Page 29

Author: Emma Chase


Jeffrey Dahmer’s neighbors thought he was a nice guy. Until they found those heads in his freezer.


She crosses her arms, and her voice turns triumphant. Gloating. “And I know someone who’s perfect for her. He works in my lab. He’s smart. He’s funny. His name is Bert.”


Bert?


Is she fucking kidding me? What kind of sick son of a bitch names his kid Bert in this day and age? That’s just cruel.


“He’ll show Kate a good time. I plan on setting them up this weekend.”


And I plan on handcuffing myself to Kate’s ankle and eating the key. Let’s see what kind of good time Bert can show Kate when she’s dragging me around behind her like a Siamese twin.


“I have a better idea. How about we double. You and Matthew, me and Kate. We’ll hang out. It’ll give me the chance to show you how perfect Kate and I are for each other.”


“Okay, now you sound like a stalker. You had your chance, you fucked up, get over it. Pick some other number out of your little black book and leave Kate alone.”


I stand up. “Contrary to what you think you know, I’m not some serial scumbag. I don’t lead women on—I don’t need to. You want me to tell Kate I’m sorry? I have. You want a guarantee that I’ll never hurt her again? I can write you one, and I’ll sign it in blood if it makes you happy. But don’t ask me to leave her alone, because I won’t. I can’t.”


She doesn’t move. Her face is as still and hard as a pissed-off statue. And my argument is making about as much of a dent as a goddamn toothpick.


“Did Matthew tell you what I was like? Do I look like the type of guy who goes catatonic over just any woman? God, Delores, I fucking worship her.”


She snorts. “Today. You worship her today. But what happens if she gives in? When the novelty wears off and the sex gets old? And some new bitch in heat crosses your path and wants you to sniff her ass?”


Sex doesn’t get old. Not if you’re doing it right.


“I don’t want anyone else. And I don’t see that changing any time…ever.”


“I think you’re full of shit.”


“I’m sure you do. If you dicked Matthew around the way I did with Kate, I’d pretty much write you off too. But what you think doesn’t change what Kate wants. And deep down, even if she won’t admit it yet, that’s me, sweetheart.”


“Could you be any more full of yourself? You may have money, but it can’t buy you class. Or integrity. You’re not even close to good enough for Kate.”


“But you think your cousin is?”


“No, I don’t. Billy’s an immature jackass, and that relationship was going nowhere fast for a long time. Over the years I tried to tell her. To make her see that she and their relationship had become more about friendship than real love. But by then our lives, our families, were so intertwined, I think they were both afraid of rocking the boat and losing more than just each other. But he did—does love her. I’m sure of that. He’s just always loved his guitar more.”


She starts to pace in front on my desk. Like a professor in a lecture hall.


“See, Drew, there are three kinds of males in this world: boys, guys, and men. Boys—like Billy—never grow up, never get serious. They only care about themselves, their music, their cars. Guys—like you—are all about numbers and variety. Like an assembly line, it’s just one one-night stand after another. Then there are men—like Matthew. They’re not perfect, but they appreciate women for more than their flexibility and mouth suction.”


She’s not wrong. You should listen to her.


The only part she doesn’t get, though, is that sometimes a guy can’t become a man until he’s met the right woman.


“You can’t make that call. You barely know me.”


“Oh, I know you. Believe me. I was conceived by a guy just like you.”


Crap. Daddy issues. They’re the worst.


“Kate and I look out for each other,” she goes on. “We always have. And I’m not going to let her be another notch on your STD-coated bedpost.”


You ever bang your head against a wall?


No?


Watch closely. This is what it looks like.


“She’s not. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you! What fucking language would you like to hear it in?”


“I don’t know. Do you speak anything besides Asshole?”


I pinch the bridge of my nose. I feel an aneurism coming on.


“Okay, look—you don’t trust me? Fine. Talk to Matthew. You trust him, right? He wouldn’t want me screwing around with his girlfriend’s best friend if I wasn’t playing for keeps.”


She waves her hand in the air. “That doesn’t prove anything. Penises stick together.”


Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.


I scrub my hand down my face. Then I take a deep, calming breath. Time to lay it on the line. Put my cards on the table. Throw the Hail Mary pass.


I walk to the window, gathering my thoughts as I watch the traffic far below. I’m still looking at it as I tell her, “You know what I saw yesterday when I was coming to work? I saw a pregnant woman, getting a cab…”


I used to think pregnant women were kind of grotesque. Deformed. You should have seen Alexandra. When she was knocked up with Mackenzie, she looked like she’d eaten Humpty Dumpty for breakfast. And the way she was chowing down at the time, she totally could have.


“…and all I could think about was how adorable Kate would look pregnant. And about how I wanted to do things for her. Like…if she gets sick, I want to be the guy making her tea and bringing her tissues. I want to know how she got that small scar on her chin and if she’s afraid of spiders…and what she dreams about at night. Everything. It’s fucking insane—don’t think I don’t know that. It’s never happened to me before. And I don’t want it to ever happen again—with anybody else. Just Kate.”


I turn my head from the window and look her in the eyes.


If you’re ever in the woods and come face to face with a pissed-off momma bear, it’s always better to look her in the eyes. Run away? She’ll feed you to the cubs. One arm at a time. But if you stand your ground, you just might make it out alive.


“You want to hear that Kate has me whipped? ’Cause she does. She’s got me on my knees and under her thumb, and I don’t want to get out.”


We’re both quiet after that. Delores just stares at me. For a while. Searching my face for…something. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know the moment she finds it. Because something shifts in her eyes. They become softer. Just a little. And her shoulders relax. And then she nods.


“Okay, then.”


Some battles don’t have a winner. Sometimes the best a good general can hope for is a ceasefire.


“Kate makes her own choices,” she says. “And if those choices turn out to be rotten, then I’ll help her clean up the mess. Because that’s what best friends do—help bury the body.”


She stands up. Walks a few steps to the door. Then she stops, and spins around with her finger pointing in my direction.


“You just remember one thing, buddy. I don’t care if it’s ten days down the road or ten years, I’ll be watching you. And if I ever find out that you’ve fucked her over? I’ll make you sorry. And I work in a lab, Drew. With chemicals. Odorless, tasteless chemicals that can permanently shrink your nuts so small, you’ll have to start calling yourself Drewsilla. Are we clear?”


Matthew is out of his fucking mind. Delores Warren is scary. Definite psycho-bitch potential. She and Alexandra should totally hang out.


And she’s put way too much thought into that little plan for my liking.


I swallow hard. “Crystal.”


She nods again. “Glad we understand each other.”


And with that, she breezes out of my office. And I collapse back into my chair and stare at the ceiling.


Christ.


This relationship shit is exhausting. I feel like I just ran a marathon. With hurdles.


But you know what? I’m pretty sure the finish line’s in sight.


Chapter 24


AFTER DELORES LEAVES, I pick up my briefcase and head out the door. To my meeting with the skywriter. I still have to figure out how to get Kate on the roof. Speaking of Kate…


Want to swing by her office on the way out? See how her and the good Sister are getting along?


Her door’s open. I brace my hands on the frame and lean in. Can you see her through the balloons? Sitting at her desk, with her hands folded on top—a smile stuck on her face as she nods obediently to whatever Sister Beatrice is saying.


“Ladies. How are we doing this afternoon?”


Kate turns to me. And her voice is strained. “Drew. There you are. I was just thinking about you”—from the way she’s gripping her hands together, it looks like she was thinking about strangling me—“while Sister Beatrice here was telling me the fascinating tale of glass houses. And how those of us who live in them shouldn’t throw stones.”


She’s still smiling. But her eyes say something else entirely.


It’s a little creepy.


You know in Texas Chainsaw Massacre when the old man smiles just before he slits the girl’s throat? Yeah—it’s kind of like that.


Sister Beatrice looks at the ceiling. “We are all imperfect in the eyes of the Lord. Katherine, may I use yer facilities, dear? Nature is calling.”


“Of course, Sister.” They stand, and Kate opens the door to her adjoining washroom.


And as soon as that door closes, Smiley Kate goes bye-bye. Mad Kate takes her place. She marches toward me.


And the balloons run for their lives.


“I’m going to ask you this one time, and if you lie to me, I swear I’ll let Delores poison you.”


“Okay.”


“Is she a real nun? Or some actress you hired?”


I laugh. I didn’t even think of that. “No, she’s real.”


Kate is not pleased. “God, Drew! A nun? A fucking nun? This is low. Even for you.”


“I think she’s technically a Mother Superior now.”


I lean in closer to Kate because…well, just because I can…and the smell of her lotion hits me. Hard. I resist the urge to put my nose against her skin and sniff like a cocaine addict.


“Is there any level you won’t sink to to get your way?”


Nope. Sorry. Not a one. I don’t mind getting down and dirty.


Actually, I prefer it that way.


“Desperate times…I had to call out the big guns.”


“You want to see guns? As soon as the Flying Nun leaves my office, I’ll show you guns! I can’t believe—”


God, she’s beautiful. I mean, look at her. She’s like a volcano going off—fierce and fiery and breathtaking. If she doesn’t find a way to ugly herself down, I’m going to be spending an awful lot of time pissing her off.


Which might not be such a bad thing in the end. Angry sex is awesome.


I cut off Kate’s rant. “As titillating as this conversation has been—and believe me, it’s been very—I have a meeting to get to.”


Before I go, I motion toward her bare neck. “Hey, why aren’t you wearing your necklace?”


She folds her arms and smiles proudly. “I donated it to Sister Beatrice. For the less fortunate.”


Played that one well, didn’t she?


I can play too.


“That’s very generous. Of course, I’ll have to replace it for you. With something…bigger. You should expect another delivery tomorrow.”


Her smile turns upside down. And she smacks a rogue balloon out of the way.


Then she slams the door in my face.


I wait two seconds before calling through it, “Okay. I’ll see you later, Kate. Good talk.”

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