Made her sick? “You got it all wrong. It’s not you. I’m disgusted that there are women like Bella that men go all moon-eyed over. When they have hearts smaller and darker than any storybook villain does.”
His look shouted his disbelief. “Yeah. Do you want to hear the rest of the story?” The embrace loosened as he took a step back. “I think I’ll go back to cooking. It might make it easier.”
The simple motion of turning on the stove happened in slow motion as if Will were underwater. Maybe her mind drew things out. She waited while he moved around the kitchen. Returning to her laptop might help the process.
After rinsing off the slotted spoon, he began to talk in a low voice that forced her to move closer to hear. “I blame Edward, the senior partner most. He told me this woman was a dear friend who was in an abusive marriage. I believed him, and she played the part so well. Telling me detailed accounts of horrific things her husband had done to her. The woman could have written screen plays.”
Tonya opened her computer and powered it on before turning to look in Will’s direction. “She wasn’t abused? How would you know?”
He shook his head slowly. “Didn’t know then. Swallowed her stories, felt outraged on her behalf, even cracked open the prenup agreement due to cruel and inhumane treatment. Of course, later I learned women in abusive relationships blame themselves and have no desire to talk about it. The only way you ever discover it is a trail of emergency room visits or a history of police calls.”
“So, you got her good settlement, how was that such a bad deal? That’s your job.”
“Oh, yeah.” He ripped open the spaghetti box with more force than necessary. “An amazing settlement, considering the lying, cheating whore not only played me but my boss too. It also established my reputation as the go-to divorce lawyer if you wanted to royally stick it to your ex.”
“Hmm,” she murmured the sound, aware on some level that saying too much would stop him from talking altogether.
“Bella was a real piece of work. She’d tell me gut-wrenching stories she’d pulled off some battered spouse website while in between tales, she’d call me her hero.”
Tonya’s nose crinkled as she made a gagging sound.
“I saw that. Now, the thought of how gullible I was, sickens me. She told me she had fallen in love with me. I was convinced I loved her too. In fact, she tried to seduce me. Asked me to drop by for an emergency visit, attired only in a sexy negligee. At the time, I excused it. Left in a hurry, not wanting to lose the job I so recently obtained.”
“Please,” she stretched out the word feeling her resentment at the absent woman flare up again. “Don’t tell me you didn’t suspect anything?”
The gurgle of the boiling water covered up his initial reply as he guided the spaghetti in the water. “I intentionally misunderstood. I wanted to believe she was a woman who deeply needed my help. Keep in mind; I didn’t go to college to help predatory females. I thought I would help people. Bella read me well and gave me what I wanted to believe while she was screwing my boss.”
Her fingers paused over the keyboard. “Did you know this?”
“Not at first.” The slotted spoon stirred the spaghetti as he dripped oil over the boiling water. “No, that didn’t come until after the divorce was finalized. Ethically, I was free to confess my feelings for the gorgeous Bella.”
“Apparently, she didn’t feel the same way,” she bit out the words as she pecked at the keyboard, misspelling simple words.
“Ha! Talk about an understatement. She laughed at me. Pointed out that she’d be stupid to get involved after obtaining such a generous alimony. Went on to tell me she had no interest in anyone as green as me. Too ignorant to recognize when being played. She preferred older, experienced men, like my boss.”
The idea of the harpy manipulating a younger, vulnerable version of Will made her snap her teeth together wishing she could somehow put the bite on Bella. “Yuck! Good riddance. I bet you didn’t take it that way, though. Wish Bella was here so I could give her some woman to woman advice.” Her fingers balled together in a fist that she brandished over her head.
Will’s expression shifted from melancholy to amusement at her actions. “Yeah, for a time, I think I would have liked to have seen someone give her what was coming to her. Now, I just look at the whole things as a lesson learned.”
“Do you?” Difficult to believe that the emotional trauma could be called a life lesson. An exhale escaped her lips, realizing the tremendous life experience she was smack in the middle of right now.
“Now, I do.” He managed a wistful smile. “Took a while. I think everything that hurts takes a while to recover from. Kinda hate people who tell ya time heals all wounds, but they do get more bearable the further time goes on.”
Steam rose from the bubbling pot as Will peered into the cabinets. “Don’t you have a colander?”
Her teeth came down on her lips. “Oh. I kept meaning to buy one. Last one I had was plastic. Melted it.”
His head came up abruptly hitting the edge of the open cabinet. “Ow!” His fingers probed his hair possibly searching for the bump. “I was going to ask you how you did that, but maybe I’m better off not knowing.”
The stench of melted plastic resurfaced if only in her mind. She’d turned her oven on to preheat forgetting she’d used it to store dirty dishes when her mother arrived unexpectedly one day. “Ah, yeah, you’re better off not knowing. No one will accuse me of being a domestic goddess, that’s for sure.”
In the act of lifting the hot pot from the stove, Will grunted his agreement.
“Hey, you didn’t have to agree!” Most men would politely defer from saying anything. What she regarded as politeness, may have just been disinterest.