Page 45 of Arrogant Devil

Those are all good reasons, but there’s still one more: I have tried to open up about Andrew in the past, and it hasn’t gone well.

Honestly, why do I care if Jack knows the truth about my marriage? Up until a few days ago, he wielded incorrect assumptions about me and my life as hurtful weapons. Maybe he’s realized the error of his ways now, but I’m still annoyed. I want to quote Clark Gable and say, Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I don’t give a damn what he thinks of me or my choices.


Not anymore.

“Meredith.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

“How was he mean to you?”

“I said I don’t want to talk about it!”

I think I’m doing a good job of voicing my resistance to this topic, but he isn’t so easily swayed.

“I’d like to know what he did to you.”

Jesus Christ! He’s not going to drop it.

I slam the door closed again and throw my hands up in defeat. “It was the way he spoke to me. It was the things he said to me…the things he called me.”

There, he has his answer.

“Like what?”

“Does it matter?” I move to straighten a towel hanging near the shower. Then I go check on Alfred.

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, but you should talk to someone about it.”

“I have talked to someone,” I grumble, “and it didn’t go over well.”

“Why didn’t it go well?”

“Because it’s hard to explain! It makes no sense to other people. If I was living with an abusive monster, why didn’t I just leave? He wasn’t holding me captive, wasn’t threatening to kill me if I left. He was such a manipulative asshole, it took me years to realize what he was, what I’d become! It makes no sense. He’s this outgoing, happy person. To the world, Andrew Wilchester is perfect. No one wants to believe he has another side to him—just ask Helen.”

“You told her about the abuse?”

The way he says the word makes my skin crawl. I don’t like that label. I want to lay no claim to it.

“I tried.”

“And she didn’t want to hear it?”

He sounds angry, but I’m careful with my next words. Helen helped me get this job; I don’t want to throw her under the bus.

“She wasn’t trying to hurt me. We aren’t close—that’s my fault. I kept the truth from her for too long, and now it’s too late. To her, it’s all so confusing. She wants me to reconcile with him.”

“That’s what she told me would happen.” His voice is steady and calm. I’m envious of his sobriety. “She said you’d go back to California once you got a dose of reality.”

I laugh, and I’m embarrassed to find it’s not a laugh at all but a broken sob.

It hurts knowing she said those things about me to someone else. It’s one thing to suspect it, another to hear it confirmed. I heave in a deep breath and try to get it together. This is embarrassing. I’m drunk.

“I swear I’m not weak. I didn’t stay because I was scared of being on my own.” I’m pacing now, worked up from all the truth spilling out of me. “It was just really confusing—the cycles he put me through. It was like being on the end of a line. He’d toss me out and reel me back in. Human beings gravitate toward cycles, routines, and that became ours.”

“I’m sorry.”

“My marriage to him is part of the reason I feel so isolated now. I put distance between myself and the people around me because I was afraid people would find out I was living this…lie.”

He’s off the bed now, bending to where I’m sitting on the rug. I don’t remember sitting down, but he’s here now, right in front of me, catching my tears and cradling my head.

“It’s not your fault Helen didn’t believe you.”

“Please don’t be angry at her. She’s not to blame in all this. I should have left earlier—”

His eyes flare with fury. “Stop talking like that. You’re the victim, not Helen, and not Andrew. You left when you could, and that’s all that matters.”

He’s cradling my face and I’m weeping like I’ve never wept in my life. I’m losing water weight by the gallon, shriveling up like a raisin. I will be dehydrated and dead by the end of this sob session.

“I just want to move on.”

“So do it.”

“I thought I was,” I cry, angry now. “But Andrew still followed me here! I’m still married to the man for Christ’s sake! That’s why I have to go to Mexico—MEXICO!” I snap my fingers. “That’s why I was thinking about Mexico earlier!”

“If possible, I think you’re getting more drunk. Here, blow.”

I don’t realize I was creating snot bubbles until he forces a tissue under my nose. That’s…fun. I’ve successfully solidified my role in his life as Crazy Housekeeper To Keep At Arm’s Length. I wonder if I can use my tenuous emotional state to finagle some benefits like health insurance or paid time off. There has to be a bright side to having a mental breakdown in front of your boss.

“I am more dunk.” I try again, losing my fragile grasp on language. “Durrunk.”

“Do you feel sick?”

“Just weepy and sleepy.” I laugh at my rhyme. “If you move your hands away from my cheeks, I think I’ll drop right to the floor face first. I’m so tired.”

“I’m going to put you to bed.”

He hooks his hands under my arms and hoists me off the ground. Cold air blasts my bare legs. I wrap them around his waist to warm them up. God, he’s so warm…so warm and tall and strong. I want him to set me down and pick me up again. It turns me on that he can just pluck me up off the ground like that. It fulfills some vestigial cavewoman need I didn’t even know I had.

He hoists me higher and I’m reminded that I’m still wrapped around him like an anaconda. Damn. This is hot, but it’s not right. When I imagined having sex with him on this twin bed, I was fully sober and on top, riding him like…well, a cowgirl.

“I didn’t think this was how tonight would end,” I whisper against his cheek. “I think you’re really handsome, like so so so bangin’ sexy, don’t get me wrong, but I’m pretty drunk and sleepy.”

I’m pawing at his chest. I’m running my hands along his strong jaw, feeling it for the first time. It’s magnificent. He is magnificent.

“Meredith, I said I’m putting you to bed, not taking you to bed.”

“Oh, I see, Mr. Verb Man, got different verbs for all occasions.”

He sets me down on the bed and tugs my blankets aside so I can slip my legs underneath.

I wait for him to pat my head and tell me to go to sleep like a good little girl.

Instead, he tugs the covers up and sits down beside me.

His brown eyes are pools of sympathy. I wonder if I was imagining the desire I saw in them earlier.

“How ya feelin’, champ?”

He brushes his hand across my forehead, pushing my hair back.

“Like I’d keel over if I wasn’t already lying down.”

“I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep.”

“That reminds me—can Alfred stay with me tonight?”

“He’s already asleep at the foot of your bed.”

“Whew.”

“Go to sleep.”

I close my eyes.

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“I really wanted to hate you after the things you said on Thursday, but I couldn’t. When you were at the wedding all by yourself, I felt so bad. I only came up to the bar because I wanted to talk to you, but I didn’t know how. I was so…angry. Maybe I should still be angry, but I’m not.”

“Well if you wake up tomorrow and realize you’re still mad at me, that’s okay. I know this is probably just the alcohol talking.”

“Thanks. Yeah…maybe I’ll be double pissed in the morning.”

“Maybe.”

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