pridemore

2

“And you’re sure she’ll come back?”

“Trust me, my love. Our plan cannot fail,” Christopher grins as he affectionately weaves his fingers through the woman’s silky red hair. “If I know Madeleine, and believe me I do, she’ll be home in time for the gala tonight.”

“I certainly hope so,” the green-eyed beauty scowls at him moodily in reply. “Still, I think you should be more careful in the future. If she tries to leave you before the baby arrives…”

“She won’t,” Kit murmurs between warm, wet kisses. “Besides, she’s close enough to her due date now that, worst case scenario, the kid would survive an emergency delivery.”

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5

“Who the hell is that?!” Kit spits the question at Madeleine in a furious whisper.

“I-I’ve t-t-told you about Lillian. From my yoga c-class?” she stammers.

“Yes, but you failed to mention that she’s a tattoo-covered tree-hugging lesbian who lives with her girlfriend and their bastard child in a rent controlled basement apartment downtown. Honestly, Madeleine! I knew you were dumb, but I can’t believe you’d bring someone like that into our house!”

“I’m sorry, Kit, but I-I honestly don’t see the p-problem here?” Maddie retorts in a small, trembling voice. “They’ve looked for a better place to raise their family, but they just can’t afford anything else right n-now. And with Lilly staying home with the baby a-a-and Shannon trying to go back to school part time, it’s understandable. They’re good people, Christopher. Lillian in p-particular. You m-might r-really like her i-i-if you just-”

“Absolutely unacceptable!” he explodes with anger. “I forbid you to associate with that woman! You know I have a reputation to maintain, and she is simply not the type of person my wife should be seen out and about with. Tell your little pal out there that you’re sick or busy or whatever, and then send her home. I will even cover her bus fare if she needs it,” he snickers coldly.

“No,” Madeleine whispers, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“Pardon me?”

“I said NO!” she screams before flinging open the door and running from the room. “Fuck you!”

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5

As Madeleine ambles towards the kitchen, her mind still hazy with sleep and swirling with memories of her nightmare, she fails to hear the low hum of conversation resonating from the bottom of the stairs.

“Well, well. Sleeping beauty finally decides to grace us with her presence,” Kit remarks, a thin smile creasing the corners of his mouth.

Startled, Maddie blinks in confusion for a moment, but her eyes immediately light up at the sight of her friend Lillian bounding over to greet her. “Hi, Lily!” she beams. “What are you-”

“Don’t tell me you forgot!” Lillian exclaims as she wraps Madeleine in a tight hug. “We were going to get our hair and nails done today, remember?”

“Oh of course!” Maddie laughs, savoring the warm, familiar comfort of her friend’s embrace. “Just let me go change and grab some breakfast, and we can-”

“Madeleine,” Christopher’s silky voice rumbles from across the room. “May I have a word?”

“Not now, babe!” she rolls her eyes impatiently. “Lillian and I-”

“No, right now, dear,” he snaps, and without waiting for Maddie to respond Kit grabs her hand and drags her down the hall, slamming the door closed behind them.

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2

“We just need to make an appearance,” Kit reassures his heavily pregnant, emotionally drained, and physically exhausted wife with a thin smile.

Madeleine rolls her eyes at him but wisely decides to bite her tongue. She and Christopher argued about it all afternoon, and Kit threw a mini tantrum when she dared to suggest that he attend this hoity-toity political fundraising event alone. You are my wife, he’d scolded her in a voice brimming with disdain. It is your one job in life, your sole purpose, and you will do as I tell you.

She hadn’t had the courage or the strength to say it at the time, but Maddie knows from the bottom of her heart that he is wrong. It will be an uphill battle to prove it to him, to her father and sisters, to the world at large, but for the first time in her life she feels ready for the challenge. For the first time in her life, Madeleine has a plan.

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3

“Pridemore! My boy!” an older gentleman calls out to Christopher from across the ballroom, his hearty voice slicing through the crowd like a knife.

“Senator Pryce!” Kit exclaims as he reaches out to shake his hand. “I didn’t know you were in town.”

“Indeed I am! My wife had a baby last week,” he beams at them proudly. “It’s our first child, and I want to make the most of it. My staff can handle business in the capital until I return.”

“My grandmother mentioned that you and your wife were expecting! How… exciting,” Christopher smirks. “Is she here with you tonight?”

“Juliet? Oh no, no, no, no. She wouldn’t dream of leaving the baby so soon. To be totally frank with you, neither would I, but Jules insisted that I at least make an appearance this evening. ‘If it’s important to your career, then it’s important to me’,” Edward chortles, mimicking Juliet’s nasally, high pitched whine. “But in all seriousness, she is a wonderful wife. And such a happy, doting little mother, too! I am truly blessed to have her in my life.”

Kit nods politely in agreement, and after exchanging a few more niceties the senator excuses himself to go greet some of the other guests.

“How do you know him?” Madeleine asks as Christopher draws her toward him for a kiss.

“Edward is an old friend of my grandparents,” he shrugs. “He practiced law with my grandfather, I believe, before he became involved in politics.”

“He seems nice,” Maddie remarks.

“You’d probably like his wife, too. Maybe once our little bundle arrives I can set up a play date so you two can get to know each other.”

“If you want,” she smiles at him absently. “However, I’m not sure-”

“Madeleine?”

Maddie freezes mid-sentence, her eyes widening as she slowly turns around. It couldn’t possibly be…

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2

“Hurry up, Madeleine,” Kit exclaims as he grabs her hand and pulls her along behind him. “We’re already late thanks to you.”

Maddie clenches her teeth and scowls at the back of his head. He’s probably just upset because Lia couldn’t come, she tells herself with forced optimism.

The animal shelter, lavishly decorated for the grand opening, looks bright and cheerful on the brisk February afternoon, but despite the upbeat atmosphere Madeleine feels moody and depressed. She misses Westley more and more with each passing day, and like salt in a wound spending time with Christopher only serves to grind in the fact that she can’t be with him.

Just a few hours here, and then we can leave, Maddie thinks as she plasters a fake smile onto her face. I just hope I don’t die of boredom first.

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2

“Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a modern open plan layout, top-of-the-line kitchen, one car garage, and a spacious backyard complete with a pool and spectacular skyline views located right here in your target neighborhood. I do believe this house has everything on your wish list and more,” the realtor beams at Christopher.

“Thank you, Mrs. Riley. Do you mind if Madeleine and I look around on our own for a while?”

“Of course not! Take all the time you need,” she clucks at them indulgently. “After all, it’s a big decision, and with a little one on the way you two have a lot to consider.”

“That we do,” Kit nods as he absently runs his hand over Madeleine’s belly. “I just don’t know if a one car garage will be big enough for me long term.”

“Well, there’s an unfinished basement that you could use for extra storage or even convert into a play room for the baby,” Mrs. Riley suggests.

Kit looks perplexed. “You can’t put a sports car in the basement,” he laughs. “But I suppose it’s a quiet block, and Maddie can always park her car on the street if needed…”

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Almost eight months pregnant now, Maddie hopes she doesn’t gain any more weight. She already worries that Kit finds her fat and unattractive.

5

“Good girl,” Kit hums as Madeleine slumps into the house. “I knew you’d come to your senses.”

Maddie nods, waiting for him to look up from his newspaper so they can talk, but after a long, awkward silence she sighs and slowly ambles off to the kitchen to work on the dishes alone.

After the passionate kiss she shared with Westley, Madeleine can’t help but feel disappointed by Christopher’s greeting. They’ve been back together for less than a month now, and he already seems bored of her. He could barely even muster a chilly smile when she walked into the room, and compared to the fiery chemistry she has with Westley their relationship feels cold and distant. Is this how my life is going to be from now on? she wonders. A passionless marriage in a silent house to an indifferent husband?

A fresh bout of tears threaten to spill down her cheeks, but before they have a chance Kit’s cool, clammy fingers brush against her shoulders. Maddie jumps, startled by the sudden intrusion, but her alarm only serves to make him laugh.

“It’s just me, doll,” he snickers. “You don’t need to be so jumpy all the time.”

“Do you love me?” Madeleine blurts out, her voice trembling with pent-up emotion.

Kit frowns, an annoyed sneer briefly flashing through his shallow blue eyes before he envelops her in a hug. “Of course I do! I never stopped loving you, Madeleine, even when we were broken up. I just assumed you knew that by now.”

Hearing the hurt in his voice, she spins around to kiss him. “I did! I do!” she sputters. “I’m sorry, Kit. I just wanted to hear you say it.”

“I can’t help it that you’re incapable of interpreting my feelings for you,” Christopher chides as he pulls away from her kiss. “And I realize that you have trust issues, but that’s not my fault or my problem. Just don’t let it happen again, alright doll face?”

“I’m sorry,” she whispers with wide, apologetic eyes. “I won’t, Kit. I promise. I love you too.”

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4

“It’s… nice,” Maddie acquiesces as she and Christopher finish touring the house. “A bit too modern for my tastes, but I don’t hate it.”

“Of course you don’t. It’s perfect for us. Can you imagine waking up to that view every morning?!”

“I don’t know, Kit. I mean, I do like it, but how can we afford a place like this? I work part time, and you just graduated! I don’t think-”

Don’t think,” Kit cuts her off in a brisk voice. “I’ve done the math, and it’s definitely within our budget.”

“How is this within our budget?” Madeleine scowls.

Christopher shrugs nonchalantly. “Your father offered to cover the down payment as a wedding present to us, and I agreed.”

“What?!” she whispers, visibly recoiling from his touch. “I don’t understand. You just proposed…”

“Don’t get all worked up, doll face. There’s no way I was going to ask you to marry me without speaking to your dad about it first. We discussed it then.”

“You did WHAT?!”

“Well, I always knew you’d say yes,” he explains with a smirk. “But I had to get your family’s blessing too. Ah, come on Maddie! Don’t-” But she’s already gone, slamming the door in his face as she furiously storms out of the house.

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2

“…Kit? Where are we?”

“5010 Hazelbury Bluff,” he retorts with a self satisfied smirk.

“Okay, but why?” Madeleine hisses, apprehension gnawing at the pit of her stomach.

Christopher rolls his eyes and brusquely tugs her onward. “Just trust me, babe. And can you please at least try to smile?!” he snaps. “Mrs. Riley owns one of the city’s premier real estate agencies. We need to make a good impression.”

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?

2

Westley watches in stunned disbelief as Madeleine slips out of the doors and out of his life. Another failed relationship. Another brutal rejection. Another lonely night returning to another empty hotel room.

Collapsing onto a bench, he burns with anger and humiliation. How could he have missed it before? Maddie was just using him, biding her time until a better prospect turned up, and as soon as it did she left, gone without a second glance. Like they always do, he sighs, running his fingers through his thick brown hair.

Like you always do, a faint voice resonates from the gnarled black depths of his conscience. Westley shakes his head, furiously shoving aside the guilt.

“W-Westley? Westley Monahan?” A woman slowly approaches him, her voice shaking with fragile uncertainty.

“Yes?” he snaps. “How can I-”

Their eyes meet, and in one breathless moment he knows.

“Surprise,” she whispers, fighting back tears. “I’m pregnant, West. We’re going to have a baby.”

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“Do you remember the night we broke up?”

Madeleine frowns at Kit from across the table. “Yes. How can I forget? It was the same night I got arrested.”

“I had planned on proposing, but you never showed up. You called me later and told me you were in jail.”

“And you told me to take a hike,” she laughs bitterly. “Why are we talking about this now?”

“I kept the ring, Maddie. Everyone said I should sell it, but I could never convince myself to. I could never convince myself to stop loving you.”

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2

Madeleine gasps as Kit leads her over to a quiet table at the far corner of the rooftop patio. One of the most fashionable and exclusive spots in all of Bridgeport, The Foundry offers fine dining in the urban heart of the city. Combining all the traditional elements of a five star restaurant- tuxedo’d waiters, legendary cuisine, world famous chef, and outrageously high prices- with a rundown industrial warehouse in an “edgy but hip” part of town, the posh establishment has for years maintained an impossibly long waiting list.

“I’ve always wanted to come here!” Maddie exclaims as she presses her lips to Kit’s in an enthusiastic kiss. “How did you get us in so quickly?!”

“It was nothing,” Christopher smirks. “I knew you’d like it, and I want tonight to be perfect for us.”

Madeleine quirks an eyebrow. “Why?” she laughs.

“Because…” he shrugs off her question with a frustratingly vague smile. “Let’s sit down. There’s something I need to talk to you about.”

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3

“That’s it?” Madeleine exclaims, shaking her head in disbelief. “That’s why you wanted to see me?”

“I don’t open other people’s mail,” Westley shrugs. “And the packages looked important.”

Maddie wants to cry. What a fool she is. Of course West doesn’t miss her. Why would he? If anything, he’s probably happy she’s gone.

“Madeleine, sweetheart, we’re going to be late for our dinner res-” Christopher stops abruptly as Westley’s face falls into focus. “Well, well. What have we here?”

“I’ll just forward it to you,” West murmurs, his voice a low growl against Kit’s slick, oily timbre.

“Forward what?” Christopher demands, wrapping his arms around Maddie in a sickeningly transparent display of control.

Madeleine squirms uncomfortably. “My mail, babe,” she says. “Apparently my sister dropped it off at Westley’s hotel earlier this week.”

“Ah yes, just send it to us,” Kit nods, carefully articulating the plural pronoun. “I’ll be sure to have Madeleine text you the address.”

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2

“I’ve been thinking,” Christopher murmurs as he pens Maddie between his arms. “I was wrong about us. About you.”

Madeleine tries to scowl at him, but her eyes twinkle in spite of herself. “You don’t want me, Kit,” she replies softly. “Not with all my baggage.”

“If you’re referring to your arrest, sweetheart, I’ve reconciled myself with it. Or do you mean because you’re pregnant?”

Maddie gasps, her mouth falling open in surprise. “You- You know about that?!”

“Yes,” Kit chuckles. “Everyone knows about that. Your stepmother couldn’t keep a secret if her life depended on it.”

“And… You… You still want me?” she whispers.

Drawing her towards him, Christopher briskly and decisively closes the distance between their lips. His kiss feels warm, soft, and familiar to Madeleine, but as he pulls away she can’t deny the prickling disappointment bubbling within her chest.

“That was nice,” she says, forcing herself to smile.

Kit nods enthusiastically. “Better than nice. I really missed you, babe.“

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4

Praying that she doesn’t wake up Christopher, Madeleine takes one slow, hesitant step out of the guest room and into the dark, deserted hallway. The bamboo floor creaks softly beneath her slippers, but Kit’s steady snoring continues unabated. With a sigh of relief, she takes another step and listens, and then another and another, repeating the process until at last she arrives safely in the kitchen.

Flipping on the lights, Maddie hums to herself as she digs through Kit’s well-stocked refrigerator. She has been craving a stack of banana pancakes all night now, and her stomach refuses to let her rest until it’s been satisfied.

Christopher watches her from the corner, a silent smile playing on his lips. She looks so delightfully domestic as she cracks the eggs and mixes the batter that he almost hates to interrupt her. Almost.

“Making me breakfast in bed?” he whispers as he drapes his arms around Madeleine’s shoulders.

Maddie clenches her jaw, stiffening beneath his all too friendly embrace. “What are you doing awake?” she snaps.

“I could ask you the same thing.”

“I was hungry,” she replies with an irritated shrug.

Moving his hand suggestively down her shirt, Kit smirks and says, “Me too, babe. Me too.”

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4

As Christopher schmoozes with a colleague from work, Madeleine’s attention drifts to a young girl standing alone by the dog kennels. Concerned that she may be lost, Maddie carefully approaches the child and crouches down beside her.

“Hi there,” she begins with a cheerful smile. “I’m Maddie. What’s your name?”

“Lila Grace,” the girl replies in a wobbly voice.

“You seem upset, sweetie. What’s the matter? Have you lost your mom?”

Lila shakes her head, and turning toward Madeleine she says, “They’re going to kill him. No one wants him, so they’re going to kill him.”

“Kill who?” Maddie frowns.

“The dog!” she exclaims as a fresh bout of tears rolls down her face. “The worker lady told me that no one will adopt him because his heart has worms, and they need the space so they’re going to make him go to sleep. Forever!” she sobs.

Glancing over at the large black-and-white mutt sitting quietly in the kennel, Madeleine sighs. “Do you want to play with him?” she offers after an uncomfortable pause. “I’m sure the big guy would appreciate the company.”

“I can’t. Only adults can take out the dogs,” she sniffs.

“I’ll supervise,” Maddie replies.

“You will?” Lila Grace whispers in disbelief.

“Of course! Go grab that leash over there, and we can walk him over to the play yard.”

“Together?”

“Together,” Madeleine grins.

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3

“Thanks for driving me home, Kit. I really appreciate it.”

“May I come up?” Christopher asks as he casually rests his hand on Maddie’s bare shoulder.

Madeleine laughs and shakes her head. “I have a boyfriend, remember? You met him last weekend, in fact. But I’m sure it just slipped your mind,” she smirks at him playfully.

“Ah yes, the ugly older man with the scar over his eye. Definitely a keeper, that one.”

“Since when do you care who I date?” she demands, smiling in spite of herself.

“I miss you, sweetheart,” he declares dramatically. “I need you.”

“Aww, Kit. I miss you too sometimes,” Madeleine whispers as she leans in and softly kisses his cheek. “But you’ll see me again on Saturday.”

“I’ll be counting down the seconds,” he replies with a sly grin. “Pick you and Lia up here at eleven?”

“Sounds good,” she nods enthusiastically. “And thank you again for thinking of her. What an incredible opportunity! I just wish you’d tell me who she’s interviewing for.”

“I don’t want to psyche her out,” he shrugs. “However, I’m sure you’ll both be pleasantly surprised.”

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