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The divorce club, p.23
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       The Divorce Club, p.23

           Jayde Scott
 
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  I drop next to my daughter and hand her a cookie. "I'm so sorry about before. I've been a little emotional lately."

  "Don't worry about it. Being a single mother must be hard."

  She's too sweet, I can't wrap my head around it. Peering at her, I start stirring my tea. "So, you said you're here to talk about Sam?"

  Chloe nods. "Her math has improved a little, but I fear missing school because of her broken leg won't do her grades any good."

  "Chloe said she could pop over after school," Sam chimes in.

  I hesitate, unsure how to tell my daughter there might be a conflict of interest here. Jamie's my client so, naturally, I can't let his wife help us.

  Sam leans into me whispering, "I don't want a tutor, Mum."

  "We appreciate the offer," I say. "I'll have to think about it."

  "Of course, I understand." Chloe smiles and takes a sip of her tea, her delicate brows furrowing for a moment. My gaze moves to her ring finger and I realize she's not wearing her wedding band either. Maybe Jamie's not the only one who wants to move on. Chloe's voice jerks me out of my thoughts. "I'll be frank here. Sam told me about your financial situation. You're struggling. A tutor costs money. I'll do it for free."

  "It's very kind of you." Why is she being so insistent about offering her help? Suspicion creeps up on me. Does she know about the club and the services I provide? She must have ulterior motives. I've got to find out what her agenda is.

  The doorbell rings. I excuse myself and jump up to answer. Jamie's standing in the doorway, a grin playing on his lips. As soon as I open the door, he pushes past me. For a moment, I'm too flabbergasted to react. He doesn't seem to notice as he plants a peck on my cheek.

  "That guy's a nutcase." He hangs up his jacket continuing, "Lucy's staying over, but in the long run Shannon needs to consider getting a restraining order."

  "Jamie," I hiss, regaining my composure. "Your—"

  "Hi, Sam," he yells, pushing the door to the living room open.

  "Hey, Jamie," my daughter shouts back and my heart skips a beat. If Chloe didn't know her husband was here, now she definitely won't be able to miss it.

  I follow after him. His back's turned on me. I catch the expression on Chloe's face. For a moment, surprise crosses her features, followed by a lazy smile as though she's meeting a friend she hasn't seen in months. Jamie's reaction couldn't be more different.

  "What are you doing here?" His voice is brisk and accusing.

  "Sam's my student," Chloe says. She seems just as surprised by his manner as I am.

  Jamie turns toward me, eyes glinting. "What did she tell you?"

  "Nothing." I let my words trail off. There's suspicion in his eyes. He thinks I might've told her about the club.

  "Jamie?" Chloe walks over and puts a hand on his shoulder. He jumps, brushing her off.

  As usual, my daughter's brain's the only one functioning the way it should be. "How do you two know each other?" she asks. "Wait! Is she that Chloe?"

  Jamie turns sharply, panic crossing his face.

  Chloe's eyes dart about the room, her mind working as she seemingly struggles to make sense of the situation. "He's my—"

  "We're married," Jamie says, interrupting her.

  "What?" She laughs. "Are you mad?"

  I step forward, sudden realization kicking in. Something's not right. "Jamie?"

  He sighs and starts massaging his temples. For a moment, the silence seems oppressive.

  "Why would you say that?" Chloe asks.

  "Okay." Jamie takes a deep breath as his gaze slowly locks with mine. "I haven't been honest with you. Chloe's my sister."

  My heart starts racing again. How could he have betrayed my trust like that? Are all men cheating, lying bastards? "What about the club?" I whisper. "Did you ever need my services? Or did you just join to make fun of us? To score?" My voice rises into a crescendo. "Spit it out!"

  He shakes his head. "I thought I was joining a massage parlor. By the time I realized what it really was, I couldn't just leave."

  "So it was all a joke to you." I'm so furious my whole body's on fire. I clench my hands into fists and take a menacing step forward even though he towers over me.

  "No." He shakes his head with so much vigor, it might snap off any minute, but I wouldn't mind. "You got it all wrong."

  "Get out," I shout. "Get out now. I don't want to see you ever again." I'd push him out the door, but I fear if I touch him I might just throw up. This should teach me a lesson. Mel must have the intuition of a psychic because she was right on this one as well. I just wish I had listened.

  "Please, Sarah, give me a chance to explain," Jamie begs.

  I take a deep breath and regard him coldly. "Get out now, or I'll call the police. You're no longer welcome here. I don't want to see you ever again."

  Chapter 25

  Why do I always attract liars and creeps? Have all the decent men been snatched up? Are there even any?

  "There, there." Mel rubs my back as I bury my face into her bosom, too mortified to peer at her, or myself. "You couldn't have known he was a bastard."

  Even though I'm not crying I pull my nose, sulking. "You told me."

  She sighs. I know what she's thinking, that I should've listened to her rather than rely on my own twisted perception of the dating world and my blind faith in a guy's words. How could I've been so gullible?

  I force myself into a sitting position as I ask, "Why do you think he signed up?"

  Mel shakes her head. "No idea, darling, but we'd better prepare for the worst. He could be an undercover journalist sensing his big break here."

  That is a possibility I can't dismiss. My temper flares up again at the prospect of bad publicity. Without Jamie's membership fee I'm once again struggling to make ends meet, but that seems to be the least of my worries. After the spat yesterday, Sam hates me again and I don't expect her to see my point any time soon.

  "Do you want me to drive you to the club?" Mel asks.

  "I'll be fine." Sighing, I stand and grab my bag. "Thanks for watching Sam for me. I can't wait to get out of his house. The drama's too much for me."

  Mel smiles. "Don't worry about it. Just do your job while I spin my magic with her. By the time you get back, she'll love you again."

  I give her a peck on the cheek and head out, ready to see my clients. With Jamie gone, it's going to be just us gals. I doubt anyone will even notice Jamie's disappearance.

  The ladies arrive minutes after me, chattering as I pour us coffee and hand out scones. At six sharp, I clap my hands to get everyone's attention. "Thanks for coming after such a long night." I shoot Shannon a meaningful look.

  She rolls her eyes. "The night was great. It was the day that didn't turn out as expected. Luckily, Lucy's moved in."

  "Trust me, he won't bother you again," Lucy says.

  "You look good. The bruises are almost gone." Mindy cocks a brow. "Where's Jamie? He sent over the photos from last night and said he'd be here today."

  "Maybe he's meeting his new lass," Lucy says.

  "I don't think so." Mindy shakes her head regarding me intently. There's something in her eyes, suspicion, knowledge. She must have seen the kiss.

  "Jamie has quit." I lie because I want to protect them. What's the point in telling them how the enemy cheated his way into our hearts only to stab us in the back?

  "Really?" Mindy asks. "That's weird."

  "Can we get back to us?" Simone says. "I have an announcement to make."

  All eyes focus on her. For the first time today, I realize she's glowing; her green eyes sparkle. Her top is cut so low, the pink lace of her bra peeks from beneath. It seems I'm not the only one because Lucy shouts out, "You're pregnant."

  Simone runs a hand through her glossy, red hair, smiling. "No. Something much better has happened. Andy and I are back together."

  "Who's Andy?" Lucy asks.

  "The husband. You know, the guy she usually refers to as 'jerk'." I rub my temple to fight o
ff the sudden onset of a throbbing headache. Jamie's gone and now Simone will leave very soon too. I knew no member would stay with me forever; seeing them go in such a quick succession, however, makes me feel as though everyone's taking off for college and I'm staying back, old and lonely with nothing but a patch of lawn to care for.

  Lucy clicks her tongue. "Lassie, that bootie call messed up your brain."

  "What's your take on this, Sarah?" Mindy asks.

  I hesitate as I gaze at Simone. Her cheeks are flushed, her eyes shine. She's in love. "When you signed up, you were so sure a divorce was the right step to take. What made you change your mind?"

  "Your personalized plan." Simone beams at me. "I tried everything you said, not shaving my hair, no more cooking, cleaning or ironing his clothes."

  Mindy interrupts her, "He filed for divorce and then you realized you want to keep him after all. Girl, don't you see your self-esteem is knackered?"

  Narrowing my gaze, I hold up a hand. "Please, let her finish."

  Simone shoots me a thankful smile, then continues, "I thought he'd soon see there's no chemistry left, but instead, Andy has started helping around the house. He even admitted he'd been taking me for granted. Your little scheme has solved all of our problems, Sarah, and now we want to give this marriage another shot."

  The room falls silent, all eyes turn on me. Granted, I never figured my club would actually save a marriage. I curl my lips into a smile because I'm happy for her. Genuinely, utterly happy even though I'm losing her as a client. "Maybe what you have is worth fighting for." I stand and envelop her in a tight hug. "Andy seems like a wonderful person. I wish you all the best."

  The others join in, cooing over Simone, when the shrill ring of the doorbell echoes through the house. Still smiling, I stand and go to check out who it is. I open the door to a female officer who shows me her badge.

  "Did something happen?" I ask, my breath catching in my throat as hundreds of possibilities race through my mind, like my daughter being kidnapped or the house collapsing on her.

  "Sarah Davis?"

  I nod. "Yes."

  Brown eyes scan me up and down, a skeptic look crosses her features before she says, "You've been accused of prostitution and blackmailing. We need to take your statement."

  "What's going on?" Mindy asks.

  "I don't know," I whisper, "but you'd better call Mel. There must be a misunderstanding."

  "Just a second. I'm coming along." Mindy grabs our jackets from the hooks and returns to the meeting room.

  My stomach twists, the cave of my mouth turns dry. "Who would make such an accusation?" I croon. "Are you sure you have the right Sarah Davis? I mean, there's hundreds of them in the phonebook."

  "I'm sorry," the officer says. "We were informed we'd find you here. I don't know the specifics; I'm just doing my job."

  Mindy appears in the doorway and hands me my jacket and handbag. "The calls are made. We're ready to go." For such a young age, she seems to take charge naturally as though she's used to dealing with situations like this on a daily basis. I'm starting to see her potential both as a personal assistant and as an agency owner.

  We arrive at the local police station and get out. I'm glad that I'm not wearing cuffs, so no one's staring. Mindy disappears to make another phone call while I accompany the officer to an interrogation room. A few minutes later, Mindy joins us, hissing in my ear, "Don't say anything until your lawyer arrives."

  I gape at her. "My what?"

  She rolls her eyes. "Your lawyer, silly. Don't you watch TV?"

  "Can we get started here?" The officer starts flicking through her papers. "My supervisor's just handed me your case since he seems to be under the impression I'm underworked. You have been—"

  "Sarah, don't say a word. I'm taking over now."

  I turn around in time to see Jamie's lawyer, Keith, enter the interrogation room. Grinding my teeth, I poke Mindy in the ribs. "You were supposed to call Mel."

  She shrugs. "I did, right after calling Jamie at the club."

  "What did you tell him?" I hiss. The idea of dragging my love interest into this is mortifying.

  "That you've been accused of prostitution?" She makes it sound like a question, so I know she probably said much more than that.

  "First of all, you know who I am, right?" Keith drops his bag on the table and stares down at the officer. I've no idea what his plan is, but it seems to be working because the woman seems less confident than before. "I'm Keith Andrews. You've surely heard of me. Who hasn't?" He laughs.

  "Your client has been accused of prostitution and blackmail, Mister Andrews," the officer says.

  Keith starts scribbling on a notepad. "Prostitution isn't illegal in Britain."

  He's my lawyer, why isn't he denying the allegations? "I'm not a prostitute, and I've never blackmailed anyone in my life."

  "Sarah!" His tone is sharp, scolding. I fall silent immediately, dropping back into my seat, burying my hands in my lap.

  "He's good," Mindy whispers. I don't want to point out that he hasn't done much yet.

  "Who's the culprit? I demand to know," Keith yells.

  Whatever Jamie's paying this guy, it's probably not worth the money. There's no way a police officer will play along.

  "A Patrick McDonaghue," she says.

  "Who? Never heard of him." Shaking my head, I turn to Mindy who's white as a ghost. And then it dawns on me. The boss' husband's name is Patrick.

  "That bitch," Mindy hisses.

  I grab her arm and yank hissing, "Mindy, what did you do? You said no one would ever see the pictures."

  The officer starts looking through her file again when Keith grabs it and turns it around, reading over the rims of his glasses. "He claims my client demanded a million in return for a few photos? That's ridiculous. What proof do you have?"

  "We're still investigating," the officer says. "But these are very serious accusations."

  Keith grins. "So you have no proof."

  "You've got to set this right, Mindy." I shoot her an imploring look.

  "Fine." She sits up straight and clears her throat. "Patrick McDonaghue is my employer's husband. He chatted up my friend here—" she points at me "—while we were on a drunken night out with her boyfriend."

  Huh? "My—"

  "Jamie," Mindy continues, interrupting me, "who's also a client of Mister Andrews'. Anyway, Patrick tried to hook up with Sarah, but she brushed him off."

  The officer starts drumming her fingers on the table. "Can we get to the blackmail part here, please? We haven't got all day."

  Mindy takes a deep breath, her lips curl into a pout. "Fine, whatever. The truth is, my employer has been accusing Patrick of cheating for a while, so I assume she's the one blackmailing him. He must've thought Sarah set him up. What a load of rubbish, huh?" She laughs. I join in, but it sounds fake in my ears.

  "It does sound a bit far-fetched, but I'll the boyfriend to provide an alibi and confirm your story," the officer says.

  Keith plants his hands in front of her, staring her down again. "James Bowers, the boyfriend, is a successful business executive with a prestigious firm in Central London. I'm more than happy to call him over, but given his busy schedule he won't be so happy to hear from me—or you, for that matter." Keith starts scribbling on a sheet of paper and pushes it across the table toward her. "Go on, ask him whether he accompanied Miss Davis to a club last night, and then stop wasting my clients' time. You know without proof this accusation will go nowhere and you can't keep her here."

  The officer takes out her phone and dials reluctantly, her eyes darting about like those of a scared kitten. She talks into the receiver quickly. I hold my breath, listening to her asking Jamie several questions. There's silence for a short moment, then she apologizes for the inconvenience and hangs up.

  "I'll still need to get his story in writing." She turns back to face me. "We'll have to call you back in."

  "No." Keith shakes his head. "You call me and I'll inform
my client. In the meantime, have a good one." He grabs me by my elbow and drags me out of the building. As soon as we're outside he whispers, "Now, I need you to tell me the truth. What did you do to make the rich snob so pissed off at you? And don't say nothing because no rich guy would go to such trouble, risking media exposure, for nothing."

  So I underestimated him. Keith Andrews is a good lawyer who knows human nature better than I do.

  "Let's grab a cup of coffee. I'll explain on the way." Mindy pulls him aside, calling over her shoulder, "Go get some sleep, Sarah. We'll call you tomorrow. And sorry about this mess. I promise I'll fix it."

  I nod and look around for a cab, eager to return to the privacy of my bed. It's not every day a girl gets cheated, lied to and accused of blackmail, all in a matter of hours. A black cab stops in front of me. I open the door when I remember something. This is my chance, so I signal the driver to hold on and turn around. "Mister Andrews! Keith?"

  "Yes?" There's a questioning look on his face, but by no means unfriendly.

  I take a deep, steadying breath. "At the hospital, you said Jamie sent you. Was it true?"

  He nods. "He asked me to offer you money."

  "Right." My shoulders slump. When Jamie stated he didn't send Keith, I guess it was all lies.

  Keith inches closer. Hesitation crosses his pale face as though he's struggling whether to reveal more. "Your business isn't going very well. He said you'd never take the money if I didn't make it sound like a legal matter."

  "He didn't want to buy my silence? He thought I needed the money?" With Chloe out of the picture, now it all makes sense. I feel like laughing and crying at the same time. Sure, a lie's a lie, but considering the circumstances I might've done the same for my friends. "This has got to be the worst plan ever."

  Keith winks, the slightest hint of a smile crossing his features. "I told him so, but he wouldn't listen."

  Chapter 26

  For some reason, I hope Jamie's there when I get home, but he isn't. My heart drops as I open the door and find Greg in the hall, staring at me accusingly.

 
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