Alice & Damon
Alice was used to dealing with pissy clients and business associates who didn’t care to know their asses from their own elbows. What came out of those asses was particularly forgotten in polite conversation, although she had the great misfortune of overhearing the occasional comment when the men thought the ladies were out of the room.
None of that compared to having a husband with the man flu.
Her mother had warned her. Alice had seen the man flu hit her own house while growing up, although her father taking a few days off work to cry into the couch and demand that nothing but “M.A.S.H.” reruns play on the TV felt like child’s play compared to what Alice now faced as a grown woman with a household of her own.
“And if I should die,” Damon said, sweaty hand clasped on his lawyer’s wrist. The old, wrinkled man politely shook the feverish billionaire off him before the flu virus spread yet again. “My mother must be assured her continued residence in her apartment.”
“You’re not dying!” Alice snapped from the corner of their bedroom. Honestly, it had been amusing at first to see her big, stubbornly brilliant husband felled by a flu virus he contracted after insisting on a turn-around trip to India a week ago. At first, he claimed to be too jet-lagged to go into the office the day after her returned. Then, the shivering started. God help me the night I woke up to him sweating buckets and moaning from the backache knocking him out of bed. Damon had been unfit for the office for three days. The first day, he insisted on working at home out of “concern” for their employees. “I do not wish to get them sick. We can’t afford for people to get sick now that the deal with the Williamses is underway.” But by day two, Damon was sleeping half the day away and waking up to moan some more.
According to his assistant, Alisha, he hadn’t been sick in over ten years. And the last bout of illness was food poisoning he got over in twenty-four hours.
So, Alice had her work cut out of her.
“Don’t write that down,” she said when the lawyer was asked to leave Damon’s shares in the company to their daughter, a freakin’ one-year-old. “Because my husband is not going to die anytime soon. He may kill me with his annoying flu, but he is not dying.”
Damon’s sweaty hand fell over the side of the bed. The tank top clinging to his muscular frame was soaked through, because when this man broke a fever, he broke it with purpose. The air-conditioning kept the bedroom a crisp sixty-five degrees, but a stack of blankets on the chair in the corner of the room reminded Alice that her husband could turn into an ice cube at any moment.
She had yet to contract this terrible illness, but she also slept at least eight hours a day, ate well, and exercised at least thirty minutes to an hour every single day. She also kept the nanny and baby Clarise far away from the plague to ensure that her daughter did not contract what Damon brought home from India and incubated in his jet-lagged body. You. Idiot. Alice always told her husband that flying halfway around the world, having a meeting, then coming right back home would hit him harder as he got older. He couldn’t play fast and loose with his immune system forever!
But had he listened to her? Nooo. Damon was so big and tough that a little virus couldn’t bring him down! Until it had.
Now look at him.
“Tell our daughter that I love her.” He lazily rolled over, a large sweat spot remaining on the pillow. Alice remained standing by the wall, arms crossed and phone buzzing with messages from work. “Tell my mother I love her.”
“What am I?” Alice asked. “Chopped liver?”
But Damon took the leaving of his lawyer as a sign that a new part of the day had come. He jerked upright in bed, eyes wild with a terrible bloodshot hue and his hair clumped with sweat. The man could take enough showers to fill his day, but within five minutes, he looked like this again. “The Williams deal!”
Alice pulled out her phone to read a text from her mother. When do I tell him. “Don’t worry about the Williams account. I’m taking care of it.”
“But…” He collapsed off his weak arm and slumped into the middle of the California king bed.
“But I’m taking care of work right now. Don’t worry. The office won’t burn down. Alisha and I have it covered.”
“But the baby…”
“We have a nanny, Damon, or have you forgotten about Griselda?” Contrary to how old it made the girl sound, Griselda was a spry twenty-five. “She’s with Clarise right now. Office is taken care of. Baby is taken care of. Your job is to lay here and follow the doctor’s orders.” She snatched the pitcher of half-melted ice water off the nightstand and poured her husband more to drink. “Get your fluids and your rest. The worst of it will be over soon.” She would know. She used to get the flu once a year, regardless of how many flu shots she also got. Perils of once being engaged to a med student. “Once you’re better, you can get back to work and the family. You won’t get better unless you actually take it easy and drink your damned water.”
She thrust the glass of water in his face. Damon defied her by slamming his body face-first into the mussed comforter.
“I am dying, Alice.”
“You’re a big fucking baby is what you are.” She left the glass of water within reach and checked her phone again. “Luckily for my biggest baby, I’ve got backup coming.”
“The Williams are expecting me at the dinner tonight…”
“The Williams are expecting me. I’ve gone over what’s happened with them already. They completely understand and send you their get betters.”
Before Damon could protest again, Griselda knocked on the bedroom door and said Alice’s guest had arrived.
“Don’t worry, my dear.” Alice blew her husband a kiss. She loved him enough to kiss his sweaty cheek and rub his wet hair, but she couldn’t risk getting sick, let alone passing it along to their daughter. Blown kisses would have to do until he was no longer contagious. “I’ve taken care of everything. Including making sure that you’re not alone while I’m out of the house.”
She didn’t have to introduce her guest. The woman barged through the door with a bag labeled “Man Flu Prep Kit” and a demeanor that suggested she wasn’t taking any prisoners.
“No!” That was the most like his usual self Damon had sounded in days.
“Put a cork in it,” Linda Culver, a registered nurse and Damon’s revered mother-in-law, barked. “I’m not going to put up with your crap, Damon. Look at you! When’s the last time you bathed?”
“Two hours ago,” Alice muttered.
“I’m hallucinating.” Damon shoved his face into his wife’s pillow. “She is not here.”
Damon and Linda had an amicable relationship – when he was hale and healthy. Linda made it known that she did not quite support her son-in-law’s domineering personality and how much he tried to take over everything he touched, but as long as he was good to Alice, she stayed out of it. Yet when her daughter called asking for help managing the Monroe fort while the patriarch was out of commission, Linda didn’t hesitate in accepting the offer to fly into the city and spend some quality time with a man she could finally boss around for a change.
She popped a DVD of “Armageddon” into the bedroom’s entertainment system and wrung a washcloth beneath cold water in the bathroom sink. One eye was always locked on Damon, who continued to bemoan his dying fate.
“Couldn’t have called my mother, could you?” he asked Alice.
“Your mother is in Italy enjoying her summer at the villa we borrowed from the Coles.” Besides, Alice wouldn’t wish this on Damon’s delicate mother. Julia only deserved to see her son at his best after being refused to see him for so many years. This mess? This was something only Linda Culver could deal with. She had made a living dealing with flus and colds. She had the immune system of a brick wall and the attitude to deal with it. “Thanks for coming, Mom. I’m gonna check on Clarise and get ready for tonight’s dinner with the Williams.”
She shot her husband one last loving look before departing the bedroom. The last thing she heard was, “Oh, no, you don’t!” There was a thump, followed by a masculine moan. Then? The starting credits of “Armageddon.”
“Remind me that if I ever have sons,” Alice said to Griselda in the nursery, “that my mother is raising them.”
“I’m sure Mr. Monroe will love that, ma’am.”
Alice kissed her daughter’s head. “He’ll love whatever I decide. I can guarantee you that.”
Okay, so maybe he wouldn’t love having his mother-in-law riding his ass while he rode out the flu, but everything else? Alice knew how to carefully play this game with the love of her life. That was part of the appeal of being with him.