“Yeah.” He took two steps toward the kitchen door and stopped when Christian flicked a glance at Deanna. He backtracked, dropping a perfunctory kiss on her cheek. And then they were gone.

Deanna stood where they’d left her, Perry’s kiss an afterthought that lay cold on her cheek. Not her husband’s afterthought, but Christian’s.

No, Perry Adams wasn’t always a nice man.

Labor Day

The last thing Deanna felt like doing was hostessing a barbeque – especially Perry’s definition of a barbeque. She longed to throw a backyard bash where everyone ate ribs with their fingers and all faces were smeared with barbeque sauce; where tables groaned under homemade potato and macaroni salads, corn on the cob, baked beans, chips, dip, and desserts galore; where croquet and badminton and miniature golf and flag football were played with abandon from midday until well after dark; where adults gathered around the outdoor fireplace at midnight, swigging beer and scotch and laughing as raucously as the children had all day long.

Instead, she surveyed her backyard with resignation. Oh, it was beautiful, she couldn’t deny that. Fairy lights strung in the ornamental trees softly lit the grounds. Round tables had been delivered that morning and were draped in white linen, floating ghosts in the twilight gently lit with elaborately decorated candle centerpieces. A battery of caterers manned huge stainless steel grills where kebabs of chicken or seafood and vegetables sizzled; or wound their way through the crowd, refilling wine glasses with Blush Noir or Pinot Grigio from brands whose prices had made her blanch; or carried plates of kebabs on beds of rice pilaf and garnished with sprigs of fresh basil.

Men in slacks and button up shirts under sweaters and women in casual evening dresses and elegant shawls gossiped casually and discreetly at their tables. The resulting collective murmur was a discordant hum that gave Deanna the insane urge to throw some shitkicker music on the hifi and crank it to a decibel that could be heard in Moses Lake just to drown out the polite cacophony.

Instead, she leaned against the jamb of the French doors that opened onto the patio, assuring herself that no one was being neglected – save by her – and making hushed requests to the caterers as needed.

“It looks very nice, Deanna,” said Christian, pausing at her elbow. Deanna shot him a look of surprise.

“Thank you, Christian.”

She shifted, the beaded bodice of her cocktail dress scraping against the jamb. She hoped none of the beads broke loose; there were several snark specialists amongst her guests who would be happy to speed along the grapevine how crass it was that Deanna Adams wore a dress that was virtually falling off her body; and then they would speculate at how many other functions she must have worn it to bring it to such a shabby state, when in fact Deanna had purchased it only the day before.

He stood silent beside her for another moment, looking out over the backyard and patio, but she didn’t delude herself that it was for her benefit. He was simply cataloging who was where, and with whom he most needed to network. A consummate businessman, was Christian, but – and she would never admit this to either Christian or Perry – one cut from a finer, more sophisticated cloth than her husband.

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