“Daddy!” The moment Eden looked through the peephole she started squealing like a little girl. It wasn’t like her father to show up unannounced, but that didn’t mean she was any less happy to see him. She practically jumped into his arms.
“You should’ve called and told me you were coming!” Eden greeted him with a kiss on both cheeks however her smile was quickly waning. She kept trying to move their conversation to the kitchen, yet her father remained stationed by the door.
“To what do I owe this pleasant surprise?” Eden giggled nervously under his scrutiny. His eyes were as hard as the marble floors they were standing on, but it was his silence that was most intimidating.
“Who is this Kyra Jones I’ve been hearing about?” Mr. De La Cruz folded his hands in front of him. Neither one of them were leaving until he had an answer.
“Mmm. Her.” Eden pursed her lips. As Justin’s fiancé, she had a natural disdain toward all of his ex-girlfriends – Kyra especially. Out of all the girls he dated, she was the only one he ever really talked about.
“So you do know her?” Mr. De La Cruz took one small step forward. His tone fluctuated along with his interest.
“Sure. I’ve met her before. She’s a friend of Justin’s,” Eden reverted back to her light, airy demeanor in order to derail his suspicions. Meanwhile, she was busy trying to pick her stomach up off the floor. Justin swore he had always been faithful to her, but her father wasn’t the first person to tell her otherwise. And in this instance, Eden didn’t even have to question who was telling the truth.
“This isn’t good. . . ” Mr. De La Cruz started pacing to the point where he was breathing hard. “People are starting to talk, you know!”
“So let them talk.” Eden cut her eyes at him when he started to yell.
Despite the rumors, sitting on top of the wooden entry table were two dozen roses from Justin. Delivered just days ago, the soft, red petals brushed against the tip of her nose as she breathed them in, but as soon as she spotted a few brown edges, all pride was diminished. They were dying already.
“I’m worried this Kyra may be interfering with our plan,” her father continued. “She’s become a distraction – a distraction we don’t need,” he hissed.
“Trust me, Daddy. Justin isn’t going anywhere.” Eden turned to the closest mirror in search of reassurance, and she still came up short. It didn’t matter that she had been complimented on her looks since the day she was born, her father’s comments tickled insecurities that lie far deep beneath the surface. “Who told you that silly nonsense, anyway?” Eden tried not to sound too curious when she asked him.
“Don’t worry who told me. Is it true?” Her father’s retort was sharp and quick.
“No! Of course, not,” Eden burst out laughing like the story about Justin cheating was the most preposterous thing she had ever heard. Mr. De La Cruz, on the other hand, had quite a different response.
“Eden, don’t you dare lie to me,” he growled. “If there’s something going on then you let me know. . . We have come too far to mess up now,” he fussed.
“Have I ever?” Eden looked her father directly in the eye when she answered him. She could tell he was trying to remember a time he could use against her. Not that she was worried. When nothing came to mind, his frustration was still there.
“Need I remind you how dire our situation is?” he whispered. “It is imperative that we solidify our alliance with the Hartwells . . . This marriage is our only hope!”
Eden took a deep breath to keep from buckling under the weight of her father’s expectations. It was driving her crazy listening to him talk about her marriage in terms of business. Because that’s all it was to him: a contract. Eden’s wedding didn’t have any real meaning. Love had nothing to do with it.
“Yes Daddy. You know I would do anything for our family. . . ” Regardless of her feelings, Eden still managed to hold her head up high. While she didn’t agree with being used as a pawn in her father’s power struggle, she was fiercely loyal to her bloodline. And even though Justin was the first man to ever test that loyalty, Eden and her father would be bound forever, if not by blood, then by secrets.
In the late 1990’s, at the height of his career, Mr. De La Cruz had an estimated net worth of 55 million, several vacation homes, and a collection of classic cars, however several old bank statements showed he managed to blow through most of that by the end of 2010.
Blinded by his bad habits and his title as a businessman, her father blamed their current financial situation on the recession and the stock market. He didn’t want to admit it was getting harder to fund his gambling addiction now that they were running out of money. The De La Cruz family was one bad investment away from bankruptcy, and no one even knew it.
Desperate to recoup some of the money he lost, Mr. De La Cruz convinced Eden that the only way they could maintain their standard of living, was for her to marry Justin – and then divorce him for a hefty settlement. He made destroying another man’s life sound simple enough in the beginning. And it probably would have been, had Eden not fallen in love with him.
Her father first introduced them at a charity auction, and they began dating at his urging soon after. Eden had one objective when she began her relationship with Justin, but once she got to know him, she found that she and Justin were much more alike than they were different. Having grown up constantly fighting for acceptance, in hopes someone else out there understood; Eden had been waiting all her life for a man like him.
Nowadays when Eden told Justin she loved him, she was telling the truth. Nothing compared to waking up next to him. It was like falling in love all over again, every single day.
Even at such a young age, the prospect of growing old with him really didn’t seem all that bad. Plus, she was sure they would have some cute kids. After seeing the way Quentin interacted with Angel and his family, Eden had hoped Justin would be the same way with her.
Eden always wanted to settle down and have a family of her own someday. But she already had a family that loved her, and she couldn’t let them down.
“Just remember; this is only temporary. All you have to do is stick it out 180 days and you can file for divorce.” Her father’s cheerful reminder brought forth Eden’s resentment for him. She told him before she didn’t want to let go of her ring – or Justin – and yet he was still forcing her to do both.
The flawless diamond resting on her finger had been appraised for more than $50,000 dollars, but the only reason Eden know how much Justin spent was because her father made plans to pawn it the same day they got engaged. In his opinion, there was no such thing as sentimental value. All he saw was dollar signs.
“I need to go make a few phone calls. In the meantime, don’t you so much as utter the word ‘pre-nup’,” Mr. De La Cruz took his time rolling up the sleeves to his navy blue linen suit. “If we are able to file on grounds of adultery, we’ll have an even better chance at walking away with half of everything Justin owns,” he schemed.
“You can relax, Daddy. Dominic and I have everything under control.” Eden sounded confident, but like so many other things in her life, it was all for show.
“Oh, you do?” Her father mocked her claims. “Then where is Justin? Shouldn’t he have been home by now?”
Eden choked on the silence that followed his question. She didn’t have an answer for him, but then again she didn’t need one. She already knew why hours went by before he would text her back. It seemed like every time she called he made some excuse as to why he had to call her back, but he never did.
“You might want to rethink that and get back to me. . .” Mr. De La Cruz patted his patted his pocket square to make sure it was in place. When he adjusted his collar, he did in the smuggest way possible.
“Don’t worry. I’ll handle Kyra . . .” Eden mumbled. It was almost as though her father smiled at her misery.
“That’s my girl,” he said.