Marriage Terms(8)

By: Barbara Dunlop


“She’s a litigator,” said Bryan. “Always has been.”

“And you never mentioned it?”

Cullen peeled off his white leather gloves and tucked them in his back pocket.

“We don’t talk to you about Mom.”

“Well, maybe you should have.”

“Why?”

Daniel couldn’t believe his sons would be so obtuse. “Because, she’s in danger, that’s why.”

“Danger from what?” asked Bryan.

“Criminals.”

“She’s not in danger,” Bryan scoffed as they turned onto the pathway that led up to the clubhouse.

Daniel squinted at his older son. He sounded very confident, very definitive.

And Bryan was in the business of danger.

Wait a minute.

Maybe he knew something Daniel didn’t. That was it. Daniel should have realized he could count on his sons.

He felt as if a weight had risen right up off him. “Are you having her watched by one of your associates?”

Cullen sputtered out a laugh, while Bryan stared at Daniel. “Dad, you’ve seen one too many cop shows.”

Daniel rocked back. They were mocking him now. “Her clients are thieves and murderers.”

“And she’s their best friend,” said Bryan. “Trust me on this, Dad. The mortality rate for defense lawyers is pretty damn low.”

“Are you two going to help me or not?”

“Help you do what?” asked Cullen.

Daniel’s original plan was to work on her image and her business. But if he found a good clothing designer, it would only attract a better class of criminals. Nope. This called for drastic action.

“Convince her to change careers,” he said.

His sons drew back simultaneously. Cullen actually held up crossed fingers as if to ward off an evil spirit.

“Uh-uh,” said Bryan with a shake of his dark head.

“Are you out of your mind?” Cullen asked.

Daniel stared at his two strapping, six-foot-plus sons. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of her.”

“Hell, yes,” said Cullen.

Daniel squared his shoulders and crossed his arms over his chest. “More afraid of her than you are of me?”

Both boys snorted their disbelief.

“You’re on your own with Mom,” said Cullen, starting up the steep grade.

“We’ll be doing something safe,” Bryan said.

Cullen nodded his concurrence. “Like skydiving.”

“He is making me very nervous,” said Amanda to her ex-sister-in-law Karen Elliott where they sat in the solarium at The Tides, her former in-laws’ palatial estate. Since her mastectomy this past winter, Karen had been recuperating out on the Long Island estate. Rays of sunlight streamed through the skylights, glowing against the hardwood floor and bringing out the pastels in the cushions covering the wicker furniture.

“Did he actually do anything?” asked Karen. A cup of herb tea in hand, she was reclining on a lounger next to the glass wall that overlooked the Atlantic.

Seagulls soared on the rising air currents while storm clouds gathered on the far horizon.

“He suggested an extreme makeover.” Amanda still bristled at Daniel’s nerve.

“Like plastic surgery?” asked Karen.

“Like a haircut and a new wardrobe. But who knows what all else he had in mind.”

“Whew.” Karen blew out a breath. “You scared me for a minute. I thought maybe Sharon had completely corrupted him.”

Amanda cringed at the mention of Daniel’s recent ex-wife. Rail thin and strikingly beautiful, Sharon Styles was never anything less than a perfectly coiffed fashion plate.

Karen smoothed a hand over the colorful scarf that disguised the hair loss from her chemotherapy. “Personally, I’d kill for a good makeover.”

Amanda gave a chopped laugh of disbelief. Karen didn’t need a makeover. She was classy and gorgeous under any circumstances, from the glow of her honey-toned nose to the shine of her pedicured nails.

“I say we skip the makeover and kill off Daniel,” said Amanda.

Karen suddenly sat up on the chaise, swinging her legs around the side and clinking her china teacup into its saucer. “That’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

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