Dirty Red

Page 50

“It was nonexistent. He only interacted with me at work. At home he considered me somewhat of a nuisance.”

It all went downhill from there.

“Your father had a reputation for never hiring a member of his family, is that correct?”

“Yes,” I said. “I was the first.”

I risked a glance at my mother. She wasn’t looking at me.

Olivia’s opening argument had included this information. She had stood in front of the jury with her hands behind her back and warned them that the Prosecution was going to paint me as cunning and manipulative, but really all I was, was a pawn in my father’s desperate plan to save his company from going bankrupt. “He used and manipulated his own daughter for financial gain,” she’d asserted.

Those words had unzipped my controlled exterior. I started crying immediately.

She cleared her throat, bringing me back to the present.

“Did your father ever ask you to sign documents without you looking at them?”


“What did he say to prevent you from looking at the documents?”

There was an objection from the Prosecution. Olivia rephrased her question.

“What was the typical procedure your father used in obtaining your signature?”

“He would tell me that he needed the signatures quickly, and then wait in the room until I had signed everything.”

“Did you ever mention to your father that you were uncomfortable signing the documents without reading them?”

Another objection. Leading the witness.

Olivia looked annoyed. The judge allowed it. She repeated her question, one eyebrow arched. I didn’t want to answer that question. It made me look irresponsible and foolish. Better a fool than an inmate, Olivia had snapped, when I’d voiced my concern the previous day. I swallowed my pride.


I wiggled around in my seat, darting my gaze to Caleb to see what his reaction was. He was staring at me stoically.

“So you just signed the documents? Documents that would potentially release a deadly drug onto the market and kill three people?”

I opened and closed my mouth. We hadn’t rehearsed this. I was on the verge of tears.

“Yes,” I said.

“I wanted to please him,” I said softly.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Smith, can you speak louder so the jury can hear you.”

Her eyes are glowing like her goddamn necklace.

“I wanted to please him,” I said louder.

She turned toward the jury so they could see the Wow, that’s f**king important look on her face.

By the time Olivia took her seat, my mother had a hand covering her mouth and she was crying.

She was probably never going to talk to me again. At least I had my sister. She had been a daddy’s girl, but she wasn’t blind to the strained relationship my father and I had. As I stepped down from the stand, I sought out my attorney’s eyes. They weren’t glowing any more. They just looked tired. I realized how hard it must have been to do what she just did — especially when she wanted me behind bars so she could score my husband.

Fierce, she was so fierce. It was probably the white trash background that made her such a good fighter. I gazed at her earnestly to see if she approved. She did. I had a second — no — a fraction of a second where I wanted to hug her. Then, it was gone and I wanted her to die and rot in the ground.

I wanted to gloat after I won the trial. I wanted her to know that he was mine and always would be. She needed to know. We were celebrating the win at a restaurant. Olivia arrived late. Honestly, I don’t even know why she came. Whatever debt she felt that she owed Caleb was paid. She’d won me my freedom and I would have gladly parted ways, content to never see her again. Yet, here she was, at my celebration, walking on my happy home with her short dress and spiked heels.

I made my way over to her, intent on expressing my displeasure with her being there. I glanced at Caleb who was preoccupied across the room. I didn’t want him to see me speaking to her. I wanted her to leave before he saw that she was there.

When she saw me coming, the smile dropped from her face. I had to give it to her — the bitch was exotic. One dark eyebrow rose as I strolled up, champagne in hand. Her mouth pulled into a pucker. She looked down her nose at me. I’d gotten used to it during the trial, but tonight it made me furious. Tonight was mine … and Caleb’s.

I hadn’t gotten four sentences in when she looked at me and said, “Go back to your husband, before he realizes that he’s still in love with me.”







It wasn’t true. She was hung up on him. Who could blame her? I looked at Caleb. He was everything I wanted to be. He protected me. He stood with me. He was the only man who said he’d never hurt me.

He laughed at something someone in his group said. My heart swelled at the sight of him. Olivia was jaded, and he was mine. I looked at my Caleb, so sure in that moment of our strength as a couple. It was as if he could sense my eyes on him. I felt the beating of butterfly wings in my stomach, just as his head came up. I smiled. We’d shared intimate looks like this in the courtroom. When I was afraid I looked at him, and he’d meet my eyes and I would feel better immediately. This time was different. I felt a groundswell of confusion. The room tilted. The beating wings stilled. He wasn’t looking at me.

As suddenly as he looked up, the smile was gone from his face. I could see his chest rising and falling beneath his suit like he was taking deep breaths. In those five seconds, I saw every piece of Caleb’s mind splayed across his face like someone had made a thousand little cuts and everything was coming out at once: anguish, love, belief. I turned to see where he looked. I knew I shouldn’t. But, how could I not? The answer was too bright for me. It made me want to shield my eyes and duck back into the cover of darkness. Olivia was the target of his eyes. I felt like he’d dropped me from the highest building. Shattered. Every part of me. He was a liar. He was a thief. I wanted to crumble to the ground right there, admit my defeat. Die and die again. Die and take Olivia with me. Die.

I opened my mouth to scream at her. To regale her with every insult and name I’d collected over my twenty-nine years. They sat on the tip of my tongue, ready to hurl toward her. I was going to throw my champagne in her face and rip at her eyes until they bled. Until Caleb thought she was so ugly and deformed, he would never look at her like that again.

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