Marriage Terms(4)

By: Barbara Dunlop


He scrambled for a distraction. “Don’t suppose you’d consider a family changing room for old times’ sake?”

That put a flash in her mocha eyes, but it also shut her up. Which was what he’d had in mind.

He didn’t really have a legal matter to discuss. It was a spur-of-the-moment excuse to get her out of the pool, and it was going to take a few minutes to put the finer points on the lie.

He gave her what he hoped was a nostalgic smile. “The boys sure loved it here.”

“What is wrong with you?” she asked.

“I’m just saying—”

“Fine. Okay. The boys loved it here.”

She was silent for a moment, then her eyes softened. He felt himself sinking into his own memories.

The shouts of children faded, and he suddenly saw two small, dark-haired boys whizzing down the slide and doing flips off the diving board. Boca Royce was the only recreation he and Amanda could afford during their lean years—thanks to the Elliott family lifetime membership. And Bryan and Cullen used to swim their little hearts out.

His memory moved on to the end of the swim day, when the boys were ready to drop. He and Amanda would bundle them home for frozen pizza and a cartoon movie.

Then they’d tuck them in and curl up in their own bed for a leisurely evening of love.

His voice turned husky. “We had some good times, didn’t we?”

She didn’t engage, didn’t meet his eyes. Without a word, she turned on her heel and marched down the corridor.

Just as well.

He was here to offer her a few basic pointers, to get her professional life on track.

Anything else was off-limits.

Way off-limits.

Amanda felt considerably less vulnerable in faded jeans and a powder-blue tank top. In the ladies’ change room, she finger-combed her damp hair and smeared some clear lip gloss across her mouth. She never used much makeup during the day, and she wasn’t about to put any on for Daniel. She wasn’t blow-drying her hair, either.

Throwing her bright yellow athletic bag over one shoulder, she exited the change room and trotted up the wide stairs to the mezzanine.

One quick drink. She’d hear him out, refer him to somebody much higher priced than she was then maybe go see a good therapist.

At the top of the stairs, a set of arched, oak doors led to the pool lounge. A receptionist at the marble counter stopped her and asked to see her membership card. Before she could retrieve it from the depths of the bag, Daniel appeared, impeccably dressed in an Armani suit.

He took her arm and gave the receptionist a curt nod. “That won’t be necessary.

She’s my guest.”

“Technically, I’m not your guest,” Amanda pointed out as he pushed on the oversize door. “I’m a member, too.”

“I hate it when they card you,” said Daniel, gesturing to a small, round table near the glass wall overlooking the pool. “It’s so tacky.”

“They don’t recognize me,” she said. The receptionist was only doing her job.

Daniel pulled out one of the curved-back chairs, and Amanda sat down on the leather cushion, plunking her bag on the hardwood floor.

“Maybe if you were to—”

She glanced at him over her shoulder.

He snapped his jaw shut and rounded the table.

As he sat down, a waiter in a dark suit appeared. “Can I get you a beverage, sir?”

Daniel raised his eyebrows in Amanda’s direction. “Fruit juice,” she requested.

“We have an orange-mango blend,” said the waiter.

“Sounds good.”

“And for you, sir?”

“Glen Saanich on the rocks. Yellow label.”

“Very good.” The waiter gave a sharp nod and left.

“Let me guess,” she said, not in the mood to let the cut off insult slide by.

“You were going to say that if I wore a power suit nobody would check my ID.”

He didn’t even bother to disagree. “The clothes do make the woman,” he said.

“The woman makes the woman,” she replied.

“A business suit and a nice pair of heels would give you a lot of credibility.”

“I dress like that for the courtroom, not to get into exclusive clubs.”

Daniel scooped the fanned, linen napkin from his water goblet and plunked it on the table. His study of her became more intense. “What do you plan your wardrobe around?”

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