Totlandia: Spring
pulling my pudd. Oops, sorry! Poor choice of words, considering where we’re standing—” Art’s smile curdled into a vicious snarl. “And considering your wife’s former profession.”
    Brady’s stare was cold. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
    “Didn’t Jade tell you? She and I go way back. Don’t tell me you thought your pole was the only one she was rubbing up against in that back room at the Condor Club. Look at it this way. You won’t just be investing with a friend, but a friend with benefits .”
    That was it for Brady. He turned toward Art and aimed for his crotch.
    “What the hell?” Art leaped back, but it was too late. He was soaked.
    He was still sputtering as Brady zipped up and went to the sink to wash his hands.
    But as Brady headed for the door, Art yelled out after him, “You know, Bettina isn’t wise to Jade’s past. Not yet, anyway. I’m guessing it’ll make great dinner conversation. Not just tonight, but later this week, with all the ladies in the club.”
    Brady stopped. He didn’t turn around when he muttered, “A million. No more. And I want a verified prospectus of the past week’s earnings sent by courier every Monday.” He turned his head just far enough to catch Art’s eye in the mirror. “If I hear that you’ve spoken to Jade—if you dare to even look at her—the deal is off.”
    Art shrugged. “Sure, whatever. She’s not my type anyway.”
    Art yelped as Brady rammed him up against the wall. But Brady’s fist stopped just short of Art’s nose.
    Brady left Art with his knee propped up on the sink, drying his pants with the restroom hand dryer.
    Back at the table, both men were smart enough to keep up the sports banter, and to smile and laugh when their wives said anything clever.
    Brady picked up the tab on the dinner, which ran just under a thousand dollars. The only reason he left a generous tip was because their server was his favorite, Anna, and he wasn’t about to take out his anger at Art and Jade on her.
    He knew his silence on the drive home was making Jade anxious, but he couldn’t care less. She finally got up the nerve to ask, “How…how did you think it went?”
    “I gave him a million to play with, and that’s the end of it.”
    She exhaled and smiled.
    “All this means is your past with the Condor Club is safe. For now, anyway. And as long as Bettina doesn’t get wind of it and kick you out, you can keep taking Oliver to the meet-ups, and you can hang with your friends all you want.” He looked over at her, catching her face in the passing streetlights as her smile faded with every word he spoke. “But as far as you and I are concerned, we’re no more than two people sharing a house and a child. I no longer want you in my bed, Jade. If this arrangement doesn’t work for you, you’re free to leave—no harm, no foul.”
    When they pulled into the garage, he didn’t walk over to her side of the car and open her door. Instead, he walked up the steps and into the house.
    He didn’t know when or if she finally left the car for one of the home’s many guest rooms because it was long after he paid the sitter and had gone to bed.
    At least he couldn’t hear her crying three stories below.

Chapter 8
    Monday, 4 February
    “Okay now, be honest with me, Caleb. Which is your favorite? It’s the cranberry pear, isn’t it? You gobbled it up the quickest, so that has to be it.”
    Jillian pointed to the pie farthest to the right side of her kitchen counter, a necessary maneuver since both Addison and Amelia were into climbing on furniture and into pie. During Caleb Martin’s taste test, she’d made sure they were occupied on the kitchen rug with her plastic cookie cutters and a few errant mixing bowls. Their TwinSpeak was more than gibberish now. Real words were lining up into real sentences. Jillian was so proud of them.
    Still, her favorite baby phrase was “ah-poo pie.”
    Caleb chewed and swallowed quickly, but

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