Just To Be With You (Page 67)
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“How sweet. A little family reunion. And how perfect that you’re having it in your office, Ian, since I know how much you hate to leave it.”
Mia spun around. “Chelsea.” His sister sounded like she’d tasted something rotten. “It’s been too long, and yet, I have to admit I wish it had been longer.”
Ian didn’t normally feel like laughing when his ex was in the room, but he was surprised to find himself swallowing a laugh after Mia’s retort.
“Thanks for coming by, Mia,” he said. “And for the update.”
Knowing this was his way of kicking her out, Mia asked in a low-pitched tone, “Are you sure I can’t stay and throw things at her?”
His laughter bubbled all the way up and out this time. “Thanks, but I can handle her on my own.”
With obvious reluctance, Mia slid off his desk. But instead of leaving him to deal with Chelsea alone, she headed straight toward his ex. “Why are you here?”
Chelsea raised an eyebrow. “That’s none of your business.”
“Oh yes, it is.” Mia advanced toward Chelsea in such a way that his ex-wife actually took a step back. “Mess with my brother and you’re messing with all of us.” Mia’s gaze swept down, then back up Chelsea’s body. “You know, that color makes you look much less pale than usual. You should thank your stylist for helping you out.” Turning back to Ian, Mia smiled and blew him a kiss. “See you Friday, big brother.”
Ian couldn’t fault his sister for wanting to protect him. Not when he’d spent his whole life doing the same for her. As soon as the door closed behind her, he stood up to greet his ex-wife. “I’m glad you’re here, Chelsea.”
He nodded. “I was going to call you today.”
“I’m assuming you read about the eAirBox deal?”
She pulled the front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer out of her purse as confirmation. “Remember how my phone kept running out of space for taking pictures and I said, they need to make more space on these things? Well, that’s just what this company does, which means I can make a case that I gave you the idea.” He was pretty sure she wasn’t joking, not even when she said, “You made a mistake by not holding on to me, Ian. I was your lucky charm.”
His ex was certainly creative, he had to give her that. And once upon a time, he’d found her beautiful, too. But now he saw just how false every part of her was, from her colored contact lenses to her artificially plumped-up lips and br**sts to her fake tan.
And yet, none of that changed the fact that he had hurt her.
“You’re right,” he finally said, “I did make a mistake with you. Lots of mistakes. I screwed up in our marriage and I just kept screwing up afterward, too.”
This time, she wasn’t able to hide her surprise. “I can’t believe you’re saying these things.”
“I’ve been beating myself up for years over our marriage, over not being there enough for you. I’m truly sorry that I wasn’t, Chelsea. You didn’t deserve to be ignored. Nobody does.”
“Well—” For the first time, it looked as if his ex didn’t know what to say. “Thank you for the apology. Even if it’s long overdue.”
It was long overdue, he realized. This whole conversation was, in large part because after the divorce he’d shut himself away from everyone by moving to London. Were it not for Tatiana being brave enough to confront him—and to keep on doing it, even when he’d repeatedly tried to push her away—he wouldn’t be having any of these long-overdue conversations today.
From the first, he’d been struck by the way Tatiana always wanted to understand why people did what they did. But even more amazing was the fact that she wasn’t afraid to go deeper than other people usually did. She wasn’t afraid to push harder, or farther, either.
Now, it was time to channel her fearlessness to get some answers from his ex-wife.
“Can I ask you a question, Chelsea?”
His ex-wife was frowning now, at least as much as she could with a dermatologically frozen forehead. “I guess so.”
“Why did you marry me?”
Her frown deepened until there were actual lines on her face. “Is this a trick question?”
“No, I promise you it isn’t.”
“You weren’t like any other man I’d dated. You were more confident. More focused. More determined. It was exciting to be with you, especially since you were traveling for business so much that when I was with you, it never felt like we’d settled into a boring pattern like other couples.”
“But eventually didn’t you want that? Didn’t you want to settle down? Didn’t you want our life together to have more of a pattern?”
“No, I didn’t. I just wanted you to turn your focus to me. I wanted to be more important than your company, your deals. I thought that once we got married, you’d change.”
And it was true, he suddenly realized. All Chelsea had really ever wanted while they were together was for him to change who he was. Whereas, again and again, Tatiana had said the exact opposite, that she loved him just the way he was.
He hadn’t been planning to give his ex any more checks, but since he had a feeling she hadn’t been saving much of what he’d given her over the past several years, he decided it would be his last act of penance. At the same time, however, it wouldn’t be fair just to hand it to her and let her think there were more checks coming in the future.
“I’m not giving this check to you because of my new deal. In fact, I never wrote any of these checks because I actually thought I owed you anything for any of my deals, or because I was afraid of your lawyers. I did it because I felt guilty that I didn’t treat you the way a good husband should have. But now I think it’s finally time for both of us to move on, past the mistakes we made with each other.”
Chelsea stared at him for a long moment, before awareness lit her gaze. “This is because of Tatiana Landon, isn’t it? I saw the way you looked at her. You’re in love with her, aren’t you? That’s why you want me out of the way. You’re hoping I’ll accept your apology so that you can go to her and tell her you’re not a big, fat jerk.”
He could see the calculations already going on behind her eyes, was nearly certain that she would try to dig up something about him and Tatiana so that she could leak it to the press, and he was glad for it. Happy that it helped dissolve the final remnants of his guilt.