Page 37 of The Other Man

There was a long silence on the other end, and with a curse, I added, “It’s an emergency, like I said.”

More silence.  I hoped the fucker was taking notes.  “Tell him—fuck—tell him I just found out I’m pregnant.”

I hated doing it like this, but I didn’t know this system they were using, didn’t know if I’d get to talk to him directly at all, and I felt strongly that he needed to be aware that he was going to be a father, the sooner the better.

The other line went dead.  Well, hell.

What was I supposed to do now?

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

It was a few days later.  I still hadn’t told anyone the big news except that stranger over the phone.

And I had yet to hear from Heath.

I was just sitting on it.  I figured I’d put off telling anyone for as long as I could, but the fact was, this baby was coming in around six months, and I couldn’t hide it for long.

I was still in the shock phase, and I’d decided to embrace that for a while.

I was at home, photo-shopping a shoot I’d done recently, trying to distract myself with work.

My phone rang, and I checked it.

Unknown caller flashed on my cell.

Well, hell.  I hated answering unknown numbers, but if Heath were going to call, it would likely be from an unknown line just like this.

I answered.

“Lourdes,” a familiar voice said on the other end of the line.

I hung up the phone instantly, cursing at it.

What was she doing calling me?

Christie.

I’d blocked her number ages ago.

Right after I’d listened to her having sex with my husband.

My phone started ringing almost instantly.

The worst ex-best friend in the history of time had the nerve to call me again?

I ignored the call.  When she tried three more times, I turned my cell off.  No way.  There was no reason on this earth I should ever have to speak to her again, for any reason.  Women like her, the home-wrecking variety, should be shipped off to their own island in the middle of nowhere as far as I was concerned.

It occurred to me that with my phone off, I might miss a call from Heath, and I switched it back on a few hours later, but it didn’t ring again.

It was late afternoon and I was just heading out, literally halfway out the door to run errands, bag in hand, when my doorbell rang.

I wasn’t expecting anyone, but sometimes, even though they had keys, Raf or Gus would ring my doorbell, so I went to answer it.

I checked the peephole, because if it was solicitors I was damn well going to ignore it.

It was her.  The home-wrecker.  Christie.  At my house.

Was she demented, thinking she could come here?

She should know better.  I should never have to look at this woman’s face again.  Never have to hear her voice, or breathe the same air.

Dealing in any way with the bitch who had pretended to be my best friend while she fucked my husband was nothing a woman like me should have to do.

When I say we’d been best friends, I mean best friends.  Get up every morning and call each other friends.  Tell each other our deepest darkest fears and secrets friends.  And for over a decade, no less.

I’d never forgive her.

It wasn’t even that I was still bitter about the divorce.  And it sure as hell wasn’t that I wanted my ex-husband back.

This bitch could have him.  Hell, anyone could have him, as long as it wasn’t me.

It was the betrayal.  The kind of betrayal that, to this day, made me feel more alone in the world.

A woman that could do that to a friend, sneak around behind her back for who knew how long, and still smile to her face.

My contempt for her would never change.  It was that simple.

I decided pretty quickly that I’d just ignore her.  If I opened that door, there’d be some kind of confrontation, and I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she could get under my skin.

I started to walk away, heading toward my garage.

Her voice, calling out loud enough to be heard through the thick walls of my house, stopped me cold.

“Lourdes!  It’s about Eduard!  He’s been killed!”

Well, that did it.  One second ago I’d have sworn it was impossible, but she’d found a way to get me to talk to her.

I opened my door, staring at the woman that had tried her best to wreck my home.

Tried, I told myself, and feeling it ring true.  My home without Eduard was still intact.  My boys and I were doing just great.

Still, the bitch had tried, and I’d never forget it.

I hadn’t seen Christie in about a year, but she looked like she’d aged ten in that time.

Her blonde hair was stringy with grease, like she hadn’t washed it in days.

She’d always been a thin woman, but she was emaciated now, the lines around her mouth and eyes starkly accentuated by the weight loss.

“What did you say?” I asked her, sure I’d heard wrong or misunderstood, and as soon as she cleared this up, I’d be able to shut the door in her face.

“Eduard.  He’s been killed.  I’m sorry to tell you that way, but I knew you wouldn’t open the door otherwise, and I’ve been trying to call all day.”

I studied her some more, trying to process the information, finding it hard to believe, but the signs of grief were evident in her.  This wasn’t some strange stunt.  She was genuinely distraught.

The woman I remembered had been very well put together with a consciousness for the way she dressed that bordered on vain.  She’d come to my house in sweat pants and a stained tank top.  She was a mess.

My God.  Eduard was dead?  My mind kept jumping around, to her car at my curb, to the yellow patch in my lawn.  Anything normal that did not involve death.

“How?” I finally asked her.

She blinked rapidly, and I could see that she was struggling not to weep.  “He didn’t come home for a few days, and I was really worried.  It’s not like him to disappear for that long.  Overnight maybe, but not for more than one night.”

I’d learned a lot from that little bit.  For one thing, they’d been living together.  I hadn’t even known, but of course it was salt in the wound that she was likely helping him spend the money he’d gotten out of me in the divorce.

“Still,” she continued.  “I didn’t call the police or anything, even then.  I just figured he was off having fun somewhere, and he’d be back, you know, sometime.”

I didn’t know.  Eduard had never done any of his cheating on me out in the open, as he apparently did with her.  He’d gone to great pains to hide it well from me.

If he hadn’t, I’d have kicked him to the curb ages ago.

I was surprised she seemed accept it, but then, what could she expect when he’d been married at the start of their relationship?  Hell, maybe that was what made them compatible.

“But the police found him before I could call them,” she added tremulously.

A chill ran through me at those words.  That sounded ominous.

I blew out a breath.  God, she had me feeling sorry for her, that’s how pathetic she looked just then.

“Do you want to come in?” I asked her.  This did not seem like a conversation we should be having through an open doorway.

She shook her head back and forth rapidly.  “No.”

Whatever.  I nodded at her to go on.

“Someone had called in a tip, a tip about a body in a warehouse somewhere near the strip.”

The word body got to me for some reason.  Made it more real.

Perhaps it was that I was starting to process that Eduard was not a living person anymore, instead he was a body.

Christie was openly crying now, her whole, frail body trembling with it.  “Eduard was murdered, Lourdes.”

I tensed up.  “What?”

“Murdered!  The police said—they said—they said he was evic-er-ated,” she pronounced the word like she’d never said it before in her life.  And she probably hadn’t.   “They found his body strung up, tied by his wrists.  Even they—the police—were shocked by the way he was killed.  They said—they asked me if he had any enemies, Lourdes.  They asked me if he was gang affiliated.”

“My God,” I said dully.  What else could I say?  What did a person say at a time like this?  “I’m sorry for your loss,” I added, because it was the only appropriate thing I could come up with.

At that, her trembling stopped and her eyes hardened.

She pointed at me.  “You know he was about to sue you!”

And then I saw her game.  Why she’d been so determined to tell me herself.

Goodbye, sympathy.  It was real.

I stood up straighter.  She was petite, and I towered over her.  “Are you accusing me of something?”

“You know he was about to sue you, and he—he said you were dating some huge, young, scary guy that kept threatening him.”

I glared at her.  “I was aware Eduard was suing me, thanks for the heads-up, by the way, and I couldn’t have cared less.  As you saw in the divorce, I can afford better lawyers than he can.  I wasn’t worried.  And the only reason my boyfriend ever spoke to Eduard was when he was harassing me.”


Tags: R.K. Lilley Romance
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