When I See Your Face, Part 27
For a moment, her husband looked like a puppet straight out of a children’s TV program, mouth drooping hilariously wide open, eyes almost bulging from their sockets. Clearly, he had recognized her immediately, despite the blanket that wasn’t nearly enough of protection against things sliding out of control. When her eyes darted to Michael of their own will, she saw that his face was full of hurt and guilt and some other emotion she was in no fit state to analyze.
They both spoke at the same time.
That was Michael, full of chagrin, taking a half step in her direction.
That was Mark, sounding and looking as though he had seen a ghost.
Her husband had stepped over the threshold and was advancing toward her, active despite all the confusion, shoving the other man out of the way when he feebly stretched out an arm as if to stop his advance.
“What the hell are you doing in my brother’s house? And wrapped in a goddamn blanket at that?”
His cold grey eyes were boring into her, at once succeeding in making her feel as small and as wrong as those days.
Wait, what had he said?
It came out as a squeak.
Michael’s voice hardly registered with her, so stunned was she by this new revelation, so much held captive by Mark’s forceful presence.
His eyes quickly moved from her to Michael and back and there was a calculating grin spreading on his face that almost made him ugly.
As usual, he was the quickest to grasp a situation, to make the most of it, to turn it into an advantage for him.
“I see,” he drawled, as if relishing something that only he understood.
“You seriously don’t know? This coward hasn’t told you?”
Shaking uncontrollably, she fought hard to stand her ground, full of dread, a tiny voice at the back of her brain chanting a malicious chorus of I told you so all along, I told you so all along.
“What don’t I know?”
God, she hated how weak and confused she sounded.
Mark made a small derisive sound in his throat and spared Michael another glance, who had sunk against the wall and was gazing at them with a pained expression that spoke of nothing so much as of guilt.
“Congratulations, old boy. Wouldn’t have thought you capable of such deceit and cunning. You seriously succeeded in tracking down my wife and getting her to associate with you without suspecting a thing. Not that it takes much skill and experience to trick her.”
Turning back to her after seeing Michael flinch from his words and open his mouth in silent protest, he continued, one hand thrown out toward his seeming clone, “May I introduce you to Michael Darren Nolan, my twin brother, though we both wish it were otherwise.”
She actually swayed and swallowed hard with a throat as dry as parchment.
God, why has she been so blind?! He was right, she was so damn easy to trick!
Obviously enjoying their discomfort, Mark pressed on.
“I guess I should be offended that my soon to be ex-wife is in my disowned brother’s house where she has clearly spent the night. But to be honest, I couldn’t care less. I want neither of you in my life, so you’re free to go ahead and jump all over each other. Tell me one thing though: How on earth did he manage to get you interested and gain your trust, ready as it may be?”
Despite her confusion and hurt, she somehow managed to draw herself up and face him. She would not let this man ruin her life again. She would not.
“That is none of your business,” she spit back at him.
For an instant, he looked taken aback, before his face closed into the same cool sneering mask that had haunted her nightmares and once her days, as well.
“No need to go all high and mighty on me. Like I said, I couldn’t care less. However, I wouldn’t have thought you quite so gullible.”
Facing Michael again, his tone changed, becoming icier still, and filled with the same hatred that had spoken out of his brother’s mouth last evening.
“You. One word of advice: This woman is still officially married to me, but I am definitely going through with the divorce and it won’t look rosy for her. If you nailed her because you’re desperate for money, think again, as I don’t plan on giving her a single cent if I can have it my way. Brothers by blood or not, don’t you dare to pry your way back into our family or our fortune through her. You chose to cut off all ties and act as the goodie in a God-forsaken hamlet. Now live with your choices and never ever think of cheating your way in. At least I have enough backbone to stand up for what I do and believe in myself.”
He tossed his head arrogantly.
“Anyway, it’s useless to waste my time here. Whatever you’re up to with my lovely wife, don’t use her against us or for having your past with all its benefits back.”
He turned toward Cathy again, who was still motionless and feeling more and more wounded, not the least because Michael didn’t say a word in his or her defense. His arms were hanging lifelessly beside his body, his hands closing into fists and opening again rhythmically.
“And you. Let me tell you that you’re throwing in your lot with a weakling and a cheater on a bigger scale than you can probably imagine. You should know better than to associate with somebody who has been to prison and cut all ties with his family and former life. Don’t believe a single thing he’s saying. If you have any respect for yourself, leave him like we would have left him if he hadn’t run.”
Now it was her turn to stare and be at a loss for words. Oh, how she wished she could run!
When she instinctively wrapped the blanket around herself more tightly, an odd look entered Mark’s face, one that could have been regret. He gave her one last stare and strode to the door. In the doorway, he half turned to where they stood frozen like statues in a Greek tragedy. He pulled a folded document out of his back pocket and threw it at Michael’s feet.
“Before I forget it, my dear brother. I came here because Grandfather Nolan has passed away. He mentioned you in his will and our family lawyer absolutely refused to give you the news in some less personal manner. As you had left your address with him for exactly the event of grandfather’s death, he sent me here. I couldn’t have been more reluctant to come. Now, however, I think it was worth the long journey.”
His eyes shot from his brother to her and back before he composed his face into a mask free of any readable emotion. He left, calmly walking toward where he had parked his silver BMW and not stopping when Michael sprang to life and shouted questions after him as to how and when their grandfather had passed away.
She was still glued to the spot. She heard the car door shut, the engine purr to life and the vehicle drive off. Some seconds or maybe minutes later, she heard him walk back into the house and close the door. He bent down, picked up the document, stared at it as if it might bite him at any time and slowly lifted his head to look at her.
When he opened his mouth and said her name, in a voice that cut her as much as Mark’s had before, she held up a hand, the other clutching the blanket to her as if her life depended on it.
(To be continued tomorrow.)
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