had found someone who had moved quickly from being an employee to a friend, to something much deeper, and I was letting it slip away.

With no clue as to how to proceed in my personal life I fell back into old habits and channeled all my energy into my work. The months that followed the uncomfortable resolution with Chloe were to be some of my most productive.

The Carillion board were tying themselves up in knots with changes to my original design. Their deliberations left me unexpectedly free to pick up other projects. Chloe’s suggestion that I place greater responsibility on my design team had paid massive dividends and transformed the way I worked. I was able to leave them to pick up whole projects for smaller clients, while I took on the concept designs for large projects where the clients expected my direct involvement.

Chloe, ever the opportunist, had actively marketed the company’s engagement in the Carillion project. Her efforts had netted a number of large corporate clients with an eye for unique design and a budget to match.

The first project was a resort complex to be built in Wooyung Beach in Northern New South Wales. While the area was relatively isolated it was situated between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, two of the premier beach destinations on the east coast of Australia. The complex was targeted at the middle-income bracket and, like the Carillion project, was intended to blend in with the landscape. However, the site report indicated that it was windswept, with little topography and a rambling cover of low brush. Matching a resort design to that aesthetic was going to be challenging.

The second project was a major renovation and expansion of a run-down colonial brick homestead in Eden Valley to house a tasting room, fromagerie, high-end restaurant and accommodation. The house looked down over a large dam that was ringed by shiraz and riesling vines, providing a solid platform on which to build.

The winery project was the most urgent, with the owners hoping to break ground in a little over six months so that they could open their doors in just under two years when their new vintage was ready for sale. The plans would need the requisite approvals so I was under the pump to get proofs to them quickly. With everything else going on, that suited me just fine.

I cocooned myself in my home office with the photos and site report and began sketching. I tried to convince myself that my decision to work from home was about ensuring I could focus on work and not about avoiding seeing Chloe. She didn’t ask to come to my home for our usual work meetings and I didn’t go out of my way to invite her.

Whether I found focus because of the need to distract myself or the project just resonated with me I’m uncertain, but the concept designs that I put together were some of my best work. The team were very excited by the sketches I had developed and I was genuinely excited about sharing them with the client. However, my initial conversations with the winery owner left me with the strong impression that she was unable to conceptualise the whole project from the sketches and escort yalova rough schematics, so I made the decision to bring in an artist to develop architectural renderings to more clearly convey my intention.

A mutual friend put me onto Jaimie. He had experience with structural design work and his portfolio was impressive. I offered him a contract for the winery job with a view to a part-time position with us if the work continued to require his talents. I’m guessing that work must have been slow for him as he eagerly jumped at the opportunity.

I invited him to my place and we talked through the concept designs, discussing which aspects of the build we wanted to draw attention to. He hastily sketched some outlines so that I could see whether I was comfortable with the impressions that he would pull together. Seeing the way he worked I questioned why I hadn’t done this earlier. Marketing our product was critical to the business and I now understood that I had been too dependent on word of mouth. The photo realism of Jaimie’s renderings could expand the appeal of my business.

I reluctantly made the trip into the office to show Jaimie around, make introductions and get him settled in. Immediately I could see he was popular with the female staff. He was a similar height to me with a swimmer’s build. He dressed smartly in slate grey dress pants, with his form hugging, tailored white shirt highlighting his strong physique. His rolled-up sleeves and long wavy blonde hair gave him a casual air and more than one set of eyes was drawn to him as we walked through the office.

Chloe seemed ill at ease in my presence, drawing away when our eyes met fleetingly. It was then that I noticed Jaimie staring fixatedly at Chloe. While his introductions to the other staff had been largely perfunctory, Jaimie found some lame pretext to draw out the conversation with Chloe. I found myself getting irritated by the way he was fawning over her. Chloe was polite, but I could see the tension in her while standing under my gaze.

When I finally pared Jaimie away, I set him up at a vacant desk and spoke to one of the administrative staff about sourcing the materials he would need. I then retreated to my office to have some long overdue meetings with the design and building teams.

When I next looked up around noon, I saw Jaimie sitting across the edge of Chloe’s desk, deep in conversation. She smiled sweetly as he spoke and I felt my heart lodge in my throat. I tried unsuccessfully to return my focus to my work. After half an hour of pointless struggle to get over my jealousy, I threw my pen down in frustration and sat back in my chair rubbing my temples. I needed to get out of here.

On a whim, I called my best mate, Brett, to see if he was able to meet up for a beer after work. I just wanted the company of a friendly face who had nothing to do with my current predicament. I also wanted the oblivion that comes at the bottom of a socially unacceptable number of pints. Brett was always keen to bend an arm and suggested that he get his partner to drop us at the local bar so that we didn’t have to worry about the cars when we inevitably had too much to drink.

At 4:30pm on the dot, Jen swung by my office in her pink Toyota Yaris, with Brett riding shotgun. He had come to terms long ago with the endless shit he copped over being driven around in one of the world’s girliest cars. His son, Henry, was busy playing some video game and barely acknowledged me as I got in the back next to him. To Henry I was Uncle Alex and my presence was nothing new, and certainly nothing that would merit his eyes leaving the screen.

Jen was her usual ebullient self. We had all joked that Brett had been seriously punching above his weight when he started dating Jen after his separation from Henry’s mum. But to be honest, that wasn’t a slight on Brett. Anyone who hooked a girl like Jen would have been counting his blessings. At 5 foot 4 inches tall she was just shy of a foot shorter than Brett, but what she lacked in height she made up for with how that diminutive frame was put together. She was a bit of a fitness junky and she was firm, yet curved in all the right places. Her perky breasts, which while not huge, were certainly large for her small frame, nicely filled the figure-hugging blouses that she frequently wore. There wasn’t a split end to be found in her long, silky chestnut hair and I’m a little ashamed to admit that more than once I visualised it cascading down over her naked body.

Once at the bar, we took up residence in our usual nook. The place, which had become a second home, had a reasonable list of local beers, but lacked the pretentious airs of the boutique enterprises across town that flogged exorbitantly priced ‘tasting paddles’ to their naive, manscaped clientele. I ordered the first round of pints and we caught each other up on the happenings in our lives. As the conversation moved to our long list of grievances with the direction the coaching staff were taking with our beloved Carlton Football Club, I polished off my third pint. Brett looked at the now empty glass, with barely an inch gone from the top of his second pint and he looked more carefully at me.

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