Warning: This scene contains content that some may find offensive. Please read with caution.
Eighteen hours after Micah walked out the door for work, he still hadn’t returned home. His secretary, Nicole, said she hadn’t seen him all day and that the hearing he claimed to have never made it to his calendar. It must have been an emergency hearing, but either way, Nicole couldn’t find a single judge that said Micah had appeared in their courtroom that day. Not even for an emergency hearing.
When Madison called Micah’s cell phone, it went straight to voice mail indicating it was off or he ignored her call.
In a state of panic, she packed Amos into his toddler car seat and sped to the police station only to discover a missing person’s report couldn’t be issued until twenty-four hours passed.
Madison paced the parking lot of the station as she put in a call to Micah’s college buddy, Senator Matt Bromleigh, at his home in Alabama. Twenty minutes later, he’d ignited early fires beneath reluctant feet and she’d never been so glad to know someone in a position of power as she was then.
Sent home to await a call from the police when they knew more, she spent the night pacing the living room floor. What if he were lying dead in a ditch from a car accident? Or if one of his former criminal clients murdered him? But why would they want to? He’d never lost a case.
Collapsing on the sofa, she allowed her emotions freedom and cried into her hands. Her worst fear was that Micah lay dead somewhere. That he might have died alone, not knowing how much she wanted to make their marriage work. Maybe not realizing how much he meant to her. She’d failed him as a wife and she regretted letting him down more than ever. He’d vested himself in her with his whole heart, while she’d repeatedly withheld herself. He’d taken a chance on marrying her and told her every day he loved her, even when she failed to be receptive.
Madison sobbed into her hands. Please let him be okay. Please…please…please…I’ll do everything different. I’ll give him all of me. I won’t pull back for fear of giving him too much, for fear of making him hate me, or for fear of proving my daddy right.
But who would hear her prayer? She hadn’t talked to God since she was fifteen and couldn’t bring herself to believe in him anyway. That meant there was nothing out there to answer her entreaties. Micah was on his own in whatever situation he’d landed in.
But why had he lied about the court appearance? And vanished after he walked out the door? Not a trace of him, no witnesses to his whereabouts and even his cell had been turned off. So much for tracking him with its signal. Sitting up, she swiped the tears aside. She’d never known him to lie to her, so why start now? Dread scuttled up her spine, reminding her of the disappointment she’d seen in his eyes as she denied him the bed partner he wanted.
Every time she looked at her son, she saw Micah in his features. The very tangible fear that her husband wouldn’t be coming home tickled the edges of her reality, but she pushed the thoughts aside faster than she could hit the escape button on the computer. He had to return home. I need him. Amos needs him.
Chewing her nails to the quick, she leaned on Matt Bromleigh over the next several days and chatted with officers more than once. Amos was too young to understand why there were so many guests in their home. Amos missed his daddy and she held him as he cried himself to sleep every night since Micah’s disappearance. As morning dawned on the fourth day, blues showed up at her home and requested she ride with them to the police station. Matt convinced them to let him drive her there after she took Amos to a neighbor’s house.
“What’s the purpose of Madison coming to the station?” Matt Bromleigh demanded the moment they entered the interrogation room.
“Please take a seat.” Detective Miles motioned to the chair.
“We’re not here for a tea party, so I’ll stand.”
The police officer shrugged and directed his comments to Madison. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Dominus, but we’ve been forced to turn this investigation over to the Feds—”
“Why?” the Senator demanded.
“After your parent’s untimely death—” he cleared his throat and shrugged, as he looked around nervously, but she understood what he implied. Her parents had died in a car accident six months after her marriage. There had been an investigation into their demise, with her as the prime suspect, as if she knew how to tamper with the brakes of a car to kill her parents. Her hefty inheritance had been sufficient motive and there were many in town that believed she were guilty. Still believed in her guilt. “—well, you can imagine how it looks now with your husband missing and all the things we’ve learned about him since his disappearance.”
Ignoring the obvious implications they believed she was to blame, she could only focus on locating her husband. Nothing else mattered. “What things are you talking about?”
“Are you charging her with something?” Matt stood beside her chair and eyed the detective.
The officer glanced at the mirrored glass. “Not yet.”
“Formally charge her. Until then, she has nothing to say.” Matt slammed a hand on the table, meeting the detective’s stare head-on. Madison didn’t need hard balling; she needed answers to her husband’s whereabouts. “We’re leaving, Madison.”
The officer didn’t give up that easily. “Mrs. Dominus, are you aware Micah Dominus does not exist? Anywhere? He has no birth records—”
“Let’s go.” Matt’s fingers curled around her upper arm and he yanked her from the chair.
“—no social security number, school records…just nada. It’s like he’s a ghost.”
“But Micah and Matt went to college together. Tell him, Matt.”
Silent, with his features pinched in anger, their family friend drug her toward the door. The detective went on as if she hadn’t spoken or that Matt attempted to make a hasty exit. “His so-called parents are from the 1700s and never had any children.”
Madison jerked her arm out of Matt’s grip as he opened the door. “You’re lying,” she whispered, facing the detective.
If Micah Dominus didn’t exist, who was her husband? Dear God, who could she have married if he wasn’t who he’d said he was? What had been his purpose for winning her over? Because looking back on their relationship, he’d courted her very clearly from the beginning. Even if he hadn’t pushed at first, he’d still been a much older man after a fifteen year old girl. An adolescent with so many problems, no man in his right mind would’ve taken her on. Yet, he had fought to be the champion of all her troubles.
“We have video footage of your husband from the Atlanta, Georgia airport booking a flight to Rio. He was using an alias with a very real U.S. passport.”
Matt tried to pull her through the door, but she resisted. Her heartbeat pounded faster than the tempo of the chant of “no, no, no” in her mind, making it hard to concentrate on what was being said. None of this made sense.
“I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news.” Detective Miles held out a manila envelope. “Take it with you. Call me when you’ve had a chance to look it over.”
Hands shaking, she took the envelope and stared at it, fearing the contents would alter not just her life, but her opinion of the one man she’d placed every ounce of her faith in.
Micah isn’t…Micah? It couldn’t be true! The next words out of the cop’s mouth snatched her gaze up to meet his. “I imagine the Feds are going to have a lot of questions about the billions of dollars in your name in overseas accounts.”
Matt dragged her out of the interrogation room with a hissed, “Don’t say another goddamn word until we’re in my vehicle.”
Numb, she finally allowed him to guide her down the scuffed up linoleum hallway, beneath the flickering fluorescent lights. She felt like she was in a nightmare she couldn’t wake up from. Or at the very least her life had turned into a really bad Lifetime movie drama.
Billions of dollars in her name? In overseas accounts? That was crazy talk! Her parents hadn’t left her anywhere near that amount. A little over a million, but there was no way Micah could’ve turned that into billions.
Bile slammed to the back of her throat, choking her, but she managed to swallow it down. Not only was Micah possibly someone else, she feared she didn’t know him at all.
The Senator guided her to his Escalade, and her entire body trembled as she wrenched the passenger door open and fell into the leather.
“My God….” As blackness hazed her vision, she dropped her face into her hands. “My God, I had a child with him. A child with a man who might not exist.” She looked at Matt and he tossed her an edgy glance as he shut his door.
“Calm down.” The keys rattled as he jammed one into the ignition. “You know Micah is who he claims. And you know how much he loves you.”
“Do I? Detective Miles seemed pretty convinced Micah isn’t Micah. Gave me a file—” she waggled it at him “—proving his case. Who does that unless they’ve got hard facts to back them up?”
“We have no idea what’s in there. Until we do, we’re only speculating.”
“If he’s not Micah Dominus, who could he be?” Matt’s gaze flinched away and she suddenly wondered if he’d been in on Micah’s subterfuge. “Did you have any idea he wasn’t who he claimed to be?”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“Answer me straight, Matt.”
“No.” He rubbed his forehead. “I’ve only ever known him as Micah Dominus. You know we met in college and have been friends ever since. For God’s sake, I roomed with him, took classes with him and we were in a study group together.”
So help me God, if he is lying to me….
Madison ripped open the envelope and yanked the documents out. As she scanned the paperwork, her world turned upside down and anger sliced through her breastbone. For a long terrifying moment she couldn’t catch her breath. Cold hard evidence in the palm of her hand confirmed everything Detective Miles said.
Her stomach cramped and she choked on a sob that burned her sinuses. Unbelievable. My entire life has been a lie. The man I love isn’t who he claims.
What was he hiding?
“Take me home.” Her voice came out scratchy as she crumpled the paperwork against her leg to stop her hand from shaking.
“Just take me home!” Before I lose it. To think she’d worried about his welfare and he was catching flights to Rio under another identity. Probably to start a new life, with a new career and a new wife. The very thought sickened her. “Please, just take me home,” she whispered staring out the window blindly, tears thickening her voice. She needed to hold her son, needed to know something was still real in her life.
Why? Why had he deceived her?
Matt cranked the vehicle and pulled out of the parking lot. Her thoughts rehashed her life with Micah, from Christmas morning when they first met in her father’s church and coming full circle to their final evening together. They’d made love and she’d disappointed him again, because she couldn’t be the woman he wanted, wouldn’t allow her defenses to lower enough to enjoy his sexual favors. Every time Micah took her to their bed, her father’s words haunted her, reminding her that she was a whore. Words spoken from the lips of a dead man had still been very much alive in her head.
Her head spun thinking of Micah’s words after he’d taken her the last time. All his sweet talk about loving her and protecting her, he’d said every word knowing he planned to leave her and Amos. They’d been lies! Deceived from the beginning to the end of their relationship, only to wind up having her heart betrayed by the one man she’d placed above all others.
She sniffled and swiped at the tears blurring her vision. I’ll trust no one ever again. Not after this.
“We’ll work this out.”
Madison didn’t want Matt’s comfort. She wanted to hug her child and figure out how she went on from here.
I hate Micah. Dear God, how she hated him! She leaned her forehead against the cool glass as the tears coursed down her face.
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