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A Merry Little Christmas(53)

By:Melanie Schuster

Just then the doorbell rang and Lisette went to answer it. She led A.J.  into the living room and Angelique fell into his arms. "Take me away  from here, A.J., please."

A.J. looked at Warren and Lisette and his confusion was obvious, but so  were his feelings for Angelique. "Come on, Angel, let's go. You need to  lie down; you shouldn't be upset like this in your condition." He took  the coat Lisette handed to him and put it on Angelique. Nodding to  Lisette and Warren, he led her out the door to his waiting car.

Warren stood beside Lisette in the doorway and watched them leave. "I  don't know if we should have let her go with him. Donnie's not going to  like this at all," he mused.

Lisette's eyes flashed and, as always when she was upset, her French  accent popped out. "I could not possibly care less what Adonis thinks,"  she snapped, the word thinks coming out as "theenks." "He made his own  bed, now he can lie in it!" With a disgusted "Hmmph," she flounced into  the bedroom and closed the door.

Warren thought about what his wife had said, factored in his long  friendship with Donnie, multiplied it by his feelings for Angelique and  calculated the risk, then took out his cell phone and hit speed dial.  "Cochran, we need to talk, brother." "What's up, Warren? By the way, you  haven't seen my wife, have you? She was having lunch with Lisette today  and she's not home yet. Her car is here, but she's not. Have you talked  to Lisette today?"

"Yes, Donnie, I have. They went to lunch today at Somerset, and then  they went shopping. Seems that Angel was tired of walking around with a  naked hand and she was feeling guilty because she really didn't like the  ring you bought her. So she took it to Tiffany's to have it sized  because she was tired of not wearing your ring, and she was ashamed of  herself for being so picky. Care to hazard a guess as to what happened  next?"                       


Donnie dropped the phone in his panic and quickly picked it up again.  "Oh, man, they didn't tell her when I bought it, did they?"

Warren took no satisfaction in the frantic sound of his friend's voice.  "They told her a lot more than that. They told her the names you had  planned to have inscribed on it."

"Where is she now, Warren?"

Warren ignored the question. "You should have seen her, Cochran. I've  never seen anyone as hurt in my life. It was worse than telling a little  child there's no Santa Claus."

"Where is my wife, Warren?" Donnie repeated in a low, anguished voice.

"She's not here. Lisette brought her here and had her lie down for a  while. She called someone to pick her up." Donnie's relief was apparent.

"Oh, great, she called Paris. I'll call over there and go get her. I  know she's mad and hurt, but I can explain everything to her," he said,  speaking rapidly and with more assurance.

"She didn't call Paris. She called A.J. and he came and got her. She  left not too long ago. She says she's never going back to your house  again."

Donnie's short-lived relief vanished. A towering rage took its place.  "She went where? With who? Man, how could you let her go anywhere with  him? Why didn't you keep her with you, Warren?"

"Why didn't you take that stupid ring back when I told you to? Why  didn't you tell her the truth? She shouldn't have found out like this,  Donnie. I let her leave with A.J. because she's a grown woman, and she  knew what she wanted to do. She doesn't need any more stress right now.  In her advanced state of pregnancy, she needs to be as tranquil as  possible and if being with him makes her happy, so be it. Remember,  she's my friend, too, and I care about her." Realizing that he was being  rough on Donnie, he added, "I thought you needed to know, that's why  I'm calling you. Lisette is going to have my hide when she knows what I  did; she's pretty hot with you right now."

"Thanks, I guess," he said, the words rich with unspoken feelings. "Look, I gotta go, Warren, I'll talk to you later."

"Wait a minute! What are you getting ready to do? Don't do anything  stupid, Cochran. You need to cool off before you do something you'll  regret," Warren cautioned.

"I've already done something I'll regret for the rest of my life: I hurt my wife. Now I'm going to bring her home."

Chapter Twenty-Two

A.J. was trying hard not to let his level of concern show. Angelique  really didn't look well. Her normally glowing skin was clammy and pasty  and she seemed a bit winded. Her eyes were red and she was obviously  struggling to hold back the tears. They were in his loft apartment in  Harbortown where he'd brought her after they left Farmington Hills.  Normally she liked to sit next to the windows on the long, wide built-in  seat he'd built. It was firm yet soft and there were beautiful soft  pillows for her to rest against. She could sit and watch the river below  for hours; she loved the relaxing effect it had. But she was curled up  in the corner of his long sofa, looking lost. His sweet cat Nefertiti,  seemed to sense her distress and lay by her feet. She was a lap cat only  if invited, and she had impeccable manners. Angelique looked at the  cat's pretty, anxious face and patted the cushion next to her.

"Come on, baby, come keep me company," she crooned and Nefertiti  immediately jumped on the sofa and snuggled up to her. "A.J., she's so  beautiful. I want her."

"I'll get you one for Christmas," he promised. "Now, talk to me, baby.  Tell me what happened to get you so upset. You shouldn't be getting all  worked up like this. It's not good for you and it's definitely not good  for the little one."

Tears sprang to her eyes and she swiped them away, but not quickly  enough. A.J. pulled a huge leather ottoman in front of her and sat down  on it so that he could hold her hands. "Come on, baby, talk to me," he  entreated.

Angelique took a long, shuddering breath and began to explain how she  and Lisette went to Tiffany's to get the ring sized and what she'd found  out. "So there I am, looking like Boo-Boo the fool, thinking that these  rings were bought for me when he bought them for another woman. And  that woman was that Aneesah Shabazz, of all people. I thought she liked  me," she said with a stricken look on her face. "I thought she was  becoming a friend and here she was laughing at me behind my back all  this time. How could he treat me like that, A J.? Why did he have to lie  to me?" She took another long, tearful breath and tried valiantly to  stop the tears that were overflowing.                       


A.J. couldn't take it anymore. He stood up and scooped Angelique and the  very surprised Nefertiti into his arms and settled down on the sofa  with them. "I know it hurts, baby, but you can't cry like this. You  can't let yourself get this upset, sweetheart You have to think about  the baby. I don't know why he did what he did, Angel. Men aren't the  brightest creatures in the universe. They make mistakes and lots of  them. I'm not going to try to figure it out or justify it-that's up to  him. I just want you to be okay. Please stop crying, baby," he pleaded.

Nefertiti added her sentiments by giving a soft "meow" and licking  Angelique's hand while she stared at her anxiously. "See, you're getting  Nefertiti all upset. She has a very delicate constitution, you know.  She's sensitive, just like you."

Angelique surprised herself by laughing. It was a soft and weak laugh,  to be sure, but she did stop crying. A sudden pounding on AJ.'s big  double doors made both Angelique and the cat jump. A.J. set the two  gently to the side and went to see who was beating on his door like a  fool. When he saw the grim face of Donnie through his peephole, A.J. set  his jaw decisively. He opened the door at once and stepped outside,  closing it behind him.

"What do you want, Cochran?"

Donnie was in no mood for fun and games. "I'm here for my wife, Jandrewski, what do you think I want?"

"I'm not sure what you want. You've got a phenomenal woman, a woman far  better than anything you deserve, and you treat her like trash. You drag  her to the sin pit of the Western world for a sleazy little farce of a  marriage, you impregnate her and you don't bother to tell her she's not  your first choice for marriage, that she was just a drunken mistake. And  the lies just kept on coming, didn't they? You let her think you cared  about her; that you bought her a wedding ring, but no, that wasn't true,  was it? That was something you bought for the other woman, the one who  had sense enough to tell you to hit the bricks," A.J. spat out.