BookBrowse Note: This excerpt contains some explicit sexual content.
Bud Mitchell drove his Ford Explorer along Dune Road. Up ahead was a sign that said CUPSOGUE BEACH COUNTY PARKOPEN DAWN TO DUSK. It was dusk, but Bud drove through an empty parking field, on the far side of which was a wide nature trail, partially blocked by a roll-up fence. A sign said NO VEHICLES.
He said to the woman sitting in his passenger seat, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Jill Winslow replied, "Yes. It's exciting."
Bud nodded without enthusiasm. He skirted around the fence and continued on in four-wheel drive along the sandy trail flanked by high, grass-covered dunes.
Having extramarital sex should have been exciting enough for both of them, he thought, but Jill didn't see it that way. For her, cheating on her husband was only worth it if the sex, romance, and excitement were better than at home. For him, the taboo of having sex with another man's wife was the turn-on.
Somewhere around his fortieth birthday, Bud Mitchell had come to the startling conclusion that women were different. Now, five years later and two years into this affair, he realized that Jill's fantasies and his weren't communicating very well. Still, Jill Winslow was beautiful, willing, and most important, she was someone else's wife, and she wanted to keep it that way. For him, safe sex meant having it with a married woman.
An added kick for Bud was that he and his wife, Arlene, traveled in the same social circles as Jill and her husband, Mark. When the four of them were together at a social function, Bud felt the opposite of awkward or guilty; he felt terrific, his ego knew no bounds, and he reveled in his secret knowledge that he had seen every inch of the beautiful Jill Winslow's naked body.
But, it wasn't that secret, of course, or it wouldn't have been so much fun. Early in the affair, when they were both nervous about getting caught, they'd sworn to each other that they wouldn't tell anyone. Since then, they'd both hinted that they'd had to confide in close friends solely for the purpose of providing cover stories for their absences from home and hearth. Bud always wondered who of her friends knew, and at social gatherings he had fun trying to guess.
They had driven in separate cars from their homes on Long Island's Gold Coast, about fifty-five miles from Westhampton, and Jill had parked in a village lot where they'd rendezvoused, then driven to a hotel together in Bud's Explorer. At the hotel, Bud had asked her what her cover story was and gotten a one-word answer, so he asked again, "Where are you tonight?"
"Dinner with a girlfriend who has a place in East Hampton. Shopping tomorrow." She added, "That part is true, since you have to get home in the morning."
"The friend is cool with this?"
She let out an exasperated breath. "Yes. Don't worry about it."
"Okay." Bud noticed that she never asked about his cover story, as if the less she knew, the better. He volunteered, "I'm deep-sea fishing with friends. Bad cell phone reception on the ocean."
Bud Mitchell understood that in their own way, both he and Jill loved their slightly boring spouses, they loved their children, and their comfortable upper-middle-class lives. They also loved each other, or said they did, but not enough to chuck everything to be together seven days a week. Three or four times a month seemed to be good enough.
The trail ended at a sand dune, and Bud stopped.
Jill said, "Go toward the beach."
Bud turned off the sandy trail toward the ocean.
The Explorer descended a gradual slope through brush and sea grass as he steered around a high dune. He stopped on the far side of the dune where the vehicle couldn't be seen from the trail. His dashboard clock read 7:22.
Copyright © 2004 by Nelson DeMille
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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