Reunited for the Billionaire's Legacy(4)

By: Jennifer Hayward

As far as makeup sex had gone, and there’d been a lot of it, he and Diana had perfected the art. Hot and filled with a dozen unspoken emotions, it had been a ride he’d become addicted to, until it had destroyed them.

His body reacted to the memory with a tightening his anger could not prevent. Every man at that party in Chelsea the night they’d met had pinpointed his wife as the ultimate conquest. The ice princess who had swept them all with a disdainful look that had said, “Don’t bother.”

It had been like waving a red flag in front of a bull. He hadn’t been able to resist. Diana’s quick comebacks and complete lack of awe when it came to him had entranced him. She’d known she was deserving. She’d been born deserving. And he’d been up to the challenge. What he wasn’t to know at the time was the extent to which her innocence would enslave him with a far greater power than his sexual prowess had claimed her. He hadn’t been able to bear the thought of her with another man after he’d taken her, and had put a ring big enough to sink a ship on her finger shortly thereafter to make sure it never happened.

How foolish to think a ring could ever command her complete attention. He hadn’t been enough for her. He suspected no man ever would be.

“You ready?” Tony appeared at his side.

He nodded. A lifetime of happiness. He was going to wish his friends the best, then shut his mouth. It wasn’t that hard.

He waited with Rory and Tony at the front of the room while Annabelle’s maid of honor made sure everyone had a glass of Veuve in their hands, courtesy of the Grants. Then he strolled to the center of the room at Tony’s nod. The crowd stood gathered around him, a festive cheer in the air at an occasion full of such promise. His eyes picked out Diana in the second row, her gaze carefully averted from his. His blood fizzled in his veins, his prepared speech flying out the window.

“I’m sure you’ve all heard the joke that love is temporary insanity, cured by marriage.” He paused as scattered laughter filled the room. “While I think that is hardly the case with Tony and Annabelle, who are two of the most perfectly matched people I have ever encountered, make no mistake about it,” he underscored harshly, “marriage is hard.”

The room went so silent you could hear the clinking of swizzle sticks as the bartenders mixed drinks. “Marriage isn’t just about finding a person you love,” he continued, oblivious to the agitated stare Rory was throwing him, “because I think that does happen. I do think falling in love is possible. What’s far harder is staying in love. Finding someone you can live with. Finding someone whose hopes and dreams, whose ideologies, mirror yours so when the going gets tough, when the inevitable realities of life intrude, that bond has the strength to support you both past the attraction that drew you together.”

He paused, the voices in his head warning him to stop, but his heart wouldn’t let him. Rory looked panic-stricken now, his gaze imploring him to rein it in. Annabelle was chewing on her lip, staring at him. Tony was frowning with that deliberate calm of his.

Coburn shrugged. “Someone neglected to tell me that you can love a person madly, blindly, but it still isn’t going to work if you can’t accept each other’s flaws and imperfections. That,” he added deliberately, looking at Diana, “sometimes love isn’t enough.”

Diana’s dark eyes shone almost black in her chalk-white face. Every party, every social function, every night he’d come home to an empty house flashed through his head in rapid-fire succession to counter the stab of pain that lanced through him.

He removed his gaze from his wife and pinned it on Tony and Annabelle. Tony had an arm around his fiancée’s waist now, his expression furious. Coburn dipped his chin. “All of this to say, sometimes one of those once-in-a-lifetime union  s comes along you know will never suffer the fate of others. That you know is the deep and everlasting variety. Tony and Annabelle, I know that you will thrive and prosper together because you are one of those union  s. I am so looking forward to watching you grow old together.”

The look on Tony’s face said their friendship might not last the next ten minutes. He ignored it and lifted his glass. “Here’s to Tony and Annabelle, one of the special ones... A lifetime of happiness to you both.”

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