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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: Chapter 34


I PUT ON A RISQUÉ dress that showed just a little too much cleavage, and I drove up Hillcrest Road with Harry.

He pulled over to the side, and I moved toward him. I’d stuck with nude lipstick, because I knew red would be pushing it. I was careful to control the elements enough but not too much, because I didn’t want it to look perfect. I wanted to be sure the photo wouldn’t look staged. I needn’t have been worried. Pictures speak very loudly. In general, we can almost never shake what we see with our eyes.

“So how do you want to do this?” Harry said.

“Are you nervous?” I asked him. “Have you kissed a woman before?”

Harry looked at me as if I was an idiot. “Of course I have.”

“Have you ever made love to one?”

“Once.”

“Did you like it?”

Harry thought. “That one’s harder to answer.”

“Pretend I’m a man, then,” I said. “Pretend you have to have me.”

“I can kiss you unprompted, Evelyn. I don’t need you to direct me.”

“We have to be doing it long enough that when they come by, it looks like we’ve been here for a while.”

Harry messed up his hair and pulled at his collar. I laughed and messed mine up, too. I pushed one shoulder off my dress.

“Ooh,” Harry said. “It’s getting very racy in here.”

I pushed him away, laughing. We heard a car coming up behind us, the headlights shining ahead.

Panicked, Harry grabbed me by both arms and kissed me. He pressed his lips hard against mine, and just as the car passed us, he ran one hand through my hair.

“I think it was just a neighbor,” I said, watching the car’s rear lights as it made its way farther up the canyon.

Harry grabbed my hand. “We could do it, you know.”

“What?”

“We could get married. I mean, as long as we’re gonna pretend to do it, we could really do it. It’s not so crazy. After all, I love you. Maybe not the way a husband is supposed to love a wife but enough, I think.”

“Harry.”

“And . . . what I told you yesterday about wanting a wife. I’ve been thinking, and if this works, if people buy it . . . maybe we could raise a family together. Don’t you want to have a family?”

“Yes,” I said. “Eventually, I think I do.”

“We could be great for each other. And we won’t just give up when the bloom falls off the rose, because we already know each other better than that.”

“Harry, I can’t tell if you’re serious.”

“I’m dead serious. At least, I think I am.”

“You want to marry me?”

“I want to be with someone I love. I want to have a companion. I’d like to bring someone home to my family. I don’t want to live alone anymore. And I want a son or a daughter. We could have that together. I can’t give you everything. I know that. But I want to raise a family, and I’d love to raise one with you.”

“Harry, I’m cynical and I’m bossy, and most people would consider me vaguely immoral.”

“You’re strong and resilient and talented. You’re exceptional inside and out.”

He had really thought about this.

“And you? And your . . . proclivities? How does that work?”

“The same as it has with you and Rex. I do what I do. Discreetly, of course. You do what you do.”

“But I don’t want to continue to have affairs my entire life. I want to be with someone I’m in love with. Someone who’s in love with me.”

“Well, that I can’t help you with,” Harry said. “For that one, you have to call her.”

I looked down at my lap, stared at my fingernails.

Would she take me back?

She and John. Me and Harry.

It could actually work. It could work so beautifully.

And if I couldn’t have her, did I want anyone else? I was pretty sure that if I couldn’t have her, all I wanted was a life with Harry.

“OK,” I said. “Let’s do it.”

Another car came up behind us, and Harry grabbed me again. This time, he kissed me slowly, passionately. When a guy jumped out of his car with a camera, Harry pretended, just for a split second, that he didn’t see him and slipped his hand down the top of my dress.

The image printed in the papers the next week was tawdry, scandalous, and shocking. It showed us with swollen faces and looks of guilt, Harry’s hand clearly on my breast.

The next day, everyone was printing headlines that Joy Nathan was pregnant.

The four of us were the talk of the nation.

Unscrupulous, unfaithful, lustful sinners.

Carolina Sunset set a record for the longest stay in theaters. And to celebrate our divorce, Rex and I shared a pair of dirty martinis.

“To our successful union,” Rex said. And then we clinked our glasses and drank.


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