All or Nothing(11)

By: Catherine Mann

“I’m glad for the company. Not many of Conrad’s friends are married.” When Troy had come to visit, she’d wished for a gal pal to hang out with and now she finally had one...too late for it to matter. “And when we were together, none of his classmates had walked down the aisle yet.”

“They’re getting to that age now. Even Elliot Starc got engaged recently.” She shook her head laughing. “Another bad boy with a heart of gold. Did you ever get to meet him?”

“The one who was sent to the military high school after too many arrests for joy riding.” Although according to Conrad, the joy riding had been more like car theft, but Elliot had influential friends. “Now he races cars on the international circuit.”

“That’s the one. Nobody thought he would ever settle down.” Hillary’s farm fresh quality, her uncomplicated friendliness, was infectious. “But then who would have thought my husband, the Robin Hood Hacker, would become Mr. Domesticity?”

The Robin Hood Hacker had infiltrated the Department of Defense’s system, exposing corruption. After which, he’d ended up at North Carolina Military Prep reform school with Conrad. Malcolm Douglas had joined them later, having landed a plea bargain in response to drug charges.

Taking their histories into account, maybe she’d been wrong to think she could tame the bad boy. Was Hillary Donavan in for the same heartbreak down the road?

Shaking her head, Jayne cut into the pastry, cream cheese filling oozing out. “You’re not at all what I expected when I read Troy got married.”

“What did you expect?”

“Someone less...normal.” She’d always felt so alone in Conrad’s billionaire world. She hadn’t imagined finding a friend like the neighbors she’d grown up with. “I seem to be saying all the wrong things. I hope you didn’t take that the wrong way.”

“No offense taken, honestly. Troy is a bit eccentric, and I’m, well, not.” She twisted her diamond and emerald wedding ring, smiling contentedly. “We balance each other.”

Jayne had once thought the same thing about herself and Conrad. She was a romantic, and he was so brooding. Looking back now, she’d assumed because of his high school years he was some sort of tortured soul and her nurse’s spirit yearned to heal him.

Silverware clinked on the china as they ate and the silence stretched. She felt the weight of Hillary’s curious stare and unspoken question.

Jayne lifted her cup of tea. “You can go ahead and ask.”

“Sorry to be rude.” Hillary set aside her fork, a strawberry still speared on the end. “I’m just surprised to see you and Conrad together. I hope this means you’ve patched things up.”

“I’m afraid not. The divorce will be final soon.” How much, if anything, had he shared with his friends about the breakup? “We had some final paperwork to attend to. And while I’m here, I guess we’re both trying to prove we can be civil to each other. Which is crazy since our paths will never cross again.”

“You never know.”

“I do know. Once I leave here, my life and Conrad’s will go in two very different directions.” Jayne folded her napkin and placed it on the table, her appetite gone.

She couldn’t even bring herself to be mad at Hillary for being nice and happy. And Jayne hoped deep in her heart that Troy would be the bad boy who’d changed for the woman he’d married.

She’d been certain Conrad had changed, too, but he’d been so evasive about his travels, refusing to be honest with her when she’d confronted him again and again about his mysterious absences. He didn’t disappear often, but when he did, he didn’t leave a note or contact her. His excuses when he returned were thin at best. She’d wanted to believe he wasn’t like his father...or her father. She still wanted to believe that.

But she couldn’t be a fool. He kept insisting she should trust him. Well, damn it, he should have trusted her. The fact that he didn’t left her with only two conclusions.

He wasn’t the man she’d hoped, and he’d very likely never really loved her at all.

This little fantasy two-day make-nice-a-thon was just that. A fantasy. Thank God, he’d turned her away last night, because had she fallen into bed with him, she would have regretted it fiercely come morning time. Her body and her brain had never been simpatico around her husband.

But she had a great big broken heart as a reminder to listen only to her common sense.

* * *

Common sense told him that keeping his distance today would give him an edge tonight. But staying away from Jayne now that she’d returned to Monte Carlo was driving him crazy.