The Divorce Party

By: Jennifer Hayward

 CHAPTER ONE

IT WAS GOING to be bad.

Lilly Anderson winced and put a hand to her pounding head. If she held herself in just that position, with the pressure building in her head like the vicious storms that picked up intensity across the plains of the midwest, it might not become a full-on migraine.

Might not.

Except staying in the dim confines of Riccardo’s Rolls-Royce, driven by his long-time driver Tony, wasn’t an option tonight. She was late for her own divorce party. Excessively late for the one thing that would give her what she wanted above all else. Her freedom from her husband.

“Oh, my God.”

Her twin sister Alex made a sound low in her throat. “How can they print this stuff?”

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Alex, read it to me.”

“It’s Jay Kaiken’s column. You don’t want me to.”

“Read it.”

“Okay, but I warned you.” She cleared her throat. “In what’s expected to be the most scandalous, juiciest, talked-about water cooler event of the season, billionaire wine magnate Riccardo De Campo and former Iowa farmgirl-turned-sports-physiotherapist Lilly De Campo host their divorce party tonight. I once suggested they were the only passionately in love couple left in New York. But apparently even that fairytale doesn’t actually exist. Rumors of heartthrob Riccardo’s infidelity surfaced and this once solid marriage ended up in the toilet. So it’s with mixed feelings that I bid this partnership adieu tonight. I have the invite and will bring you all the salacious details.”

She crumpled up the tabloid and threw it on the floor. “He’s such an SOB.”

Lilly closed her eyes, a fresh wave of nausea rolling over her. No matter how many times she’d envisioned this moment, this freedom from Riccardo, she had never envisioned this. Nor the insanely mixed feelings she had right about now.

“Sorry, Lil. I shouldn’t have started on those.”

“You’re a PR person, Alex. You’re addicted.”

“Still, I suck. I’m really sorry.”

Lilly smoothed her fuchsia silk dress over her knees. It was elegant enough—and in Riccardo’s most hated color, which was an added bonus—but it felt as if it was clinging in all the wrong places. A glance in the mirror before they’d left had told her she was paper-white, with dark bags under her hazel eyes. Haunted. In fact the only thing that was right was her hair, blowdried to glossy, straight perfection by her savior of a stylist.

It was a problem—this not feeling together. She felt she was already at a disadvantage. Facing Riccardo without her mask, without all her defences in place, was never a good way to start.

“You look a little too good,” Alex murmured. “I think you should have put something frumpier on. And maybe messed your hair up a bit.”

Lilly took the compliment and felt a bit better. Her sister was, if nothing else, the bluntest person she’d ever met. “Now, why would I do that?”

“Because Riccardo is like a banned substance for you,” her sister said drily. “And your marriage almost destroyed you. Be ugly, Lilly, it’s the easiest way.”

Lilly smiled, then winced as her head did another inside-out throb. “He’s finally agreed to give me the divorce. You should be doing a happy dance.”

“If I thought he was giving in I might be. Has he given you the papers yet?”

“I’m hoping he’ll do that tonight.”

Alex scowled. “It’s not like him to do this. He’s up to something.”

Her heart dropped about a thousand feet. “Maybe he’s decided it’s time to replace me.”

“One can only hope.”

A stab of pain lanced through her. She should be elated Riccardo had finally seen the light. Seen that there was no way they could ever reconcile after everything that had happened. So why had his decree that they finally end this with an official public announcement hit her with the force of an eighteen-wheeler? She certainly hadn’t been pining away the past twelve months, hoping his refusal to divorce her meant he still loved her. And there was no way she’d harbored any silly notions that he was going to come climbing through her window and carry her back home, like in some Hollywood movie, with a promise to do everything differently.