“Ok, what’s wrong with you?”
Ridley Wells Alexander looked up from the bowl of triple fudge brownies she was currently mixing. “What do you mean? Nothing’s wrong.”
Her twin sister yanked the bowl out of her arms. “If you beat that batter any harder it’s going to file a restraining order against you.”
Ridley scowled. She couldn’t even blame all the changes of the past few years for her sister’s dramatics. Getting married and having a baby hadn’t changed Raina in the least. She was just as meddlesome and overly dramatic as always.
She was also Ri’s very best friend.
“I’m just frustrated.”
Raina carefully tipped the bowl and filled the clear glass baking dish on the counter with the decadent chocolate batter. As per their usual routine, she handed Ridley the spoon to lick while she swiped a finger through the batter left in the bowl. Ridley moaned as the chocolate hit her taste buds. When she looked over at her sister, Raina was watching her with a horrified expression.
“What?” she asked, uncharacteristically annoyed. She was always the easygoing twin but it had been harder and harder lately to keep a smile on her face.
“Nothing. I just wasn’t expecting you to make out with the spoon,” Raina joked. “Do I need to have a talk with my brother-in-law about how to keep the home fires burning?”
Silence fell over the room as thick as a blanket. Ridley carefully set the spoon down on the counter, not even bothering to lick the rest of the batter off. Her appetite was gone.
Raina watched her curiously as she put the bowl in the sink. “I was just kidding, Ri. I wasn’t trying to upset you. Considering how the two of you go at it, clearly Jackson doesn’t need any help.”
Ridley shrugged. “Lately he does,” she muttered.
“Holy crap. You’re serious aren’t you?” Raina’s mouth fell open.
“Please don’t make fun, Ray. I just can’t… not about this.” Ri knew her sister never meant any harm, it was just her nature to mock everything. She’d always claimed “bitchy” was her native language. But this was too close to home for her to take a joke. It was too close to her heart.
“Oh honey!” Raina pulled her into a hug. “I would never make fun about … well, about that. I was just shocked. I’m used to the two of you being all over each other, that’s all. But it’s normal for things to slow down. No one goes through years of marriage getting freaky on a daily basis.”
Silence settled between them. Ridley closed her eyes, humiliation burning through her like wildfire with what she was about to admit.
As usual, Raina sensed how upset she was instantly. She led her over to the kitchen table and pulled out two chairs. Ridley sat and kept her eyes on the floor. She jumped when a warm hand settled over hers. When she looked up, Raina’s eyes were soft but understanding.
“What’s going on, baby girl?”
Immediately tears welled. Hearing that soft understanding voice from her sister who was usually joking around or being snarky was the last straw. She’d been strong for months. Ridley didn’t have any strength left.
“It’s been three months, Raina. He hasn’t touched me since I really started showing. I guess I’m lucky this is my first baby and I didn’t pop out right away.”
The shocked intake of breath was the only indication that Raina heard her. The hand covering hers tightened.
“Well, then … well.”
Ri sighed. “I know. That’s really bad. He’s probably getting it somewhere else!”
“No, no. We’re not going to do that.” Raina leaned over and brushed away the tears on her cheeks. “Jackson loves you and he would never do that to you. I’ve always been the crazy twin so you don’t get to take on that role even if you’re knocked up.”
Ri chuckled softly even as her head started hurting. She’d been crying so much lately that it felt like she had a permanent headache.
“Mommy? Why are you crying?”
Her stepson, Jase, appeared at her side. His hand rubbed over her baby bump. “Is our baby making you sick? Maybe you need the ginga ale again?”
Ridley smiled at his attempt to say ginger ale. He’d seen Jackson pour her a glass enough times to know it was one of the only things she could keep down when she felt sick. Her other stepson, Chris, appeared in the doorway to the kitchen, his dark eyes worried. Raina held out her arms to him and he ran over, immediately snuggling into her embrace.
He peeked over at her hesitantly. “What’s wrong, Mom?”
Unlike Jase, it had taken Chris a little while to adjust to calling her Mom. Sensitive and cautious by nature, she suspected he’d been afraid to call her that. After all, the only thing he’d known about mothers for years was that his had died. The day he’d called her that spontaneously was one of the best of her life.
Raina kissed him on top of his head. “Sometimes women cry, my sweet boy. The sooner you learn that, the better.”
Ridley shook her head. “I’m fine, sweetie. You know I cry at everything these days.”
Jase patted her cheek until she looked down at him. He puckered his lips and gave her a little kiss. “Love you, Mommy.”
“I love you too, sweetie.” She let out a little sigh and squeezed him extra tight. She loved her life and her amazing new family. Nothing would hurt her more than losing them. That’s why she had to figure out what was wrong with her husband.
After the boys ran off to play with the new video game system their Uncle Nick had just bought, Ridley looked up to find her sister watching her with narrowed eyes.
“What’s that look?”
Raina glanced over her shoulder before answering. “This situation cannot continue. We have to do something.”
Suddenly she was ashamed that she’d spilled such intimate details. If Jackson was telling people these sorts of things she’d be mortified. What was between them was private. It was something they would have to work out together. It wasn’t his fault if he didn’t find her pregnant body sexy. He was probably trying not to hurt her feelings by commenting on the weight she’d gained. He knew she was sensitive about it. It just seemed so unfair that her twin hadn’t gained very much and she felt like such a cow. Then again, Raina had always kept her weight low from her years modeling while Ridley loved to cook. And the evidence was on her hips and thighs.
“Never mind, Ray. I shouldn’t have even said anything.”
“Screw that! This is war. What he’s doing is just… it’s cruel. If your libido is anything like mine, you want it now more than ever. He needs to be taking care of you in every way.”
Her face burned at her sister’s frank talk. “Raina, this is ridiculous. I’m hardly going to force him to … do it.”
Raina got up and walked out of the kitchen. Puzzled, Ri was about to go after her when the timer went off for the brownies. They’d cooled and she was cutting the first piece by the time Raina came back carrying a small cardboard box.
“Found it. Everything you need to fix this is in this box.”
Munching on the chewy brownie, she leaned over and peered into the box. Lace in every color of the rainbow was jumbled together in a heap.
“Raina, I couldn’t fit into that expensive lingerie you buy even when I wasn’t carrying forty pounds of baby weight.”
“It’s pregnancy lingerie. It’s designed to highlight and conceal all the appropriate areas. I did some pregnancy modeling, remember? Whoo, you don’t even want to know how crazy Nick went for some of this stuff.”
Normally she would be mortified at hearing anything about her brother-in-law’s preferences in the lingerie department. But in this particular case, she could only hope his brother shared his interests.
“I’m not sure I can pull this off. You know how to be a sexpot. I don’t. I just don’t … feel sexy anymore.”
Raina smirked. “Trust me, it’s all in the attitude you project. Pretend you feel hot and you will be. All you have to do is wear something skimpy, give him the look and you’re in business. Men are simple and they can’t say no to sex.”
Ri couldn’t help laughing at that. “Way to generalize, sis.”
“Am I wrong?”
Ridley sighed. “I guess not. Ok, show me what we’ve got.”
The Alexanders and Friends
All Ridley Alexander has ever wanted is the life she has now: a devoted husband, children to love and a home of her own. So what’s the problem? While pregnant she’s gained a lot of weight and her usually insatiable husband is suddenly interested in anything but seeing her naked.
As much as it hurts, all she needs is for Jackson to pretend that he finds her as sexy as he used to, even if it’s not true. Now with a little advice from her meddlesome twin, she has a plan to seduce her own husband.