Like sister, like brother, I thought. “That’s exactly what I said.”
“Banging her assistant where? In her bedroom? On the couch? On the kitchen table?”
Oh, damn, I’d left out one of the most important details. “No, at her office! On. Her. Desk.” I emphasized each word, still not believing it myself. “And he’s young, Ben. He’s your age!”
“Oh my God. Is he cute?”
“He actually really is. I think you’d approve.” We fell easily into conversation. I’d worried there’d be a strain between us. And there may have been, had we not had such a luscious piece of gossip to devour together. “Ben, it was kinky!”
“Tell me. Every detail.”
I gaped for a few seconds, not sure if it was cruel to bring him further into this knowledge about Norma or cruel to leave him out. “Do you really want to hear? This is your sister I’m talking about, remember.”
“And I’m forever holding this over her. Tell. Me.”
I loved hearing his voice so much. Loved hearing his enthusiasm for something. It was exactly the opposite of the somber mood I’d attributed to him in my thoughts for the last few months. It was hopeful and excited, and it kept me talking about the image that I wanted to block out. Actually, it had been a hot scene—the spanking, the garters, the dominance. Yeah. Totally hot. That was, before I really realized what I was looking at. Or, more specifically, who.
“Oh my God, this is absolutely hilarious. And he was spanking her? With his hand or a belt? I have to make sure I have the mental image right.”
“His hand, you perv.” But I laughed. Ben had always been like that—the one able to make me laugh. It was why it always surprised me that he suffered so much inside. He was jovial and carefree. How could he be hurting so bad?
“So he was spanking her like he was punishing her?”
“Yes, but she was enjoying it. Trust me.” I could still hear her moans in my head. They were so raw and primal. I had to admit I was a little jealous.
“Maybe he was giving her her birthday spankings. Thirty-five of them. And one to grow on. Though I bet it was him doing the growing.”
I laughed again, this time with a groan thrown in. I cut off sharply when I heard the sound of the office door creaking open. “Hold on, Ben. I think they’re coming out.”
I started to put my phone down but heard Ben talking so I put it back to my ear. “Please, please, please put me on speaker phone,” he begged. “I want to hear every word of this.”
I pressed speaker and dropped my cell into my lap as Norma walked toward me. Boyd hung back by the door, his eyes cast down, but my sister’s head was high and I guessed the flush of her cheeks was still from their previous activity.
“So.” At least she was as speechless as I’d been.
“So. Is Boyd joining us for dinner?” I felt bad for not addressing him directly since he wasn’t that far away, but I couldn’t look at him yet, much less talk to him.
She glanced back at him before answering. “He wasn’t planning on it.”
I wasn’t sure if that disappointed me or not. On the one hand, this was supposed to be my private birthday dinner with my sister. On the other hand, every dinner we had together was private and I wanted to know more about this secret relationship of theirs. “It seems he should at least get a free meal after that.”
“Gwen! Don’t be a bitch,” Ben chided me from my lap.
Norma recognized his voice immediately. “What was that?”
I beamed as I held up my cell phone. “Happy birthday.”
Norma grabbed the phone out of my hand and put it to her ear, even though it was still on speaker. “Ben?”
I heard him say, “Happy birthday, Sissy,” before she found the button to turn off speaker. Then his side of the conversation was lost to me, but I didn’t need to hear it. Norma’s face said everything. She was beaming and glowing and I was sure it was from more than her sexcapade.
Boyd tried to slip out of the office quietly behind us, but he stopped when he saw the tears spilling down Norma’s face.
“It’s Ben,” she said, covering the mouthpiece.
The smile he gave her read genuinely heartfelt. She didn’t have to tell him who Ben was, and that’s when I knew for sure her relationship with Boyd went beyond simple fucking.
I turned to him and forced myself to meet his eyes. “Boyd, join us for dinner.”
He smiled again, and I noticed a dimple I hadn’t seen before. “I think Norma needs to be alone with you right now.”
I took that to mean she planned to do some heavy explaining. I could live with that. But I did want to get to know the man who meant something to my sister. “Another time, then?”
He hesitated, stealing a glance at Norma who was laughing and grinning like I’d never seen her. “Sure,” he said. “If that’s what she wants.”
He caught her eye before he left, and the sizzle that I saw between them practically knocked me off my feet. If I hadn’t been convinced before then I was now—Boyd was definitely what she wanted.
The host wasn’t even out of earshot before I burst. “All right. Spill.”
It was amazing that I’d lasted as long as I had. After Norma had finished talking to Ben, I’d taken another turn with him, followed by a final speaker round. Then, when we’d hung up, I’d figured that we needed to get everything out about our brother first. We’d done that as we walked the couple of blocks to the restaurant, sharing what we’d said and he’d said and telling each other how good he sounded. How much better. How much stronger.
“He’s checking out of the facility next week,” Norma had said. “And he’s moving in with Eric. Having a boyfriend has really been the best thing for him. I think it’s going to be good now.”
It seemed a little trite to say that maybe a boyfriend was all any of us needed to heal from our past. Yet it also felt a little right. Like maybe love really did make everything better. Or maybe it was the rose-colored glasses talking. If it was, Norma seemed to be wearing a pair as deeply tinted as my own.
Now she put her napkin on her lap and spread it carefully. “Spill what, exactly?” But she gave me a teasing grin.
“Don’t toy with me. I intend to hear everything, Norma. I mean it. Ev. Ry. Thing. And go.”
“Um.” Her eyes danced around as if she could visually see her story in the air and she was flitting from one chapter to another. From one highlighted passage to the next. “I don’t know where to start.”