Royal(98)By: Winter Renshaw
“Do you know any of these people?” I ask.
Betty nods. “We know most of them, yes. Why?”
“If they haven’t hired an attorney yet, tell them Robert and Derek Rosewood of the Rosewood and Rosewood Agency are two of the best prosecutors in the state. And you didn’t hear this from me, but I have it on good authority that Brooks has a sizable trust fund set to mature in a few more years. It won’t cover everything they’ve lost, but it’ll help.”
The line moves ahead, and the lady with the huge cart pushes her bagged groceries toward the front door. Raspberry lips places her basket on the moving belt and exchanges a pleasantly surprised smile with Betty.
“Well, sweetheart, we’ll certainly pass the message along,” Betty says. “You can count on that.”
“They’re going to freeze all his assets.” Demi’s mouth moves a mile a minute as she unloads groceries. Cupboards open and slam. The glass condiment jars rattle when she yanks on the fridge door. She’s in a frenzy, all worked up. “All this time, he’d been running a goddamn scheme. Royal, he didn’t just fuck me over, he fucked over half the population of Rixton Falls.”
I shut my Constitutional Criminal Procedure book and rise to help her with the rest of the groceries.
“And you’re surprised, why?” I take a box of cookies from a bag and peel the pouch open. “Thanks, babe.”
She slaps my hand. “Wait until after we eat, please.”
Demi’s frown makes her look exactly like Bliss for two seconds, and I smirk. “You look like your mother right now.”
She rolls her eyes. “Good. Then maybe my lasagna will taste exactly like hers.”
“I’m sure it’ll be good either way.”
“How was school today?” She pulls a long casserole dish from the pantry and lines the ingredients along the island of our little rental condo. It’s modest and quaint, and just the right size for two people.
I’d love nothing more than to buy Demi a house someday, but now that I’m in school and she’s substitute teaching, the timing’s all off.
She hasn’t complained though. Not once. That’s what I love about her. The woman of my dreams is content just to be with me.
Now that says a lot.
Demi Rosewood is a keeper, but I already knew that. And I plan on keeping her. Forever.
She hands a jar of red sauce to me to open, and I twist it with a satisfying pop before giving it back.
“You know,” she says. “I was thinking on the way home.”
“Uh, oh,” I tease.
She shoves my arm playfully. “No, I was thinking about that ring.”
Tucked away in a safety deposit box at our bank is Demi’s flawless five carat engagement ring. The appraisal came in around a hundred grand, and we were hoping to use it for a down payment on a house someday.
At the time, it seemed justified. Brooks royally screwed her over, and her father is still working on the credit card fraud situation. But she always had slight reservations.
“He probably bought that ring with other people’s money,” Demi says. “Money he stole from the good people in Rixton Falls who trusted him.”
“Yeah. I’m sure.”
“I’m going to sell it and put the money toward them. It’ll hardly put a dent in the damage Brooks did, but it’s better than nothing. We have the rest of our lives to save for our retirement, and they don’t.”
“That’s big of you, Demi.” I clear my throat and slip my arm over her shoulders. She fits under me just perfectly. “I completely agree. It’s the right thing to do.”
The knock at our door at six signals that our guests have arrived.
“I’ll get it,” I offer.
“Royal!” Haven jumps into my arms before I’ve even pulled the door all the way open. She wraps her arms around my neck and dangles, and I lift her up and carry her to the kitchen.
“Hey, man.” Derek pats my back and smiles.
We’ve been reconnecting these last couple of months. Getting to know each other again. Turns out the bonds of friendship aren’t as easily severed as I thought they were. Sometimes when we’re hanging out, it feels like we never really had that separation of time. It’s like someone placed a bookmark between us and we picked up right where we left off.