Home > California Girls(5)

California Girls(5)
Author: Susan Mallery

Possibilities paraded in front of her like a nightmare. Thank God she was strong, she thought grimly. Strong enough to survive Nigel.

She fished her phone out of her purse. No text from her husband. Hardly a surprise, she thought, tears flowing again. What did she think, that he would apologize and beg to come back to her? Even she wasn’t that much of a fool.

She walked barefoot through the quiet house before going upstairs. The master bedroom was large with French doors leading to a balcony. She ignored the beautiful space that she had, until this moment, loved. She ignored the big bed, the linens she and Nigel had picked out together. She fought the feeling of being exposed, she fought the pain and sense of betrayal. She had to keep breathing, keep moving. She had to figure out what on earth she was going to do now. Wait? Did she just wait to hear from him? Was he gone forever? Was this just a fling? How long had he been sleeping with Treasure? Were there other women? How long had he been lying, emotionally setting her on fire, while laughing with his mistress?

The tears returned. She ignored them and walked into Nigel’s part of the his-and-hers closet. Entire sections of his closet were missing. Shirts and suits, jeans, T-shirts. She reached up, as if the clothes weren’t really missing, they were just invisible to her.

Her fingers grasped nothing. There was only the space where her husband’s clothes had once been. She closed her eyes and sank onto the small bench in his closet. Just last night they’d gone to dinner, she thought desperately. Just last night they’d been talking about Hawaii. They’d been at their favorite little bistro on Ventura Boulevard, at their favorite corner table. They’d talked about their previous trips and he’d made her laugh, as he always did. He’d made her feel loved and special, because that was who he was. Or who he had been.

She’d nearly told him her plan. She’d nearly mentioned that she’d gone off her birth control and was ready—no, eager—to start a family with him. But she’d waited because she’d wanted to surprise him.

It had all been a lie. Every gesture, every word, the way he’d held her. They hadn’t made love, but he’d held her and told her he loved her. All the while he’d known what he was going to do to her today. He’d planned it.

She wrapped her arms around her midsection and rocked on the small bench. She cried out, the keening sound echoing off the empty spaces. Why had he done it? Why had he hurt her? Why had he—

Her phone rang. The sound startled her, then she jumped to her feet, searching for the phone. She spotted it on a shelf and lunged for it, knowing it had to be Nigel. He’d realized his mistake and he was sorry.


“You were off your game this morning. Are you all right?”

The familiar voice should have comforted her, but didn’t. While Finola’s mother had always been supportive, she wasn’t exactly nurturing. Nor would she understand how her oldest daughter had managed to lose her husband to some country-pop star tramp. In the split second before she spoke, Finola considered blurting out the truth, then knew that wasn’t going to happen.

“I’ve been, ah, fighting food poisoning,” she lied, thinking it was easier to stick with what she’d already told Rochelle and Melody. “I just threw up.”

“Oh, that explains it because you were really stiff with that Treasure person. I didn’t like her song, by the way, but then I’m not her target audience, am I? Are you going to be well enough to fly to Hawaii tomorrow?”

“That’s the plan.” Finola did her best to keep her voice light even as tears poured down her cheeks. “Going to Hawaii with my husband.”

“You should talk to him about getting pregnant. It’s long past time, Finola. More important, I want grandchildren. All my friends have them. Most have several. A few of them have so many they complain about it. You’re the only one who’s married, so it’s up to you.”

The words were meant to induce guilt. Finola doubted even her mother would want to know how much pain they caused. She sank back on the bench and tried to stem the emotional bleeding.

“Ali’s getting married.”

Her mother made a dismissive sound in the back of her throat. “Oh, please. She’ll wait at least a year before getting pregnant. I want grandchildren now.”

“Too bad you can’t order them off Amazon. You’re a Prime member. You could have one by Tuesday.”

“Very funny. All right, I can see you’re going to ignore me, as per usual. Regardless, I love you and I hope you and Nigel have a wonderful time. Once you’re back from your vacation you can help me get the house ready to sell. There’s a lot to go through and I expect you girls to do a lot of the work.”

Not anything Finola could deal with at that moment. “Sure, Mom. I’ll call you when I’m home. Bye.”

She hung up before her mother could say anything else, then dropped the phone on the carpet.

Now what? She had no idea what to do or how to make the pain at least bearable. She wanted to crawl into a dark space and hide like a wounded animal. She wanted to go back in time so she could stop the affair from happening.

How could he have done this to her? He was supposed to love her forever. They were a team, a partnership.

Her phone buzzed as a text message flashed on the screen. She pushed the button to make it appear again. Her heart pounded when she saw it was from Nigel.

We need to talk. I’ll be by Sunday around noon and we can figure out what happens next. There’s the Hawaii trip. You have all the paperwork there. Can you cancel it?

A second text filled in below the first one.

I’m sorry.

“That’s it?” she shrieked at the screen. “That’s all you have to say? Just that? Where’s my explanation? Why aren’t you making this right?”

There was no answer, no sound, nothing but her phone screen slowly fading to black.

Finola stood. Nigel was gone and she didn’t know if he was coming back. He’d always been there for her, loving her, making her feel amazing and now it was all gone. Just gone. Worse, she didn’t know how much of their marriage had been a lie.

She walked into her own closet and changed into jeans and a sweatshirt. After she washed off her makeup, she went into her small study and booted her laptop. Thank God for the internet, she thought bitterly. It only took a few clicks and zero conversation to undo their trip. Once that was done, she went into the guest room and closed the blinds before crawling into bed and pulling the covers up over her head.

She curled up as tightly as she could and told herself to keep breathing. That was all she had to do. Everything else would take care of itself. Nigel wasn’t an idiot—he would remember how much he loved her and how good they were together. Treasure was just a fling. He would get over her and come back where he belonged. They’d go into couples therapy where he would realize how much he’d hurt her and he would beg for forgiveness. She would refuse at first, but then he would win her over with his love and kindness. The break in their marriage would be healed and they would go on, slightly scarred, but wiser and more in love than ever. They would grow old together, just like she’d always imagined. It was going to be fine. It had to be.

Chapter Three

“I’ve got a guy who needs fog lights and brackets for his ’67 Mustang. The computer says we have fog light kits but when I went back to get them, I couldn’t figure out what was what.”

Ali Schmitt waited as her printer spit out the end-of-week inventory control log. She looked at Kevin and raised her eyebrows.

“Really? What was unclear?”

The eighteen-year-old shifted uneasily from foot to foot. “You know. Ah, which ones he, ah, wants. Ray said to make sure I got it right because there’s a difference between the ’67 and ’68 Mustang.”

Kevin had been with the company all of six weeks. He’d hired in as a picker—the person who literally picked parts off shelves and took them over to the shipping department, where they were boxed up and sent out to customers. Ray, Kevin’s boss and a man who lived to terrorize all the new hires, had given the kid a difficult job, probably for sport.

Ali looked at Kevin and knew she’d been just as confused when she’d been hired. She’d had the added disadvantage of not being that into cars, although in the past eight years, she’d certainly learned plenty. While she would never physically quiver at the thought of a fully restored 1958 Thunderbird, she could hold her own in most car-related conversations. She was also something of a motocross expert, at least when it came to parts. In truth, she’d never been on any bike with an engine and her skills on the kind you pedaled were average at best.

“What year?” she asked, putting her inventory sheets on her battered desk, then walking over to one of the computers used to check availability. “The Mustang. What year is it?”

“Um, a 1967?” His tone was more question than statement.

“You need to be sure,” she said as she punched in a few keys, then arranged two pictures side by side on the screen.

She pointed. “The one on the left is a 1967. See the bar across the front grille? That bar runs behind the fog lights and holds them in place. No bracket required.” She pointed to the picture on the right. “On the ’68 Mustang, there’s no bar, so the fog lights are held in by a bracket. If you’re looking for a ’67 with brackets, there’s no such animal.”

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» California Girls
» I Owe You One
» Normal People
» Make Me Bad
» Surprise Delivery
» A Curse So Dark and Lonely (A Curse So Dark
» My Favorite Half-Night Stand
» Faking Forever (First Wives #4)