His Ex's Well-Kept Secret

By: Joss Wood

Maybe when he was in college.

Piper stood up and went to the curved bow window of her three-story redbrick Victorian. She folded her arms across her chest and looked down onto the street below. Fall was nearly over, winter was rushing in and the seasons seemed to be flying past. She’d conceived Ty in spring, lost Mick in late summer, given birth to Ty in midwinter. This summer, unlike the previous one, passed by uneventfully.

Mick’s death last year was a smack rather than a blow, but one she was still wrapping her head around. Even though she and her father rarely spoke, she liked knowing there was somebody she was connected to, some family she could call her own—even if it was only in the quiet depths of her soul, since Mick never publicly acknowledged her as his daughter.

Or acknowledged her at all.

Growing up, she’d never thought she’d be glad he publicly ignored her and her mother, his longtime mistress. But when the most flamboyant and driven personality on the New York social scene, one of the most respected stockbrokers and investment advisors in the world, was arrested for fraud, Piper was very glad not to be linked to him.

Over decades, Mick convinced thousands of people to invest in funds he recommended, promising solid returns. He then used money from new investors to pay off existing investors, all while living the high life. It was no surprise he’d demanded she hand over her sapphires in the months leading up to, and after, his arrest. He’d needed to raise some money to buy a shovel so he could dig himself out of a very big hole.

The press attention over his arrest was intense, and Mick’s ex-wife was constantly harassed by reporters. Mick’s child bride/trophy wife conveniently left the States for Colombia two days before his arrest, never to return, not even to attend Mick’s funeral.

Ah, such a demonstration of true love.

Since neither of Mick’s wives knew of Piper’s existence, she’d just stayed in Park Slope, Brooklyn, living in the house Mick bought for her mother, watching the Mick-induced craziness from a distance. She was grateful her mother never witnessed the man she loved fall from the very high and gilded pedestal she’d placed him on. His death, from a heart attack two-and-a-half months after first being arrested, would’ve killed her if cancer had not.

Piper heard a snuffle from the baby monitor on her desk and smiled. Her boy was awake and would be wanting some lunch. Piper walked out of her study and ran up the stairs to the third floor of her building, which served as the second floor of her home. The first floor was an apartment she rented to Ceri and Rainn. She padded into the smaller of two bedrooms and across to the wooden crib she’d slept in as a child. Ty turned to look at her, and love flooded her system.

He was all Jaeger, she thought, picking him up and cuddling him to her chest. He had Jaeger’s light blue eyes, his facial structure and his dark sable hair. Ty would also, she was sure, have Jaeger’s height and naturally muscular build.

Ty was a Ballantyne, she thought, in everything but name.

“There’s my big boy,” she crooned, rubbing her chin across the top of his head. Piper carried Ty to his changing mat and deftly undressed him, taking a moment, as she always did, to kiss his foot, to nibble his heel. The actions caused Ty to release a belly laugh which, in turn, made her laugh. God, she’d never thought she could love someone this much...

Piper whipped a disposable diaper from the box on the chest of drawers and slid it under Ty’s clean bottom. Under the pile of diapers was the black velvet roll of fabric, and inside the roll were the ten sapphires she’d discussed with Jaeger.

In Milan, he’d promised he’d call her so he could examine the sapphires, but he never did. When six weeks passed without hearing from him, and she’d realized condoms weren’t a hundred percent foolproof, she’d tried to contact him. Every call she made to his cell phone went directly to voice mail.

He couldn’t be hard to reach, she’d thought, so she’d tried to contact him through Ballantyne and Company. Ha! That was like trying to speak directly with one of the Windsor boys. She’d left countless messages, sent a dozen emails to the group secretary, but nothing. When she’d visited the flagship store, asking to see Jaeger, her requests to speak to someone higher up the food chain were dismissed. When she refused to leave until either Jaeger or one of his three siblings spoke with her, security escorted her off the premises.

She’d been on the internet a few days later and found an in-depth article on him in which he was quoted saying that he had no intention of ever marrying, that he did not want children. The world needed innovators and adventurers and discoverers, not more mouths to feed.

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