Page 42 of Hot Mess

“You’re self-employed.”

“Fine, so I’m working from home. Same difference. You know that.” She waved her hand dismissively. “Theo, if you like her, spend time with her. She clearly needs a friend right now—”

“You could be that friend.”

“No. We all know I’m not that patient. Besides, you like her. I can see it in you. So what if she’s going to leave? Have a fling. Is it going to kill you?”

“What is your obsession with me being in a relationship?”

“I want you to be happy.”

“And you don’t think I’m happy with the way my life is?”

“I didn’t say that,” she said slowly. “Just because you’re not unhappy doesn’t mean you’re happy, Theo. You can exist in an ambivalent state where you are both, yet neither.”

“What am I? Schrodinger’s Cat?”

“Maybe. Do you meow when you’re hungry?” Blaire grinned, her white teeth gleaming. “Look, I’ll take Arielle now and she can hang out at our place until after dinner. The girls can help me make spaghetti. I’ll bring her home around seven-thirty. That gives you a good six hours to spend time with Elle and just… I don’t know. Figure out if you can see something going somewhere.”

“I think you’ve lost your mind, woman.”

She turned and pressed her hands either side of my face. “And I think you’ve yet to find yours, sir. But you’re my best friend and I want you to be happy. If I have to make you do it, I will. Now, I’m going to kidnap your child.”

There was no way I was getting out of this, so I simply sighed and let her run down the beach toward the girls so she could bribe them with her spaghetti.

It was bloody good spaghetti.

Thirty minutes later, Arielle and Adalyn were bundled in the back of Blaire’s car and were waving goodbye to me. After a quick shower, I made my way over to Elle’s place and walked up the back deck.

I peered through the doors. She was sitting cross legged on the sofa with her phone held out at arm’s length.

Well, she hadn’t found her laptop yet.

I waited until she threw her phone down on the sofa and buried her face in her hands, then knocked. She jerked up, turning my way, and got up. She came over and unlocked the door before sliding it open to let me in.

“Did Blaire send you?”

“Blaire forced me is probably the more accurate wording,” I said slowly. “She kidnapped my child.”

“I am absolutely not surprised. Come in.” She walked to the kitchen. “Do you want anything to drink? I don’t have any fancy English tea, but I do have cold mineral water.”

I fought a smile. “The water is fine.”

She pulled two bottles from the fridge and handed me one. “So why did she send you over?”

“She updated me on everything from the last couple of days. She thought I could help you with your video.”

“I can’t make a video. The angle is all wrong on my phone, and all my editing software is on my laptop that Blaire hid.”

“It’s in the dryer.”

“It’s in the—why is it in the dryer?”

“Because Blaire’s weird.”

She put down the water and walked into the utility room. Sure as shit, she opened the dryer door and pulled out her laptop. “Well, shit. That is weird. But it worked. I guess I don’t want to stab it with a butter knife anymore.”

I laughed as she put it on the kitchen island. “Always a bonus,” I agreed. “What’s going on?”

She sat on one of the stools and sank her fingers into her hair. “Well, we reported it to the police. Surprisingly, they accepted the report as evidence, and after three or four hours on a video interview with Bethany—that’s my lawyer—they finally decided they had enough to bring him in for questioning.”

“That’s good, right?”

“No. He’s not at his last known address, and the last place his debit card was used was at a gas station in Canada. He has family there, so I told them what I knew last night, and they’re now looking for him.” She reached for her water and played with the cap. “My lawyer said I was allowed to make a public statement as long as I make it clear there is no comment to be made because of legal proceedings, so that’s what I’m going to do. Problem is, I don’t know how to do that. So many of my viewers are kids like Ari and they don’t need to know about this. I have no idea what to do, Theo. I need to address it, but I want to protect the kids, too.”

I sat on the stool next to her and exhaled. That was a lot of emotion for one person to be holding inside like that. A lot of emotion to be dealing with, and that was only what she was handling right now.