Till death do us part…
Eleanor Anderson has a beautiful home, a loving husband, a tranquil life. After thirty-eight years of marriage and her children now grown, she finally has time for herself. She’s not expecting any surprises; certainly not to wake up one morning and find her husband dead in bed beside her from a massive heart attack. It’s a devastating discovery… but not as much as the shock awaiting Eleanor when she learns the truth about her husband’s secret life. And then there’s the damaging document he signed before his death, which threatens to destroy her life.
Claire Anderson isn’t your average thirtysomething. A professor of psychology at a prestigious university, Claire has a successful career, a handsome husband, and two young children at home. But nothing in her background, including her academic accomplishments, prepares Claire for the horrendous reality of discovering that the life she’d led was all a lie… fostered by a husband who’d promised to love and cherish her forever.
Two women from two generations, bound together by denial, anger, and grief. How far will their misery and fear push them? Does compassion rule the day, or will a husband’s betrayal lead to a woman’s revenge?
What happens when each of these women comes face-to-face with the other wife?
Eleanor closed her eyes, blocking out the ugly sight of sibling rivalry. She couldn’t believe she was sitting there listening to her children squabble over their father’s money. Their money. Her money.
“He didn’t leave it to any of you,” Jim admitted. “I haven’t contacted the primary beneficiary yet.”
“Wait a minute. Let me get this straight.” Jeffrey tiredly rubbed his forehead. “You’re telling us that Dad left his money to someone else? Not to Mom, not to either of us, but to someone else? And that he has no idea he’s inherited millions?”
“She has no idea.”
She? Eleanor shivered, uncertain whether she’d heard Jim correctly. She shook her head as if by doing so she could dislodge the words rattling around in her brain like loose pennies that somehow had ended up in the bottom of her purse. She? She was certain there must be some mistake. Richard never would have left his money to another woman.
“Let’s stop the bullshit,” Jeffrey said. “We’re his family, Jim, and we have a right to know. You said you could release the name to Dad’s personal rep? Well, you’re looking at him. And I’m telling you right now, in my legal capacity as his personal representative: I want to know. I demand to know.”
Genevieve’s eyes narrowed. “Me too.”
“Eleanor?” Jim’s voice was a soothing stream of quiet concern. “Are you all right?”
What a stupid question, she thought to herself as she pulled her sweater tighter around herself. Of course she wasn’t all right. She’d had the oddest feeling when she’d woken that morning that today wouldn’t be a good day. Jim’s revelation was all the confirmation she needed to officially pound the last nail in the casket. Richard’s casket, so to speak. And now, if it wasn’t too much to ask, all she wanted was to be allowed to crawl back into bed, burrow down in the blankets, pull the covers over her head, and go to sleep. And maybe, when she woke up, she would discover all this had simply been a horrible nightmare. Richard would come strolling in the door, as he had countless times in the past, returning from yet another extended trip to the Middle East, his rolling suitcase filled with dirty socks and underwear, and a world-weary look about him. And after planting a kiss on her forehead, he would head upstairs where he would collapse in their bed, once sleeping for nearly sixteen hours straight, before he finally woke. Yes, that would be the way of it. She’d go upstairs and sleep off this nightmare. And when she was awake again, this ghastly business would have drifted away, leaving only mists of misery as a remembrance.
“Mom? Are you okay?”
Eleanor couldn’t remember hearing Jeffrey’s voice sound so distraught save for the day he’d returned from Hawaii, the day after Richard’s death. He’d broken down when he saw her, collapsing in her arms and crying unabashedly like he’d done as a little boy. She’d done the comforting when he was small, and she’d been the one to provide the comfort last week too, never questioning whether he’d been grieving over the loss of a father to whom he’d never been close or the lost opportunity to put things right between them. It hadn’t mattered then, and it didn’t matter now. Somehow she managed to summon the willpower to open her eyes and discovered the three of them staring at her.
“I’m fine.” Eleanor pulled in a deep breath. Much as she didn’t want to hear Jim’s news, she knew in her heart that she didn’t have a choice. “Jeffrey’s right. We need to hear the truth.”
Jim’s face was a cacophony of ethical concern versus friendship, and for a moment, she wondered if he would respect Jeffrey’s command and abide by her wishes. But thirty-plus years of friendship with their family finally won out.
“He left the money to a woman named Claire Anderson,” Jim finally admitted.
Claire Anderson? Eleanor frowned. The first name meant nothing to her, but the last name certainly did. It was the same name listed on her own driver’s license. She’d been Eleanor Anderson since she and Richard had exchanged wedding vows at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago thirty-eight years ago last month.
Claire Anderson. She couldn’t recall ever hearing Richard mention that particular name. He’d been an only child, so she couldn’t be a niece. A long-lost relative? A distant cousin? But if that was the case, surely he would have told her. Wouldn’t he? After all, she was his wife.
Correction, Eleanor reminded herself dully. She had been his wife. She was the one he should have turned to. All those years they were married. You’d think he would have told her something as important as this. She hung her head, hugging herself close, trying to remember the last time Richard had held her close.
On second thought, maybe he wouldn’t have told her.
On third thought, obviously he hadn’t told her.
“Claire Anderson?” Jeffrey’s voice cracked through the black void, trapping her like a clap of thunder. “Who the hell is Claire Anderson?”
“Yes. Who is Claire Anderson?” Eleanor echoed to no one in particular. Though, if Richard happened to be listening from beyond the grave, she would appreciate him providing some answers. She rubbed her forehead, sifting through the memories of those who’d crowded the funeral home, who’d followed them to the cemetery, who’d paid their respects at the house afterward. So many people, so many faces. The crush was overwhelming, yet she couldn’t remember seeing anyone she hadn’t known.
No woman she didn’t know.
“I’ve never met her.” Jim shifted in his chair, his face impassive. “I’ll be able to tell you more once I speak with her. She lives in Hyde Park. From what I understand, she’s a professor at the University of Chicago.”
“Why would Daddy leave his money to some dull old professor?” Genevieve’s bottom lip jutted out in a pretty pout, a trick Eleanor recalled her daughter perfecting as a toddler. “Who is she? What’s her connection to Daddy?”
“I don’t know,” Jim admitted.
She rolled her eyes and turned to her mother. “Do you know her?”
Eleanor shook her head. She couldn’t imagine what Richard had been thinking. Why would he change his insurance policy? They were his family. She was his wife. “No.”
“This is ridiculous,” Genevieve fumed. “I can’t believe no one knows her.”
“Obviously, Dad did,” Jeffrey muttered.
Genevieve slumped back in her chair, her arms forming a barricade across her chest. “Someone had better figure out who she is. I have plenty of questions for her.”
Eleanor stared wordlessly at her daughter. For once, the two of them were in complete agreement. Meanwhile, she had a few questions of her own.
Beginning with who exactly was Claire Anderson, and what kind of hold did she have on Richard?
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About The Author
Kathleen Irene Paterka is an Amazon Bestselling Author of smart women’s fiction. Her newest novel, The Other Wife, was published in February to critical acclaim. Kathleen’s popular James Bay series, set in Northern Michigan, includes: Fatty Patty, Home Fires, Lotto Lucy, and For I Have Sinned. Love weddings? Pick up a copy of her novel Royal Secrets for a fascinating glimpse into the world of royalty, romance and brides. Kathleen is the resident staff writer for a world renowned castle listed on the National Historic Register, and co-author of the non-fiction book For the Love of a Castle. Kathleen and her husband live in the beautiful north country of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, where she is busy working on her next James Bay novel.
Contact Kathleen: Kathleen@kathleenirenepaterka.com
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