This scene falls between Chapter 12 and Thirteen in The Legend. This conversation between Tina and Kals' Mom Morgan was one of my favorites to write, but in edits was removed for the sake of the story's pace. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the mind of Tina Wilde.
I’m annoyed as hell that I’ve had to sacrifice the impeccable reputation of my annual event to clean up Remi’s mess.
"I’ll be quick.” I stride to my place behind my desk. I don’t sit down, but I nod to the chair on the other side. “Please be seated.”
I stare at the woman in front of me, dismayed that I'm forced to negotiate with this trollop. Even if she started early, given her daughter’s age, she’s got to be in her mid-thirties. But she could pass for Kal’s older sister. Her blonde streaked curls cascade over her shoulders and her face is flawlessly made up, but not overdone.
She's done a good job.
If you didn’t look closely, she could be one of us.
But she's not. And my goal is to make sure that she understands that she'll never be.
I noticed that while her dress is tasteful, unlike her daughter's, it's cheap and off the rack.
She really thought she a dress could make up for how unsuitable she is for Remi.
I wanted to laugh when I saw her and her dusty Cinderella waltz into my home thinking they could make my son their very own Golden Goose Prince Charming.
I used to have similarly romantic ideas and hopes. But life beat them out of me and made me understand that sentiments like those are, at best, delusional. And for a women who is blind to their futility - deeply dangerous.
I gave the best years of my life to a man who proved to be profoundly unworthy of it. And because of a woman just like her, I've spent countless sleepless nights fretting about how I was going to raise them by myself.
His parting words haunted me and fueled my ambition. He said, “She understands what's important.”
As if I, his partner and confidante, and wife of nearly a decade, hadn’t sacrificed everything in service of the dreams we'd spun together.
I knew that, in his eyes, the girl he'd married had been distorted and contorted by the ravages of having three children in two years all while helping him negotiate the biggest land deal in Houston’s history. But I thought he’d stay because he loved his children and the life we built together.
Turned out, he loved that woman more.
She, like all the women men leave their wives for, was younger, prettier, all pomp and no substance. They don't think twice before they sleep with other women’s husbands.
And then want us to treat them like friends because they happen to be our neighbors.
Over my dead body.
Morgan's benefactor, Lister, has been far too generous.
His family is Jamaican, too. But unlike me, he didn’t come here with two nickels in his pocket and only his ambition to recommend him. His parents were rich and had been for generations.
I can't fathom or afford that kind of reckless generosity. The aftertaste of growing up on the brink of disaster is a constant reminder that I’m one mistake away from losing it all.
Morgan clear her throat and fidgets in her seat. "Hey Tina, is everything okay?”
“Of course.” I say with a deliberately vague smile on my face.
She sighs in relief. Fool. “I was surprised when your office called to say our invitation was being delivered. Nice touch with those guys dressed like butlers delivering them on a silver plate, by the way.”
My hackles rise at the familiar tone of her voice. “Morgan, I don’t have much time—”
She leans forward and smiles. “With our kids becoming so close, I think it would be nice if we could be friends, too.”
I shudder at the thought. It’s time to end this charade. I press my palms into the table and look down my nose at her. “Morgan, darling,” I drawl. “We will never be friends. And I didn’t invite you here to celebrate your daughter’s shameless attempt to trap my son.”
She blinks once. Then, three times in rapid succession. Her face flushes deeply enough to be seen under all that make up. “What did you say?” She whispers, her eyes darting around the room as if to see who’s listening.
“You heard me. I don’t blame her. He’s quite the catch. But not on my watch.”
She shoots out of her chair and slaps her palms on the table, too. I’m startled by the fire that leaps to life in her eyes. I didn’t expect her to argue. “Are you blind? He’s been chasing her all over town. He’s the one who has courted her. She doesn’t have to chase anyone.”
I shrug and lean back in my chair. “Oh, I understand his infatuation with her. But what I want for him and what I expect him to choose is a woman who is bred to raise leaders. Not someone who would tempt him to throw caution in the wind and risk his future for a whim.”
She leans across the table, her light brown eyes narrowed in anger. “I know you dry, bitter, lonely women can’t stand the idea that I used my body to get myself out of a terrible life. I wasn’t born smart, or calculating or rich. I made stupid mistakes, and I've paid for it. You can say whatever you want about me, Tina. I’ve earned it. But you will not talk about Kal like that. She’s not going to be forced to live in her mother’s shadow because you think, somehow, she’s not good enough for your son.”
“I don’t somehow think so,” I mock her words. “I know, very specifically, that she is not good enough for my son.”
“Your son clearly sees her value. He’s eaten dinner at our table every single night this summer. And I’m sorry you don’t like it, but they are head over heels in love.”
I blanch. “God forbid,” I snap a finger in the air to call that curse back the way my grandmother used to.
“I don’t want to fight with you,” she continues. “We should try to get along, for their sake. Remi is wonderful—”
“Don’t you dare let my son’s name cross your lips,” I hiss at her. My blood feels like it’s been placed atop a stove and it’s boiling.
“Remi,” she repeats through clenched teeth.
I've had enough. I put the file full of documents that I prepared for her onto the table. “This is for you”
“What is this?”
“A collection of all of the truths you’ve hidden to make yourself seem respectable.”
She doesn’t touch it. Her eyes snap shut and her shoulder slump. I feel a flicker of sympathy for her - I know what it is to be a prisoner to your past. But this is my son’s future and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect it. "Welll?" I prompt.
“What do you want?” Her voice is solemn.
“You and your daughter, gone. For good.”
She rears back. “Are you serious?”
“Yes. Very.” I say simply.
“Why? She and Remi are—”
Irritation hardens my voice “I have told you to keep my son’s name from passing your lips.”
“You can tell me whatever you want. I’m not your child. I don’t have to obey you.” Her eyes glitter with dislike.
“No you don’t. But if you defy me and stay, I will make sure you and that girl don't know a moment's peace. ”
She crosses her arms over her chest, raises her chin in the air. “I’ve dealt with worse things than being shunned by the ladies who lunch.”
I chuckle. “Being shunned should be the least of your worries. You’re out on parole. I’m friends with the head of the board that gave you your freedom. I’ll pay him a visit, express my concerns. Recommend that your early release be reconsidered.”
Her hand flies up to cover her heart. “No.” She gasps
“I won't if you leave Rivers Wilde.”
She slams both palms on the desk. “You can’t do this. This is illegal.”
I stand. “Fine. Have it your way. Just know that either way, I’ll end up with what I want. You – gone. My son - back on track.”
She narrows her eyes. “How is he not on track? He’s going to college. Soon, he’ll be half way across the country.”
I scoff. “Your daughter has put some fool’s notion in his head about his career. I can’t have that. He’s got a rare talent I won’t allow him to squander. Not over some cheap piece of ass he found on summer break. Next thing I know, that hussy will be pregnant, he’ll be on the hook for child support for eighteen years. And worst of all, he’ll have to share a connection with his summer mistake for the rest of his life.”
She pales and leans away. ““You must have a heart of pure ash. That girl is better than you will ever be.”
My laugh is tinged with awe. “You actually seem to believe that. She’s trash just like you”
I close my eyes just in time to avoid the splash of cold water she throws in face. “He is going to marry that trash. So get used to it,” she hisses.
I sigh and take my handkerchief from my purse and dab my face dry. “You’d do well to rid yourself of these romantic notions you have about life. My heart beats hot and hard in my chest just like yours does. I don’t deal in similes and metaphors, Sabrina. I deal in facts. That girl is the fruit of a poisonous tree. Somehow, you’ve convinced Lister to sell you this business. I have to admit, it's smart to milk him for something. His profligate disgrace of a son did make her after all.”
“Lister wanted to give her the business. She’ll make something wonderful out of it. Right under your nose.”
“No she won’t. In fact, you and your daughter are leaving town.”
“The hell I am.”
“Sabrina, if you stay, I will make sure that girl knows nothing but obstacles and difficulty. I don’t want to, but I will. Maybe you need time to think about it? I’ll leave this with you. Look at what’s inside and tell me if you really want her to know who you are.”
She eyes me skeptically for a second and then opens the folder. Her expression goes from angry to terrified.
“How did you get this?” she asks when she’s done.
“My last name is Wilde. In this city I can get whatever I want.”
“Tina— why?” she asks and I want to slap the stupid affront on her face.
“Because I don’t want her ruining my son’s future.”
She shakes her head, her eyes outraged and wet with unshed tears. “She’s a good girl.”
I curl my lip. “She’s your blood. It’s not possible.”
“You bitch,” she spits.
I nod in agreement. “When I need to be.” I open the drawer and pull out the document my lawyer prepared. I slide it across the table to her. “I’ll buy the bookstore from you so you don’t leave empty handed. When you get where you’re going, pick a private school for her - I’ll foot the bill. Send her to college - I’ll pay. Find a house, I’ll buy it. In return you'll leave in forty eight hours. You will take that girl with you and will make sure she and my son don’t have any contact. This offer expires when I walk out that door. ”
Silence settles but I can hear the calculator in her head adding it up and I know I’ve won.
I hand her my silver fountain pen and she takes it. “Smart choice.”
She eyes me coolly. “Why do you hate us so much?”
“My husband met a woman like you. And I’ve had to pay for that every single day of my life since.”
The flash of surprise in her eyes softens to something like sympathy. My gut knots at the realization that I've given her a glimpse of the pain I hide from the rest of the world.
I get to my feet without looking at her again. "I have copies of everything in the folder. If you don't do what I ask, I'll make sure everyone I know gets a copy, too."
"You are such a bitch." She hisses at my retreating back.
"I know." I've been playing the villain for so long, I've become comfortable with the way the world sees me.
It's a lonely life, but it's better than being a fool at someone's mercy.
"Turn the light off when you leave."
I leave her to stew in the consequences of her actions and go in search of Kal.