I’m in a shitty mood, which is not improved when I see Lori pulling into the attorney’s parking lot at the same time I do in the white Mercedes coupe I bought her last Christmas. When she gets out of the car, I see she’s wearing the fur I surprised her with on her birthday.
“See you got the fur out,” I say, trying to be pleasant but also thinking she’s nuts. It’s sixty degrees this morning. But the good news is, when I get back into my car after our meeting, we will have signed our divorce documents, and in about a month, this will all be over.
“Well, there’s a chill in the air. And after being so warm in Bermuda, I don’t want to get sick,” she replies politely, which is better than her usual snarky attitude.
We make our way into the conference room, where our attorneys and a mediator join us.
“I understand you have come to an agreement on everything?” the mediator asks, causing both our attorneys to nod.
The mediator then continues to go through the basics with us. Everything is going smoothly. We review the asset split one more time, me giving her much more than is required based on our prenup just to get this over with.
Lori is agreeing to everything, as well she should. She’s going to be a very rich woman.
“Next document involves custody of your children,” the mediator says, reading our previous agreement. How I get full custody of the kids with Lori having visitation rights. And although not in the agreement, we privately discussed being flexible in this regard.
“Very well,” the mediator says, setting the stack of papers in front of her. “It looks like all is in order.”
“Actually,” Lori says.
“Actually what?” I ask.
“A situation has come to light,” she explains. “I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the custody arrangement.”
“What?” I ask, trying not to blow a gasket. “I gave you a lot of extra money. Money that is above and beyond the prenuptial agreement to help make you comfortable with the arrangement.”
“Danny, these are our children,” she says in that tone. The one that is eerily calm and collected. The tone that makes her sound very respectful to the people around us but is like nails on a chalkboard to me. “I’m not going to neglect their well-being based on our financial arrangement.”
“What has come to light?” my attorney asks flatly with no emotion.
I wish I could take the emotion out of all this. But I can’t. It’s all on the surface. I blink hard.
“I’m concerned about the woman my husband is dating,” she states.
“I’m not dating anyone. And even if I do date someone in the future, it’s none of your business.”
“It is,” she counters, “if that woman makes you forget to give your children proper care. If that woman is a bad influence on you or them.”
“And since when have you given them proper care? They are closer to their nanny than they are their own mother. You just ditched your daughter on a special day to go to Bermuda with your lover, who you were cheating with during our marriage and you are now engaged to even though we aren’t yet divorced. You want to talk about being a bad influence? You should look at yourself in the mirror.”
“At least Richard is respectable,” she says, still calm. “You brought a woman into our children’s lives, who has been in a long-term relationship with a drug and alcohol addict and, more than likely, is one herself. Not only that, but you also left our children home alone with this woman. A woman you claim to barely know. So, which is it, Danny? How well do you know her?”
“It doesn’t matter,” I say.
“It most certainly does,” she counters. “Surely, you don’t believe it’s a coincidence that you expose a whore with that kind of lifestyle to our children, and a few days later, our fourteen-year-old daughter gets drunk at a party.”
“You approved our daughter going to her cheerleading sleepover. It wasn’t either of our faults that the sleepover turned into a party.”
“No, but to my knowledge, our daughter never drank before that. I just find it all interesting.”
“What do you want?” I sigh. At this point, I’ll give her just about anything to get her out of my life.
“I want joint custody,” she says, knowing it’s the one thing I absolutely won’t budge on.
“No. Or we go back to the prenup amounts.”
“If we do that, you know our divorce will go to court, and your name and your relationship with the whore will be dragged through the press. I mean, how could little old me—your wife of fifteen years, the mother of your children—compare to a movie star? They will know that it’s all your fault, and you’ll lose your endorsement deals. But, hey, you want to blow up the image I’ve helped you so carefully craft, go ahead. I don’t care anymore.”
“Anything else you would consider in lieu of custody, Lori?” my attorney asks. He can probably tell by the red color of my face that I’m about to blow.
Lori pets the fur on the chair beside her and then studies the nails she has polished every three days in an attempt to look bored. “Well, I’ve always loved the Ferrari.”
I quickly stand up, body tense, fists clenched, and walk out of the room.
My attorney follows me. “I take it, that’s a no?”
“That’s a no,” I reply.
“Come in my office,” he says, leading me that way and then motioning for me to sit.
I don’t. I pace instead.
“What is going on?” he asks. “Who are you dating?”
“I’m not dating anyone.”
“Who was the whore in your house?”
My attorney lets out a whistle. “Very nice.”
“It’s not like that,” I say, but I’m probably not very convincing because it is so like that. I had the best time of my life last night. “She was in town, staying with my neighbors. We all hung out. She had nothing to do with my decision to let Devaney go to the cheer party.”
“How long is she staying?” he asks knowingly.
“She left for LA this morning.”
“In that case, I would suggest you give your wife the car, get her to sign on the dotted line today, and get this over with.”
“I can’t do it,” I say stubbornly. “She has always hated that car. Offer her another half a million in place of it. Get her to agree, or I’m not signing today.”
“Fine,” he says, heading back to his door with me following. He turns around. “You know what? Why don’t you wait here? Maybe that will take some of the tension out of the room.”
“Whatever,” I say, dropping back into a chair.
I pull my phone out, hoping to see a text from Jennifer and feeling sad when there isn’t one. Then again, I walked out the door the second she mentioned her ex. I sigh, knowing I let my emotions get away from me.
But also knowing that I had to let her go.
Needless to say, we don’t come to an agreement or sign the divorce papers. I’m irritated at practice and still pissy when I get home.
Phillip is in his front yard, beer in one hand, mail in the other. He gives me a wave as I get out of my car.
“You ready to celebrate?” he asks. “I’m a little surprised it hasn’t been on the news yet—”
I hold up my palm, urging him to just stop.
“Oh no. Did she not sign?”
“Nope. She brought up Jennifer. Suggested it was my fault Devaney got drunk at the party because I had brought a whore into my children’s lives.”
Phillip coughs on his beer. “Does that mean we can take out a hit instead?”
I roll my eyes. “Very funny.”
“What did she ask for this time?” he asks.
“First, it was custody—”
“Oh, that is such horseshit. She doesn’t want—”
“I know. I offered her another half a million. She acted offended, said I couldn’t buy her children’s custody. But, apparently asking for the Ferrari she’s always loved, is different.”
Phillip hands me his beer. I gladly take a pull off it. “Tell me you didn’t agree to that. Are you freaking kidding me? Your Ferrari? She hates that car with a passion. She wouldn’t even ride in it.”
“I didn’t agree to it. And I have no idea why she would ask for it.”
“Maybe she wants to take it somewhere and smash it up in celebration of thoroughly screwing you over,” Phillip says in a serious tone.
“That sounds like her,” I agree.
“Still, I’ve got a babysitter,” Phillip says. “She’s ordering Thai food for all the kids. Even Devaney is excited about it. We shouldn’t disappoint the kids by not going out tonight.”
I can’t help but smile. “No, we definitely shouldn’t.”
A short time later, we’re walking into the same restaurant that Jennifer and I had lunch at. The only open seats are the ones we sat at. I look up at the sky, knowing the universe is so laughing at me right now.
“I slept with her,” I blurt out the second we sit down.
Phillip’s eyes get huge, and he tosses his arms up in the air. “You slept with Lori? What the ever-loving—” He stops and shakes his head, catches the bartender’s eye, and holds up two fingers.
We come here enough that the guy knows it means he wants two fingers of eighteen-year-old scotch for each of us.
Glasses are quickly presented in front of us.
Phillip shakes his head at me. “I’m sorry. I can’t toast. I just need the drink.”
“Why don’t I do the honors?” I give him a grin and then touch his glass. “To Jennifer, last night.”
Phillip lets out a sigh of relief. “That’s good because I was afraid I was going to have to beat some sense into you. Have you talked to her today? Does she know what happened?” He grins. “Was it good?”
“The word good is so far removed from what it was.”
He nods, immediately understanding what I’m saying. “So, she is the one.”
I rub my hand across my forehead, suddenly feeling stressed. I look down at the scotch. I’ve never found the answers to anything in life at the bottom of a glass, unfortunately, and this time won’t be any different. “I don’t know. We shared the most amazing night. Like, I can’t even describe the perfection it was.”
“No, but I can,” Phillip says. “It was utter hotness, but not in just the physical sense. It was desire, heat, and incredibly strong emotions mixed together into something so potent that it can’t be accurately described with words.”
“I should have known you’d know exactly what I felt. Does it feel that way every time with Jadyn?”
“Like I’m the luckiest guy on the planet? Yeah, it does. I mean, it’s not always crazy monkey sex.”
“Yeah, the kind where you feel like you’ve swung through the trees and you want to pound on your chest. It’s deeper. When you’re pounding on your chest, you’re letting the other monkeys know she’s yours. It’s powerful, protective, and addictive. It’s sex on a whole different level.”
“Because it’s mixed with love?” I laugh, saying exactly what his wife would say.
“Exactly. I’m talking true love. Soul mates. You felt Jennifer was your soul mate when you met her, and you didn’t have to sleep with her to know it.”
“Have you talked to Jadyn today?” I ask.
“Of course. The meeting went really well. Tripp is shutting down the hotel to start the renovation. Jadyn’s crew has promised a hard open on August first of next year, but Jadyn plans to finish by June 1st. They’ll be working three sets of crews round the clock.”
“Can she deliver on that? She said it was such a big project.”
“She doesn’t promise what she can’t deliver. Part of why she’s been so successful.”
“Was Jennifer being there helpful?”
“Yeah, I’m told she seems quite passionate about the project.”
“Why’s that?” I wonder.
“Well, my wife says that Jennifer sees the importance of restoration—specifically, the personal kind.”
“Like her life?”
“Have you talked to her much about her relationship with Troy?” he asks.
I pick up my glass and take another sip. “No. That’s the last thing I want to talk about.”
“Danny, you have to understand where the woman in your life has been to understand where she’s going. If I hadn’t known about the way Jadyn handled her parents’ deaths, I would have allowed her to break off our engagement when she tried to more than four years later. Instead, I knew the hurt was still inside of her. I knew it was affecting our relationship. I knew she hadn’t dealt with it. Jennifer was with an on-and-off-again alcoholic. Her father was an alcoholic. She has baggage just like you. And understanding how that baggage affects the two of you going forward matters.”
“I know all those things. It’s just, when I’m with her, I feel this almost desperation.”
“Is that because she’s not coming back with Jadyn? Because she’s staying in LA to help get Troy to rehab?”
“No, I didn’t really talk to her about that. I hate that she’s even going to see him. We had an amazing night last night—hell, we had one hell of a morning, too. I asked her to go out with me tonight. That’s when she started rambling about Jadyn needing her, about everyone needing her, except me, so I walked out.”
“I know. I know. But she’s different. It felt like rejection. I can’t take it from her. It messes with my head. We are undefeated, Phillip. I can’t let my wife wanting my Ferrari or the girl I’m in love with mess with my head. This season is too important.”
“Does she know?” Phillip asks with a grin, causing me to realize I just admitted to being in love with her.
“No. I haven’t told her. It’s too soon. She’s only been back in my life for a few days, and she’s turned it upside down. And there’s way too much to even consider. Where we live. My kids. My job.”
“Rumor has it, if you win the big game, you’ll retire. What if you don’t?” Phillip asks with a smirk.
“I want a third ring. It’d put me forever among the elite quarterbacks. While the competitor in me wants to do the unheard of and hold the record for most wins, three has always been my goal. And if I get it, yeah, I think it will be time to hang up the cleats.”
“Which will open your life up. More family time. More time for love. More time to relax and enjoy life.”
“You’re thinking about it, too?” I ask him. “About selling the company to Tripp? Cashing out?”
“Yeah,” Phillip says, taking another slug of his drink.
“You don’t seem happy about it.”
“I love my job.”
I clink his glass, knowing exactly how he feels. “Don’t do it then.”
“Getting an offer of this caliber is like winning the big game, Danny,” he explains. “We’ve had offers before. This is my third ring. And I am afraid if I don’t take it because of my personal feelings, I’ll be letting down my team.”
“How would you do that?”
“First of all, my parents still have most of their wealth held in company stock. They would have a much different lifestyle if they could cash out. I’ve been buying them out a little at a time, and my dad still earns a healthy board fee, but it’s not like this. I also have to consider our employees, many who have been with the company since the beginning. This deal would be life-changing. I feel like I owe them.”
“Then, do it,” I suggest.
“What will you do when you retire, Danny? Have you thought about that? Can you imagine having nothing to do all day?”
“I’m hoping your wife will hire me,” I tease, but when he doesn’t grin back, I answer him seriously. “I thought I’d take some time off and see what my options are. My agent, Carter Crawford, says the offers will roll in, especially if I go out on top. Network jobs, more endorsements, speaking opportunities. And it would give me time to focus on my charitable foundation, Diamonds in the Rough. I would think that’s exactly what you’d want to do actually. Take some time off and see what offers roll in.”
“Yeah,” he says but doesn’t sound convinced.
“What does Jadyn think you should do?”
“She would love it if we could work together, but she also said that, sometimes, she’d like to sell off the business side and just consult. Design buildings, but let someone else handle the rest. She’s also got a lot of mixed emotions about having more kids.”
“How do you feel about that?”
“I’m glad they are out of diapers, mostly. After the terror that Madden was as a baby, she swore we were done. That four was enough—”
“I always wanted four,” I blurt out as I spin my finger at the bartender, indicating we need another round.
When he delivers it, Phillip suggests we order dinner as well.
“Does Jennifer want kids?” he asks.
“Yeah,” I say, not able to stop the smile that spreads across my face. I glance down at my arm, remembering how she slid her finger across the empty space between my tattoo and my wrist. I know she wants to fill that space with me. I feel it in my heart. Deep down, I know it’s right.
It’s the shit that goes on at the surface that seems to get in the way.
Like the fact that she’s probably with her ex right now.
I wake up to more texts and messages from Troy, confessing his undying love for me, which is quickly offset by an article from my publicist, showing photos of Troy last night, surrounded by women and booze at some club.
I drop my head back onto the pillow with a sigh that has nothing to do with who texted me and everything to do with who hasn’t—Danny.
We had an incredible evening, followed by one of the best mornings of my life. Waking up with him was something straight out of my dreams. Although, in my dreams, I’m pretty sure he didn’t leave without so much as a kiss.
Things have happened fast with Danny. The way I feel about him hurts as much as the first time. I close my eyes and bask in the glory of sex with Danny. Why did it have to be even better than I’d imagined? Why couldn’t it have sucked, so I could have closed that chapter on my life? Why do I want to drop everything and rush back to Kansas City?
Well, it could be because I don’t want to face the problems I need to deal with here. I don’t want to have to face reality. I want to live in a glittering, Danny Diamond–filled fairy tale for the rest of my life.
Except that it’s not a fairy tale.
Although I guess Cinderella had an evil stepmother and mean stepsisters, and she and her prince still got together despite it all. And maybe that’s the part that makes it a fairy tale—that in spite of the odds stacked against them, two people came together because of their love. In the movie roles I’ve played, I’ve faced much worse than that. My characters have taken down evil governments and fought aliens. They have gone against their parents’ wishes, fought against civil unrest, racism, and terrorists.
One ex-wife and a couple of kids shouldn’t be that hard to handle in comparison. Right?
I decide to text him.
Me: Hey, how did it go yesterday? I didn’t see an announcement.
Danny: Yeah, that’s because we didn’t sign.
My heart starts thudding in my chest, my stomach feeling slightly sick. What if, after everything, they changed their minds? What if she apologized for the affair? What if they’ve reconciled?
I’m holding my breath as worst-case scenarios roll through my head.
My phone rings.
“Um, hi,” I say, answering.
Of course he wouldn’t want to tell me over a text. He’s too sweet.
“Look,” he says with a sigh. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you yesterday. And I’m sorry that, after everything that happened between us, I just walked out the way I did.”
“Why did you?” I ask, my voice sounding small.
“I hadn’t known you were going back to LA. It just hit me—you wanting to see your ex, that you were leaving. I mean, when were you going to tell me?”
“As soon as we stopped kissing long enough to talk,” I reply with more bite in my tone than I intended.
“I guess I deserve that,” he says, sighing again. “Our relationship has only started, and it’s already a mess. All backward.”
“You’ve said that before but never really explained it.”
“We should be flirting, getting to know each other, dating, then sleeping together, dating some more, deciding to be exclusive, and then in a relationship—each step moving us forward. With you, I feel like I need the commitment first.”
“What kind of a commitment?”
“I want to know that you’re as crazy about me as I am about you. I want to know that it’s not just a fling. Not a stopover on your way back to your old life. I don’t want you to get close to my children, only to leave them. Their mother did that, and I just can’t let it happen to them again. When you told me you were seeing Troy, I felt like you were leaving. I walked out because it hurt.”
“I feel the same way about your wife. I’m sitting here on pins and needles, wondering why you didn’t sign. Is it because you changed your mind?”
“Gosh, no. Nothing is ever going to make me want to be with her again. I can hardly stand to be in the same room with her.”
“So, why didn’t you sign?”
“She brought up what happened with Devaney at the party this past weekend and basically blamed me.”
“Danny, if you want me to commit to you, you have to be willing to do so in return. Meaning you have to talk to me. I’m going through a lot of shit with my ex. You have no idea. And I wish I could talk to you about it. And I wish you would tell me what else your wife said because I get the feeling that it had something to do with me.”
“She blamed you for Devaney getting drunk. Said dating you has affected my judgment in regard to my children.”
“And how do you feel about that?” I ask, my anger barely in check.
“I think she’s using it to get more money. First, she said she wanted joint custody. I told her if that were the case, we’d go back to what was laid out in our prenuptial agreement.”
“I take it, she’s getting more than she should be?”
“Yeah, I told you, my kids are my top priority. I gave her anything she asked for within reason to get sole custody. She doesn’t really want custody, so she went with a low blow. She asked for my Ferrari.”
“I thought you said she hated that car!” I blurt out.
“She does. And it pissed me off so much that I left the room. Told my attorney to offer her another half a million, and if she didn’t take it, I wouldn’t sign. She didn’t agree. We didn’t sign.”
“Danny,” I say softly. “Give her the car.”
“No freaking way. I thought you would be on my side!”
“I am. She’s messing with you. Trying to manipulate you. My guess is that she’ll give the car to Dickrash. Why do you care if he gets your sloppy seconds? He got your wife. He might as well take the car she hates. Every time she has to ride in it with him, she’ll be reminded of you. And how much she hates the car she’s in. Only she’s in a pickle then because she can’t do anything about it.”
“I like it.”
“And I like you,” I tell him. “I also think you should go buy the most badass exotic car you can find as a suitable replacement.”
“It’s just that car … has memories. It was like proof that I had made it.”
“You aren’t giving away the memories, Danny.”
“That’s true. I’ll think about it. Tell me about what’s going on with Troy. How long are you planning to stay out there? And, more importantly, where are you staying?”
“I’m at the hotel right now, but I might stay at our house—well, his house for a few days.”
“Um, no,” he says adamantly.
“I don’t have anywhere else to stay once Jadyn goes home tomorrow. They’re closing the hotel.”
“Yeah, you do. It’s called a different hotel. Unless you want to stay with him.”
“I just thought it might help calm him down. But you’re right. It’s probably not smart. He’s bingeing, and when he does that, he can get a little out of control.”
“Sometimes. He doesn’t mean it—”
“Jennifer, I’m going to say this as your friend. For your own safety, you shouldn’t be alone with him at all,” Danny says passionately and with force.
“You’re still dealing with your ex. I understand that you and the kids are a package, and their mother will be a part of that. Why is it not okay that I have people on my side I have to deal with, too?”
“I have not had even one occasion where I have been alone with Lori since she told me she wanted a divorce. Not once. My attorney advised against it. Probably because he was half-worried I’d kill her.”
To this, I let out a laugh. “I doubt he was worried about that. You’re too sweet.”
“Actually, Jennifer, you’re the one who is sweet. And I know this because the other night …”
The week flew by. Days spent at the stadium, prepping for our game at Dallas, which we lost in overtime. Evenings at home with the kids and late nights spent on the phone with Jennifer as she tries to rebuild her life in Los Angeles. Although I’m dying to see her again, I understand her livelihood is there.
Since we’ve been apart, she’s done a photo shoot for a magazine cover, three interviews, and negotiated an endorsement deal. Her agent and publicist are thrilled to have her back in town. I’m worried though because she still hasn’t seen Troy. On one hand, I don’t want her to, but on the other, I want her to get him to rehab and out of her life and come back home to me.
As I take a seat at the conference table in my attorney’s office, I say a prayer that this will be the last time I have to sit across a table from my wife and hash out the dismantling of our life together. We’ve covered everything from credit card points to jewelry to investment funds.
“Mrs. Diamond is offering three options,” her attorney says, getting the process started again. “As a show of good faith, we have prepared all three documents, and she has already signed them. We have also taken the liberty to prepare the press release that will go out upon filing with the court. If we come to an agreement today.”
She slides them across the table, first to the mediator and then to me.
“Before I look at these, I want to talk about the press release. I don’t want to do one.”
“Why not?” Lori’s attorney asks.
“Because he doesn’t want to admit he failed,” Lori says simply and probably accurately as she studies her manicure like this is all so incredibly boring.
“Because it’s no one’s business,” I state.
“I’ll agree to it,” Lori says, sliding the press release over to my attorney. “And I’ll go a step further and allow Danny to release this whenever he feels the time is right.”
I grab the paper off the table before my attorney can, and I read it. It’s short, sweet, and impassive—fitting really. But it’s well written and places no blame.
“Let’s get back to the agreements in front of us. I have reviewed them,” my attorney states. “They are identical to our original agreement other than three variations. In option one, you and Mrs. Diamond will share custody of the children. In option two, you retain custody but pay Mrs. Diamond an additional sum of one million dollars. In option three, you retain custody while Mrs. Diamond receives an additional piece of personal property—the Ferrari. Would you like to recess and discuss?”
“No, I think I know which one to sign. No reason to drag this out further.” I try really hard not to smirk as I grab option three. “Lori, I know how much you love the Ferrari,” I say, quickly signing, “and I want you to have that wonderful reminder of our life together.”
“Wait!” she says as I set down the pen. “You said you’d never let me have it!”
“I’ve changed my mind,” I say with a shrug. “I realized that my love for it came from the memory of purchasing it with my friends on a special weekend. I didn’t realize you shared that love. So, really, it’s my special parting gift to you.”
She doesn’t say anything; her mouth just hangs open. She probably already decided how she was going to spend the extra money.
“And it’s the best financial option,” my attorney says, adding insult to injury. “It’s only valued at about a hundred fifty grand.”
Lori doesn’t say another word, just storms out.
GET THAT RING.