(Silver Spoons Inc. 4)
Over the last few months, I had watched each of my bosses fall and love and start families of their own, something I wanted more than I wanted air. With one bad marriage behind me, I was terrified to try again until Dalton texted the wrong number and gave me the courage to reach for what I wanted. Now, if I could save him from a madman, I might have the chance at the happy ever after I'd been dreaming about.
One wrong number and my life was changed forever. Andrew came into my life and opened my eyes to the possibility that there was more out there than dancing on a stage. I wasn't ashamed of the fact that I was an exotic dancer. I worked hard, I wasn't breaking any laws, and I made decent money. It was just too bad someone else wanted to make money off of me and didn't ask me first. If I can't escape, the life I'd started to dream about was going to disappear, just like me.
"Damn it, Madeline, I said no." I thrust my hand through my sandy blond hair, ruffling the ends until they stood on end. "I already sent you your alimony check for this month. I am not sending another one."
I shouldn't have had to send a check in the first place. Madeline has been the one to betray our marriage vows, not me. But one sympathetic judge who bought her crocodile tears and I was stuck sending my ex-wife a fifteen-thousand dollar check every thirty days for the next eighteen months.
"I don't need much, Andrew. Twenty-thousand should do it. I know you have it."
Of course, I fucking had it. I worked for three billionaires who paid their employees very well. That didn't mean I was going to send my ex-wife one more red cent than I had to.
"I've already sent you your alimony check this month, Madeline," I explained again. The woman seriously needed to learn to live within her means. "If you've spent that—"
"Oh, it's not that at all, darling. A bunch of us are headed down to Aruba for the weekend and I need a few things for the trip."
"Maybe you should ask Darren. You remember him, don't you? The guy you were fucking in our bed while we were married? If you don't, I'd be happy to send you the pictures my private investigator took of the two of you. They are very...enlightening."
Too bad I hadn't gotten those pictures until after the divorce decree had been signed and filed with the courts. I doubted we'd be having this conversation if I had. They were very graphic—and extremely kinky—pictures. I never would have pictured my ex-wife being into bondage.
"Really, Andrew." Madeline huffed. "It's just twenty-thousand dollars. It's not like you need the money. You make that up in just a few hours working for your bosses."
"That's not the point, Madeline."
"How about fifteen thousand then?"
"I need to get my hair done, Andrew, and I need to pick up a few things for my trip. I wouldn't ask if it wasn't important."
I shook my head in disbelief. What I and Madeline considered important were two vastly different things. I wished I'd seen the money-grubbing side of my ex-wife before I married her. Maybe I wouldn't be in this mess.
"Madeline, I am not sending you any additional money. If you can't live off of what I send you every month, I suggest you get a job." She hadn't had one the entire time we'd been married unless shopping and sleeping around were considered a business, and then she'd be the CEO.
"Andrew, I need that money!"
"Not my problem, Madeline." It hadn't been my problem since the moment the ink was dry on our divorce papers. "I think from now on, all communication between us should go through our lawyers."
I chuckled as heard Madeline's loud shriek as I hung up on her. "Damn, that felt good."
Of course, the phone immediately started ringing. I glanced at the screen and then blocked Madeline's number. She could keep calling all day long. That did not mean I had to accept the call.
I picked up the phone again and dialed my divorce attorney. I was an attorney himself, but it was never a good idea for someone to represent themselves. Besides, I had an exclusive contract with Silver Spoons Inc., and taking care of personal cases wasn't part of my job description.
I also didn't do divorce cases. I hated them. I hated being divorced, but I hated being married to Madeline even more. The novelty of being married to such a beautiful woman had worn off in the first six months of our five-year marriage.
Hell, we hadn't even been sleeping together the last three years of our marriage, and we hadn't lived together the last year.
Truthfully, I was just thankful it was over, divorce nor not. This would be a lesson I would never forget learning. Someone once said that money corrupted even the most innocent of souls, and I believed it. It destroyed marriages.
"Arnold, this is Andrew Lancaster," I said once my attorney picked up his direct line. For what I was paying him, he'd better pick up. "I just got off the phone with Madeline. She was trying to get me to send her twenty-thousand dollars. She said she needed to pick up a few things for her trip to Aruba she's taking with her friends."
"Did you get it on tape?"
I rolled my eyes. I might not be a divorce attorney, but I wasn't stupid. "Of course I did." I sat down in front of my laptop and opened up my email. "I'm sending you the audio file right now."
"I'll add them to the others."
There were a lot of them.
"I told her that any further communication between us needed to go through you and then I blocked her number."
"That's probably a good idea," Arnold replied. "You know this is going to get nasty before it's over, don't you?"
My shoulders slumped as the weight of the months since my divorce was final pushed down on me. "Yes, I know. If I thought she'd go away if I just gave her a payout, I'd do it, but she won't. She's going to keep coming back until she bleeds me dry."
That seemed to be all Madeline cared about. Money. She certainly hadn't cared about me.
"Which is why we need these recordings. Between the pictures the private investigator you hired took, the audiotapes of her demanding more money, and her documented spending habits, we're going to be able to go before the judge pretty soon and get her off your back."
I certainly hoped so. I was so ready for this to be over.
"If you need any more from the Zhukov brothers, let me know. They said they'd help me any way they could."
"We're good right now, but if that changes, I'll let you know."
"Thank you, Arnold."
"Call me if Madeline tries to contact you again."
"I will." I wanted everything documented. The next time I went before a judge over my divorce, I wasn't going to let them be hoodwinked by some crocodile tears and a pretty smile. I'd have evidence to back up my insistence that Madeline was an unfaithful, money grubby bitch.
I hung up the phone and then pushed my hand through my hair again. At this rate, I'd be bald by the end of the week. The stress was unbelievable.
I had way too much to do to deal with this right now. All three of my bosses had gotten married over the last year and one of them now had a kid. Between changing wills and creating trust funds, I'd been up to my ears in paperwork and court filings for months.
I just wanted a break for a little while.
A couple of hours.
Was that too much to ask?
I frowned when the messaging app on my phone beeped. I expected to see Madeline's number when I looked down at the screen.
I didn't recognize this number.
"Hello, gorgeous lady. How have you been? When did you move to New York?"
What the hell?