If you had asked Rory how she was feeling during those first weeks after Paul’s death and Julie’s burial, she would have said “fine.” And she was. She got up, went to work, and came home. The next day, she did the same thing. She ate breakfast and dinner – and lunch, if she remembered.
Within days of Paul’s funeral, she’d hired professionals to come in and paint the entire first floor as well as the spare room, which she’d now permanently made her own. Then she ordered new living room furniture and donated the old set to charity. The wedding portrait over the fireplace in the living room was taken down and stored in the attic. She moved into Paul’s office, luxuriating in finally have enough shelf space for her books.
She called Dirk and asked for a painting to match her new decor. “Italian villas with red roofs, rolling hillsides, a taste of the old days. Big enough to hang over the fireplace. Surprise me,” she said. “I’m redecorating.”
“For you, my little lioness, anything,” Dirk replied. “It’s good to know that you’re not wallowing in grief.”
She gave a contemptuous little sniff, causing Dirk to chuckle. “I’ll have it in a week, darling.”
“Thank you, Dirk.”
When Aunt Sophia heard about the re-decorating, she sent a “re-housewarming gift” – a small statue of a gargoyle holding a book – and a short note about how happy she was that Rory was not going to let the past control her any more than “it had while it was the present.” Rory put the gargoyle on the top of her bookshelf where it could watch over her while she wrote.
Isadora came to visit once and tsk’d about the changes, accusing Rory of forgetting Paul. “What will everyone think, Aurora? Paul was so good to you, and for you to change everything so soon. What will people think? It’s not even a month.”
“They’ll think I’m moving on with my life,” Rory said. The thought of telling anyone the truth, particularly her mother, made her throat close up.
The townhouse he’d kept his mistress in would be sold to the woman, but first Rory made her negotiate everything from the sale price itself to the furniture inside. Her mother knew nothing of the transaction. Alex handled everything. Quietly. Privately. Quickly.
The report from the investigation showed that Paul’s accident was due to a problem with the brakes. A bolt had broken off or had been loose or was missing, something like that. Admittedly, Rory had trouble taking an interest in a bolt and, despite Alex’s urgings, refused to sue, particularly since she learned that the mechanic who had worked on Paul’s brakes had taken his own life just days after his connection to the accident was discovered.
All she knew was that if Paul had been able to stop completely, he wouldn’t have swerved and flipped the SUV. He’d still be alive today. The thought made her shudder.
Throughout it all, she kept busy rushing from interview to interview, spending every waking moment writing, quietly researching Charles’ political records, and keeping the door to the master bedroom solidly closed. Paul was dead and she wasn’t and that was that. There was no need to think beyond that. Her marriage to him had been a mistake, a youthful, foolish impulse and a bastard’s manipulation. Nothing more.
Alex came over a few times, and she let him in out of necessity since he was managing the sale of the townhouse. “It’s the least I can do for you, Rory. Though I wish you’d let me help with the rest of the paperwork,” he said the day she closed on the sale.
“Thanks, Alex, but I have it pretty much under control. Paul was meticulous when it came to all of that.” She said, wishing he’d just leave. There was no need for him to visit each time he had an update on the negotiations. As it was, every time he stopped in, she spent the next hour or two having to sit and play hostess while he talked about what he’d hoped she do next. “I’m afraid I need to boot you out now. I’m attending a charity auction at The Renaissance II Hotel tonight to raise money for Halfway Home, and I have to get ready.”
“An organization dedicated to raising money to help local battered women’s shelters. They want to give the women – and their children – a sense of normalcy while they get their lives back on track.”
“I do hope that tonight’s a success. Women need places like that when they don’t want their loved ones to know the truth. Do you have a date?”
Was he serious? Rory refrained from shoving him out the door, which certainly had its appeal. “Thanks again for handling this sale. I’m not sure I would have been up to dealing with that woman.” When he didn’t remark on her lack of an answer, she breathed a sigh of relief. If he knew she was going alone, he’d be there in a heartbeat.
“Anything for a friend, Rory,” he said, quickly kissing her cheek just before he walked out the door.
The moment his back was to her, she wiped her sleeve across her cheek, trying to remove the lingering sensation of his lips.