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The divorce club, p.21
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       The Divorce Club, p.21

           Jayde Scott
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Chapter 22

  Several times, I peer over my shoulder to make sure Jamie's following. Patrick pulls a curtain and leads me into the miniature of a room with dimmed lights, including the usual stripper pole, red sofa and glittery floor. With my Vegas underwear, I'll blend right in.

  I drop on the sofa, minding my short skirt, as Patrick pours us champagne and hands me a glass. I've barely taken a sip when he inches closer and drapes his arm over my shoulder whispering in my ear, "You're gorgeous."

  I try to laugh. The sound remains trapped in my throat because his overpowering aftershave is choking me. Mindy said he wouldn't need much of an invitation to take off his clothes, and yet I can't bring myself to make even the slightest insinuation. Let's face it, the guy's probably as old as my father, hairy, with saggy skin I don't want to see.

  "Come here." He starts nibbling on my neck, his hand wandering to my thigh. From the corner of my eye I notice Jamie peering through the curtain, a thin digital camera snapping the first photos so I throw back my head and contort my face into what I think people will mistake for ecstasy. The truth is though, I've never been more embarrassed. Whatever Jamie thought of me before, now he'll probably be mortified to be with me in the same room. Why did I let Mindy drag me into this?

  "Was that a flash?" Patrick asks.

  "No, just the light catching in my bra. Close your eyes and enjoy." I push his head toward my cleavage and moan loudly in the hope to divert his attention from everything else happening around him.

  "You like that, huh?" Patrick's hand draws circles on my inner thigh as he neighs like a horse between my breasts. How could he possibly think pretending to be an animal might turn a woman on? His fingers move higher. I stiffen. Time to get this over and done with before someone sees Jamie outside and raises alarm.

  In a bold moment, I jump to my feet and head for the stripper pole, pressing my back against the metal like they do on TV. "Why don't you take off your pants?" I whisper. Patrick laughs and starts unbuttoning parts of his body I don't want to see.

  "Show me what you got, sexy," Patrick says.

  At home, loading the washing machine clad in my fleece tracksuit with no makeup, I feel sexier and less dirty than here, slithering up and down the pole. I've no idea how women can do this for a living. Maybe it's not so bad when you try to turn on a hot guy, but Patrick's leering, groaning and panting only makes me long for a nice hot tub with a good brush and lots of scrubbing.

  Mindy advised to take off parts of my clothes to make it seem convincing so I start to peel off my skirt, dropping it to my feet. Even though it's warm in here, my skin turns into goose bumps, which I hope won't be visible under the many layers of body makeup. Patrick's hand moves to the south, so I inch closer and turn my back on him as I lower myself on his lap. His hands circle my hips, drawing me closer. I shoot an imploring look toward the curtain. Five more minutes of hip shaking and butt rubbing, and then I'm out of here, otherwise I might just throw up.

  Patrick moans in my ear, so I move my head to the side and whisper, "Pull off your shorts."

  "You're a naughty one," he says, his hands already busying themselves down below. My insides turn cold as ice. I close my eyes and part my lips like actresses do in movies, feeling strangely detached as though I'm far away from here.

  "Sorry, sir, we only allow our own girls to enter the private rooms."

  I jerk my head toward the curtain. Jamie's standing there, the expression on his face seems composed, but I can see the lines around his mouth and the frostiness in his blue gaze. I jump up and slip into my skirt, eager to get out of here as fast as I can. Bile rises in my throat. If I don't get out soon I'll drop dead, mortified.

  "We were about to leave," Patrick says even though he doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry as he whispers, "Let's get a room and finish what we've started."

  What am I supposed to do? I don't have an exit plan out of this situation. "I—"

  I struggle to come up with an excuse, but my mind's remains blank when Jamie grabs Patrick by the collar and pushes him out hissing, "She's not going anywhere with you, old geezer, so buzz off."

  "Don't." I grab his arm, my gaze imploring.

  For a moment, I fear Jamie didn't hear me because he doesn't let go of Patrick. Then, he nods slightly. With a last glance back, we take off through the crowd. He doesn't say a word until we're outside. The cool air brushes my hot skin, easing the nausea in my stomach. I wrap my arms around my middle.

  "Are you okay?" Jamie's furious. I can tell from the way all color’s drained from his face.

  "I've never done that before, and I'll never do it again." Peering at him, I shake my head. Hopefully, he doesn't think I'm cheap.

  A vein throbs on his forehead. "Damn straight you won't. You're too good to be having creeps touching you like that guy. How did Mindy make you stoop to that level? When I get my hands on her, she'll wish I hadn't."

  "Don't do that. She isn't entirely to blame." I run the tip of my tongue over my chapped lips. "I'm so sorry. I was just supposed to take pictures of cheating husbands, not take off my clothes to catch them. The stuff I'm doing for this club's spinning out of control."

  Jamie inches closer, his warm breath caressing my lips. "You know, I wanted to punch Patrick so badly. It took everything I had not to hit him. Seeing you drop that skirt and then his drooling over you like some dog in heat was more than I could bear. I hope it was worth a thousand bucks."

  I shake my head. "It wasn't, but I had to do it for the club."

  "You aren't bait," he whispers, rubbing my back.

  "You're right. I'm going to rewrite the brochure."

  He nods when I notice a car parked on the other side of the road. It's the same one I've seen in front of the club and across the street. My vision blurs and my hands start to shake as Greg's getting out.

  "Sarah? Why didn't you answer your phone?" he asks. "What are you doing at a strip club? And why are you dressed like a hooker?" He looks Jamie up and down. "Is that your pimp? You're doing tricks, aren't you?"

  "What?" I shout. "Are you mad? No!"

  "Okay, then give me one good reason why you're flashing your underwear with heels about a foot tall, standing outside an establishment like this."

  "Shut up if you don't want me to take off my heels to show you what else I can do with them," I say. "They're deadly weapons, particularly to a man's private parts."

  "She's not a hooker," Jamie says. "Say that again and we're going to have serious troubles."

  "This is between me and my wife," Greg says. He looks at me and shakes his head. "Is this the so-called boyfriend? What kind of trash are you dating that brings you here looking like a cheap tart?"

  Jamie's face contorts with fury. I grab his arm to hold him back before he snaps. Greg's never been one to know when to keep quiet, but lately he seems to have lost all sense of self-preservation.

  "You married the idiot?" Jamie asks through clenched teeth.

  I nod. "Fortunately, I came to my senses."

  Greg shoves Jamie's shoulder. "We were separated because my wife had a lapse in judgment, but we're still a family with a wonderful daughter. Whatever kind of life you dragged her into, it's over. It ends now, mate. Got it?"

  He's playing the family card again. What's with people trying to manipulate me? Maybe I'm gullible like Jamie implied. I cross my arms over my chest, standing my ground. "We're not a family, and I'm not going anywhere with you."

  "What did you just say?" Greg inches closer. "That's not Sarah speaking. You got my wife hooked on drugs, you piece of slime, so she'll do your dirty work?"

  "Did he just call me a pimp?" Jamie hisses.

  "That's it. Let's go," Greg says, grabbing my arm. "I've had enough of watching over you. Dragging Sam along to your little dates, and now this—obviously, the pain from our separation was too much for you."

  "Date?" I raise my brow. "You mean dinner?"

  Greg shrugs. "I'd rather call that cheap pizza place a fast food joint."

>   A cold shudder runs down my back. Why didn't I see the connection? "How did you even find me?" I whisper. "How do you always know where I am?"

  He drops his hand. I expect him to avert his gaze, say he's sorry, feel guilty, but he doesn't. Instead, he shrugs as though stalking me since Jamie entered my life is the most natural thing in the world. "I had your phone tracked. Someone had to take care of you."

  I start hitting him with my purse until my arms hurt yelling, "You sonofabitch. Do you have any idea what you did to me?"

  Chapter 23

  "Sarah, stop. What's going on?" If it weren't for Jamie to pull me away, I'd punch Greg into next week.

  I huff, clutching my sides. "He's—"

  "I'm her husband," Greg says. "Now, let go of her."

  "Ex-husband and a stalker as well." I lunge forward, ready to punch him again when Jamie tightens his grip around my waist. "No, I need to do this," I hiss.

  "Is he the reason why you've been acting so weird lately?" Jamie asks.

  I nod, my gaze still focused on Greg.

  "I'll drive you home," Jamie says, adding in my ear, "and I'm staying the night in case the psycho turns up."

  "You've done enough when we're just trying to reconcile. Stealing my wife with your sob story." Greg shakes his head, poking a finger in Jamie's chest. "Bad move."

  Jamie stares at me. "You're getting back together?"

  "No," I whisper.

  "She's just shy." Greg raises his brows, meaningfully. "We live together. So, back off."

  My blood's boiling again. How can he say that? I never even pretended to want him back. I lean toward Jamie and whisper, "It's not true. He's sick."

  For a moment, Jamie seems to consider my words, faltering as though he's fighting with himself whether to believe me or not.

  "Whatever you got going with my wife, it's over," Greg says. "Do you hear me? This isn't like her at all. I don't know what kind of drugs you have her on, but she's going off them cold turkey, starting tonight."

  "I'm not on drugs, you moron," I say.

  "You're in denial, babe. It's what all drug addicts say."

  I roll my eyes.

  Greg grabs my hands, turning me to face him as he touches my cheek. "You weren't really in a car accident, were you? This is worse than I ever thought."

  Huh? "What are you talking about?"

  "Look at all the bruises. I don't know why I didn't notice it before. Everything's adding up. You quit cooking and pretended not to have time to take care of the house. He's beating you up." Greg's gaze narrows. He must really believe his own story. "He put you in the hospital. Just say it, and I'll kick his butt. You're so lucky I'm coming back into to your life to straighten you out. Since I left, you must've gone through hell."

  "What is he implying here?" Jamie's voice is low and menacing. I press a hand against his chest, but I'm not sure I'll be able to hold him back if he decides to strike.

  Greg continues as if he didn't hear Jamie. "This isn't your fault. You were so devastated I left, you resorted to the only way you knew how to deal with the pain. Had I known you wouldn't be able to cope, I would've never left."

  Jamie says something, but I don't get what he answers since my phone's vibrating in my purse. I pick up because, with Greg wasting my time here, I know Sam's alone at home and it might be an emergency. Instead of Sam it's Shannon. I don't want to deal with her problems right now, but somehow it's easier than dealing with mine.

  I turn my back on Jamie and Greg as I say, "Hey, Shannon, what's up?"

  "Hi. Are you okay to talk? I know it's late and—"

  "No, no. Go on."

  "Who is it? Can't it wait?" Greg hisses.

  I cover the receiver and hiss back, "It's a client, you moron. Ever heard of the word 'work'? Probably not."

  Greg snorts. "You call hanging out with your girlfriends and bitching about men work?"

  Ignoring him, I focus back on Shannon. "—and then he said he never loved me anyway and that he's moving out."

  "Wait a second, Shannon. Your husband's moving out?"

  "He was such a jerk," Shannon continues. "He said I'd never get to keep the house because the government will kick me out as soon as he files for divorce."

  I shake my head even though she can't hear me. "You know that's not true, right?"

  "Are you're sure? It looks like he might win the battle if I don't find a job soon. I've applied everywhere, yet I don't seem to have any luck."

  I hesitate, considering my words. What the heck? Greg will be moving out tonight, so that's one mouth less to feed, and Sam's slowly getting used to Tesco's Value meals. "What do you say to working part-time for me? Just a few hours a week since I can't afford to pay you more, but the reference should come in handy." I laugh nervously because I've never offered anyone a job before and it makes me feel silly.

  There's a brief pause on the other end of the line. "I don't have your qualifications, Sarah."

  "We'll find something that you can do." I peer at Jamie who raises his brows at me.

  "Really?" I can hear the excitement in Shannon's voice. Even though I know expanding my business through employing people when it's barely making any profit is a bad idea, I can't help but feel a burst of happiness inside me. I am sort of saving lives here.

  "You can start on Monday," I say. "Let's discuss the details after tomorrow's meeting."

  "Thank you so much." She laughs. "We've got to celebrate. Why don't you pop over? I'll call the others. All drinks are on me."

  I should be going home, but Shannon sounds so hyped I can't say no. "Okay," I whisper. "See you later."

  "You're the worst employer ever," Jamie says as soon as I've hung up.

  "Why?" I narrow my gaze, ready to defend myself.

  "Because you just hired someone you don't need and—" he holds up a finger, stopping me from protesting "—that person doesn't have any sort of experience."

  I shrug. "She needs the job otherwise she'll be kicked out of Britain."

  Jamie smiles as he inches closer. "See? That's exactly what I love about you."

  My breath catches in my throat. Did he just say he loves something about me? I gape, only then noticing Greg still standing in the background, smirking.

  "You wouldn't fall for that, Sarah, would you?"

  I raise my chin, definitely. "As a matter of fact, I am. Go and pack your stuff. I want you out now."

  Greg groans. "Not again. You'll break Sam's heart a second time? What kind of mother are you?"

  He didn't just say that! "Out now! If you don't get a move soon, I'll toss your stuff out the window."

  "So you're choosing him over me?" Greg points at Jamie who steps in front of me, blocking Greg's way.

  I push him aside because this is one confrontation I won't back off from. "It's not much of a choice, is it? You had your chance and you blew it. Now, go back to your mistress and have the dignity to pay some child support, or at least call your daughter once in a while. She doesn't need to know what a jerk her father is."

  It's not very attractive to behave bitchy in front of Jamie, but for once I don't care what other people think of me.

  "You'll beg me to come back when he's done with you," Greg says. I shrug and turn on my heel, heading for the car. Jamie rides with me since his SUV's still parked at Mindy's. It's a long way home. My mind's reeling with hundreds of thoughts. My hands are shaking on the steering wheel. Breaking up with someone's still scary, even if one's not even dating that person.

  "Go and meet Shannon. I'll watch Sam for you," Jamie says outside the house. I nod when he inches close and presses his lips against my forehead. "You should've told me you were being stalked. I could've helped."

  I nod again, letting him draw his own conclusions, because I couldn't possibly explain my reasons and that at some point I thought he was the weirdo. "Maybe I should stay here. Sam might not understand."

  Jamie shakes his head. "No, it's your job. You've got to have a life of your own that isn't cont
rolled by what Sam or anyone else wants."

  "Thank you." I meet his gaze as the first pang of something that wasn't there before washes over me. Gratitude, longing, whatever it is, it makes me feel as though I'm floating. He seems to good to be true, yet I don't care. I just want him to still be here when I return today and the day after.

  "Drive safely," Jamie says.

  I smile and drive away, only now realizing beneath my coat, I'm still wearing the little black skirt and revealing top. It's too late to change. Half an hour later, my tight clothes and how they might come across is the least of my concerns. Shannon opens the door clad in little more than a tank top and an oversized belt covering her modesty. Her right hand clutches a champagne flute, her left is wrapped around a white wine bottle. She air-kisses me and waves me in.

  The other ladies are draped on Shannon's chocolate-colored sofa, laughing as they seem just as engrossed in their glasses. Mindy sees me first and stands on shaky legs. I've no idea how she got here so fast and managed to get tipsy already.

  "Hey, girls. Does our Sarah look totally sexy or what?" she asks.

  Whistles and cheers echo through the room. I smile, hoping Mindy drops the topic, but I've no such luck.

  Mindy continues, "We all know Sarah doesn't usually dress like this. She totally did it for my benefit." She lets out a long giggle. "This is my very own Frankenstein creation, minus the stitched scar marks. I'm quite proud of my achievement."

  My jaw drops. I can't believe she just called me that. How old and ugly does she really think I am? She's worse than my daughter. "Actually, with all the heavy makeup and hairspray, I feel more like Frankenstein's bride," I say.

  "I had a professional makeup artist turn her into a bombshell no man could resist," Mindy says. "We did her hair and nails and jazzed up her wardrobe. Then lightning struck the chicken fillets and my creation came to life."

  "It's alive. It's alive!" Lucy shouts. "Lightning strikes and boobs are created." I wonder how drunk they really are.

  "See?" Mindy says. "Frankenstein's creation should not be considered a fiend. It should be remembered as a fashionista with double D knockers."

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