What happens when you discover that your glamorous movie star mother could never have given birth to you?
Fans of Lucinda Riley, Santa Montefiore and Rachel Hore will be gripped by Muna Shehadi's Hidden Truths.
Olivia Croft's life is at a crossroads.
After yet another fruitless audition and the cancellation of her TV show, Crofty Cooks, she's left with the hope that she and her husband Derek will finally conceive the child she craves - and that she'll be able to forget the recent revelation that her late mother, the famous movie star Jillian Croft, did not give birth to her or her two sisters.
But her world only collapses further when she uncovers the cruel secret Derek has kept throughout their eight-year marriage. Unable to forgive his betrayal, Olivia flees LA for the coast of Maine, a place which holds happy memories of her childhood and her beloved mother.
Coping with the loss of her career, her husband and her dreams, Olivia finds herself drawn to Duncan, a kindred spirit whose life has been equally shattered. But before Olivia can embrace a brand-new future, she will have to come to terms with the past, and face a final truth about her mother, one she never could have imagined.
Don't miss Muna's other enthralling novels, Private Lies and Honest Secrets:
'A wonderful read with evocative descriptions and enough family secrets to create a gripping journey of discovery' Woman
Release date: February 4, 2021
Print pages: 352
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Muna Shehadi Sill
July 28, 1993 (Wednesday)
So many busy times. Three girls and a full, fabulous career. I get run ragged and don’t have time to write this diary. But it’s so important to capture my amazing life.
We are just back from another trip to our beautiful house on the Maine coast. The girls love it so much. It’s a joy to set them loose on the rocky shores, and to explore in the woods. So different from the beaches in LA, where I have to watch them like hawks. Men ogle Olivia, developing a woman’s figure already at age twelve, and it’s all I can do to keep Rosalind from killing herself by swimming out too far. At least Eve is content to sit by me and build sandcastles.
At our place in Stirling, there are no male predators to get in the way of Olivia’s joy, and no other teenagers for whom she feels obligated to ditch her sisters in order to look cool. The water is too cold for Rosalind to drown herself in, and Eve is happy building little houses out of rocks, twigs, leaves and moss.
Daniel and I relax. When we bought the place, we promised each other not to bring work up here, even if it means that some years we can only stay a week. This year the weather, tides and our energy levels all came together and we managed to have a clambake. I thought I’d die of happiness being around my wonderful family. My beautiful girls and my handsome husband look even more beautiful and handsome in the light of a Maine sunset.
I was almost sorry when we had to come back to chaotic in-the-spotlight reality. Except for how much I love that too.
La Prima Donna,
Olivia Croft faced the TV camera, features arranged in her best happy-hostess expression, eyes slightly wide and alert, mouth ready to smile. Inside she was slowly and systematically falling apart. When they came back from commercial, she’d be making her very last appearance on the show she’d created from scratch, pitched to the studio and starred in for the past five years on LA’s channel 53. Crofty Cooks had been her focus, the crew her family. Her wide array of guests, chosen from among ordinary citizen-cooks of Los Angeles, had enriched her experience of her home city. Most importantly, hosting the show had scratched Olivia’s performing itch, as the years spun along and stardom didn’t happen. Crofty Cooks had kept her in the public eye and away from her nagging feelings of not living up to her potential, not fulfilling her dream or her mother’s expectations for her career. When that mother had been one of the world’s biggest movie stars, being one of its smallest hurt.
For this last episode, Olivia had chosen all things kids. Tips on how to sneak vegetables and wholegrains into treats, commentary from pediatricians on sugar consumption and its health consequences, plus segments taped earlier in the week featuring some of LA’s kid-friendly, healthy-food restaurants. Live on today’s set: six kids, ages four to eight, helping to make the recipes, reacting to the treats, providing hilarious opinions on which foods they thought were healthy.
What are good greens to eat? Mint ice cream! Green M&Ms! Pistachio pudding!
‘Ten seconds, Olivia.’ John, her stage manager, on whom she had a crush because it was impossible not to, flashed both hands.
A little girl – Amber, her name tag said – bolted from the table in Olivia’s TV kitchen, where she and her guest-starring friends were sharing a ‘decently nutritious’ cake Olivia had baked earlier, made with wholegrain flours, pureed prunes for additional fiber and sweetness, and cocoa powder. Olivia snatched her up and held her, tickling her tummy to make her giggle.
Olivia waved Amber’s frantic mother back. Then, impulsively, she bent forward – couldn’t help herself – and inhaled the sweet little-girl smell she craved. Maybe without the show she would be more relaxed, and she and Derek would finally conceive. About the only silver lining she could find. At thirty-nine, she was terrified her window of fertility was closing. Another window closing.
When God closes a show, he opens another audition. One of her mother’s many invented sayings. Please let her be right.
‘Three, two . . .’ John’s fingers continued the countdown toward what Olivia liked to think of as ‘blastoff’.
‘Hi, everyone, welcome back to Crofty Cooks. This adorable little girl I have in my arms right now is Amber.’ Olivia turned to the child. ‘I have had the best time today. How about you, did you learn anything important?’
Amber nodded, a blob of blue low-sugar frosting smeared on her cheek. ‘Cake is good.’
‘Well done.’ Olivia’s heart was positively melting. No, pining. The little body felt so natural and right in her arms. She’d planned to do another couple of weeks of shows centered on the problems and joys of feeding children, but . . .
She turned back to address the camera, bolstering her wobbly smile. ‘Today’s kids are the world’s tomorrow. We need to give them the best possible start. The fewer sweet foods they eat, the less they’ll crave sugar. For all you lucky moms-to-be, yes, that includes what you eat when you’re pregnant.
‘So give your babies a big hug today.’ Olivia squeezed Amber, relieved when the little girl didn’t shriek for Mommy. ‘Promise yourselves that you’ll feed them well. And if you’re like me, struggling to have children, or childless for other reasons, then make sure you’re spoiling other people’s kids with love and fun activities, rather than with sugar.
‘Thank you so much for joining me today.’ She covered a crack in her voice with a quick throat-clearing. ‘I love you all. Eat well! Amber, wave bye-bye with me?’
She and Amber waved goodbye, then, as the credits rolled over the still-live shot, Olivia put Amber down, took her tiny soft hand and led her back to the table full of cake-smeared kids, taking time to crouch down and say a word or two to each one.
John announced that they’d gone to commercial.
It was done.
Olivia forced her stiff lips into a smile. Parents stepped on to the set and collected their little ones, competing conversationally with audition schedules, dance lesson achievements, and diet plans. Amber’s mother, a sweet-looking blonde who stood out for her reticence among the stage-mother crowd, sidled cautiously toward Olivia with her daughter on her hip, as if she worried that getting too close to even such a minor celebrity could hurt. Olivia smiled warmly, much preferring this shy approach to that of fans who seemed to think they owned her – touching her, telling her dull stories about their families, insisting on multiple selfies. The proliferation of cameras was a pox on Olivia’s privacy, though it wasn’t bad for her ego.
‘Hi there . . .’ She peered at the woman’s name tag. ‘Jeanine.’
‘I wanted to tell you how much I love your show.’
‘Thank you.’ Olivia had wrestled with whether to let the audience know that today’s episode was her last, but had decided against leaving viewers with the image of her bawling her eyes out. Letting fans like Jeanine down was devastating, but the suits in charge had spoken. Her best hope was to exit with dignity intact. ‘Thank you so much.’
‘My neighbor was on with you once. You remade her grandmother’s turkey tetrazzini recipe. She still uses your version.’
Olivia beamed, as if making a turkey-tetrazzini difference in the world had been her life’s goal. Olivia Croft was an actress, not a cook. ‘That is so good to know.’
‘I also wanted to tell you . . .’ Jeanine shifted Amber to her other hip. ‘I met your mother once.’
‘Really?’ Olivia’s smile grew more natural as warmth spread through her, along with the inevitable sadness.
‘I was ten. I wanted so much to be an actress. I saw her on the street. She was so beautiful, even off screen.’
‘Yes.’ Olivia nodded proudly. Mom had turned heads everywhere she went. Walking down the street with her, Olivia had felt like a queen.
‘Seeing her was so unexpected, and I was so excited, I tripped at her feet. Literally. I was mortified.’ Jeanine laughed, rolling her pretty blue eyes, cheeks pinking. ‘But she was so gracious. She not only helped me up, she stayed there talking to me, asking questions about what I was interested in, encouraging me to work hard, to keep going.’
‘That was Mom.’ Never surrender was Jillian Croft’s mantra, thumped out on Olivia’s eardrums over and over until Mom was sure her eldest daughter had internalized the concept.
Jeanine shook her head in awe. ‘Jillian Croft, the biggest star in the world, and she acted as if she really cared who I was.’
‘She did care.’ Olivia reached to straighten the lace collar of Amber’s pink dress. ‘She was an incredibly genuine person, and she loved kids.’
‘She was a huge role model for me.’ Jeanine pressed her lips to Amber’s forehead in an unconscious mom-kiss that made Olivia sigh with envy. ‘Acting never worked out for me, but . . . anyway, I wanted to tell you.’
‘I’m so glad you did, Jeanine.’
‘And thank you for having Amber on your show! Can you say thank you, Amber?’
Amber shook her head, no. Jeanine looked horrified.
‘Amber has had a busy day.’ Olivia laid a hand on the child’s impossibly soft arm. ‘You did really well on the show, sweetheart. But you probably want to get out of here now, right? Go home and play? Maybe take a nap?’
Amber nodded enthusiastically. ‘Play.’
‘All right, thanks for helping me. Bye-bye.’ Olivia waved until they were out of the room, the last guests to leave. As her adrenaline receded, tension and fatigue surged in to take their rightful place alongside her grief. Thank God her sisters had flown in to be with her, Rosalind from New York, Eve from Boston. Derek was out on location in Montana somewhere. If Olivia had to go back to an empty house right now, she’d drink a fifth of Scotch and barf all afternoon. Instead, while she was busy on the set, Eve and Rosalind had gone shopping for a picnic lunch that the three of them would be taking to Zuma Beach.
She said fond and devastating farewells to the crew, making sure she spoke to everyone by name, mentioning in particular the fine job they’d done to make her life easier. Mom had taught her that too. Never forget what people do for you, no matter how small.
Finally she walked over to where her sisters were waiting, anticipating the relief of being around people she could flake out on if she needed to.
‘You were fabulous.’ Rosalind, her free-spirit brunette middle sister, wrapped her arms around her, baby of the family Eve waiting to take her place.
Rozzy looked surprisingly normal today in a pair of knee-length pink shorts with a plain yellow top. Usually she pushed the boundary of fashion so far that it nearly snapped. Eve, on the other hand, generally dressed as if she hoped she would disappear – muted colors and classic styles. Today she was chic-blond visible in navy-flowered capris and a simple white tee. Both of her sisters’ lives had changed substantially for the better over the past year. Olivia’s had changed, too, substantially for the crappier.
‘Thank you. Thank you both for coming.’ She returned her sisters’ hugs fiercely, fighting the emotion in her throat. ‘Now let’s get the hell out of here.’
She started toward the exit, Eve and Rosalind hurrying after her.
‘Are you okay?’ Eve asked.
‘Not thinking about that now.’ Keeping tears back by the sheer force of hating them, she stalked through LA’s typically perfect June weather toward the tiny lot where she’d parked for the past five years. ‘Let’s go party in Malibu.’
‘Oh, fun.’ Rosalind sighed with pleasure. ‘It’s been years since I heard anyone say that.’
Olivia dug her phone out of her purse to see if there were any words of support or comfort from Derek. ‘Probably because it’s been years since you’ve been back here.’
‘Gee, now there’s a possibility.’ Rosalind sounded more amused than annoyed. It was hard to get a rise out of her. Eve, however . . . like taking candy from a baby.
Nothing from Derek. He couldn’t have forgotten about today. On the other hand, he was a man.
One email from Susan, the studio receptionist. Olivia halted about two feet from her car, a bright red Audi RS7, which she adored for its luxury and speed. In LA, your choice of vehicle was as important as your house – because you spent about the same amount of time in each.
‘What is it?’ Rosalind asked.
‘This is weird.’ Olivia held up her phone. ‘I got an email from the studio receptionist. Guess who just called looking for me?’
‘Ha . . . ha.’ She gave her sisters her famous stink eye. ‘Weirder than that. Derek’s ex-wife, Jade.’
‘Are you in touch with her?’ Rosalind unlocked the car, then passed the key to Olivia.
Olivia passed it back. ‘You drive. I’m changing in the car. And no, of course not. They’ve been divorced for like twelve years. We’ve been married eight. I never even met the woman.’
‘Oh no. Not me. I hate driving in LA.’ Rosalind pushed the key toward Eve.
‘Forget it.’ Eve held up her hands, refusing to take it. ‘That is strange about Derek’s ex. You don’t think he’s in touch with her, do you?’
‘Not that I know of. But it was a decently amicable divorce, so I wouldn’t care if he were. Who knows?’ Olivia climbed into the back seat, where she’d stashed her beach clothes before coming to the studio that morning. ‘C’mon, guys, let’s go. Eve, you drive.’
Eve slouched into the driver’s seat, grumbling.
‘Rosalind, how can you hate driving in LA?’ Olivia kicked off her Walter Steiger pumps. ‘You live in New York!’
‘I don’t drive in New York.’ Rosalind got into the passenger seat. ‘I’m not insane.’
‘Ha ha.’ She pulled out her phone. ‘Let me figure out the fastest route.’
‘There’s GPS in the car, use that.’
‘Nah, I’m used to this.’ Rosalind tapped at the screen and studied it. ‘Faster to go the inland route, but only by fifteen minutes. Let’s take the coast. It’s awful traffic through the city, but not bad after that.’
Olivia unbuckled the wide leather belt she’d used to accessorize her Caroline Herrera sheath dress. Of the three girls, she was the only one who had learned anything about fashion, in spite of their mother’s best efforts at teaching all three of them. Clothes can make the best of a bad situation. ‘Where did you go to get lunch?’
‘Bristol Farms in West Hollywood.’ Eve checked the traffic, then hit the accelerator. The V8 engine shot the car forward, making her shout with nervous laughter. ‘Your car is on steroids!’
‘We bought grilled artichokes, tabouli, cheeses, a baguette, grapes, choco—’ Rosalind squealed. ‘Watch out!’
‘I am watching out. He wasn’t.’
‘We grew up here. You got your licenses here.’ Olivia wriggled out of the dress. ‘What happened to your LA driver balls?’
‘Fell off when I moved,’ Eve said. ‘Boston’s nuts, but I don’t take my car in to the city.’
‘We last drove here over ten years ago. Traffic is much worse now.’ Rosalind plugged her phone cord into the car’s USB port. The electronic voice came on and gave directions. ‘Eve and I couldn’t believe how bad it’s gotten.’
Olivia nodded, pulling on her bright pink bikini bottom. ‘It is definitely worse. I’m seriously thinking about buying another house to escape to. Either northern California or Maine. We were dumbasses to sell Mom and Dad’s place in Stirling.’
‘Maybe . . .’ Ever-diplomatic Rosalind. ‘Kind of a lot of memories there.’
‘You guys want to go in on it with me?’ Olivia unhooked her bra and replaced it with the bikini top.
‘I’d love to have a place there,’ Eve said. ‘It’s an easy drive from Swampscott.’
‘Depending on where you buy,’ Rosalind said. ‘I assume you mean on the coast. Maybe near Dad and Lauren.’
‘Of course the coast. You think up near Grandma Betty in moose world?’ Olivia finished dressing, covering her bathing suit with a lacy white tunic, while Eve tackled the fun of trying to get somewhere in Los Angeles along with too many of its four million people.
‘Any more auditions in the works, Olivia?’
‘One.’ She tried to sound like that didn’t devastate her. ‘For a film about aliens. A high point in a low career. If that doesn’t pan out . . . I don’t know. I worry that stress is interfering with our baby-making.’
‘Taking a break might be smart.’ Eve sped through a yellow light. ‘I can see that being the problem.’
Rosalind turned with a wide grin. ‘I can’t wait to be this poor kid’s crazy auntie.’
‘You might pop one out before I do.’ Olivia buckled her seat belt and settled back against the headrest. A break might sound good, but the role of a lifetime could pop up while she was snoozing. As Mom would say, You can’t lead the pack of wolves if you’re a kitty-cat. ‘Has Bryn proposed yet?’
‘Nah.’ Rosalind waved away the suggestion. ‘Even if we do get married any time soon, I want to wait to have a kid.’
‘Don’t wait too long is all I’m saying.’ Olivia sighed, watching buildings and storefronts go by, then let her eyes close, suddenly exhausted. Her sister had met Bryn, a sculptor and all-around fabulous guy, the previous fall, when she’d bravely traveled to New Jersey in search of her birth mother. ‘You never know how long it will take.’
‘True . . .’
She was dimly aware of her sisters continuing to chat, then the car stopped and Eve turned off the engine.
Olivia forced her eyes open to discover they were in the parking lot at Zuma Beach. ‘Whoa. How long was I out, an hour?’
‘Just about.’ Rosalind pushed open her door, letting in a glorious sea breeze. ‘Woo-hoo! I love this beach. It is so great to be back.’
‘It really is.’ Eve got out of the car. Olivia scrambled to join them. Zuma was one of her favorites too, nearly three miles of beach, seldom crowded, with gentle surf excellent for swimming.
They unloaded the picnic, blanket and towels from the trunk and found their perfect spot on the wide expanse of sand, gulls soaring overhead, a warm breeze blowing in from the tumbling ocean.
‘Swim or eat first?’
‘Eat!’ Rosalind put a hand to her stomach. ‘I’m starving.’
‘Sounds good to me.’ Eve laid out the blanket and started unpacking. ‘Olivia, you sit there and be pampered.’
‘That is one of the few things in life I am truly expert at.’ She stretched out on a towel and spritzed her hair and skin with Clarins sunscreen. ‘How’s the architecting coming, Eve?’
‘Slow, but not bad.’ Eve opened a container of drool-worthy grilled artichoke hearts, a vegetable straight out of paradise as far as Olivia was concerned. ‘I got another Washington Island job yesterday.’
‘No kidding!’ Rosalind was slathering on the Coppertone. ‘That is awesome.’
‘You might as well move to Wisconsin,’ Olivia said. ‘I’m sure Clayton would love it.’
Eve shrugged, pointedly ignoring the bait. Olivia was dying to know if Sex Had Happened with the man Eve had met on the island early last spring.
Of course, it would be extremely rude to ask. ‘So have you and Clayton gotten over yourselves and had a good boinking yet?’
‘Olivia!’ Rosalind clapped her hand over her mouth to hide her grin.
Eve’s stink eye was nearly as good as Olivia’s.
Olivia cracked up. ‘Just impatient for you to be happy.’
‘You’ll be the first I don’t tell. Anyway, it’s a good job. An interior renovation design. I’ll probably take it. As for moving there, no. Wisconsin’s a nice state, and Lake Michigan is pretty cool, but . . .’
‘It’s just a lake.’ Olivia gestured at the surf, greedily inhaling the moist air. ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I am still amazed that I have access to beaches like this whenever I want. I was born for oceans. Mom loved them, too. More than Dad, I think.’
Her sisters exchanged glances. Olivia refused to let that stop her. Since last summer, when the three of them had discovered that their mother had been unable to have children, Eve and Rosalind had become awkward talking about Mom. As if she wasn’t really their mother anymore.
As far as Olivia was concerned, Jillian Croft was Mom, end of story. If she’d resorted to being . . . creative about how she’d produced kids that everyone, including her kids, thought were hers, more power to her.
Of course it wasn’t that simple. Hiring women for your husband to impregnate while you wore pregnancy costumes was pretty messed up. But thinking about ethical complications made Olivia tired, especially when they involved a woman she’d both idolized and adored. So . . . load it on a rocket and shoot it up to Planet Denial. She hadn’t even told Derek.
‘The beach was the only place in California Mom would always go incognito, remember? She didn’t want anyone interrupting her sun and surf time.’ Olivia thrust her fingers into the sand and brought up a warm handful. ‘She’d bring me to Zuma to dig when I was little. I was determined to reach China, and so disappointed that I never had enough time to get all the way.’
‘That is adorable.’ Eve handed over a slice of baguette smeared with something pure white that tasted goaty and fabulous. ‘I don’t really remember Mom on a beach.’
‘You were so young when she died.’ Olivia chewed, familiar sadness muting some of her cheese pleasure. Eve had been eleven when their mother accidentally overdosed on her medication just before midnight on New Year’s Eve 2001. Rosalind had been sixteen, Olivia twenty. Olivia had known Mom for longer than either of her sisters, and had been closest to her, most notably in their shared love of and ambition for acting.
‘Where’s Derek this time?’ Rosalind helped herself to another artichoke and more cheese. It drove Olivia crazy how much Rosalind’s sturdy ex-gymnast’s body could absorb without getting any sturdier. Eve was worse, always underweight, though she’d lost the scary-thin figure she’d had before she ditched her icky boyfriend and found Clayton. At least these days, with the stress of Olivia’s mysterious infertility and her show being cancelled, Olivia was where she liked to be on the scale, and could eat cheese with only minor guilt.
Okay, major guilt, but she could double her workout later. In a city of sticks masquerading as women, she didn’t need her weight to be the reason she wasn’t being cast.
‘He’s in Montana. He had to find a ranch for a movie about special-needs kids learning to ride. The director had all these ideas about exactly how big the ranch had to be, what color, what “vibe”, what this, what that, how many trees, how many trails, how many horses. Drove Derek crazy. But he found it.’ Olivia was proud of her husband. He loved his job as a location scout, and she loved that he was gone a lot. Their marriage worked much better when she was missing him, then really glad to see him back. Repeat as needed.
‘I’m dying to know what his ex wanted.’
Olivia pulled out her phone. ‘I can’t remember if she left a num— Wait. Another email from Susan.’
‘Don’t you have a flunky to read your emails for you?’ Rosalind asked too sweetly.
‘Gone.’ Olivia spoke briskly, so she wouldn’t seem as upset as she was. Her assistant Donna had taken another job, and Olivia had had to face the fact that with the show closing, there was no point hiring another. ‘Oh my God, Jade called again, and is asking me to call back. She said it’s important.’
‘Whoa.’ Eve stared over a forkful of tabouli. ‘That’s strange. Is Derek okay?’
‘Of course he is.’ Olivia’s heart started pounding. ‘Why would anyone contact her if he wasn’t?’
‘Well, call her back,’ Rosalind said impatiently. ‘I’m dying to know what she wants.’
Olivia felt uneasy. She wasn’t sure why, but she really didn’t want to know what her husband’s ex thought was so important. ‘Right now?’
She couldn’t think of a reason, so she squinted down at the message, annoyed that she was finding small print harder to read these days. ‘Okay, I’ll call her.’
Jade answered on the first ring. ‘Olivia.’
‘Hi, Jade, what’s up?’ Olivia wasn’t going to waste time with small talk. Derek and Jade had been college sweethearts, married and divorced within a year, no kids, no hard feelings.
‘I saw Crofty Cooks today.’
‘Oh.’ Olivia rolled her eyes at her sisters, then moved closer and held the phone out so they could hear Jade telling her how great the episode was, or that she had an old family recipe she wanted featured and fixed on the show-that-no-longer-was. ‘That’s nice.’
‘The part about the infertility. You and Derek. I can’t . . . I’m sorry, I’m so upset.’
Olivia frowned. She was upset? ‘Okay.’
Rosalind got on to her knees and waddled closer to hear better.
‘You’ve been trying?’ Jade asked.
‘I can’t believe this.’
Olivia and her sisters exchanged glances. ‘Jade, what are you talking about?’
‘Derek never wanted kids.’
Olivia spluttered. ‘Well, obviously that changed. Why are you calling me?’
‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m doing this so badly.’
Olivia mimed throwing the phone into the sand, expecting Rosalind and Eve to snicker. They didn’t. ‘Doing what badly?’
‘During our marriage, Derek didn’t want kids. So he . . . he had a vasectomy.’
Eve and Rosalind gasped and reared away as if they didn’t want to hear another word. Olivia stayed frozen with the phone to her ear, trying to wrap her brain around what Jade had just said.
‘That is ridiculous.’ Her voice came out too high and not nearly rude enough.
‘I’m so sorry, Olivia. I couldn’t believe it when you said you were having trouble. It made no sense. And then . . . I mean, I know Derek is capable of . . .’ Jade made a sound of exasperation. ‘I’d better leave it there. You must know him by now. Better than I do.’
Rosalind and Eve were looking at Olivia with identical expressions of somber acceptance. They actually believed what they were hearing.
This was crazy.
‘He must have had it reversed. After you divorced.’ Though the success of that operation wasn’t guaranteed. And why wouldn’t he have mentioned it? ‘He had to have had it reversed.’
‘Maybe. But he was so definite about not ever wanting kids. I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure you knew. He can be . . . Well, he wants what he wants when he wants it. You must know that by now.’
Fear turned on its heel and became anger. ‘You know what? I don’t want to discuss my husband with you anymore.’
‘No. No. Of course. I’m sorry. I just wanted you to know.’
‘Yeah, thanks.’ Olivia ended the call and let out a vicious laugh. ‘Well, that was a waste of time.’
‘Olivia . . .’ Rosalind was looking at her with sympathy that was like a red flag to a bull.
‘My husband did not have a vasectomy.’ Olivia’s goat cheese did cartwheels in her stomach. ‘There is no way he’d put me through all these years of absolute hell on purpose. No way.’
‘The doctor said there was nothing wrong with you . . .’
Eve’s face was ashen with worry. ‘Did the doctor tell you that? Or did Derek?’
Olivia stared defiantly, hating her for her logic. Derek had told her.
‘Maybe that’s why the doctor refused to try artificial insemination. And why Derek wouldn’t agree to do in vitro.’ Rosalind looked as ill as Olivia felt. ‘Maybe they both knew it was a waste of time.’
‘Our doctor is a saint. He would definitely tell me if Derek was the problem.’
‘Privacy rights.’ Eve said the words like a death sentence. ‘It’s not legal for a doctor to disclose health information without the patient’s permission.’
‘What I want to know is why the bleep Derek didn’t tell you.’ Rosalind had her hands on her hips, avenging angel in pink and yellow. ‘If it’s true, and he’s put you through this on purpose, I will—’
‘I’ll help you,’ Eve said.
‘No. No. He would not do this to me. If he had a vasectomy, then he had it reversed. I’ll call him right now and ask. End of story.’ Olivia picked up the phone, trying to decide how to phrase the question, then realized there was no way to phrase it. ‘What am I doing? I can’t ask him. I will insult him beyond belief by acknowledging I could ever believe such a thing. Which I don’t.’
Rosalind and Eve looked unconvinced.
‘Plus, if you ask him, he’ll just deny it.’ Rosalind collapsed back to sitting. ‘He must know you have no proof. He can paint his ex as vindictive, his word against hers, blah blah blah. You won’t know if he’s telling the truth or not.’
‘But I do know. I do. I know.’ Olivia knew she sounded this close to breaking down. ‘There is some completely normal and logical and good explanation for all this.’
Eve bit her lip, looking so beautiful it was actually unfair. ‘I think you just heard that explanation. From Jade.’
Olivia got to her feet, shaky and sick, furious that her miserable day, which this lovely family picnic had been about to turn around, w
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