The Manor House Ch. 11byvelvetpie©
A week, then two went by without incident. Rob released Shandi from afternoon duties in the stable, knowing that it was far more important for her to paint than to tend to the horses. Shandi threw herself into her painting, fervently working every night and patiently waiting for her nightly kiss. The intensity of the kisses had progressed and Rob was finding it harder and harder to walk away from Shandi's bedside, especially when she was always waiting naked under a single sheet.
Monday morning of the third week, Shandi's fourth week at The Manor House, an unwanted visitor showed up. She was cleaning Tinkerbelle's stall when Milo came to collect her, taking her into the main house and escorting her into a room where Rob, George and the visitors waited. Seeing Donnie for the first time in four weeks had a strange effect on her. Part of her wanted to run into his arms and apologize but the other part, a larger part that had been nurtured by Rob and the victim classes that she'd been taking, knew that it would only happen again, if she let it.
Slick as a snake. Rob fought the urge to vomit as she watched the handsome attorney arise, his arms outstretched. Her eyes went to Shandi and she held her breath, wondering how the young woman would react. To her credit, she didn't show her surprise at seeing her husband and strode over to George's side.
"I've come to take you home, if you're ready."
"Who said I wanted to leave?"
Her tone of voice caused Colvin to laugh nervously to cover his slowly building anger and frustration. "No one, actually. I just thought ... "
"Why are you here, Donnie?"
Again, her brusque manner threw him off and he looked to his attorney for help. The man at his left tossed a sheaf of papers to her, which George intercepted, adjusting his glasses as he began to read the documents. "A settlement."
"Yes. If you'll drop the case and the divorce proceedings, we can get on with our lives and start over."
George murmured something to Rob who nodded, then turned to Shandi. "The settlement is for one million dollars, tax-free, if you'll drop everything and return to him."
A million dollars. Her stomach twisted into a giant knot at those words. She could live so comfortably on a million dollars. She could paint and have horses ... but the catch stuck in her throat. If I'll drop everything and return to him. She stared at him for a long moment, getting lost in the beauty of his eyes and face but somehow, the beauty morphed into the uncontrolled anger she remembered seeing when he was beating her. His elegant hands that had once caressed her body so ably had held a gun that had blasted a divot into the side of her head.
A chill ran through her body as she recalled the long weeks of therapy that she'd endured, all due to his love for her. Would she survive more of his love? "No, thank you."
"Number one, a million dollars is a drop in the bucket for you, Donnie. In fact, I highly doubt that you'd even end up paying it. One of your little cronies would probably foot the bill for a little pro bono work. Number two, I don't want to come back. I'm painting again, Donnie, and I've realized just how wrong it was for you to insist that I give up something that made me so happy. In fact, I've realized quite a bit. I've realized that I want to run my own life, that if I want to go shopping, I'll go shopping. I don't have to wait for someone to tell me it's okay and I don't have to live in fear of angering someone, either."
Colvin stood, his face nearly purple with anger. "You little bitch!" He succinctly bit the words out from behind gritted teeth. "You just want my money!"
"I'm entitled to battle fees."
Colvin's lawyer stood, placing a hand on his client's shoulder and forcing him down onto the chair. "What will it take you to drop the case?"
"I don't know if I want to drop the case. What's going to happen to the next poor woman that gets involved with him? Death?" Shandi's voice grew soft. "That was nearly me."
"That was an accident ... "
"The accident was that you missed my brain by three inches, Donnie. There was no accident that you had a gun." Shandi arose, grabbing her gloves and tugging each back on. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll trust George to negotiate things on my behalf. I have work to do."
"You won't get a penny of my money, Shandi! Not a penny!" Her estranged husband shouted, apoplectic. "I'll see you dead first!"
Dead silence filled the room. Shandi ignored the looks of fear and astonishment on the faces of her friends and strode back over to her attorney's side. "I'm not the same girl whose face you punched and whose body and spirit you crushed. If you think you can kill me, then bring it on."
Not another word was spoken as she strode from the room but she couldn't stop the sobs from breaking free as soon as she had hit the back door. Rob found her minutes later, collapsed in a heap of tears and trembles and gathered her into her arms, pulling her into an empty stall and hugging her tightly.
"I'm so proud of you!"
Rob's soothing words meant the world to her but the enormity of the leap she'd just made was so astonishing to her that she could barely breathe past the sobs. "What did I just do?"
"You became Shandi." Rob hugged her closer, still rubbing her back gently. "Nice to meet you."