Christakis's Rebellious WifeBy: Lynne Graham
‘A DIVORCE CAN be civilised,’ Cristo Ravelli pronounced in a tone of studious tact.
Nik Christakis almost vented a derisive laugh at such a statement from the brother barely two months his senior. In reality only genuine respect for his sibling kept his cutting tongue silent. After all, what could Cristo possibly know about the blood and mayhem of a bitter divorce? Cristo was a newly and very happily married man without that experience...or that of many other unpleasant life events, in Nik’s considered opinion. As a result, Cristo was as solid and straight as a ruler; he had no corners, no twists, no hidden places. He had no more concept of Nik’s infinitely more complex and darker life experience than a dinosaur catapulted into a fairy story full of fluffy wings and magic.
‘I know you’re probably wondering where I get the nerve to offer advice,’ Cristo remarked shrewdly. ‘But you and Betsy did once have a good relationship and ratcheting down the current tension and cooling the aggro would be healthier for both of you—’
‘Then you should be delighted to hear that Betsy and I are having a face-to-face meeting tomorrow in the presence of our lawyers in an effort to iron out a settlement,’ Nik growled, his lean, darkly handsome features grim and hard.
‘It’s only money, Nik, and... Dio mio...’ Cristo sighed, thinking wryly of the vast business empire that his workaholic tycoon brother had built from the ground up ‘...you have plenty of it—’
Nik ground his perfect white teeth together, his unusually light green eyes flashing bright with barely restrained fury. ‘That’s not the point!’ he cut in harshly. ‘Betsy’s trying to take me to the cleaners and steal half of everything I have—’
‘I can’t explain why she’s making such excessive demands. I would’ve sworn she didn’t have a mercenary bone in her body,’ Cristo fielded uncomfortably. ‘Have you tried to talk to her, Nik?’
Nik frowned darkly. ‘Why would I try to talk to her?’ he asked in astonishment at a suggestion that clearly struck him as insane. ‘She threw me out of our home, started a divorce and is currently trying to rip me off to the tune of billions!’
‘She did have some excuse for throwing you out,’ Cristo reminded his sibling in a rueful undertone.
In answer, Nik compressed his lips. He had his own very firm ideas about exactly why his marriage had imploded. He had married a woman who said she didn’t want children and then she had changed her mind. It was true that he had chosen to withhold certain very private information from her in the aftermath of that revelation but he had understandably assumed that her change of heart was a whim or at best hormonal, an urge that might hopefully fade as quickly as it had first arrived.
‘It was my house,’ Nik responded flatly.
‘So now you’re planning to take Lavender Hall off her as well as the dog,’ Cristo breathed heavily.
‘Gizmo was also mine.’ Nik glanced at the disputed dog, returned to his care two months earlier and still a study of deep doggy depression. Gizmo slumped by the window, an array of squeaky toys lying around him untouched, his short muzzle resting mournfully on shaggy paws. The animal had the best of everything that money could buy but, in spite of Nik’s every effort to the contrary, the wretched mutt continued to pine for Betsy.
‘Have you any idea how devastated she was when you took the dog off her?’ Cristo enquired.
‘The three pages of tear-stained care instructions that came with him did provide a hint,’ Nik breathed sardonically. ‘She was more worried about the dog than she ever was about me—’
‘Less than a year ago, Betsy adored you!’ Cristo shot back at his brother in condemnation of that unfeeling response.
And he had liked being adored, Nik acknowledged; he had liked it very much indeed. When adoration had turned to violent hatred and questions he couldn’t answer he had had no appetite whatsoever for the new regime. Questions he could have answered had he been forced to do so, he qualified inwardly, but he could not have stood to see the look of pity or horror on her face should he have told her the truth. Some truths a man was entitled to keep private; some were simply too appalling to share.