There were two of them lounging in his bathtub, immersed in what appeared to be copious amounts of spaghetti. He was going to kill the concierge, or who ever let Bimbo and Bimbet into his suite. The thought that the hotel was going to have a hell of a time getting vats of pasta out of the oversized Jacuzzi assuaged some of his anger, but just some.
Leaning against the door jamb, Ramsey Macleod crossed his arms over his chest and threw both women his trademark grin. He knew it didn’t reach his eyes; it rarely did these days. Bimbo and Bimbet didn’t seem to notice; if they had they’d be halfway down the hall by now, given his reputation for trashing hotel rooms when he was unhappy. A reputation that he’d earned ten years ago and had yet to live down.
Ram hit the button on his pager summoning his head of security, so he didn’t need to be the hardass. Stark would take over that role soon enough. He’d learned long ago not to handle any issue himself that Ben Stark could handle for him. Stark was simply better at getting rid of trouble, not to mention more polite.
“I didn’t think you were into sharing, Becca. You never were before.” Ram raised an eyebrow at the raven-haired woman he’d dated far too long.
“I had to do something to get your attention. You haven’t been taking my calls.” Her affected sultriness grated, making Ram’s jaw tighten.
“You’ve got my attention now. What was it about ‘have a good life’ you didn’t understand? I thought I made myself pretty clear. I expected our last meeting to be our last meeting. Ever.”
Becca shook her full mane of ink-black hair and shot him a wounded expression he knew from experience was totally false. The woman just didn’t do wounded.
“You know you didn’t mean that. Besides, I’ve changed my mind. I think we should get married. I can be faithful, Ram.” She batted her thick eyelashes at him and her tone deepened again. “The two of us were good together. Stunning, even. All the tabloids said so.”
Ram would have laughed, but he was afraid Becca would take it as an invitation to take this farce to the next level, something he didn’t have the stomach or the patience for. Where the hell was Stark?
“This is your idea of being faithful?”
“Of course.” Becca smiled and leaned over to give her blond counterpart an open-mouthed kiss. “I didn’t touch her, at least not before you got here. We were waiting for you.”
Ram just turned and walked away.
Stark let himself in and met Ram’s gaze without a word. Ram nodded toward the bathroom and, before he knew it, Stark was ushering two starched and toweled women from his room. One befuddled. “Don’t you like girls, Ram?” And one irate. “I’ll get you for this, Ramsey.” Stark handled them both with respect and the quiet authority he was known for.
Five years ago Ram would have been flattered by Becca’s impromptu appearance. Hell, ten years ago he would have taken a nosedive into that tub and come up with a blonde in one hand and brunette in the other. He had done exactly that after his first US tour. Since he was only twenty at the time he didn’t beat himself up about it. That was then. Now he was older and, if not wiser, at least he was more discriminating.
Becca had obviously heard about some of his more seedy escapades and tried to recreate a moment he wasn’t exactly sorry he’d experienced, but didn’t want to experience again. She must have been desperate. She didn’t lean toward women in his experience. Plenty of men, but never women.
It was moments like these that had Ram rethinking the path he’d cleared for himself twelve years ago when he’d laid down his first hit. It was a good path then. Now he wanted a real life, with a family that consisted of more than anorexic supermodels and burned-out roadies.
Ram knew he was whining. He’d gotten everything he thought he’d wanted. Fortune and fame just weren’t all they were cracked up to be. He’d trade both for a wife who loved him for the man he was now, not because of his wealth and fame. The Beatles had sure gotten it right. Money couldn’t buy him love.
Ramsey pulled out his cell and speed-dialed his manager. “Frank, find out whoever is responsible for letting Becca into my suite. I want them gone. If you knew about this, pack your bags. Stark will cut you a severance check. Cancel the rest of the tour, Frank. I’m done.”
Ram listened to the sputtering on the other end of the phone with half an ear. He didn’t really care if cancelling the next show trashed the band; he was looking to go solo anyway. This little event just gave him an excuse to disappear for a while.
“You’re not hearing me, Frank. Tonight was the last show of this tour. I’m outta here.” Ram held the cell away from his ear as his manager screamed about contract clauses and “substantial compliance”.
When Frank was no longer roaring but pleading, Ram continued. “No, not for a few days. Can whoever knew about this shit, I mean it. If it ever happens again the whole crew is fired and I’ll sue your ass. I’ll call you in a couple of months.” Ram hung up before he threw away his entire career. He knew better than most that in his business you were only as good as your next show. Unfortunately for his crew, the way he was feeling the rest of the tour would tank and no one would make any money.
Frank would issue a press release saying that Ram came down with something and the remaining shows would have to be rescheduled. They were on the last leg of the tour anyway. Their last stop was Milwaukee, a venue Ram usually loved. They’d reschedule in the fall and he’d make sure to give the best show he knew how to give.
It was going to be his farewell show with Purple Orchid, although the band didn’t know it yet. Ram wanted a second chance at a real life. That was worth jeopardizing his next contract for.
Some days it sucked being a rock star.
“William. Are you listening to me?”
When William finally looked at her, Rhia wondered when exactly in the course of their seventeen-year marriage he’d learned the fine art of tuning her out completely.
“I heard you, Rhia. There are two weeks’ worth of frozen meals for the kids. Oh, and by the way, you want me to clear out the rest of my stuff before you get back from Wales.” William waved the spoon from his cereal bowl in the air. “Yadda, yadda, yadda.”
Rhia sat at her kitchen table next to her ex-husband. “We’ve been divorced six months. Don’t you think it’s time you stopped sleeping in the guest room?” Rhia asked.
Their children were already gone for the summer at their grandparents’ ranch and Rhia finally had the time and the opportunity to do the research she’d wanted to do since grad school.“
William, you know it’s time for both of us to move on. I’ve got the chance to do my research on Celtic goddesses, and you’ve got a chance to do something other than work sixty hours a week.” Rhia was being more open and honest with William than she’d been in years. Funny how finally admitting her marriage was over freed her to see the good in William again. He really was a decent man, for the most part. She just wanted more than a decent man who made time for his family only after work and his golf game.
If she ever contemplated a serious relationship again, which was doubtful, Rhia would pick a man who was capable of using the words “hot” and “Rhiannon” in the same sentence. Of course this mythical man would also want only her and not every twenty-two year old intern who worked for him. Rhia shook off the thought. The last thing she needed now was a man in her life…
Rhia pulled her t-shirt away from her neck. There’d be plenty of time for that when she left. It was time for her to make some positive changes in her life, she thought with a smile. It was time for her to explore her inner warrior woman, just like the Celtic goddesses she yearned to write about. Rhia intended to come back to Milwaukee at the end of the summer more independent and experienced, a woman capable of taking on life’s challenges on her own, without a man who considered her an after thought. She didn’t want William, or his presence, in her house when she returned. She had no intention of falling into old habits.
William shoved his face closer to his cereal bowl. “My condo’s almost done,” he muttered.“
You have to leave, William. This isn’t doing either one of us any good. I don’t mind if you stay here awhile, just make sure you’re out of here before school starts. I want a fresh start.”Rhia finished her coffee, wondering why they hadn’t shared breakfast together while they were actually married.
William looked into his cereal bowl as if he weren’t certain what he was supposed to do with its contents. He’d stopped eating when Rhia said she wanted him out of her house. She studied her ex with the eyes of a woman no longer tainted by hurt and expectation.
With his athlete’s body and silver-streaked dark hair, William was still a fine-looking man; better looking at forty than he had been at twenty-two when she married him. Being one of Milwaukee’s most successful litigators hadn’t hurt his appeal either. Rhia didn’t know how many women he’d fallen into bed with over the years, and she no longer cared. She had a second chance at life and she was going to take it, without looking back. Looking at William no longer filled Rhia with regret for what might have been; she was too busy looking forward to her independence.
“I’m comfortable here. I like it. I like you, too.” William sounded like a little boy who had just been told he couldn’t keep an old toy he hadn’t played with in years.
“If you wanted to keep the house, you should have bought me out.”
“It’s not the house.” William’s pleading brown eyes held hers. Rhia remained unmoved.
Rhia got up and put her coffee cup in the dishwasher. Her bags were packed. She’d kissed Ethan and Hunter goodbye before they went on their annual pilgrimage to their grandparents’ ranch just west of Yellowstone. They both had summer jobs lined up when they got back. They wouldn’t even know she was gone.
“You can’t have a family and be single at the same time, William. It doesn’t work that way. You made your choice a long time ago. I made the choice to move on. Let’s stick with that.” Rhia kissed the top of his head and grabbed the keys to her minivan.
“I’m willing to sell you the house if you still want it. If not, I expect to pick up the kids at your condo at the end of the summer.”
Rhia left feeling lighter than she had in months.
Sometimes being a history professor on sabbatical really rocked.