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The Professor's Bride

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 Maeve is an entirely normal, healthy young woman in every respect-except that she is totally frustrated by the lack of any attention, particularly sexual attention, from her husband. Like most frustrated people, she attempts to divert her burning energies into another channel. In this case, Maeve develops an interest in art, spends many hours a day painting... and thus in her turn begins to neglect her housework and her husband. Thus the well-known vicious circle has started to spin, and once it begins, it gathers momentum rapidly with every passing day. When other complicating factors, such as the Crandalls' nymphomaniacal neighbor, Betty, enter the picture, the situation really becomes explosive.

 
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The Professor's Bride

Bella Dietrich

This page copyright © 2007 Olympia Press.

INTRODUCTION

It is rare indeed for the author of an overnight bestseller to return just a few short months later with another book that is obviously destined for the same fate. Pete's Mother by Bella Dietrich won that comparatively young authoress immediate fame and the unanimous acclaim of the literary critics. Miss Dietrich's extensive knowledge of modern psychiatric methods, added to her gifts for characterization and telling a fast-moving story, were eagerly welcomed by readers tired of pretentious fakery and turgid prose. Now, in The Professor's Bride, Miss Dietrich has done it again, in a novel the publishers sincerely feel is an even more stunning accomplishment than her first.

Even in these days of women's liberation, one does not expect a female writer to tackle such a complex and basically masculine subject as the changing structure of the United States Navy. Along with everything else, however, Miss Dietrich is a painstaking researcher; for several years, in fact, she was an award-winning newspaper reporter. Only a woman of her background could have gathered the background detail necessary for a work of this nature.

That the U.S. Navy is undergoing major changes will be surprising even to some of its own members, let alone the general reading public. But changing it is, and that change is far from limited to advances in technology and weaponry. Psychology and sociology enter this sphere, too, as they do every other area of modern life. While every armed service must preserve to some degree an overall caste system in order to continue to operate, even caste systems are subject to change and progress. No one would suggest that the lowest enlisted man should make major policy decisions, whether in war or peace. But the lowest enlisted men are human beings, and the prevailing trend is more and more to recognize this and to treat them as such.

Sexual tensions and frustrations obviously affect the lives of officers and enlisted men alike, even those assigned to the comparative tranquility and comfort of a Navy postgraudate school like the one which provides the setting for this novel. No one could be more aware of this than its hero, Carl Crandall, Ph.D., who wants to bring such up-to-date techniques as “off-site” encounter groups into general use to improve the psychological health of today's Navy. Unfortunately, his awareness is limited to the theoretical; and the difficulties of persuading the authorities to accept his ideas and plans plus a crushingly heavy work schedule have made him virtually blind to the problems and desires of his own wife, Maeve.

Maeve is an entirely normal, healthy young woman in every respect—except that she is totally frustrated by the lack of any attention, particularly sexual attention, from her husband. Like most frustrated people, she attempts to divert her burning energies into another channel. In this case, Maeve develops an interest in art, spends many hours a day painting... and thus in her turn begins to neglect her housework and her husband. Thus the well-known vicious circle has started to spin, and once it begins, it gathers momentum rapidly with every passing day. When other complicating factors, such as the Crandalls' nymphomaniacal neighbor, Betty, enter the picture, the situation really becomes explosive.

Into this complex and almost disastrous situation steps Admiral Sam Grandfield. Grandfield is a profoundly compelling figure, a man you will remember, and a character who could only be portrayed on stage or screen by an actor with the skill and authority of a George C. Scott. But, although he dominates those around him by his very presence and usually gets his own way in everything he does, he does not—as might have been expected —totally dominate the book. The structure Miss Dietrich has erected is too complex and intricately organized for any one figure to dominate. You will grow to know intimately every character in this book. You will admire some, and be repelled by others, but you will never for a moment doubt that they are all real people, with real passions and real problems.

But perhaps we, the publishers, have already said too much. Our natural pride makes us unusually enthusiastic over The Professor's Bride. Nothing we have said, however, can prepare you for the drama of the events that unfold on the following pages, and no amount of guessing will tell you exactly what to expect in the astonishing, but utterly logical, climax.

Read The Professor's Bride, and join the ever-expanding ranks of Bella Dietrich's loyal fans.

The Publishers

CHAPTER ONE

The late afternoon sun had turned the hills to golden velvet and they crouched like tawny sleeping lions, shoulders and haunches interlocked and fading away in the distance. Those golden lions, folded in peace, had never looked so lovely, Maeve thought as she drove her Volkswagen bus along the Carmel Valley road between them, pointed toward home.

Her euphoria spilled from her lips in a tuneless humming as she glanced at the painting she'd finished in art class this afternoon, lying in a bright spot of sun on the seat beside her. It was good. Solid work. Dinner was going to be late and Carl was going to be furious. Since her art work had become her passion that seemed to be his permanent state... fury. But she didn't care... at least not right now.

It was summer. The children had been put on the plane this morning for Illinois and Grandma, and Maeve Crandall was free for three whole months to do just what she'd done today... paint, paint, paint!

She glanced at the painting again. The orange and blue thing had worked! The splayed female figure under the orange sky like a free and expanding goddess. Maybe because she felt like a goddess today... to do what she loved... to paint the visions that whirled in her head even when she went through the automatic motions of being Mrs. Carl Crandall, proper professor's wife and mother of two little girls.

Her tuneless hum changed to a whistle as she pursed her full red lips and beat out a little tattoo on the steering wheel with her small graceful paint-stained hands. Amazing how just one day of doing what you truly wanted to do could fill you with such joy! She swung the bus expertly into the driveway beside Carl's Mercedes, leaped down and ran lightly around to open the other door and take out the still-wet painting.

Maeve held it at arm's length, squinted her large brown pansy eyes, wrinkled her pert little nose and cocked her shiny dark brown head. Yes, it was good. Really good. It was going to hold up.

She smiled again happily to herself and went through the carport, across the stone patio and into the house through the study, singing softly to herself, “Joy to the World!” Who cared if it was June... it was Christmas to her.

She stopped in the laundry, which hardly had room for the washer and dryer anymore with all her painting paraphernalia. She put the painting carefully on the easel. Wiping her hands on her paint-splattered jean-clad hips and thighs, she backed away and looked at the painting again. Yes. It was going to be all right.

Still not able to tear herself away from her visible, tangible day's work, so unlike the housework that had constantly to be redone, she absentmindedly pulled her shirttails out of her jeans and began unbuttoning her shirt buttons, still staring at the painting... first from one angle... then from another.

“Where the hell have you been?” The words hit Maeve's backbone like ice cubes and she whirled to find Carl, cold and tight-lipped, framed in the doorway. He was immaculate in a dark suit, pale blue shirt and silver cufflinks... a small but well-proportioned man with powerful shoulders and lean hips, dark hair, and tanned face that made his ice blue eyes look crystalline. Those eyes swept Maeve now in cold fury... from her shiny brown hair cut in a silky cap to her big trusting earnest brown eyes, little tilted nose and full lips, small slim figure with the amazingly full breasts and beautiful legs in the tight jeans.

“If you had deliberately set out to sabotage me, you couldn't have done a better job. But you don't think about me enough to be deliberate, do you?”

“Oh, Carl... please.” Instinctively she went toward him and then stopped as those eyes froze her.

“Admiral Grandfield is here from Washington. He's vitally interested in the business management department. Since I hold the only Harvard Ph.D. in the department at the moment, there is a chance he might be interested in my work, don't you think?” he said coldly.

“There's a reception for him in forty-five minutes, at the Navy Postgraduate School... my employers who pay for all this nonsense,” he waved his hand contemptuously at her painting, “in case you've forgotten.” He looked at his watch. “It takes thirty minutes to get there from here. That gives you exactly fifteen minutes to get ready.” He spun on his heel and stalked off to the living room.

Oh God! She'd completely forgotten! Damn. Damn. Damn. How could she have forgotten? Today, it had been easy. It got easier all the time... to forget all the structured, boring ritualistic Navy School academia that was Carl's work. Work he wouldn't share with her, so all she knew was the boring surface.

“I'll be right there,” she called.

Maeve raced through to their bedroom, stripping her clothes off as she went. Things were going from bad to worse. The happier she was with her painting, the unhappier Carl seemed to get. As she soaped quickly in the shower, she wondered about that. She'd always been so happy for Carl when he had a triumph... so why did her small victories with paint infuriate him so? It wasn't just that she was late tonight. There was so much more to it than that.

She dressed with shaking fingers. The beige silk linen, so plain that her figure and her face were the focus of attention... the strip sandals, pearl and crystal rope. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. The white silk bag, earrings. Thank God she had no worry about hair or makeup except for eye makeup. She carefully emphasized those huge expressive brown eyes with liner and mascara. A powder puff touched briefly to her nose was all her creamy poreless skin needed. Lipstick she'd do in the car. A quick brushing and her hair fell in the short shining cap that curled around her face and showed the good bones of her head and jaw.

A brief touch of perfume at the cleavage of her breasts that swelled in the deep “V” of the dress. Gloves to cover her unpolished nails that she'd forgotten to manicure, and she was ready. The mirror showed only a shining, beautiful young woman who looked more like twenty than thirty. Her stomach that was beginning to knot and her head that ached were completely invisible.

Maeve walked into the living room just in time to hear Carl say, “I'll call you later,” surreptitiously into the phone. She didn't need to be told who was on the other end of the phone. Betty Lunsford, the perennial clinging-vine southern belle, the helpless neighbor across the road, the wife of one of Carl's young Navy lieutenant students... who called on Carl more and more for “help.”

Betty Lunsford's subterfuges didn't fool Maeve for an instant. She was after Carl or any other man she thought would improve her position. Maeve felt certain that Betty would only stay married to naive young George until she found someone richer and more prestigious.

“Who was that?” She knew full well but she couldn't stop herself asking.

“Betty,” Carl admitted coolly... not even bothering to lie. He finished the drink in his hand with one gulp.

“Could I have one of those in a paper cup?”

“We're late already.”

“You start the car and I'll make it. I need it about now, I think.”

The ride into town was miserable. Carl took the Los Laureles grade, and Maeve had the ghastly feeling every time he took one of the long turns winding over the ridge of mountains to the Salinas highway that he was going to plunge them over the edge and they'd go rolling down a high sage-covered hill. She could see it in slow motion, the car turning over and over, crashing silently down the mountain with them inside like a movie with no sound track. She lit a cigarette, trying to shake the vision, but it kept recurring over and over.

How had they gotten to this armed camp, this closed vacuum where they went through the motions of living like... robots, as though someone wound them up every morning and they went through motions? She didn't really know... but dear lord, it had to stop somewhere, sometime.

It was like watching a play, Maeve thought— the correct Navy officers, the frumpy wives, the civilian professors all going through the fawning social maneuverings considered correct at receptions for visiting brass. All of it boiled down to elaborate constructions of little empires with each man the uncrowned emperor of his own. All of them were after power and prestige and recognition. From the lowliest lieutenant student studying for his master's degree to the boy-wonder visiting admiral. Maeve didn't think any of them really loved their work or wanted to do it for its own sake. Not the way she loved her painting.

Carl was putting on his charm act for the admiral... and Carl had charm when he wanted to. Tenacious charm. She watched him across the room. The brilliant smile, the easy manner, the deference. He'd fooled her with it. Convinced her he was a genius and needed only her for a wife to change the whole world for the better. Well, he hadn't changed anything except her. Taken her paint brushes out of her hands and her good salaried job at Lassie Magazine and put her to work scrubbing floors and caring for two babies that came too soon. Later she'd even had to take a job as well, as a secretary, to see him through his doctorate at Harvard. Now, she was jolly well not going to give up her painting. She'd earned it... the hard way.

“You need a drink. You're dry.” She turned to find Harry Neil taking her empty glass from her. Funny old Harry that Carl was so wary of and jealous of since Harry made full professor.

“Not for long, Harry. I feel so lousy tonight I may cry.” She laughed, looking up at his skinny homely face that went with his long narrow body.

“Then by all means let's cry in our booze together. The only way I can get through one of these receptions is to get bombed.” It was the longest speech she'd ever heard him make, and she wondered if he was already bombed as she watched him make his way across the polished floor with their drinks, dodging people artfully, but never taking his eyes from her. Certainly, he'd never looked at her that way before. Maeve felt absolutely naked by the time he handed her the drink. She clutched her handbag and gloves and juggled her drink so as to pull her stole higher across her breasts that tingled as though his eyes had been lips. My God, what was the matter with Harry? What was the matter with her?

Partly it was Carl, who hadn't touched her for three months now. She'd pretended it didn't matter. After that last big fight over how Carl liked it, he hadn't touched her at all. That was fine, she told herself. She would not be treated like a whore, a hired whore. But... for the first time she realized she also didn't like being a nun. Harry's eyes slid over her like hands and made her feel desirable, voluptuous.

“Coming down to Bendemeer's Stream this weekend?” Harry asked huskily. Maeve looked away from him into the crowd, not daring to meet his eyes now. She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.

“I'm not sure, Harry.”

“We could commiserate with each other.” His hand slid under her upper arm and it was just as though his warm hand were a brand against her bare skin. She jumped as though burned, and part of her drink spilled down the front of her dress. It was icy where it dribbled down between her breasts. She was confused and angry and hurt and upset... and felt as though she really might cry any minute.

“Oh... oh, here, Harry.” She handed him her drink, clutched her stole even higher and tighter and swept blindly across the floor to the ladies' room. She didn't know what she'd do when she got there, but she rushed determinedly toward it. God, what was happening to her? Poor Harry who wouldn't hurt a fly suddenly made her feel like rape was imminent. He asked if they were going down to the trailer camp for the weekend... as they often did during the summer... and she acted as though he'd made a lewd suggestion. What the hell was the matter with her?

Well, for one thing Carl had dashed all her lovely feelings about her painting. She'd felt guilty about forgetting the damn reception... and not only that, she was pretty sure Betty Lunsford was making time with Carl. She felt used and abused and unlovely... and her own husband hated her. Hated her. She knew he did. What had happened? What in heaven's name had happened?

Stop this, she told herself. Stop it right now. But her eyes filled with tears of self-pity and she looked down at the polished floor so no one could see... praying she was close to the ladies' room.

Suddenly two strong hands caught her shoulders as she almost collided with a uniformed man.

“Whoa, there, young lady.”

“Oh, I'm so sorry,” she mumbled and lifted her tear-filled eyes to a very tall handsome man in Navy uniform. Lean hawk face with steel-gray eyes and an amused quirk at the corner of a sensuous mouth. He looked like a Hollywood version of the stalwart Navy officer. He was using those penetrating gray eyes to probe her face acutely... he was... oh my God... he was the Admiral. Admiral Grandfield. Oh, no! Carl would never forgive her if she did something stupid now.

“You're the loveliest little live thing I've seen all evening in this mausoleum,” he smiled down at her.

“You're very kind... thank you... I... so good of you, Admiral,” she mumbled incoherently, breaking away and walking swiftly through the ladies' room door. She found an empty booth, locked the door and leaned gratefully against it, letting the tears flow silently down her face. Oh, God. Oh, God damn!

Her stole really wasn't warm enough on the way home, but Maeve didn't want to interrupt Carl's sudden spate of chatter to ask him to turn the heater on. His mood seemed to have changed for the better, and he was talking grandiosely about the Admiral's interest in his work.

“He was amazed I had done my thesis on Introducing Change in an Established Hierarchy. You see that's just what he's interested in doing for the Navy. He understands the absolute futility of the authoritarian structure in the world we live in today.”

“Did you tell him about the book you're writing?” she asked, wondering what had changed his mood so abruptly.

“Well, no. Right now he wants techniques, actions, blueprints. Can you imagine? He'd never even heard of an off-site?”

“Neither have I. What's an off-site?” She huddled down on the leather seat and shivered.

“Hey, baby. You're cold. Here.” Carl flipped the heater and reached over to pull her crossed thighs closer to him. “Slide over here.” His hand began sliding up and down her silken thigh.

“An off-site is where people get away from their usual environment and explore with each other how they really feel.” Maeve stiffened involuntarily. It had been so long since he'd touched her... and after the last few months she just didn't know how to react... or even how she wanted to react. His hand had come around her shoulder and slid inside the neck of her dress. Her skin crawled as his fingers inched down and insinuated inside her bra. What was he going to expect? His hand curled around her breast, and she felt an electric charge jolt through her.

“Right now, for instance, I feel like having you unzip my pants and skin my prick down.”

Why did he have to talk that way? He made her feel dirty, unclean, and degraded. She wriggled uneasily.

“But you used the word 'off-site' as though it were a technical term... sort of jargon pertaining to your work.”

“It is. Normally means a group of executives who have a kind of encounter in a place removed from office or home... usually a motel.”

“Oh, I see. The Admiral wants to use this for officers or something?”

“Come on. Where's your hand?” Her distraction tactics hadn't worked after all. She heard him unzip his pants himself. Then Maeve felt him grab her hand and wrap it around his hot hard penis that jutted into her hand like a thick, throbbing cable. Oh, God, she'd forgotten how huge his penis was. She had had no real means of comparison, but she felt it must be disproportionately large for a man of his stature. Her old Negro nurse at home had warned her. “Miss Maeve, you ain't goin' to marry that little bitty Mr. Carl, is you? 'Cause, I can tell you from my own 'sperience... those little bitty men'll kill you. I knows. I got six kids.”

Maeve shuddered, holding Carl's huge penis gingerly, as though it could impregnate her through her hand. He had almost killed her, too. She'd have six kids now herself if it weren't for the pill. As it was she had two—too soon and too close together. He'd been at her day and night it seemed for years until about a year or two ago. When his promotions didn't come through... when he'd been passed over... and had gotten shrill and obstinate with the other professors... and mean and contrary and demanding with her. Demanding impossible, sick sexual acts from her and flying into furies about her art as he had tonight.

“Hold it like you like it, baby. Skin it for me.” Obediently she tightened her grip, though she was beginning to feel sick. Oh, God, what was the matter with him? What was the matter with her? This was her husband. She was supposed to love him... but he made her feel like a... thing... an object... a chattel... a whore.

Maeve felt the car climb the steep drive, and the headlights illuminated their carport. As the car engine died she could hear Carl's heavy breathing. He grabbed her and crushed his mouth on hers, stabbing his tongue into her mouth fiercely. When he started this way she just wanted to run. There was no tenderness, no preamble, no nothing. Just naked sex. He tore his mouth away finally as she fought for breath and before she could protest had shoved her face over his naked penis... putting her mouth on his throbbing, sticky member. “Suck my cock, baby. I'm going to teach you to suck cock yet.” Oh, God, she was going to be sick. She knew it. The tip of his huge rod in her mouth made her want to gag. It was sick and depraved and unclean. She could feel the sticky ooze, and it tasted faintly sweet and pungent and nauseating. His hands held her head and forced her head lower till his huge thing was ramming the back of her throat and she was gagging. She twisted her head and wriggled and fought till she was free of it. “In the house,” she gasped, and was out the door of the car before he could catch her.

Maeve flew into the house, so glad of the momentary reprieve that the nausea even left. Shaking, she tore into the bathroom and locked the door. For the second time in one evening she found herself crying in a locked bathroom. What was happening to her life? Finally she brushed her teeth three times and gargled and gargled. What was she going to do? You couldn't yell for help or call the police and say, “My husband is about to rape me.” What did you do?

She was aware to her shame that even amid her nausea and her tears and real fright and disgust there was also an eerie, ethereal excitement that was skimming just under the surface of her mind somewhere. Carl hadn't touched her in so long now and she hadn't really realized that she was taut and strung to a strange thin-strung wire of need and anticipation until Harry had looked at her and touched her arm tonight. She knew men built up an unbearable sexual need when deprived, but she had never thought that women might too until tonight. It wasn't the incredible urgency that screamed for relief in a man, but perhaps it only waited for the moment when opportunity presented itself.

Her mind raced and her heart pounded and somehow her tears dried and she became calmer. Even a kind of plan half formed. She might avoid the dirty sex she feared if she could somehow seduce him into the normal kind that she was used to and could at least partially enjoy.

Maeve unlocked the bathroom door and flew to lock the bedroom door before he came in. She heard him locking the kitchen door, she thought, so she called out, “I'm making myself beautiful. I'll let you in... in just a minute.”

There was no answer, but she assumed that was assent.

A sudden thought stopped her cold. How could you seduce your own husband when you didn't even own a naughty nighty... or any kind, for that matter. Only prim simple pajamas lay folded in her bureau. She'd always felt black nightgowns were so obvious and so somehow insulting to a man's intelligence. She'd never wanted him to be swayed by her flesh alone. She'd wanted Carl to love her for herself... and to show that love for her body only as an expression of what he felt for her... soul?

She rummaged frantically through her drawers, trying to think of something. There was that old piece of lace that had been her wedding veil, but it was just a piece of lace. Her hand touched a roll of pink. What was that? Her old pink leotard from ballet exercise classes she'd gone to last fall. Well, it would have to do. Frantically she undressed and pulled it on.

The bathroom full-length mirror showed her a very beautiful woman. The leotard was cut high on the thigh so that her legs looked incredibly long and perfectly formed. Her buttocks were just barely covered by the thin nylon, and the “V” where her legs joined in front was emphasized. Her pubic mound plainly showed. The stretchy nylon fabric showed every curve and enhanced it. But the neck. Sexy things were supposed to have low necks. Well, she'd fix that! She grabbed the bathroom scissors and cut. When she'd finished, the neck was split in a long V that ended at her navel and her ripe breasts threatened to spill completely out of the opening. Yes, that was better. Inspired now, she pulled the peony out of the vase on the bathroom counter and pinned it right at the end of the “V” over her navel. Yes. That was what it needed.

Maeve crept out, heart hammering now. Where was he? The dining room was dark, but a faint light showed from the living room.

“Carl?” Now that she'd dressed in this damn thing she felt foolish. Would he laugh or be sarcastic?

“Well, milady of the manor has decided to come out of her ivory tower?” She whirled to find Carl sunk in a deep easy chair with a drink in his hand. He sounded funny... and he was devouring her with his eyes, but strangely. Oh, God, he sounded mean again. Was he drunk?

She'd have to brave it out. “I... I was only dressing... for you, darling.” She tried to laugh. Hell, how did you seduce men anyhow?

“Or rather undressing.” She whirled in a pirouette as she'd learned in ballet class. “Isn't it grand to have the whole house to ourselves? I could never dress like this with the children here.”

“You wire mother,” he spat at her. “You don't care any more for the kids than you do for me.” She stood clutching her arms around her waist as though he'd wounded her literally. How could he be such a beast sometimes? Wire mother, he'd called...

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