“Smile when you’re scared. Laugh when you’re angry. Never tell what you’re really thinking. Cordelia Simms was always a quick study. Her brilliant mind and dysfunctional family prepared her perfectly for a career in the snakepit of an Old-South, old-money law firm, but she took a few detours along the way. Now the shameful secrets in her past put her future – and her child – at risk.” Previously… Richard crashed Cordelia’s party, raising her suspicions about Scott and more disturbingly, about Bella’s paternity. Her brother Anthony offers to help, but she decides to deal with Richard herself.
I scrape myself off the floor. “Do me a favor? Put Bella to bed. I’ve got to go bounce a gatecrasher.”
Anthony looms over me, his mouth wry. “Wrong way around, shrimp.”
“No.” I grab the drink out of his hand and rinse my mouth. It’s gin. I spit in the wastebasket. “I can’t let my big brother fight my battles anymore.”
I send him up the back stairs. I don’t want Richard seeing Bella. Ever. She reaches for me and shrieks. I kiss her hands and tell Anthony to go. Her wailing gets my blood up. I’ll need it.
The second I emerge from the study, a waiter catches my eye. “Ma’am, there’s someone in the kitchen asking for you. She’s delivering a package?”
“In a minute.” I’m not expecting anything, and I don’t dare get sidetracked. I scan the room. Marj has buttonholed a real-estate developer, and hasn’t noticed Richard yet. He’s schmoozing a state senator when I cut in. “Richard!” I turn to his target. Time to pee on this particular fire hydrant. “Uncle Gerry, will you excuse us? Shop talk.”
I drag Richard by the sleeve into the foyer. “Get out.”
He shrugs. “What’s wrong? I thought you were doing client outreach.”
“For our department, not yours. You’re not welcome in my house.”
He smirks. “Your mother was very gracious, actually.” He sips his scotch. “I wonder what she’d say about our past…relationship?”
Enough. I lean close. “She’d get over it — unlike your wife.”
The sadistic little gleam fades out of his eye. I just took his toy away. Damn, that felt good.
He grabs my wrist. “You still need this job. You think your little cheerleader show can save Marj’s department? She’s out. Cross me, and you’re out too.”
The door bangs open on a rainy gust. Lawrence catches our movement as we quickly lean apart. He shakes his umbrella on the doorstep. “Hey, Cordelia.”
“Lawrence, hi. This is Richard Demarest from work.” I flick my hand dismissively.
Lawrence gives a sour little up-nod. “I’ll let you finish.”
“No, wait…” He’s gone.
I feel like lava is coming out my eyes. I whip the door back open. “You can walk, or the cops can carry you.”
He laughs. “Are you throwing the Chastains out too? They’re my ride.”
I hold up my phone. “I already called you an Uber. You can sign the expense report on Monday.”
He fumes, but he steps out. “You’ll regret this, Cordelia.”
“I doubt it.” It’s a nice, heavy old door, and the slam is deep and loud.
I lean back on the polished panels. I’m not sure if the nausea’s back, or it’s relief.
Marj finds me there. “Well done, Cordelia!”
I look up. Did she hear everything?
“It’s a wonderful party, great contacts.” She wags her finger at me. “You remind me of your father, you know.”
“He always doubted himself, but he was really great with people.”
I splutter, “Thanks.” Who is this woman? Apparently she needs to get out more. But where’s Lawrence? The waiter appears in the hallway, hovering expectantly.
Marj heads back toward the greatroom. “Now, introduce me to the senator, would you? I hear his mother-in-law has cancer.”