Julie Hunter, 52, from Whitefield, Greater Manchester explains how they kept their affair secret for five years.
Standing in the kitchen doing the dishes, I could sense him edging closer and closer. I felt my stomach tingle with excitement and my skin came out in goose pimples.
‘Jules, I’ve got something to tell you,’ Dean, 47, said.
‘What is it?’ I replied.
But instead of telling me, he slipped his arms around my waist and pulled me closer.
Then, he leaned in and kissed me passionately on the lips. It felt so right that I just couldn’t pull away.
‘I’ve got feelings for you,’ Dean eventually said.
‘Well, I think I just gathered that,’ I joked.
The truth was, I had feelings for him, too – but for years I’d been denying it.
In so many ways, Dean was my perfect man. He was handsome, loving and kind-hearted. He just wasn’t like the other men I’d ever been with. He was special.
But there was one problem. He was my stepbrother.
We weren’t blood-related, but my biological dad, Robert Kirkwood, was once married to his mum and had always been a father figure to him.
So we both call the same man Dad.
I’d spent years introducing Dean to everyone as my brother.
Plus, I was also his former sister-in-law after I married his ex-wife’s brother – although we had since both got divorced.’
In fact, it was the stresses and strains of getting divorced that first saw us seek comfort from each other.
So, even though we didn’t share the same DNA, we were family. And that made the idea of kissing him seem a bit strange at first.
The day after, I went round to see him. It was like there were magnets pulling us together and we ended up kissing again.
There was no denying the attraction between us any longer.
Our years of friendship had developed into something more romantic, and it felt like there was no going back.
‘We aren’t doing anything wrong, we aren’t really brother and sister,’ Dean reassured me.
‘But what will everyone say?’ I asked.
We both knew that some of our friends and family might hate the idea of us becoming an item, so we decided to keep our blossoming relationship a secret.
I was worried that our kids could be bullied at school. I could imagine the playground taunts.
It meant we couldn’t go out for romantic dinners or dates to the cinema like other couples in case we were spotted.
Instead, I’d usually pop over to see Dean once his kids were in bed.
The trouble was, he was living with Dad and it didn’t take him long to cotton on that something was happening between me and Dean.
So we decided to share our secret – although it turned out he’d already put two and two together.
‘I knew you weren’t coming over all the time just to see me – I’m not daft!’ Dad said.
He gave us his blessing, which was a huge relief. We made him promise to keep our secret a bit longer, and he agreed.
As the months passed, we fell more deeply in love.
For the first time in many years, I felt truly happy.
We decided the time was right to share the news with close family that we trusted.
To our surprise, they took it really well.
It gave us the confidence to start going out and about together – although there was no holding hands or cuddling in public. It was too risky.
The months turned into years and I felt closer to Dean than ever, but our secret was holding us back.
We were still living separately and it felt like our relationship couldn’t progress.
‘This is crazy – I’m tired of living a lie,’ Dean blurted out one morning.
‘Me too, but I’m scared of telling everyone the truth,’ I replied.
But Dean was right – keeping everything quiet all the time was tiring.
Then, on Bonfire Night last year, as we watched the fireworks go off, the solution came to us.
‘Why don’t we get married?’ Dean suggested.
It wasn’t the most romantic proposal, but his words still gave me butterflies. I agreed in an instant.
Now we were engaged, it felt like the perfect time to finally announce that we were an item – five years after that first kiss!
So we headed straight to our local pub, hand-in-hand, and told everyone we knew.
We got a few strange looks – and I’m sure a few people had a good gossip – but those we cared about most were really pleased for us.
In December last year, we tied the knot at the registry office.
It was the perfect day, and it felt so amazing to publicly declare our love for each other.
Now we’re husband and wife, I feel like nothing can stop us.
People might make comments when our backs are turned, but who cares? My husband just happens to be my stepbrother.
What really matters is that we make each other feel complete.
I love spending weekends with Dean, taking our metal detector to the park to hunt for treasure.
We usually only ever find bits of old pipe – but I feel like I’ve already struck gold by falling in love with such a wonderful man.