Miranda set her glasses on the nightstand and softly rubbed the bridge of her nose. There was so much left to be done for the annual Elias Clarke shareholders' meeting at the end of the month, but as always, she knew she would be more productive after a few hours' sleep.
She closed her computer. As she was setting it on the floor, she heard the telltale sounds of her husband shuffling up the back staircase. He slipped inside the bedroom and closed the door behind him.
"Stephen, did anyone ever tell you that you actually make more noise when you walk up the stairs with your shoes off?" Miranda asked.
"Yes, honey. You. Practically every day," he said as he went to set his shoes down inside the closet. When he returned, Miranda was still sitting up, this time going through something on her phone. "Do you have any plans tonight?" he asked quietly.
She scrunched her nose and looked up, her eyes widening as she saw the small bag of white powder he was holding up. "What? Oh Stephen, come on," she said, rolling her eyes. "Where did you even get that?"
He stalked towards the bed and crawled on top of the duvet, straddling the woman's legs and effectively pinning her to the mattress. "One of the guys at work. Come on, honey. Just a little?"
"Stephen Tomlinson, I regret ever telling you anything about my past!" she said, squirming away from him as he tried to kiss her.
"Tell me, is the sex better when you're high?" he whispered as he nuzzled her neck, licking that space behind her ear that drove her wild.
An uncontrollable sound escaped her lips and she stopped fighting him, looking up and cupping his cheek. "You know I don't need any help," she whispered, kissing him softly. With her other hand, she deftly unbuckled his belt as he pulled the duvet and sheets out of the way. The drugs were long forgotten. Miranda was right; she didn't need them.
Later that week, Stephen again reminded her about the little bag of powder that he was keeping in the drawer. She refused to discuss it again and asked him to not discuss illegal substances when her daughters were home.
So, he waited until Friday night, after they had dinner and dropped the girls off with their father for a three-day weekend.
"Please, honey, just one line," he said, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. "You need a break. You've been working so hard these past few weeks."
"Yes, and there's more to be done. I can't relax until after the meeting this week," she said, kissing him softly and pushing away.
"But Mira, think of how productive and focused this will make you. You'll be able to do twice the work in half the time!" he said as she walked upstairs.
Miranda rolled her eyes. "Oh please. You sound like an informercial!" she said, chuckling as she entered her study to do some more work.
That night, she crawled into bed well past midnight, both physically and mentally exhausted. Her husband was fast asleep, and within minutes, so was she.
The following evening, Miranda and Stephen went out for a quick dinner.
"I shouldn't have had that second glass of wine," she said, blinking her eyes. "It made me sleepy and I haven't finished the draft of our annual report yet."
Stephen walked up behind her and gently began to knead her shoulders. "Honey, you're wearing yourself out. I hate to see you like this," he said.
She closed her eyes and let her head drop forward as he worked the kinks out of her neck. "That feels so good," she sighed.
"I know what else will feel good," he replied, whispering directly in her ear and blowing on that sensitive spot behind her ear.
"Ohh-hh-hoo," she exhaled softly, turning around and wrapping her arms around his waist. "Okay," she said, "but just this once. And," she added, "no getting upset if you have to do all the work. I really am exhausted."
He smiled and kissed her, then reached down and picked her up, her ankles quickly locking behind his back as she tightened her arms around his neck. "You don't have to lift a finger, my dear," he said as he carried her up the stairs to their bedroom.
Setting her carefully on the bed, he asked if she wanted to take a bath first, but she shook her head and reached for the side zipper on her dress. Stephen gently undressed her and after hanging her dress on the back of the closet door, he brought her silk robe over and helped her into it.
She sighed and closed her eyes, telling him she was just going to rest for a minute. He quickly stripped down to his boxers and grabbed the small packet of white powder from his drawer.
Once he had two lines of the fine white powder prepared on one of Miranda's handheld mirrors from the bathroom, he gently woke his wife and brought the mirror over, taking a seat at the edge of the bed.
He looked over to her as if for approval, and after she nodded, he inhaled one line of the powdery substance. Passing it over, he held the mirror out and she inhaled the remaining substance.
Taking a deep breath, she subconsciously dabbed at her nose. "What now?" she asked, looking over at Stephen with a bored expression.
"Just wait," he said, setting the mirror back on the bathroom counter and returning to the bed. He coaxed Miranda to lay down and crawled next to her, slipping his hand inside her loosely-tied robe as he kissed her deeply.
Suddenly, she pushed away and inhaled sharply, her eyes open wide.
"There you go," he whispered, nuzzling her neck while she felt the effects of the drug.
"My god…this is…incredible," she whispered as his lips trailed across her chest and down her body.
He snickered against her inner thigh. "Told you so," he said.
"Unngh…fuck! Yes!" she cried.
Hearing those obscenities from the lips of his normally-reserved wife, Stephen vowed to get more of this wonderful drug for his incredible wife.
. . .
Over the next few months, they indulged themselves on exactly two other occasions, both when the girls were away with their father. But Miranda noticed that the effects of the drug lasted much longer for her than for Stephen, so while he was ready to fall asleep, she felt as though she had breathed a second wind.
On Wednesday, the book wasn't ready until 10:30 PM, and by the time it was delivered to her house, she could hardly keep her eyes open. Stephen was out of town and the girls were in bed. She knew that she should be, too, but instead, she made herself a cup of coffee and drudged up the stairs to her study.
On her desk, she saw an envelope with her name on it in her husband's handwriting. Inside, was a key and a note: For the next time I can steal you away… S
She held the key in her hand, gently weighing it between her fingers as she tried to imagine what it belonged to. She kept it in her hand as she turned her attention to the book, sifting through the pages and applying post-its and red marks until her eyes began to close.
As she was about to head back down to the kitchen for another cup of coffee, she realized what the key was for: the box in the closet where Stephen kept his watches and cufflinks. Out of curiosity, she found and opened the box, surprised to see three bags of the white powder.
Remembering the alertness and energy she felt after using with Stephen, she carefully opened one of the bags and poured out a tiny, almost minuscule amount into the palm of her hand. She quickly inhaled and licked her palm to remove any traces before sealing the bag and locking it back in its place in the closet.
By the time she returned to the study with her fresh cup of coffee, she was feeling energized. She made quick work of the edits to the book, and even finished responding to the emails in her inbox. Looking at the clock, it was only 2:00 AM—except that it felt like she did a day's worth of work in the past hour.
She turned out the light and tucked the key away safely inside her desk drawer.
. . .
This little secret of hers became a semi-regular thing. Between the weekends when the girls were away and the nights she was up late working on the book, Miranda felt ahead of the game for the first time in her life.
The feeling was short-lived. On Monday morning, she hired a dreadful-looking creature as her new second assistant, and the rest of the week went downhill from there.
"Miranda, I have Stephen," Emily called out, waiting until she heard Miranda pick up the phone before she ended the call.
"Who's Stephen?" Andrea asked, fumbling for a pen to write it down.
"Stephen is Miranda's husband, Stephen Tomlinson," Emily said, walking up and over to the second assistant's desk. "If you ask me, he's a disgusting scumbag who can't keep his hands to himself, but for some ungodly reason, she puts up with him," Emily said.
"Got it," Andrea said as she made a note on her post-it. "Disgusting scumbag equals husband."
Emily quickly snatched the note and tore it into tiny pieces. "Are you out of your mind? You do not comment on Miranda's personal life. You are to have absolutely no dealings with Stephen, do you understand? If you do happen to see him, you are to look the other way, keep your eyes down, and never, ever interrupt."
"My god, Emily, what on earth are you prattling on about now?" Miranda asked as she breezed out of her office and past her assistants. "I'm leaving for lunch," she added, marching to the elevators.
"But Miranda, you have a meet—"
Emily slapped her hand over the second assistant's mouth. "Yes, Miranda," she called, holding her hand firmly against the other woman's lips until she heard the elevator doors close.
Andrea coughed and looked up in confusion at the redhead. "Jesus, Em. What was that for?"
"Miranda is never wrong. If she's going to lunch an hour early, it's your mistake. Do you hear me? You must have entered her schedule incorrectly. You are so sorry for the error, and it will not happen again. Do you follow?" she said.
Andrea swallowed and nodded.
"And what is this sticky mess I have on my hand?" Emily said, walking towards the sink to wash her hands.
"Oh, that's probably just Carmex. You see, my lips get really dry in the winter and sometimes—"
"Sorry," she said with a shrug.
After drying her hands, Emily pulled a small blue tin out of her desk drawer and set it Andrea's desk.
"Rosebud Salve?" she asked, picking up the tin and opening it. "Oh, this smells good."
"If you must treat your lips at work, use that. Keep your drugstore-sticky-lip-wax at home," Emily said. "Now, I'm off to lunch. When I return, well, you probably won't have time to get anything. You are not to let the phone go unanswered," she said, grabbing her purse and heading for the elevators.
"Yes, Emily," Andrea whispered, rolling her eyes as Emily walked away.