His Expectant Ex(5)

By: Catherine Mann

She spun away on her heels, only just managing not to fall on her face. She grabbed the end of a row for balance until the floor stopped wobbling underneath her.

Sebastian braced a hand on the small of her back. “Slow down and take a deep breath. It’s only natural you’re still upset from the proceedings.”

“Upset? Upset!” Glancing over her shoulder at him, she swallowed a bubble of hysterical laughter. She wanted to cry and pitch plates and rail at the unfairness of her greatest dream being tempered by such a total crap day. “As always you’re the master of understatement.”

He pinched the bridge of his nose for two of those steadying breaths before looking at her again, his expression a little too close to pity for her liking. Ire kicked up a storm in her already churning stomach.

Sebastian slid his hand from her back to her arm for a tiny squeeze as he stepped closer. “So now you want some kind of goodbye-over-coffee moment.”

Her body reacted through instinct to the familiar heat of him, the scent of his aftershave, the strength of his touch. How long would it take for time to dull the sensory memory of just how good he could make her feel?

She plucked his hand off and aside. “We said our goodbyes in the backseat of your car.” Anger, hurt and fear all left her itchy and irritable. “Your conjugal rights officially ended about five minutes ago.”

He would no doubt have plenty of opportunities to indulge himself with all the starry-eyed students that floated in and out of his successful practice. She’d seen a virtual entourage of admiring females in his law library some nights when she’d come by to pick him up late.

“Okay, okay, take it easy.” He backed her into the privacy of a quiet corner. He flattened a hand on the wall beside her head, his body creating a barricade between her and the onlookers staring at them with ill-disguised interest. “I completely understand that future shoe fashion shows have been canceled.”

Marianna scrunched her toes in her silver Jimmy Choo slingbacks and willed down the memories that would only wound her. Heaven knew that when she hurt she let it out with anger. But she would not cause a scene.

It was hard enough getting through these past few hours while her mind taunted her with images of what the day could have been like. If only she’d been able to surprise Sebastian at the office with a mug that read “Real Men Do Diapers” or some other cute coded announcement.

Of course he probably would have been in court or taking a deposition.

Oops, there went her temper again. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. “It’s not about a civilized cup of coffee. There are just some, uh, loose ends we need to discuss when we’re both calmer. I’ll talk to you next week, somewhere neutral and public.”

He held his position, almost touching, his gaze assessing her like some witness on the stand for endless seconds.

His BlackBerry buzzed. He ignored it. But still…

“You had that on during our divorce hearing?” She backed away, all hopes of calm long gone. “We definitely shouldn’t talk today.”

“Fine, whatever you want.”

It wasn’t what she wanted by a long shot, but there wasn’t any other choice. “Goodbye, Sebastian.”

But it wasn’t really farewell and she knew it. There would be no clean break for them now. Marianna ducked under his arm and toward the exit. She had one week to shore up her resolve and make plans.

She double-timed down the hall, barely registering that his big wonderful family sat on benches waiting. Just the kind of oversize clan she’d dreamed about as a lonely only child of elderly parents, who’d loved her, yes, but now even they were gone.

She pressed her hand to her stomach, her silver bracelets clinking, and prayed all the harder for the tiny life inside her. Her heart pounded faster. Or wait. Those were footsteps approaching her—Sebastian’s, of course. He wasn’t letting her off that easily. How strange that while he never fought, he always won.

Sebastian punched the elevator button for her, cocking his head to the side as he studied her with his piercing litigator stare. Oh God, she so didn’t want to climb into that claustrophobic box along with resurrected visions of their last ride.

“Uh, thanks, Sebastian, but I think I’ll take the stairs.”

She turned too fast and the world grew tighter like a narrowing focus of a lens. Her knees gave way, and all she could see on her way down were Sebastian’s Ferragamo loafers she’d given him last Christmas.

“We should call EMS,” Sebastian’s stepfather said for the third time, his voice booming with all the authority one would expect from a three-star general.Sebastian agreed. But the doctor—at the courthouse to testify in a hearing—seemed to think seven minutes and forty-one seconds of unconsciousness wasn’t anything to worry about yet. Dr. Cohen sat on the edge of the sofa, the young professional reading her watch while holding Marianna’s wrist in her hand.