Authors: Gina Cresse
Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Treasure Hunter - California
|Gina Cresse - Devonie Lace 03 - A Deadly Change of Heart|
|Devonie Lace |
|Avalon Books (2001)|
|Tags:||Mystery: Cozy - Treasure Hunter - California|
Mystery: Cozy - Treasure Hunter - Californiattt
A Deadly Change of Heart
Original edition published in 2001 by
Thomas Bouregy and Company, Inc.
Revised edition published by
Copyright © 2012
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes in reviews.
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Other titles by Gina Cresse
Colton P.I. – Second Unit
—Titles in the Devonie Lace Series—
Change of Course—Plan B
A Deadly Bargain—Plan C
A Deadly Change of Heart
A Deadly Change of Power
A Deadly Change of Luck
iane Parker slipped her sunglasses into a hard plastic case as she stepped through the glass doors into the reception area of her husband’s office. She stopped momentarily and stared at the collection of greasy handprints on the usually sparkling glass displaying the name of Bradley Parker’s first love: Business Solutions, Inc., or BS Inc., as Diane liked to call it. The mauve carpet showed a grease stain in the shape of a shoe where a thoughtless delivery person failed to use the mat outside before tracking in the oily mess. Diane noticed droppings from the paper hole punch scattered on the floor. She ran her finger along the counter and drew a long, thin line in the dust. She gazed around the small reception area as she wiped the dust off her finger on a tissue she retrieved from Cathy’s vacant desk. The place looked deserted.
“Cathy?” she called as she straightened the pile of old magazines scattered across the heavy oak coffee table in the corner.
“Be right there,” a man’s voice called from another room.
Diane searched for a wastepaper basket to toss her dusty tissue away. Bradley Parker emerged from his office and saw Diane with her back toward him. “Can I help you?” he asked.
Diane spun around in her dark burgundy pumps and nearly lost her balance. She was on her way to work and today was the first time she’d worn the new shoes
—the dress, too. The dusty-rose-
colored knit sweater dress fit snugly in all the right places. She
bought it nearly three weeks ago, but purposely waited to wear it until sh
e knew she’d be seeing Bradley—or rather—
Bradley would be seeing her. It was the first time in eighteen years she could fit into a size eight and look this good. She finally gave up plucking the few strands of gray hair as they showed up and let Marcia down at the Visible Changes Hair Salon work her magic. The office fluorescent lights shone on her auburn highlights as Diane pulled a strand of hair away from her face. She smiled at Bradley.
“Oh, it’s you,” he said, amazed at the sight in front of him.
“Yeah, it’s me. I can’t stay long. I’m on my way to work.”
Bradley gawked at the beauty standing in the middle of the room. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman turned
his head the way she just had—
when he proposed so many years ago. His eyes moved down her long, thin neck to the curve of her hips, then continued down the slender legs to her perfect ankles. A dimple appeared in Diane’s right cheek as she tried to suppress the smile she felt emerging from within. He j
ust might be feeling something—
maybe desire, maybe love, maybe regret.
She cleared her throat
and initiated some conversation
—any conversation. “Where’s Cathy?” she asked.
The question didn’t
register in Bradley’s brain.
e was too preoccupied wondering how this woman could have emerged from the frumpy, overweight housewife who had the nerve to leave him nearly thirteen months earlier.
Diane strolled over to the empty reception desk. “She does still work here, doesn’t she?”
The fog finally cleared in Bradley’s head. “Cathy? Uh, yeah…sure.” He checked his watc
h. “She’s just late today—
dentist appointment or something.”
Diane grimaced as she noticed a dusty smudge on her sleeve and proceeded to brush it off. “What’s up with the cleaning people? They go on strike? This place is a mess.”
Bradley rushed over to help her clean the spot from her dress. “I’m looking for a new service. They weren’t doing a very good job, so I…well, it’s not important. What are you doing here?”
Diane stepped back from Bradley. “We need to talk about our…about the
Bradley stopped her before she could get the ‘D’ word out. She hadn’t actually said anything about a divorce yet, but he knew it was the next logical step if a reconciliation didn’t look promising. “Let’s go in my office. We can sit down. You want coffee?”
Diane frowned as she checked her watch. “I really can’t stay that long. I told Garrett I’d be a little late, but I don’t think he’d appreciate me showing up in time for lunch.”
Diane followed Bradley down the hall to his office. He opened the door for her and breathed in the scent of her freesia body lotion as she passed. “Why? All you’re doing is filing. They could hire a monkey to do that.”
Diane stopped in her tracks, clenched her teeth and turned on her heel. She glared at him through deep blue eyes
the daggers could have dropped him where he stood. In the past, his dehumanizing comments would have had her in tears in a matter seconds. Usually, he’d start counting out loud to see if he could break his record. Ten seconds was his best, so far. Diane would not give him the satisfaction. She took a deep breath and caught her reflection in the mirror behind Bradley. She was reminded how much she’d accomplished in the last year, driven by pure anger. She lost forty pounds
weight she could not diet and exercise away
nineteen years of marriage. She found a job that she really loved
one that gave her a sense of self-worth. She no longer felt lost. She didn’t wake up every morning and wonder why she existed anymore. She had direction in her life. She felt good. She tried to remember the last time she felt this good. Finally, she concluded that she felt better than she ever had in her entire life
too good to let this cold man get the best of her. “Well they didn’t hire a monkey to do the job. Unfortunately, the San Diego Zoo couldn’t part with any, so they’re stuck with me.”
Bradley let out an uneasy chuckle. Humor was not Diane’s usual response. He waited for her chin to quiver, but it never happened.
“But, they did have the sense to realize a high school kid with a basic grasp of the alphabet could file just as well as I could, for a lot less money,” Diane continued.
Bradley smirked. “So, you got replaced by a punk kid?”
Diane’s lower lip protruded in a pout as she nodded her head.
Bradley grinned. “Maybe you could help out here, at least until
“They didn’t replace me, Bradley. They promoted me. Remember that bachelor’s degree you told me was such a waste of time? Well, the
San Diego Union Tribune
doesn’t see a journalism degree as a waste at all, in fact, they think it might just come in handy for their newest reporter.”
Bradley choked on her words. “Reporter? You’ve got to be kidding. You can barely follow the plot of a Saturday morning cartoon.”
His words, which were meant to cut her down, only succeeded in fueling her fire. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She struggled to keep her voice calm. “I didn’t come here to fight with you, Bradley.” She took a step closer to him
a move he wasn’t accustomed to. Usually, she tried to keep her distance from him when they argued. Once again, he was distracted by the scent of her perfume as it wafted around his head.
“Well then, why are you here, Mrs.
Reporter?” The sarcasm dripped from his lips.
Diane pulled an envelope from her purse and handed it to Bradley. “I filed for divorce. If you have any questions, you can call my attorney.”
Bradley’s chin hit the floor. He stared at the papers in his hand as though they were the gun that had just fired a bullet into his chest. “Divorce? Diane, can’t we talk about this?“
“I tried to talk to you about it. Remember? I couldn’t hold your attention long enough to discuss the weather, let alone our marriage. What was her name? Clarissa?”
“Is that what this is all about? Because that’s been over for a long time. I swear
“And before that, Cheryl. Oh, and let’s not forget Tanya.”
“Come on, Diane,” Bradley moaned as if he were listening to a broken record.
“It’s not just about the affairs, Bradley. I realize I let myself go in the years we were married. I didn’t make much of an effort to be attractive for you. But you made me feel like I was nothing
and I’m not nothing. I’m something, Bradley
“Special? You mean like a princess or a queen? Give me a break, and while you’re at it, why don’t you grow up. You couldn’t have picked a worse time to become
. I can’t afford to…business is not…I mean…no. No, we won’t do this. Just forget it, Diane.” Tiny beads of sweat formed on Bradley’s forehead. He tossed the envelope on the floor like an angry, spoiled child throwing a tantrum.
“Sorry, Bradley, but my attorney assures me that ‘I don’t want to’ won’t be an option available to you.” Diane stood her ground. For the f
irst time in her life, she was o
n the offensive rather than defensive.
Bradley trudged to his desk and sat behind it, resting his forehead in his palms. He could see his usual tactics weren’t effective against this new Diane. She wasn’t going to be bullied. He remembered how compassionate and softhearted she could be, especially with their two sons when they came to her with their problems. He used to critic
ize her and say she was making mama’s boys
out of them, but at the moment, that quality could work in his favor. “I can’t take this now. Cathy isn’t at the dentist. I had to let her go, along with Mark and Tom. The cleaning people, too. I couldn’t make the payroll. I’m being sued by three clients.”
Diane didn’t flinch. She knew what he was up to. She looked him square in the eye and didn’t show one emotion
not fear, not hate, not love, and definitely not sympathy.
Bradley felt as though his skin was transparent, and she could see right through him. He felt a drop of perspiration run down his side from his armpit. He finally came to the realization that he had no control of her anymore. “The business is in trouble, so I’m really not interested in this new discovery of how special you are.“
“You never were interested. That’s the problem.” Diane opened the door to leave. “Look, I don’t want your business. You can have it. Everything else will be split fifty-fifty. I’ve already talked to the boys. They can’t believe I waited this long to get away from you. I explained that I had to wait until they were both off to college. I could never leave them with the tyrant who lives in our house.”
Bradley glared at her. “You’ll fall flat on your face. You’re not smart enough to make it on your own. You’ll be crawling back on all fours when you can’t pay your rent or fill your cupboards with bonbons and potato chips.”
Diane smiled, displaying the dimples in her cheeks that so many men found disarming. “In case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t eat bonbons or potato chips anymore.” She turned to leave, then stopped for one last jab. “Oh, by the way, you might want to catch
Saturday morning. Wilma’s gonna throw Fred out on his…well, you get the picture. See, and you thought I couldn’t follow the plot.” The smile left Diane’s face. “Yaba
Diane closed the door behind her and slipped quickly out of the building. She jumped into her car, jammed it into gear and sped out of the parking lot. She was sobbing
by the time
she reached the first stoplight.
The mascara stains were dry by the time Diane arrived at the
. She waved at the guard in the security shack as she eased her car into the lot and searched for a place to park. Since she was late, the only spot available was a narrow slot next to Garrett’s Humvee, or the Hummer, as he liked to call it. Diane bit her lip as she worked to maneuver her Toyota into the skinny spot. “Don’t hit the boss’s car,” she whispered to herself as she set the brake and opened her door, careful to not bang the shiny black paint job on the glorified Jeep. Garrett stood at the entrance of the brick and glass building and watched with amusement as she struggled to squeeze out of her car.
“Don’t ding the Hummer,” he called to her, grinning.
Diane smiled, but didn’t reply. As she got closer, Garrett noticed the dark streaks on her face. His grin turned to a frown. “You okay?” he asked.
Diane nodded and brushed past him into the building, then directly to the ladies room. She cleaned up her makeup, combed her fingers through her thick hair, and smoothed the wrinkles in her dress. She gave her reflection an approving nod then pushed through the door and headed for her desk. Garrett fell in step behind her, carrying two coffee cups. Diane dropped her purse into a drawer then collapsed into her chair.
Garrett set the steaming cup of coffee on the desk in front of her. “Here. Thought you could use a little boost. No cream, no sugar, just the way you like it.”
Diane smiled at him. “Thanks, Garrett.”
Garrett watched and waited as she took a sip of the coffee. “So, I’m sure it’s none of my business, but…can I…is there anything…are you okay?”