He loses his smug smile and his mouth tightens as his brown eyes narrow. “No, I’ll tell you what will make it easy, Lauren. You paying me what’s rightfully mine is what will make it easy. You hid that money from me, and I’m entitled to half.”
“I’ll never pay you off, you sonofabitch.” I’m panting and glaring, so fucking angry.
“Oh, honey, I think you will.” He moves in close and drags his knuckles down my cheek. I jerk my head away, but he grabs my chin in his hand, squeezing until there’s just a bit of pain. “Or maybe I’ll just come back here and claim what’s mine. You are still mine, you know.”
My stomach rolls as he runs his nose up my neck, sniffing deeply. Every part of me stills. What the fuck is this?
“A man has the right to fuck his wife whenever he pleases.”
“I’m not your wife,” I grind out, glaring at him as he pulls back and stares me in the face.
He flashes an evil grin and presses harder against me. “You’ll always be mine. No piece of paper can change that.”
I don’t answer, but instead just continue to glare at him in hatred.
“Maybe you should just go ahead and write that check.”
He pushes away from me and backs down the stairs toward his flashy car, a car he bought with my parents’ money, and snickers as he looks me up and down. “You’ve kept that hot body of yours in shape, Lo. It’s mighty tempting.”
I swear I’m going to throw up.
I can’t answer him. I can only stand here and glower, shaking in rage and fear, as he winks again and hops in his Jag and drives away.
Jesus Christ, he just threatened to rape me. I might not be able to prove it, but I knew what his words meant.
I let myself into the house and reset the alarm with shaking fingers. I take off in a sprint to the back of the house and heave into the toilet, over and over until there’s nothing left and my body shivers and convulses in revulsion.
How can someone who once claimed to love me be so damn evil?
When the vomiting has passed, I rinse my mouth and head to the indoor pool that my parents had built when I was on the swim team in high school. I strip out of my clothes, but before I pull my swim cap on, I dial a familiar number on my phone and wait for an answer.
“Hull.” Brad is a police detective in town, and someone I trust implicitly.
“Hey, sugar, what’s up?”
“Jack just left.”
“What did that son of a bitch want?” Brad’s voice is steel.
“He threatened me.” My voice is shaky and I hate myself for sounding so vulnerable. “I want it documented that he was here.”
“Did you record it, Lo?”
“No. I wasn’t expecting it. He’s been an asshole in the past, but this is the first time he’s come out and threatened me since he . . .” I pace beside the pool, unable to finish the sentence.
“That’s because I put the fear of God and jail time in him.” Brad is quiet for a moment. “Is there anything you need?”
I laugh humorlessly and shake my head. “Yeah, I need my asshole ex to go away. But for now I’ll settle for a swim.”
“Keep your alarm on. Call me if you need me.”
“I will. Thanks, Brad.”
We ring off. I tuck my long, auburn hair into my swim cap and then dive into the Olympic-size lap pool. The warm water glides over my naked skin, and I begin the first of countless laps, back and forth, across the pool. Swimming is one of two things in this world I do well, and it clears my head.
I do some of my best thinking in the pool.
Is all of this worth it? I ask myself. When I married Jack almost five years ago, I was convinced that he was in love with me and that we’d be together forever. He’d been on my swim team in college. He was handsome and charming.
And unbeknownst to me, he’d been after my money all along.
My parents were still alive then, and even they had fallen for his charms. My father had been a brilliant businessman and had done all he could to convince me to have Jack sign a prenuptial agreement so in the event of a divorce, Jack couldn’t stake any claim to my sizable trust fund.
But I stood my ground, blind with love and promises of forever, insistent that a prenup was unnecessary.
My dad would lose his mind if he knew what was happening now. If only I’d listened to him!
I tuck and roll, then push off the wall, turning into a backstroke.
The small amount of money that Jack is trying to lay claim to is nothing compared to the money I have that Jack knows nothing about. Since our legal separation, I’ve become very successful in my career, but I wasn’t lying when I told Ty that it’s not about the money.
This is my heritage. My family worked hard for this land, for the wealth they amassed, and Jack doesn’t deserve another fucking dime of it. That’s why the divorce took so long. I fought him with everything in me to assure that he didn’t get his greedy hands on my family’s money.
In the end he won a sizable settlement that all of the lawyers talked me into.
Jack wasn’t happy. He wanted more.
I push off the edge of the pool and glide underwater until I reach the surface and then move into a front crawl.
After my parents died in a winter car accident just over two years ago, Jack made it clear that he didn’t love me, had been sleeping around since we were dating, but expected me to keep him in his comfortable lifestyle.
When I threw a fit and kicked him out, he slammed me against the wall and landed a punch to my stomach, certain to avoid bruising me, before he left.
Thanks to threats from Brad, and Jack’s knowing how well-known I am in this town, he’s not bothered me since. Until now.
And now he’s threatening me.
It’s not worth it. Living in constant fear of seeing Jack around town, of finding myself in the middle of another humiliating scene. Seeing the pity in the eyes of people I’ve known my whole life.
And now, coming home to an ambush because he’s feeling desperate?
I pull myself out of the water, exhausted and panting, and resigned to see Cary in the morning to agree to a settlement.
It’s time to move on.
It’s early when I leave the house and drive to the lawyer’s office. I don’t have an appointment, and I don’t even know for sure if anyone is there yet, but I couldn’t sleep last night. I couldn’t lose myself in work.