Page 12 of What Lies Beneath

“Sure. Just don’t get me anything too spicy,” she offered. She had no idea if she would like it or not, but that should be safe enough.

With a nod, Will turned and left. Seconds later she heard the front door open and close behind him.


To prepare for dinner, she detangled her hair and went to the closet in search of something comfortable. Some of the clothes were too tight, but Will mentioned she’d been dieting for the wedding. She flipped farther into the racks, finding some older things in a larger size. She was eyeing a stretchy pair of yoga pants when the phone rang.

For a moment, she was startled, not quite sure what to do. It felt like answering someone else’s phone, but it wasn’t. The call might very well be for her. Telling herself that it could be Will, she went into the bedroom and picked the phone up off the receiver. “Hello?”

“Cynthia?” the man’s voice asked, but it wasn’t Will. This voice was deeper, quieter, as though he didn’t want anyone to hear him but her.

“Yes, this is Cynthia. Who’s calling?”

The man hesitated for a moment. “Baby, it’s Nigel.”

Nigel. The name didn’t ring even the slightest bell, although he said it as if it explained everything. But he called her “baby.” She didn’t like that at all. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember you. I’ve had an accident and the doctors diagnosed me with amnesia.”

“Amnesia? My God, Cynthia. I’ve got to see you. These past few weeks I’ve been going mad with worry. Your cell phone is disconnected. I couldn’t get into the hospital because I wasn’t family. All I know is what I read in the papers about the crash, and it wasn’t much. Please tell me I can see you soon. Maybe tomorrow while Will is at work?”

Cynthia’s stomach sank. Will hadn’t elaborated on the details of her affair, but it didn’t take much to realize Nigel was her lover.

Will’s voice crept into her mind. You have a choice.

And she did. The past was the past. Will had offered her a clean slate and with it, perhaps a future together. At first, she hadn’t been quite certain what to make of it. She had obviously been unhappy with Will before and wasn’t certain if a bump to the head could make everything better between them. But she at least wanted to try. For now, she wanted Will to stay. The man on the phone would ruin any chance they had.

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Baby, wait. I’ll take an early train from the Bronx and meet you for coffee.”

“No. Please stop calling. Goodbye.” She disconnected and set the phone back onto the cradle. A few seconds later it rang again, the same number lighting up the screen. She didn’t answer it. The phone finally went silent and she waited nervously for a moment, but he didn’t call back.

That done, she took a deep breath and returned to the closet to get ready for her first dinner with Will.

Three

W ill sat at his desk, staring blankly at his laptop. After dinner, he’d returned to his office to work as he usually did. He spent most evenings working. Newspapers didn’t run themselves, and given that most of his days were filled with unproductive but necessary meetings, it was the only time he could dig through his email and actually get something done. Some people might’ve been bothered by the long hours he put in to keep the Observer at the top of its game, but Will didn’t mind. In fact, over the past few years, his office and unending stream of work had become a sanctuary from his failing relationship.

And yet tonight, with at least a hundred unread emails in his inbox, he couldn’t focus on the work. His thoughts kept straying to Cynthia.

He watched her roam around the apartment through the glass French doors that separated his office from the living room. When he’d left to pick up dinner, he thought things were okay between them. Better than okay if he let himself think too long about her shower-damp skin and the skimpy bath towel she was wrapped in. He hadn’t seen that much of Cynthia’s body in quite some time, and his visceral reaction to her was immediate and powerful. Fortunately the brisk walk to the takeout place had served as a cold shower, and by the time he had returned, he had it under control.

But now she seemed nervous around him. They’d eaten their Thai food in the dining room, filling the space between bites with harmless small talk. But he noticed an edge that wasn’t there earlier. When the phone rang, she nearly launched from her seat to beat him to answering it, and it was just Pauline checking to make sure she was settled in. The mother and daughter chatted while he cleaned up dinner and disappeared into his office.

Will couldn’t help but think that maybe she’d picked up on his attraction and it made her uncomfortable. He’d mentioned the possibility of a future together—nothing was impossible—but he wasn’t sold on the idea. He just wished his body and brain were on the same page.

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