“Your Bettie Page imitation?”

“Do you like it?”

Judging from the speed with which he shed his shirt, he did. He strolled across the room to her, a bare-chested blond god with an arrogant cast to his features, a sculpture of ancient aristocracy come to life. A touch of his fingertips on her shoulders brought her closer, and as those fingers traveled a light course down her back, her own splayed over the muscles of his chest, honed to god-perfection four times a week in the gym. She looked up, catching his haughty stare. She swore he had been born out of time; he’d have been right at home in a moderately wealthy, old-money family, minding social mores to the T and not able to see below the social rung on which he stood.

He brought one hand up to brush the strap of her slip from her shoulder…and paused as a wail traveled down the hallway from their daughter’s room.

“You can ignore it for a while; she’ll go back to sleep.”

Deanna sighed. “No, I’d better go see to her. She won’t stop.” And it would only annoy him as her cries ululated down the architectural sound tunnel that was their upstairs hallway, killing the mood. “It shouldn’t take long.”

He bent and pressed a promising kiss on her lips. “I’ll be waiting.”

Please let her still be half asleep, Deanna prayed, yanking on her robe and tying the sash as she padded barefoot to Madison’s room. She peeked in on Blaine first in the room next to the baby’s nursery; her four-year-old son was sprawled across his bed sideways, but he was still covered so she didn’t disturb him. She’d be lucky if he stayed asleep with all of Maddy’s squalling.

She pushed the lever of the dimmer switch up slightly, and the lamp on Madison’s dresser brightened. The baby stood at the rail of her crib, and her distress was obvious: vomit spilled down the front of her blanket sleeper and was smeared across her face and into her bright hair. Great. Blaine’s summer ‘flu had made its next conquest.

More than an hour passed before she made it back to her own bedroom. Maddy had been bathed and tucked into clean pajamas, the crib cleansed and fitted with fresh bedding, the soiled bedding stuffed into the washer in the tiny laundry room just off the nursery, and her hands properly disinfected – Perry was positively fanatic about germs. No doubt he had already disinfected his own hands and the doorknobs in their bedroom, and was now reading a novel/newspaper/nonfiction tome that would impress some client, impatiently waiting for her to return.

She wrapped herself around the doorjamb, striking another pinup pose as she let her robe fall to the floor. But there was no reaction from Perry. A glance over her shoulder at the bed showed her why.

Perry was fast asleep.

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