At this point, my arm was shoved so deep inside Joelle Arrowsmith’s family fortune, on the lookout for any transgressions, I could tell Andrew things about his in-laws I doubted they knew about one another.
Andrew realized the noose around his neck was tightening.
“Remember one thing, Fitzpatrick. Your wife visits our house frequently. She talks.”
I could only imagine what things Persephone said about me. She wasn’t a fan unless we were in bed. I had no idea why she tried to burst through my walls so persistently only to ruin my defense against Andrew.
So she can have power over you.
Arrowsmith had used that tactic before. Why wouldn’t she?
“Watch your back, Cillian.” He pointed at me. “I broke you before. I intend to do it again.”
I smiled. “Give it your best shot, Andy. I sure as hell am going to do the same.”
The rest of the week was an elaborate torture.
Sam sent two of his investigators with the combined IQ of a cucumber to track Persephone. He promised they’d do their best to remain unnoticed.
The days following our fight, I received hourly text messages about my wife’s whereabouts. Her predictable routine was the only thing keeping my pulse from exploding.
She was either at work, at yoga class, tutoring the Arrowsmith kids, or with her friends and sister.
One place she was notably missing from was my bed. Even though I couldn’t fault her for not crawling in my lap at night to offer me her sweetness, I hated that she wouldn’t let me in her room, either.
The evening after our fight, I arrived at our moronic dinner as if nothing happened and was even charitable enough to offer a piece of information about my day. I told her I had fired three people that morning—didn’t she say she wanted me to share things with her?—but after I got out of the shower and knocked on her door, she didn’t open it.
I’d knocked again, thinking she hadn’t heard me the first time.
“I know you’re there,” I’d grumbled, loathing myself for pushing it.
I’d never sought out a woman before. All of my companions expressed prior attraction to me before I took them on. I could have gotten what they offered for free. I simply didn’t want to have them on their terms—only on mine.
“I’m not trying to pretend I’m not here,” Persephone had answered from behind the door.
Cracking my knuckles and reminding myself that she had every right to be angry after I declared I would replace her with someone else, I’d rested my forehead on her door.
“You have marital duties to perform.”
“If you think you’re walking through that door, you’re not just a cold fish, Cillian. You’re a dumb one, too.”
Cillian. Not Hubs or Kill.
She also called you a dumb, cold fish. Perhaps that’s the part you should focus on.
I felt my nostrils flaring and my lips thinning as I uttered, “I’ll be quick about it.”
“Please.” The word tasted funky in my mouth. I couldn’t have said it more than a handful times in my lifetime.
“Go to Europe, Cillian. Have fun with your little girlfriends. Maybe they’ll give you the child you want so badly.”
My pulse was through the roof now.
I could feel the tension and pressure curling around my neck, and for the first time in years, I knew they were going to win.
Being turned down by my wife wasn’t even one of the worst things that happened to me this month, yet the idea she rejected me made me want to tear off my skin and cannonball it all over Sam Brennan’s house.
It was his idea I throw my weight around with her. Now not only did I have Arrowsmith as a problem but I also had a wife who refused to get knocked up.
I turned around, storming down the hallway, zipping past the master bedroom like a demon, continuing all the way down the hall, to the farthest room on the second floor. My fingertips itched. My eyelids ticked. I could no longer hold it inside.
Could no longer rein it in.
For the first time in years, I was going to let the beast come out.
I flung the door open.
It was an old study room I converted into a spa. Whatever BS excuse I could give the builders to soundproof the room and fill it with soft, unbreakable things.
I slammed the door behind me and let the monster in me take over.
Hoping the bruises and cuts it would surely leave would be gone by tomorrow.
On my seventh day of celibacy (but who the hell was counting?), we met for poker again.
Sam was watchful, Hunter was in his usual devil-may-care mood, and Devon looked like he was trying to work out what crawled up my ass.
Exactly one week from the moment I’d told Flower Girl she couldn’t tutor the Arrowsmith kids anymore, and she proceeded to piss all over my demands and continue about her life, banishing me from her bed in the process.
I’d been on edge all week, channeling my simmering anger toward Arrowsmith. Each day, I found a new way to poke him.
One time, I sent paparazzi cameramen to take pictures of Andrew picking his nose at a restaurant. The other, I had a PI sit in front of his house all night just to mess with his head, and on another occasion, I had an editor of one of the local newspapers run a story of that time Saint Andrew himself was caught in a three-way during his frat years at whatever community college he’d attended.
The issue with my secret was, revealing it would be damaging to Andrew, too. I wanted to push him to a point where he had nothing left to lose. To go to my father and tell him. Expose me. Turn me from the golden child to the fraud he thought I was.
Today, I was particularly sour. So much so I hadn’t even gone to the ranch to visit the horses. It started in the morning when it occurred to me that something was amiss. That something was the lack of cloud texts I’d been receiving (and ignoring) for months.
I couldn’t believe I missed Auntie Tilda.
The old hag never ceased to create problems for me.
Persephone was taking things too far.
I knew I had two choices—either I was going to back down and throw my wife a bone, tell her if she couldn’t get pregnant, or I was infertile, or both, that we could adopt—which I was genuinely open to.
Or I could flex my muscles and kick her out.
I had the decency to pretend to debate the two options for the sake of my ego as we played.