“No,” I said. “No way. That is total bullshit.”
“I’m sorry,” my divorce attorney, Ronnie, said with a sigh. “There’s no way around it. She gets half. Half of everything.”
I clenched my fist and tried to contain the flurry of curse words fighting to spew from my mouth. My jaw was clenched, and my brow furrowed so hard it physically hurt. Every muscle in my body was tight to the point if I didn’t release, I was going to be howling with painful cramps.
“She had zero to do with my company,” I insisted. “How can that be fair?”
“You were married before your company took off,” he explained. His voice was soft, like he was talking to a toddler on the verge of a meltdown. I supposed I was on the verge of melting down. My entire world was being split down the middle and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Not even the most expensive lawyer in New York could help.
I put my hands over my face and gently rubbed in an attempt to relax the tension in my muscles. “She can have the house, the car, whatever. Hell, I’ll pay more alimony. I cannot give her half my company.”
“Technically, she isn’t asking for half the company, as in control,” he replied. “She wants half the value. If you refuse to pay her a fair price, she would own half the company. You would have to allow her to have an equal partnership in the company. She would make decisions about expansions and even the products you bring to market. I think this is the best way out.”
“She took everything,” I murmured.
“I’m sorry, Cane,” he said and put a hand on my shoulder. “Divorce sucks.”
I snorted. “I don’t think it’s the divorce that sucks. I think my marriage to the bloodsucking whore was worse.”
“Try not to say that when we get into the courtroom,” he joked.
“This is really my only choice?” I asked. “Do you know what it’s going to cost me to give her half the company? All my plans for the future will be derailed. My business plan for next fiscal year goes up in smoke. Investors are going to think I’m failing. They’re going to pull out their money. I will fail.”
“You’re not going to fail,” Ronnie insisted. “You built this company in your tiny little apartment from nothing. You’re going to rebuild, and it will be better and stronger. She’s getting your money, but not your company. Not your ideas and not your business savvy.”
“She got my house, my boat, and even my fucking dog,” I spat. “I don’t understand why she wants the company. We said we would pay.”
“She wanted more,” he said, sighing. “In my experience, it’s never about the money. It’s spite. It’s revenge. It’s making the other party bleed.”
“I’m hemorrhaging at this point,” I said.
“And today we’ll stop the bleeding,” he said. “If the judge agrees to the terms, it’s done. She’ll never get another penny from you.”
“I’m not going to roll over,” I said. “You told me you would fight. I want you to fight. I’m not paying you a thousand dollars an hour not to fight.”
“I have the paperwork drawn up,” he assured me. “We’ll go in there and fight, but I just need you to be prepared to lose.”
“I hate losing.”
“Everyone does,” he said and snapped the briefcase closed. “You’re not the first man I’ve represented that has lost more than half of his assets to a pissed-off woman.”
“I’m the one that should be pissed,” I said. “She cheated on me. Why is she getting rewarded for being a whore?”
“Because Kelly was smart,” he said with a shrug.
“She met you and saw her meal ticket,” he answered. “You were her golden goose. It’s a story as old as time. I’m sure she was beautiful and said all the right things. You fell madly in love. You never imagined you would amass the wealth you have. She did. She took one look at you and knew she had found her moneymaker. She sank her claws in and offered you all the pretty words and support you needed to take your company from a tiny storefront to the massive business it is today. That’s why she’s fighting for half. They all do. They claim that, without them, their men wouldn’t be successful. They might not have actually helped in the business, but they tended the home fires. Judges like to reward loyalty.”
“She wasn’t loyal!” I threw my hands up and got out of the chair. “I was busting my ass and she was spreading her legs for any man that gave her a wink and a smile. She didn’t support me. She constantly bitched I worked too much. She complained I wasn’t making enough money. She was spending it faster than I could make it. She didn’t have dinner waiting for me or offer to rub my feet. She wasn’t a wife.”
“I believe you, but a judge is going to think she is the wounded party,” he said. “I’m just telling you what I have seen over the years. The little woman was at home toiling away while you worked.”
“She didn’t want a job,” I muttered. “I offered her a job in the business. I encouraged her to go back to school.”
“She didn’t need a job,” he said and got to his feet. “She had you, her golden goose.”
“Such bullshit,” I said again.
“I’ll meet you there,” he said. “Try not to look so pissed. If we want the judge to have any sympathy for you, you need to look like the wounded party.”
“I am the wounded party.”
I left his office and headed for the courthouse. Today was bittersweet. It would be the end of a very long, grueling divorce proceeding and the end of a horrible marriage. It was also an end to my life as I knew it. I wasn’t going to be destitute by any means, but I was losing a lot. I didn’t give a shit about the house or the boat. My dog wasn’t even really my dog. The damn thing was one of those accessories that women carried around in stupid purses. I didn’t fight for the dog because it was Kelly’s dog and I wasn’t a monster—unlike her.
The plans for expansion for the company would have to wait. I couldn’t hire the people I wanted to. I couldn’t put new toys into production. Research and development were going to have to be slimmed down, all because she was a greedy, cheating bitch.
The voice was worse than nails on a chalkboard. It was physically painful to hear my soon-to-be ex-wife’s voice. I could practically feel the dagger in my back. She had plunged it in over and over and over. Today would be the last time she got to do that.
“Don’t call me that,” I said with a sneer.
She laughed because she knew she was winning. That made it all so much worse. “This is your last chance to change your mind,” she said behind the large black sunglasses she wore everywhere. They were designer and cost a small fortune, just like the jewelry she wore to accessorize the plain black dress suit that was also designer.
“What would I change my mind about?” I asked.
“Stop the divorce and we’ll go back to normal.” She shrugged.
“It would be a cold day in hell before that happened,” I told her.
“Cane, really, you’re being very shortsighted,” she said with a shake of her head. “You’re going to lose in there. My lawyer has assured me I will walk out of this court a very wealthy woman.”
“And I will walk out a free man,” I replied. “I will never have to see you again. You will not get another dime out of me.”
“My lawyer thinks I can get half your company and alimony,” she said.
“I might,” she countered. “Just call off this stupid divorce. You know you don’t want to divorce me.”
“I have never been more sure about anything in my life, Kelly.”
“Stop acting like you are hurt,” she said with disgust. “It’s not like we actually loved each other. That stopped a long time ago.”
“I can’t believe you’re putting me through this humiliating divorce,” she hissed. “You act like I’m the only person in the world that has ever had an affair.”
“You’re the only person in the world that has ever cheated on me,” I said. “And you will be the last.”
“I’m taking your company,” she spat. “You’re going to be sorry you ever started this game. With the money I get today, I’m starting my own company. I know all your secrets. I’m going to build a toy company that rivals yours. You think losing half was bad? Just wait until I crush you. Your little dolls and building blocks will be a distant memory. Your toy company is going to go bankrupt. I’ll dominate the industry.”
“Good luck with that,” I said and walked away.
I joined Ronnie at the table and waited for my fate to be handed down. Kelly came in and removed her sunglasses. She had almost no makeup on, which was a rarity for her. She had a tissue balled up in her hand and looked downright pitiful as she sat next to her lawyer. I listened to her attorney lay out the case for granting Kelly half of my business. Ronnie argued but it was no use. I saw the look on the judge’s face. He believed I was a greedy, vindictive asshole. In less than an hour, I lost half my company. I sat woodenly while the final settlement was read out.
Then it was over. Ronnie leaned over to whisper in my ear. “Just walk out,” he said. “Don’t look at her. She wants your attention. Don’t give it to her.”
I didn’t need to be told that. I knew this whole show had been her way of trying to get my attention. She wanted to get under my skin. I wasn’t giving her that. Not a chance in hell. I walked out of the courtroom first without looking toward the table where she was celebrating with her attorney that I got to pay for. She’d put on a hell of a show and won. I was just glad to be done with her.
I walked to my Porsche and was about to get in when she appeared out of nowhere with a snide smile on her face. “I’m going to bury you,” she said like she was wishing me Happy Birthday.
She walked away and got into her Mercedes. I could hear her laughing as she sped away. I told myself not to care. I needed to focus on the silver lining. I was officially single. I never had to deal with the bullshit drama she brought into my life again. She chose to take the lump sum instead of alimony. There was no reason we ever needed to say another word to one another.
I hoped it would bring closure to a tumultuous year. I had lost weight and even found a couple of gray hairs. The woman had sucked the life out of me. I was ready to put her in the past and move forward. Kelly had taught me a hard lesson. I didn’t think I would ever trust another woman again. Ronnie had been right about her reeling me in. I fell for her games hook, line, and sinker. She was right—I didn’t love her. Somewhere along the marriage road, I fell out of love with her. We were going through the motions. Like one of the old guys at the office said, it was cheaper to keep her. I kept her until I found her in my bed fucking the shit out of another man.
At that point, the cost to divorce her no longer mattered. She was gone. She could try her best to bury me, but I wasn’t going to lose to her. Not again.