Read Deeper Illusions Online

Authors: Annie Jocoby

Deeper Illusions

 

Deeper Illusions

Annie Jocoby

 

 

 

 

 

Deeper Illusions

Annie Jocoby

 

 

 

 

Chapter One                                                                                                                                              
Iris

It was the Friday after Ryan had asked me to marry him over breakfast, and
Ryan and I made plans for Nick and his wife, Rielle, to join us for dinner at our house. Now that I had a ring on my finger, I finally accepted that the house was “ours.” Funny, Ryan deeding the house to me as a joint owner didn’t make me feel that the house was “ours.”

The ring made all the difference.

I was nervous, so I drank some wine before they arrived. Ryan noticed me looking nervous, and put his arm around me protectively.

I smiled. “Don’t worry, I'm fine. This is a first, though, I must admit.”

He nodded. “Nick is a great guy. I promise you, you'll love him. And he, you.”

“Does Nick, uh. Does he, uh.” I blushed scarlet.

“Use your words,” Ryan teased.

“Does he love you?”

“As a friend, of course. But I've a feeling that's not what you're asking.”

I nodded.

“We've talked about that. We do have feelings for each other, I'm not going to lie. But it's different than how I feel about you, and how he feels about Rielle. I hope that makes sense.”

I nodded again, bringing the wine up to my lips once more.

“Does Rielle know?”

“Nah. She wouldn’t understand.” He looked at me longingly
. “Most people wouldn’t understand this. I admit, it's unconventional, but it's more common than you might think.”

Finally, the hour was upon us. I heard the doorbell ring, and, taking another sip of wine, I answered the door.

Nick was just how I pictured him. Sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, a very muscular frame. Extremely handsome, like a young Robert Redford. He was the same height as Ryan. He smiled at me, giving me a hug. I noticed his dimples right away. I was always a sucker for a guy with dimples. “Iris, so good to meet you! And congratulations!”

His wife, Rielle, was a little cooler. She was not as effusive as Natalie was, although Nick was as effusive as Nate
. Or, for that matter, she wasn’t as friendly as Alexis, who was around less and less now that she and Todd were becoming more serious. Rielle was a rail-thin brunette with enormous brown eyes and alabaster skin. She wore little makeup, but didn't really need to. She reminded me somewhat of my former roommate in college who looked better without makeup than with it. At any rate, like everybody who I have met through Ryan, she was gorgeous, and well-dressed.

She held out her hand and smiled. “I'm Rielle. I've heard a lot about you.”

“Well, don’t believe everything you hear,” I joked. Rielle nodded and didn’t pretend to laugh.

I had the feeling that I would get along fine with Nick. Rielle, not so much
.

Nick had a bottle of vintage Scotch in his hand
. I saw him in the kitchen, putting his arm around Ryan as they poured out two glasses. “What are you drinking?” Ryan addressed myself and Rielle. We were standing in the living room together, not saying a word. It was very uncomfortable.

“I would like a mojito,” Rielle called.

“That sounds good, I'd like the same.” Beer than liquor, never sicker? I wondered if it was the same with wine. I guessed that I would find out.

At that, Ryan went out the back door to pick some mint leaves
. Nick motioned me to join him in the kitchen.

“So, you and Ryan.”

“Yeah. Crazy, huh?”

“Sure
. Let me see that ring.” He looked at the ring, then gave a low whistle. “Leave it to Ryan to show the rest of us schlubs up. This baby is custom designed. Must've cost a pretty penny. A VERY pretty penny.” He had a look on his face that I couldn’t quite discern. Jealousy?

At that, Ryan was back with a bunch of mint leaves in his hand. He pummeled them with some sugar, poured the rum into a glass with the mint and sugar, with some ice, and added some club soda and lime.

The mojito was delicious, of course.

As was the dinner. Ryan prepared some filet mignons, and I made the garlic mashed potatoes. The filets were grass-fed, as that was the only type of steaks that we ate, for ethical reasons
. I had also steamed some green beans.

After dinner, we had some dessert and a few more drinks. I noticed the two guys sitting across the table, Nick’s arm draped around Ryan’s shoulders. I wished that I didn’t know what I knew about these two. They just looked like two best friends. I found myself silently cursing Alexis.
What I don’t know won’t hurt me.
But I
did
know, and I couldn’t stop picturing them together.

“So, buddy. How about having it at my Lake Como home?”

I shook my head at Ryan. No way could my family afford tickets to Italy.
Oh, what am I saying? We can all just fly in the private jet.

“Well, we can visit sometime. But I think that Iris wants to have it right here.”

“You can honeymoon at the house, then. And, visit your winery. You haven’t been there for awhile, you know.”

Ryan looked at me. “Nick’s Lake Como home is pretty magnificent
. It has an amazing view of the Lake.”

Nick addressed me. “You ever been to Italy?”

“No. I, uh, have never been out of the country.” I felt like such a rube, again.

Nick raised one eyebrow. Ryan immediately changed the subject. “So, we were thinking about something pretty intimate. Nothing churchy, of course.”

“What about the country club?” Nick asked.

“Nah. Too fo
rmal,” Ryan said.

Ryan and I
had actually discussed this beforehand. I didn’t want the country club wedding, or the destination wedding. I just wanted something simple, in keeping with my nature.

Ryan was perfectly willing to go along with whatever I wanted
.

“So, what were you thinking?”
Nick asked.

“We thought about just
having it here. In the backyard,” Ryan said.

I nodded. Nick looked perplexed at this.

“Well, I agree that your backyard is pretty bad-ass. But you have the choice of having it at the Lake Como house and you choose just to have it here?”

I was starting to feel more and more intimidated by Nick. I could feel that there was a tension ther
e, a dominance issue with him. It could have been just my imagination, but there seemed to be a subtle undermining of my relationship with Ryan.

I wondered if Nick really just wanted to be with Ryan, and he was going to sabotage
.

I shook that thought off. There was no indication that this was the case.

I was just being silly.

Ryan was addressing t
he issue of the wedding again. “We appreciate the offer, Nick, but Iris has a lot of family here in town, and I can’t put all of them on the private plane.”

“Why not? Doesn’t it seat like 30?”

“Yes, but not everybody can take off work, you know. And between the friends and family, there probably will be close to 100 people. How are we going to get all those people out to Italy?”

“You
buy them first class tickets.” Nick looked smug.

“Problem solved,” Ryan said, rolling his eyes
.

“Whatever. It’s your wedding. I'm just along for the ride.”

Ryan put his arm around me. “I admit, I'd like to stay at the Lake Como house for our honeymoon.” Addressing me, Ryan said “I have a yacht out there, too, that I keep on the Mediterranean.”

I smiled.
Yacht, schmact.
I really didn’t care. I just wanted to be with him, even if it was in a shoebox.

Later on that night, I found out that my hunch was true. Ryan and Nick were in the living room, talking and drinking Scotch. Rielle had gone to bed early with a headache, and I, too, went to bed around midnight, after staying up with the guys. Nick played 20 questions with me. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but he did seem to pry.

I was leaving my room to get a drink of water, and I decided to eavesdrop on the guys down below. They didn’t notice me up above. They'd been drinking most of the night, so that probably had something to do with it.

Nick said “You mean to tell me that she has never been out of the country? Ever?”

“Yes. So what, a lot of people have never been overseas.”

“Nobody I know. Or you, for that matter.”

“This just in - there are people out in the world who aren’t rich.”

“Buddy
. Bro. I love you. You know that.”

Ryan nodded.

“Well, then, I'll tell it to you straight. You can’t marry that girl. She strikes me as a philistine.”

“She's not a philistine. She is highly educated, very intelligent, and the nicest woman I have ever known.”

“Educated at state schools.”

“Jesus Christ, when did you get to be such a snob?”

“Ryan, you're slumming here. Whatever happened to Brigitte, the Dutch supermodel? She spoke five languages and could play the cello like Yo Yo Ma. Why didn’t you like her?”

“Nick, you obviously don’t understand.”

“Try me. Iris doesn’t even ski, for the love of all that is holy! How is she going to be on our vacations in the Alps?”

I sat, up above, wondering why Ryan was not offering a spirited defense of me. My heart started to sink, but I looked at my beautiful red diamond and felt comforted again.

Nick was continuing. “This isn’t an Erich Segal novel here. You can have literally any woman you want.” He shook his head. “I'm not seeing it here, buddy.”

“Well, then, maybe you don’t need to be my best man. Maybe you don’t even need to be in the wedding at all.”

“Easy, buddy. Sorry about the brutal honesty, but you know that's what I always give you.”

“You've always been honest, I admit. But I didn’t know that you were so judgmental. Is that a new trait, or did you suddenly become an asshole while I wasn’t looking?”

You go, Ryan! You tell him!

Nick audibly sighed. “You're right. She does seem nice, and she is kinda cute in her way. And, as long as you're happy, that's all that matters, right?”

To this, Ryan said, “There's something on your mind. I can tell.”

Nick nodded. “Rielle and I
, we aren’t doing so good.”

“What does that mean?”

“We're hanging by a thread, buddy. So, yeah, maybe I'm jealous that you found the one, right when my one is slipping away.”

Ryan put his arm around him. “Sorry to hear that, bro.

Then I saw them kissing. My heart started pounding. I mean, this was all good in theory, but seeing it in front of my eyes was something else entirely. I immediately went back into the room, and shut the door
.

Oh, I didn’t need to see that. I didn’t need to hear that. Why can’t I leave well enough alone?

I wondered what else was going on downstairs.

I could just imagine.

But I didn’t want to.

I lay there, trying to get the spectacle out of my head. But, to my surprise, I also felt strangely titillated
. After all, Nick was a very good looking guy. Seeing two hot guys together wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I felt very conflicted about it all. On the one hand, Ryan was, technically, cheating on me. But, not really, because I had indicated that I was ok with it. So, was he cheating, really? He wasn't with a woman downstairs, and we had discussed it beforehand.

I was very confused.

I opened the door again to spy some more. They were sitting on the couch now, side by side, Nick's hand once again draped over Ryan's shoulders. Nick was talking.

“Come on, Ryan, it's been way too long. Ever since you met her, you don't want to do it anymore.”

“It just feels funny, that's all.”

“It never did before.”

“Well, for one thing, both of our girls are upstairs, asleep. That may change. Would you really want to be caught?”

“I don't really care anymore. I'm heading for a divorce as it is.”

“You don't care? Don't you think Rielle might just use this against you, when it comes to custody issues?”

“Touché, buddy.” He paused. “I just miss you, that's all. I miss us.”

“I know. But it's different for me now. I've never felt like this about anybody else. I really need to minimize this,” he said, motioning his hands from himself to Nick.

I saw Nick take another swig, then drunkenly place his hand in Ryan's hair, patting it. “Well, then,
buddy, I guess I need my rest. I hope you don't mind if we just crash here. I really don't want to rouse sleeping beauty up there.”

“Of course. I wouldn't want you to drive, anyhow.”

“You mean, you aren't going to get Daniel out of bed to come and drive us?”

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