The steaks sizzle on the barbecue. Brett is holding the tongs and Kim watches from the kitchen. He’s chatting with Herb, not paying attention, the tongs hovering over the BBQ. She can just make out snippets of the conversation. Something about their investments, cryptocurrencies and stocks.
‘Took a dive, mate,’ says Herb. Sips his beer with a slurp. ‘Massive hit. Considering getting out now. At least, that’s what Prue wants me to do.’
‘What about Kim? What does she say?’ Herb asks.
Brett glances nervously towards the kitchen. Kim tosses the lettuce into the bowl, pretends to be wholly consumed by making a green salad.
‘Nothing. Haven’t told her yet.’
Kim knows how much Brett invested into Ethereum. She knows much more than he thinks she does. He leaves documents in the top drawer of his dresser, under his jocks and socks. Too easy.
‘Mate,’ says Herb. ‘You’re on thin ice!’ He roars with laughter, slaps Brett on the back. It brings his attention back to the steaks. Turns them over. Throws on the sliced onions and mushrooms and the fragrant mix filters its way to fill Kim’s nose.
‘Nah, she’s good.’
‘Careful, they know more than you think.’
Kim chuckles. A smart bloke, Herb. She’s always liked him.
‘You reckon? Brett asks. He scratches his chin with his free hand. It’s what he does when he’s been caught out, when someone exposes gaps in his knowledge.
‘Mate,’ Herb says. ‘Never assume.’ He drains the rest of his beer. ‘I’ll get a plate from the girls. These look almost ready.’
Again Kim pretends to be consumed with the art of tomato placement in her salad. The screen door slides open and Herb enters the kitchen.
‘Got a plate handy, Kim?’
She looks up. Breaths in deeply. Grabs a plate. Pushes those thoughts deep down.
‘Of course, Herb.’ Hands a white serving platter to him. Their fingers brush together, lightly, as the platter exchanges hands. Kim feels the heat, blushes. She hopes he doesn’t see.
Herb stands still, as if rooted to the spot. He grins, touches her cheeks. ‘You’re blushing.’
Clearing her throat, biding time to think of an appropriate response. ‘It’s hot in here.’ It really isn’t.
‘Salad looks great.’ Still holding the platter, he reaches for her hand. ‘I know.’
She looks up sharply, with a question in her eyes.
Herb continues, ‘I know what you’re feeling. I feel the same. But we can’t act on it.’ His pointer finger trails around the palm of her hand. It sends a charge through her entire body. ‘Can we?’
‘No,’ Kim says. She looks towards Brett, still focussed on the BBQ. Prue’s gone to the shops for alcohol. It’s just the two of them. ‘Unless…’
Herb raises an eyebrow. Kim’s emboldened, so she goes on. ‘Come with me.’
She leads him to the guest room. Closes the door. She leans against it while Herb kisses her. Stifling a groan, she undoes the belt around her jeans and wriggles out of them. Herb’s shorts are already around his ankles. He lifts her up. She wraps her legs around his waist and he slides inside her.
It’s quick. Passionate. Wrong.
As they’re dressing, avoiding eye contact with each other, Kim hears Brett in the kitchen. He’s calling for them.
‘Shit!’ Kim whispers.
‘It’s alright. He won’t know a thing.’ And Herb quietly opens the door, the platter under his arm. ‘Mate,’ he says confidently. ‘Couldn’t find the girls anywhere. But I got this platter. That do, you reckon?’
‘Sure. Kim’ll probably tell me it’s the wrong one, but yeah, what else we gonna do?’
The two men walk back outdoors, and Kim leaves the room, feeling guilty and sexy all at once.