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For a man who thought life was wrapped in a sea of irony, this had to take the cake.
Coburn Grant, heir to an automotive fortune and the newly-minted CEO of Grant Industries, gave his silk tie a tug so it didn’t feel like he was choking on his own cynicism. Attending his best friend Tony’s engagement party on the eve of his own divorce was impeccable timing that only he could manage. Having to give a speech to the happy couple in thirty minutes that spoke of hope and rainbows? The icing on that exceedingly unpalatable cake.
He could do this. He could. He just needed one more stiff scotch in his hand. That and a big set of rose-coloured glasses.
“You okay Grant?” Rory Delaney, the big, brawny Australian who had been a close friend since they’d attended Yale together, lifted an amused brow. “You look a bit green.”
Coburn adopted one of his patently entertained-by-life expressions, the only mask he ever let the world see. “Never better.”
And why wouldn’t he be? He was the leader of the Fortune 500 company he’d helped rebuild after his father’s death, his brother Harrison was campaigning for the White House which was only adding to Grant Industries’ global appeal, and he had a particularly beautiful, slightly wild blonde warming his bed every night—convenient when she only lived two doors down.
Heaven, was what he called it.
Rory, a tall, handsome, pro basketball player who was immensely popular with the ladies himself, gave a reassured shake of his head. “So glad to hear that Grant. Right at this particular moment, in fact.”
Rory’s tone was a blend of sarcasm and warning. He was worrying Coburn was still hung up over his soon-to-be ex who had left him a year ago. Which was so entirely wrong. His marriage to Diana had been a foolish, rash endeavor to numb the pain he’d been in over his father’s death, a passionate, all-consuming obsession with which to direct his emotions. Exactly what he’d needed at the time. Exactly what he needed to get rid of now.
He lifted a shoulder. “I’m not twenty-five anymore, Ror. An amazing body and a smart mouth don’t do it for me anymore.”
Rory’s face tightened in warning as his friend’s definitive elocution carried throughout the room. “Coburn—”
He waved him off. “I don’t know what you’re getting yourself so worked up about. I’ve got this speech in my back pocket.”
Rory gave a spot behind him a pointed look. “Diana is behind you. Three o’clock.”
He felt the colour drain from his face. “My soon-to-be ex wife Diana?”
His heart stuttered in his chest, his fingers gripping tighter around the tumbler of whiskey. He’d been ready for this confrontation to happen tomorrow when they had the divorce papers in front of them. When he was prepared to see the woman who had walked out on him without a backward glance twelve months ago, not to be seen since because she’d ensured their schedules never overlapped. Which wasn’t a mean feat in a city like Manhattan where social circles tended to remain with like social circles.
But then again, Diana didn’t socialize. She worked all the time. Which made it all the more surprising she was here tonight…
Rage surged through him, swift and all encompassing. It moved upward, through his chest, erupting into his brain to turn it a hazy grey until he thought his head might blow off his shoulders. How dare she show up here? How dare she spoil this night for him? These were his friends, not hers.
He drew in a breath through his nose, exhaling slowly as Rory watched him like he was an overly antagonized bull ready to charge. His turn when he moved was unhurried and deliberate. Unfazed. The stricken ebony eyes that stared back at him revealed she’d heard what he’d said. His gaze moved past his outrageously beautiful wife to the group of people standing beside her. They’d all heard what he’d said. Well too bad. He wasn’t taking the words back. He’d meant them from the bottom of his heart.
The only thing he did regret was showing his hand like that. He’d intended on approaching tomorrow with a calm detachment Diana would have found unnerving. To demonstrate the man she was now dealing with wasn’t anything like the one she’d married. That he wasn’t a fool for her anymore.
He shifted his attention back to his wife. Her eyes had lost that vulnerable edge now, hardening into the dark, bottomless pools it had once been his life’s mission to get to the bottom of. He never had. She was angry. Furious. Too bloody bad. It had been her decision to come.
The entire party was staring at them now, waiting for a reaction from one of them. Mouth tightening he turned his back on them, but not before cataloging the fact that his soon-to-be-ex was even more strikingly beautiful than he remembered her to be. As if life away from him had enhanced her devastating appeal.
He set his glass down on a table, cocked his head toward the bar and he and Rory headed for liquid sustenance. Diana had taken so much from him. But she wasn’t ruining tonight.
Diana wobbled in her high heeled shoes as Coburn shut her out as easily as if she was one of his big-breasted floozys he was long done with. Except he would have been more charming with them. He’d always saved his tough love for her.
Love. An aching knot formed in her throat. The emotion burning in his striking blue eyes just now had been crystal clear. He hated her for what she’d done to him. Still hated her. She wanted to say she hated him back, but that would have been a lie. Her feelings for Coburn had always been far more complex than that. Which was exactly why she needed him to sign the divorce papers tomorrow so she could get on that plane to Africa and forget their marriage had ever existed.
Her hand shook slightly as she averted her gaze from the crowd and lifted her wine glass to her mouth. She knew Coburn had been talking about her. Everyone at the party knew he’d been talking about her. They’d been eating it up like vultures waiting for the drama to ensue. It was why she hated these damn affairs so much. People with too much time on their hands to speculate and provide yet more salacious tidbits to the gossip mill tomorrow. She’d only come because Annabelle had begged her to.
An amazing body and a smart mouth don’t do it for me anymore…
Coburn’s words reverberated in her head. She bit back the tremble that wobbled her lower lip and took a sip of the wine. What a bastard he was. She wanted to walk over there and slap his face with the anger that had been festering for twelve months. But that would be letting him win.
She was a surgeon – she put people back together. She did not let Coburn pull her apart. Again. Ever.