"Sign here… and here… and initial here," said Livia Frye-Cudahy to the couple seated at her desk. "Well… I guess that wraps it up. I'll get these papers filed as soon as possible."
"Thanks, Livia," Kendall Hart Slater answered. The beautiful young woman was wearing a sad expression to go with her black tailored suit, her normally unruly curls temporarily tamed into a bun at the nape of her neck. "Wow… just a few signatures… and another marriage ends in divorce."
The handsome man seated next to her… her almost ex-husband… laid a gentle hand on her arm, "Don't think of it that way… think of it as a restructuring of our business deal. It may be the end of Mr. and Mrs. Zach Slater, but the beginning of Slater-Hart Gaming. After all, it's only business."
Kendall turned her sad blue eyes onto the man who had been her husband for several months, "But… it's hard not to think of it as another failure. Kendall Hart – perennial favorite in the loser at love sweepstakes."
"Kendall," Zach said quietly, his own hazel eyes mirroring her sadness, "Our hearts were not involved – and everyone knows that. This was a business deal, that's all. Besides… we had some fun, didn't we?"
He was gratified to see that he coaxed a small smile from her as she answered, "Oh, yes… we did have some fun. And we'll get to keep having fun running the casinos without the deception of a fake marriage. I know we made the right decision – but I hate the word divorce."
"Then let today be the last time it's ever mentioned," he answered quietly. He then turned back to their shared attorney who had quietly listened to their exchange, "What do we do next, Livia? Will we need to present ourselves to the judge for the final dissolution?"
"No… under Pennsylvania law you have to wait ninety days after filing the affidavits, then the judge will order the marriage dissolved. Of course, if either of you changes your mind within the ninety days…" Livia replied simply.
Kendall laughed, "I don't think that's going to happen. Slater-Hart Gaming makes much more sense… and accomplishes the same thing our pre-nup did. You can rest assured that neither one of us will stop this divorce from going through."
Zach stood and presented his hand to Kendall to assist her from the chair, which she accepted with a smile. Once they were both standing they shook hands with their attorney and turned to leave the room. Zach asked Kendall quietly, "Still up for that celebration lunch? Our table is reserved and the champagne's on ice."
"Up for it? I've been looking forward to it!" Kendall answered quickly. "In fact, I think we should make it an annual event!"
Zach laid a proprietary hand on the small of her back as they walked to the elevator and from there took separate vehicles to the parking lot of Lacy's Department Store in downtown Pine Valley. They crossed the street together and entered an intimate bistro that they had recently invested in as part of their new corporation.
Once seated at a secluded table and sipping the champagne that Zach had promised, Kendall sighed contentedly and rested against the back of her chair. "When are you leaving for Atlantic City?"
"Tomorrow… and I'll be gone for at least two weeks," Zach answered. "It's going to take a while to whip the new casino into shape… the last owners obviously had never run a casino or a hotel before. I still think it's an excellent addition to our properties… but I'm glad you suggested we not include it in The Seasons franchise."
Kendall smiled in pleasure at the compliment, "Well… we may suck at love but we certainly don't suck at business… do we Zach?"
"No we certainly don't," he answered her with a smile as he poured some more of the sparkling wine into her goblet. "I'll call you when my plans are firmed up and maybe we can have dinner when I get back. What about you? Will you be okay doing double duty at The Seasons and Fusion while I'm out of town?"
"I imagine most of my time will be spent at The Seasons… Greenlee loves for me to be out of the office and Simone has been getting on my nerves lately," Kendall answered. "I may even borrow your penthouse suite and not drive back and forth to the condo for a few days."
"Hiding from Erica again?" Zach chuckled. "I don't see why… our divorce should thrill her. I've never been the ideal son-in-law."
"Since it's not final, I've decided to keep out of her way for now. I'm not ready to listen to her go on and on about what a good decision it was to divorce you – because part of that discussion will always include what a bad decision it was to marry you in the first place," she answered with a deep sigh.
"Well… what do you think? That's all that matters, you know," Zach answered quietly. "I'm still glad we married – and I'm very glad that we're remaining business partners. Do you think that could have happened if we hadn't jumped into this… to borrow a term from Erica… ill-advised… marriage first?"
"You're absolutely right, Zach… but then again, you're usually right. Listen to that – I just admitted you're right – you better mark that on your calendar, Zach, because you won't hear that come out of my mouth very often," Kendall said with a laugh.
Zach smiled in reply, "I just admitted you were right about the new casino… consider us even… for now."
"So we are… anyway… I'm so glad we never gave into temptation and slept with each other. We're so much better as friends," she said as she took a sip of champagne.
"Aha! So you admit it… you were tempted!" Zach said with a laugh. "I knew it… when you had insomnia… you were pacing that condo and thinking about jumping my bones!"
Kendall turned pink as she retorted, "And how would you have known that unless you were wide awake in your condo thinking exactly the same thing?"
"Okay… you got me." Zach answered. He glanced at his watch and said mischievously, "It's not too late. In fact… I think we have a little time before I have to be back at The Seasons… we can get our lunch to go…"
"Zach!" Kendall exclaimed, her eyes dancing with laughter, "We were just discussing how sex ruins a good friendship. Look what happened between JR Chandler and me… our friendship is over. I can find someone to sleep with anytime… but good friends are hard to find… I'm not giving you up."
"I think there's a compliment in there somewhere," Zach answered her. "I'm very happy to be your friend, too, Kendall. And you're right… again… friends are much harder to come by than lovers. However – my offer stands."
"Don't worry… I know where you live," Kendall replied as the waiter brought their meal.
For the remainder of the meal they discussed business while Zach thought about his marriage to this sometimes capricious but unfailingly loyal woman. He had discovered someone that he could trust and care about much more than he had planned when they married for convenience after his son had gotten the state's Gaming Commission to revoke his gambling license. Both of them had been hurt by people they loved – Zach by a woman he had briefly lived with many years earlier and Kendall by the same son who had pursued a vendetta against him. Despite not even liking each other when they had married for their own selfish purposes – they had forged an enduring friendship as they had gotten to know each other. And it was that friendship that had propelled them out of the marriage – the farce felt untrue to the bond they had developed, and so they created the new business partnership that better represented their connection and protected the friendship that they both valued.
Kendall's mother, the famous Erica Kane – international model, author and businesswoman – had never approved of their marriage for many reasons. She had been a constant source of irritation in her many efforts to cause dissension between the couple and create havoc within their businesses. Her escalating behavior had been another reason for the decision to divorce as was the removal of their original motive for marrying. Kendall and Zach had felt a need to protect themselves from their self-destructive behavior around the objects of their affection in the hopes of insulating themselves from the pain. For Kendall it was Zach's son from a youthful indiscretion, Ethan Cambias – a man who had been hidden from him until the previous year. For Zach it was Dr. Maria Grey – a widowed physician whose husband had been killed while pursuing his own vendetta against him. The fact that both of their love lives were destroyed by revenge and hatred was not lost on Zach and made him feel very protective of his soon to be ex-wife. Over the last month, though, Ethan had moved the headquarters of his company to New York City and Maria had moved with her children to California – taking with them all temptation and allowing Kendall and Zach a chance to start over. Hopefully they would both be strong enough to withstand any future attempts at love – because Kendall had been very right when she commented that they both "suck at love."
After finishing their meal, Zach walked Kendall to the door of the restaurant and noticed that it had begun raining in a steady downpour. Since neither of them had an umbrella he offered, "I'll get my car and deliver you to yours… no point in both of us getting soaked."
"No… I think I'd like to get wet," Kendall laughed. "It's just a little water… besides, I'm heading home anyway. A little frolic in the rain will be refreshing."
Zach laughed and shook his head, "If you insist…"
"I do… I most definitely insist," she said with a giggle before placing a quick kiss on his cheek. "I'll talk to you in a few days." And with a wave of her fingers she was out the door.
Zach smiled to himself before turning toward a passing waitress to ask for a spare umbrella. However, before he could say a word he heard the screech of tires and a piercing scream. Without thinking, Zach yelled "KENDALL!" as he quickly pushed open the door and began to run.