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The divorce club, p.20
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       The Divorce Club, p.20

           Jayde Scott
 
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  I roll my eyes. "How? By playing pimp?"

  "Someone will have to take the pictures from a distance." Mindy glances at Jamie. "Can you operate a Canon 50mm f1.8 SLR Camera with a zoom lens?"

  "A what?" I ask, brows raised.

  She ignores me and continues, "And once you get to the room—"

  I hold up a hand. "Wait a second, I'm not going home with the guy."

  "This is worse than the one time I was forced to listen to the sex details between Anna Nicole Smith and her ninety-year-old toy boy. Do you need some time alone to discuss this?" Jamie asks.

  "No!" Mindy and I shout in unison.

  "Mindy." I take a deep breath to steady myself for what I'm about to say. "I agreed to entice your boss's husband because—" I pause "—actually, I've no idea why."

  "Because it's your job?" Mindy says.

  "Right. I'll keep true to my word to get the job done, but on my own terms which means I'm not taking my clothes off, nor will I accompany the guy to a room. I have a thirteen-year-old daughter to think of so, you're not getting any dirty pictures from me."

  "You're not getting a grand for just having a drink either." Mindy clicks her tongue, annoyed. I bet she'd love to play her manipulation games on me now, but with Jamie around she keeps quiet.

  "You're doing this for a thousand bucks?" Jamie asks.

  Mindy huffs. "Need I remind you it's what I signed up for? The money's a bonus on top of my monthly fee."

  A smile crosses Jamie's lips as we winks at me. "You know, I think I'll come along because this might actually be fun. Are you going to wear that red number?"

  "I thought you weren't looking."

  "I wasn't. Directly." The corners of his mouth twitch. He's lying. "The stuff was so blinding it kind of took over my visual senses."

  Mindy's bad mood starts to lift. "The push-up bra's working then. I'm telling you, when you walked out Jamie couldn't keep his eyes off you. He drooled all over the floor, ready to prowl like a hungry wolf."

  "What do you expect? I'm a man and I do have eyes," Jamie says.

  "Anyway," Mindy continues. "My makeup artist friend will meet us at my place after seven. You'll look so hot every guy in the bar will want you."

  Jamie narrows his gaze. "I could drive you there."

  "She needs to arrive in her own car," Mindy says.

  "Why?"

  I peer from one to the other, fascinated by the fight for control between them. It's a little bit like watching two panthers battling out their territory. Mesmerized, I shudder, wishing I had a good glass of wine and some popcorn.

  Mindy pats my hand. "Let's just say I have huge plans for her."

  "She's not going back to that old geezer's place," Jamie says through gritted teeth.

  That's my cue to jump in and pinch the territory from under their noses. "Hey, I can speak for myself."

  "Okay." Jamie takes a deep breath, still glaring. "Tell her you're not going back to the old man's place."

  Mindy shrugs. "I was thinking more along the line of a hotel room."

  The color’s draining from Jamie's face, and his fingers start to drum on the table. He's staring at me, so I stare back because I've no clue what he wants me to do or say. "Is that what you want, Sarah?" There's a menacing tone in this voice. I grin like an idiot because I love how jealous he is. What can I say? I'm a hypocrite since I taught my clients jealousy stems from a low self-esteem and yet I couldn't care less.

  "She already agreed so back off." Suspicion crosses Mindy's brows. "Wait a second! What do you even care? It's none of your business, unless she's your girlfriend."

  Yes, why would he care? I hold my breath, waiting anxiously for his answer.

  "Because—" He runs a hand through his hair and scans the buzzing café now filled with midday customers. "She's gullible and I don't want you to take advantage of her."

  My mouth drops. "I'm what?"

  "He just called you gullible." Mindy smirks. "Show him, girlfriend."

  Jamie raises his hand to stop me. "No, listen, what I meant by that is you help out others even if it involves doing something you're not comfortable with."

  I raise my chin, defiantly. "You don't know me at all. Maybe I want to get down and dirty with that guy." I roll my eyes before I continue, "Look, it's my job to get the photos for Mindy. I have to catch the cheating idiot, okay? Whatever I do is in the club's best interest."

  "But not in your own," Jamie mutters. "Mindy, don't take this the wrong way, but you're the wolf in sheep's clothing."

  "Now I'm the bad one here," Mindy snaps. "I have every right to ask for this because it's in the damn Divorce Club manual. I'm leaving you two lovebirds alone. Got to go pick up the boss's dry cleaning, wool coats and cotton shirts. See you later. I would say goodbye, but I know Jamie would rather hear me say, 'good baaahhhh'." She laughs and walks off.

  "So," I start.

  "So." Jamie drums his fingers on the table. Our eyes connect.

  "You're not like the others. You don't need my club's services," I say.

  He stops the drumming and drains his coffee, hesitating. "What makes you say that?"

  "Isn't it obvious? Chloe's moved out. You're dating again." I laugh. "I was still a wreck months after my divorce."

  "Who said I'm dating?" He laughs. "You're miffed because of France."

  I shake my head. "It's not about France, but since you mentioned it, why did you send your lawyer?"

  Jamie resumes the drumming which irritates me. "After calling the insurance company, he thought it was the professional thing to do. I didn't know about it until Keith called me from the hospital." His gaze seems too earnest and eager; I don't believe him. He continues, "I see why you'd think I no longer fit into your club, but I need your services more than ever."

  "Why?" I cross my arms over my chest, regarding him.

  "Just the other day—" he pauses and moistens his lips "—Chloe wanted to work things out. I didn't know what to say."

  My heart almost stops beating. I knew it was just a matter of time until the wife entered the scene again, but I didn't think it'd happen so soon. "Do you want to get back with her?"

  "No," he whispers. "See, that's why I need this club. If we reconciled we'd both end up miserable. I need your help to stay strong."

  I nod, understanding the difficult situation he's going through. The truth is, even if I wanted to end his membership, my finances wouldn't survive the loss.

  Jamie leans over the table and grabs my hand, giving it a squeeze. "Does that mean I'm back in?"

  My gaze narrows. "No more skipping meetings?"

  "Never."

  "No more making me look stupid again in front of the girls?"

  "You're the boss." He winks. "I will never question your authority—at the club. I can't promise the same will apply to the other areas of my life though."

  No idea what he's talking about, but it sounds like he's ready for a change in attitude. "You'll take my club seriously?"

  "Absolutely."

  "You'll bring cake and coffee every week?"

  He nods. "Done."

  "Well then, yes. You're back in." I sigh at the bells ringing inside my head.

  He grins and my heart makes a somersault. "You won't regret it."

  I might, but I know my bank account won't. "Sam's probably waiting." Standing, I reach for my shopping bags, but he beats me to it.

  "I'll drive you home."

  "My car's parked outside." I grab the bags from his outstretched hand and turn away mumbling, "See you later."

  Pushing my way through the crowd, I feel his gaze fixed on my back. By the time I reach the car, I've regained my composure and wish I hadn't left so suddenly. Even though he denied it, Jamie might be seeing someone—or why else would he buy the chocolate body paint? I have no interest in getting closer to him on a personal level, or so I tell myself. But with the meeting in just a few hours there's no time to brood over a guy.

  I arrive home and slam the door in ca
se Sam's iPod's plugged into her eardrum again.

  "Sam?"

  No one answers, so I assume she's busy or ignoring me, and hurry to get the shopping bag from the car. Greg isn't around either, but his stuff's still here which makes me think he hasn't reconciled with the pregnant girlfriend. I prepare macaroni and cheese for my daughter and leave an extra portion lying around in case Greg decides to tuck into Sam's dinner, then head upstairs to try out the new look.

  In the privacy of my bedroom, the underwear doesn't look as tacky as before—until I squeeze the silicone cushions beneath my breasts. I spin in a circle, leaning back and forth, as I stare at my generous cleavage.

  The door bursts open and Sam walks in, her gaze fixing on my upper body. "Whoa, when did you get a boob job? I thought we had no money."

  "It's the bra." I grab a bathrobe and hurry to cover up.

  Sam's still staring. "They look fricking real to me. Are you meeting Jamie?"

  "Hey, watch your language." I sit on the bed, casually crossing my legs as I put on a surprised expression. "What makes you think I'm seeing Jamie?"

  She points at my upper body. "The new boobs."

  "Oh, for crying out loud." I toss my hands in the air. "It's just a bra. Mindy asked me to try it on, so I did because I didn't know what to do while waiting for you to pop out of your room." I cock a brow, eager to change the topic. "What were you doing?"

  Sam plops down next to me, shrugging. "I walked to the bus station to pick up Kendra, but the bus was late." She's lying, but I don't press the issue.

  "I need to attend a work meeting tonight. Will you be okay spending the evening with your dad?"

  "So it is Jamie." She narrows her gaze, regarding me intently. I roll my eyes.

  "No, it's not."

  "When will you be back?" Sam asks.

  I hesitate. "I've no idea, sweetie. It shouldn't take too long, but you know Mindy's a paying client. I'll have to stay as long as she needs me. Why don't you have a snack while I get ready?" She shrugs and heads out the door when I call after her, "Where's your dad, by the way?"

  "Don't know."

  That's typical for Greg, always being 'out' for hours even though he has no job. I'll ask him to leave when he returns because there's no way he'll live here on my costs after investing half of my house's worth into his affair.

  When he finally gets home it's after six and I'm late for my meeting, so there's not enough time to kick him out the door. Besides, I wouldn't find another babysitter on such short notice.

  I grab my keys and open the door when Greg appears behind me. "Where are you going?"

  There goes my chance of avoiding him until tomorrow. Sighing, I turn. "I didn't ask where you spend your days even though you don't have a job and live here for free."

  A frown appears between his brows. "About that—"

  "Don't bother. I'm not in the mood for lies." I slam the door behind me, smiling because it's become so easy to walk away.

  Chapter 21

  Apart from a couple of guys dressed in business suits, the bar's almost empty. I look anxiously at Jamie who's sitting on the other side of the counter, blending right in with his navy shirt and black tie. I always thought all men visiting this type of establishment were weirdos in their mid-forties and fifties, scrubby, leering and unable to find a woman the old-fashioned way, but as usual, my worldview was based on a cliché. As I scan the floor, I don't see anyone scruffy or leering, which makes me feel even cheaper.

  The thick foundation's sitting on my skin like a mask. Mindy's makeup artist friend's applied so many layers a clown probably looks more natural. I fear I'll need several towels to wash it all off, but at least the bruises are covered up. My little black skirt rides up my thighs almost to my hips. Granted, with all the bronzer my legs have never looked more toned, but I still don't feel comfortable and the killer heels and low-cut top aren't helping either. Jamie won't complain any time soon though. In the last fifteen minutes, he's barely peeled his eyes off me even though a scantily dressed dancer's taken up the stage, swaying her hips with the music, as she strips off layer after layer until she's wearing a thong that barely covers modesty. The music changes in beat and another dancer enters the stage, this one's even more gorgeous than the previous one. It seems unbelievable that a rich, successful guy will go for a woman like me rather than a twenty-something stripper with luscious legs, and yet Mindy's confident he will.

  I cross my legs, careful not to flash my undies, and slump deeper into my seat, waiting for my prey to arrive. Mindy said he'd be here at nine latest, but it's already ten minutes past, which makes me anxious. Has he discovered our conspiracy? Has there been a change of plans? I sigh and scan the bar area again. Being here's wrong in all senses of the word, and yet I can't bring myself to leave.

  My phone vibrates on the table. I peer at the caller ID and groan. It's my landline number. Either Sam wants to make sure I'm really not seeing Jamie, or Greg has some special requests such as to bring him a takeaway on way back. It wouldn't be the first time.

  "Yes?" I shout to hear my voice through the music even though the person on the line can probably understand me just fine.

  "Is that Circus by Britney Spears? My goodness, are you at a bar?" It's Greg.

  "What's it to you?"

  "I'm babysitting our thirteen-year-old daughter while you're dancing the night away like some tramp. Need I remind you you're not twenty-one anymore? You have a family and responsibilities now. It's time to grow up, Sarah."

  I snort. If he lectures me one more time about my responsibilities I'll explode. "Like you have room to talk. You know, the line's breaking up. I'll talk to you later."

  "Wait. Our daughter informs me that my wife is out with some guy. Is it true?"

  Wife? For a moment, anger chokes my throat, making breathing impossible. "You know we're divorced, right? If I want to go out with a guy I'll do it. In the end, it's none of your business."

  "Actually, it is since we're back together and all."

  Did I miss something? Jamie shoots me a questioning look, so I turn my back on him as I shout, "What makes you—"

  Greg cuts me off. "I know you're still mad because of what happened, but you've got to let it go. We talked about it a million times. It was your fault just as much as mine, maybe even more so because you were a nag."

  From the corner of my eye, I notice a guy in his mid-fifties sit a few stools away. The black mop of hair on his head's unmistakable the same as in the picture Mindy showed me earlier.

  "Just do me a favor and go away." I hang up on Greg, my heart thumping like a drum in my ears as I turn to the right. It's him. He's here. In my mind, I rehearsed it a million times in the last two hours and yet I can't seem able to remember how I'm supposed to start a conversation.

  My fingers play with the straw in my glass, swirling the orange juice around. I hope he'll hoist himself over here because there's no way I'll make a move. Unfortunately, the seconds tick by, but he doesn't approach me. So, Mindy was wrong; the guy doesn't find me attractive after all. Granted, this is a strip establishment with plenty of stunning girls and I'm past my prime, but I'm not that old.

  The phone rings again. I glance at the familiar number, deciding to ignore it.

  "Switching off usually does the trick."

  Startled, I look up into brown eyes, for a moment unable to comprehend what he's talking about. And then I realize it's him. Maybe I'm not that old after all.

  He holds out a hand. "I'm Patrick."

  "I—" Luckily, I stop myself in time because telling the guy I know his name wouldn't help my mission. "I'm Sarah."

  Patrick orders another drink for me as he inches closer. His gaze scans my cleavage before it settles on my face. I expect the cheap pick-up lines to start flowing, but he keeps staring at me, which is starting to make me nervous, so I try to engage him in conversation.

  "You come here often?"

  He nods and takes a sip of his drink. "Every week. I don't remember
seeing you before."

  "I was supposed to meet a friend. She bailed out on me, so I thought I'd have a drink before I head back to work." The excuse sounded believable when Mindy and I rehearsed it. I hope Patrick believes my shaking voice to be the result of feeling insecure due to his raw masculinity, or whatever men suppose nowadays.

  Patrick winks. "Is it naughty of me if I say I'm glad she didn't turn up?"

  "Not at all." I fake a giggle. "Now that you're mentioning it, I'll send her a box of chocolates."

  "Let me buy you another drink," Patrick says, even though I haven't even touched the first one yet.

  "Okay, though I have to warn you I get tipsy very easily." I giggle some more and take a sip through the straw umbrella, the vodka burning the back of my throat.

  "We wouldn't want that now, would we?" His eyes sparkle. I dare a peek toward Jamie, barely able to suppress a grin. Jamie's hand is clasped around his beer glass, his knuckles white. His lips are pressed in a tight line and his eyes throw daggers. Is someone jealous or just overprotective? I hope option one applies even though I know it's wrong of me to fish for any minuscule indicator that he might be into me.

  Patrick resumes the conversation. "You're not like other women. There's something different about you. Have you modeled?"

  This must be one of the worst and most cliché pickup lines ever. I groan inwardly as I curl my lips into a smile and wink. "Only for private collections." Like those of a cheated woman who wants to frame her husband.

  "What? I can't hear you," Patrick shouts. "What do you say we retreat to the privacy of my booth?"

  I stare at him because I expected it'd be a tougher challenge to drag him away from here, but apparently Mindy was right about this as well. The guy can't wait to pull. He's not even wasting time in case he needs to move on to the next skirt.

  "Only if you get us a bottle of champagne." I batter my lashes, hoping it looks sexy.

  "Nothing less for a gorgeous girl like you." Patrick orders a bottle of bubbly and two flutes before he helps me off my stool. We squeeze through the gathering crowd to the back of the establishment.

 
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