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The divorce club, p.17
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       The Divorce Club, p.17

           Jayde Scott
 
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  "Who is it?"

  "Greg."

  Hearing my ex-husband's name I choke on the water. "How did he find out I'm here?"

  She hesitates and looks away. "I told him."

  "Mel!"

  She holds up her index finger, cutting me off. "Listen, Sam needs a father figure in her life. He might not be the best role model out there, but he's better than nothing. I know what it's like to grow up alone. It's not healthy."

  I can see her point, but that doesn't make me feel less betrayed. She's supposed to be my friend, not the one siding with the enemy.

  "Someone else is here to see you." Her lips curl downward, her eyes turn cold. "Jamie's lawyer. Have your pick who you want to talk to first because none of them will go away."

  Chapter 18

  Jamie's lawyer is tall and groomed with small beady eyes and an expression that's supposed to convey openness, but only manages to put me on guard. There's something familiar about him that I can't quite pinpoint.

  "Miss Davis, my name's Keith Andrews." He shakes my hand with little vigor. "I'm a partner with Davis Pollard & Associates. I represent Jamie Bowers and would like to discuss a proposition that'll make all parties very happy. How are you?"

  Pulling my hand away, I lean back. "Judging from the bruises, swelling, ugly hospital gown, and this IV that won't stop beeping, I'm going to say, not good."

  "I'm sorry." His voice sounds routine, like he's repeated this a million times before.

  "Everyone says the face lift didn't go as planned. Bummer, huh?" I touch the bruise on my face. "Do you sue doctors?"

  He fumbles through his notes. "I supposed this was a car accident."

  "Got you. I thought you lawyers had a sense of humor." I laugh, but he doesn't even crack a smile, so I clear my throat. "The joke was supposed to ease the tension, but never mind. Please call me Sarah."

  "Sarah, then. You can call me Keith. Everyone does." He pulls a chair from the window and sits without waiting for an invitation.

  "Please, sit." I point at the chair he's just occupied.

  Still, he doesn't crack a smile. "Where were we?"

  I suddenly realize why he seems so familiar. He was on television a while back, repeating the exact same line to a reporter. Why on earth would Jamie send a celebrity lawyer to visit me? "Can we make this as quick as possible? I've got people waiting to see me. It seems I'm more popular now than I ever was in school."

  He drops his briefcase on the table and retrieves a blue folder, smacking his lips as he reads. "Right. My client and you—"

  "You mean Jamie, let's just make that clear."

  "Yes." He peers at me with the disdain of a teacher who's just been interrupted by a naughty child for the umpteenth time. "My client—Jamie—and you were involved in a car accident. Now, we all know he wasn't at fault, but you're still entitled to compensation from both parties. If you would just sign these papers that you won't hold him responsible so we can start our negotiations."

  Did he just say 'compensation'? I gawk at him. This is even more ridiculous than sending the lawyer after me. "You want to pay me? For what?"

  "For your inconvenience, of course. The only thing we ask for is your discretion in keeping the matter quiet."

  "You mean sweep it under the rug?" I ask.

  He nods as he stares at me meaningfully. In that moment, it dawns on me. Instead of calling, Jamie sent his lawyer to silence me because he doesn't want his missus to find out about France. Whatever's going on in his marriage, he probably hasn't told me half of it. I'm not a rebound relationship like Mel suggested. To him, I'm either just a way to get back at Chloe, or some wicked tactic to regain his masculinity and prove to the world he's still attractive in spite of a failed marriage.

  Hot and cold shivers run down my spine as I sit in my bed, propped up on my deflated pillow. "How much?"

  He flicks through his papers, but it's quite obvious from the way his eyes fail to move that it's just for show. Eventually, he settles on a sheet and drums his fingers on the table. "We were thinking along the line of two thousand."

  I snort. That's all his marriage is worth to him? Keith must interpret it as a sign of disapproval because he's quick to come up with a second offer. "How does three sound to you? I personally think that's rather generous."

  "Listen." My gaze feels alight with fury as I glare at him. "I'm not interested in his money. If he wants me to keep quiet, so be it. My lips are sealed. No one will ever hear a word from me. I'll even sign the papers for you as long as he promises not to set foot in my club ever again."

  Keith stares at me, speechless for a second, and then clears his throat. "I must admit I didn't anticipate this outcome. I'll have to call in and discuss this option with my client. If you'll excuse me for a moment." In other words, he expected me to turn into a gold-digger the moment I found out his client is a stuck-up snob with no regards for other people's feelings but plenty of cash at the bank. I wish Mel were here instead of me. She sure would've taken him to the cleaners.

  "Why don't you give me the phone and I'll tell him myself?" I ask, sweetly.

  "I'm sorry, this is something I need to discuss with Mister Bowers privately. I'll be right back."

  "You might want to tell your client he has either ice running through his veins or he sucks at covering up his infidelities. It must be nice to put two people in the hospital and walk away, then offer them money and not even care enough to come visit."

  "He has an important business meeting in London," Keith says.

  "Of course." I snort and mutter under my breath, "Probably with his other advisor on how to get rid of Chloe."

  "I'll be right back." Keith retrieves his phone from his pocket and walks out. I'm fuming inside because I was so stupid to think Jamie might be different. He's a man; I should've expected a stunt like this.

  By the time Keith returns a few minutes later, I've already calmed down a little. I peer at him expectantly, waiting to be given a pen and paper on the spot.

  "My client won't agree to your proposition because he needs the club's services." He emphasizes the word 'club' as though it's the kind of establishment men frequent to get a lap dance. If Jamie's trying to keep France a secret, then I don't expect him to have told his lawyer what my club's all about. My temper flares again.

  "I'm not a brothel-keeper. My club doesn't offer any kind of porn, dancing or otherwise, so stop giving me that look. Tell him I have the right to annul his membership."

  "He warned me you'd say that. Since he paid this month's fee he won't accept being kicked out. It wouldn't be good for your reputation," Keith says.

  What's with this man and his tendency to blackmail me? "Fine, whatever. I still don't want a nickel. If he doesn't accept a refund that's fine, but the club's closed until further notice because, as you can see, I'm in a hospital."

  Nodding, Keith starts shoving his papers inside his briefcase and snaps it shut as he speaks without looking at me, "You know what? I have a feeling this business between Jamie and you is rather personal and wish I hadn't come. Why don't you two just get together and discuss the issue because it doesn’t seem as though you need a lawyer. It was lovely meeting you, Sarah. If you ever need legal advice—" he pushes his card into my hand and I take it out of politeness "—give my office a call. We're experts in dealing with all court matters and more. Good day to you."

  He's gone before I can even open my mouth, but I don't have time to consider his abrupt exit. The door opens again and Greg comes in. My breath catches in my throat as hundreds of thoughts race through my mind at once. It's only been three months, yet I feel as though he's coming back home after years. Unfortunately, it's not a pleasant reunion.

  Greg seems touched as he hovers in the doorway, one hand gripping the handle. A smile spreads across his lips; the dark skin under his hazel eyes creases into thin lines. His shirt is disheveled as though no one bothered to iron it after the wash. The once meticulously styled hair needs a good wash and cut.

/>   "Come in." I point at the table and chair, but he sits on the bed next to my feet.

  "I wasn't sure whether you'd see me," Greg says.

  I laugh at his word choice. "You didn't exactly announce your presence and give me a choice to run for the hills, but it's okay. Given Sam's our daughter, I'll just let it pass this time."

  "Well, I'm happy to see you too." He leans back, crossed.

  "What did you expect? Chocolate and air-kisses? You didn't bring any of those either."

  "I considered the air-kissing thing, but I thought you might slap me." Grinning, he reaches inside his pocket and pulls out a tiny box of Tesco's Value pralines, then pushes it toward me. "I know you like them."

  My blood is boiling. If there's any gesture that could sum up our marriage, this is it. "I liked them because we couldn't afford anything better since I was working hard to cover the bills while you were busy shacking up in expensive hotels with your mistress."

  "Here you are in the hospital, all black and blue, and yet, you still have energy to play 'The Blame Game'," Greg says.

  I'm so angry I toss the praline box across the room, watching it smack against the door and landing on the floor with a thud. "Trust me, I stopped blaming you a long time ago. I'm just talking facts here."

  "Maybe you should start seeing my point. I also—"

  "No." I shake my head because if I let him continue one word will lead to another and then we both will end up in need of mental help. "Seeing Sam's fine with me, but why are you here? There's nothing we could possibly want to talk about unless you mean to catch up on your child support payments, of which I haven't seen a single check by the way."

  Greg sighs. "The blame game again. If you weren't such a nag I would never have started an affair."

  I smile coldly, gazing at the man I wasted thirteen years of my life on. His words hit me hard when they shouldn't. I guess he left a rift in my heart that will always be sore, ready to rip into shreds if I let it happen. Luckily, I've found ways to deal with it. He'll never get close enough again. "Why are you here?" I ask coldly.

  A hint of surprise crosses his features. He didn't expect me to ignore him, and neither did I, but I'm tired of his mind games.

  "Isn't it obvious? I wanted to see you," Greg says.

  Pretending he cares won't take him far when he hasn't even asked how I am. I shake my head. "You have an ulterior motive. Let's not waste my time. I'm tired and need my rest."

  He squirms, gaze glued to the white linen covering my legs. It makes me feel awkward, exposed to a stranger.

  "Jenny and I are over."

  "What?" I'm not sure I heard right, so I lean forward.

  "Come on. Making me repeat it is just mean. You know this is uncomfortable."

  I snort, but not with glee. Hearing his romance didn't last doesn't come as a surprise. I just never figured he'd actually tell me about it. "And I need to know, why?" My voice is dripping with sarcasm.

  He takes a deep breath. "Because I know you don't want to see me starving and dirty, warming my hands over a barrel with crackling fire and sleeping on the street covered in newspaper like some bum."

  I nod. "Wow. Dreams do come true."

  "Sarah, you couldn't possible mean it." He looks so calculating, I can't believe I ever fell for this in the past. "I left her for you."

  "You mean she kicked you out?" I ask, amused. "And here I thought she was just another pretty face."

  "No. I left." The way his eyes scan the sheets for a second tells me he's lying. So she ended things and threw him out, and now he thinks if he tells me he left her I'll jump at the opportunity of getting him back.

  I roll my eyes. "What a tragedy! Too bad Shakespeare isn't here to write it."

  He blinks and grabs my hand, his thumb stroking my palm. "I need your help, Sarah. Please, for the sake of all the happy years we shared."

  Manipulation, mind games—he's always been good at them, but not this time. Regarding him, I shake my head. "You're not moving back in. Not even for an hour."

  Smiling, he nods. "You're still hurt. I can understand your pain. My world would've been shaken too if you did this to me."

  "The only thing that's going to be shaking is your head when I shake some sense into it."

  He reaches for my hand. "Or our bed when you come to your wits and see that you and Sam need me."

  "Sleep with you?" I laugh. "Keep dreaming. That will never happen. I'd rather poke my eyes with needles."

  "Ouch." He sighs. "Look, I'm really sorry for what happened."

  Another bluff. He's not sorry, never will be, and he wouldn't be here if his girlfriend didn't kick him out. "I'm not hurting any more. I like my life the way it is. There's no more room for you in it."

  He shrugs. "I'm not asking if I can jump into your bed—just the sofa."

  I can't believe he's even considering that option. "That's how it starts. You sneak in through a crack like a cockroach, and I'll never be able to get rid of you again."

  "You can think what you want, but Sam's happy to have me back. She says she's not too old to have me tuck her in at night. She's agreed to cook me breakfast every morning and make homemade orange juice as long as I stay. You wouldn't believe her face when I told her how good I was at math. I even put a math problem next to my name when I signed her cast. Sam wants me in her life, whether you like it or not."

  "What?" Bile rises in my throat. "Don't you dare!"

  He shrugs. "She so looks forward to spending more time with her dad, but I can tell her you'd rather see me sleeping on the street or on a park bench than on the sofa."

  "You bastard!" I lean forward and push his hand away. Exercising violence to bring my point across has never been part of my personality, yet, I feel a strong urge to punch and kick some sense into him right now. I won't stoop so low and decide to use words instead. "You're a despicable excuse of a man, thinking you can come back and take your old place like it's there for you to take. I honestly hate you from the bottom of my heart."

  From the smug grin on his face I can tell if the words even registered with him, he doesn't take them seriously. "I'll go unpack and take a shower. If you need anything give me a call. You know our number. See you tomorrow then."

  I stare at him, dumbfounded, as he prepares to leave, that unnerving smile still playing on his lips. "Wait! If you even think about entering my house, I'll report you for breaking and entering."

  "Go ahead. I dare you. At least I'll have three hot meals and a cot." He dangles Sam's keys in my face. "Besides, it's not trespassing if our daughter gave me the keys. The police wouldn't arrest me for that."

  I snort. "You can't be serious, Greg. Forget living on the streets! You need a straitjacket and lots of meds. Give me those keys back," I shout. "You have no right to set foot in my house."

  "Our cat lady neighbor might think differently. You know how she hates divorce." He pushes out his chin, eyes glinting. "She'll be thrilled to hear I'm moving back in, especially after having one of your dates scare her half to death."

  "What?"

  He bobs his head up and down as he starts shouting. "Oh, yeah, Cat Lady told me how some guy stayed the night. Did he sleep in our bed? How is that good for Sam, Sarah? What kind of example are you setting for our daughter?"

  I know this is getting ugly, but I can't help myself. Greg always managed to bring out the worst in me. "Example? Like you have any room to talk. Why don't you just shack up with Fluffy and Cat Lady? Beats sleeping in London's night buses because that's where you'll be staying."

  "You know I'm allergic to cats," Greg says.

  "What do I care? Yank out the carpet, buy some HEPA air filters, wash your hands, don't rub your eyes, and vacuum every day. You'll be just fine."

  "I'm picking you up tomorrow." He heads for the door.

  "Give me those keys back," I shout. "I'll make flyers saying 'Lost Dog' with your picture on them. Last seen humping his secretary and answers to Greg. I'll pass them out to everybody on our st
reet."

  Greg shakes his head, grinning. "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

  "I'm not scorned, you idiot. I'm trying to keep you out. You have no right to set foot in my house."

  "You mean, our house, babe. You never bought out my share, so technically it's my house too," Greg says.

  I sit up, wishing I could run over there and smack him over his head. "That's not true. I took out a loan and gave you half of the money."

  "Yes, but did you put it in writing?" He winks from the door before he closes it behind him.

  "No. Come back," I yell even though no one hears me. Too bad all that security stuff won't raise alarm and wake up the entire street because I never bothered to learn how to switch it on when I'm outside the house.

  I sink into my pillow, contemplating what I might've done to deserve this. First, Jamie shows me that in spite of his words I'm no more than a cheap booty call he thinks he can bribe so the missus doesn't find out. And then my cheating ex sneaks back into my life.

  My self-pity's interrupted when the nurse pops in to bring me lunch and brief me in on my coming tests. I'd rather get a nap from all the drama and headache, but she promises we'll stop by Sam's room if I play along. I fight back the nausea as I heave myself out of bed and into the wheelchair, and prepare for a long afternoon of probing hands and whirring machines.

  The corridors are alive with the sick and their visitors. No one pays us any attention as the nurse wheels me from one examination area to the next. By the time we finally reach Sam's room it feels as though hours have passed.

  She's lying on her back, eyes glued to the blaring TV, and only notices my presence when the nurse closes the door behind her. The surprised expression on Sam's face turns into a smile.

  "Mum, they said I couldn't see you yet." She sounds like a child, her voice choking with emotion.

  I veer myself forward until the wheelchair thumps against the iron bed and grab her arm, drawing deep breaths as I take in the bruises on her face and the white cast reaching from her foot all the way to her thigh. There's the clumsy sketch of a little teddy bear. The name below reads Jamie, in fancy cursive, next to, Get well, soon! I don't know what to think of the gesture.

 
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