“Goes without saying.” Belle dumped all her chips, rubbing her palms together.
Sailor was the first to put her cards down. “Say hello to my two pairs.”
Belle patted Sailor’s shoulder smugly, revealing her own cards.
“That’s all nice and dandy, but you’re formally invited to my second full house in a row. Gee, I wonder what I’ll do with all this money.” She smiled at my husband, tapping her lips. “I’m thinking a vacation in the Bahamas or maybe get a new car. Whaddaya think, Fitzpatrick? Will I look good in a Mercedes?”
Please don’t tell my sister she’d look good in a coffin, I inwardly prayed.
It was such a Cillian thing to say.
Kill’s face remained blank. He dropped his cards lazily, revealing a hand that made everyone in the room suck in a breath.
“Royal flush!” Belle bristled, jumping up. “There is a one in a half-million chance of getting a royal flush, and you’re not that damn lucky. You tampered with the cards. Admit it.”
It was Kill’s turn to stand. He didn’t collect the chips, just stared at Belle with a look that made me realize he never liked her. Whatever made him look at her every time we were in the same room together was not lust. He told me he never wanted her, and I finally believed him. Kill was cruel, decadent, and bad to the bone, but lying and cheating were beneath him.
“If you’re going to throw around accusations, you better back them up with some facts.” He raised an eyebrow.
“How the hell would I do that?” She laughed bitterly. “Fine. Whatever. Just so we’re clear, I think you’re the most corrupted man on the planet.”
“Just so we’re clear,” he mimicked her tone, causing stifled giggles to rise from the table, “I don’t care. Keep the change. And to your question of what to do with said money, I suggest you buy some common sense. In the meantime, I remind you that you’ve agreed not to interfere with my marriage. No brainwashing my wife or giving her a piece of your mind about me. She’s a big girl and can make her own decisions. Same goes to you.” He snapped his fingers at Sailor.
With that, he walked away, leaving the room.
The men were the first to chuckle and get up, trickling back into their rooms.
We women sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, digesting.
“What just happened?” Aisling asked, finally.
“I think,” Belle rolled one of the poker chips between her fingers, “Pers just managed to put the first chip in Satan’s icicle heart.”
“And it hurt him.” Sailor laughed. “Like a bitch.”
Devon: We need to buy time. Sit down with Arrowsmith and compromise.
Me: Wrong number.
Devon: You pay me to give you solid advice. My advice is to sign a backroom sweetheart deal and figure out your long-term plan after you dismantle this ticking bomb.
Me: The only backroom thing Arrowsmith will be getting from me is going to send him into anal reconstructive surgery.
He broke me once. This time, I’d be doing the breaking.
Devon: I respect that you loathe him, Kill, but we were young lads. Throw him a fat donation, make him feel pretty, and move on with your life. You could lose your CEO title, millions of dollars, and face jail time if you tamper with this trial.
Me: He was a monster who shaped me into becoming a better monster. Now we are both carnivorous beasts. It is time to see who can shed more blood.
I tossed my phone onto the leather seat, frowning out the Escalade’s window.
Andrew Arrowsmith wasn’t going to rest until he saw me filing for bankruptcy.
It wasn’t about the money. Never was for me.
It was becoming better than my father at being a CEO because he was better than his father.
Back when my great-great-great-great-grandfather incorporated Royal Pipelines, you could shoot a bullet in the ground and oil would spill. By the time my father inherited the company, he had to do some serious fracking and squeeze the natural resources available to him to continue the monstrous growth of our company.
Me? I didn’t want to simply increase our capital. I wanted to triple it. To go down in history as the best CEO the company had ever known.
I had Sam digging up dirt on Andrew as I decided which angle I wanted to attack him from. In the meantime, I made sure Green Living threw a lot of money into the lawsuit, losing their pants and their funds quickly.
For all I cared, by the time I was finished, Andrew wouldn’t have a job, a company, or a roof over his head.
The Escalade came to a halt in front of my wife’s apartment building. I fired her a text to come downstairs, scrolling over the unanswered message from earlier, supplemented with a picture of the sky.
Flower Girl: Look outside. Auntie Tilda came out to say hello this morning. ☺
Auntie Tilda was a pain in the ass and was responsible for my wife’s unfortunate name. Persephone was only marginally better than Tree and Tinder.
I continued ignoring my wife’s daily texts. It was bad enough I’d spent the last week haunted by the memory of the poker night on my ranch. The game was a bore, punctuated by mind-numbing commentary from Sailor and Emmabelle, who became two of my least favorite things about Boston. My wife, however, was another story. No matter how much I tried to deny it, she pleased me.
In the way she looked at me.
In the way she smiled at me.
In the way she called me hubs as though this was real and not a life sentence born from the crappy cards she’d been dealt by her previous husband.
She’d already gotten her debt paid, her divorce granted, and the means to live like a Kardashian. She didn’t have to pretend to tolerate me but still had the courtesy to do so.
My eyelids dropped as I tried to bleach out the memory of her clinging to my hand under the table, riding my fist, her thighs clutched around my knuckles in a vise grip. She burned like a blood-red rose, her petals curling and twisting around the flame, and I was glad I couldn’t watch her openly while we were in company because I had no doubt I’d have come in my pants.
I wanted to purge my wife out of my system. To relocate her somewhere far away—maybe to her parents’ new house in the suburbs. To pluck her from obscurity only when the mood struck me on special occasions.
She was dazzling, kinetic. Too loud, too much. Marrying her was the worst and best decision I’d ever made.
“Power-napping, huh?” Persephone’s throaty voice filled the Escalade. “I read somewhere that catnaps are more effective than eight hours of sleep. Did you know that?”