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Karen Ziegler

The blackmailed couple

"Oh, darling, couldn't you please just wait until he gets here?" Lynn Waring plaintively asked her husband as she saw him pull his heavy overcoat from the closet near the front door. She sat tensely on the living room couch, her hands clasped tightly together as she added, "I hardly know your boss and, to tell you the truth, I'm a little scared."

"Don't be silly, honey," Ed scolded her, a vague look of annoyance clouding his face as he turned around to face his wife's worried frown. "Now, you know very well that I have to meet an important client for dinner tonight and, with a promotion just around the corner, I can't afford to be late. So, snap out of it, sweetheart. If you want me to be an executive, you're going to have to act like an executive's wife!"

Then, noticing the crestfallen look on Lynn's pretty face, he sighed and walked over to her, dropping his coat on a chair. Lynn's face brightened for a moment as she saw him approach, then fell again as she saw him steal a look at his watch.

"I'm sorry, Ed. I know I shouldn't be keeping you," she murmured apologetically. "It's just that I don't even know the man very well, and the way he looked at me when I met him… I just don't understand why I have to go out with him alone, even if it is to the Executive Club!"

"Because they don't make men executives in Amalgamated Industries unless they know their wives are good material too. I've told you that before, Lynn," Ed said in exasperation. Suddenly realizing that his tiny blonde wife was close to tears, he playfully reached down and caressed her breast through the clinging knit cocktail dress she wore. "Look, honey, all you have to do is relax and just be your charming self. And if old George McHenry likes looking at you, that's fine. It can't hurt my chances for that vice-presidency."

"But, Ed, don't you… don't you…" Her voice trailed off into silence as she realized the answer to her question. She had been about to say, "Don't you care if another man looks at me like that?" but she knew that he was too engrossed in his career right now to even worry about such a thing.

Not realizing her true thoughts, Ed unthinkingly confirmed them as he breezily said, "Don't I love you? Of course, I do, honey, but that has nothing to do with it. Remember, this is business!"

"Of course, darling," she smiled up at him, hoping her bitterness didn't show in her voice. Except for the first few weeks of their three-year marriage, it was always business. As Ed had worked his way to the top of Amalgamated Industries, Lynn had watched their life together changing, becoming planned and patterned around what was "best" for her husband's career, until it got to the point where they only made love on weekends because Ed wanted to stay "sharp" for work during the week. Now, at the age of twenty-eight, her handsome, ambitious husband was almost there, just a promotion away from the position of third vice president in charge of industrial relations, whatever that was. And she prayed with all her heart that, once he had it, she and Ed could stop climbing and start being married again.

"Discussion over?" Ed grinned down at her, startling her out of her thoughts. He had his overcoat on and Lynn could see that he was impatient to leave.

"Yes, darling, only… are you absolutely positive about this dress?" she said hurriedly, not wanting to annoy him again. "I don't want anyone to think I look cheap and after the way he looked at me…" She anxiously tried to pull down the short, short skirt of the revealing black dress she wore.

"For Christ's sake, Lynn, I picked the dress out because I know McHenry likes to look at you. Now, cut out the little girl act – I don't have any more time," he snapped.

"I'm sorry," she repeated, staring down at the carpet in misery. "I promise I'll do everything right. I know you want your key to the Executive Club too."

"Good. I'm glad you're over this silly sulk of yours," he said with obvious relief.

Lynn felt the quick, almost impersonal pressure of his lips against her forehead and then he was gone. The call of the cuckoo clock beside the door reminded her that Ed's superior would be there any moment and she hurriedly rose from the couch to make a last-minute check on her appearance.

She walked back to their bedroom, wondering for the thousandth time why George McHenry had wanted to take her to the Executive Club the very night Ed had this important meeting. Even though she had only met McHenry once before, the idea of being alone with him made her nervous and apprehensive. But, then again, she soothed herself, what could possibly happen at the club?

The Executive Club was situated in a nearby old brownstone town house, very much like the home in which she and Ed lived, in fashionable Stuyvesant Square. Almost all the corporation executives lived in this part of the city, delighting in remodeling the old row houses until the interiors were as modern as the brownstone fronts were old fashioned. The Warings had barely been able to afford this home when it came up for sale a few years ago, but Ed had insisted that they buy it, claiming that it was a "business necessity" to live in Stuyvesant Square. Actually, Lynn liked it too – the lovely tree-lined streets with no big stores or offices to bring noisy traffic into the neighborhood and the tiny wooded park that filled in the center of the square. In fact, only the Executive Club interrupted the perfect square of turn-of-the-century homes and, even then, the club's owners and sole members were all the top-drawer executives at Amalgamated Industries, one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the country.

Lynn was certain she was simply working herself up over nothing, but she still wished that Ed had been able to tell her more about what the club was like. The place looked like all the other houses from the outside, with just a discreet brass plate near the door to announce that it was a private club, yet none of the men Ed worked with had been able to give him any information about it. Apparently, the top executives wanted to keep their club activities a mystery from all the other employees, and Ed hadn't wanted to show his ignorance by asking his superiors about it. Oh well, she thought resignedly as she switched on the bedroom light, whatever happened, she would just try to get through it as gracefully as possible in the hopes that Ed would soon be a member too.

The petite blonde housewife started back in surprise for a second as the bright overhead light suddenly illuminated the darkened bedroom and she came face to face with her own image in the big mirror across the room. Lynn had allowed Ed to pick out the dress she would wear tonight and she still hadn't quite gotten over the shock of seeing herself in the one he had chosen. She wondered again if the dress was really the proper thing to wear to the club and she moved closer to the full-length looking glass to obtain a better view of herself. After studying her reflection for a minute or two, Lynn was forced to come to the conclusion that she undoubtedly did look quite striking and lovely in the daring dress.

Lynn had almost forgotten how attractive men had found her before she had gotten married to Ed and now, for the first time in many months, she allowed herself to critically survey the full rounded curves that had made her one of the most popular girls in high school and college. The pretty blonde had begun to suspect that her husband might be losing his sexual interest in her because she was starting to age a little, but now she saw that that was far from true. At the age of twenty-five, Lynn had lost none of her youthful charm and freshness and, if it was possible, her body had matured into an even greater perfection than it had attained when she married Ed three years ago. Her eyes paused for a moment at the high-set round breasts that jutted provocatively out against the tightly-fitted bodice of her black cocktail dress. Above the low-cut neckline, she could see the narrowest of valleys running between their magnificent firmness and she marveled to herself at how well they were keeping their shape, despite their unusual size. Lynn remembered how Ed had noticed them as well the first time they had met, at a beach picnic where she had been wearing only a tiny two-piece bathing suit. Both she and Ed had shed their own dates that afternoon, preferring to be with each other, and they had been married a few months later. But, things had changed quite a bit since those days and the only times her husband seemed to notice her breasts now was like tonight, when he wanted some favor from her, always something to further his career.