Oh, God. All part of the show.

She filled her lungs for what felt like the first time in an hour and let the breath out slowly, along with all the blistering anger at Lucas for...whatever offenses she’d imagined. It was a lot to balance, with the sudden presentation of alternatives and being an asset and baby talk.


Evil scheme aside, Lucas still had a serious obligation to start a family, and he’d never shun it. Her lungs constricted again. They’d have to be extremely careful about birth control going forward.

Going forward? There wasn’t much forward left in their relationship, and she stood in the way of his obligations. It would be selfish to keep seeing him after the divorce.

She grimaced at the thought of another woman falling all over herself to be the new Mrs. Wheeler. Cooing over his babies. Sleeping in his bed. Wearing his ring.

Soon, she’d be Señorita Allende again. That should have cheered her up. It didn’t. “We could have easily coordinated stories. Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”

Lucas lifted one shoulder and glanced at his Rolex. “Slipped my mind. It’s almost eight-thirty. I’ll race you to the coat closet.”

She crossed her arms over another pang in her chest. “It’s seven-fifteen, Wheeler. What is going on with you? As slippery as your mind is, you did not forget casually mentioning we’re trying to get pregnant. You wanted to see my reaction in a place where I couldn’t claw your skin off. Didn’t you?”

A smear of guilt flashed through his eyes. He covered it, but not quickly enough to keep her stomach from turning over.

She was right. Oh, God, she was right.

Long-term marriage suddenly didn’t seem like an off-the-cuff, not-really-serious suggestion. The anger she’d worked so hard to dismiss swept through her cheeks again, enflaming them.

“Not at all,” he said smoothly. “I have a lot of balls in the air. Bound to drop one occasionally.”

“Learn to juggle better or a couple of those balls will hit the ground so hard, I guarantee you’ll never have children with anyone.” She whirled to put some distance between them before she got started on that guarantee right this minute.

Lucas followed her back into the mix of people, wisely opting to let her stew instead of trying to offer some lame apology or, worse, throwing out an additional denial. Matthew’s exodus had triggered more changes than the obvious ones.

Lucas’s commitment phobia had withered up and died and now he’d started hacking away at hers with a dull machete. How could this night be any more of a disaster?

Fifteen minutes later, she found out exactly how much more of a disaster it could become when she overheard a conversation between four middle-aged men with the distinct smell of money wafting off them. They were blithely discussing her shelter.

She listened in horror, frozen in place behind them, as they loaded up plates at the buffet with shrimp and caviar, oblivious to the fact that they were discussing her shelter.

“Excellent visibility for the donors,” one said, and another nodded.

Donors? Maybe she’d misheard the first part of the conversation. Maybe they weren’t talking about the hotel site or her new shelter. They couldn’t be. She’d made it very clear to Lucas she didn’t want to depend on donations to run the shelter. Hadn’t she?

“Any venture tied to Allende is a gold mine,” the third declared. “How could you not be in after Wheeler’s fantastic sales pitch? The property’s in great shape. Most of the updating will be cosmetic, and the renovation contract is already on my lawyer’s desk.”

The property? Lucas had taken people to the site? How many people?

“Domestic violence is a little, shall we say, uncouth?” the fourth one suggested with a laugh. “But the Hispanic community is a worthwhile demographic to tap from a charitable perspective. It’ll cinch my bid for mayor. That’s the kind of thing voters want on your résumé.”

Acid scalded her stomach. No. She hadn’t misheard. Lucas had charged ahead without her—without her permission or even her knowledge. He’d made the proposed shelter site public, rendering it useless.

What more had Lucas done? Had he been presenting an alternative to divorce or a done deal?

What exactly had the necklace been an apology for?

Twelve

Lucas and Cia had been home a good twenty minutes and she hadn’t spoken yet. In the car, she’d blasted him with a tirade about an overheard conversation, which she’d taken out of context, and then went mute. That alone chilled his skin, but coupled with the frosty set of her expression, even a stiff drink didn’t melt the ice forming along his spine. So he had another.

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