Yeah, that option sucked. Was smarter, but still sucked.
I got in my car and drove to work. Scratched my leg through a hole in my panty hose and checked my phone. The screen still open to his text from this morning.
Good morning love. Call me when you’re up and about.
Another one, an hour later.
R we still on for this weekend?
I didn’t think I could do it. Couldn’t break up with him. But should. Ugh. I had to be the most wishy-washy woman on the planet. I parked my car and walked in the branch, waving to the tellers and unlocking my office. Roses, last week’s delivery from Brett, sat dead on the corner of my desk. Already decaying, they filled the room with a slightly sour smell. Dead roses. A fitting touch. And of course, it being Monday...
“Delivery for you.” Anita stuck her head in the door.
“Send ‘em in,” I mumbled, leaning down to press the power button on my computer.
I barely spoke to the delivery boy as he took the dead ones away and replaced them with a new vase - tulips, the cheery yellow flowers doing nothing to brighten my mood. I stopped him on his way out. “Can you take them to Anita instead?”
He stopped, his hand catching the door, head whipping to me. Confusion in the teenager’s eyes. “Anita?”
“The blonde manager at the front. Just put them on her desk. I’m fighting allergies this week.” I sniffed, rather convincingly.
“Sure. Whatever you want.”
“Thanks.” I spun in my chair and watched him carry Brett’s gift out of my office.
R we still on for this weekend?
I unlocked my phone and returned to the message. This weekend was Puerto Vallarta, a place we’d been before - #11 on the Places Where a Drug-Related Crime is Most Likely to Occur list. Last time, we’d stayed at a bed and breakfast, there’d been a storm, and we’d spent most of the time in bed. Brett had had one meeting - Saturday night - I’d been on my own for dinner and had eaten at the restaurant next door. I’d been so engrossed in my novel I hadn’t minded the time apart. Had finished my book five minutes before he had returned, his spirits high. He’d had a car waiting out front, and we’d gone into the city for a late dessert and drinks. I hadn’t thought anything about it. Had left my novel in the B&B, but taken my naïveté with me.
I typed without even having a plan, the scent of flowers still heavy in the space.
Are we staying at the same place as before?
The boy was on top of his texts. His response was immediate.
Are you feeling better? Free to talk?
No. In a meeting.
I scrolled back and added a frowny face at the end. Very convincing. I should quit banking and join the CIA. In fact ... I tapped my phone against the desk.
“What’s with the flowers?” Anita stuck her head in. “They poisonous?”
“Jury’s still out on that,” I murmured. I looked up, her eyebrows high, curiosity raised. Shit. Why was I feeding the Quincy rumor mill? I reached for a tissue and pointed toward my nose. “My allergies are hell right now. Any little thing is freaking them out. Do you mind babysitting them till I get over this?”
“Oh... sure. If you need me to fly off to paradise this weekend in your stead, I could do that too.”
I smiled big. Tried to laugh but it sounded like a guffaw so I quickly stopped. Maybe my acting wasn’t as amazing as I envisioned. “Thanks.”
“We have a projections meeting in twenty.”
“I’ll be there.” I fought the urge to stand up, push her out the door, and lock it, so I could finish my thought process. Thankfully, it wasn’t necessary. She gave me a cheery wave and left.
I closed my eyes, tried to return to where I was, the buzz of my phone in my hand stopping the act. I looked down at the incoming text.
I thought we’d stay somewhere else this time. Closer to where we had dessert.
So in the city. Near the nightclubs and a gazillion places deals could occur. Maybe I could get my answers without asking the questions. Follow Brett when he disappeared for his “business meeting”. Verify my suspicions myself.
I typed a response, the scent of my relationship’s blood in the water.
I’ve got a lot of work stuff to catch up on, not sure I can get away this weekend.
Yeah, that sounded good. Offhand and casual, with no hint of an evil scheme.
Would you prefer me to come to Quincy?
Shit. That wasn’t the answer I’d wanted. That type of weekend only worked before. Before I knew. Before I suspected. Now, it’d be a disaster. No palm trees or vacation sex to hide my suspicions behind.
My panties were so wet it was embarrassing. I panted against the night air, struggling for silence, the murmurs of the couple that had stepped outside breaking the silence of the night. Was I really being humped in the shadows against the side of a building? Was this beautiful man really running the pad of his fingers back and forth, lower and higher, finding the—oh my god. My head dropped back, and I couldn’t stop the moan that escaped me when my silk-covered clit was brushed by his fingers.
Yes, there would have to be at least one more fuck. I needed that. The long stretch of sexual celibacy ahead demanded that. Would I ever meet another man who would make me feel like this? Who would make my back practically break with the strength of my orgasm? Who would bury his face between my legs with such enthusiasm? Caress my body with such worship? Moan my name with such reverence?
Would you mind if I brought the work with me? Maybe I could fit it in at some point?
I threw the lure and waited for him to grab it.
Of course. I’ll have a few meetings anyway.
I let out a held breath and looked at the files before me. Moved one aside, looked at the next. All files that couldn’t leave this office. Not without jeopardizing my job. I rolled right, pulled open a drawer of my file cabinet. There — reports and reimbursement forms I’d put off for months. They could come. Sit in my suitcase. I could decide in Puerto Vallarta whether to really knock out this busy work... or find out the truth.
I looked at our text history. Tried to figure out if I’d done something wrong. Something felt off. We hadn’t gone a night without speaking in months. Maybe she’d just - like her friend said - had a migraine. Maybe it was nothing.
I reread the texts. She sounded fine, the words were right... it was my nagging sense of unease that was wrong. Maybe I should respond. Cancel this trip and go to Quincy instead. The trip wasn’t more important than her. Than us. She had even replaced Elyse, had grown more crucial than my cause. Maybe I should stop the trips altogether. Settle down and live a normal life with her. But damn, it would be hard. Especially when every trip I saw the faces I rescued. Heard their stories, each one a line to Elyse, an iron in the fight against her death.