His Expectant Ex

By: Catherine Mann


Hilton Head Island, South Carolina—

Two months ago:

S ebastian Landis had been in courthouses more times than any hardened criminal. He was one of South Carolina’s most successful lawyers, after all. But today he’d landed a front-row seat for how it felt to have attorneys hold complete power over his life.

He didn’t like it one damn bit.Of course getting divorced ranked dead last on his “things I like to do” list. He just wanted to plow through all the paperwork and litigation so the judge could make it official.

Gathering files off the table in one of the courthouse conference rooms, he barely registered his goodbyes to his attorney and polite handshakes with Marianna’s counsel. Power ahead. Eyes on the finish line. Clipping his BlackBerry to his belt again, he kept his eyes off his wife, the only woman who’d ever been able to rattle his cool—his calm under fire being a renowned trait of his around courthouse circles.

At least they’d completed the bulk of the paperwork with their lawyers on this overcast summer day, leaving only the final court date. The settlement was fair, no easy feat given his family’s fortune and her thriving interior decorating career. They hadn’t even fought over the dissolution of their multimillion dollar assets—probably the first time they hadn’t argued.

The only wrinkle had come in deciding what to do with their two dogs. Neither wanted to lose Buddy and Holly, or split the sibling pups up. Ultimately, though, they had each taken one of the Boston terrier/pug/mystery parent mutts they’d rescued from the shelter.

What would they have done if he and Marianna actually had children?

He backed the hell away from that open wound fast. Not going there today, no way, no how, because even a brief detour down that path kicked a hole in his restraint on one helluva crap day.

Which left him checking on Marianna in spite of his better judgment.

She rose from the leather chair, too damn beautiful for her own good, but then she always had been. With dark eyes and even darker long hair, she’d been every guy’s exotic fantasy when they’d met on a graduation cruise to the Caribbean.

Thinking about that sex-slicked summer would only pitch him into a world of distraction. Scooping up his briefcase, he put his mind on what he could accomplish back at his office with the remainder of the afternoon. Of course he could also work into the evening. It wasn’t like he had anything to go home to now, living in a suite at his family’s compound. He reached the exit right in step with Marianna.

He held the door open, her Chanel perfume tempting his nose. Yeah, he knew a lot about his soon-to-be ex, like what scents she chose. Her favorite morning-after foods. Her preferred lingerie labels. He knew everything.

Except how to make her happy.

“Thank you, Sebastian.” She didn’t even meet his gaze, her lightweight suit skirt barely brushing against him as she strode past and away.

That was it? Just a thank-you?

Apparently he could still feel something besides attraction for her after all, because right now he was ticked off. He didn’t expect they would celebrate with a champagne dinner, but for heaven’s sake, they should at least be able to exchange a civil farewell. Not that civility had ever been one of his volatile wife’s strong points. She’d never been one to run from a potentially contentious moment.

So why was she making tracks to the elevator, her designer pumps clicking a sprinter’s pace? God, she made heels look good with her mile-long legs. She’d always been a shoe hound, not that he’d minded since she modeled her purchases for him.


Damn it all, how long would it take for the flashes of life with Marianna to leave his head? He wanted his polite goodbye. He needed to end on a composed note, needed to end this marriage. Period.

Sebastian made it to the elevator just before it slid closed. He hammered both hands against the part in the doors until they rebounded open. Marianna’s eyes went wide for an instant and he thought, oh yeah, now she’ll snap back. Toss a few heated words around and maybe even the leather portfolio she gripped against her chest.

Then boom. Her gaze shot straight down and away, looking anywhere but at him.

He tucked into place beside her, the two of them alone in the elevator chiming down floors. “How’s Buddy?”

“Fine.” Her clipped answer interrupted the canned music for a whole second.

“Holly chewed up the grip on Matthew’s nine iron yesterday.”

His brother had pushed him to play eighteen holes of golf and unwind. Sebastian had won. He always won. But unwinding didn’t make it anywhere on the scorecard. “Luckily, Matthew’s in a good mood these days with his new fiancée and the senatorial race. So Holly’s safe from his wrath for now.”