"Richardson is rude!"

"And you're oblivious to the effect you have on men. Richardson is frustrated," Ted emphasized with absolute finality, "and infatuated as hell. Poor bastard."

"Thanks," she said ungratefully.

"Are we going to continue this adolescent sparring, or are you going to tell me what else you're keeping from the FBI?"

"Has it occurred to you that I might be entitled to some privacy and dignity—"

"If you want dignity, don't shack up with escaped convicts."

Julie felt as if he'd hit her in the stomach. Without a word, she got out of the car and slammed the door. She was reaching for the doorbell when Ted jerked her arm away. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"I've already told you the only thing I lied about that could get me into legal trouble if it were known," Julie said, jabbing at the doorbell. "Now I'm going to tell Carl and you at the same time what you're obviously dying to know. After that, there's nothing to tell."

Carl answered the doorbell and Julie marched passed him into the slate foyer and spun around. Oblivious to Katherine who was already halfway down the winding staircase, she glared at a stunned Carl and said bitterly, "Ted tells me the two of you have figured out that I'm lying about everything. He tells me if I want dignity and privacy, I shouldn't 'shack up' with escaped convicts, and I'm sure he's right! So here it is, the whole truth: I told the FBI that Zack did not physically abuse me in any way, and he didn't! He risked his life trying to save mine, and not even you two, who obviously despise him no matter what I say, can twist that into 'physical abuse.' He did not hurt me. He did not rape me. I slept with him. I slept with him and I would have gone on sleeping with him for the rest of my life if he'd have wanted me to! Are you satisfied now? Is that enough for you? I hope it is, because that's all I have left to tell you! I don't know where Zack is! I don't know where he's going! I wish to God I did—"

Carl pulled her into his arms and glared at Ted. "What the hell is the matter with you, anyway, upsetting her like this?"

Ted was so stunned that he actually looked to his ex-wife for support, but Katherine only shook her head and said, "Ted is very good at making women who love him cry. He doesn't mean to, he just can't forgive us when we break his rules. That's why he's a cop and that's why he's going to be a lawyer. He likes rules. He loves rules! Julie," she said, taking her arm, "come into the library with me. You're exhausted, which neither of your brothers seem to realize."

Following behind them, Ted glared at Carl and said, "I did not intend to upset her, I simply told her not to hide anything from me!"

"You could have tried using a little tact instead of demanding answers and making her feel like a tramp!" Carl bit out as he strode into the library with Ted beside him.

Julie sank into a chair and gaped in guilty surprise as an unprecedented family feud suddenly erupted in full force with Katherine in the lead: "You both have a lot of nerve prying into Julie's personal life and sitting in judgment on her," she informed them angrily as she marched over to a mahogany liquor cabinet and poured wine into four glasses. "Of all the monumental hypocrisy! She may think you're both saints because you've always made sure she thinks that, but I know better." She picked up Julie's glass and her own and left the other two sitting on the cabinet. "Ted, you took my clothes off in this very room before we had our first official date, and I was only nineteen years old!"

Julie automatically accepted the wine as Katherine pointed at a burgundy leather chesterfield and indignantly reminded him, "You took off my clothes and you made love to me on that same sofa! As I recall, you were very pleased and surprised when you realized I was still a virgin. An hour later, you made love to me again in the swimming pool and again in—"

"I remember!" Ted snapped, stalking over to the liquor cabinet and picking up the other two glasses of wine. He thrust one of them into Carl's hand and said, "Unless I miss my guess, you're going to need this in about ten seconds," just as Katherine confirmed his prediction and rounded on his hapless elder brother:

"And you, Carl, you're a long way from being any saint! Before you were married you slept with—"

"Leave my wife out of this," he warned tightly.

"I wasn't going to mention Sara," Katherine said with cool derision. "I was thinking about Ellen Richter and Lisa Bartlesman, when you were in your senior year of high school, and then there was Kaye Sommerfeld, when you were nineteen, and—"

Julie's horrified, laughing plea caused them all to turn toward her. "Stop it! Please," she said, caught somewhere between amusement and limp exhaustion, "just stop it. We've all ruined enough illusions about each other tonight."

Ted turned to Katherine and raised his glass in a mocking toast. "As usual, Katherine, you've managed to criticize and embarrass the hell out of everyone else while leaving yourself above reproach."

The antagonism seemed to drain from her. "Actually, I have the most to be ashamed of."

"Because you stooped to sleeping with me, I presume?" he said with bored indifference.

"No," she said quietly.

"Then why?" he demanded.

"You know the answer to that."

"Surely not because our marriage failed?" he scoffed.

"No, because I made that marriage fail."

His jaw clenched as he angrily rejected the softly spoken—and astonishing—admission. "Why the hell are you hanging around in Keaton anyway?" he snapped instead.

Katherine turned back to the tray of drinks and inserted a corkscrew into a second bottle of chardonnay. "Spencer says that I have a subconscious need to come back here before I marry him in order to confront all the local censure that I ran away from when our marriage went on the rocks. He says that's the only way I'll regain my self-respect."

"Spencer," Ted pronounced with a disdainful glance, "sounds like an asshole."

To his amazement, his fiery ex-wife gave an infectious laugh as she turned and toasted him with her glass. "What's so funny?" he demanded.

"Spencer," Katherine explained unsteadily, "has always reminded me of you…"

Julie put her untouched glass of wine aside and stood up. "You'll have to argue without me here to referee. I'm going to bed. I have to get some sleep."

Chapter 46

Pulling on a robe that Katherine had lent her, Julie walked quietly downstairs and found Katherine in the library, watching the 10 P.M. news.

Tags: Judith McNaught Second Opportunities Billionaire Romance
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