"Nothing. I just have plans for us after dinner, is all." She smiles sweetly and my chest tightens.
We share a meal of roast duck that Beth has prepared and I fill Sophie in on the details of my company's progress. Things have really turned around. It's nice having someone to share the ups and downs with. She's successfully broken down my walls and taught me what it means to fully share yourself with another. In the past, I would have kept all my business shortcomings bottled up. Now I know there's nothing I need to hide from her. She accepts me as I am. It's the most beautiful feeling in the world. With her, I feel whole.
We finish eating and I'm just about to ask her what she'd like to do tonight when my phone starts ringing. I turn it over and the name Stella is displayed across the screen.
"Why is Stella calling you?" Sophie scrunches her nose in disgust.
"Good fucking question."
"Answer it," she says.
Christ. Here we go. "Hello?"
"Hi Colton," she says.
"Why are you calling, Stella?" The annoyance in my voice is unmistakable.
"I have a few things I wanted to say."
"Sophie's here with me. I'm putting you on speaker." I click the speaker-phone button without waiting for a response. I won't have her wondering what is being discussed between me and my ex-wife, and I won't deliberately hide anything from her.
Stella clears her throat and momentarily stalls. "I never meant to be the villain, Colton," she says softly. Sophie squints down at the phone in my hand as Stella continues. "I was young and foolish. I loved you–in my own way–but I realized quickly after we wed that it wasn't a forever kind of love. You worked long hours, you were building a company at such a young age and were so driven and singularly focused. I wasn't cut out to live my life in the shadows of your work. I felt neglected and as wrong as it was, I let myself get swept up in the attention of another man. I felt wanted and desired and those were things I'd been missing from you. You provided everything I could want materially–but you weren't emotionally available to me. And I'm not blaming you. We just didn’t have that deep connection. Your work was your first priority."
"Why I are you telling me all this now?" I ask, fighting the urge to roll my eyes. I don't know what game she's playing, but if it's forgiveness she wants, she's barking up the wrong fucking tree. She cheated on me – slept with our gardener, then took half my damn money. Relationships take work – if she was unhappy in our marriage, she could have talked to me about it.
After a long pause, Stella continues. "My lawyer mentioned in passing that you were out of work due to a death in the family. I was curious, so I called Marta."
I had no idea she was still in contact with Marta. For some reason that pisses me off. My gaze flicks over to Sophie's and her eyes go wide.
"Yes, we lost Sophie's sister, Becca," I explain. I take hold of Sophie's hand and lace my fingers in between hers.
"I heard and I'm very sorry," Stella offers.
"Is there a reason that you called, Stella?" My patience is wearing thin.
"Yes. When I heard about your situation I guess it struck something in me. I wanted to call and apologize. I realized that after all this time, it was something I'd never officially done and while I know that a simple I'm sorry isn't going to undo everything, I do hope you'll accept it."
I suck in a deep inhale. "Sure, I'll accept it," I say. It doesn't mean everything was swept under the damn rug, but I'm not going to waste the energy fighting with Stella anymore. "Anything else?" I ask.
"Yes, actually. I wanted to tell you both that I've made a donation in Becca's name. Two million dollars to cancer research."
Wow. I'm actually speechless. I look to Sophie, who's eyes are filling with tears.
"Thank you, Stella. That was very kind of you," Sophie says, her voice shaky.
"You're welcome. I'm sorry again – about everything." Stella says.
In the strangest turn of events I could have ever imagined, Stella has made amends and emerged as the hero. Well, not quite, but that donation was pretty impressive.
Once I end the call, I turn to Sophie. "Well that was fucking weird," I say.
"It was nice."
"I suppose it was." I kiss the top of her head. "But one nice gesture doesn't mean I have to forgive her for cheating on me."
"You don't have to forgive her, but I guess in a way, I understand her a little bit more. Plus, selfishly, I'm awfully glad you two didn’t work out."
"Me too. Because I have you now." Her eyes find mine and they tell me everything I need to know. "Now tell me more about what you had planned tonight."
"I'd rather show you." Her eyes light up with mischief and I know my sweetness is back.
Practicing my most enticing walk, I sway my hips as I strut toward the shoreline. The moon provides just enough light to see by and Colton's low hiss tells me he's appreciating the view. A slow smile uncurls on my mouth. "Are you coming, Mr. Drake?"
"Fuck yes," he says. His footsteps grow closer and with a squeal, I take off down the beach, Colton giving chase behind me. In a quick glance behind me, I see him strip off his suit coat and toss it onto the sand. But I don't stop until I reach the surf.