The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena Read Online (FREE)
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Anne can feel the acid churning in her stomach and creeping up her throat; her head is swimming. She’s had too much to drink. Cynthia has been topping her up all night. Anne had meant to keep herself to a limit, but she’d let things slide—she didn’t know how else she was supposed to get through the evening. Now she has no idea how much wine she’s drunk over the course of this interminable dinner party. She’ll have to pump and dump her breast milk in the morning.
Anne wilts in the heat of the summer night and watches her hostess with narrowed eyes. Cynthia is flirting openly with Anne’s husband, Marco. Why does Anne put up with it? Why does Cynthia’s husband, Graham, allow it? Anne is angry but powerless; she doesn’t know how to put a stop to it without looking pathetic and ridiculous. They are all a little tanked. So she ignores it, quietly seething, and sips at the chilled wine. Anne wasn’t brought up to create a scene, isn’t one to draw attention to herself.
Cynthia, on the other hand . . .
All three of them—Anne, Marco, and Cynthia’s mild-mannered husband, Graham—are watching her, as if fascinated. Marco in particular can’t seem to take his eyes off Cynthia. She leans in a little too close to Marco as she bends over and fills his glass, her clingy top cut so low that Marco’s practically rubbing his nose in her cleavage.
Anne reminds herself that Cynthia flirts with everyone. Cynthia has such outrageous good looks that she can’t seem to help herself.
But the longer Anne watches, the more she wonders if there could actually be something going on between Marco and Cynthia. Anne has never had such suspicions before. Perhaps the alcohol is making her paranoid.
No, she decides—they wouldn’t be carrying on like this if they had anything to hide. Cynthia is flirting more than Marco is; he is the flattered recipient of her attentions. Marco is almost too good-looking himself—with his tousled dark hair, hazel eyes, and charming smile, he’s always attracted attention. They make a striking couple, Cynthia and Marco. Anne tells herself to stop it. Tells herself that of course Marco is faithful to her. She knows he is completely committed to his family. She and the baby are everything to him. He will stand by her no matter what—she takes another gulp of wine—no matter how bad things get.
But watching Cynthia drape herself over Marco, Anne is becoming more and more anxious and upset. She is still more than twenty pounds overweight from her pregnancy, six months after having the baby. She thought she’d be back to her pre-pregnancy figure by now, but apparently it takes at least a year. She must stop looking at the tabloids at the grocery-store checkout and comparing herself to all those celebrity moms with their personal trainers who look terrific after mere weeks.