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Chapter Three

The next morning Jessica was surprised when Tully didn’t mutter as much as usual in the bathroom. And she didn’t have to invent an excuse why she didn’t want Tully to touch her because Tully made no move. She simply dressed, picked up her coat, and folded it over her arm before leaving. Jessica felt relieved in a way, but the new attitude told her that Tully had finally taken the hint and given up, which saddened her more than she would’ve thought. Now if Jessica wanted the situation to change, she’d have to make the first move.

Tully walked to Bailey’s door first again and knocked loud enough to be heard over the music. When Bailey opened it, her hostile glare killed any greeting Tully might have offered. “If you want a ride I’m ready to go. I have court today, so I’d appreciate it if you meet me in the kitchen in five minutes.”

Bailey opened her mouth, but for once the rude comment died in her throat. Her mother looked different and it wasn’t a good change. Tully had been many things to her in her short life, from hero to punching bag, but one thing she never associated with her was defeat. Not the kind of defeat she was witnessing now.

“Ralph, you ready?” Tully called through his door.

In the kitchen she handed them what they had asked for the morning before and held the door open for them to head to the car. When Tully started the engine she turned on the music they had listened to the morning before and seemed to drive to their school on autopilot. She didn’t comment on the language or attempt to make conversation.

“Have a good day,” Tully finally said when she stopped in front of the school.

“You too, Mom,” Ralph said. He got out and stood next to the car, waiting for Bailey.

With her hand on the door handle, Bailey stopped when Tully asked her the last thing she ever expected. “You don’t like it here, do you?”

“It’s not totally lame, I guess.”

“Sometimes, Bailey, I ask you things because I really am interested in an answer and not because I’m setting you up for a lecture. What about this place don’t you like? How about if I phrase it like that?”

Bailey’s anger receded a bit and she stared at her mom. “Why do you want to know?”

“Because eventually you’re going to see that high school is a blip on the radar, but when you have to live it every day, it’s miserable if you don’t like it.”

Tully never took her hands from the steering wheel because she didn’t want to set herself up for another rejection, but she ached to engulf Bailey in her arms and take the sad face away. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want, but if you ever do, I’ll listen and try to come up with a solution that’ll make it better.”

“Thanks.” Bailey hesitated before getting out. She didn’t say anything else, but she smiled a little when Tully nodded.

“Anytime, Bailey Bean.” The nickname made Bailey’s smile broaden, and for once she walked away from the car as if she wasn’t facing execution.

“You were due in court in an hour, but Iverson’s clerk called and said the judge had to move us back to tomorrow.”

As Roxanne followed Tully down the hall to her office, Tully knew she was wondering why the front of her shirt and pants was covered in coffee and she’d been cursing under her breath from the minute she’d walked in.

“Lady Luck is smiling on you today,” Roxanne continued, “so stop cussing before you work yourself into a coronary.”

The closet in her office usually held a set of clean clothes, but when Tully opened it, the bar was empty. “Shit, I forgot to bring the damn things back after I took them to the cleaners.”

“Go home and change and get back here as soon as you can. I just got off the phone with some potential clients I think you’re going to want to take. They’re coming in this afternoon at three.”

“I’m already working two cases, Rox, so we wouldn’t be doing them any favors if we stretch ourselves too thin.”

“Just listen to their story, and if you don’t want to take them, I’ll find them a new attorney myself.”

“All right, let me get out of this and I’ll be back in an hour.”

They headed back to the elevators.

Roxanne surveyed Tully’s shirt. “How did that happen, anyway?”

“Some idiot elbowed me when I started to take a sip because he thought I was talking to the server too long. He was in a hurry, I guess.”

“Were you?”

Tully punched the button for the elevator three times, though she knew it wouldn’t make the cars move faster. “Was I what?”

“Talking to the server too long?”

“Libby was telling me how her class went last night after I gave her some pointers yesterday. She wasn’t that long-winded.” Spending time with Libby provided her a guilty pleasure every day, so an occasional miffed customer was a small price to pay. Libby fawned over her and seemed to enjoy her company, and, absurdly, Tully kept hoping that Jessica would feel the same way about her once again.

“You better stay out of coffee shops until you get back. We have a lot to do and you need to look the part.”

Tully was still laughing about the comment when she turned into their driveway thirty minutes later. She had to slam on her brakes when she found a car parked in her spot. Her first thought was to call the police, but she decided to investigate the situation herself. Since the sticker on the front windshield read Children’s Hospital, it was a safe bet that Jessica had invited a friend home for an early lunch.

The container of imperial chicken from the night before was sitting open on the bar with a spoon sticking out of it, as was the container of egg rolls. The only things missing were plates or any sign of Jessica. For once, Tully was glad their house still had carpet up the stairs and on the second floor. They’d meant to put down wood but never gotten around to hiring someone.

She walked down the hall to the open door of the master suite and, when she reached it, felt like someone had twisted a knife in her gut. What she’d found different about Jessica the day before hit her like a two-by-four across the forehead. The top two buttons of her wife’s blouse were missing, probably because the redhead who was going down on her was too impatient to open them the old-fashioned way.

As Jessica’s moan reached Tully’s ears, an overwhelming wave of nausea hit her. Jessica had her eyes shut, obviously enjoying what her lover was doing so much that she didn’t hear Tully. That changed in an instant when Tully grabbed the woman by the back of her head and jerked her off the bed.

“Tully, don’t,” Jessica screamed as she tried to cover her nakedness.

“Tully, don’t?” she roared. “You fuck some piece of shit in my bed and I’m just supposed to walk out of here and let her finish?”

The naked woman cocked her fist back and connected with Tully’s eye before she could complain about anything else. The blow was so hard that her eyebrow started to bleed instantly, but Tully wasn’t about to retreat. She hit back, throwing the woman into the dresser.

“It’s my fault she’s here, so take it out on me if you want.” Jessica held the sheet up around her. “Don’t hit her again. Just tell me what you want and I’ll do it.”

“What I want?” The movement behind her made Tully turn around, only to get hit two more times. “What I want is to kill this piece of shit, but I’ll settle for this.” She felt some deep satisfaction when her blow connected, making the woman’s head fly back. The redhead landed in a heap, in no shape to get up again.

“Tully, calm down before someone really gets hurt,” Jessica pleaded, still making no move to get off the bed. She watched with a frozen expression on her face when Tully walked to the phone and dialed 911.

“Yes, Operator, I’d like to report an assault in my home.” She paused, feeling numb as she looked at Jessica and smiled. “I came home unexpectedly and found what I believe was a woman trying to rape my partner.” Jessica sat up, then rose from the bed. Tully watched her get dressed while she continued her report. “Yes, ma’am, the assailant then attacked me. I was able to fight back and she’s momentarily unconscious. I’ve got a deep cut, I believe, but I’ll have it looked at later. I just need you to send a unit out as soon as possible. Thank you.”

“You fucking bitch.” Jessica glared at her.

“No, darling, the only one doing any fucking here is you. I just laid the groundwork for the story your children will hear, which is the least I can do for you. If you choose to go another route, then tell the nice police officer your version of events.” She didn’t try to clean off her face or the shirt that now displayed a mixture of spilt coffee and blood. “I’ll leave you two alone.” Without another word she headed downstairs to wait for the police.

“You aren’t going to get away with this, Tully,” Jessica yelled after her.

Get away with what? Having some reaction to finding my loving wife with her legs spread for someone else? What a joke, Tully thought as she wiped the blood from her face.

“Dr. Badeaux, your partner says it’s an affair, not an assault,” the police officer explained after talking to everyone involved. “Actually, both women say you mounted more of an assault than she did.”

“Does my face look like the assault was my fault, Officer?” Tully removed the ice pack the paramedic had handed her and showed the man the damage.

“Tully, cut the crap and tell him the truth,” Jessica demanded as she held another ice pack to her lover’s jaw.

“Ma’am,” the officer cut in. “Does this woman live here with you?” He pointed to the redhead sitting at the dining-room table.

“No, I share the house with her.” Jessica pointed to Tully.

“My name is Dr. Kara Nicolas, not ‘this woman,’” the redhead added.

“Is it fair to say that Dr. Badeaux knew about the relationship you have with Dr. Nicolas?” The officer added a bit of sarcasm to Kara’s name, making Jessica realize where this was going.

“No, officer, that’s why it’s called an affair.”

“I understand that, ma’am, but you have to see the situation from my viewpoint. The person who lives here comes home and finds some stranger pinning you to the bed, the same stranger who then gets up and punches her in the face numerous times. Dr. Badeaux was well within her rights to protect herself and to file charges against Dr. Nicolas if she chooses to.”

“It was a mutual altercation, not an assault,” Jessica yelled.

“Do you have proof of that?”

“You have my word and Dr. Nicolas’s word. What more do you want?”

“The word of someone not trying to cover up the existence of an affair, ma’am.” He took his card from his breast pocket and handed it to Tully. “Don’t worry, though, I’ll include all of your statements in my report. The court system can work it out.”

“This isn’t the last of this, Tully.” Jessica helped Kara out of the chair and headed to the door. It had been a bitch getting her dressed and presentable before the police got there, but now all she wanted was to get the hell away from Tully.

After Tully heard the engine start, she heard a crash and watched the remaining officers rush to the front door. Jessica had gunned Kara’s car into Tully’s vehicle and pushed it out to the street to get it out of the way. Before she could drive off, the same policeman stopped her and wrote her up for reckless driving, adding another report to give to Tully.

He stood at the door and gave her the incident number as well as the phone number of a wrecker service. “You sure look calm for someone who’s just been fucked over, if you don’t mind me saying so.” He surveyed the wrecked car and shook his head. “I’d have expected this shit from you, not her. You’re the wronged party here, after all.”

“It may seem like I got fucked over today, but I do my fucking over in a different arena.” When he cocked his head to the side, she added, “I’m an attorney as well, and this will eventually make it into court, sir. There you can really fuck someone over.”

“Good to know. I’ll call you if I ever have the need. Can’t have too much luck or know too many good attorneys.” He shook her hand. “I’ll do this paperwork right away. And you might want someone to take a picture of your face for future reference.”

“Thanks, I appreciate the advice.”

Though Roxanne offered to come over Tully’s house to make sure she was all right, Tully made her promise to stay at the office and reschedule everything for the rest of the week until she was ready to return to work.

“I’ll let you know if I hear anything from the police.”

“I doubt if you will. Now I have to clean up a little and buy a new vehicle.”

“Tully, I know you’re probably not up to it, but I’m going to reschedule the couple that was supposed to come today for sometime tomorrow. I hate to push you, but I promised them that you’d see them as soon as possible, so if I have to beg, I will.”

“Make it the late morning and warn them that their attorney might look a little worse for wear. The bitch was short but she packed quite a wallop.”

After Tully finished on the phone she went up to take a shower. The rumpled bed made her skin feel even dirtier, but she could burn the sheets later. Now she needed to go talk to Ralph and Bailey before someone got to them first. As angry as she was at Jessica, she was just going to tell them they needed some time apart for now and let it lie.

The ever-efficient Roxanne had called for a tow truck and had a rental car delivered while she was getting cleaned up. Tully adjusted the seat of the Ford Explorer, thankful her car would be one less thing in the long list of humiliating things that had happened to her that day that she’d have to show the kids. She drove to their school and walked down the long corridor to the office, intent on checking them out for the day and sure that Bailey and Ralph would have more than their share of questions about everything, starting with the bruises on her face.

“I’m sorry, Tully, but Dr. Badeaux checked them out about an hour ago,” the school secretary informed her. “Is there a problem?” The older woman stared at Tully’s face.

“No problem. I’ll just give her a call since it seems we got our wires crossed.”

Not having the energy for anything else, Tully drove home to start making some calls to make sure her kids were all right. She didn’t want Jessica to drive around with them, on the off chance she decided to ram someone else. She also didn’t know who this Kara Nicolas was and how she would welcome a lover with two children.

Having no answers to the multitude of questions in her head, Tully felt lost. Aside from the kids, she was now alone, and having such solitude thrust upon her so suddenly and through no fault of her own left her wanting to hit something. She flexed her fingers, still feeling the soreness of hitting Kara earlier, but the memory didn’t bring her satisfaction.

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