Imani Jones Hadley thought she’d made the best decision of her life by marrying Garrett Tristan Hadley. The second she laid eyes on him, he made her body tingle and her toes curl.
Yes, he came with baggage. Didn’t they all? Only she didn’t know it was the kind that would have her losing her mind! Less than two years later, Imani wanted out. She wanted a divorce STAT.
Too bad Garrett had different ideas. Despite their impossible situation, Imani left him feverish – a kind of feverish unbroken.
He was never going to let her go.
For mature audiences only.
Imani Hadley was furious. She stood in front of her soon-to-be ex-husband with her hands balled up and resting on her hips, steam coming from her ears, and venom about to spew from her lips. She was fit to be tied.
“Why do you keep doing this? You are prolonging the inevitable! Sign the damn papers.”
Garrett had no intention of signing anything. He was determined to drag this process out for as long as it took for Imani to change her mind. He leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers together as if in deep thought, then tapped them against the bottom of his chin.
“Did you have an appointment? I didn’t see you on my schedule.” He managed to keep a straight face knowing his words would only serve to piss Imani off even more.
He dropped his hands and sat up a bit straighter. His tone was hushed but firm. “Lower your voice. My employees don’t need to know about our personal problems.”
She spit fire. “Really? Do you honestly think I care who hears me? As if they don’t already know.”
Garrett ignored Imani’s little temper tantrum. “Your anger is misdirected. If your lawyer was worth anything, we’d already be divorced.”
Rage radiated from every pore of her body. “No! We’d already be divorced if you weren’t purposely dragging this out.” Imani ticked off every point on each finger as she hit them. “I don’t want the homes, the cars, your money, not even the gifts you bought to pacify me. I’m happy to leave with exactly what I came into this marriage.” Imani was getting more heated with each word spoken. “I. DON’T. WANT. ANYTHING. Not one red cent!”
“That’s kind of impossible now, isn’t it?” Sarcasm dripped from his lips.
She ignored him. “Every time—” she slammed her fist down on his desk. “Every time, I speak with my attorney, he tells me you have some new demand, which is laughable considering you’re the reason we’re getting a divorce!”
“Me?” Garrett pointed toward himself. “You’re delusional.”
A lock of dark hair fell over into her tired eyes. Frustrated, Imani swiped it away. “Yes . . . you—whatever.” She waved her hands as if swatting away the words she was about to say. “It doesn’t matter. The bottom line is that this process should be easy since I don’t want anything, not even your last name. I’ll proudly claim Imani Jones again.”
Garrett had to reach deep within himself to exercise a level of control he’d never known he had. “You have a lot of nerve barging into my office ranting and raving like a lunatic. Your righteous indignation never ceases to amaze me, Imani. You should thank God I’m a patient and forgiving man!” He took a moment to gather himself from his own rising temper. “I’ve asked you to lower your voice. Now, lower it and calm the hell down.”
“Don’t tell me to calm down, Garrett! You're being unreasonable. Just sign the papers?” Imani threw a fresh copy at him, and they flew across his desk.
He caught them in mid-air right before being smacked in the face. Garrett’s self-control was now razor thin as he battled down his own frustrations.
Over the last several months, he’d gone through a variety of emotions. Shock and anger had been at the top of the list when Imani had him served with divorce papers. To say he was surprised was an understatement.
They had problems—significant problems—in their marriage. For a brief period, Garrett, blinded by his rage, found it hard to look at her. Initially, he’d thought her offenses were unforgivable and contemplated getting a divorce but ultimately decided against it.
Marriage was supposed to be for better or for worse. Things couldn’t be much worse than they had been between them, but still, Garrett never imagined it would have dissolved into the mess they found themselves in either. He meant his vows and thought, with time, they would be able to forgive each other and move on.
Garrett needed to switch gears. Imani was too upset for anything he might say to break through. “All this energy is not good for you—or the baby.”
“Now? Now, you care about my baby and me?” Imani was doing everything not to snap completely. She took a couple of calming breaths. “You're ridiculous.” Aggravated, she pressed her fingers to her forehead and almost rubbed the skin off. At the end of the day, Imani just wanted out. The marriage was over, and she needed the pain of the last year to go away. All she wanted was a fresh start.
Exhausted from her anger, she whispered, “What do you want Garrett? What do I have to do to end this?”
He hated to hear the sound of desperation in her words and that she actually wanted out. He wasn’t a man to give up easily, and he for sure wasn’t ready to give up on his marriage. It was time to put his plan in motion. “Do you honestly want to know?”
She could no longer hide her hopelessness. A weak voice escaped. “Yes.”
Hazel green eyes bore holes through her soul as he placed both hands on his desk one over the other. “Wait until after the baby is born. I’ll move back to our house—not Devonshire, and give me one month.”
The absurdity of that almost knocked her off her feet. It was so ridiculous that it took a minute for her brain to register what he’d said in order to respond in any coherent way. She shook her head from side to side. “Oh no. No, no, no . . . NO, Garrett! Are you serious?”
They stood staring at each other waiting for the other to blink.
They could both be stubborn. That was the problem. Imani sucked in her bottom lip to keep some form of control.
Holding his gaze and as calmly as possible, she responded. “I can't go on like this with you. You’ve got to let me go. Marriage is supposed to be about love not . . . this . . . this thing we’re doing.”
As if by magic, she was suddenly gazing up into eyes that had always been able to turn her knees to jelly. Garrett rounded his desk so quickly that Imani was amazed at how fast he’d done it. One minute the safety of furniture was between them, and now, there was no buffer. He was standing directly in front of her.
He was close—too close. There was a moment when he raised his hand that Imani thought he might touch her. She stopped breathing. Garrett had always been hard to resist, even when she wanted to strangle him to death. Today was no exception. He wore her favorite cologne, a blend of sandalwood, musk, amber, and him. It was uniquely Garrett. It floated through the air tickling her senses, and Imani had to remind herself that Garret wasn’t the man she’d fallen in love with. After everything, that he could still have this kind of effect on her should have been reason enough to have her committed.
She cleared her throat and took a step backward then focused her attention on the paperweight behind him on his desk. His voice brought her out of her mystifying haze of stupidity.
“If after one month of living with the baby and me, you still want a divorce, I’ll give it to you without any hassles. I’ll only demand one thing, joint custody.”
“Why? Why would you want custody?”
“I don’t want to be a part-time father.”
Imani didn’t know what to say. “Garrett, this makes no sense.”
He folded his arms. “Are you afraid that you might still have feelings for me? Is that why you won’t agree?”
“Don’t be ridiculous! I just want to get on with my life. You and I have wasted enough time.”
Hurt, he responded harsher than he had intended. “Those are my terms. Take them or leave them. Otherwise, I’ll have you in court for the next couple of years.” Garrett turned his back on her and went to sit back down in his chair. “I have the resources. You know I can do it.”
“Why? Why are you doing this?”
He wasn’t going to tell her the full truth, but he would share part of it. “I know what it’s like to grow up without a real father. I don’t want that for this child. I would think you wouldn’t want it either.”
Imani was about to respond when her thoughts were interrupted by what felt like trembling underneath her feet, but then it stopped. She chalked it up to hormones, especially since she and Garrett were in a high-rise building—that would be impossible.
He frowned. “Did you feel that?”
She looked around and whispered. “I guess I didn’t imagine it.” They stared at the bobble head on his desk as it began to move up and down.
The floor vibrated again, and a weird whine-like noise sounded as if metal was bending just before everything started to shake uncontrollably.
Imani could barely stand up on her feet. Somehow, Garrett managed to get to her before she fell on the floor, but even he was having trouble keeping them upright.
CRACK! Was that an explosion? As if she weren’t already scared to death, that noise shook Imani to her core. She was terrified.
The lights flickered on and off until they finally went out. The room was cloaked in semi-darkness. If it weren’t for the evening light flowing into the building from the outside, Garrett’s office would have been pitch black. Fortunately, within seconds, the emergency lights came on.
Glass shattered. Everything rattled, objects shook from off the walls and onto the floor. Imani held on to Garrett for dear life. “What’s happening?”
Loud screams from outside his office found their way inside to them. Not wanting to sit still and wait for answers, they made their way out into the hallway only to find panic and chaos. People were running in every direction.
Garrett managed to get a hold of one of his frantic managers as they were dashing past him. “What’s going on?”
Wide-eyed and terrified, the man shouted. “It’s an earthquake!” He took off again on a sprint heading for the stairs.
Imani turned to Garrett. “Oh, my God. We’re on the seventeenth floor!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author of Romantic Fiction