Excerpt: Hired By Her Husband
Book 10: Beware of Greeks Series
When the phone rang that evening, Sophy grabbed it as fast as she could. She didn’t need it waking Lily. Not just when her daughter had finally fallen asleep.
Lily’s fourth birthday party that afternoon had exhausted them both. Normally an easy-going sunny-natured child, Lily had been wound up for days in anticipation. Five of her friends and their mothers had joined them, first at the beach and then here at the house for a cook-out, followed by ice cream and cake..
Lily had been on top of the world, declaring the party, “the bestest ever.” Then, in the time-honored fashion of over-tired four-year-olds everywhere, she’d crashed.
It had taken a warm bath, a cuddle on Sophy’s lap, clutching her new stuffed puppy, Chloe, and half a dozen stories to unwind her.
Now finally she was asleep, sprawled in her bed, but still clinging to Chloe. And, with the house a wreck all around her, Sophy didn’t need Lily wide awake again. So at the phone’s first shrill ring, Sophy snatched it up.
The voice was a man’s, one she didn’t know. But it was the name she heard that gave her a jolt. Of course her cousin and business partner Natalie was now Mrs Savas – had been ever since her marriage to Christo last year – but Sophy wasn’t used to getting calls asking for her at home. For a split second she hesitated, then said firmly, “No. I’m sorry. You’ve got the wrong number. Call back during business hours and you can speak to Natalie.” .
“No. I’m not trying to reach Natalie Savas,” the man said just as firmly. “I need to reach Sophia Savas. Is this – “ He paused as if he were consulting something, then read off her telephone number.
Sophy barely heard it. Her mind had stuck on Sophia Savas.
That had been her name. Once. For a few months.
Suddenly she couldn’t breathe, felt as if she’d been punched. Abruptly she sat down wordlessly, her fingers strangling the telephone.
“Hello? Are you there? Do I have the correct number?”
Sophy took a quick shallow breath. “Yes.” She was relieved that she didn’t stammer. Her voice even sounded firm to her own ears. Cool. Calm. Collected. “I’m Sophia. Sophia McKinnon,” she corrected, then added, “Formerly Savas.”
But she still wasn’t convinced he had the right person.
“George Savas’s wife?”
So much for not being convinced. Sophy swallowed. “Y-yes.”
No. Maybe? She certainly didn’t think she was still George’s wife! Her brain was spinning. How could she not know?
George could have divorced her at any time in the past four years. She’d always assumed he had, though she’d never received any paperwork. Mostly she’d put it out of her mind because she’d tried to put George out of her mind.
She shouldn’t have married him in the first place. She knew that. Everybody knew that. Besides, as far as she was concerned, a divorce was irrelevant to her life. It wasn’t as if she were ever marrying again.
But maybe George was.
Sophy’s brain abruptly stopped spinning. Her fingers strangled the receiver, and she felt suddenly cold. She was surprised to feel an odd ache somewhere in the vicinity of her heart even as she assured herself she didn’t care. It didn’t matter to her if George was getting married.
But she couldn’t help wondering, had he finally fallen in love?
She had certainly never been the woman of his dreams. Had he met the woman who was? Was that why she was getting this call? Was this official-sounding man his lawyer? Was he calling to put the legal wheels in motion?
Carefully Sophy swallowed and reminded herself again that it didn’t matter to her. George didn’t matter. It wasn’t as if their marriage had been real. She’d only hoped . . .
And now she told herself that her reaction was only because the phone call had caught her off-guard.
She mustered a steadying breath. “Yes, that’s right. Sophia Savas.”
“This is Dr. Harlowe. I’m sorry to tell you, Mrs Savas, but there’s been an accident.”
“Are you sure about this?” Natalie asked. She and her husband Christo had come over the minute Sophy rang them. Now they watched as she threw things in a duffel and tried to think what else she needed to take. “Going all the way to New York? That’s clear across the country.”
“I know where it is. And yes, I’m sure,” Sophy said with far more resolution than she felt. It had nothing to do with how far she was going. It was who she was going to see when she got there. “He was there for me, wasn’t he?”
“Under duress,” Natalie reminded her.
“Snap,” Sophy said. There was going to be a fair amount of duress involved in this encounter, too. But she had to do it. She added her sneakers to the duffel. One thing she knew from her years in New York was that she’d have to do plenty of walking.
“I thought you were divorced,” Natalie said.
“So did I. Well, I never signed any papers. But – “ she shrugged “ – I guess I thought George would just take care of it.” God knew he’d taken care of everything else – including her and Lily. But that was George. It was the way he was.
“Look,” she said finally, zipping the duffel shut and raising her gaze to meet Natalie’s. “If there was any way not to do this, believe me, I wouldn’t. There’s not. According to the papers in George’s personnel file at Columbia, I’m his next of kin. He’s unconscious. They may have to do surgery. They don’t know the extent of his injuries. They’re in ‘wait and see’ mode. But if things go wrong – “ she stopped, unable to bring herself to voice possibilities the doctor had outlined for her.
“Sophy,” Natalie’s voice was one of gentle warning.
Sophy swallowed, straightened and squared her shoulders. “I have to do this,” she said firmly. “When I was alone — before Lily was born — he was there.” It was true and she made herself face that fact as much as she told it to her cousin. He had married her to give Lily a father, to give her child the Savas name. “I owe him. I’m paying my debt.”
Natalie looked at her doubtfully, but then nodded. “I guess so,” she said slowly. Then her eyes flashed impatiently. “But what kind of grown man gets run over by a truck?”
A physicist too busy thinking about atom smashing to watch where he was going, Sophy thought privately. But she didn’t say that. She just told the truth.
“I don’t know. I just know I appreciate your dropping everything and coming over to stay with Lily. I’ll call you in the morning. We can arrange a time and do a video call, too.” She patted her briefcase where she’d already packed her laptop. “That way Lily can see me and it won’t be so abrupt. I hate leaving her without saying good-bye.”
She had never left Lily in four years – not for more than a few hours. Now she knew that if she woke Lily she’d end up taking her along. And that was a can of worms she didn’t intend to open.
“She’ll be fine,” Natalie assured her. “Just go. Do what needs to be done. And take care of yourself,” she advised.
“Yes. Of course. It will be fine,” Sophy assured her, picking up the briefcase as Christo hefted the duffel and headed out to the car.
Sophy allowed herself a quick side trip into Lily’s room. She stood there a moment just looking at her sleeping daughter, her dark hair tousled, her lips slightly parted. She looked like George.
No. She looked like a Savas, Sophy corrected herself. Which Lily was. George had nothing to do with it. But even as she told herself that, her gaze was drawn to the photo on the bedside table. It was a picture of baby Lily in George’s arms.
Lily might not remember him, but she certainly knew who he was. She’d demanded to know about him ever since she discovered such people as fathers existed.
Where was her father? she’d asked. “My daddy,” she said. “Who is my daddy?” Why wasn’t he here? When was he coming back?
So many questions.
For which her mother had had such inadequate answers, Sophy thought miserably now.
But how could she explain to a child what had happened? It was hard enough to explain it to herself.
She’d done her best. She’d assured her daughter of George’s love. She knew that much was true. And she’d even promised that some day Lily would meet him.
“When?” her daughter had demanded.
“Later,” Sophy kept the promise deliberately vague. “When you’re older.”
Not now. And yet, at the same time Sophy thought the words again, another thought popped into her head: What if he died?
Impossible! George had always seemed tough, impervious, imminently indestructible.
But what did she really know about the man who had so briefly been her husband? She only thought she’d known . . .
And what man, even a strong tough one could fend off a truck?
“Sophy?” Natalie’s voice whispered from the door. “Christo’s waiting in the car.”
“Coming.” Quickly Sophy bent and gave her daughter a light kiss, brushed her hand over Lily’s silky hair, then sucked in a deep, desperate breath and hurried out of the room.
Natalie was waiting, watching worriedly. Sophy mustered a smile. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Of course you will.” Natalie gave her a quick smile in return, then wrapped Sophy in a fierce tight hug intended, Sophy knew, to supply a boatload of encouragement and support. “You don’t still love him, do you?” Natalie asked.
Sophy pulled back and shook her head. “No,” she vowed. She couldn’t. She wouldn’t! “Absolutely not.”