Can a deluxe trip aboard the most romantic train in the world save their failing marriage?
As Marnie and Guy Slade head off for the vacation of a lifetime, traveling first class from Paris to Venice, on the surface, everything seems perfect. Until Marnie sees a strange text on her husband’s phone and all the fears she’s pushed aside about their marriage make her suspect he’s having an affair. So when she meets a famous actor—and realizes he’s flirting with her!—she can’t help but be flattered by the attention.
But Guy has his own suspicions about Marnie’s long work hours and her need to rush to the phone every time work calls. And now she seems to be enjoying the attentions of this actor far too much. With jealousy suddenly flaring between them, their passions are unexpectedly rekindled thirty years after their “I do’s.”
As they tour the magnificent Louvre and dine on gourmet cuisine in the Eiffel Tower, travel through the stunning French countryside, passing from the exquisite Austrian landscape and into the dazzling city of Venice, can the beauty and magic surrounding them entice Marnie and Guy to pledge themselves to each other all over again?
Take a holiday on the Orient Express and do a little stargazing of your own in this later in life, second chance romance.
All books in the Once Again series are stand-alone stories. No cliffhangers!
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Stargazing on the Orient Express
© 2022 Jennifer Skully
“I’m not saying he’s cheating on you. But I am telling you that you need to be very careful and watch every move he makes.”
Marnie Slade tried to take her best friend’s words with a grain of salt. After all, Linda had been divorced for only six months, after discovering her husband of twenty-five years had been cheating on her with his secretary.
She and Linda met for drinks in their favorite bar in Palo Alto. Of course, Marnie had been late, another crisis nobody could handle without her input. Linda was used to her tardiness. But Marnie hated that about herself. Then people started arriving late because they expected you to be late.
“I honestly don’t think Guy is cheating,” Marnie said, her comment a habit after the last six months of Linda’s increasing rant.
Linda was just looking out for her. She was worried. But her own experience had colored her entire outlook on life. As well as her outlook on Marnie’s life.
“I didn’t think Paul was cheating either,” Linda said, eyebrows raised as if she were still completely surprised. “Until I showed up at his office one night, bringing him dinner because he was working so late. Only to find him doing that—” She spat out the word, as if she couldn’t even say what Paul had really been doing. “—on his desk with her,” spitting that word too.
Marnie had heard the story. Over and over. She still felt for her friend’s pain. But that had been a year ago, and the divorce had been final for six months. Linda had taken Paul to the cleaners, as the saying went. She got the two-and-a-half million-dollar house in Los Altos Hills, she got alimony, and she got their three kids’ undying devotion. Paul got a two-bedroom apartment, car payments, mortgages, and his kids’ revulsion. But he also got a girlfriend twenty years younger who seemed to absolutely adore him, and at the age of fifty-five, Paul Honeycutt had never seemed happier. Despite the alimony he had to pay monthly for the rest of Linda’s life. Unless she remarried. Which she never would do just to spite him.
His happiness was the lump in Linda’s throat, the ache in her heart, and the bitterness in her belly. She would have been a beautiful woman, with shoulder-length blond hair styled like Farrah Fawcett in the late 70s, exquisite blue eyes, and a trim figure, if it weren’t for the deep, angry frown lines.
Marnie listened to her friend, the woman she’d known more than forty years, since they were seventh graders at a new school when seventh grade was still the first year of junior high.
“I mean, you have to ask yourself why Guy suddenly started working out and losing weight?” Linda asked as if she hadn’t made the point before.
“I told you. It was because of his brother.” Guy’s brother Chris had died of a heart attack eight months ago. He was two years younger than Guy, only fifty-three. “That put the fear of God into him, like he was a heart attack waiting to happen too.”
Linda reached out to her, put her hand over Marnie’s on the table. “I know, I know.” She squeezed. “It was awful for him. And for you. But Guy only started losing weight four months ago. If that was the real reason, why didn’t he start before?”
“That’s only when I first noticed it,” Marnie said, knowing she sounded defensive.
“I know,” Linda said, almost gently, her voice laced with a hint of fear and something else Marnie couldn’t identify. It couldn’t be jealousy.
“He said he’d started a couple of months before that. I just didn’t see the change.”
“But wasn’t four months right after she—” Another word spat out. “—started as the new principal?”
She. Sharon Roberts, the elegant new principal at Guy’s school, who was accomplished, efficient, and only forty.
Marnie wasn’t jealous. She wasn’t worried. But she should never have told Linda that the new principal was an attractive woman. Her best friend latched onto that image as if it was the history of her own divorce replaying itself in Marnie’s marriage.
“And that woman—” Linda had such a way of lacing the word with venom. “—was young enough to be Paul’s daughter. That’s exactly what they want when they’re in a midlife crisis. They want to feel young. They want to feel like they can keep up with somebody who’s twenty or thirty or however many years younger than they are. Even if it’s only fifteen years,” she finally got around to adding, bringing the discussion back to Marnie and Guy.
They, they, they. Why did Linda always have to lump Guy together with Paul? All right, she knew why. Because Linda no longer trusted any man. And with all her talk, she’d figured out how to push Marnie’s tiny button of insecurity. Despite all Marnie’s denials, despite how many times she told Linda she absolutely was not worried about elegant and classically beautiful Sharon Roberts.
Marnie was still a good-looking woman. But she knew that people thought to themselves that she looked good for her age. At fifty-five, she had to dye the gray out of her brunette hair. She’d kept her figure, weighing exactly the same as she had on her wedding day thirty years ago. But her eyelids were a little droopy, she had those irritating lines fanning out from her lips and wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. Being CEO of a multimillion-dollar company with multinational contacts and five hundred employees working for her, she was a woman in her prime, at the pinnacle of her career. She was the main breadwinner in the family, making almost double Guy’s salary as the head of the physical education department at a private school.
Of course, he could have been principal instead of Sharon Roberts. But he’d turned that job down.
She wouldn’t think about that now, about how much it had pissed her off because he hadn’t even told her about the job opening until he’d already turned it down. She had to get past that. What’s done was done.
“Look, I really don’t want to talk about Sharon.”
“Sweetie,” Linda said with that soft, cajoling tone, as if she felt terribly sorry for her. “That’s my point exactly. If you don’t want to talk about her, it’s because you know in your gut that there’s something wrong.” She leaned in close, squeezing Marnie’s hand sympathetically. “How long has it been,” she asked quietly, “since Guy made love to you?”
That was the problem with best friends. You told them something, and they never forgot. They failed to get the hint that you didn’t want to talk about it. And Marnie did not want to talk about sex. Or Sharon. But saying that to Linda would only add fuel to the fire, and her friend would never let it go. Never. Ever.
So she gave Linda her stock answer. “You know, that’s just as much about me as it is him. Work has been a killer lately.” She held up her hands. “I was late meeting you tonight. Again. It’s never-ending. By the time I get home, I’m exhausted. Sex is the last thing on my mind.”
Not exactly true. She’d always felt like a good orgasm was a big tension reliever. It released her stress. But the few times she’d approached Guy in the last couple of months, he was too tired, or had a headache, or just plain wasn’t in the mood. All those excuses usually attributed to women. And let’s face it, sometimes she just had to take care of herself.
But she really, really, really didn’t think Guy was having an affair. He wouldn’t do that. Would he?