Whitney heard the beeping of a horn and got up to look outside her office window. There was Kevin sitting in a black Mercedes convertible.
She let out a sigh and went outside to see what her husband wanted this time. As if she couldn’t figure it out.
“You’re out here making enough noise,” she said when she moved to the driver’s door. “Testing out another new car?”
“We got this on the lot a few hours ago. What do you think?”
“I think it’s something that isn’t practical,” she said.
“It’s perfect for you,” Kevin said, grinning at her. At one point she’d fallen for that grin. When she was young and impressionable. Stupid even, but she’d never admitted that to anyone in her family.
“It has two doors and hardly a backseat. Where would we put a car seat?”
Kevin rolled his eyes. “You’ve got an SUV for that when the time comes. This is for fun. You need fun in your life. You’re too damn uptight.”
She’d been hearing this for years now. “And you’re irresponsible. Life isn’t all about fun.”
“Please,” he said. “You used to be a lot of fun. Now you’re a downer all the time. Take a test drive with me. You’ll love it.”
She wanted to grind her teeth over one more insult he threw her way. It never ended. She couldn’t be good enough for him. At least not in the past several years.
“I’m working,” she said. “Don’t you need to get to work?”
“Your family owns the business. You can come and go when you want and you know it. Not sure why you always feel like you owe them so much.”
He didn’t get it and never would. Butler Construction was her family business and part of her legacy. One she planned on handing down to her kids someday.
If she ever had a child.
“Because they’ve done a lot for us.”
He snorted. “Yeah, right.”
It’d never been enough for her husband that was six years older than her and wanted the world on a platter without prepping in the kitchen. He sold cars for a living. Yes, he was good at his job. He made a lot of money. But he spent his time schmoozing with the guys and flirting with the women. She knew it. She’d seen it.
She had the money between them. Or her family did. And Kevin always expected that her parents would hand it over whenever she asked, even though she wouldn’t and didn’t.
“I’m not going to get into it with you right now,” she said quietly. “The boys are on their way for a meeting and I don’t want another scene.”
Her brother Ryan had never liked her husband and thought she’d gotten married too soon. Too young.
Yep, a month before her nineteenth birthday while she was in college was too young for her twenty-five-year-old husband. Everyone said it, but she was in love and saw the future family she’d been dying to have.
It still hadn’t happened almost ten years later.
“You always side with them,” Kevin said. “What’s your deal today? You were all pissy when you got up this morning too.”
“Nothing,” she said. Of course he wouldn’t remember she had to have more tests done today to find out why she couldn’t conceive a child. He hadn’t been to the doctors with her in years and didn’t ask questions when she tried to talk to him about it. It was obvious to her she was the only one interested in starting a family.
“What, are you on the rag again?” he asked, laughing.
He never used to be this crude either. “No. I had a doctor’s appointment this morning. They still can’t find anything wrong and don’t know why I can’t get pregnant.”
“Because you’re so damn uptight. We know it’s not me. You got pregnant once. It’s you. Relax. Come for a ride with me. Maybe we can conceive junior in this.” He was smirking and she wanted to just wipe it off his face.
Yeah, she got pregnant before they were married. She’d taken a home pregnancy test and told Kevin. He was shocked and not all that happy but said they should get married. They hadn’t been dating long, but she loved him and knew everything she wanted was coming true.
A week later, she’d gotten her period before she could get into the doctor’s office to have it verified. The doctor said it was normal for that to happen, she was young and wouldn’t have a problem conceiving in the future.
How wrong they’d all been.
Kevin had been so sweet during that time and they continued to plan their wedding, her knowing she’d get that family in time.
Since she was in college, it was decided they’d wait until she finished to try again. It just wasn’t meant, she’d told herself.
“I’ve got to work. So do you,” she said again.
“Fine. I want steak for dinner tonight. Stop and get some on your way home.”
He put it in drive and sped away. Heaven forbid he’d ask what she wanted. Or offer to cook let alone stop at the store to get anything.
She turned her head and saw Ryan pull in with her cousins Evan and Christian for a meeting.
“What did that dick want? Doesn’t he have a job?” her brother asked.
“Nice way to talk about your sister’s husband,” Evan said to Ryan.
Ryan scowled at Evan, then turned to her. “Let me guess. He wants you to buy him that new toy?”
She forced a grin. “He said it’d be perfect for me.” She wasn’t going to relay the whole conversation. She never wanted to give Ryan more ammunition to hate her husband.
“Really?” Ryan said, looking over to the end of the parking lot. “Talking you into that new SUV that he said he could get a good deal on three months ago wasn’t enough?”
“I don’t need a money manager,” Whitney said. “It’s a nice vehicle and will last me years.”
“Until Kevin brings home something else,” Evan said, grinning.
Her cousin Christian shoved his brother, Evan. “Don’t get involved. It’s Whitney’s life.”
“Thanks, Christian. It is my life and my money, and no, I’m happy with that and I’m not a pushover when my husband wants me to be.”
She’d put her foot down years ago when the credit card bills started to pile up. The last thing she wanted to do was go to her parents and ask for money so she’d consolidated and paid them off. She cut the plastic up and told Kevin to get his cards in his name. She wasn’t doing this again.
Of course that was another fight that lasted a solid month, but at least he was paying his own bills off…or so she hoped.
“Let’s get the meeting going,” Ryan said. “Are you okay? You don’t look good.”
Under her younger brother’s rough exterior was a caring heart. “I’m fine,” she said, fighting back the tears. “Just a long couple of days.”
Ryan rubbed his hand on her arm. “Why don’t you go lie down. You had a doctor’s appointment today, right?”
Even her brother knew and asked and she hadn’t told him. Her mother knew, so she suspected he got the information that way. “Yeah. I’m fine.”
But at the end of the meeting, she had a splitting headache and decided to leave. She ran to the store and got the steak that Kevin wanted for dinner because she wasn’t in the mood for another argument today. He was going to start one about the car, she knew.
She went into the house that her family had built three years ago for them in Paradise Place. She’d never told Kevin it wasn’t in her name, but her father’s. She couldn’t get the loan because Kevin’s credit was so bad, but she was still making the payments.
When she went into their walk-in closet to change, she noticed one of Kevin’s shirts on the floor and picked it up to hang. He was such a slob at times. But once the light gray button-down shirt was in her hands, she smelled something floral and brought it to her nose.
Perfume? No. She didn’t wear any. And though Kevin wore cologne, this wasn’t the scent either.
She started to go through his side of the closet and found another shirt balled up in the back, and pulled it out. It smelled the same, but this time there was a red stain on the collar. Lipstick.
She didn’t wear lipstick.
After taking a deep breath, she started to snoop everywhere on his side of the closet, then went to his home office. She didn’t go in there often; there was no need to. There was now.
She went through his desk, found his stack of bills to pay. The ones in his name. The envelope for a credit card bill had been opened, so she pulled it out and tried not to cringe at the balance.
When she saw the three charges for hotel rooms locally she didn’t burst into tears—she got angry. Ryan wasn’t the only one with a temper and Kevin better damn well be prepared to be served more than steak when he got home.