One Real Man

By: Coleen Kwan

“I remember reading you and the husband were moving to London,” Owen said. “Is that where you’ve been since the wedding?”

She nodded. “Seth’s still there.”

Seth, a stockbroker, had wanted to work in London for years. Well, he’d gotten his wish. He was with one of the top brokerage firms in the City, swimming with the biggest sharks in the business, raking in big bonuses and blowing it all on coke and gambling. How quickly her marriage had disintegrated. Working insane hours and spending all his free time with his colleagues, Seth had become a stranger to her, and the more she tried to bridge the chasm between them, the more he distanced himself from her. He didn’t need her anymore; in fact, he didn’t want any reminders of his past life. With breathtaking abruptness, he had moved out of their apartment and filed for divorce. She’d barely accepted he was gone when that awful video had surfaced and shown her how little he thought of her.

A quiver started in her chin. No, no, no. She was not going to break into tears over her feral ex. Especially not in front of Owen Bellamy. He would love to see her crack, but she’d be damned if she gave him that satisfaction. Clamping her jaw, she fixed her gaze on him, defying the weakness inside her.

“Anything else you want to know about my doomed marriage?” she challenged him.

He blinked slowly, heavy eyelids masking his expression. “Anything else I should know?”

Her jaw ached as her molars ground together. Did Owen know about the video? Her stomach did a nauseous heave. Seth, eventually ashamed of what he’d done, had assured her that all copies had been erased from the internet, but how could he be so sure? Everyone knew once something was on the Web, it was there for life, that any lecherous computer geek could track down the file and view it. Had Owen done that?

“I haven’t the faintest idea what you’re talking about.” The words rushed out of her, frosty and abrupt, as she always was when the situation turned tricky. Ice queen, some people called her, but that was just how she was made.

As the planes of Owen’s face hardened, her heart skipped a beat. He wasn’t the callow teenager she could lord over anymore. He’d grown up, his youthfulness maturing into smoldering masculinity—crisp dark hair, glimmering green eyes, broad shoulders filling a casual blue shirt, a smattering of stubble across his square, stubborn jaw. Not someone she could trifle with.

If he knew about that humiliating video, he gave no sign of it. Maybe he was waiting for the right moment to embarrass her.

“Still the same Princess Paige, huh?” His mouth curved down at the corners. “Well, I can’t say it was a pleasure catching up with you. Why don’t I call you a taxi?”

Panic jumped in her throat. “Wait a minute. We’re not done yet. You haven’t told me what you’re doing here.”

“I told you already. I’m renting this house for the next year. Or should I say, my property development company is.”

“You own a company?” She didn’t mean to sound so incredulous.

His eyes narrowed. “I’m a junior partner. McCarthy Construction.”

Paige shook her head. “I still don’t understand how you managed to get our house.” Something was going on, something her mother had hidden from her.

“It really has nothing to do with you, Paige.”

His coldness touched a raw nerve in her. She jumped to her feet, the chair screeching against the terra-cotta tiles. “I don’t care if you have a triple lease for a hundred years! This is my home. My home, understand?”

The shaking in her hands spread to the rest of her body. If there was one constant in her life, it was this home. This was her safe house, her place of retreat, her sanctuary. Here, nothing bad could happen to her. And now this…this pool boy was telling her it had nothing to do with her.

Spinning on her heel, she stalked out the kitchen and made her way upstairs to her old bedroom. As she slammed the door shut, she realized she’d stormed to her room through force of habit. She had no right to be here, and besides, her room had completely changed. Everything familiar had been carted away, replaced by a few pieces of strange furniture—a double bed, a nightstand, an armchair by the window. This was no longer her room, and everything she owned in the world was crammed into those two suitcases downstairs, if she didn’t count the miserable few hundred dollars in her bank account. Christ, she didn’t even have a mobile phone anymore. Who would have thought that would ever happen to her?

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