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Monster: Book 1 (A Dark Psychological Thriller)

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Book 1

Copyright ©2016 Brittany Adams

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods without prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Any questions, please contact [email protected]

Monster is a work of fiction intended for mature readers. All sexually active characters are fictional, are consenting adults, and are over the age of 18 years. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

 

From the moment I laid eyes on him, Perry Walsh was a god to me. He was my beginning and my end, the sadist to my masochist, and I wanted him more than I wanted to breathe. He had it all—looks, money, a future with his father’s multi-billion dollar marketing firm… and a wife.

A wife.

I spent four years waiting for him, hoping against hope that he would see the error of his ways and divorce her once and for all so he and I could be together. We belonged in each other’s arms. Openly. Not in secret. He was the only man I ever loved and the only man I wanted to be with. But after four years of hiding as the other woman, I was starting to think he was the one man I would never have.

Until I met his father, Alex Walsh, and then something happened. Something I can’t explain.

You see, Alex promised me I could have Perry, that I could have everything I wanted and more.

If I would just do this one, little thing for him…

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become one.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never commit to a strange place without checking out the bathrooms first. If they’re trashed, chances are they won’t give two shits about me either. I’ve had this obsession for years, and I’ve actually walked out of places because of it. My therapist once told me that kind of extreme behavior is usually a scapegoat for something else, then she proceeded to ask me if I’d had a traumatic bathroom experience as a child. I told her she was the crazy one and left and never looked the fuck back.

Therapists… who needs them?

Good thing for Gene, the bathrooms at the Fourth Street Filling Station were pretty nice. Otherwise I would have messaged him to meet me somewhere else.

Since I was early meeting him, I spent a little extra time in the stall, scrolling through the notifications on my phone. But that didn’t last long. They seemed to be nothing more than the same old shit that cluttered my screen every day. Besides, the only thing I cared about was whether or not Perry was back in town. He’d been gone for five days, the second longest length of time we’d ever spent apart. The first longest was a week, when he was honeymooning with her.

Her.

The bitch.

I had him before she did. And she didn’t even care about him. Only wanted him for his money. Shit, I like money too. Who doesn’t? But I want money with the man I love, and I want experiences with the man I love. I want to go places and do things, whether we’re curled up under the sheets during a thunderstorm or buying margaritas with gold coins at a Puerto Rican bar.

That was the one thing I still didn’t know. Did he even love her? As much as it pained me to say it, she was a beautiful woman with enormously large tits. And I mean large with a capital holy shit. Put it this way: if her intelligence were inversely proportional to her breast size, she’d have the IQ of an empty glass. Hell, she even had platinum blonde hair and super tan skin, the works. It was disgusting. Perry used to tell me I was so much prettier than her. I would just laugh. Never was good at taking a compliment.

I dropped the phone in my bag and flushed the commode before making my way to the sink to wash my hands. My eyeliner was smudged, so I smeared it away and ran my hands through my auburn hair. The rain had made it frizzy, and I had to smile. Perry loved it when my hair got all kinky.

When I came out of the bathroom, I saw Gene speaking with the hostess. He glanced in my direction and nodded towards me, so we met at a table in the middle. I threw my shoulder bag over the back of the chair.

“Sorry I’m late. I had a meeting with the Schneider Farm people that took forever.”

“You’re not late,” I said looking at my watch. “I’ve been hanging out in the bathroom.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” A grin spread across his face, and he popped open the ginormous plastic menu. “I can’t believe you’ve never been here. Remind me to get you out more often.”

I raised an eyebrow then blew out a sarcastic laugh, knowing that in reality I need a more docile life. Maybe not docile, but definitely less crazy. “Whatever you say, boss.”

The waitress arrived and took our order, and Gene tapped at his phone for a few minutes before setting it down.

“I’ve got a new job for you. This one, I think you’ll like.”

And we finally got to the heart of why he had asked me here. We never discussed our “bootleg” stuff at the office.

“Oh yeah? Does it involve traveling?” I had been telling Gene I wanted to see parts of the country that didn’t have red clay for soil. You know, a nice place where every other vehicle isn’t a pickup truck full of kids holding rifles. I mean, don’t get me wrong. North Carolina is great for certain things, but a girl like me can only take so much of one place before she starts to get a little antsy. Plus, traveling would allow me and Perry some time together, away from the wife.

“Actually…” he said. I held my breath. “…no. But it does involve one of your favorite places.”

I threw my straw wrapper at him. “You’re such an ass sometimes. Where is it?”

“Thai Kwon’s Café.”

My whole body slumped. “No. There’s no way I’m putting them out of business, Gene.”

Thai Kwon’s Café had been open for almost five years. They were this combo Tae Kwon Do studio and sushi bar/Asian restaurant all wrapped up into one awesome place. You know, fun for the whole family. It was the first public place Perry and I went to together, so needless to say it held a bit of nostalgic value for me.

“Liz, we’ve discussed this ad nauseam.” Gene rubbed his face like he was worn out with me. Normally I’d have been holding back a laugh at his pained expression, but I felt seriously ill about bringing down one of the most awesome places in town. “You’re not the one putting them out of business. Walsh Enterprises is. Our job at Computer Solutions is to simply give our clients what they need. And Walsh needs some information on a certain someone at a certain… restaurant type establishment.” He waved his hand in the air as if he had no idea how to refer to Thai Kwon’s Café.

I sat quietly for a few minutes and blew a long exhale through puffy cheeks. I wasn’t going to win this one and Gene knew that.

As not only my boss but also my legal guardian from the time I was fifteen until I was nineteen, Gene had mega power over me. I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for him. Seriously. I’d probably be in a ditch or hooked on crack or selling blow jobs for a dollar on the corner of Fifth and Spruce. I simply couldn’t decline any jobs. And really, I’d never wanted to. At least not until now. But it wouldn’t just be Gene I’d be letting down. Add to that list Perry—whose father owned Walsh Enterprises, a multi-billion dollar marketing firm headquartered right here in my hometown—and Mr. Walsh, Sr, who could single handedly destroy Gene’s business if he wanted to. Nope. Whether I liked it or not, I would waltz into Thai Kwon’s Café and do what I did best. I’d been doing this for several years. It shouldn’t bother me so much, but it did.

“What’s the deadline on this job?” I finally asked, feeling a little somber.

“Next Monday.”

I nodded slowly and the waitress brought us our food. Gene made polite conversation with me, giving me the details on where I needed to go when, and who to ask for. Because of what I did for work, I had become convinced I didn’t have a conscience, which made these feelings all the more strange. And now I just wish Perry was home so he could make this pesky guilt go away, at least temporarily.

“You need a ride home?” Gene asked after paying the bill.

“That would be swell.”

My studio apartment was five blocks from the restaurant, but it was raining, and a summer storm in the south was nothing to contend with, especially after working all day. After he dropped me off, I grabbed a beer and headed for the tub. There’s something particularly amazing about the cold zing of a Michelob when you’re submerged in hot water. But when my phone rang, I couldn’t seem to dry my hand fast enough to answer it.

“Finally,” I answered.

“Oh, my little Lizbeth.” My stomach fluttered at the sound of his voice. “You’re supposed to give me a simple hello when I call, remember?” he added.

“I know. I’m sorry. I just miss you so fucking much.”

Answering my phone “professionally” was a rule he’d established, just on some remote chance that his wife should become suspicious and start calling his female contacts. Answering the phone that intimately would bust us both for sure.

“I miss you too. And just because our companies are connected and we occasionally work together doesn’t mean we can slack off for one minute. But under the circumstances, I won’t berate you.” He paused. “So how have you been? I hated not being able to call you all day.”

I bit my lip and smiled. “I hated it too. And as a consequence, my day was long as shit. Aside from having six assignments, I was worried I wouldn’t hear from you at all. Then Gene asked me to meet him for dinner. I knew right away what that meant.”

“Ah, so you heard about the Café?”

“Yes. What are your thoughts on this?” He had to be just as upset as me. I took a huge gulp of beer, wishing I had something stronger.

“It’s just business, baby. Shit happens.”

“Just business?” I whined. “This is the Café we’re talking about. Our café, Perry.”

There was this silence on the other end, and I could tell that he felt guilty about making light of the situation.

“I know, baby. I know. We’ll find a new restaurant, christen it and make it ours. I promise.”

I didn’t say anything. There’s just no way to do that. You can’t redo a first.

“So tell me how this is making you feel? Are we talking emo or goth?”

I let out a moan. “I’m not wanting to cut myself, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Goth it is. That’s good.”

I loved how Perry tried to understand my moods. When I was upset about something and he couldn’t be there to physically lay eyes on me, he gauged how I was by asking me if I’m emo or goth. Emo meant I was entering self-infliction mode, ready to inflict pain on myself by any means necessary. And Goth meant I felt like crap but I’d get over it. I had no idea how he came up with this system but it worked damn good.

The thing was—and I didn’t tell him this—but I hadn’t been emo in a while. As a masochist, I regularly sought out pain. And as a sadist, Perry was more than happy to oblige. There was a time I couldn’t get off unless I was being tortured in some way. Usually nipple clamps were enough to do the job, but sometimes I would require a stronger hit like bastinado or tickling, or even knife play. Damn, tickling was about the worst for me. The worst and the best. And Perry had much deeper, darker needs that I filled for him. But lately, I don’t know, I just didn’t seem to want it so much.

“Where are you, by the way?” I asked. “You’re not home yet, are you?”

“No. Baxter picked me up at the airport.”

“Really? What happened with Melissa? Did she break a nail or something?”

“Now, now. Be nice. She actually had a fundraiser to go to. I felt bad I couldn’t be there.”

I snarled over the phone and sucked down the rest of my beer, feeling myself getting angry over something I had been dealing with for way too long.

“Let me clarify that I felt bad on the count that I really wanted to participate in a good cause. Not spend time with her.”

“Well ain’t you just a hopeless romantic. I do swear…” I said in my best southern drawl.

“Hmm. Do you know how much I want to bite your nipples right now?”

“About as much as I want to stick them in your mouth,” I replied, sinking further into the tub. Perry sighed loudly, and I heard some crinkling noises in the background.

“If my time wasn’t so limited, I’d stop over for a quickie. You and I both need it. But I’m feeling rather brutish. And I can’t exactly wail on you then bail on you.”

“Yes you can,” I said, sitting upright in the tub. “Seriously. I’m a big girl. I can take it. Oh god, please come over, Perry.” I didn’t want him to wail on me either, but I did desperately want to see him.

He thought for a moment, then said, “All right. But I can only stay for half an hour. And no play tonight. We’ll save that for when I can properly care for you.”

“Okay. I’ll see you soon.” I flipped the lever with my toe to drain the water and grabbed the towel off the rack. After drying off and brushing my teeth, I felt like a new woman. Perry wasn’t coming over to wreck me, but this was one of the many things I loved about him: with a full time job of helping his father run a massive marketing firm, a wife who was more than demanding at times, and even traveling out of the country, he still managed to take care of me. He knew that a rough session would make me drop, sending me into a full blown emotional flood from hell that would last two or three days, especially if he wasn’t around to take care of me afterwards. And neither one of us wanted that. So no pain tonight.

Suddenly, I felt a flood of relief at that thought. And I knew that eventually I would have to talk with him about this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Fuck, I missed you.” Perry ripped my top over my head, barely missing a catastrophe with the ceiling fan. His hands groped my breasts a little harder than I expected. But I knew the most abuse I would get tonight was a firm shove to the mattress.

“I missed the hell out of you, too.”

He grabbed my panties and yanked them down, wasting no time entering me. His movements were harsh and unyielding, not waiting for my permission. It was sloppy, quick sex—the kind you have when you’re hiding in a broom closet at work. He avoided getting too close to me, and I knew it was because he didn’t want to smell like anything other than an airport terminal. He did have to go home and face the wife, after all. And it made me want him that much more.

I came in minutes, and he wasn’t far behind, making his exit about as abrupt as his entrance. The brief connection we had satisfied me, but only for several fleeting seconds. I was missing him all over again before his cum was finished spilling out of me.

“Next time I go out of town, you’re coming with me.”

I rolled over and pushed the pillow under the side of my head. “Don’t say it if you don’t mean it.”

The last time he told me that, Melissa ended up cancelling her plans so she could join him on his business trip. He couldn’t exactly tell her ‘no.’

“I never say things I don’t mean,” he defended, kneeling on the mattress to peck me on the lips. “There are situations that extend beyond my control, that’s all.”

I internally rolled my eyes and grabbed the back of his head before he could get away. “I know that. That’s why the next time I’m taking the situation into my own hands.”

Perry’s eyes became enflamed, but with what, I couldn’t be sure. He was either afraid or really turned on by my assertive comment. There were many times, just like this, that he was impossible to read. Another big turn on for me. I hate it when men are transparent.

“Baxter’s waiting for me,” he said softly before kissing me. He said Baxter, but what he really meant was Melissa. However his lips were warm and filled with love and promises of good things to come. So I smiled at him.

“Call me later?”

“Of course. Don’t stay up too late, baby.”

He walked out of my bedroom as I lay there naked, pretending to myself that he was only going to the kitchen to get some water before coming back to bed. Back to me. Back to the one he belonged with.

I reached over to my bedside table as I heard the front door close and removed my journal, flipping it to the back where I kept a stack of photos. I dumped them on my bed and sifted through them until I found the one I was looking for. In it, a woman was leaning over and kissing her husband on the cheek at their wedding reception, a broad smile stretched across her face. The groom’s mouth was wide open in mock surprise.

I mentally reversed the recording, recalling the night I had met him. Gene had reluctantly agreed to take me to a formal banquet thrown by Walsh Enterprises, and the second I saw Perry, I instantaneously understood all the fairy tales I had read about over the years. It was true love. All these new feelings awakened inside of me, and my body sort of lit on fire. I could hardly eat I was so nervous. Regardless, I knew I had to meet him. So I waited until he walked to the buffet table alone, then I made my way up there, nervously brushing my arm against his.

I almost melted…

 

I heard the shrimp was poisoned,” I said.

Shifting his gaze to my chest then quickly back up to my face, he flashed me his sexiest smile. “Thanks for the warning, but as luck would have it I’ve got my trusty anti-poison pill with me tonight.” He tapped his breast pocket then quickly tossed a shrimp up in the air, catching it in his mouth.

I laughed like a silly school girl, cause I was one at the time, and we proceeded to talk for the next fifteen minutes. Gene came up and privately scolded me, whispering in my ear I had better get my juvenile ass back to the table, pronto. He shuffled away and I looked back at Perry, mortified.

I guess your dad doesn’t think you ought to be fraternizing with the guests.”

I rolled my eyes.

How old are you anyway?” he asked.

I’m almost eighteen.”

He raised a brow at me.

Sixteen,” I finally admitted. “And he’s not my dad. But he is my legal guardian.”

Oh. What happened to your dad?”

And here was the moment of truth. I couldn’t recall how many times I had been asked that question. But this was the only one that actually mattered how I answered.

I shrugged my shoulders. “He gave me up. Couldn’t take care of me anymore.”

Without breaking eye contact with me, he took a long, slow sip of wine then said, “I can’t imagine anyone ever giving you up.”

 

I couldn’t breathe for what seemed like forever. That was when I knew that Perry Walsh was the man I wanted to be with.

We didn’t see each other for a while after that—it took him almost a year to come around to my way of thinking. And even then we still had to be pretty damn sneaky so Gene wouldn’t find out.

Before I started working at Computer Solutions, I would go to Perry’s house after school on days he stayed home, which was only every once in a while. He would let me sit on the floor in front of him and he’d brush my hair for hours while I watched soap operas. He’d hold my hand as we sat on the couch together listening to grunge metal as I drank mountain dews. He taught me basic self defense so that I would never have to worry about some creeper attacking me as I walked to my car alone at night. Sometimes when Gene worked late, I would stay at Perry’s till after dark and he would cook steaks and corn on the cob, pouring me a small, half glass of champagne. And eventually, I spent the night with him, promising Gene I was staying at Rebecca Dalton’s house and that we would probably be at the library all night because we had a school project to work on.

He held me in his arms.

He told me I was beautiful.

He told me he wanted a future with me.

He promised to take care of me.

So I decided to give him my virginity.

And once that deed was done, I had the great pleasure of meeting Perry Walsh, the sadist.

I became hypnotized as I continued to stare at the photo of Perry and Melissa, recalling their wedding day three years ago with painful clarity—even though I hadn’t even been there—remembering with particular agony how Perry had met me outside and fucked me behind the dumpster where his reception was being held. It was a brave move on his part. Mine, not so much. I wanted to get caught.

And I especially recall him promising me that he was still mine and I was still his and that he was only doing this to make his father happy so that he could get his hands on the Walsh fortune.

“I don’t know why, but my dad adores Melissa. And he’s been bugging me to settle down. I can’t disappoint my father or he’ll cut me from the business.”

It didn’t make any sense, why his father would want him to marry so badly. I asked why he couldn’t just wait and marry me since I had just turned eighteen. He said that was preposterous. Not because we had only been secretly dating for seven months, but because his father wouldn’t approve of the eight year age difference. Maybe in a few years, he said, but until then, Melissa would have to do.

I was hurt, and I was angry. Livid. I told him I wanted to kick her ass. He practically laughed at me, as if he didn’t believe I would do it. Then he told me that once Walsh Enterprises was his, which wouldn’t be long since his dad was almost 50, he would divorce Melissa and we could finally be together. He swore his dad planned to retire young, passing the company on to him.

“True love has no concept of time or distance, Lizbeth. We’re already together here,” he had said, pointing at my heart. “Wait for me?”

Tears burned my eyes because I knew he was right, even though I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted to hate him and move on. But in my world, there was no one to move on to. Perry was the only man I had been with, and he was the only one who knew all my flaws, without me having to reveal my biggest secret yet.

And he still wanted me.

In my mind, I truly believed no one would want the mess that was me.

I drifted off, my thoughts slowly morphing to memories of my childhood and the nightmarish hell I had lived through with my father, knowing I was lucky to get out when I did. Then my phone beeped, waking me up.

Perry.

I glanced at the clock. 10:39. Weird. He should be in bed by now.

 

Melissa’s getting in the shower. Got a few minutes?

 

My gut twisted at the likely reason for her showering, especially at this late hour. I texted him back.

 

Yeppers

 

I answered as soon as it rang. “Is something wrong? I got a vibe.”

He laughed that sexy damn laugh of his. “No, just wanted to say goodnight. I felt bad about not being able to spend more time with you earlier. I swear I’ll make it up to you. In fact, I thought maybe we could slip away for a while this Saturday. What do you say?”

I bolted upright and pressed the phone to my ear, sure I heard him wrong. Then I laid back down in slow motion. “I’m busy, actually.”

“You’re full of shit, is what you are.”

I snorted. “Where are we going?” I asked, this time with a little excitement in my voice.

“I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

“Mmm, foreplay.”

“You’re such a fucking brat, you know that?”

“Would you have me any other way?” I asked him.

He took a second to answer. “No. I wouldn’t. So how about this? Be ready by nine o’clock. Make sure you eat breakfast, but I’ll take care of lunch. Oh, and wear those jean shorts I like so much with your Harley boots. Not the ones with the heels, but with the rubber soles.”

I was literally chewing off my nails listening to him. It was so rare that he did shit like this, so I savored every minute, in an excited, nail-bitey kind of way.

“Any other requests, Master?”

“Yes. Come prepared.”

And then there was silence. By ‘come prepared’ he meant that we were going to play. The sadist was coming out. I got that nervous flitter through my belly that I always get when I know he’s going to hurt me. It’s like my body wants to run towards it and from it at the same time. But then my gut tightened. Again, that had been happening a lot lately.

I would need to be mentally prepared, and he knew this. I had no idea what he would do, whether it would be nothing more than a mind fuck, which is a lot worse than it sounds, or just simple physical pain.

“Okay. I will come prepared.”

I could hear his soft laugh through the receiver, and it made me chew my lip.

“All right, baby. I have to go, but I’ll call tomorrow, okay?”

And that was it. He was leaving me for the night to go back to his wife. We had done this, I don’t know, probably hundreds of times since he had married her. I should be used to it, but I would never get used to it, and I never wanted to get used to it.

I should be with him. It should be me in that shower at his house right now. I just wished he could see this. And I was fast approaching the point where I was tired of waiting. I felt like a rotting rubber band being stretched way beyond her limits, and at any moment, I was bound to snap. And it wouldn’t be pretty. It would not be pretty at all.

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow, then.”

“Love you,” he whispered.

I laughed silently and whispered it back. “Love you tooooo…”

After hanging up, I felt kind of heavy. My body, my mood, everything. My only consolation was that in two days I would have him all to myself for at least six hours, maybe more. And pain and pleasure and sadist and masochist worlds would be colliding.

I shoved the pictures that were still strewn across my bed back into the journal and slid it into the drawer. Then I turned off my bedside lamp and lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling until my eyes burned before finally adjusting to the blackness that surrounded me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With some effort the next day, I managed to pull myself out of the car so I could do what I needed to do. I stared at the flashing “Thai Kwon’s Café” sign, silently cursing myself for being such a wimp. I had to get control of my emotions, or else they would control me. And I couldn’t have that.

The bell chimed as I walked through the front door, and Jojo, the owner’s son, greeted me with a smile. His name isn’t really Jojo. It’s something Asian that starts with a “J.” It sounds like “jambalaya” but I can’t pronounce it. And apparently neither can anyone else because he just goes by Jojo. I gave him my salute as usual and plopped down at the bar.

“Nice to see you here, Liz. Meeting someone?” he asked sliding a menu across the wooden surface.

“No. You didn’t hear?” I pushed the menu aside.

He leaned on the counter. “Hear what?”

“I’m here on official business. You guys are upgrading your software, right?”

“Oh yeah! Summer said they were doing that this week. Had no idea your company was handling the switch, though.”

“Just found out last night myself. So is she here?”

“Sure is. You want me to put an order in for you?”

My mouth watered at the thought. “Yes. Pad thai this time, extra peanuts.”

“You got it,” he said, taking the menu back and setting it under the bar.

I spun in the chair to face the entrance while waiting on Summer. She was my official contact person for the job, and I hoped she would be easy to get along with. The last thing I needed was to deal with a difficult person on a job I wasn’t happy about to begin with.

“Are you Lizbeth?”

I spun back around and found myself face to face with a drop dead gorgeous blonde who appeared to be about ten years older than me. “I am, but I go by Liz.”

She smiled and nodded her head. “You can come back to the office.”

I followed her through the doors and walked the narrow hallway that led to a small room with one computer. She closed the door behind us as I set my bag on the faux leather chair.

“So how long have you been with CS?”

“About four years now, but I’ve known the owner for six.”

She sat down at the desk and clicked the mouse, navigating through their existing software. I cringed thinking about what we were doing, and watching her stone-faced movements made me admire her that much more. She seemed so calm.

“How long have you been doing this?”

She whipped her head in my direction, maybe surprised that I would be so forthright. “Twelve years,” she answered, turning her attention back to the monitor. “Long enough that it’s second nature. And when I’m done here, I’ve got an assignment waiting on me in Boston. Cannot. Fucking. Wait.”

I smirked. “Not a fan of the south?”

She made a face and gave me an apologetic look. “No offense, but I don’t do redneck.”

I shrugged my shoulders. “None taken.” I paused a moment, then pushed further. “So Walsh lets you travel, huh? I’ve been bugging my boss to expand so I can do the same.”

Nodding her head, she tapped away on the keyboard. “I wouldn’t have a job that didn’t. I get restless if I stay in one place too long. Guess it’s a good thing I never had kids.”

I felt a momentary pang. “I don’t see kids in my future either. Maybe I should ask Walsh if he’s hiring.” I was totally kidding when I said it, but a part of me did get a rush at the idea. Summer stood up from the computer and motioned to the chair for me to sit.

“Do a good job here and I’ll give you a reference. He’s always on the lookout for trustworthy people.”

“Really? You’d be doing me a solid, thanks.” How awesome would it be if I could work side by side with Perry every single day? I knew Gene would be crushed if I left, and I didn’t think I would do it, but suddenly the idea was pretty appealing.

I pulled the thumb drive out of the front pocket of my shoulder bag and set it next to the monitor.

“I already have the new software installed. Fortunately, it doesn’t overwrite any existing data. You’ll just need to go into the manager settings here,” she said, pointing to the drop down box, “and click on employee codes. From there, you’ll copy everything over to the USB. Simple enough, huh?”

It sure was simple. Technically speaking, my presence here wasn’t even needed. Summer could have handled this all by herself. But on paper, I was needed. I was a “beard,” making it appear as though tech support from Computer Solutions was installing the restaurant’s new software.

Just then, Jojo opened the door to the office and set a bowl of pad thai down next to me. “Don’t mind me. I’m just delivering a bowl of deliciousness. How’s it going, by the way?”

I couldn’t bear to look at him.

“Awesome. She said she’ll be done in ten minutes,” Summer answered.

I bobbed my head up and down in agreement and gave Jojo a sad smile. If he knew what I was doing, he would never forgive me.

“Thanks for the noodles,” I managed to say. “I’ll settle up on my way out.”

He held his hands up. “No need to. It’s on the house. It will be so nice to have a reliable way to keep track of our inventory and orders.”

“I think you’ll quite enjoy it,” I lied. God, how did I do that?

But this was what I did. I went into businesses, copied information that Walsh needed, and handed it over, plain and simple. What he did with that information, I’ll never know.

What I did know is that when I visited a local business in this capacity, it typically closed—permanently—within one week. I had no idea why, and I’d often thought that something happened to scare the owners away. I tried asking Gene about it once, but he told me that some things were better left in the dark.

“I’ll let you two finish up. And don’t leave without seeing me first. I want to talk to you about something.”

I sat up and looked at him, pointing to my chest.

“Yes, you,” he answered, laughing while shutting the office door. Damn. I hadn’t even done the deed yet and already he was making me paranoid. In this case, I didn’t need much of a push.

“You think we’re already busted?” I asked Summer jokingly.

“Nah, he’s just fucking around. Walsh makes sure none of this shit can be tracked back to anyone. Otherwise I sure as hell wouldn’t be here.”

“He is pretty good at covering his tracks. But then again, I’m good friends with his son, so I’ve heard a story or two.”

“Oh really? You know Perry?”

“Yeah. You know him too?” The way she said his name made it sound like they were more than business acquaintances. My radar was going off big time.

“Of course I do. He is the boss’s son. And he’s sexy as hell. Too bad he’s married.”

My guard eased up a little. Sounded like she had nothing more than a crush on him. “Yeah. He’s pretty hot all right.”

I smiled to myself, and she messed around on her phone while I ate pad thai and waited for the files to finish copying over. Once it was complete, I removed the thumb drive and uninstalled the old software before rebooting the computer. The whole thing took maybe half an hour. My job was always rather easy. It was the emotional fallout for this one I wasn’t prepared for.

I stopped at the bar before leaving and Jojo was on the phone. He curled his finger at me and I sat down, feeling more nervous than I should have.

He was speaking his native language over the phone, and I drummed my finger on the countertop while waiting for him to finish. I really wanted to get the hell out of there. It was like waiting for a bomb to go off. A bomb that I had set. Finally he hung up and jumped up on the bar, swinging his legs over the end and sitting down next to me. I had to laugh.

“What are you doing this Saturday?” he asked. I widened my eyes at him, not sure if he was asking me out or if he was just being nosy.

“I’m not exactly sure yet, but I have plans with a friend. Why?”

“I’m throwing myself a housewarming party for my new digs. I was hoping you could come.” He was smiling so big. How could I say no?

“Hey, congrats!” I said, patting him on the back. “I would love to be there. What time is it?”

“Starts at eight. And bring your friend if you want.” He hopped off the stool and went back around to the other side of the bar. “I’ll message you my address on Facebook.”

“Sounds good. Can’t wait.” We fist bumped each other before I left, and all I could do was hope that he had a decent chunk of change in his savings account.

Because next week, he might not have a job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How’d everything go?”

“It went,” I told Gene over the phone. I should have already been back at the office, working on the next assignment. But somehow my car magically drove me to Walsh Enterprises. I was already in the parking garage.

“Good. When you get back I want us to go over some of these new accounts. And you’ll be thrilled that most of them are independents.”

By independents, he meant that they were legit computer repair jobs. But it was rare for me to handle those, so I was surprised he wanted to go over them with me. At the moment, however, I had more pressing matters to attend to.

“It will be a while before I get back to the office. And since I’m already out with the data on the Thai Kwon’s job, why don’t you let me go ahead and deliver it to Walsh?”

“Mm… better let me handle it. He’s not expecting you. Besides, their building is a pain in the ass to get into.”

“No it’s not,” I argued, totally prepared for him to deny my request. “In fact, I’m right here. Got in easy peasy.”

I paused and gave him a second to answer.

“What do you say, Gene? It’ll save you a trip out here. And I probably won’t even see the man. His assistant will probably take it from me.”

I, of course, had every intention of seeing the man but I was downplaying it for Gene. In fact, I couldn’t tell him this, but I had been dying to meet Mr. Walsh for several reasons, not the least of which was the fact that he was Perry’s father. And as long as Perry had anything to say about it, I wouldn’t be meeting his dad anytime soon. I needed to find a way to get in on the inside, find out what was so damn intriguing about Melissa and why Mr. Walsh loved her so much. She didn’t come from money, and the best I could tell, she had no roots here in Winston-Salem.

I had spent way too much time thinking about this over the past few months. But Perry had always warned me to stay away from his father, arguing that he would be able to smell our love affair from a mile away, and that Perry would be the one to suffer the consequences. And let’s not forget Mr. Walsh was capable of destroying pretty much anyone. He didn’t scare me, though. Not in any real sense. And I was ready to push my luck with Perry. If he happened to freak out about it, well, it wouldn’t be anything that a good, old-fashioned blow job couldn’t fix.

“No, don’t give it to his assistant,” Gene said, sounding exasperated. “You need to hand it directly to him.”

“So it’s okay, then?”

He exhaled loudly. “I suppose it won’t hurt. Just let him know I’m under the weather today. And be sure to give him the name of your contact person at the café. He likes that personal touch.”

I made a fist and did a downward jab. “Thanks. I’ll see you back at the office.” This day was looking up after all.

After locking my car, I made my way inside the twenty-five story building, almost all of which was occupied by the company. Perry had told me a few years ago that his dad had an executive club on the twenty-fifth floor with some serious parties that went on. Strippers, booze, drugs, and open sex. You name it, it happened. He had conveyed that bit of information as if he didn’t approve. But then again, his relationship with his father had always been strained, so I took it Perry didn’t approve of a lot that his father did.

I walked into the open lobby, my black leather boots lightly tapping the marble floor. Adriana smiled at me before I made it to the welcome desk.

“Hey there, Liz. You have an appointment today?” I was surprised she remembered me. I had only been here a few times. It was, however, the first time I was here without Perry’s knowledge.

“No appointment, but Mr. Walsh is expecting me, sort of. If you just let him know Computer Solutions is here, he’ll probably know what it’s about.”

She picked up the phone. “I’ll call Perry right now.”

Shit. She was used to me coming here for Perry. “Actually,” I said, reaching across the counter and touching her on the hand. “I’m here for Mr. Walsh, senior.”

“Oh. Very well, then,” she answered, a little more surprised than I would have expected. I hoped that wasn’t a bad thing.

“Hi, Mr. Walsh. Liz from Computer Solutions is here to see you. She said you’d know what it’s about?” Glancing at me rather funny, my heart skipped a beat. Then several seconds later, “Thank you, sir.”

After hanging the phone up, she looked at me. “You can go on up. Do you know where his suite is?”

I scrunched my face and shook my head, and she scribbled something down on a post-it before handing it to me. It had a three-digit number on it.

“Take the elevator to the fourteenth floor. On the keypad, enter that number when prompted. When you get off the elevator, take a right and Diana will assist you.”

“Thanks.” I spun away and headed for the elevators, feeling a surge of power for the first time in a long while.

Perry was always above me, always dictating my every move when it came to this company and his father. Hell, when it came to us, too. It felt like I was being the rogue girlfriend, rebelling against the only thing that mattered, and the only thing I cared about. It sounds stupid, and maybe it was. But I figured it was how I was wired as a masochist—to feel a rush when doing something potentially destructive to my own life. I justified it in my mind by claiming I only wanted to meet the man. Hell, I was just being proactive, refusing to sit idly by and let someone else tell me what was and what wasn’t, no matter how much I loved him.

The elevator stopped on the fourteenth floor so I got off and turned right. Just ahead was a giant desk occupied by a small woman. She smiled and rose from her chair, turning to the large double doors behind her and pushing them open, motioning for me to follow her.

“Mr. Walsh? Liz is here from Computer Solutions.”

I inched forward, feeling suddenly intimidated. If Perry was on a pedestal way above me, his father was at the top of a mountain. Mr. Walsh glanced up as his secretary closed the door, and I froze, whatever remnants of a smile fading, slowly dissolving and dwindling away.

He. Was. Gorgeous.

With salt and pepper hair—emphasis on the pepper—faint crow’s feet around the brightest blue eyes I’d ever seen, and a rugged I’ve-done-it-all attitude behind that stare, he was exactly how I pictured Perry would look in twenty years. I practically gasped out loud right there on the spot, swearing I’d just entered some alternate universe in the distant future. I had seen a few pictures of the man, but none that had done him justice. Not in the slightest.

He came out from behind his desk, his gaze drifting slowly down the front of me, then back up, sending warm tingles up and down my body. Surely he wasn’t impressed with my appearance. Dressed in all black, I looked as though I’d just returned from a funeral. Or a killing, deep in the woods.

“Liz Drummond? Alex Walsh.” His voice was deeper than Perry’s, and it made my legs feel weak. He extended a hand to me and I shook it, self conscious about my sweaty palms. I had no idea how he knew my last name, but I was way too distracted to care.

“It’s so nice to meet you, Mr. Walsh. I took care of the Thai Kwon’s Café account today. Gene’s under the weather and asked me to drop off the drive. I hope that’s okay.” I reached into my pocket and opened the coin purse before passing him the USB.

“It’s perfectly fine. I’m so glad we finally have a chance to meet.” His eyes traveled down my body once again, and a warmth spread to a few non-work-related areas.

“Me too,” I said, gulping.

“I’ve heard wonderful things about you from Gene. I can certainly appreciate how nice it is to have a trusted employee you can depend on.”

“Gene and I go back a few years,” I blushed, shoving my fists deep in my back pockets. “Believe me, there have been days he’s cursed me sideways.”

He belted out a laugh and motioned for me to sit before heading back to his leather wingback. “He’s told me there’s somewhat of a history there. Tell me how you two met.”

He didn’t ask, he demanded. Like father, like son I guess. It was a personal question, but naturally it felt that way to me since it was my life and my past he was inquiring about.

“Well, the story of how we met doesn’t put me in a very good light,” I answered, hoping he would laugh and move on to the next subject like his son was so damn good at.

“Oh, I don’t believe that. You seem to be such a lovely young lady.” Wow. What a smooth talker this guy was. He ran his hands over a pencil as he talked. Fuck, he was sexy.

“Whatever loveliness I have, I owe to Gene.” I gripped the edge of the arm rests. Damn this man for making me so nervous and, whatever else this was I was feeling. “Let’s just say that we met at a coffee shop downtown, and he was kind enough to buy me some java. We got to talking, and he found out I was in need of a job. So he helped me out.”

I was in need of a lot of things, the least of which was a job. Still, I was amazed I came up with that story on the spot. It was mostly the truth but seriously candy coated.

I actually met Gene right outside the coffee shop, and we only met because I had stolen his wallet. He had left it sitting on the edge of the booth, and I sat across from him, watching him like a hawk. As soon as he reached into his coat pocket to fish around for something—probably his keys or his phone—I jumped up, walked past, and scooped it off the counter, hoping he wouldn’t notice until I was long gone.

But he did notice. And he actually let me walk out of the restaurant with it. I didn’t run because the last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself. As soon as the February air hit my face, he grabbed me by the arm and yanked me around before asking me what the hell I thought I was doing.

“He must have seen something in you. A potential of sorts. I see it as well.” The corner of his mouth turned up, and I got the distinct impression that we weren’t talking about professional matters anymore. It was probably my overactive imagination. But if Mr. Walsh saw potential in me and offered me a job, I wouldn’t say no. I thought of Summer and what she had said. Then I remembered what Gene had said about the personal touch.

“Thank you for the compliment, Mr. Walsh. By the way, Summer was very helpful today. She seems to really enjoy working for you.”

Walsh shrugged his shoulders in some humble gesture, and his phone rang.

“What is it?” he answered.

I bounced my leg up and down and studied my fingers, trying to make it look like I wasn’t paying attention. And it was really damn hard to not pay attention. I glanced up at him and he was staring at me, his expression soft and curious. My insides jumped around.

“Give me five minutes and I’ll be there.” He hung up and looked at me with disappointment. I really and truly think he wanted me to hang out for a while. “Sorry to cut this short, but there’s a situation upstairs I have to deal with.”

“It’s no problem,” I said, rising from the chair. “I have to get back to the office anyway. Lots to do with Gene not feeling well.”

“Give him my best, will you? And please come back next time you do a job for us. I would love to get to know you better. I hardly ever get to spend time with my A list.”

I half smiled and nodded. “Of course, Mr. Walsh.” What the hell was an A list? I started to ask, but then I figured I would look like a lame ass. “Oh, tell Perry that Lizzy said hi. I think we’ve chatted on the phone a couple times.” I smiled broadly and turned to leave.

“Lizzy? I like that. I’ll tell him.”

“Thanks.” I smiled and stood there awkwardly for a minute before turning and walking out.

“Oh, Liz?”

“Yes sir?” I said, spinning to face him.

“Call me Alex. Mr. Walsh is so formal.” He lightly tapped his hand on the edge of the desk and bore his gaze into me.

I swallowed and nodded. “I agree. See you again soon.”

I waved goodbye with my fingers and left his office, leaving the door open behind me. I was dizzy for reasons I didn’t understand at the time, but I quickly brushed thoughts of Alex out of my head. It was his son that I wanted.

And speaking of Perry, I couldn’t wait to hear from him. I knew he would threaten to bring a belt to my ass when he found out I’d been here. That’s okay. A belt I could handle. Maybe he’ll step things up a bit when his dad tells him how “lovely” I was, and he can begin making plans to get rid of Melissa.

After all, I’m in your father’s good graces, I will say. He loves me, he’ll tell you so himself.

I knew it wouldn’t go quite like that, but it was a nice fantasy to keep me preoccupied as I returned to my car. Especially since the fantasy would come crashing down, and soon.

 

~ ~ ~

 

I assumed that Perry was working late, but that was only because I was already more than halfway finished with dinner before he called. Typically, we would chat while I was cooking. When I answered the phone, he asked me what I was doing.

“Same thing I do every night at this hour,” I answered, swallowing a spoonful of macaroni and cheese. “What about you?”

“Open your door.” He sounded kind of pissed.

“Now?” I asked.

“Yes, now.”

I lowered my spoon and scooted out of the dining seat, taking my time to get to the front door. And for good reason.

There he stood, a glower on his reddened face. He moved the phone from his ear and slid it into the pocket of his pants while I stood there ready to shit mine.

Oh brother. He knew. And he wasn’t happy.

“You must think you’re real fucking clever.” He stepped into the entryway and kicked the door with his foot, slamming it shut.

I stumbled backwards, terrified of what he was going to do. Not really terrified in the sense that I thought he would hurt me, but terrified in the sense that he was acting totally unpredictably, and I didn’t know what he would do. Welcome to the dance between a sadist and his masochist. This was not the Perry I fell in love with. But regardless, this was a large part of the man who I happened to love, and who, up to this point, always had complete control over most of what I did.

“Gene asked me to deliver the drive. I couldn’t say no.”

Perry grabbed my wrists and pinned them behind my back before pulling me hard and smashing me against his body. My insides crumbled into about a billion pieces, and I still wasn’t sure if he was really angry or if he was just fucking with me. He liked to do that a lot.

“It’s not about you going there,” he muttered through his teeth. “It’s about what you said to him.”

“What I said?” I asked, forcing a fake smile.

“Tell Perry Lizzy says hi? Is this your way of getting my attention?” He pressed his fingers against my wrist harder, sending me the indisputable message that he definitely did not support that move on my part. “Because it’s probably not the sort of attention you want.”

He leaned closer to me and I arched my back to put some space between us. “I… I….” I was speechless, that’s what I was.

“You what?” Perry cocked his head at me, waiting on my answer.

What could I say that would spare me? And why did I want to be spared all of a sudden? I used to love being a little scared of him like this.

“I… I’m sorry. That’s what.” I let my head crash into his chest. I totally didn’t expect this. I knew I sounded hopeless, exasperated even. And in a way I was. I needed things to come to a head once and for all. Deep down, I didn’t care how Perry handled it. I just needed him to handle it. To do something different for a change. Anything. “Your dad likes me,” I added, muttering into the soft cotton of his button down.

His body softened then, relaxing as he ran his hands over my hair. “Of course he likes you. How could he not?”

I angled my head up, meeting his gaze with mine. His blue eyes ripped right through my soul. And I hoped that my eyes told him how much I loved him, if nothing else. “If that’s the case, then I don’t understand what the problem is.”

Perry spun me around and started walking me to the bedroom, his attitude shifting just as quickly as my body. “The problem is that I asked you to stay away from him. At the very least, you should have told me you met him today.”

I tripped, and he caught me as we shuffled quickly down the hallway. “I did! Well, I tried to. I’m not allowed to call you, so that’s why I asked your father to tell you hey from me, so you would know.”

“That’s not what I meant, Liz. And you know it.”

He pushed me down on the bed, ass up, and I knew what was coming. Hell, I had consented to this years ago. He told me when we got involved he wanted permission to punish me if I stepped out of line. And at the time, I was fine with it. Actually, I rather liked the thought of another man keeping me in check. But I wasn’t happy about it now. In the heat of my anger, I rolled over and sat up, facing him. He had already picked up the cane that stayed propped up against my wall—his chosen implement of punishment.

“This isn’t easy for me, you know,” I snapped. “Everything has to be secretive with us. I’m literally forced to find creative ways to communicate with you, Perry. I can’t call. I can’t text. I’m at your mercy, twenty-four, seven. It’s not fair, and I’m getting sick of it!” I blurted out, breathless.

He pressed his eyes closed and knelt down next to me. “I know, baby. But still, a rule is a rule. And you broke that rule. And now I’m going to cane you. Need I remind you that you agreed to this?”

I glared at him, angry that he would actually take it this far. I knew it was possible, even likely. But now that I was facing it, I was furious. Caning for fun is… well… fun. But as punishment, it sucks.

“Maybe I did agree to it once, but not anymore,” I said, crossing my arms in an act of defiance.

He jerked back as if I had slapped him. I couldn’t blame him. It was the first time I refused a punishment. “Am I hearing you right?” he asked, his tone completely different now.

I glanced upward, giving it some thought. Up to this point, I wanted him to hurt me, needed him to hurt me, whether for punishment or for play. If I thought for one minute that he was being playful, that deep down he was okay with what I did today, I probably would have let him cane me. But suddenly, this didn’t feel right. None of it.

“Yes,” I answered slowly. “You’re hearing me right. I’m calling red.” Red was my safe word. I had only called red once before, when our macabre dance first began four years ago and I didn’t fully trust him just yet.

Perry sat on his heels as I twisted my fingers together there on the bed. He stared at me, hurt brewing in his eyes. I was hurting too, and I wanted him to fix it.

But he couldn’t.

“You’re withdrawing your consent for me to punish you,” he whispered, moving his gaze to the floor. “Is this for good, or just tonight?”

Well shit. I wasn’t expecting that question. But I suppose it was fair. I shrugged my shoulders because I wasn’t sure. “I don’t know, Perry.”

Still holding the cane in one hand, he stood up, raking his fingers through his dark hair.

“Yes you do,” he said quietly. I looked up at him, his brow ribboned in frustration. “We both know what this means, Lizbeth.”

Fuck. He addressed me by my full name.

My throat tightened. This was not good. Not a good thing at all. But he was right, and I knew it. We both knew that this was more than likely a permanent thing.

“I don’t know what to say,” I mumbled, choking back the tears. I just wanted him to hold me. Oh god, I wanted him to hold me. Something was seriously wrong for me to want cuddling.

“There’s really nothing left to say, is there?” He tossed the cane on the bed and walked out of the room. Running my fingers down the bamboo, my entire body ached. A part of my heart and soul belonged to that rod, so it was like he was tossing me aside. I heard the front door open and close as I sat paralyzed on the edge of the bed, tears sliding down my cheeks.

I knew he didn’t understand all this, but neither did I. Damn if I wasn’t just as confused as he was. I had let him discipline me for years, his hands bringing me pain and pleasure at once, my submission to him bringing us both pleasure. But it wasn’t enough anymore. And that hurt so much more than any physical pain he could ever bring upon my willing flesh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday morning greeted me with rocks in the pit of my stomach. I knew that Perry wouldn’t show, but a tiny part of me was still hopeful, getting up at eight o’clock anyway. I showered, ate a few eggs and an apple, and forced down half a cup of coffee. For me to have to force down coffee at all meant something was seriously wrong.

Nine am came and went, and sometime after lunch, I found myself sitting on the couch watching the Lifetime channel. Fucking Lifetime, for Christ’s sake. A movie about a sixteen-year-old girl that was hitting on her high school teacher, who just happened to be her next door neighbor, played out on my plasma screen as I fell asleep. That’s what I get for staying up half the night crying.

I waited all day for Perry to call or to text, to stop over and let me know what the fuck was going on, something, anything. He had to know this would be torture for me since I couldn’t contact him. I had already tried his office five times and got his voicemail, so this was obviously a Saturday he had planned to take off well in advance. I wondered what he was doing. Maybe he went to wherever it was he had planned to take me, alone, so he could think. Maybe he was working around the house today. Or maybe he was with Melissa.

My stomach coiled. I wondered if the stress of being the other woman could kill me. Well, fuck that. I would not be the other woman for much longer. I might not be the other woman right now, but I didn’t want to think about that.

I decided to stalk him on social media, just to see if he had posted any pictures lately or even typed up a quick status update this morning. I wasn’t one to check that sort of thing and I had even turned off my notifications months ago. Social media was not my thing. But at this point, desperate times called for desperate measures. As soon as I logged in my heart skipped a few times. I had a message, but the second I clicked on the envelope, I could see it was only from Jojo. He had sent me directions to his house.

The message was several days old, but I typed up a quick reply thanking him and letting him know I would do my best to be there.

He immediately responded.

 

You better! It’s going to be a small, intimate group. I know how you hate crowds.

 

Intimate group. Hmm, I hoped that wasn’t code for anything weird.

No, this was Jojo. He wasn’t into that kind of stuff. He was just a nice guy and I was the asshole who would be partially to blame if his dad’s business went under.

 

Aww, thanks. What do you need? Are you registered anywhere?

 

No gifts. Just bring yourself and your friend. I’ll have beer and snacks.

 

Well, I guess that was it. I was roped into going to this party, with or without my “friend.” I replied with a smiley face and navigated to Perry’s page, my original reason for logging on here to begin with.

His page was a ghost town. He hadn’t posted anything in several weeks so that made me feel a little better. I don’t know what I would have done if he had plastered pictures of himself and his wife on some outing today. I don’t think my heart could have taken it.

My eyes naturally wandered down to his friends list, and his dad’s profile picture immediately caught my eye. “Alex M. Walsh”, it said. The photo was professional, formal. The head shot clearly showed his rugged face, but I could still see he was dressed in a dark gray business suit.

I got all these tickly sensations in my stomach, something I hadn’t felt for anyone else since Perry came into my life. I found myself staring at him and biting my lip uncontrollably. Clicking on his photo, I crossed my fingers that his profile wasn’t private.

It wasn’t, and I found it almost comical that he was way more active than Perry. He had tons of pictures posted on his wall of his three children: Perry, Janet, and Joanne. The two girls were 10-year-old twins and lived in Massachusetts with their mother, but I already knew that because Perry had told me their story. His parents had divorced when the girls were three, and she moved back north to be closer to her family. Perry only saw his sisters twice a year when they came to visit for the summer and the holidays. They were crazy cute, and the pride and love that Alex had for his children was obvious.

He also apparently had a thing for dogs, particularly Border Collies. On his page was a link that went straight to the local Border Collie rescue group with a plea to donate. Just last month, he held a fundraiser, donating two seats at a ritzy dinner theater to anyone who pledged $30 or more.

I scrolled down the page, admiring the many photos of the interior of his home decorated last Christmas, his front yard in full bloom at springtime, and various trips he had taken out of the country, his most recent one to Bali. I never knew any of this stuff about him but it was no surprise. Perry had kept a tight lid on his family affairs.

Friends and colleagues commented on the photos—most of them women, many of them single. It was visible they wanted a piece of the Walsh pie, and I couldn’t say that I blamed them. He was fucking gorgeous, single, wealthy, and… what was the other word?

There were actually a few that came to mind: Charismatic. Magnetic. Charming. Hell, Alex Walsh was downright irresistible.

So why the hell was I chasing after Perry? Oh, that’s right. Because I was madly in love with him. Had been for five years now, ever since I first saw him at that banquet. As a young and impressionable 16 year old, I found him to be magnetic and charming at the time.

But now things were taking a turn I never anticipated, and I wasn’t sure how to cope.

Well, if Perry was angry enough to ignore me for several days, I could at least redeem myself a little by getting on his dad’s good side. Or that might piss him off even more, who knew. I sent Alex a friend request and turned my notifications back on before closing out the web browser and shutting off my laptop.

After brushing my hair and touching up my makeup, I ate a quick snack and grabbed my purse before heading out the door, ultimately deciding that some shopping therapy was in order. While digging through my purse for the keys, my phone chirped, so I pulled it out to check it, hoping Perry was texting me.

It wasn’t Perry, but I still smiled big as shit.

 

Alex M. Walsh accepted your friend request

 

Somehow, I knew that things were about to change, I just didn’t know how serious those changes would be.

Or how massively they would impact my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You want a beer?” Jojo asked. I had already put my six-pack in the fridge, but this was the first time that we’d had a chance to talk since my arrival. I didn’t know anyone at his party, and I was sticking out like a sore thumb.

“Fuck yes, I want a beer.” Maybe if I got drunk enough, I wouldn’t care.

He handed me one of my amber bottles from the fridge as several people shuffled past us. “Sorry about the crowd. Only about half of these guys actually RSVP’d. I had no idea this many people would show up.”

“No need to apologize, Mr. Popular,” I answered. “It’s your party. And congratulations, by the way. When did you close?”

“Just last month. Can’t you tell?” Jojo held his arms out and I scanned the room.

“Not really. You’ve fixed it up pretty nice.” I was sort of lying but mostly telling the truth. It really did look okay, but it was a typical bachelor pad, modestly decorated with the bare minimum.

“Okay, now you’re just being condescending,” he said, lightly punching me on the arm as I took a sip of beer.

“What?” I laughed. “It’s got potential. And I’m sure it’ll look awesome once a woman moves in and decorates it with her personal touch.”

“Oh, I see how it is,” he laughed, raising his eyebrows at me. “Since we’re on the subject, I thought you were bringing a friend yourself. You didn’t leave him tied up in your car did you?”

“Oh shit,” I answered in mock surprise, covering my mouth. He busted out laughing as I went on. “Oh well, he’ll be fine. He doesn’t turn back into a frog till midnight.”

“Right. Cute as you are, I hardly doubt you’re dating any frogs.”

I picked up a pizza roll from the plate in front of me and dropped it in my mouth. “Oh, you’d be surprised, Jo. Frogs seem to be my specialty these days.”

“Maybe you should try a prince for a change.”

I looked at him, trying to detect any hint of flirting. But I mostly got the impression that Jojo was just being a friend and giving me friendly advice.

“Believe me, I’m considering it.” I took another sip of beer and set the bottle aside. “I’ve really made a mess of my love life, a true cluster fuck. But what can you do when you love someone who isn’t really available?” I said, scrunching my lips together. I was surprised at how easy it was to come out with it, but Jojo had always been easy to talk to like that. I didn’t know why we didn’t hang out more. His expression was one of total understanding and he covered my hand with his.

“I totally understand where you’re coming from. And don’t worry, your secret is safe with me. I’m fighting the same battle with my boyfriend.”

I tried not to look surprised, failing miserably. “Wait, you’re…?”

He nodded, and I leaned in close. I wasn’t sure if he was out with everyone here. “I never would have guessed, Jo. You’re so…” I left the sentence unfinished, looking him up and down. He just laughed at me.

“I’m no twink if that’s what you’re getting at.”

“I’m sorry. It’s the beer. It makes me act weird. Is he here?” I asked.

“Oh no,” he answered, waving his hands around. “He’s with his fiancée.”

“He’s getting married? To a guy?”

“Nope,” he said, shaking his head. “To a woman. He hasn’t come out yet. I keep telling him that things will only get harder the longer he waits. But he’s scared. Ah, what can I do?” he said, shrugging and gulping down a beer of his own.

“Yeah, and imagine how the poor girl will feel once she finds out. It’ll be a hell of a lot easier on her if he comes out now, before making the vow of a lifetime.”

I don’t believe in marriage at all. Think it’s a crock of shit because it seems like nobody ever stays together anyway. So I sure as hell don’t agree with someone supposedly committing their life to someone when they don’t really mean it. Hell, just look at how much pain that was causing me now? Why the fuck people get married when they don’t belong together is way beyond my scope of understanding.

“That’s what I keep telling him. But his family is ultra religious, and they would disown him if they found out.”

“Of course,” I said, rolling my eyes. “One of the perks of living in the south. Never a shortage of homophobes. Well, I would give you my two cents, but it’s rather useless when I can’t heed my own advice, y’know?”

“Eh, I know what I need to do, but like you said, easier said than done when you’re in love.”

I nodded sympathetically, and some girl came up to him and yanked him away, giggling hysterically and mumbling something foreign. I waved and smiled then sat at the table for another five minutes, feeling like a gigantic heel. I polished off my beer and headed to the bathroom. This should be interesting. I had never seen a single guy’s bathroom that looked neat. Not that I had been in a lot of single guy’s houses, but there had been a few here and there at different friends’ parties.

Jojo’s pissing room was immaculate. He must have prepped for this thing. Impressed, I locked the door and hopped up on his counter before pulling my phone out of my purse to check my messages. A couple of unimportant emails awaited me as well as one Facebook message from Alex Walsh. I drew in a quick breath and touched the notification which took me right to my inbox.

 

I see you found me! Lovely meeting you the other day. Hope to do it again soon.

 

I nervously chewed the inside of my mouth as I thought out my reply.

 

Enjoyed meeting you as well. We should totally do it again soon.

 

I wasn’t good at this flirting stuff. Not that I was trying to flirt with him or anything. I never needed to be good at it, anyway. Perry was the only man I had been with, the only one I ever flirted with. I blew out a heavy breath, my thoughts drifting back to him. I missed him and I wondered if he missed me too. It was like we were broken up, but not. Moving on with our lives without each other, but not. Wanting to be together so fucking badly, but not. At least not on his part. And if he did want to be with me, he sure as hell wasn’t showing it. After using the bathroom, I washed and dried my hands. My phone chirped again, another message from Alex.

 

Great! How about tonight? I’m having drinks with a few associates. You should come hang out with us.

 

What the…? Was he serious? Why the hell he wanted me to have drinks with him and his associates was a mystery to me, but obviously I couldn’t do it. If I had any shot at being given a second chance with Perry I shouldn’t rock the boat. And if he knew I was out having drinks with his dad, that would be it. He would hit the roof and probably never speak to me again.

I quickly closed out the app, giving this drink situation some serious thought. But I wanted to talk to Perry first, find out what was going on with him. Maybe if he knew his father had invited me out for drinks with his colleagues then he would see that my getting to know his family wasn’t such a bad thing. I could be just as accepted into his family as Melissa was, after the dust from the divorce settled, that is.

Without giving it a second thought I dialed Perry’s number, knowing I was taking a chance. It rang a few times but amazingly, he picked up after the third ring.

“Hello?” His voice sounded gruff.

“Hi,” I answered quietly, just in case his wife was close by. “I hope I’m not disturbing you, but I needed to—”

“I’m right in the middle of dinner with my wife, Justin. Can’t this wait till Monday?”

I moved the phone away from my ear and stared at it, shocked and hurt. It was just a cover up, I told myself. He didn’t mean it, I rationalized.

But I knew that wasn’t true.

“Um…” I stuttered.

“Great. Talk to you next week.”

And then the line went dead as every cell in my body melted away into a black hole. I waited five minutes for him to send me a text apologizing, saying that he didn’t mean it, explaining that Melissa was sitting right there and he would slip away and call me in a little while. Hell, he could have sent a simple “sorry babe” and I would have understood. That would have held me over for at least a few more days.

But what followed that conversation could fill a vacuum. And I was done with it. So fucking done with Perry Walsh and his games.

I opened up Facebook messenger and sent a reply to Alex.

 

I would love to! Where and when?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like most restaurants in the downtown arts district, 6th and Vine was likely to be packed as a clown car. Alex said to let him know if I couldn’t find a parking spot, that he would pick up a car and move it for me. If I didn’t know any better, I would think he really wanted me there.

What he didn’t know was that I lived three blocks from the restaurant. So I simply went home, debating whether or not to change out of my jean shorts and black boots that I had been wearing since that morning. Ultimately I decided to leave them on. Just because he was meeting some associates didn’t mean that I had to dress professionally, did it? Besides, this was who I was and it wasn’t like I was trying to impress him or anything. This wasn’t a date, just a few colleagues meeting for drinks.

Alex told me they were at the bar outside, so I managed to squeeze my way through the crowd until I made it to the back and out the door. He was standing near the entrance, keeping an eye out for me I suppose. He smiled at me and gave a quick nod, a youthfulness about him I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I smiled back and made a beeline for him as he extended a hand. His gaze traveled the length of me, and as I shook his hand, he pulled me quickly into a light but intimate hug. Good god he smelled like heaven—cinnamon and faded cologne kind of mingling together and making me heady.

“Glad you could make it,” he rumbled in my ear, his voice just as deep as it was the other day. “Did you have any trouble with parking?”

I shook my head. “I live in the high rise on Liberty. So I just went home and walked over.”

He looked surprised. “Aren’t you lucky? I hear those apartments have a three-year waiting list.”

“Gene put me up there when I was eighteen, pretty much when they first opened. Guess I am lucky,” I smiled.

The Tiki torches surrounding us sparkled in his blue eyes, and I felt all my anger against his son melting away. He definitely was having a positive effect on me.

“Why don’t we go over here and sit down,” Alex said, motioning to the bar. He led me to the only remaining empty seat and pulled it out for me. As soon as I sat, he leaned over to the man on my right.

“Dale, this is Liz Drummond. She works for Gene at Computer Solutions.”

He smiled and we shook hands. “Nice to meet you. Gene’s a great guy. How long you been there?”

“Nice to meet you too,” I smiled. “I’ve been at CS about four years now.”

Just then, Dale’s phone vibrated and he snatched it up as if he was waiting to hear from the president. “Shit, this is it. Gotta go, man.”

“Good luck, and let me know he’s happy and healthy.”

Dale downed the rest of his ice water and bolted out of the bar, and Alex didn’t waste a second taking his place in the stool. Setting a half-finished drink down in front of him, he leaned in close. “His ex-wife’s having their first baby. He’s a little anxious.”

“Ex-wife?” I asked. “Damn, there really aren’t any traditional relationships these days, are there?”

“Not really,” he answered, moving his gaze over my face. I couldn’t help but look back. He was even more stunning up close. His features were beyond masculine, and while I knew he was in his upper 40’s, he really did look much younger than his age. “So where were you?”

“Huh?” I asked, feeling like I was missing something.

“You said you went home and walked over here. Were you out?”

“Oh, yes,” I said, letting out a soft laugh. “A friend of mine had a housewarming. I was just hanging out with him.” It suddenly occurred to me how weird this could get if Alex knew who the housewarming was for. I was feeling bold, so I told him. “And believe it or not, it was for one of the waiter’s at Thai Kwon’s Café, the owner’s son, in fact.”

Unfazed, Alex glanced at me and took a sip of his drink. “Is that so? Is he a good friend?”

If anyone else had asked that it would have seemed odd. But I knew just what he was getting at and I wasn’t afraid to tell him the truth. “Actually, he kind of is.”

We held each other’s gaze for a moment, then the corner of his mouth twitched, just a little, but I noticed it. Perry does the exact same thing when he’s having doubts about something.

“Hmm,” he said before sucking down the rest of his cocktail and giving a quick nod to the bartender. I watched his every move, wanting to memorize it all, lock it away and never forget, become the Walsh expert so that I knew what every quirk meant and I could read both him and his son like a fucking book.

When the bartender came over, Alex asked me, “What’ll you have, sweetheart?”

Normally I would have been down with just a beer. But something about Alex made me feel sophisticated, like I deserved better. Not that a beer was the drink of a commoner, but I don’t know…

“I’ll have an appletini, please.”

Alex held up his glass and the bartender disappeared.

“I assume you’re old enough to drink,” he said. Smirking, I wanted to tell him no, just to see his reaction. But somehow I figured that wasn’t in line with his sense of humor.

“Barely,” I answered truthfully. “Just turned twenty one a few months ago.”

The bartender set our drinks down and Alex slapped down a twenty dollar bill. “Well, here’s to youth and beauty. You got a hell of a lot more going than I do, sweetheart.”

I picked up my drink and clinked his glass before taking a sip. “I may have more in the youth department, but don’t cut yourself short in the other area.”

He let out this low grumble of a laugh that made me weak inside. Damn him for being so sexy. It was almost maddening. I couldn’t have his son and I couldn’t have him. I guess the both of them were out of my league. I may as well have accepted that fact right then and there. It would have made my life a hell of a lot easier.

“Liz, if beauty were a competition, there’d be no competition. You’d win hands down.”

Blushing like crazy, I ran my hands through my long hair and thanked him politely.

The conversation shifted to that of business among other things, and we talked for at least another hour about everything under the sun, from our companies’ mutual accounts and marketing strategies, all the way to the price of gasoline. He was so easy to talk to, it actually amazed me. Perry had made him out to be this pretentious asshole but I found that the opposite was true. He was the most down to earth man I had ever met.

When the conversation hit a lull, he placed his hand over the back of my chair and brushed the top of my bare shoulder, the warmth of his skin sending electrical pulses all the way down south, stopping somewhere in the middle. “Well, Liz, as much as I would love to sit here all night with you, I’m sure that Gene will have my ass in a sling if you aren’t bright and chirpy first thing Monday morning. Let me take you home, please.”

I hesitated answering him. Not because I didn’t want him to take me home but because I didn’t want to leave, period. I couldn’t remember ever being out in public with another man and not feeling like I needed to hide or be paranoid that someone would see us. It was nice. No, it was fucking amazeballs.

“That would be great.”

We slipped out of 6th and Vine with ease. It was just after 11, so the crowd had died down a bit. His BMW chirped, and he opened the passenger door for me as I slid into the leather seat.

“Do you need to stop anywhere before I drop you off?”

I started to say “your place,” and I’m sure he would have appreciated the humor. Then again, he might have taken me seriously, and I was still trying to keep things in a professional tone.

“No thanks. Straight home will be fine.”

I could have sworn I saw a little disappointment flash in his eyes there, even in the darkness. And even though he didn’t say a word after that, he took the long way around to get to Liberty Street, so I think it was safe to say he enjoyed my company. When he approached my apartment building, he eased towards the curb, almost pulling into the parking deck.

“You can drop me off right here. I have a code for the gate.” I turned to face him and he kept his hand on the gear shift. His eyes were pulled down to my legs once again, then quickly back up to my face.

“Give my best to Gene. And hopefully we can do this again sometime.”

His body remained tightly fastened to the seat as his thumb lightly stroked the top of the gear shift. He seemed to be thinking something that he didn’t want to say. Or maybe couldn’t say. I licked my lips, almost forgetting I was supposed to be getting out of the car. Headlights from behind us blinded my periphery, and Alex squinted before adjusting his rear view mirror.

“I will. And thanks for the drinks. I had fun.”

Alex lifted the corner of his mouth in a smile, and I slipped out of the car, entered the code on the gate, and turned to wave before slipping through to the other side.

Finally falling onto my bed five minutes later, I found it impossible to get Alex out of my head. He was so different from Perry, so different from any man I had ever known. I fell asleep wondering why Perry couldn’t see me the way Alex seemed to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday afternoon, I picked up my desk phone four times to call Perry’s work number, setting it back down in the cradle before dialing. His voice kept reverberating in my mind.

I’m in the middle of dinner with my wife…

My wife…

Wife…

Gene kept coming in and out of my cubicle, piling more assignments on top of my desk. By five o’clock, I had fourteen new businesses to schedule appointments with. It sounds like a lot, but I could easily knock them out in a week.

If only I could focus.

“Why are you still here?” Gene stood in the opening to my cube, and I glanced at the clock. The numbers 5:45 flashed in red across the screen of the digital clock. Months ago, we had a power outage exactly at noon that lasted a split second, and I never reset the clock. I thought it was cool that time was flashing for me. It was kind of like my good luck charm. It sure as hell didn’t bring me any luck but it annoyed the few co-workers I had.

“I didn’t realize it was so late. I’ll get out of here so you can lock up.” The truth was, I was in no hurry to get home. Mondays were for me and Perry. Always had been. He would stop over for about an hour on his way home. Then he would call me later while his wife showered or took a walk or cleaned up after dinner. I felt lost, aimless. What the hell was I going to do with our Mondays now?

“Whoa,” Gene said, holding his hands up. “You’ve never been here past five fifteen any day of the week, much less a Monday. What’s going on with you?”

“Nothing,” I lied. Gene pulled a face. He knew I wasn’t being honest. “Okay, I might be a little distracted by someone I met over the weekend.”

Well, at least that was closer to the truth. Seemingly pleased, Gene’s face lit up and he leaned against the short wall, crossing his arms. “That’s great, Liz. When do I get to meet him?”

Chuckling, I spun in my chair and shut down the computer. “Let’s not get carried away. I just met him. He may turn out to be a dud.” But Alex was no dud. Not that I was seriously referring to him as the someone I met this weekend. Was I? Well, at least with Alex as my new fake boyfriend, Gene wouldn’t pester me so much about being single. Sometimes it really seemed to bother him that I didn’t date. He just didn’t think I dated.

“I won’t get carried away. But if things go well I’d love to take the two of you out to lunch sometime.”

Forcing a sad smile, I stood up from my chair. “I promise you’ll be the first threesome we have.”

After leaving work, I ended up stopping at Mr. Lu’s and ordering sesame chicken to go. If I couldn’t see Perry, at least I could throw down on Chinese food. A girl has to cope somehow, right? Besides, on Mondays I would usually make a light salad to go along with some leftover pasta from Sunday. I always needed the carbs after Perry and I had impact play. It helped to prevent the drop. So it was time to start a new tradition. Chinese Mondays it was.

I had just turned on the dishwasher when a knock at the door startled me. It was a quiet knock—unobtrusive, casual, hesitant almost. I figured it was Gene, that maybe I had left my office keys lying around. But when I opened the door, Gene was not the one standing in the doorway.

“Perry,” I muttered, pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t believe he actually came.

“Where have you been? I stopped by earlier.”

I silently cursed myself for assuming he wouldn’t show. “I worked late then grabbed some grub. I didn’t know you were coming.”

“May I come in?” He was visibly upset, his brow wrinkled. My mood suddenly shifting to disappointment, I could see this definitely was not our usual Monday night house call.

“Of course.” I stepped aside and he entered, visually scanning my apartment as though he expected to find something or someone. I couldn’t imagine what. Or who.

“I only have a few minutes,” he said, making it clear he wasn’t here for anything other than to convey a quick message.

I wanted to blurt out how sorry I was, how much I missed him, and how badly I wanted him to rip my clothes off and fuck me sideways. But I didn’t. In fact, I was afraid to say a word. His body language was making me sick to my stomach. Something was wrong and I knew what it was. And only I had the power to fix it. But standing my ground was imperative. I had gotten out of balance because I was sick of playing second fiddle. I was sure I could go back to being the good masochist, the submissive he needed me to be, if only he would choose me over her.

“I know you’re upset about last week, that I withdrew my consent to—”

“—Melissa knows about us,” he interrupted. He was tapping his fingers on the top of my couch, keeping his distance, staring at me like it was my fault, as if I were the enemy. Something squeezed my heart. I took a step back, shocked, scared.

“What? How—how did she find out?”

“I’m not sure to tell you the truth.” He wrinkled his face. I could see this was hurting him greatly. He walked into the kitchen and pulled down the bottle of scotch he kept in the cabinet, pouring a shot glass full and downing it in seconds. All I could do was watch him, a flurry of emotions rolling through me. I felt so helpless, so guilty. Like this wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen.

Whenever I had imagined his wife finding out about us, it had always been this little micro victory in my head. Perry would claim that since Melissa knew, we could come clean with everyone and be together, once and for all. I knew it was mostly a silly fantasy, that I wouldn’t really want everyone to know that we had been having an affair since before he had even said those vows to her. But I did secretly fantasize that Melissa would someday find out. Or that she was no longer in the picture at all, whatever form that took.

Perry stood staring out my kitchen window for a few minutes. I’m sure he was worried about what to do, what would happen. “She doesn’t know it’s you, by the way. She just knows there’s someone else. I had to cover my tracks in order to protect the trail that led to you. But there aren’t any guarantees, Liz.” He turned to face me, crossing his arms over his chest.

I held my breath as he continued.

“You wouldn’t believe what I had to do in order to prevent her from completely derailing and taking me for all that I’m worth and then some. The entire weekend was pure hell.”

No wonder he had been so short with me over the phone. But I had to be the big one here. The one who downplayed this whole thing. I wanted him to be proud of me for being the strong one, the mature one. I wanted him to believe in us as much as I did. And maybe in the end, Melissa wouldn’t be able to forgive him, and she would divorce him, giving him his freedom and us our freedom to be together.

“We’ll be okay, Perry. It’s just a temporary downfall.”

He cast me a warning glance that said this was anything but temporary. “This isn’t about us, Liz. It’s about my marriage, my life. My fucking future.

I glared at him, confused, wanting to ask, well, which is it? Your marriage, your life, or your fucking future? Because the way I had seen it, the way it had always been described to me, was that I was a part of his future, not Melissa. Maybe I misunderstood.

“If this isn’t about us,” I said slowly, “then where does that leave me? Where exactly do I fit in here, Perry? I mean, I know I’m not in your marriage, but I am in your life, or at least I was. And I’m in your life because we both wanted it that way. I thought that you loved me.” He took another shot of whiskey and briskly moved to me, pulling me into his arms. It should have felt good. It should have felt right. But instead, it felt like goodbye. Fucking goodbye.

So long, pal. It’s been nice, but I gotta go…

“I do love you, Liz. But…” He stroked my hair softly, condescendingly. There had never, ever been a “but” to our I-love-yous. “We can’t see each other anymore, baby.”

I gulped and squeezed his shirt. My entire body went ice cold as I jerked back, looking him square in the eyes to see if he was being for real. Surely he wasn’t being for real.

“You’re joking, right?”

His expression was heavy as he cupped my face in his hands and slowly shook his head. “I can’t risk everything that I’ve worked for, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. Can’t you see? This is for your own good as well as mine. If Melissa wanted to, she could ruin the both of us. You would never be able to redeem yourself around here. Trust me.”

So this was the woman that his father loved so much, that his father practically insisted that he marry? Someone who could destroy him in five seconds flat?

I didn’t know what to say, what to think, or what to feel.

I looked at him, tears forming in the corner of my eyes. He went all blurry on me before kissing me on the forehead.

“You’re just going to walk out of here, out of my life as if we never happened?” I choked.

Brushing my tears away, he looked at me and softly replied, “If it weren’t for Melissa, I would have you as my wife in a second. It’s bad timing, baby. Maybe someday our timing will be right.”

He brushed past me and quietly left my apartment, my building, my life.

And I wanted nothing more than to die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the next three days I called out sick, and Gene finally showed up at my apartment to check on me. He brought me egg drop soup from Mr. Lu’s, which was sweet, especially considering I wasn’t really sick. But I sure as hell wasn’t eating or moving all that much either. And given the circumstances, I felt like I was already six feet under. I must have looked like hell too.

“Jesus Christ. Have you seen a doctor?” he asked as I opened the front door.

“If I had known you were coming, I would have made myself pretty,” I mumbled.

He set the soup on the counter and put a hand to my forehead. “You don’t feel like you’re running a fever. What are your symptoms?”

I fell on the couch and wrapped the blanket around me. My eyes felt puffy from crying and I’m sure my face was red as fire. “Basically I feel like my life is over, like what’s the point in even being here when all you do is get up and go to work and then come home to an empty house and then get up the next morning and do it all over again until you die?”

Gene raised his brows and stared at me in silence for a few seconds. Rambling incoherently was not my thing.

“Oh my. This guy’s done a number on you.” He walked over and sat down next to me. “Whatever he did, I can tell you he’s not worth it. There are a million other fish in the sea, darlin’.”

Oh, but he was worth it. I had sacrificed four years waiting for him. He damn well better be worth it.

I buried my face in the soft cotton and Gene stroked my back. “I’ve never seen you like this, Liz. I wish I knew what to say.”

I blotted my tears with the fabric and sniffed. I loved Gene dearly. He was kind of like a father to me, but a good one, a better one than my own, saving me from a life on the streets. I had every reason to trust him, and I did trust him. I’d had a million opportunities to tell him about Perry. But lack of trust was never why I kept it a secret. Gene was just… I don’t know. I guess he wasn’t the “shoulder to lean on” kind of guy. Talking with him about personal stuff was always so awkward.

“You don’t have to say anything, Gene. Thanks for bringing the soup by. I just need to get my shit together. I’ll be in tomorrow, I promise.” I fell backwards and stared at the ceiling. I appreciated his effort, but he just didn’t get it.

“No rush, Lizzy. I wish I could make it all better for you, you know that.” He put a hand on my knee, trying in the only way he knew how to ease my pain. I don’t think anything could have eased my pain just then, though.

“I know. Thanks.”

“Make sure you eat. I’ll be back tomorrow to check on you if I don’t see you at the office, all right?”

I nodded, and he slipped out the door, glancing at me one last time before he left. I felt bad for him, like now I was responsible for ruining his mood. Come to think of it, Gene was the only man I had ever known who was always constant, consistent. Nothing ever seemed to rattle him or shake him up in any way. He never talked about another woman, never dated that I knew of, so no one was around to break his heart. And I never questioned it because I figured he was just too busy. He had been married once before. But his wife died of a drug overdose about three years before I barged into his life. That made nine years that he had been single. He had to get lonely.

He was so different from my real father, the sperm donor. “TM” I used to call him: That Man. I hadn’t called him “Dad” in forever. Anyway, TM couldn’t stay sober long enough to take care of me. Gene used to tell me that a good father would have gotten help for his addiction, apologizing for the fact that the man who raised me didn’t really love me. But the truth was that surrendering me to the children’s home was an act of love on TM’s part, even though I couldn’t bring myself to stay there. If he knew the sorts of things I had been subjected to the years leading up to that day he signed me over like a puppy to a shelter, he’d have never made such an asinine comment. But I would never tell him. I would never tell anyone. That shit would go to the grave with me.

I shook the memories away and got up off the couch to eat my soup. The thought of it made my stomach growl, and I took that as a sign that I was on the mend, at least for now.

I needed to find a way to accept that whether I liked it or not, Perry was no longer a part of the equation, present or future. I just didn’t know how to do that.

 

~ ~ ~

 

 

The next morning, I managed to peel my pathetic ass out of bed, shower away several days worth of sweat and tears, and head out the door. I hadn’t taken the time to make any coffee or eat a bite of food, so I walked up to Krankies for some java and a pastry.

On the way out of the coffee shop, I saw Alex. His back was to me, standing on the porch talking with a man in a three-piece suit and a small, modern briefcase, but I recognized his voice right away. I got a tiny surge of excitement, but they seemed to be balls deep in a serious conversation, so I didn’t stop to say hi. I got all the way to the steps when he spoke.

“Liz?”

I paused, surprised he would recognize me from behind. But then again, I recognized him. I spun around and gave him my best oh-it’s-you face. He patted briefcase-man on the shoulder, said a few words, and walked over to me, smiling broadly.

“Hey there. What a pleasant surprise.”

I smiled back and ran my finger along the lip of my coffee cup. “Stick around. I’m full of all kinds of surprises.” I have no idea why I said something so dorky, but out it came, nonetheless. Oh well. This was the first time I had smiled since… since… hell, since I saw him last Saturday, almost a week ago.

“You also have good taste in coffee. I would drink Krankies all day and night if my heart could take it.”

“I’m actually a Dunkin Donuts girl, but I was in a rush this morning.”

His hand rushed up to cover his chest, faking a heart attack. “Dunkin Donuts? Say it ain’t so.”

I snorted. “Yeah, I really hate supporting local businesses. They’re all stupid and should be stopped.”

Alex belted out a laugh, almost choking, and I casually sipped my coffee, watching him catch his breath. I don’t think Perry ever laughed so hard at anything I said. In fact, I think I stopped cracking my smartass jokes because of it. I felt a little bit of the old me emerging here on the front porch of Krankies Coffee House.

“God damn it, you’re funny.” His face was beet red from laughing, and it made me feel good, alive. I gave him a modest shrug.

“I’m really glad I ran into you,” he continued. “I had planned to message you and ask if you had any plans tomorrow evening.”

The mini smile playing on my face melted away. Was this a date he was asking me on? What should I say? He was my ex’s dad. I couldn’t date my ex’s dad, could I? Then again, my ex is married, so standard rules don’t apply. Fuck, this was complicated.

“Um, I don’t have any plans, but…”

He cocked his head at me. “But?”

“But… I’ve been a little under the weather this week. I’d hate for you to catch it.” I sniffed to reinforce my lie, and he just smirked at me.

“I have ten-year-old girls. A little sniffle is hardly enough to scare me away.” He brushed my cheeks and I about wet my pants. God damn his touch was… it was… something. “You do look a little flushed, though. Are you feeling all right?”

I scrunched my mouth up, knowing that if I wanted I could totally lie and get out of any sort of Saturday night commitment, every moment thereafter going out of my way to avoid Alex Walsh for good. I didn’t want any complications. Didn’t need any complications. And don’t ask me how, but somehow I knew deep in my gut that this was a pivotal point in my life. How I answered could determine my fate. What was it going to be?

“Actually…” I started, gazing deeply into those hypnotic blue eyes, brimming with wisdom. “I feel fine.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I changed outfits six times before deciding on a black asymmetric mini, a red snug-fitting scoop neck top, and open toed, three-inch heels. Fashion totally was not my thing, and the only reason I owned something other than jeans was for work.

My date with Alex was actually a business dinner with some clients. He assured me that all I had to do for the first half of the evening was sit and look pretty and I would be rewarded with delicious food, followed by whatever I wanted the rest of the night: a movie, dessert, Dunkin Donuts coffee, whatever, making it crystal clear that our date would not conclude with the dinner check.

By the time he picked me up, I was a wreck, worried that my outfit was too risqué for business. And one look from him confirmed my fears. Before even saying hello, the smile faded from his lips as he gave me the once over.

“Shit. This is all wrong, isn’t it? I can change.” I tossed my purse on the edge of the couch and began walking to my bedroom.

“Wait,” Alex said. “You look spectacular. Please don’t change.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, glancing down at my legs and feet.

“Sure that you could wake the dead? Yes. I’m sure.” He crossed his hands in the front, covering his crotch. I wasn’t sure if he was just being silly or if he really had a boner, but I believed him. I bit my lip to keep from laughing and picked up my purse off the couch.

“Okie dokie then. Guess that settles that.”

Alex looked pretty amazing himself, dressed in a dark gray pinstripe suit. He was a total gentleman, opening every door for me and pulling out my chair at the restaurant. I had never been around anyone so proper. Hell, Perry was quite the opposite, but he kind of had to be that way with me in public. I had believed that chivalry was dead, or at a minimum, that it had changed to accommodate the modern woman. But I found Alex’s actions and manners stunningly sexy. How any woman could not want to be treated like that was beyond me. I also wondered how I would survive the night with a man who, by all appearances, was a slightly older replica of the man who had just broken my heart.

We ate at a high end Mexican restaurant on the outskirts of town. And comically, the potential clients that Alex was meeting with were Japanese. They didn’t speak a word of English all night, but as luck would have it, one of the men brought along a date, not much older than me.

“Do you understand what they’re saying?” Katie asked.

“Not a word.”

We both giggled like school girls and Alex glanced my way, smiling fondly. Several glasses of wine on board were loosening my inhibitions.

He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I’m so sorry. We won’t be here much longer.”

I told him it was fine, spending the next half hour shooting the shit with Katie. Once dinner was over, we made our way to the car, Alex apologizing profusely the whole way.

“I had no idea they would insist on speaking Japanese all night. I hope you weren’t too bored.”

“Not at all,” I reassured him. “I’m impressed that you speak Japanese. How did you learn?” The truth was, I found it incredibly sexy listening to a man speaking another language. But I wouldn’t tell him that.

“I’m self taught. And I suppose that having so many Asian clients over the years hasn’t hurt. It’s not a hard language to learn if you’re ever interested.”

“I think my brain would explode,” I answered, a memory of Perry suddenly crashing into me. After promising me a trip to Paris someday, he had tried to teach me French. I told him it was a waste to learn something that would only benefit me for one week.

“Well we don’t want that,” Alex said. “I don’t have the tools or the equipment to clean up brain spatter.”

“That’s… incredibly reassuring,” I laughed.

Alex picked up the highway and we were quickly on our way back into town. I wondered what he had planned next. I found myself fiddling with the edge of my skirt, my nerves almost completely frazzled.

“Where to now? I promised you lady’s choice. Though after listening to me drone on in a foreign language, you’re probably ready to say goodnight.”

Was I? I didn’t think so, but I had never been given a choice about where to go. That had always been decided for me, a critical necessity when you’re sleeping with a married man and you must avoid running into his wife. I quickly ran through my mental checklist of all the places I had been with his son, which mostly consisted of my apartment, hidden parking lots, a couple of hotels that took cash, and let’s not forget dumpsters at weddings.

Jesus Christ, was that really what my love life had come down to?

“Are you thinking or did you fall asleep?”

“Huh? Oh, no,” I laughed. “I didn’t fall asleep. I don’t know. Where do you want to go?”

He stroked his chin as if deep in thought, then nodded. “I know the perfect place.”

I started to say that as long as it wasn’t in some dark alleyway, it sounded perfect. But I figured I should leave that little tidbit out.

Ten minutes later, we pulled into a parking lot at the end of a shopping mall. In front of us sat a local sports bar, one I had never been in before. After walking inside, I followed him all the way to the back corner.

“Have you ever played?” he asked, nodding towards the only empty pool table in the house.

“Pfft,” I answered. “I can play this shit blindfolded.”

“Really,” he said, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms. “Care to put some money on that?”

I stretched my hands out in front of me, cracking all my knuckles for extra dramatic effect. “Bring it.”

“Heh, all right.” He turned around and examined a few cue sticks, so I joined him, picking the best one I could find. He eyeballed me suspiciously and I flashed him a smile. Gene had a pool table in his basement. It was old as shit, but I used to play with him every weekend. I was totally going to kick his ass.

Digging in his pocket, Alex removed three quarters and stepped dangerously close to me, leaning towards my ear. The noise in here was terrible. “Rack ‘em up while I get us some drinks. What’ll you have?” He placed the quarters in my hand.

“Merlot, please. And uh, you may want to lay off the alcohol till we’re through here. You’re going to need all the focus you can get.”

Holding back a smile, he ran his tongue over his teeth. “Bless your heart,” he said shaking his head before leaving me to go to the bar.

I drew my hand to my chest and muttered under my breath, “Bless my heart?” Okay, so Alex thought I was all talk? I’d show him. He returned a few minutes later with two drinks, obviously not heeding my warning.

“You’re a brave, brave man,” I told him.

He smiled and his eyes lit up. I had a feeling he was really enjoying himself. Hell, I was too. He took a sip of his drink then smacked a twenty on the table.

“Oh, we’re really doing that?” I asked. “That’s cool. I could stand to make a little money on the side tonight.” I winked at him and grabbed my purse, pulling a fresh twenty out of my wallet and placing it on top of his.

“Let’s see what you got, sweetheart.” He pointed the cue stick at me and told me to break.

“Ah, a man who likes to break the rules. You don’t want to lag to see who goes first?”

Making a face, he shook his head. His faces were adorable. Like Perry’s, only sexier. “I believe in following the rules, but letting the lady go first.”

“Ooh, you smooth talker, you,” I said. I sipped on my wine and letting the warmth overtake me.

Alex laughed, and from there we played three games, each one ending with him legally pocketing the 8-ball, beating me every time. I gave up after the last game, telling him he won but I would never, ever forget that he cheated.

“Cheated! What?” he exclaimed, pulling me into a tight hug. “I’ll have you hanged for false accusations.”

I laughed so hard I actually drooled on his shirt, and that’s when I realized I’d probably had a little too much to drink. I think I stopped midway through my third glass, and it was a good thing I did. There was no telling what would come out of my mouth if I got totally hammered. Suddenly, I felt extremely vulnerable. I pulled away from him. I mean, what the actual fuck was I doing? I had no business being out with this man. No business whatsoever.

“I’ve had a blast, but I should probably get home.”

He looked a little surprised and stiffened his back before glancing at his watch. “Wow. It is rather late. I suppose it would be wrong if I kept you out past midnight.”

I forced a smile and he kept his hand on my lower back as we walked to his car. Once seated, everything started to spin. Damn my stupid ass for drinking so much.

“I don’t normally act like this. Sorry,” I slurred.

He glanced in my direction and started the car. “Really? That’s too bad. I had a lot of fun with you.”

He placed his hand on the headrest above me, and some crazy kind of energy swirled around us, like this tension I couldn’t describe, a good tension. That’s when I knew that something inevitable was going to happen. And by inevitable, I meant I was going to fuck him. Maybe not tonight, but someday soon, I would fuck my ex boyfriend’s dad.

“I just meant that I haven’t had a lot of practice with dating. My last relationship was pretty secretive.”

Oh shit. I had just opened up Pandora’s Box.

Alex backed out of the parking spot and drove away as if what I had just said was common knowledge. But I definitely was not thinking very clearly. I leaned my head against the passenger window, the glass nice and cool against my alcohol flushed skin. Perry took front and center stage of my thoughts just then, making me queasy. I wondered what he would think if he knew I was out on a date with his father. I hadn’t given it much thought earlier, mostly because I didn’t think anything would come of it. But now I wasn’t so sure. We went through several stoplights in silence. I was sure Alex was disgusted with my drunken state.

“I know about you and my son.”

Streetlights whipped past us and time seemed to stand still as I processed what he just said. There was no way I heard him right. No fucking way in hell. I slowly scanned my head in his direction, terrified of what I would see. Judgment? Anger? Disgust? Oh shit, this was why he had asked me out, to lecture me on being a nice young lady, not a whore. A respectable adult, not a wandering husband thief. A woman who had a moral compass with honor and integrity, not one that acted like a slut. We came upon a red light and he stopped the car, flicking his gaze in my direction.

“For a long while, I was outraged at his behavior. But now I understand his reasons for infidelity.” His hand gently stroked my face. “You’re quite an amazing woman, you know that?”

Shocked and confused, I shook my head. Was this really happening?

“How long have you known?” I asked. The light turned green and Alex pulled forward, shifting his eyes away from me and back to the road.

“I had suspected for a while. You learn to read your children like a book when it comes to these things. Then a few days ago, Melissa informed me that she found a receipt from a hotel downtown. I confronted Perry and he pretty much admitted it, saying he felt bad and wanted to try and salvage his marriage.”

“Oh God,” I grumbled, clutching my stomach. This was un-fucking-believable. Perry had told me he didn’t know how she found out.

Alex placed a reassuring hand on my leg, making me feel anything but reassured.

“You two have been involved for quite some time, haven’t you?”

I shook my head again, not answering ‘no’ to his question, but denying his request for information.

“Look this isn’t your fault. My son is an impetuous little shit sometimes. There have been many occasions—”

“He says you’re nuts about her,” I interrupted. “That he only married her because you insisted. Why? Why? I mean, what is it about her that’s so fucking awesome?” I couldn’t believe I was being so blunt, but I really had nothing to lose at that point.

Alex rolled his head around as we pulled onto my street. He didn’t answer until he was parked by the entrance, and he paused before answering my question, as if it needed some aforethought.

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I didn’t push him to marry her. I hate her.”

Everything in my world shifted just then. All these years he had lied to me. Why? To keep me safe? To protect my feelings? Or to keep stringing me along.

“But once he did marry her, I forced myself to reconcile the fact that she was now my daughter-in-law, and I would have to accept it.”

I was boiling with anger thinking about that bitch having my man all to herself every single night. And all I could manage to do was vocally express that anger and that hatred in the most raw, most real, most honest form of passion.

“I’ve fantasized about running her down with my car. I wish she was dead.” I let out a sinister laugh, any concerns I would have about his reaction to that comment, were I sober, completely absent.

Alex’s entire demeanor shifted, his attention completely focused on me right then. I didn’t know if he was shocked, horrified, or intimidated by my comment. I didn’t even care. I didn’t care that I came off like a crazed lunatic.

I didn’t own my words that night. I was drunk. Who fucking cared, anyway? And that was when his last three words sank in and finally registered.

“Wait a minute. You hate her?”

He closed his eyes and nodded solemnly.

“Then why did he marry her?” I was so confused.

Alex yanked the keys out of the ignition and pulled his tie off, right there in the seat. “Let’s go inside, and I’ll explain everything.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as we got in the front door, I kicked off my heels and made a beeline for Perry’s liquor. Was it stupid? Sure. Did I give a rat’s ass? Nope. We were at the beginning of a long conversation, and the wine was wearing off. I couldn’t deal with my feelings just then. And the alcohol kept them comfortably buried. Except they weren’t really buried, they were just temporarily hiding.

I held up the bottle to Alex, offering him a drink. He shook his head and took the bottle from me, setting it aside and reaching in my cabinet for a glass. He filled it up with water then plunked in a few ice cubes from the freezer.

“You’ll probably feel better tomorrow if you drink this.”

My head immediately began to thump, so I took his advice and drank half the glass. He walked to the sliding doors and peered out at the view of downtown Winston, sliding his hands deep in his pockets. I leaned against the counter, amazed at how much he resembled Perry just then, at least physically. In every other way, he was completely different.

“Melissa’s grandfather, Joseph, and my father were best childhood friends. They went to school together, both of them heavily into sports. They played on the same basketball team, they double dated, even worked at the same corner drug store together.

“Eventually, my father took an interest in pharmaceuticals and pursued a Ph.D. in chemistry, and during his college years he decided to start a pharmaceutical company. He didn’t quite have the finances to pull it off alone though.” He looked my way as I stood listening. “But Melissa’s grandfather did. My dad poured his heart and soul into that business for three years. And they were doing pretty well until my dad discovered that Joseph was stealing from the company. When he confronted him about it, Joseph denied it and found a legal way to cut him from the business, leaving my father without a company, without a job, and without a goddamn penny to his name.

“I was eight years old when my father committed suicide because of that bastard’s actions. And now Melissa tries to hide who she really is, when I know that she’s a Baron.”

Baron… why was that name familiar? It took a few seconds before it dawned on me who he was referring to. “Wait, are you saying that Melissa’s related to the man who started Baron Pharmaceuticals?” They were only the biggest pharmaceutical company on the east coast, practically a household name.

Alex nodded sadly and came over to where I was standing.

“But her name is Jones,” I argued. “Or it was.” Of course now she was a Walsh, but I could have sworn I remembered seeing the name Jones on their wedding invitations.

“Melissa’s father, Brian Baron, took over the family business. And like most pharmaceutical companies, they were involved with animal testing. But something about their company attracted the attention of PETA about twenty years ago. The family faced death threats on a daily basis, so Melissa’s mother took off with her and went into hiding, changed their names, and everything else that would be recognizable about the two of them.”

Holy shit. This was big. Huge. If what Alex was saying were true, everything about her was a lie.

“If Melissa and her mother went into hiding, how can you be sure it’s the same person now?” I asked. I don’t know why I was asking him this question. Given his connections, he could probably track down anyone anywhere.

He grumbled out a laugh. “I’ve been following that family since just before Melissa was born. I can tell you her birth name is Justine Baron, and I can tell you where she’s lived every year of her life. Both of her parents are deceased, and Joseph is still alive and well in New Bern. I haven’t let either one of them out of my sight. When she moved back here to Winston-Salem and started digging her claws into my son, I almost went ballistic. But then I realized that having her close would make my job that much easier. I didn’t want her to twitch without my knowledge. So I welcomed her with open arms after they exchanged their vows.”

“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” I mumbled.

“Exactly,” Alex responded.

It made perfect sense. With Melissa married to Perry, Alex could keep an eye on practically everything that she did, and probably manipulate her hand if she tried anything.

“So what now?” I asked “You and Perry go on pretending you don’t know who she is, and continue on with this charade forever? What’s the point of that?” I wasn’t anywhere near being over him, or the fact that he had lied to me. But at least now I understood why he stayed married to someone he didn’t love… if he really didn’t love her. I still wasn’t sure.

Leaning against the counter behind him, Alex gave me a confused look. “Perry? Oh no, he has no idea who Melissa is. He’s completely clueless about all of this.”

My blood ran cold all over, and I dropped my head, trying to make sense of this. So Perry had married her, not because he knew who she was and wanted to keep tabs on her like his father, but because….

… he wanted to marry her? He loved her? Well, one thing was for sure. He cared about her enough to agree to spend the rest of his life with her.

This new revelation hit me suddenly, painfully, and it hit me hard. And it also left a ton of shit running through my mind, primarily a circular debris of unanswered questions, one of which was why I would have access to this privileged information when his precious son did not. I could ask Alex some of the questions I wanted answers to, but he could only answer one accurately.

“Why are you telling me all of this, Alex?”

He took a few steps towards me, his eyes glowing with a dangerous sort of excitement. I got the impression that discussing this gave him a weird kind of rush. Placing his hands on the counter behind me, he had me trapped. I thought he was going to kiss me, and I got a rush of my own. How the hell could he distract me so easily? He was so sophisticated, so sexy, and so fucking right in every way. Suddenly I wanted to revenge fuck Alex.

He licked his lips and brushed a few strands of hair away from my forehead. “Why am I telling you this? It’s really quite simple. How would you like to have everything you’ve always wanted, Liz? Everything that you’ve dreamed about from the moment you met him, from the second you laid eyes on him? To spend the rest of your life with the man that you were meant to be with?”

I held his gaze there for a while, contemplating the question. I could easily say “duh!” But I knew that what he was asking was not as simple as it seemed.

“I’d be lying if I said those things didn’t matter. But Perry just broke up with me. I don’t think he wants me anymore.”

“He loves you, Liz. He ended things with you to keep the peace at home.”

“You—you know about that?”

Alex nodded. “Melissa could destroy him and his reputation if she reveals the affair, and he’s doing everything in his power to make sure that doesn’t happen. Now that she knows he’s been unfaithful, she’s a walking time bomb, and I can’t have that.”

I rubbed my head. “So, what are you saying? You’ve got some ideas on how to get her to walk away so that Perry and I can be together?”

“If I can promise you a lifetime with my son, a percentage of the Walsh Estate as well as the business, and a lifetime of protection against any and all enemies, would you help me get her out of his life?”

A lifetime with Perry and a chunk of the pie? Jesus Christ, was he serious? I mean, how could I turn that down? I had never cared about marrying Perry, I just wanted to be with him. Even the money didn’t mean that much to me. I always figured that if Perry and I were together, married or not, he would take care of me and provide for me. And I would insist on working because I never wanted to depend on a man financially. But now Alex was offering all of that. It was the guarantee of a lifetime.

No matter how hurt I was at that moment, I had to believe that Perry had his reasons for lying to me. And I knew that in the end, I would do just about anything to be with him. As long as he wanted to be with me.

“I’ll help you with anything if it means having a life with Perry.”

A surge of excitement rippled through me at the thought of being with him forever. Not having to hide my feelings. Not needing to pretend with everyone that we loved each other. It was all I ever wanted.

“Perfect,” he said smiling. His hands caressed my cheeks and he kissed me on the forehead. His lips were soft and even though Alex definitely awakened something inside of me, I was thinking of Perry.

“Are you going to tell me what I have to do?” I asked, trying not to appear too excited.

He brushed the tips of his fingers across my lips and pressed his body against mine. I drew in a tight breath. “Just one small favor, Liz.”

I waited as he smiled and continued.

“I want you to kill her.”

Thank you for purchasing Monster, Book 1.

Please look for book 2 and check out my other publications on Shakespir at:

https://www.Shakespir.com/profile/view/brittany70

www.authorbrittanyadams.com


Monster: Book 1 (A Dark Psychological Thriller)

From the moment I laid eyes on him, Perry Walsh was a god to me. He was my beginning and my end, the sadist to my masochist, and I wanted him more than I wanted to breathe. He had it all—looks, money, a future with his father’s multi-billion dollar marketing firm… and a wife. I spent four years waiting for him, hoping against hope that he would see the error of his ways and divorce her once and for all so he and I could be together. We belonged in each other’s arms. Openly. Not in secret. He was the only man I ever loved and the only man I wanted to be with. But after four years of hiding as the other woman, I was starting to think he was the one man I would never have. Until I met his father, Alex Walsh, and then something happened. Something I can’t explain. You see, Alex promised me I could have Perry, that I could have everything I wanted and more. If I would just do this one, little thing for him... PLEASE NOTE: This dark psychological thriller is book 1 of a 5-part series. It is just over 22,000 words and ends with a brutal cliffhanger.

  • ISBN: 9781310987885
  • Author: Brittany Adams
  • Published: 2016-05-23 19:35:12
  • Words: 22435
Monster: Book 1 (A Dark Psychological Thriller) Monster: Book 1 (A Dark Psychological Thriller)