More Than a Convenient Marriage?(2)

By: Dani Collins

  “I’m here on personal business,” she said in a dismissive tone that didn’t invite discussion.

  He, in turn, should have given her his polite nod of acknowledgment that always drove home how supremely indifferent he was to what happened in her world. It might hurt a little, but far better to have her trials and triumphs disregarded than dissected and diminished.

  While she, as was her habit, wouldn’t bother repeating a question he had ignored, even though she really did want to know how and why he’d followed her.

  No use changing tactics now, she thought. With a little adherence to form they could end this relationship as dispassionately as they’d started it.

  That gave her quite a pang and oddly, even though his body language was as neutral as always, and his expression remained impassive as he squinted against the brightness of the day, she again had the sense of that coiled force drawing more tightly inside him. When he spoke, his words were even, yet she sensed an underlying ferocity.

  “I can see how personal it is. Who is he?”

  Her heart gave a kick. Gideon rarely got angry and even more rarely showed it. He certainly never directed dark energy at her, but his accusation made her unaccountably defensive.

  She told herself not to let his jab pierce her shell, but his charge was a shock and she couldn’t believe his gall. The man was banging his secretary in the most clichéd of affairs, yet he had the nerve to dog her all the way to Greece to accuse her of cheating?

  Fortunately, she knew from experience you didn’t provoke a man in a temper. Hiding her indignation behind cool disdain, she calmly corrected his assumption. “He has a wife and new baby—”

  Gideon’s drawled sarcasm cut her off. “Cheating on one spouse wasn’t enough, you have to go for two and ruin the life of a child into the mix?”

  Since when do you care about children?

  She bit back the question, but a fierce burn flared behind her eyes, completely unwanted right now when she needed to keep her head. The back of her throat stung, making her voice thick. She hoped he’d put it down to ire, not heartbreak.

  “As I said, Lexi assured me you had appointments in Chile. ‘We will be flying into Valparaiso,’ she told me. ‘We will be staying in the family suite at the Makricosta Grand.’” Adara impassively pronounced what Lexi hadn’t said, but what had been in the woman’s eyes and supercilious smile. “‘We will be wrecking your bed and calling your staff for breakfast in the morning.’ Who is cheating on whom?”

  She was proud of her aloof delivery, but her underlying resentment was still more emotion than she’d ever dared reveal around him. She couldn’t help it. His adultery was a blow she hadn’t seen coming and she was always on guard for unearned strikes. Always. Somehow she’d convinced herself she could trust him and if she was angry with anyone, it was with herself for being so blindly oblivious. She was so furious she was having a hard time hiding that she was trembling, but she ground her teeth and willed her muscles to let go of the tension and her blood to stop boiling.

  He didn’t react. If she fought a daily battle to keep her emotions in reserve, his inner thoughts and feelings were downright nonexistent. His voice was crisp and glacial when he said, “Lexi did not say that because it’s not true. And why would you care if she did? We aren’t wrecking any beds, are we?”

  Ask me why, she wanted to charge, but the words and the reason stayed bottled so deep and hard inside her she couldn’t speak.

  Grief threatened to overtake her then. Hopelessness crept in and defeat struck like a gong. It sent an arctic chill into her, blessed ice that let her freeze out the pain and ignore the humiliation. She wanted it all to go away.

  “I want a divorce,” she stated, heart throbbing in her throat.

  For a second, the world stood still. She wasn’t sure if she’d actually said it aloud and he didn’t move, as though he either hadn’t heard, or couldn’t comprehend.

  Then he drew in a long, sharp inhale. His shoulders pulled back and he stood taller.

  Oh, God. Everything in her screamed, Retreat. She ducked her head and circled him, aiming for her car door.

  He put out a hand and her blood gave a betraying leap. She quickly tamped down the hunger and yearning, embracing hatred instead.

  “Don’t think for a minute I’ll let you touch me,” she warned in a voice that grated.

  “Right. Touching is off limits. I keep forgetting.”

  A stab of compunction, of incredible sadness and longing to be understood, went through her. Gideon was becoming so good at pressing on the bruises closest to her soul and all he had to do was speak the truth.

  “Goodbye, Gideon.” Without looking at him again, she threw herself into her car and pulled away.

                        CHAPTER TWO

  THE FERRY WAS gone so Adara couldn’t leave the island. She drove through a blur of goat-tracked hills and tree-lined boulevards. Expansive olive branches cast rippling shadows across bobbing heads of yellow and purple wildflowers between scrupulously groomed estates and bleached-white mansions. When she happened upon a lookout, she quickly parked and tried to walk off her trembles.

  She’d done it. She’d asked for a divorce.

  The word cleaved her in two. She didn’t want her marriage to be over. It wasn’t just the failure it represented. Gideon was her husband. She wasn’t a possessive person. She tried not to get too attached to anything or anyone, but until his affair had come to light, she had believed her claim on him was incontestable. That had meant something to her. She had never been allowed to have anything. Not the job she wanted, not the money in her trust fund, not the family she had briefly had as a child or the one she longed for as an adult.

  Gideon was a prize coveted by every woman around her. Being his wife had given her a deep sense of pride, but he’d gone behind her back and even managed to make her writhe with self-blame that it was her fault.

  She hadn’t made love with him in weeks. It was true. She’d taken care of his needs, though. When he was home. Did he realize he hadn’t been home for more than one night at a stretch in months?

  Pacing between guilt and virtue, she couldn’t escape the position she’d put herself in. Her marriage was over. The marriage she had arranged so her father would stop trying to sell her off to bullies like himself.

  Her heart compressed under the weight of remembering how she’d taken such care to ask Gideon for only what seemed reasonable to expect from a marriage: respect and fidelity. That’s all. She hadn’t asked for love. She barely believed in it, not when her mother still loved the man who had abused her and her children, raising his hand often enough Adara flinched just thinking about it.

  No, Adara had been as practical and realistic as she could be—strengths she’d honed razor sharp out of necessity. She had found a man whose wealth was on a level with her father’s fortune. She had picked one who exhibited incredible control over his emotions, trying to avoid spending her adult life ducking outbursts and negotiating emotional land mines. She had accommodated Gideon in every way, from the very fair prenup to learning how to please him in bed. She had never asked for romance or signs of affection, not even flowers when she was in hospital recovering from a miscarriage.

  Her hand went instinctively to her empty womb. After the first one, she’d tried not to bother him much at all, informing him without involving him, not even telling him about the last one. Her entire being pulsated like an open wound as she recalled the silent weeks of waiting and hoping, then the first stain of blood and the painful, isolated hours that had followed.

  While Gideon had been in Barcelona, faithful bitch Lexi at his side.

  She had learned nothing from her mother, Adara realized with a spasm in her chest. Being complacent didn’t earn you anything but a cheating husband. Her marriage was over and it left a jagged burn in her like a bolt of lightning was stuck inside her, buzzing and shorting and trying to escape.

  A new life awaited though, unfurling like a rolled carpet before her. She made herself look at it, standing tall under the challenge, extending her spine to its fullest. She concentrated on hardening her resolve, staring with determination across the vista of scalloped waves to distant islands formed from granite. That’s what she was now, alone, but strong and rooted.

  She’d look for a new home while she was here, she decided. Greece had always been a place where she’d felt hopeful and happy. Her new life started today. Now.

  * * *

  After discovering his room wasn’t ready, Gideon went to the patio restaurant attached to the hotel and ordered a beer. He took care of one piece of pressing business on his mobile before he sat back and brooded on what had happened with Adara.

  He had never cheated on her.

  But for the last year he had spent more time with his PA than his wife.

  Adara had known this would be a brutal year though. They both had. Several large projects were coming online at once. He ought to be in Valparaiso right now, opening his new terminal there. It was the ticking off of another item on their five-year plan, something they had mapped out in the first months of their marriage. That plan was pulling them in different directions, her father’s death last year and her mother’s sinking health not helping. They were rarely in the same room, let alone the same bed, so to be fair it wasn’t strictly her fault they weren’t tearing up the sheets.

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