The elevator lurched upward and Alexandra Reynolds swallowed heavily as the three sips of coffee she’d managed to consume rose to a bitter mass in the back of her throat. She wasn’t keen on elevators at the best of times, but she happily would have stayed in there all morning rather than reach her destination and face the fire when the smooth silver doors slid open.
A divorce lawyer’s office. Alexandra would have been every bit as uncomfortable entering a clinic to get treated for the clap. She stepped from the elevator and slunk toward the massive circular reception desk, convinced every eye in the buzzing office had focused on her and recognized her for exactly what she was: a woman scorned. The stereotypical last-to-know wife who had been busy body-sugaring and buying slinky lingerie to relight the sputtering flame in her marital bed without a clue that her husband—soon to be ex-husband—had already started a brand new fire.
Eight months after the fact and just thinking about it made the surge of rage and revulsion every bit as fresh as it had been that fateful afternoon. Clad in nothing but heels and a trench coat, she’d surprised her husband at his accounting firm and found him bringing a whole new meaning to the term desk-jockey.
He’d ridden the bimbo from the office mailroom with a lot more enthusiasm than he ever rode his boring accounts receivable ledgers—or Alexandra for that matter—but that certainly hadn’t scored him any points in her book.
Alexandra paused at the desk and tried to drum up the courage to state her name. Before she’d even cleared her throat—or the disturbing images that had replanted themselves firmly in her mind—an effusive squeal pierced her already ringing ears.
“Alex? Is that you? Oh, my, God. It is. How long has it been? What are you doing here? Wow, when did you get so damn skinny? So how are you, anyway?”
She’d battled tears daily as the date to sign the final divorce decree had approached, and the familiar, friendly enthusiasm she hadn’t heard in years made the tears break free, scorch behind her lids and wind a heated trail down her numb cheeks. Unable to focus on any of the questions fired at her, Alex wrapped her arms around Riana Walker’s ample frame and sobbed into the warm comfort of her old friend’s shoulder. “I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life, Ree.”
“Ditto, honey.” The woman hugged back with rib-crushing gusto.
Riana’s hair—as wonderfully wild and full of life as the woman herself—tickled Alex’s chin and she finally stepped back, swiped at her tears, and smiled. She hadn’t seen Riana since she and her almost ex, Doug, had opted to leave Toronto where they had both grown up and attended university.
They’d settled in the suburbs of the Niagara wine region, and Alexandra had missed the city by times. She’d definitely missed her friends, but sensed that part of the reason for the move had been to gain some distance. Doug had judgmental tendencies and had never really approved of the close relationship she had with her two oldest friends, Riana Walker and Suzette Michaud.
Alex shook her head; unable to believe she’d ignore the signs of a marriage in crisis as long as she had. Many times over the last few years she’d thought about instigating some sort of reunion with her old chums. At one time they’d been so close they were referred to as the three Musketeers, friends who knew them well had even given them nicknames. Suzette, with her boarding school background and charming French accent had been known as the debutante, the energetic and athletic Riana, the dynamo, and sweet, quiet and supportive to all, Alex had earned the title of the darling.
They had secretly referred to themselves as the 3-D Club. Alex temporarily forgot her nerves as the fond memories washed through her. It seemed ridiculous that they’d allowed less than two hours of highway driving to interfere with a lifetime of schoolgirl bonding, but when her life had imploded after her husband’s misbehavior she’d been glad to have the distance. Being humiliated alone somehow seemed easier than having that humiliation witnessed by friends and family. She was so thrilled to see Riana again that she wondered about the wisdom of her self-imposed loneliness.
“Did my mother tell you about my appointment or something?” Alexandra waved a dismissive hand, and decided she’d deal with the parental interference later. “Doesn’t matter. I’m just glad to see you. I can’t believe after me being callous enough to ignore our friendship all these years, you’d make the trip here to support me on the worst day of my life.”
“If you’re divorcing Doug the Dud, this is probably more like the best day of your life.” Riana sniffed, and then looked sheepish. “Sorry. That was uncalled for, but it was never a secret that I was no fan of Doug. And here’s another confession. I actually moved to Niagara Falls about eighteen months ago. I kept meaning to call you, but I wanted to get Ethan settled in school first. Then I wanted to finish my kitchen renovation so I could invite you over for a big dinner party. And, well, then the holdup became about me finding a way to still be me without the man I’ve had by my side since I was fifteen years old.”
Alex gasped; sure Ron Walker must have died to no longer be with the woman who had appeared to be made for him. “Oh, Ree! What happened?”
Riana shrugged, and flagged her arms like a game show hostess, gesturing to the floral print dress that clung to her generous breasts and flowed over her ample hips. “He decided more of me to love was more woman than was lovable. Or that he wasn’t man enough for more woman. Or something. He left me for a twenty-eight year old aerobics’ instructor who probably weighs less than one of my thighs.”
Riana tossed her mane of fiery red curls and her eyes crinkled at the corners when she grinned. “Now stop looking all down in the mouth, darling Alex. Believe me, it was a sweet deal. I ditched a dead weight spouse and scored an awesome house. Ron’s personality may be small, but his guilty conscience is huge. He left me everything. I’m just here to sign the custody agreement. Ron wants shared, but considering his new little bag of bones is gearing up to deliver a child, and the fact that Ethan currently can’t stand his father, I don’t think we’re going to have a problem.”
Alex dug in her purse for a tissue and sniffled back a fresh surge of tears. She’d been devastated—and still was—when her childless marriage had crumbled, and yet Riana, who had not only been cheated on but insulted, and was facing life as a single mother had managed to find the bright side of her very dark situation. She wished, as she had many times in her life, that she had Riana’s unerring effervescence and lust for life. The next best thing to having it was being around it, and she shook her head again at her own stupidity for allow the distance to spring up in her closest relationship. “God, I’ve missed you so much, Ree.”
“Well there’s no need to miss me any more. I have all the time in the world now that I don’t have to cook, clean or iron shirts unless I bloody well feel like it. Plus I’ve got a knockout new kitchen and an in ground pool. Suzette is just down the road from us in Grimsby and as far as I know, she’s still single. I think it’s time the 3-D Club was resurrected.”
“Sounds good to me,” Alex giggled. “You’re obviously still a dynamo, and I’m sure Suzette will wear her debutante crown with pride, but I’ve got to warn you, after the things I’ve been through the last few months I’m not sure I’ve got much darling left in me.”
“Then you can be the diva. I think you’d be good at it with a bit of practice. Besides, we’re not twelve anymore. Our new club should reflect the needs and desires of adult women. We’ll make it about personal growth. Deal?” Riana stuck out her hand. They solemnly shook and then Riana’s irrepressible grin spread from ear to ear again. “Hey, I’ve even got our new names figured out for our brand new 3-D Club. We can be the deceived, discarded and divorced divas. Do you know what divorced divas do?”
Alexandra shook her head.
“I don’t either, but I sure can’t wait to find out. I’m sure it will be diva-liciously divine.”
Alex heard her name called from behind the reception desk. She gave her old friend a quick hug, and Riana’s laughter carried her down the hall to an office where she would sign the papers that gave her the freedom to begin her new life.
~ ~ ~
Read the next chapter in Alexandra’s life in Dare to Dance
See Suzette surprise everyone in Ready to Reel, LASR’s Short Book of the Year.
And delight in Riana’s windfall in Waiting to Waltz.
The 3-D Club Trilogy by Lainey Bancroft. Published by The Wild Rose Press Last Rose of Summer imprint, because you don’t have to be twenty-five and a size five to deserve a happily every after!
Also Available From The Wild Rose Press:
The Music of Marcus,
The Trouble With Tessa (1st Place Winner in San Antonio Romance Authors Merritt “Magic Moment” Contest, single title category) The Wild Rose Press
The Bridesmaid Blues