Book 1 in the Silver Sister’s Paranormal Women’s Fiction series
My first thought when seeing the naked blonde riding my husband in our bed was, Of course, the selfish ass insisted she is on top. Never mind that those clearly artificial double Ds were bound to cause her slight frame serious back pain in a few years. He wasn’t much for manual labor. Not old Kyle. His idea of getting a workout involved mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway. Which he never did well and I was usually forced to go back over it to clean up the sloppy job.
In some shadowy corner of my mind, I recognized that it probably wasn’t normal to feel sympathy for the woman boinking your spouse.
Then again, I’d known it was coming.
Just like Kyle was about to. I could tell by the way his face turned red and he bucked beneath her spastically.
The hell with that. He hadn’t respected me enough to keep his side dish on the side, well, then he could just deal with blue balls.
The bedroom door was open so I strode in, doing my best to keep from snagging a heel in the filmy bits of lace that obviously didn’t belong to me. Perhaps when I was three, I could have fit that size. Then again, I might have had a Barbie once that could wear those skivvies.
What was this woman even doing with Kyle? It seemed like a pertinent question so I tapped her on the shoulder. “You know, honey, you can do better.”
She screamed and scrambled off of him, about two seconds before Kyle was about to nut. I reached down and grabbed him by the balls and twisted. I’d boil my hand later. Or maybe chew it off.
For his part, Kyle’s groan turned to one of sheer agony. “Alys,” he gasped.
“Oh, you remember me?” My tone was even, almost bored.
“Who’s this?” Blondie asked.
“His wife. I’d offer a handshake but mine are busy at the moment.”
The woman’s big green eyes went from me to Kyle, whose skin had flushed purple. His whole body shook. “You know it costs more for another girl, don’t you?”
Her accent was clear New Jersey. That combined with the fact that I had never seen her before topped with her mention of cost had me turning back to the worm in my bed. “A prostitute, Kyle? Seriously?”
He made a gargling noise and I sank my nails in, just a little.
My sister had told me Kyle was a bastard-coated bastard with bastard filling. I should have listened.
“You ought to leave,” I nodded to the dental floss that passed for her undergarments.
“Nu-uh,” Blondie folded her arms over her implants. “Not ‘til I get my scratch.”
I sighed. “How much?”
I raised a brow. “Seriously? For what, twenty minutes of work? Considering how he performs you would have time for a shower after.”
She reached for her bra and I had a moment of envy when her breasts didn’t alter an iota as she snapped it on. “I charge double for the uggos. Plus, there’s the drive.”
The gurgling sound Kyle made when Blondie called him an uggo was worth four hundred bucks. My purse was downstairs in the hallway, but Kyle’s Rolex was on the nightstand. With my left hand, I retrieved it and lobbed it to her. “Keep it.”
“Do I look like a pawn shop to you?”
Her words didn’t fool me. I could see her assessing the watch and the gleam in her eye. The watch was worth a lot more than four hundred.
“It’s the best you’re gonna get. He’s in no position to finish, so unless you want to wait around until he recovers….” I smiled sweetly at the puce color of my husband’s face.
She pulled her micromini up and then threw on a jacket. “I’m good.”
I released Kyle the moment the front door shut behind her. He curled onto his side in the fetal position. Fitting, since he was such a big baby.
I didn’t say a word. Instead, I kicked off my heels and turned to the bathroom. I let the water run as hot as it could go, then used half a bottle of antibacterial soap. For the record, that was the last time I was touching that man’s privates. The thought filled me with a giddy sort of relief.
The signs had been there for months. Internet porn had been constant throughout the marriage and easy enough to ignore. But then the credit card charges had popped up. Sites that were clearly shell companies with BS names to protect privacy. Phone calls to numbers I didn’t know. Him never going to bed at the same time as me. I thought it had been a run-of-the-mill affair, something middle-aged men did to prove they were just as young and virile as they had once been.
In Kyle’s case, the bar wasn’t set too high. It was probably even lower now, between Blondie’s dismount and my claws. I hadn’t drawn blood, but the thought of leaving him emasculated was far too tempting.
If he had been discreet, I could have gone on feigning ignorance. But he’d forced me into this position, into being the victim, the foolish wife.
The thing that hurt most was my pride. And in my book, that was unforgivable.
I stared at my reflection, at the crow’s feet lining my eyes, the silver that had overtaken the black in my short bob, and winter pale skin which was even paler than usual. I pinched a little color into my cheeks, then turned to the medicine cabinet. After sorting through its contents, I scooped what I needed into one hand and then carried it out to the bedroom.
Kyle had extracted himself from the bed and pulled on a pair of sweats. “You can’t honestly be surprised, Alys.”
I didn’t bother to look at him as I snagged my overnight bag from the top of the closet. My toiletry bag was inside and I took the time to separate the liquids from the pills, from the make-up brushes. Everything in its place. Don’t let him see the wound.
“When was the last time we even had sex?” Kyle sounded triumphant, as though he had just scored a point.
I tapped my chin as though contemplating the question and then shrugged. “I really couldn’t say, Kyle. Seeing as it wasn’t all that memorable.”
His brown eyes narrowed. “You’re a frigid old bitch.”
I went back to my packing, trying to figure out what exactly I would need for my new Kyle-free life. Clothes for work, both demo and client meetings. Jeans, sweatshirts, and work boots as well as twinsets, slacks, and heels. And it was fall now, heading toward winter. What about a coat and snow boots? Maybe I’d have to get another bag out of the attic. The thought made me tired. I just wanted to leave the house that I had lived in for twenty years and never really liked, and not look back.
“I should have kicked you to the curb years ago.” Clearly irritated that even his blatant act of defiance didn’t get my undivided attention, Kyle began to rant in classic dipshit monologue.
No to the slog to the attic, I decided. I’d come back with Maeve at some point and get the rest of it. When I was in a better place to deal with this crap. Keep it simple. Think capsule wardrobe. Black pairs with anything. Neutrals are good too. I added two pairs of slacks, a twinset, and three different blouses along with the set of black heels I had been wearing and then crammed as many jeans and sweats on top as I could fit. Making swift decisions always helped fuel me so I zipped the bag, snagged my e-reader off my nightstand, my jewelry box from the top of the dresser, and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?” Kyle called as I descended the grand staircase to the bottom floor. He chased me down, looking none too healthy. I hoped he wouldn’t have a heart attack. I didn’t want to stick around long enough to let the EMTs in.
At that, I rounded on him. “If I’m so awful, why not just go file for divorce like a decent human being?”
His lips parted but he didn’t say anything. We both knew why. He liked having money. Liked the lavish lifestyle my business had afforded us. He’d retired early and that was when the trouble began.
“You’re not getting a dime.” Thankfully Aunt Jess had taught me to keep my finances separate from my spouse’s.
“It’s half mine,” he snarled.
“Like hell it is. You spent every dollar you made on this mausoleum.” Done with him, I turned to the door.
He folded his arms over his chest. “Do you really want the entire town to know that I paid a prostitute for sex?”
I froze with my hand on the door and a sliver of fear ran down my spine.
He pushed on. “Think of the gossip. Alys Stevens can’t hold her man.”
My heart pounded and for a moment I was afraid I would be the one to pass out. “You can have the house. And your damn Corvette. But no money.”
“We’ll see.” He looked smug.
I should have gelded him when I’d had the chance.
My brain hadn’t switched on and I drove on autopilot back to town. Maeve and I had lived in Eckhart most of our lives and the small Southern town felt like home. I stared at the sleek two-story white brick storefront with the name Silver Demo and Design on the plate-glass window. Maeve had taken a course to learn calligraphy just so she could design our logo. When my sister did something, she did it with her whole heart.
I should have gone to Maeve’s. But so early in the afternoon, she’d be busy with the twins. Getting them snacks and set up with homework, or maybe afterschool activities. The last thing she needed was me dumping my purse out all over her life.
Better if I did something useful.
I stepped out of the Suburban and slid my sunglasses onto my face. Took a breath of fresh mountain air, squared my shoulders, and headed inside. My hand shook a little as I reached for the door and I clenched it into a fist.
This isn’t the time or the place. Aunt Jess’s voice popped into my head. I let out a slow breath, tamping my feelings back down as far as they would go. Control it. Don’t let it control you.
I reached again and my hand was steady.
No one would guess the sordid scene I’d left in my wake. Or that my insides were raw and bleeding. I would not give Kyle the satisfaction of a public breakdown. He wasn’t worth it.
Though it was late afternoon, the office stood empty. Lora, our executive assistant, had asked for the afternoon off. Her desk was pristine with only a picture of her, her mother, and her son stationed in a place of honor next to her computer. Her milk chocolate skin tone was much darker than her son’s and lighter than her mother’s but they all had matching happy smiles. I hoped the three of them were out hiking or kayaking, enjoying the last of the warm weather for the year.
Most of our clients were by appointment only since we only worked on one renovation project at a time. The bungalow we had just finished was under contract and I’d just signed the closing papers on the Mid-century Modern home that was our next project.
I headed to my desk, across from Maeve’s, and booted up my computer. I hadn’t had a chance to go over the new floorplan with our contractor yet. We’d have to set up a walk-through ASAP as the demo was scheduled to begin next week.
I studied the design I’d come up with. Having never had the chance to work on a Mid-century Modern before it was an interesting challenge. The house lent itself to an open floorplan but there were all of these hideous plaster columns interspersed throughout the space. Totally killed the flow as well as the sightlines between the kitchen and the living area. My fear was that they’d be structural and we’d have to leave the eyesores in place. Or sell a kidney to pay for the steel beam we’d need to support the roof.
I was so lost in thought that I didn’t hear the door open so I jumped when a deep voice tinged by an Australian accent rumbled my name. “Lys?”
My hand flew to my chest. “Brock! You scared the hell out of me.”
My GC scowled down at me, which would have been more intimidating if he was a day over thirty and wasn’t cute as a button. I clenched my fist as that familiar urge to brush his shaggy blond locks away from his face arose. Probably some stupid latent maternal instinct, since I was old enough to be Brock’s mother. Well, if I had started really really young. Kyle and I never had kids, had never wanted them.
He crouched down beside me until we were at eye level. “I didn’t mean to. What are you doing here?”
I raised a brow at him. “Is that a trick question?”
The corner of his mouth twitched but he stifled it before it became a full-blown smile. “No, smartass. You told me you were taking some time for yourself.”
I’d always liked Brock. He was a straight shooter and didn’t play word games or make phony promises the way some contractors did. If he said he would do something, it got done. Of course, it was my name—albeit my maiden name—on the sign, so I always double-checked.
“Change of plan. Are you busy? We need to do a walk-through on the new house.”
“I was just packing it in for the day.” He gestured toward the front window where his shiny red pickup reflected the sinking sun-kissed, distant blue hills.
“Crap, I didn’t realize it was so late. You probably have a date or something.” Because that’s what virile young men that could pose for a fireman’s calendar did on a Friday night. Head down the mountain to a club with too loud music, overpriced drinks, and too many sweaty bodies crammed in together. Not go home, fill a tub full of bubbles and pour a glass of wine, and get lost in a good book.
Suddenly, I felt a million years old.
“I’m not seeing anyone.” Brock’s chocolate brown eyes had the most intense golden ring around the iris. It seemed to flash for a moment when he looked directly at me. “We can go over now if you’d like.”
I would, but it seemed selfish to shanghai him after hours. “I don’t mean to impose on your free time. Just because I have no life doesn’t mean you have to jump to my beck and call.”
He shrugged and the motion caused a hypnotic ripple of muscle beneath his long-sleeved black t-shirt. He really was too damn pretty for my own good. “Spending time with a beautiful woman on a Friday evening is my idea of living it up.”
My badly battered pride preened at the compliment even as I scolded myself not to let it go to my head. Brock couldn’t call me a frigid old bitch the way Kyle had because he worked for me.
“Okay, sure. Let me just check the rear door and make sure we’re all locked up.”
He leaned back and it wasn’t until then that I realized he’d been invading my space. “I’ll wait out front.”
I used the bathroom and checked my appearance to make sure the professional businesswoman façade was in place, then secured the building and set the code.
Brock stood by my Suburban. He scowled at the suitcases in the back seat. “Going somewhere?”
Damn. I hadn’t wanted to get into it tonight, not with my GC. Not with anyone but my sister. I didn’t want to lie to him and he could be remarkably stubborn so evading him would take more energy than I had in my reserves. Brock would hear about it eventually. Might as well cut out the middle-man. “Kyle and I are separating.”
Brock’s head whipped around and he stared at me. The intensity there burrowed beneath my skin like a chigger.
“I caught him in bed with a prostitute.” Why had I said that? I certainly hadn’t meant to voice my humiliation.
“What an idiot.” Brock’s eyebrows pulled together. “Want me to take care of him for you?”
The deadpan way he said it made my lips twitch. “What, do you know a guy or something?” I didn’t think Australia had a mob, but you never knew.
“Or something.” There was a feral light in his eyes that I didn’t know how to interpret. “I’d let you watch.”
And didn’t that sound dirty as sin? Wait, were we still talking about murdering Kyle?
I cleared my throat. “Yeah, I hate to break it to you but the cops always look at the ex-wife first. Motive and all that. So, while I appreciate the offer, I’m going to have to pass.”
Thoughts of all that would happen surfaced like creatures from the deep. The lawyers. The court cases where we fought over petty shit. The gossip. I was so tired. Maybe I needed to change my diet. More iron or something. It couldn’t be normal to be so damn exhausted all the time.
“Are you staying at Maeve and Kal’s?” Brock asked.
When I nodded, he plucked the keys from my hand. “You’re in no condition to drive. I’ll take you.”
I blinked up at him. “What about the Mid-Century Modern?”
“It can wait until Monday.”
My lips parted, a protest on its way up but Brock covered my mouth with his palm. His skin was warm and a little jolt of electricity went through me at the contact.
“You deserve better than Kyle,” he murmured.
I wanted to thank him, but his hand still covered my mouth. A chill breeze blew against the back of my neck and an involuntary shiver raced down my spine.
The moment dragged out between us and I felt as though something shifted. As if I was seeing Brock in focus for the first time.
Then he dropped his hand and stepped back. “Come on, possum. Let’s get you home.”
I was in the passenger’s seat of my own vehicle and well on the way to my sister’s house when I realized something. “What about your truck? It’s back at the office.”
“One of my pack will get it.”
“And pick you up?” Maeve and Kal lived twelve miles from the town center.
He made a noncommittal sound.
I reached for the radio but he gripped my hand. “Please, don’t. I can’t take the noise.”
“What?” I blinked up at him. “From the radio?”
“I have an audio sensitivity,” he explained. “Loud music can be physically debilitating.”
There went my mental image of him at a club. Or riding a fire engine. “So, what do you do for fun?”
He slid me a sideways look. “I run.”
“Run for fun?” The skepticism dripped from my voice. “I only run so I can have a second glass of wine.” Or cheesecake. But I kept that last part to myself.
His teeth flashed.
“Different strokes for different folks.” I shrugged it off as he turned onto Maeve’s street. The white Southern-style home was a two-story structure and had been Maeve and my first project together. Maeve and Kal landscaped it beautifully and the wraparound porch was whitewashed every spring, to make the tulips and crocuses pop. Seeing it always brought a smile to my face.
It disappeared when I spotted the motorcycle in the driveway. “Crap.”
“What?” Brock asked.
“My sister is here.”
His brows drew together. “She lives here, doesn’t she?”
I let out a heavy, put-upon sigh. “Not that sister. The bad one.”
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