She wanted happily ever after.
He thought he had it.
Underneath the perfect exterior of Calista Bennett’s marriage lay an ugly truth that threatens to drown her when she is betrayed.
Across town, Nickolas Mikos isn’t doing much better after his life is plunged into his new reality by his wife’s lies.
Life can change in the blink of an eye. Can Cali and Nick comfort each other’s raw pain enough to allow for a second chance at happiness, or will their fears and anger prevent them from uncovering the blessing in the betrayal?
The vodka had done its job. Cali drifted in and out of a fitful sleep while curled up on the floor of the closet. It was after midnight when she found herself awake again, unable to get back to sleep. She had only a long, lonely night to look forward to.
Cali wasn’t sure of her plan until she found herself sitting behind Kevin’s large desk again. She moved on autopilot as she looked up Nicholas Mikos in her husband’s contact list. It wasn’t surprising to find it there, they had worked together after all. She had had just enough vodka to dull her decision-making ability.
It rang several times before a masculine voice answered. “Hello?”
What the hell was she doing? She was about to hang up when he spoke again. “Who’s there? If this is another reporter looking for a story, fuck off.”
He sounded so angry. He deserved to be angry. So did she.
“Nick?” Her voice was barely a whisper, but he heard.
She held her breath. Unsure if she should answer.
He persisted “Cali? Is that you?”
“Yes.” She’d been so angry before the call. Why were tears prickling her eyes at the sound of his voice?
He sighed. “I’m glad you called. I’ve wanted to call you a few times but didn’t have your number. And I didn’t know… well… you know.”
“Unfortunately, I do know.” They let a long awkward silence stretch out.
He broke the quiet. “I’ve been worried about you. How are you?”
“Probably about the same as you.”
“That bad, eh?” He tried to laugh it off. It sounded strained. They fell into silence again.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know why I called. I’ll let you go.” Cali felt foolish for calling.
“Please. Don’t go.” She heard a familiar desperation in his voice.
“What do you want me to say, Nick? Anything we talk about is only going to make us feel worse.”
“I don’t think so. I hate it, but you’re the only person who could possibly understand what it’s like. You’re a beautiful, smart woman. You didn’t deserve this to happen to you, Cali. I want you to know that.”
The tears she had been holding back fell fast. She hadn’t thought he could say anything to make her feel better, but she’d been wrong. He had somehow known exactly what she’d needed to hear.
“Thank you for saying that,” she answered through her tears. “You certainly didn’t deserve this either. No one knows what to say, you know? They either avoid me or try to cheer me up. They don’t know that maybe I need to wallow for a while, you know?”
“Boy, do I ever. I finally went into the office today, and it was brutal.”
“I went back to school today, too. Brutal is the perfect word.”
“Is that why you called?”
Cali debated lying, but then she’d be doing to him what his wife had done. As ugly as the truth was, he deserved to hear it. “No. Not really.”
“Well, I’m glad you did.”
“I bet you wouldn’t be if you’d found what I found tonight.”
He hesitated. He must have been deciding if he wanted her to continue. “Maybe you should tell me and let me be the judge of that.”
“There’ll be no unhearing the words once they’re said,” she tried to warn him.
“Just like there will be no bringing them back.”
“Would you want to even if you could?” Cali asked curiously.
She started to wonder if the call had dropped. He finally answered. “Would it make me a monster if I said no?”
“No, it makes you human. I might have said yes yesterday, but not tonight. Tonight, I hope they’re rotting in hell.”
Nick whistled the surprised kind of whistle. “That doesn’t sound good. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I don’t want to know.” He hesitated. “Like it or not, I need to know. I’m tired of the secrets—of the lies. I found a couple credit cards I didn’t know about last week. A nice little fifteen-thousand-dollar fuck-you courtesy of my wife from her grave.”
“Don’t scare me. I haven’t even braved the finance crap yet.” She hoped she didn’t have more surprises waiting for her there. “I’ve just been paying a few bills I know about. I’m dreading it. I know I’ll have to tackle it soon.”
“So if not finances, what did you find?”
She took a deep breath. “How long do you think they were seeing each other?”
He answered quickly. “Well since they met at the holiday…” his voice trailed off. He never finished his thought.
“Try a bit longer.”
“Goddamn her. How do you know?”
“I finally got logged onto his personal laptop. He had a backup file of his phone. It was how I got to his contact list. Do you have her cell phone? If you do, you could find it all too.”
“No. I never found her phone. I assumed she had it with her, and it was destroyed in the accident.”
“How much do you want to know?”
“I want it all. The truth for once.”
“I found stuff going back at least six months. I’m not sure how it started, but I found emails, texts, photos… you name it. They communicated almost daily.” She had expected him to be angry. She hadn’t expected silence.
“Nick? Are you still there?” When he didn’t reply, she tried again. “I’m so sorry. I should never have told you.”
“You did the right thing, Cali.” She heard the barely contained rage in his voice. “I just don’t know if I can believe it. I mean… not that you… I’d just like to think I would have noticed something like that, you know?”
It was Cali’s turn to get angry. “You better not be insinuating I’m lying to you. I’m not Veronica. Not every woman is a lying bitch.”
He sighed. “I wasn’t trying to imply you were lying. It’s just so… I didn’t think it could get any worse. I was wrong.”
“Honestly, as much as I hurt now, I think this will help me get over him sooner. Kevin was a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. He could be so charming when he wanted to be. The next minute he could call me every condescending name he could think of while…” She cut herself off. She wasn’t ready to share how abusive Kevin could get.
“While he what, Cali?”
“Nothing. It’s not important now. I’m sorry if this news hurt you, but I just know if you’d found this evidence, I would have wanted you to share it with me, you know? I’m so tired of his lies.”
“Cali, would you consider having dinner with me some time? Before you think I’m coming on to you or something, I’m not. I’d just like to talk with you more. I think we could help each other through some of the shit, you know? Maybe you could bring his laptop along and let me see some of the messages?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Nick.”
“Which part? Dinner or the laptop?”
“Please. Friday night. I can have Andi sleepover at her best friend’s house.”
“Let me think about it, okay?”
“Okay. Is this your cell phone you called from?”
“Then we’ll talk later in the week. Think about it, Cali. It would mean a lot to me.”