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Down We'll Come Baby
by Carrie Aarons
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There is no way we can still love and cherish one and other.
When I married Theo Walsh, the rough, bearded townie who worked construction on my family’s summer house, I’d found my happily ever after.
That was before the fighting.
Before the jealousy.
Before the infertility.
We’ll be divorced long before death does us part.
But to secure my place in the family dynasty, there is just one more hoop I have to jump through. And I need him to do it.
Faking the marriage we once thrived in will gut me.
Especially with the secret I’m carrying.
I would have sacrificed for her until the end of time.
I’d given it all up to marry her. That’s how much I loved Imogen Weston, the daughter to one of the world’s richest families.
From the day we met, I’d done nothing but try to live up to the man she expected to be with. And now, I was done.
Sure, I’d complete this one final ask of hers, even if it destroyed me.
But I’ve made her promise the one thing that might save me. She swore that after she got everything she ever wanted, she wouldn’t look back.
I made my wife vow to leave me forever.
“Hi,” she breathes, her eyes shifting around the coffee shop. Looking anywhere but at me.
“Hi,” I respond, my voice awkward in my throat.
Here is a person I know everything about, who knows everything about me. I’ve been inside of her, she’s nursed me back to health, we’ve shared meals and walks and bank accounts and even a cat. Yet, right now, we’re acting like complete strangers.
Is that why divorce is so brutal? Because it takes two people who once shared love and dismantles every emotion between them until they don’t know each other at all?
Except in this case, the love is not gone. I’m still so very in love with this woman that I want to stand up and scream that this has to be some kind of mistake.
“Thanks for meeting me.” Imogen is twisting her hands under the table. I know because that is her nervous tic.
I clear my throat. “I would go to the moon if you asked me to after not hearing from you this week.”
She sighs. “Please don’t make this harder than it is.”
“So don’t make this … this. Why did you leave, Immy?” I use her nickname, my hand slapping on the table between us as my voice becomes impassioned.
Her nervous eyes flit over to Kira, whose gaze was probably directed toward us when I slapped my hand down. “Don’t do this, not here.”
“Then where? You won’t return my calls, you moved out. You didn’t give us a chance.” My voice breaks.
Her eyes are so sad, it hurts. “The last two years were our chance. We couldn’t make it work, Theo. You think I want to get …”
“Don’t you dare say it.” If that word came out of her mouth, I might throw the coffee mug in front of me against the brick wall behind her.
“We’ve been headed there for a long time, don’t try to say you didn’t see it too. I’m just making the most logical decision for both of us. The life we have … it’s no life.” Imogen rubs her hands up and down her arms as if trying to get warm.
“Love isn’t logical,” I spit at her, furious. She’s discounting everything we have.
Her next sentence is a whisper, “Please, stop this. Can’t you see? There is too much pain. I can’t live in that house anymore. I can’t see the ghosts of the children that were supposed to fill it.”
And now my heart actually does break. Cracks wide open, bleeding the pure anguish we’ve both felt.
I nod, because if this is hurting her, I don’t want to do it anymore. I love her enough to let her leave.
“But … before it comes down to legally …” Imogen breaks off, and I know she doesn’t want to say the word. Maybe, just like me, she can’t. “I need your help.”
“What?” The switch from her deepest emotion to her asking a favor throws me off.
“You know what happened when we got married … how my father revoked my position at Weston?”
“Of course I do. Not that you need your family’s company to be successful.” I get the jab in there because her family has always irked me.
Immy bows her head. “You have your opinions. But, now that we’re … separating, I have a chance to gain the executive role back.”
My hands ball into fists under the table. Her fucking father is the evilest mastermind I know.
“Well, if that’s what you want, I guess that’s great for you.”
She nods slowly. “Except … my parents don’t want a scandal following my promotion. So … they would like us to remain married until they can smooth a public … separation over and hide it behind the story of my rise to power within the company.”
Apparently, I underestimated the old bastard. He was going to make her jump through hoops, even in her lowest of times.
“What exactly does that mean?” I have a sneaking suspicion I know, but I want her to say it.
Those green eyes latch onto mine. Imogen may be quiet, but she’s brave and confident when needed. “It means that I need us to stay married, look happy for the public, until we … divorce.”
And she’s said it. The firing squad murders my heart in my chest.
“You’re asking me to pretend for you? To fake love you? I don’t need to fake that Imogen.” My teeth snap together in anger.
Inside, I’m dying. My organs are in multi-system failure, because if the heart goes it all goes. I feel so cold and numb that I can barely sit upright. How is this not killing her too? Did I miss the point where she fell out of love with me? Or had I always been the more invested one?
“Please, Theo. You know why … I have to be on my own. I don’t want to have this fight again, but I gave that job up for you. I have the chance to get it back.”
Did she have any idea what I’d given up for her? I had a feeling she never really cared about what I’d sacrificed. And suddenly, that struck a deep chord of rage in me. Imogen wanted our marriage to end and for me to help set her up for her next chapter. How selfish was that?
It was time to be done with this back and forth forever. Our marriage, our love, had been in a state of limbo for the last two years. And now I’d rip out my heart making this decision, but I’d do it.
“I’ll do this for you.” I puff out my chest, trying to ignore the lightning bolt of pain that fissures my heart.
Imogen’s big green eyes blink, those thick lashes working over the words I just said. “You’ll help me to get back in my father’s good graces?”
“If this helps you … after we’re over, then yes.” My soul feels like it’s being strangled, suffocated by my own hands.
“Theo, thank you. I know it won’t be easy, but we know the motions, we can fake this.” Her eyes are hopeful.
How the hell can she possibly pretend to love me? Just so that the public can see it? This will mentally slay me, and yet here she is, motivated by the scent of money and her family’s precious company. Maybe I’d decided to ignore this part of her because I was so in love with her when we got married. But Imogen is revealing a part of her true colors right now, and it’s filling my mouth with the taste of blood money.
I want to hurt her as much as she’s hurting me right now. “But you have to promise me something.”
“Anything.” She nods, her blond waves rustling over her shoulders.
“After you secure the position, if this works to get you back into the fold … I want you to leave me. Really leave me. A fast divorce, and then no contact. I don’t want to see you after all of this is over. You have to vow to leave me forever.”
Author of romance novels such as Red Card and Privileged, Carrie Aarons writes books that are just as swoon-worthy as they are sarcastic. A former journalist, she prefers the stories she dreams up, and the yoga pant dress code, much better.
When she isn't writing, Carrie is busy binging reality TV, having a love/hate relationship with cardio, and trying not to burn dinner. She lives in the suburbs of New Jersey with her husband, daughter and dog.
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