By the Way
The Missing Butterfly
Shimari is a centuries old demon, steeped in knowledge and experience. He has been summoned in ages past to assist great wizards and topple kingdoms. Apprentices do not dare to summon him, and even wise men hesitate. He has seen everything; nothing surprises him... until a young man, practicing magic illegally, summons him by mistake.
“Divorce?” Kathleen repeated, then laughed. “Don’t be stupid, Wallace.”
Wallace. He remembered, once upon a time and far away, he’d thought it special the way she used his full name and never abbreviated it. He’d thought it meant something special. What he’d learned too late was that she hated nicknames, considered them vulgar and low class. She’d never allowed him to call her Kathy, or Katie, or even sweetheart. She’d never once called him Wally.
“I’ve been stupid for the past fifteen years, Kathleen. You’ve done nothing but lie to me, use me, and abuse me since we met. There’s nothing about this marriage worth saving, so I’m ending it. You can go along easily, or I’ll take you to court and drag you through the mud.”
She laughed again and sipped at her morning bloody Mary, perfect platinum hair falling perfectly over one perfect shoulder. He hated that word, perfect. It described her perfectly, and she’d never tired of telling him it was the one thing he would never be.
“You’ll get the papers today,” he continued. “I expect you to be out of this house, and your belongings out of the cabin and beach house, by the end of the year. I’m leaving you the penthouse.”
In reply, she only kept laughing. Her voice was frigid, however, when she replied, “Why bother moving my stuff? I’ll take them in the divorce and we both know it, Wallace.”
Once, he would have had to acknowledge she was right. Kathleen was evil and vindictive when she wanted something. Easier to put up with her, and keep the peace, than challenge her and only suffer for it. Not now. He wasn’t stupid. Thanks to Antoine, to Mal, he had all he needed to cut the bitch from his life completely. “End of the year, Kathleen. You had better hope one of your many boyfriends is willing to foot your bills from now on. Past the stock and property I’m giving you, you’ll have nothing.”
Though her derisive expression didn’t change, though she didn’t so much as twitch or even move beyond taking another sip of her bloody Mary. Shit, being married to her for fifteen years had taught him a few things, and he knew that lack of anything wasn’t good at all. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
She looked at him, blue eyes chilly, and he could see her going through it all in her head one last time. Kathleen never did anything impulsively. She was calculating, and very good at it—and this time, it seemed, her numbers added up to a blunt response. “I’m pregnant.”
Wally felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. “Not mine. I haven’t fucked you in years. I’m guessing the father doesn’t know? He probably wouldn’t want it anyway.”
“No,” she said, and he supposed that covered both questions. So she’d messed up somewhere. It was the one thing he hated most about her, that little lie all those years ago. Oh, I love children. I’ve always wanted some of my own. We’ll fill the house someday, Wallace. It had taken him too long to realize all her excuses Soon. When we’re more stable. When you’re not traveling so much were just that—excuses. She had never wanted kids, wanted nothing to do with any kids at all.
But he’d always wanted them, and she knew it, and she was using that now to get out of one last little tight fix. He should tell her to fuck off, to deal with her own mistake, her and whomever she’d fucked. She knew she was screwed—he obviously knew of the lovers, and if he was being this confident about the divorce, he knew more besides. So she was cutting her loses, taking what she could, and handing off the last problem facing her.
“Fine,” he said quietly. “You go along with the divorce, sign everything put in front of you, give me full custody of the kid, and walk out of our lives forever. I never want to see you again. Do that, take what I’m giving you, and we’re done. Show your face again, and you’ll regret it, understand? In return, I’ll take the kid, and let you walk.”
“Fine,” she said quietly, and it was only then he saw just how scared she had been. All for herself, of course. A child would ruin her life, and he could have easily made it all so much more difficult. Antoine was going to call him a sucker, and probably worse.
Victory was his, and without the months or even years of long, drawn out fighting he’d been prepared to endure. She’d surrendered as easily as that, for a reason he had not seen coming in a thousand years. He should feel jubilant, ecstatic.
All he felt was old, tired, and depressed.
A child. Christ, he’d never thought his divorce would bring him the one thing he’d wanted most from marriage. It wasn’t his child, technically, but he preferred not to think about that part. He could give the child a better life than either of its real parents would. He’d take what he’d unexpectedly been given, and not look too closely at the source of the gift.
Except, he was staring straight at her now, and saw something immediately wrong with the picture. “Why the fuck are you drinking if you’re pregnant?” he demanded.
“It’s virgin,” Kathleen replied coldly. “If you bothered to be here anymore, or notice anything but yourself and your boyfriend, you would notice I haven’t been smoking or drinking for the past three months.”
Huh. She had stopped smoking. He really had ceased to notice anything about her, had stopped caring. He knew that, but it was good to have additional confirmation that he no longer gave a fuck. It meant the break would be clean, and he’d never look back.
A child…he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He should move to the cabin full time, then. That was a good little area to raise a kid, better than this flashy house. Wait until she found out he was going to sell it; he half wished he could tell her, just to see her explode.
So much for spending more time with Antoine. Mr. Player would never want to trek out to almost nowhere to hang out with him and a kid. Hell, Mr. Player was going to be Mr. VP soon. He wouldn’t have the time.
Something in his chest twisted, as it always did, when he thought of Antoine. Beautiful, smart, ambitious, too clever by half Antoine, there for him when no one else gave a fuck. He always hated when the rumors about them reached his ear. He’d never been the one to cheat, and Antoine was a player, not an asshole. They were just friends…except that didn’t really do them justice, he thought.
They were best friends. They spent some part of every day together. He knew Antoine better than he knew himself, and Antoine knew him. He’d helped Antoine climb the ranks of Amberton, and Antoine had helped him build his reputation as a scout. If he’d listened to Antoine sooner about the dumb bitch he’d married…
Shit would have been way different, and he was tired of dwelling on it. He was moving forward. Hell, he was starting over a father, now. That didn’t even feel real yet, and it probably wouldn’t until he held the baby…
He turned from those thoughts, leaving the room when he realized he’d just been standing there wool-gathering. Kathleen had always hated his zoning out. Antoine had always been amused by it, in a…fond sort of way, he supposed. Why was he always comparing those two? But he knew the answer to that, he’d known it for years. It was finally admitting Antoine was everything, and Kathleen nothing, that drove him to push for the long overdue divorce.
If only he could figure out how to say that. Funny, that he could tell Antoine everything else, but damned if he could walk up to the man and say it like he would everything else. Hey, player. What’s playing today? By the way, I love you.