Chapter 1: The Husband’s Secret
Candice was busy preparing a candlelit dinner in celebration of her first wedding anniversary when she received a call from Rufus Nelson.
Rufus was the vice president of a media company with an annual salary of $250k plus dividends. But when Candice first met him, he had just been dumped by his ex-girlfriend and spent every day lost in drink. Everyone else thought he was a laughingstock because a girl shouldn’t mean so much, but Candice felt that it marked him out as steadfast and loyal.
Her best friend Nancy Evans said that Rufus was only using their new relationship as a rebound, a way to mend his past wounds. Candice was the way for him to heal, and once he felt better, he wouldn’t need her anymore. But Candice had never fallen for a man so hard, so she took the chance.
Contrary to Rufus’s age, he turned out to be sexually indifferent to her. If Candice didn’t take the initiative, he wouldn’t even hold her hand. Once they were married, he worked late almost every night and only came home to share their bed about once a month.
Spending every day alone didn’t make sense. Candice tried to be whatever he wanted, ranging roles from an innocent maid to a rich heiress. None of them seemed to make any difference to him.
As a last resort, she decided to investigate him. That’s when she found the problem.
Rufus’s online shopping history held hundreds of erotic products. His username was “Senior VIP Mr. Nelson.” Much to her surprise, he was actually a popular internet celebrity with more than 100,000 followers on Instagram. He had plenty of fans and even did commercials with glamorous female models. Everything that he put his endorsement on sold surprisingly well.
He had never brought home any of the products listed. Candice checked the shipping address and found everything had been mailed to his office.
An office romance, maybe?
Surely Rufus hadn’t taken it that far. He wasn’t going to risk his successful career for a scandal.
Candice shifted her attention to the Audi A8 he drove to and from work. Sure enough, there was a pair of women’s stockings under the mat on the passenger side.
She immediately confronted her husband.
His face reddened as he asked, “You investigated me?”
“Is she a clubhouse waitress, or a client of yours?” Candice cut straight to the chase.
Rufus stiffened. “I bought those for you, but forgot to bring them in.”
Candice showed him the payment record she had printed out. In the face of irrefutable evidence, Rufus stopped arguing and kneeled at her feet with his head in his hands. “Candice… I’m sick. I didn’t know how to tell you. I’ve spent so much money and tried everything, but I just can’t… I’ve been avoiding you, afraid that you’ll hate me because of it.”
Candice was so shocked by the truth that she was at a loss for words. Rufus was often away with business and dinner parties. Sometimes he simply deserted her for stretches of time. But she could forgive him if he was truly sick.
It was as if he wasn’t a complete man anymore.
But she also suspected that it wasn’t a physical issue, but rather a psychological one caused by his ex-girlfriend.
“Don’t you have urges?”
He hung his head. “I lose it all in just a few seconds.”
She was angry at what he had done to their marriage, but her pity was the stronger emotion. If word of this spread, he would be too ashamed to even go back to work. Not to mention her own embarrassment.
In the end, she didn’t bring up divorce. Rufus promised to go see a doctor who specialized in erectile dysfunction and seek treatment. She would keep his secret for a few more months.
But the phone call completely uncovered his lies.
“Your husband is in the shower.” A woman’s voice spoke from the other end of the line.
Candice froze. “Who is this?”
There was a smile evident in the other woman’s voice. “Only a few moments ago, your husband was having a great time with me on the couch at his office. He quite liked the pink skirt I wore today. He also told me that he never touches you, and you’ll be getting a divorce soon.”
Suddenly Rufus’s voice came through the phone. “Baby, Candice is getting suspicious. I can’t buy that.”
The woman answered him without putting the phone down. “Shall I buy it then?”
“Yeah, go ahead. I’ll put it in my drawer.”
The call ended.
Candice felt as if she’d been struck by lightning. Her instincts had been right. Rufus was really having an affair. It wasn’t normal for a man to become impotent after a breakup. She was just too trusting.
Given how carefully he had hidden his mistress from her, it was likely that he wasn’t just playing around. He would have given her his whole heart.
When Rufus came home that evening, Candice noted that he had changed his pants. He had left the house in a gray pair, and returned in beige.
Before she could even ask, he rushed to explain. “My assistant accidentally spilled coffee on me today, so I grabbed a new pair of pants from the store near the office.
Candice took his briefcase. “Did you get a receipt?”
Rufus didn’t panic. “They were only fifteen dollars. I didn’t bother.”
She looked at the logo, knowing full well that the brand would have cost closer to a hundred and fifty. He clearly didn’t know that, which meant someone else had bought them for him.
She didn’t comment further, simply tucking his briefcase away as if it was no big deal. “You could have washed the coffee stains out. They were expensive.”
“Nah, they were too far gone to do anything but be thrown away,” he disagreed. He suddenly pointed to the steak and wine carefully placed on the table. “What’s the occasion?”
Candice looked him in the eye. “May 27th. Didn’t you pick the date?”
Rufus had told her that in Chinese, the number 527 sounded a lot like the words ‘I love my wife’, so he had wanted to register their marriage on that day.
There is a saying that all men are actors. When a man has two women, as long as he chooses to act, then neither of them can tell if his love is genuine or not.
Rufus made an apologetic face. “I’ve been so busy lately. I’ll buy a nice gift for you tomorrow to make it up to you.” It was clear he felt guilty though, since he shared her bed that night.
Candice lay awake tossing and turning as she remembered the words of the woman on the phone. The image of Rufus and a naked woman played out in her mind. The most ridiculous thing was that she couldn’t picture him being physically intimate. She had never seen that side of him.
Suddenly a thought came to her, and she softly pressed her body against Rufus. “Honey, do you want to give it a try?”
Rufus murmured that he was too tired, but she didn’t give up. She insisted he go take a shower and freshen up, so he finally got up and impatiently went into the bathroom.
As soon as he left the room she took out his phone and looked at his call log. There were a lot of calls from someone called ‘RT.’
Candice felt a shiver down her spine. Rita was Rufus’s first love. They had been together for eight years, but they broke up when Rita fell for a handsome, rich man.
Candice had thought that when Rufus married her, he let Rita go. No man would accept a woman choosing someone else. The deeper the love, the deeper the hatred.
She had underestimated his love for Rita, and wondered which of them had rekindled the flames with the other.
Looking back through the online transactions, she saw that he had given Rita a total of $125,000 in the last year. All the transactions had been between $1,500 and $15,000.
The first transfer happened the day before Rufus married Candice. He had knowingly married her while supporting Rita.
The more Candice looked, the more she could feel her mental state breaking down. On Valentine’s Day, he had given Rita $15,000 and a message that read, “You seemed tired last night, Baby. Buy yourself a nice bag.”
Candice’s nicest handbag was a Chanel that cost $8,500. She didn’t often use it, only on special occasions when Rufus took her out as his wife and she needed to make sure his image was good.
The sound of the shower ceased and Candice returned his phone to its usual place, pretending that nothing had happened.
A broken marriage held no joy.
Aside from their issues as a couple, Rufus had a great career and was a handsome man. His “impotence” was simply a ruse.
The first thing Rufus did when he returned to the bedroom was check his phone. This only confirmed his guilt in Candice’s eyes.
Once he was done checking, he put it under his pillow and turned off the bedside lamp.
Candice stroked his back. “Would you like me to get you a pill?”
He stiffened. “I really don’t have any desire for that, Candice.”
She spoke in the darkness. “Have you ever thought of having kids? Your parents are putting some pressure on me, since they want to be grandparents.”
Rufus was silent for a long while, finally turning to embrace her. “My treatment isn’t going well. I won’t be able to get you pregnant.”
Her heart felt cold. “What about artificial insemination?”
Rufus closed his eyes in irritation. “Let’s discuss this later.”
He didn’t go to work until noon the next day. Candice followed a few cars behind him and witnessed him going to a jewelry store before picking up a woman at a nearby Starbucks.
The woman was Rita. She was stylishly dressed and looked much more mature than she had three years before. Every move she made looked high-class. She got straight in the passenger seat, feeding Rufus cake straight from her mouth. They went to the office together and entered the elevator arm-in-arm as they made their way up to the ninth floor, where Rufus had his office.
The receptionist barred Candice from following them up. By the time she finally broke free and made her way to the upper floors, the office was empty. But the couch was still warm, and it smelled like a woman’s perfume.
Searching around, Candice saw Rita’s personnel file on her desk. It held an employment contract for the job of general manager’s secretary.
It seemed the handsome man she had left Rufus for hadn’t wanted her after all. She clearly had plans to rise to the top as Mrs. Nelson instead.
Rufus was proud of his life and abhorred the thought of being a woman’s meal ticket. But he willingly fell into Rita’s hands twice, which showed just how cunning she was.
Candice jumped as Rufus came through the door.
“The receptionist said you were here.” His face was still flushed and his legs looked unsteady, as if he was exhausted from some vigorous activity.
Candice looked him over. “What have you been up to?”
He calmly loosened his tie. “I went to get something easy on the stomach. I’m not feeling well.” Without giving her a chance to ask more questions, he told her that he had booked a suite for them at a luxury hotel.
When they arrived together, the room was strewn with rose petals and the sweet scent of candles drifted through the air. The atmosphere was warm and inviting.
Candice couldn’t tell what Rufus’s intentions were.
He picked up two glasses of wine, handing one to her before sipping from his own. “Honey, I owe you so much. I’ll make it up to you in the future, and treat you well for the rest of my life.” He then took out a small velvet box, opening it to reveal a necklace that she had wanted for a long time. It seemed he had actually gone to the jewelry store to buy a gift for her.
He had never gifted her anything before, except for the diamond wedding ring. His behavior was too out of the ordinary. The man who even worked overtime when it was her birthday was suddenly so romantic.
Most importantly, he had just finished sleeping with another woman before he put on his show of playing a good husband. Candice was suspicious, but she didn’t want to distort his rare sweetness.
After she dazedly took a few sips of her wine, Rufus gently took her by the shoulders. “I have an impromptu meeting. Wait for me here, and I’ll be back as soon as I can. Don’t go anywhere.” He grabbed his suit jacket and walked away.
Shortly after he was gone, Candice felt something was wrong. Her bones seemed to simultaneously tingle and itch, and her body felt like it was burning up.
It was impossible for a grape wine to be so strong—rather, it seemed to be spiked with some drug. Candice was feeling delirious when the phone in her bag rang. It was Sharon Morris on the other end.
Sharon was Rufus’s assistant. Candice had hired her from a Fortune 500 company and offered her a very competitive salary to win her over. Rufus may have climbed all the way to vice president in his company, but it was all thanks to Candice’s efforts.
His true concern was that if they divorced, he would lose all his advantages in the division of assets.
Sharon told Candice that she had a recording of Rufus. When Candice asked what recording it was, the other woman told her to simply listen and she would figure it out.
Moments later, Candice received the 3-minute audio file. She only got halfway through listening to it, however, before her phone ran out of battery and went dead.
It was Rufus’s conversation with Rita.
“Half of the marital property is Candice’s. We can’t just divide it. We need to be smart about this.”
“You’re not actually going to get a divorce? Are you just leading me on?”
“Baby, I swear, I dream every day of marrying you. But I also want to give us the best of both worlds. If Candice cheats on me too, then I’ll be able to sue her in court. Then she’ll have to get out of the house and I’ll get to keep the property for myself.”
“Candice loves you so much. Would she actually cheat on you?”
“Baby, I added something extra to the wine. If she doesn’t sleep with someone else, I’ll be very surprised.”