I wish we could linger—I don’t want to go home right now—but of course she has to work. We walk out together, chatting animatedly. It’s somewhat forced on my part, but it’s better to pretend I’m fine.
“We should do this again when you don’t have a crisis going,” Traci says. “It was fun.”
“Definitely.” I smile.
Talking things out with her has definitely improved my mood, even if we couldn’t come up with a solution to my problem with Elliot. I can’t tell her much, not like in the old days, but just knowing that I have someone I can talk to makes me feel better.
We hug each other goodbye outside the door, and I watch her trot off down the street. When I turn to leave, something cold splashes all over my chest.
“Oh shit,” comes a dismayed male voice. “Sorry about that. Are you okay?”
“Uh, yeah…I guess.” I tug the wet dress from my chest with a grimace. The iced coffee drink—probably a latte—really did a number on my outfit. It’s turned the yellow into a semi-transparent brown, and I can feel it soaking through my padded bra, making my breasts cold and uncomfortable. A couple of large rivulets have also dripped all the way down to the hem; several drops land on my shoes.
“Really, really sorry.” He pulls out a pale cream handkerchief from his jacket and hands it to me.
I take it and do what I can to salvage the dress, but it’s no good.
“Ah jeez. I’ve I ruined your clothes.”
I finally raise my eyes to look at the man who’s being so apologetic. A lot of guys would’ve been like, “Watch where you’re going” or given me a token “sorry.” But he’s different. He genuinely seems upset.
The guy is probably in his late thirties or early forties, although I’d put my money on the younger half of the range. He’s impeccably groomed, with neatly cut sandy brown hair and a cleanly shaven face. A dark navy suit hugs his tall, lanky body, making him look like a banker or a lawyer. The only somewhat disconcerting thing about him are the eyes—light gray, and penetrating as he studies my reaction. I feel like a lab rat under the gaze.
“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “I should’ve been more careful.”
“I wasn’t watching where I was going.” He smiles sheepishly and shrugs. “On my phone.”
“You can’t go around like that. Let me buy you a new dress.”
“Not at all necessary.”
An eyebrow rises like he can’t believe I’m turning down a free outfit. “Are you sure?”
“Quite. I’m on my way home anyway.”
“Still. I insist. You’re soaked.”
“Tell you what. You can pay for the dry cleaning.” I don’t want to go anywhere with this man. There’s nothing really wrong with what he’s offering, but…
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a money clip. He hands me a bill and a business card. “This should cover it. But really, no joke, if your cleaner can’t get the stain out, let me know and I’ll have your clothes replaced.”
“I’ll call if there’s a problem. I promise.”
He points a finger at the card clutched in my hand, raises his eyebrows significantly, and walks away. I look down. The lunatic has given me a hundred-dollar bill. Where in the world does he get his stuff cleaned that it costs a hundred dollars for a single outfit?
His business card is printed on stock that feels thick and expensive. It has three numbers—mobile, office and fax. There’s no business title or anything else, just a name. Keith Shellington.
Sighing, I stick the money and card into my wallet and head home.
I can’t focus on anything. I want to blame my inability to concentrate on a lack of sleep, but I can function on two hours for three or four nights in a row so long as I make up for it later.
After having read the same email five times without understanding what my assistant wants, I close my laptop in disgust. My mind keeps drifting to my wife. I can’t stop thinking about the way she felt, the way she came against me and the way she sucked me off. I’m doing my best to convince myself it’s just the sex—I’m a healthy guy and I love it. But the truth is, there’s something more going on. No one’s ever gotten to me like this, making me feel like a piece of me is breaking with desperate want of her.
Stop obsessing about her.
Easier said than done.
“Damn it.” I get up and kick my chair. It wheels away across the room.
Needing to give myself something to do, I pull out my phone and call Lucas. The bastard predictably ignores me. He isn’t doing it because he’s upset with me. He’s just become something of a hermit ever since the accident that left him scarred and slightly limping two years ago. Actually, he doesn’t really limp usually, only when he’s tired. I might’ve thought he was embarrassed about his scar, but I know my brother. He’s not that vain, and he certainly isn’t worried about what people think. And I have proof: he’s only hermit-like when invited to social events. For professional stuff, he’s available—albeit very selectively—and people seek him for speeches and consulting services for his brilliant mind.
Pissed off, I text him a name: Keith Shellington, and think Now let’s see how long it takes for you to call.
A few minutes later, my phone rings. The screen flashes my twin brother’s face along with LUCAS in all caps.
“Finally, you bastard,” I say.
“Um. Hold on a minute, please,” comes the familiar woman’s voice, and I pinch the bridge of my nose. It’s Lucas’s personal assistant, Rachel. I actually like her, so I’m annoyed she got the greeting meant for her boss.
“Lucas,” my twin says finally.
“Your finger broken?”
“No. Rachel likes to be useful.”
“You’re an ass.”
“And you texted Keith Shellington to tell me this? Watch it. Next time I might not call back at all.”
“I know where you live.”
“Ah, but do you know my schedule?”
Touché. Lucas has been traveling over the last two years, and I haven’t been able to catch him, not even by barging into his home unannounced.