Chapter 1. Divorce
Author’s Note: This book will be available for purchase on Amazon by April 15th, 2021. This is the third book in the Bad Things series. If you haven’t read Ace Bad Things and The Queen Of Bad Things, do not read this book, it will not make any sense.
Ace and Benny disappeared a year ago, and there had been no sign of them. They went to China to deal with some trade, and the plane never resurfaced. The pilots reported that the plane was going down, but the plane’s tracker wasn’t working, and it couldn’t be located.
The house was quiet and dark. A lamp on my desk gave me just enough light to do my paperwork. The sun wouldn’t rise for a couple of more hours.
The study door swung open. Austin paused when he saw me at the desk, and he let out a loud yawn. “You look dead on your feet,” Austin muttered.
My eyes felt as if they weighed a ton each. It wasn’t without difficulty that I raised my head to meet Austin’s gaze. “I feel dead,” I whispered.
Austin grimaced but didn’t speak.
I looked back down at my papers slowly so that my head wouldn’t fall to the desk. “There is a lead I want to follow up on,” I said and yawned.
“Come on, Aria. I want to find them as bad as you do, okay? But we do have kids we have to see once in a while,” Austin said. Austin sat down on the couch in front of me.
“What do you expect me to do, Austin? Give up on finding them? If it was Kalia, would you just say to hell with it?” My voice came out harsher than I meant it to.
Austin straightened up, pointed a finger in my direction, and glowered at me. “Now that isn’t fair, Aria. Don’t you dare put that shit on me. I’m his brother, don’t forget that. I hate this as bad as you fucking do.”
Honestly, I knew Austin missed Ace. Austin helped me the most. Austin helped me search for Benny and Ace, and he kept me sane through the situation. We all missed Ace and Benny. It had been hell to get along without them. Benny was our genius. Benny took care of technical problems, and he could hack into anything — not to mention he could build lethal weapons. Ace was streetwise, strong, fast, and brave.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. It just feels like everyone wants me to give up on finding them,” I muttered darkly. My stomach turned at the thought of never seeing Ace and Benny again.
“They just want you to be here too, Aria. Even when you are here, you’re not here. Do you get me? Your kids need you. We all need you,” Austin said.
Austin wasn’t the type to get emotional, but over the past year, that is about all he had been.
My mouth opened to speak, but the door of the study swung open.
Kalia stormed into the study. Even though the room was dark, the anger in her features was evident. Kalia’s face reddened. “I can’t do this anymore!”
Is that smoke coming out of her ears? — I thought sarcastically to myself. It took all I had to keep my expression blank.
Kalia had turned into a complete bitch after Ace and Benny disappeared. Kalia only cared about herself. She became careless, angry, and insensitive. Maybe I simply didn’t know her true colors until I had to live with her.
Austin and I stared at her and waited for her to speak.
Kalia stopped in front of Austin and had her back turned to me. “Austin, we have to get our own place. I can’t stay in this fucking mansion!” Kalia shrieked.
“Kalia, what is the problem? Maybe I can help,” I offered. Bailey and Austin were the only two that were aware of my distaste for Kalia. At one point in time, I adored Kalia, but she had been unbearable to live with the past year. Most of her anger seemed to be directed at me, and I had no idea why — Austin refused to tell me the reason.
Kalia turned to glare at me.
“Funny, you should ask. You are the problem, Aria. You spend more time with my husband than I do. Austin can’t stay in bed with me for even two hours without coming down here to check on you!” Kalia shouted angrily. Kalia placed her hands on her hips and shifted her weight to one leg.
“Kalia, you need to settle down. Alright? I was just—” Austin started, but Kalia didn’t let him finish.
“No, Austin. I have warned you. I’m over this shit. We’re done. I want a divorce,” Kalia spat. Kalia twisted around to face me. “It’s pathetic that you already have Ace wrapped around your finger, and you couldn’t stop there, could you? Both of you deny having any feelings for each other, yet you spend hours if not days together.”
It hit me like a bucket of ice-cold water. I had been so off in my own little world that it took me a year to understand what was going on. How did I not see this before? It’s no wonder Austin didn’t want to tell me what Kalia’s problem was, and it’s completely insane, of course. I would never. . .
The accusation hit me hard. My pulse quickened, and my blood pressure skyrocketed. I jumped to my feet so fast I thought I might shoot through the roof. “Unbelievable! You know, maybe if you supported your husband instead of downgrading him, he wouldn’t spend so much time with me.” I was well aware of how that sounded, and of course, I didn’t mean for it to sound that way.
“Go to hell,” Kalia scoffed.
“I’m already there,” I spat. Losing Ace had been my own personal hell.
“Aria,” Austin groaned. Austin threw his hands over his face and rubbed it fiercely. “Kalia, stop. Aria and I aren’t sneaking around. Don’t you think if we were somebody would have noticed? This place is full of people all the time,” Austin said.
Austin stood up and grabbed one of Kalia’s hands. Austin swallowed hard, and his eyes pleaded with her.
Kalia ripped her hand from Austin and glowered at him.
“He’s right,” I muttered.
“You two are gone at hotels all over the world for months at a time. Nobody knows what the hell goes on,” Kalia retorted. “I’m taking the kids to my mom’s place.” Kalia rushed out of the room.
Austin and I stared at each other.
“Austin, go after her,” I huffed. I plopped back down into my chair.
Austin raked a hand through his hair. Austin sighed and ran out the door after Kalia.
Am I blind? How did I not see before that Kalia felt this way?
Austin wouldn’t cheat on Kalia, especially with me. I wouldn’t cheat on Ace, especially with Austin. The accusation was preposterous. Austin swore up and down what he felt for me when we were younger was something that died a long time ago. To my knowledge, Kalia didn’t even know that Austin ever felt that way for me.
My friends tried to get me to consider moving on and consider dating someone else. The truth was, I would rather spend the rest of my life alone than with anyone that isn’t Ace. Ace was the only guy I had been with. He was the love of my life. Nobody else could compare.
Angel sauntered into the study and yawned. “Mom?” Angel’s forehead creased with concern, and his nose scrunched up.
“Hey, baby. What are you doing up?” I asked.
Angel plopped down on the couch in front of my desk. “Austin and Kalia are upstairs yelling at each other. What’s going on?” Angel asked.
“I don’t really want to tell you. That is kind of between them.” My eyes locked with Angel’s eyes.
“What time is it?” Angel wondered.
“Almost five o’clock,” I told him. It was early. I had been up since two o’clock. I tried to go to bed at ten o’clock, but I tossed and turned for two hours like most nights. I slept for two hours, had nightmares, and woke up.
“Why are you up so early?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” I answered honestly. Angel knew that I didn’t sleep much.
“Are you going to leave again soon to go look for Dad?” Angel looked as if he didn’t want to know the answer. Angel tried to mask the pain, but it was there deep in his eyes.
It pained me that the situation took a toll on my children. “I’m sorry, Angel. I know I’m not home much. Hopefully, when I find your dad, it won’t be like that anymore,” I said.
Angel gave me a doubtful look. “Mom, did you ever consider that maybe you won’t find Dad and Benny?” Tears built in his eyes.
A sharp pain rushed through my chest. I pressed my hand to my chest and rubbed it fiercely in a pointless attempt to dull the ache.
“I have, but I won’t stop until I know what happened to them. There is no trace of that plane, Angel. Your dad might not even be dead,” I said.
“It’s okay, Mom. I know if you were missing, Dad wouldn’t quit looking for you either. I just wish we got to see you more,” Angel said and shrugged.
“Well, I’ll tell you what? This weekend we will go to Florida,” I said and smiled widely.
“What is in Florida?” Angel raised his eyebrows.
“Disney World!” I said excitedly.
Angel stared at me. “Really?”
“Yes. We will leave here tomorrow at eight o’clock. You are going to have to go to bed early tonight.” My expression grew stern.
Angel smiled and shrugged but nodded in agreement. “I’m going to go find some food,” Angel said. Angel stood up and walked out of the study.
Austin trudged into the room and plopped down on the couch.
“So?” I arched a brow.
“Kalia refuses to stay here. I told her I’d go with her. I told her we could find a house together. She won’t.” Austin buried his face in his hands. Austin’s hands fell from his face, and his eyes were distant.
“She’ll come around, Austin. I can go talk to her,” I offered. However, I had a feeling nothing I said would matter to her.
“Kalia has been accusing me of fucking around on her for a while. It’s not even just that. We don’t see eye to eye on anything. Not even the kids. She has been spending a lot of unnecessary money lately, too. I try hard not to get down on her about it, but Aria, she has blown through a million dollars this week. Last week she blew a few hundred thousand dollars.” Austin shook his head. “Kalia never wears the same damn outfit more than once, and she changes cellphones every time a better phone comes out.”
I stared at him in shock. “Where the hell was I when all of this shit was going on? I didn’t realize you guys were having all of these problems,” I said. My fingers combed through my hair.
“It’s been a long time coming, and I hate saying that. We’ve been at each other’s throats since before Ace, and Benny even went missing. It got worse when she found out that I had a thing for you. I told her it was years ago, but that didn’t seem to matter,” Austin said and sighed. “Most of the time, I enjoy leaving with you just to get the hell away from her, and that sounds horrible.” Austin buried his face in his hands.
It seemed unrealistic. I always thought Kalia and Austin were great together. I strolled over to the couch and sat beside Austin. I grabbed his hands in mine.
Austin looked up at me. His cheeks were wet from tears. It had been only the second time I ever saw him cry.
“Austin, you should have told me sooner. If I knew, I wouldn’t have relied on you so much. I’m so, so sorry.” Guilt flooded me.
“It’s not your fault. As I said, I knew it was coming. She is taking the boys. She’s leaving Arizona here with me because Arizona won’t go with her. I want to find Ace and Benny too. Not having closure is going to fuck me up even worse. So, what the hell is this lead?” Austin asked.
Arizona was a daddy’s girl. I wasn’t surprised that she didn’t want to go with her mom. “It’s in Florida, and I’m going this weekend to check it out a little. I’m going to take the kids to Disney World. You can come too and bring Arizona. It’s like you said, we aren’t spending enough time with our families,” I said. I shook my head. “We leave tomorrow at eight o’clock.”
“Cool. I’m coming with, and I’ll bring Ari,” Austin said. Austin stood up and walked to my desk.
“What are you doing?” I tilted my head.
Austin plopped down in my chair. “I’m going to do your paperwork while you go watch the back of your eyelids. You look like hell ripped you apart,” Austin said and chuckled.
I snorted. “I do not.”
“Go look in a mirror. Believe me, you do.” Austin smirked at me and looked down at the paperwork.
I wasn’t going to argue with him because he was probably right. It felt like hell ripped through me.
Austin helped me a lot with things that Ace used to help me with. That was part of why Kalia and Austin moved into the mansion. However, Kalia hadn’t done a damn thing to help since she got here. Of course, I wasn’t ever going to point it out because she was my sister-in-law, and I hated fighting with family.
Once in my room, I stripped down to my underwear and crawled under the covers. I laid on Ace’s side of the bed. I used to do it because it still smelt like him. That smell faded away a long time ago. Sometimes I sprayed his cologne on the pillow because it helped me sleep.
Thoughts and memories of Ace filled my head — like the last time I kissed him, talked to him, and the last time I saw him.
It hurt to think about him, but sometimes it helped in a way too. It was like I could still feel him and hear him. His deep husky voice still lingered in my mind. Some strong part of me believed he was still out there somewhere. I wouldn’t stop until I knew what happened to Ace and Benny.