Rival Page 88

“Oh, that’s right.” She tipped her chin at us, smiling. “I forgot about your marriage. Congratulations.” Her eyes dropped to my hand, and her jeering expression made me want to punch her.

“I see you got the family ring,” she observed, taking another sip of her champagne. “It’ll be a comfort to you when you’re alone at night, and he’s off screwing someone else. He probably already is. Didn’t take his father long after our marriage.”

Madoc stepped forward, but I yanked him back. “No,” I warned. “She’s grasping at straws. Let her spew her words.” And then I looked at my mom. “They’re all she has, after all.”

Her face tightened, and her eyebrow shot up. “You’ll see. It may be one year or five, but you will see.”

She spun around with her fancily dressed and enormously quiet boy toy and walked off.

“Wow.” Tate laughed the kind of laugh where the only other option is to cry. I understood the feeling.

“Are you okay?” she asked next to me.

“I’m fine.” I nodded and let go of Madoc’s arm. I couldn’t hold on to him like a security blanket all night. “I should’ve hit her.”

“I would’ve,” Tate deadpanned.

Jared and Madoc snorted at the same time, and Tate looked down, smiling to herself. I got the impression that there was a joke I wasn’t getting.

She smirked at me, seeing my confusion. “Violence never solves anything, but”—she paused—“it can get people’s attention. Sometimes—and I stress sometimes—violence is the only thing some people respect. Take Madoc for example. I broke his nose and kicked him in the balls. He finally understood me.”

Wait, what?

“Excuse me.” I looked between Madoc and Tate. Jared rolled his eyes when I looked to him for explanation.

“You didn’t tell her about us, Mr. Can’t-Keep-His-Hands-to-Himself?” Her expectant eyes on Madoc made him blush.

“Yeah, thanks, Tate.” He looked away like he had a bad taste in his mouth. “I’ll have to explain that now.”

I swallowed, not sure I liked the sound of where this was going.

But Jared seemed to read my mind.

“No worries, Fallon,” he comforted. “Madoc was only trying to get Tate and me together. He just thinks the end justifies the means is all.”

Yep, lawyer material, I laughed to myself.

We finally found Katherine and Madoc’s dad, and we spent the next hour either hanging close or on the dance floor. Katherine looked stunning in a deep red evening gown, much in the same style as mine, except hers fell to the floor. Her espresso brown hair hung down and looked beautiful next to the rich color of the dress. While we were certain she needed moral support—what with these people knowing she was Jason’s mistress—it apparently was just fear on her part. Everything seemed fine, actually.

I realized that even though my mother’s friends were the wives of Jason’s colleagues, and they may be on my mother’s side, they also knew what side their bread was buttered on. Their husbands followed Jason, and they followed their husbands.

“Did you text Jax?” Jared asked Madoc as we lingered around the bar. “He’s not answering me.”

Madoc took out his phone, looking through his messages. “Yeah, I texted twice. I’ve got nothing.”

Jared shook his head, starting to look worried.

Madoc pulled me into his side. “I’m going to the men’s room. Want to come?” he asked, waggling his eyebrows at me.

“Mmmmm.” I put my finger to my chin, thinking. “Madoc Caruthers Caught Bending Stepsister over Bathroom Counter. Jason Caruthers Shamed in Front of All of Chicago,” I read the mock headline, smiling.

He slapped me on the butt and walked away backward, mouthing, “You’re so hot.”

He turned around and disappeared down the hallway, while Jared took Tate out onto the dance floor. I smiled after them, thankful Madoc wasn’t so inhibited about dancing. They kind of just did the hold-each-other-and-sway-from-side-to-side thing, but it was cute that he was trying.

I stood around the bar waiting for Madoc, but after about five minutes he still wasn’t back. I tensed the muscles in my thighs, trying to ignore the proposal he’d made for me to join him.

Taking out my phone, I noticed that Jax still hadn’t texted me back, either. It was strange for him to be out of touch. Where was he?

I made my way through the small groups of people and stepped softly, afraid of tripping in my heels. When I made it into the much quieter hallway, I dialed his number and held the phone to my ear.

“How badly do you want it?” I heard my mother’s taunting voice coming from the men’s room, and I looked over to the swinging door. She spoke in the soft, sultry kind of voice that only means one thing.

I walked over and opened it just enough to peer inside. She and Madoc were standing there, and I winced at the sight of her leaned against the wall with her dress pulled up high on her thighs. He just stood there. Watching her.

Why the f**k was he watching her?

He rubbed his hand over his forehead. “You really are something else, aren’t you?”

“I have a room at the Four Seasons, Madoc. Think about how good it would feel. One night with me, and you’ll get what you want. I’ll let go of the house. You wanted me that night, didn’t you?”

That night? What happened between them? I could barely make out what they were saying, the thunder in my ears so loud that my eyes were watering.

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