“You know exactly what you did. You sold me out. You fucking sold me out, Ava.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Gil called me.” Gil is Gabriel’s manager. “Bradford Digby’s fucking lawyers called Gil to notify him that a story on me is going live on Digby’s trashy fucking news site in an hour.”
“Don’t play dumb. It doesn’t suit you. Did they not tell you that it’d be going live so soon? What were you going to do? Just up and disappear before I found out it was you?”
“Jesus, Gabe!” I tug on my ponytail, frustrated. “I honestly don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. I didn’t sell any story to anyone. I haven’t spoken to anyone. I don’t know what’s going on here, but it doesn’t have anything to do with me.”
He advances across the room so quickly, it forces me back a step.
He looms over me, face taut with anger. “You recorded our conversation. When I told you about my parents being in prison, about me fucking women for money, you got it all on tape, and then you sold it to Bradford fucking Digby!”
“No!” I gasp. “No, I didn’t!”
“Liar,” he hisses. Then, he laughs an empty sound. “Well, you sure got lucky with that conversation. I bet you couldn’t believe your fucking luck. No wonder you were pushing me to be honest with you. I bet you weren’t expecting what came out of my mouth though. It was probably as close to winning the lottery for you, hearing all that. Did you record all our conversations? Or just that one?”
My hands ball into fists at my sides. “I’ve never recorded any of our conversations.”
“I’m not lying!”
“Just fucking stop, Ava. The lawyers sent Gil the interview that you signed off on and a copy of the recording of our conversation.”
He pulls his cell from his pocket and presses the screen. A second later, the room is filled with the sound of Gabe’s and my voices.
“I used to sleep with women for money.”
“And my parents are in prison for drug trafficking, racketeering, and murder.”
He presses stop on the recording.
“Gabe…I don’t know how our conversation was recorded, but it wasn’t me.”
He swipes the screen on his phone and turns it to me. “It’s all there, in black and white, Ava. Every single thing I told you. As quoted by you.”
I grab the phone from him and scan the words in front of me. I catch sight of my name.
…details from the woman who knows him best. His live-in lover, Ava Simms.
“No,” I gasp, my eyes flying to Gabe. “No, I didn’t do this. This wasn’t me, I swear.” My heart is pounding in my chest, my mind reeling with confusion.
“Stop fucking lying to me!” he yells.
“I’m not lying! It wasn’t me! Someone else recorded our conversation because it wasn’t me.”
His eyes fix on me, cold and hard. “Swipe the screen.”
“Swipe the fucking screen!”
I do as he said, and there’s a document.
“You probably recognize that. It’s the contract you signed with Digby, giving him exclusive rights.”
“I didn’t sign any contract! You have to believe me!”
He laughs hollowly. “And I suppose that isn’t your name and signature at the bottom either.”
I zoom in on the bottom of the document, and there, in black ink, is my name and signature. It’s mine. I recognize it as mine.
“No.” I’m shaking my head. “Gabe, I didn’t sign this. I would never betray you like that. I swear to you.”
He snatches his phone from my hand and turns his back on me.
“Gabe.” I step up to him and place my hand on his back.
He jerks away, like I burned him. In his mind, I have. He thinks I’ve betrayed him.
“Don’t fucking touch me.” His voice is so chilling that I shiver. “Don’t ever fucking touch me again.” He turns to look at me, and his eyes look right through me. “I just hope the money was worth it.”
“What money? Gabe, I swear on my entire family, I swear on Gucci’s life, I didn’t do this.”
He steadily stares back at me. “I don’t believe you.”
It’s like a blow to the stomach. I fold my arms over the ache his words just put there.
“How much did you get? How much was I worth, Ava? If you’d told me you needed the money, I would have given it to you. You wouldn’t even have had to fuck me. I’d have given it to you for free.”
“I didn’t get any money from anyone! Jesus, Gabe! Listen to me! I have a thousand bucks to my name. Here, I’ll show you.” I grab my cell from my clutch. I pull my online banking up and thrust my phone at him, showing him the screen.
He barely looks at it. “It means nothing. People can have more than one bank account.”
“But I don’t have another bank account! I have one! I didn’t do this, Gabe. You have to believe me.”
He stares at me. Black eyes devoid of anything but anger.
“I can’t believe this is happening.” I drop my phone to the sofa and press my hand to my shaking head.
Tears push at my eyes. My lips tremble. I bite down to stop from crying.
“Gabe, I didn’t do this. You know me,” I implore, my voice shaking with the force of the emotions running through me.
“I thought I did. Clearly, I was wrong.”
“Please…I didn’t do this. I know my name is quoted on that story and that my signature is at the bottom of that document, but I’m telling you”—I press my hand to my chest—“it wasn’t me. I didn’t tell any journalist anything. I haven’t told anyone about what you told me. And I never would. You have to believe me.”
I look at him, begging him to believe me.
It feels like forever before he speaks, “I don’t have to do a fucking thing.”
I suck in a sharp breath. “You really think I’m capable of this? That I could do this to you?”
A word has never cut me more. I feel like I’ve been sliced open and left to bleed out.
A tear runs down my face. I brush it away with the back of my hand.
I want to beg him to listen, but my dignity won’t allow it. So, I take a fortifying breath before I speak again, “Then, I guess there’s nothing more left to say.”
“No, there isn’t. Only that I want you out of my home and out of my life.”
With my heart in tatters, shredded at my feet, I turn and run back to my room. As soon as I’m inside, a sob breaks from my mouth. I press my hand to my mouth to catch it. Tears run down my face as I grab my handbag and shove a few items of clothes into it. I’ll have to come back for the rest. I just need to get out of here now. I grab my car keys off the dresser, and I go back through to the living room.
Gabe’s still there, back to me, staring out the window again.
I pick my cell up from the sofa and scoop Gucci up in my arms. She presses her face into my neck, comforting me, like she understands what’s going on. Her comfort makes me hurt so much more.
“I just…I can’t believe this is happening.” My quiet words echo around the room.
Gabe slowly turns to me.
I watch him with pleading eyes. “I didn’t do what you think I did. You’re making a mistake.”
His mouth tightens. Eyes darken. “The only mistake I’ve ever made was trusting you.”
I thought he couldn’t cut me more. I was wrong.
I close my eyes against the pain. Tears run from the corners of them.
He says my name.
I open my eyes to him.
“I don’t ever want to see you again. Understand?”
I nod my head because it’s all I can do. Words have failed me.
And, using every ounce of strength I have, I turn and leave his apartment for good.
I climb in my car and put Gucci on the passenger seat. I throw my bag into the footwell.