Before I started dating, I always thought that if a guy cheated on me, that was IT. I’d kick him to the curb without a second thought.
And when it did, eventually, happen to me, I did just that.
What surprised me, though, were the reactions of my friends. My guy friends cheered me on. My girl friends kept staying that, just maybe, I’d been a little harsh. Perhaps I should’ve talked to him about it (the only talking I did was to confirm that he did, indeed, cheat). How could I date a guy one day and kick him to the curb the next? I felt we had dated long enough that I knew I wasn’t in love with him (we were in college), and he obviously felt the same way: he just skipped the “breaking things off part.”
Well, in Covert Assignment, Elle is faced with a similar situation. She returns to her final year of college to find out her boyfriend of several years, Adam, has cheated on her with a classmate. For her, the seriousness of their relationship made it a tougher decision.
Adam looked like he was about to jump out of his seat or fidget his way out of it. “It wasn’t anything serious! She doesn’t mean anything to me. We have plans, a future. I still want that.”
They did have a plan. A good plan. Elle knew, however, that just like a mathematical model, plans were not infallible. Adam was no stranger to mathematical models, so she decided to approach things from that angle.
“Think of a mathematical model,” Elle said. Adam’s eyebrows raised, but he didn’t say anything, so she continued. “All models rest on certain assumptions, right?”
Adam nodded and swallowed more beer. He looked wary about where this conversation was headed.
“And when you find out the assumptions you based your model on are violated, then the whole model comes into question, right?”
Adam was beginning to look rather queasy as he nodded.
“And then there are the variables in the model.” Elle heard her voice become stronger, steadier. She was on terra firma now. “If you don’t have the right variables or you don’t have them weighted correctly, then the results are inaccurate. The model is flawed.”
Adam was still nodding as Elle looked at him expectantly. After some silence, he asked, “So where are you going with this?”
Elle wanted to reach across the table and slap him for being dense if nothing else. “I’m saying,” she began, pausing to drink some beer, “maybe our model… is flawed in some way.”
“No.” Adam shook his head with vigor for emphasis. “Our model is not flawed. This incident is just an outlier.”
“I had certain… assumptions,” Elle replied.
“Those assumptions are valid,” Adam insisted.
Elle raised an eyebrow. Oh, really? She continued, “Those assumptions were violated.”
“I have to earn your trust back; I get that.” Adam said. He reached out for her balled up fist on the table, but Elle snatched her hand back without thinking. After a pause, Adam went on. “I don’t want to be with Bella. I want to be with you. I don’t need a break to tell me that.”
“Then why did you let it happen in the first place?” Elle couldn’t hide a slight tremor in her voice, but she was able to keep her vision clear as she looked at him.
Adam slumped back in his chair. “I don’t know. If I’d been sober, this never would’ve happened.”
“Being drunk doesn’t make you just screw any random chick,” Elle persisted.
“It does when they’re half naked and crawl into your lap, pushing their t**s in your face!” Adam took a swig of beer. “I’m a guy, Elle.”
“You’re a guy.” Elle took a deep swallow of beer herself, focusing on the burn as it went down. If she were tipsy, she would be less likely to physically attack him, at any rate. She fixed him with a glare. “Give me a f***ing break. You wouldn’t accept it if I f***ed some guy just because he flashed his d**k in my face.”
Adam looked astonished. Elle couldn’t blame him; she didn’t typically talk like this at all. She was practically channeling Marni. When it became clear he wasn’t going to speak, Elle spoke again. “You’re attracted to her.”
“Come on, Elle: Bella has more t**s than brains,” Adam said.
It wasn’t quite the resounding “no” he’d been offering earlier. When Elle swallowed the last of her beer, the buzz was painful in her throat and chest. “Maybe that doesn’t matter to you as much as you say it does,” she said.
“Of course it matters-“ Adam began, but Elle interrupted.
“Alcohol loosens inhibitions. When your inhibition was loosened, you slept with her.” She looked him right in the eye. “Because you wanted to.”
And therein lies the rub.
FYI: there aren’t any asterisks in the book ;).