Author Note: I updated this chapter because it wasn’t actually the finalized version when I published. Please refresh this post in your reader and/or browser you ensure the latest updated version.
When Bella returned to her hotel suite, she found Mortimer in his room, packing his suitcase. He lifted his head when he saw her, and immediately walked to her side. Bella pulled back in shock.
“Let me stop you… before you say, I love you, and wish me a good night, Mortimer,” she said coolly.
“Okay,” he seemed to ponder her statement for a moment, dropping her hand. “I suppose I deserve that.”
He returned to his suitcase and began neatly folding his boxers and socks to lay across the top.
“I’ve concluded my business in La Ville Lumière,” he continued, his eyes focused on his task. “I procured the name of a marriage therapist from a colleague of mine. The man comes highly recommended and he specializes in couples with our kind of case.”
“Might this colleague be your mistress?” Bella sneered.
“No,” Mortimer said quietly, almost hesitantly as he met her gaze, his eyes saddened.
Bella couldn’t tell if he was serious.
“What kind of cases?” she examined her nails, trying to remain aloof.
“The kind where husbands and wives remain married but keep additional individuals on the side,” Mortimer replied. “On occasion…” he added hurriedly. “…when things grow dull in the marriage, but wish to recover from an affair.”
Bella’s jaw dropped as she nearly lost her balance, and wildly grabbed for the dresser to steady herself.
“I cannot tolerate that woman forever, Mortimer Goth,” she spat.
“I did not say you should, my sweet,” Mortimer said, rushing to her side, grabbing the side of her face, and kissing her forehead, shocking her even more so. “You are my wife, and I do love you, whether you choose to believe that or not. I am ready to commit once again and be faithful to only you, my darling.”
Bella felt physical pain in her chest, and swallowed hard to keep from bursting into tears. “It doesn’t work like that, Mortimer. You can’t go off on a vacation… our second honeymoon…” she slammed her fist into the dresser. “…for that matter, and live wild and free only to come home with no consequences.”
“Isn’t that what a vacation is supposed to be? Time to vacate your life… what you would normally do?” he quirked a brow as he returned to folding. “I won’t see Dina again. I fired her.”
“No!” she exclaimed. “And she’s okay with that? I’m not concerned… with her employment. I’m concerned about her attachment to you…” she couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“You are no saint, Bella. Stop acting all high and mighty,” Mortimer grunted, slamming the lid of his suitcase. “You have certain attachments too. I know you have those secret dinners every night with that blue-haired friend of yours.”
“They are not secret,” she retorted. “And we are not having an affair.”
Mortimer walked over to Bella, stopping inches from her face, his expression simultaneously serious and amused. He tipped her chin.
“Oh but you want to.”
Bella pulled out of his grasp in disgust. Mortimer turned his back, walking away in a nearly triumphant saunter to their shared living room.
“I’m no fool, Bella.”
She caught her breath.
“I am flying out tonight on the red eye. Your tickets…” he nodded over to the coffee table. “…are there… for tomorrow. I arranged for Jennifer and John to bring the children to Pleasantview at your parents. I will be heading to Sunset Valley. You can join me in six weeks if you like in time for Passover.”
Bella’s mouth dropped open in surprise. She had expected to leave tomorrow with Mortimer, retrieve the children in Simbernia, and then return to their home together.
“Yes, you heard me,” he continued, plucking his coat from the hook. “I want you to think long and hard about what you want, Maribella Goth. Stay with your parents. Stay in a hotel. Stay here. I don’t care. I just want to think about what you want.”
If you choose to join me in the six weeks time, I will assume you want to be with me and…” he began buttoning his coat. “…only me. I will go to counseling. We will do whatever it takes to make this marriage work. I am committed…” he dropped his hands and walked to her side once more, caressing her cheek. “I love you, Bella.”
Her eyes filled with tears. “Then you wouldn’t send me away!”
“I’m not sending you away, my rose,” he shook his head. “I am merely giving you the time and space you need to decide what you want. What you really want. I do not blame you if you pick him. If you don’t come home to Sunset Valley, as that will be our new home…” he emphasized his last words. “…then I will assume you have chosen another. I won’t stand in your way. I will give you a divorce.”
What was he saying? she clutched the sides of her head.
“You can even take Cassandra,” he added, and his eyes narrowed as if to emphasize his point. “But you will concede Alexander to me. He is our heir. I will not have you raise him… without me.”
“Bbb…but…” she blubbered.
“There are no but’s, Bella,” Mortimer said firmly. “I spoke with my lawyer, and he believes I have a solid case. I would not fight me, Bella. I’m offering you the world. You can go anywhere. Do anything. Keep the money. All of it. Take a lover. Don’t take a lover. It makes no difference to me. I have all the paperwork written up over there. You can examine it. Have your lawyer look at it. I’ll give you everything, either way. If only you leave me Alexander,” he sighed “…no additional strings… I promise. Bella, I just want you to be happy.”
“Oh and this is supposed to make me happy?” she wailed.
“No, this is supposed to make you understand how much I really love you,” Mortimer replied, laying a kiss on the bewildered Bella.
She felt the passion roaring in her ears. She could feel her body craving his touch. She could sense herself wanting him to stay. Wanting him to forget everything. But could she forget… and more importantly, forgive everything?
“Because I’ll even let you go…that’s how much I love you,” his voice vibrated with emotion as he gripped her arms. “I know I don’t deserve you. You don’t deserve this at all. And Bella, I am so so sorry for breaking your trust.”
The tears fell faster. Bella wished things were somehow different between them, that this whole fiasco had never happened. But he was abandoning her. He betrayed her… then abandoned her.
“I know you love him too, don’t you?”
She hiccuped, feeling so torn as she brought her fingers to her lips.
“But oh…” he leaned his cheek against her own. “…how I wish you’d chose me.”
With those final words, Mortimer picked up his suitcase, grabbed his briefcase, and walked out of the suite, and possibly even out of her life…
…if she could ever make such an impossible choice.