Home > Always (Single Dads #4)

Always (Single Dads #4)
Author: R.J. Scott

Chapter One




“He was lucky to get away with seven years,” Jim, my exhausted counsel, and only real friend took a seat opposite me in the small room off the main corridor of the courthouse. I hadn’t been able to afford a lawyer of my own, and when Jim had turned up at my door, telling me he was my court-appointed liaison, I was horrified. I needed better representation, but how would I pay for any of it?

Turned out he was the best thing to happen to me. He’d done everything to keep me from being dragged into the case by the DA who insisted I must know things I wasn’t revealing. Hell, I wish I had known something that would help put my husband behind bars because his actions had put Finn—my son—in danger.

How could I know anything when I’d coasted through the last few years in a daze of uncertainty, lies, and pain?

Finn hiccupped a sob into my neck. I held my son so tight that I hoped he felt safe. He didn’t need to hear anything else about what his other dad had done, or how hard Jim had to fight behind the scenes to exclude paper thin lies created by my husband’s team.

The defense had painted Graeme as a solid family man who’d simply found himself caught up in things he had no control over. They’d been lying. If there was one thing the court case had shown everyone it was that Graeme had had all the control all of the time. Over money, and people.

Over me.

Graeme had been born into a rich family, given more money than he knew what to do with and went on to hold a respected position with a group of investment managers who’d courted him as if he were a king. He was a smooth talker, able to con even the most normal of people. Even me.

Pathetic. Idiotic. Blind. Me.

Falling for Graeme had just been step one in a tragic story. I’d fucked up, and I should never have fallen under Graeme’s spell or allowed him to control me as he had.

I’m a strong, principled man who knows right from wrong. I’m a good dad.

Repeat as needed.

“There’s nothing lucky about what happened to us,” I whispered back, aware that Finn, huddled into my side, could hear everything I said, and some of it I never wanted him to know. Thankfully, Finn hadn’t been in court for the long closing statements, sitting instead in this small room with a kindly court officer who’d played computer games with him and fetched him lunch. I’d been on my own to listen to the defense as they lied to explain away what Graeme had done as trying to please his money-obsessed husband. It was apparently my fault. He loved me too much. He wanted to please me. Me? I’d never wanted a single dime of his money.

I wanted a family, a husband who didn’t fuck about on me, a dad for Finn who cared enough to be at home. I didn’t want money, or maids, or a chef who lived half the week in our house, or private schools and exotic holidays, although that was how I was painted. They argued that the pressure on Graeme was intense, and the defense team cited me wanting Italian marble tiles in a bathroom as the straw that broke the camel’s back. I never said anything about a bathroom, let alone tiles.

The lies were many, and through all of it I could see the way people stared at me, one of them, an angry white-haired man, never took his eyes off me. Simon Frederickson had everything going for him—a newly retired pension fund manager he was expecting a retirement full of good things. But, he’d bet everything on Graeme which was the start of his downfall. He’d been a key witness for the prosecution and had given gut-wrenching testimony about how he’d lost everything, his money, security, family, his entire life—and it had all been Graeme’s fault. Simon had become my touchstone in this whole thing. From watching him I could see the lies that would be believed, and the way the jury was slowly buying into the defense’s rhetoric.

It was somehow all my fault, and the way that the witnesses stared at me, Simon included, showed me what they thought.

I could see the point where every single one of them thought I was getting away with hiding money, living the life, and that I needed to pay as well. My only blessing was that there was not a single shred of evidence to say I was involved.

There wouldn’t be, because I wasn’t part of what Graeme had done, unless my naïveté counted. I just wish I could push the guilt away, because they were right in one way—I should have known. Finn shifted in my hold, but it wasn’t to move away, it was to bury himself even closer and I smoothed my hand on his back.

“What next?” I asked Jim, staring right into his eyes, able to see the very moment where optimism and relief died, replaced with defeat.

“The house is gone,” he said.

“We knew it would be.”

The house was where I’d thought we’d be happy, where I thought I could give Finn the life he deserved, where I’d fallen in love. But now, all I could recall was Graeme in the kitchen holding a knife, a lifeless body next to him, as he held a pity party for one where he blamed everything except himself for cold-blooded murder.

How does a man kill another person and not end up behind bars with a life sentence?

The prosecution had wanted him put away for anything they could find. They’d settled for a plea bargain, in exchange for passwords to a multi-million dollar bitcoin account, and now Graeme was locked away for seven years for the white-collar crime of embezzlement. Seemed to me as if other people’s money had helped him again, and I could feel the weight of everyone staring at me in court.

“There’s no money in any accounts, it’s all gone.”

I nodded. Every cent that was legitimately mine was in my backpack—all five thousand dollars that I’d stashed away over the last six months from helping out on small renovations in my spare time. It wasn’t enough to start over, let alone even rent a place, but it would get us a bus ticket away from here.

He held out his hand, and I managed to shake his without dislodging Finn. “It’s been a pleasure working on your behalf.” He crouched in front of us, his round glasses reflecting my image. “Finn?”

Finn stirred in my arms and finally peeked out of my coat, his dark hair mussed and his eyes red from crying. “Yes, sir?” he asked, his voice cracking.

“You’re the bravest boy I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. You look after your daddy if you can, but also, let your daddy look after you. Pinkie swear?” He held out a pinkie, and Finn didn’t hesitate to offer his as they shook, and then Finn buried himself again. With a smile that softened his normally stern face, Jim patted Finn’s knee before nodding to me. “You know how to reach me if you need any advice.”

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