The Billionaire's Secret Wife

By: Nadia Lee

“Aunt Sally said you didn’t get paid. Is that true? I brought some money.” The younger one reached into her pocket and pulled out a small change purse.

Vanessa put a hand over the girl’s. “I’ve already been paid, just to see you guys this happy.”

Their father rushed over and gathered the kids around him. “I’m so sorry they’re bothering you. I told them they weren’t going to be able to see you again, but they just wouldn’t listen,” he spoke fast, his face flushed.

“It’s all right. I was on a coffee break. It’s great to see them doing well.” When she’d first met them, they’d been skinny, dirty and wary. Now they clung to him, their gazes certain of his love.

He sniffed. “Couldn’t have done it without your help. Thank you.”

“I’m just glad everything worked out.”

“I don’t want to take up too much of your time. I know you’re a busy woman, helping people like me.” He turned to his daughters. “Hey, say thank you to Miss Pryce, real polite now, and then we can go have ice cream.”

The girls crowed, their faces flushed, then thanked her again in a loud chorus. Chuckling, the man started herding them across the street. Something warm and sweet unfurled inside Vanessa as she watched them laughing and joking around. She blinked away sudden moisture in her eyes. Now that, she thought, was a Just and Proper Outcome.

It sort of sucked that her paying clients rarely fit into the same category.

She started to turn away, then stopped when she saw her mother climbing out of her car. She was dressed as elegantly as usual. Nothing about her hinted that something as disastrous as divorce was about to impact her life.

“Mom!” Vanessa started marching toward her mother at a rapid pace.

Ceinlys’s face relaxed into a smile. “Hello, dear,” she said when Vanessa was close enough to hug.

Vanessa searched her mother’s expression, looking for any signs of distress, but Ceinlys looked perfectly composed. Still, Dane wouldn’t have sent a text like that for no reason. “Is it true?” She’d kill him if he’d only done it to make her ask stupid questions.

“Is what true, dear?”

“That you and Dad are divorcing.” It couldn’t really be happening. Both her parents were in their sixties. Why now?

Ceinlys hesitated for half a second, then said, “Yes.”

The answer hit Vanessa like a hammer to the base of her skull.

“Where did you hear that?” Ceinlys asked.

“Dane told me.” Bitterness bubbled. “Why is Dad doing this?”

A wry smile twisted her mother’s mouth. “You have it wrong, dear. I am divorcing him.”

This time it was like a sledgehammer. “Why? The prenup—”

“If you wish to talk about my divorce, call my lawyer.” Ceinlys’s diction was proper and precise. “Her name is Samantha Jones, and as it happens I’m late for our appointment.”

Something cold and hard fisted around Vanessa’s chest. Samantha was one of the most well-known divorce attorneys in California. Nobody hired her unless they were serious, and she was exactly the kind of lawyer her mother needed if she wanted to leave her father. Vanessa forcibly drew air into her tight lungs. “But—”

“Don’t you have to go back to the office? It’s only four thirty.”

As if to prove her mother’s point, Vanessa’s cell phone started ringing.

“Nice chatting with you, dear.” Ceinlys walked away. She didn’t look back.

* * *

Hands steepled together, Justin watched the man on the other side of the executive desk. In his mid-forties, he looked starkly white against the dark, supple leather of his seat. His fish-like mouth moved, and words kept pouring out in an unrelenting stream, but Justin had tuned him out. It was too late for excuses.

“Have you heard anything I said?” the man said finally.

“Unfortunately, I have. Nothing you said can change my mind. The children’s hospital is no longer under your directive.”


The muscles in Justin’s jaw tightened. This was getting tiresome. “Furthermore, as of now, you are no longer employed at Sterling & Wilson.”

The construction manager’s eyes bulged. “What? You can’t do that!”

Justin gave him a bland look. “I just did.”

“But Barron—”

“Is no longer in charge.” Justin put some steel behind his voice. People kept looking for Barron even though he hadn’t been in the office in months. It was getting old. “He’s retired.”

Sweat beaded on the other man’s forehead. “Look. I know I made a few mistakes. He wouldn’t like you firing one of his longest-term managers over some minor errors.”

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