A Girl's Guide to Moving On (New Beginnings #2)(3) by Debbie Macomber

“You’re beautiful.” And I meant it.

By five I’d finished for the day and I was eager to get back to my son. Leanne had taken Owen to the park. At nearly four my little man was a ball of explosive energy. I imagined my mother-in-law was more than ready for a break.

I got in my car and was starting the engine when my phone rang. I drove a ten-year-old Toyota while my soon-to-be ex-husband was in a nearly new BMW, a car I’d bought him with the inheritance I’d gotten after my parents died. That was another story entirely, and one I had to repeatedly push out of my mind. Rule number three: Let go in order to receive.

I frantically searched through my purse until I located my phone. Checking caller ID, I saw that it was Jake. No surprise. It seemed he found an excuse to call me just about every day. I was able to remain civil, but I resented his efforts to keep me tied to him. Friends had been all too eager to tell me he hadn’t changed his womanizing ways. Now that I was out of the house my husband didn’t bother to hide the fact he was a player.

This was supposed to have been his weekend with Owen, but he had a business trip. Or so he claimed. Because of what I knew, I’d become suspicious of everything he said.

“Yes,” I said, making sure I didn’t sound overly friendly. It was difficult to maintain an emotional distance from him, especially when he worked overtime to make it hard. Jake knew all the right buttons to push with me. Through the negotiations for the divorce he’d played me like a grand piano.

“Hi, sweetheart.”

“You have the wrong number,” I said forcefully. Every time he used an endearment I wondered how many other women he called “sweetheart.”

“Come on, honey, there’s no need to be bitter. I’m calling with good news.”

Sure he was. “Which is?”

He hesitated and his voice sank lower, laced with regret. “I’ve signed off on the final negotiations. You want a share in the house, then fine, it’s yours, but only when I choose to sell it. That’s what you asked for, right?”

“Right.” Which meant this bitter struggle was over and the divorce could go through. Twenty-five months after I’d filed we could sign the final papers.

“You signed off?” If that was the case I’d be hearing from my attorney shortly, probably Monday morning.

“It’s killing us both to drag this out any longer than it already has.”

From the minute I’d moved out of the house Jake had believed he could change my mind. I’d gladly given up living in the house despite the fact that my attorney had advised me to stay put. All I asked for was my fair share of the proceeds when he chose to sell it.

I wasn’t interested in living in that plush home any longer. My life there with all the expensive furnishings and designer details had been a sham. The memories were too much for me. Sleeping in our bed was torture, knowing Jake had defiled it. For all I knew he may even have made love to another woman in that very bed. Besides, holding on to the house would be a financial struggle. I needed to break away completely and start over. Jake had been surprised when I agreed to move out. I’d used the house along with the country-club membership as bargaining chips in the settlement agreement.

“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Jake asked.

I wasn’t sure what to say. “I guess this is it, then,” I whispered, staggering against a wall of emotion. My attorney assured me that eventually Jake would cave. It was either that or we would be headed to a meeting with a court-appointed negotiator. I was willing, but Jake had balked. Neither one of us wanted this to go to trial. The attorneys and the divorce proceedings were expensive enough.

“Yeah. It’ll be final soon,” Jake said, his voice so low it was almost a whisper. His words were filled with regret.

“Final,” I repeated, and bit into my lower lip.

“You okay?” Jake asked.

“Yeah, of course.” But I wasn’t. After all this time one would think I’d be glad this bickering and madness were about to end. I should be over the moon, eager to put my marriage behind me. I was more than ready to move on. Instead my heart felt like it was going to melt and a huge knot blocked my throat.

“I thought you’d want to know,” Jake said, sounding as sad and miserable as I was.

“Thanks. I’ve got to go.”

“Nichole…Nichole…”

I didn’t want to hear anything more that he had to say, so I ended the call. With tears blurring my eyes, I tossed my phone back inside my expensive Michael Kors purse. A purse I’d purchased because Jake insisted I deserved beautiful things. Now I understood he’d wanted me to have it because he’d felt guilty. As best I could figure, I’d bought the purse shortly after he learned Chrissy was pregnant with his child.

Wiping the moisture from my cheek, I put the car in reverse, stepped on the accelerator, and immediately backed into a ditch.

I don’t know how long I sat in my car with my forehead resting against the steering wheel. I was embarrassed and shaken, and it wasn’t only from the accident. My marriage was over. I thought I was ready, more than ready. The reality of it hit me full force; a deep sense of loss and unreality swamped my senses.

“Nichole, are you all right?”

A disembodied voice came at me. When I lifted my head I found Alicia, the hairstylist, standing alongside my upended car. When I didn’t answer right away she knocked against the driver’s-side window.

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