“So it sounds as though we’ll both be doing a lot of talking,” she mused.

“I’ll listen to every subject you want to bring up. Then, only when you’re satisfied with my responses, will we move on to what I want to discuss with you. It’s a pretty big step. I have the backing and investors.”


“Do I get a choice in the order in which we say what?”

Tate could hear the clear nervousness in her voice and she sounded as though she wanted him to speak his mind first before delving into what might bring her back to him after their long separation.

“Absolutely,” he conceded.

“Okay, then listen up.”

A ridiculous smile quirked up the corners of his mouth. He was already mentally going through the contents of their pantry and fridge so he’d know if he needed to run out for anything. He was positive he had all the ingredients on hand to make one of their favorite dishes.

“You’re going first while we eat dinner. After and only after you’ve said what’s on your mind will I tell you what’s on mine.”

Dinner was already beginning to look like one huge clusterfuck. How did one cook a meal that acted as an olive branch? And to make it the good start to try to salvage their marriage? But was that what it was going to be? Or was Chessy going to tell him it was well and truly over?

“What time do you want me there?” Chessy asked quietly, not sounding certain that she would be welcome.

Tate nearly lost his shit over that but made a visible effort to relax so he didn’t come across sounding like an ass**le. But there were some things that needed to be addressed.

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“Baby, you do not have to ask what time it’s okay for you to come to your own house. I don’t plan to start cooking until you get here. I thought you could sit at the island and ride herd while I try not to ruin our supper.”

This time he heard the smile in his voice and he ached all the way to his soul for one smile, directed at him. Her looking at him like he’d hung the moon. It was the way she used to look at him. Pure adoration that was there for the world to see. She was a magnet for people. They were inexplicably drawn to her just to gain a smile or a few sweet words. Men and women alike walked away as if they had just been in the presence of royalty. And well, she was in a way. She was his princess.

He’d done everything to outfit the princess, to transform her into a woman who never had need of a single item. Her credit card had no limit and he encouraged her frequently to go out and buy something for herself. She was infuriating in that regard because she always had the same answer. She didn’t need anything. Tate gave her everything she wanted. How he’d loved hearing those heartfelt words come from his wife’s sweet lips. What man wouldn’t be absolutely agog over the fact that his woman gave not one damn over wealth or material possessions. What she wanted above all was … her husband. And that should have been the easiest slam dunk of all.

All he had to do was give her his undivided attention. Thinking back, yes, he’d desperately wanted to net this client because she was also entertaining other options. It was what had prevented him from giving Chessy what she deserved.

Tabitha Markham would indeed have been a coup. He had no doubt that she was being courted, wined and dined by other financial businesses like a duck on a June bug. But he had practically told her to f**k off once he heard Chessy scream in pain and terror. And he couldn’t care less which financial advisor she decided to go with now. If he lived to be a hundred, the sound of Chessy’s cry would haunt him to his dying day.

“I should let you go then. I still need to shower and change. I haven’t been feeling well lately and unfortunately it shows.”

Tate was immediately filled with concern. “Is my girl sick? Who’s taking care of you? That’s my job.”

It angered him, this helplessness that he couldn’t reach out to his wife when she needed him most. Chessy didn’t fall ill very often at all. She always got glowing checkups from her doctor, who announced she was fitter than the majority of patients he saw.

But the few times a cold had gotten the best of her and one particularly vicious bout of strep throat, Tate had been within an arm’s length the entire time. She’d wanted to sleep in the guest bedroom because she was afraid she would make him sick, but he was having none of that.

Every single night, or day if she were simply taking a nap, he carried her to bed and tucked her in, ensuring all the pillows were in the exact position she liked them. And even more generous, he handed over the remote for the TV in their bedroom.

While she binged on the HGTV channel and watched countless renovation episodes, Tate’s head was always about to explode, but he let her torture him with her girly shows because he knew how much she enjoyed them.

She sounded extremely weary now and it alarmed him even more. So help him, if she didn’t show tonight now that he was worried out of his damn mind, he’d go over there and haul her out of Jensen’s house, police be damned.

“I’ll tell you all about it tonight,” she said. “I don’t want to get into over the phone.”

Tate’s heart lurched. His stomach knotted to the point of pain and nausea welled in his throat. He had to suck in deeply through his nostrils so he didn’t completely lose it.

“How soon can you be here?” he demanded.

“Uh, well I don’t have anything else scheduled. I mean I guess I could come at any time. I figured I’d come when you were ready to eat.”