Home > Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(3)

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(3)
Author: Catherine Bybee

“Not close ones,” Sam told her.

Lori looked around the dark walls of the old estate. The black clouds outside didn’t help the somber mood inside. “We’ll have to get her away from here as soon as possible.”

“I think that’s a sound plan. Someplace warm and sunny . . . and far enough away that people won’t recognize her.”

“And where is that?” Lori wasn’t sure such a place existed.

“Europe, on the sea . . . I don’t know. Let’s help her get through the funeral, give her the support she needs to dig out of this mess, and remove her from this sadness.”

Lori leaned against the dresser. “I’ve never transitioned a client after a spouse’s suicide.”

Sam blew out a slow breath. “This is going to take more than one-on-one. She’s going to need more than you and I talking her through this.”

Lori thought of the client she’d left in LA. “Let’s include Avery . . . it’s hard not to smile around that woman.”

“I like that idea. Take them both—” Sam’s phone buzzed. She reached for it.

“You know who else would be helpful?”

Sam glanced at the screen on her phone, promptly dropped it onto the bed. “Who?”

“Shannon.” One of the highest profile divorces Lori had to date. If anyone could be a sympathetic shoulder, it was the former first lady of California. The one client that Lori had failed to help readjust after her marriage was over. Not that she’d stopped trying. “Maybe this would be helpful for all of them. An intimate group in the know about their marriages.”

“I like this idea, Lori.”

They both heard Trina sobbing from across the hall when someone opened a door.

Lori’s heart sank in her chest.

An angry male voice pulled Lori from the few hours of broken sleep she’d managed.

Trina was yelling, her voice wavering.

Lori jumped from the bed, grabbed the robe, and shoved her arms into it as she fled into the hall and down the stairs.

Before she reached the bottom step, she caught sight of Ruslan Petrov, Fedor’s father, shaking his fist in Trina’s face. Lori remembered the man from his pictures, big, unmoving . . . a man you didn’t want to find yourself alone with in a dark place.

“Your fault. My son was fine before you.”

Trina stepped away.

From behind Lori, someone barreled down the stairs, nearly knocking her over. Trina’s father, a man half the size of Ruslan, shoved his frame between the two of them.

“Get away from my daughter.”

Ruslan shoved his chest forward and said something in Russian that Lori didn’t understand. From the way he spat the words, she assumed the insult would have resulted in a thrown fist.

Trina winced.

Lori found herself inching forward.

“My son is dead.” Ruslan squared his shoulders, looked past Trina’s dad, and glared.

“My daughter did not pull the trigger.”

Ruslan looked at the crowd that had gathered behind Lori on the stairs, and then directly at Trina. “I will find his reason. And that person will pay.” He shook his meaty fist toward Trina.

As threats went, that was one for the courts.

“You need to leave.” Trina’s father pointed toward the door, which was flanked by two of Petrov’s suit-wearing bodyguards, who were easily the size of small buildings.

“This is my son’s house.”

Trina lifted her chin. “A house you’ve never stepped foot in.”

Ruslan glared.

“My husband was quiet about many things, but his distaste for you was something we spoke of often.”

“My son was destroyed by the women in his life.”

Lori sensed the tension rising again and took the remaining steps to Trina’s side.

“You’ve been asked to leave, Mr. Petrov. I suggest you do before we need to call the authorities to remove you.”

His round face grew red with anger.

He spewed more angry Russian words before he turned and stormed out the door.

A sigh of relief went through the houseguests.

Sam flanked Trina as the widow’s face turned white. “I’m going to call Neil. We need security.” Neil was the head of Sam’s personal security team, and if anyone could trump Ruslan in terms of size, it was him.

Lori nodded and looked around the room as Sam walked away. Studying Trina’s file on the airplane was coming in handy. “Mrs. Mendez?”

The sixtysomething woman focused on Lori. “Do I know you?”

Lori shook her head. “No. Why don’t you help your daughter get ready for the day?” Lori glanced at the wide-eyed housekeeper. “Cindy, right?”

The woman nodded.

“We need coffee. I need to know how many rooms are available for guests.” There was a funeral to plan, and someone needed to take control of the details.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Lori turned to Trina, placed a palm to her face, and offered a calm smile. “Go shower. I’ll take care of everything.”

The adrenaline of Ruslan’s outrage passed through everyone like an angry ocean hitting the shore, and now Trina stood in silence, like a zombie, unsure of what direction to go. “Okay . . . okay.”

Flanked by her parents, Trina mounted the stairs.

Less than a week later, Fedor Petrov was laid to rest with over four hundred attending guests.

Two days after that, Alice Petrov took her last breath.

Chapter Three

There were reasons why Lori’s caseload was lighter than that of the average divorce attorney to the rich and famous. She spent very little time in front of judges hashing anything out. Her practice was built on prenuptial agreements and premeditated divorces. These took up over half of her calendar and added to her retirement plan faster than any divorce lawyer could have dreamed.

When cases like Trina Mendez-Petrov’s took a significant turn for the worse, she had ample time to deal with them and enough professional clout to obtain the required court delays with her current inbox of clients.

Lori stood poised, with massive sunglasses covering her eyes, a wide-brimmed hat covering her head, and her chin held high in the lobby of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona. The hotel dripped opulence and sophistication. It screamed money, and lots of it. Attendants stood everywhere, their uniforms crisp, their smiles painted on. Fresh flower arrangements featured exotic plants Lori couldn’t name. Looking past the sleek lines and gold trim of the decor, she watched the glass doors leading outside as one of many limousines stopped in the valet turnaround.

Wearing a white jumpsuit few women could pull off, Shannon Redding, the ex-wife of Paul Wentworth, the current governor of the state of California, climbed out of the back of the limo and donned sunglasses similar to Lori’s. She said something to one of the bellmen, who placed a soft black bag onto a cart, and preceded her luggage into the lobby.

They hugged. “Hello, Shannon.”

“It’s good to see you.”

Lori tilted her sunglasses. “I’m glad you could make it.”

“Two years is long enough to sulk.” Shannon said the right thing, but Lori could see a shadow still lurking in the woman’s smile.

Someone behind Shannon called out, “Lori?”

Lori placed a hand on Shannon’s arm and moved past her. “You’re early.”

Avery wore her hair in a ponytail and smiled like she’d enjoyed her in-flight drinks. “My mother was driving me crazy, so I caught an earlier flight.”

Lori turned toward Shannon and made the introductions.

“Shannon, this is Avery.”

Shannon’s poised and practiced smile met Avery’s grin. The two couldn’t be more different and still have so much in common.

The women knew they were both Alliance brides, but the details would only be spoken of in private.

“Is our fourth party here?” Shannon asked as they walked toward the elevators.

“She is.”

They kept the small talk to conversation about their flights and lack of sleep until they entered the double doors of the penthouse suite.

Lori tipped the bellmen and closed the door behind them.

She removed her sunglasses and hat, tossing them on the foyer table.

Avery pointed a finger in Shannon’s direction. “You’re the governor’s wife.”

Shannon placed her purse on the table and sat. “Ex-wife, but yes. Paul Wentworth was my husband.”

Avery’s jaw dropped. “An Alliance husband?”

“Guilty. And who was your husband?”

“Bernie Fields.”

Shannon looked up as if searching her memory for some recollection. “Hedge funds?”

Avery smiled. “Not to mention his trust fund. But yes, that’s Bernie.”

Shannon smiled. “I can’t picture you with him.”

“He wanted tall and blonde.”

“And beautiful, I assume.”

Avery’s grin grew wider. “Thank you.”

“I thought I heard voices.”

Lori turned as Trina walked from one of the bedrooms.

Shannon sucked in air and Avery blew out a breath. “Katrina Petrov?”

“Call me Trina,” she corrected Avery.

Shannon moved her stare to Lori. “When you said you had a client that could use some friends in the know, you weren’t kidding.”

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