Home > Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(4)

Fool Me Once (First Wives #1)(4)
Author: Catherine Bybee

Trina’s disaster of a life had been front-page news in as many as a dozen countries.

Avery stood and crossed the living room space to the open kitchen. “I think we’re going to need liquor.”

Shannon extended her hand to Trina. “Shannon Redding.”

“Trina Petrov.”

“You’re keeping his name?”

“For now.”

Trina looked the grieving widow. Sullen eyes, the spark all but gone. At first the media had painted her as a young bride in the thick of tragedy. Then, somewhere right after Fedor’s funeral and before Alice’s, fingers started pointing, and Trina was the center of gossip. She’d come from nowhere to marry a rich man, into an oil-rich family, and suddenly all the people holding the money were dead. Never mind Alice’s condition wasn’t new or that Fedor took his own life . . . Trina found blame placed on her shoulders, just as she’d predicted.

“I’m so sorry,” Shannon said.

Avery popped the cork from a bottle of red. “I’m Avery Grant. I didn’t take Bernie’s name from the get-go.”

Lori helped Avery with the glasses and took a seat beside Shannon. “I need to play lawyer for just a few minutes, then I promise to play something else for the rest of the week.”

Avery nudged her, grinning.

“I brought you all here for different reasons, you’ve all signed confidentiality agreements and understand that everything we speak of is in the strictest confidence.”

“We know, Counselor.” Avery was the snarky one in the group.

“With so much secrecy around your actual married life, Sam and I thought it would be helpful if you have a friend or two you can confide in when times get hard.”

Trina tried to grin but failed.

“I’ve brought Shannon because she’s two years postdivorce and has probably the highest profile of all of you. I know it seems as if everyone is talking about you, Trina, but Shannon can attest that it could be worse and it will get better.”

Shannon lifted her glass before taking a sip.

“I brought Avery to remind you both about the excitement you once had entering into your arranged marriages.”

“Whoop-whoop,” Avery exclaimed before drinking.

“And Avery might think it’s all fun and games, but there are some pitfalls to look out for.”

Lori’s comment was met by Avery rolling her eyes. “You worry too much,” Avery said.

“How long have you been divorced?” Shannon asked.

“Little over a month.”

“How long has it been since you’ve had sex?”

Avery’s smile fell. “Too long!”

“Who did you date before you married Bernie?” Lori asked.

“A long string of assholes, sadly.”

“So you’re a bad judge of character?” Shannon’s question sounded almost like a statement.

“I wouldn’t say that. I just don’t think there are that many good guys out there.”

Shannon shrugged. “You have a point there.”

That wasn’t something Lori could argue and win. It had been so long since she’d met a man worthy of a second cup of coffee, let alone anything more. “Finding a guy who isn’t using you for your money, or who doesn’t think you’re after his, isn’t easy,” Lori reminded her.

Avery lifted her glass. “I don’t want to find the guy, just a guy. Why should men be the only ones out there playing?”

Trina sat there during their conversation with a small smile and took it in without saying a word.

“That guy isn’t easy to find,” Shannon informed Avery.

“Don’t tell me you have a hard time getting laid.” If Avery’s colorful language offended the others, it didn’t show on their faces.

“Oh, I can find a man for that. But one that won’t go to the tabloids when it falls apart . . . not so much.”

“You were married to a Republican governor. So does that cross off every Democrat?” Trina asked with a hint of a grin.


Lori sat back and sipped her wine.

“So is that why we’re going on the cruise? The Mediterranean doesn’t have Republicans or Democrats?” Avery asked.

“That, and there aren’t many who will know who Bernie Fields is, or care that you’re his ex-wife,” Lori said.

“What about Fedor? I don’t think I’ll escape the media’s scrutiny about his suicide, even here.”

“We aren’t here to escape your life, or his suicide,” Lori told her. “We’re here to pull ourselves together without the distractions of our daily lives. Which is why we’re going on a cruise. New ports every day. If the media is about, chances are they aren’t going to row after a cruise ship to follow us. You speak three languages, Trina, and can blend. You need a break and you’re far too young for those frown lines on your face,” Lori said.

“Three languages, really?” Avery was obviously impressed.

“English, Russian, and Spanish. Which makes Italian a little easier to grasp.”

“Good thing we’re going to Rome,” Avery said.

“This week is about finding a way to move forward after your marriage, figuring out where you need to go from here, and what path you will need to take. Maybe even discover what kind of man should come along for the ride.”

Avery opened her mouth to speak, then closed it with a laugh.

Lori lifted her glass. “A week to get this First Wives Club off the ground.”

“First Wives? Wasn’t there a movie with that title?” Avery asked.

Trina grinned. “Yeah, but those women were all older, with husbands that left them for younger women.”

“But we’re the young ones,” said Avery.

“And rich,” Shannon added.

Avery narrowed her gaze in Lori’s direction and questioned, “Rich?”

“What are you looking at me like that for? I arrived in a private plane, you guys schlepped in first class.”

Trina laughed for the first time since Lori had walked into the Petrov estate. Lori wasn’t sure if it was the liquor or the company . . . or the combination of both. But already her plan to wipe the frown from Trina’s face was working. “No one schleps in first class,” Trina said.

“So you’re young and rich . . . but you’ve never been married,” Avery proclaimed.

Lori lifted her chin higher. “How I wish that were true.”

All three of them lowered their glasses in shock.

“Wait, you’re divorced? Alliance?” Shannon asked.

“Yes, divorced, but not through Alliance. I made the fatal mistake of marrying for love.”

Avery picked up the bottle and topped off her glass. “Looks like we all have some secrets to spill this week.”

“I would never have guessed you’d taken the plunge.”

Lori met Avery’s eyes. “It isn’t something I plan on repeating.” The image of her long-ago ex scratched at her memory. She’d fallen hard and early, and the experience gave her a hardened, jaded edge to make her a kick-ass divorce attorney who happily helped Alliance arrange fake marriages for a price. Unfortunately, after years of witnessing the cycle of love, marriage . . . failure, it was difficult to start anything in her own life without seeing the end before the second orgasm.

Lori shook her personal thoughts from her head and lifted her glass. “To the First Wives . . . divorced or widowed.”


Lori’s bags were in her room before she opened the door. “Wow,” she sighed. The pictures didn’t do the space justice.

Anytime one scored over eight hundred square feet of cruise ship cabin space, you knew they were paying dearly for it. Lori’s room as well as the First Wives’ rooms were centered around a private pool, private dining room, and exclusive lounge that could only be accessed by the ultimate of first-class passengers. Some considered cruising a vacation for the budget minded, but among the patrons in this section of the ship, budget wasn’t in their vocabulary. While the butler service was way over-the-top, Lori wasn’t about to complain. She’d researched the cruise ship and their accommodations extensively to assure their privacy and high-end lodgings. Alliance spared no expense. No matter what level of socialization the women wanted, they could get it on board the outsize floating city.

She went to the balcony door and pushed it open. From behind the small dividing wall, she heard Trina. “What a view.”

Lori peeked around the partition. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” Barcelona buzzed from beyond the ship while passengers funneled on board.

“This balcony is bigger than my college dorm room,” Trina said.

“I’m glad you like it.”

A soft knock on the open door behind her captured Lori’s attention. A short Filipino man dressed in a formal black-and-white uniform stood smiling. “Ms. Cumberland?”

She nodded. “That’s me.”

“I’m Datu, I’ll be your butler while onboard.” He stepped inside the room, placed his hand on her luggage. “I understand you’re here with a few of your friends?”

“That’s right.” She gave Datu the names of the others.

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