Page 46 of Wicked Burn

That image—not to mention the cumulative effect of the hundreds of cruel, petty things Jennifer and he used to do to spite each other—had clawed at his insides for years like a vicious animal demanding release. But in that singular moment when he’d caught Jenny in bed with Max, Vic had been enlightened. He’d realized that he’d become an addict whose sole purpose consisted of getting his next fix. His entire world had narrowed down to the positive reinforcement he received from stoking Jenny’s insatiable fires. In the end, he hadn’t cared if he did it by igniting her desire or her fury.

It wasn’t a pretty thing to learn about oneself. He guessed that’s what he’d meant when he asked Niall what she thought about the play earlier.

Jenny tilted her head back toward an empty corridor. “Come here,” she coaxed softly.

Vic hesitated for a second as his gaze fixed on the rear view of Jenny’s phenomenal body.

What the hell? he finally thought as he followed her. Better to face the truth about how he felt about her than to always be running from it.

Niall felt a little better when she left the ladies’ room. She’d splashed some cool water on her face in an attempt to revive herself and then reapplied her makeup. When she’d inspected herself in the mirror a moment later, she realized how pale she looked. She dug in her purse for some lipstick to add some color to her washed-out palette, becoming unreasonably irritated when she realized she’d left if in her coat pocket.

“Get a grip on it,” she whispered to her reflection a few seconds later. She took a deep breath and exhaled.

Eileen Moore might be wrong about Vic’s feelings for Jennifer Atwood. Art often imitated life, certainly, but it also varied from it greatly. Besides, Alias X reflected a certain time in Vic’s life, like a snapshot in a photo album. That didn’t necessarily mean that Vic was still wildly, passionately in love with Jennifer.

Did it?

Were ties of the soul—even twisted ones—so easily severed?

Niall threw her comb back into her purse with a frown. She wasn’t going to come to any earth-shattering revelations about Vic’s love life by staring at herself in the mirror. She was the one he’d asked to his play tonight, not Jennifer Atwood.

Niall turned the corner that led to the coat check, planning to get her lipstick from her pocket before she went and found Vic.

She found him all right.

She came up short and stared at the sight in front of her. Vic leaned back against the wood paneling of the narrow corridor, his head bent downward while Jennifer Atwood craned up, their bodies sealed together as tightly as their mouths.

Niall didn’t think she’d made a noise, but she must have. Because suddenly Vic’s gray eyes were on her, the impact of them striking her like a blast of sleety, frigid wind.

She turned and fled.

“Niall,” Vic called out sharply as he straightened, knocking Jenny slightly off balance in her stiletto heels.

“Vic, hold on, please! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that to happen . . .” Jenny said breathlessly as she put a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“Yeah, you did,” Vic said distractedly as he moved past her. “And maybe I did, too.”

Jennifer stared after him, her jaw hanging open as he strode away from her.

Vic cursed for the second time tonight when he saw the back of Niall’s shiny hair and the flash of a fast-moving, leather-covered calf before she disappeared behind yet another door . . . this time the elevator’s.

Dammit, why did it always seem like Niall was just slipping through his grasping fingertips?

He paused outside the lobby doors a minute later after waiting for another elevator, searching in both directions for Niall. She was nowhere in sight. His mouth pulled into a grim line as he started west at a jog, figuring she’d instinctively head toward home.

Niall didn’t even register that she was shivering like mad until she finally hailed a cab on Rush Street and came to a halt in her frantic escape. Damn. She’d left her coat behind. The temperature hovered right at the freezing mark, and all she wore was a silk blouse and a skirt.

Going back into Mina’s at that moment—returning to that corridor where she’d seen Vic kissing Jennifer—was not even a remote option, however. At least she wouldn’t have to worry about seeing Ellen and Meg to their hotel, Niall thought with a twinge of guilt. Vic’s mother and sister were literally staying across the street from the building where Mina’s was located.


She looked around, astounded to see Vic jogging down the street toward her. She opened the door of the cab that had just neatly pulled up to the curb, and clambered inside. Vic’s hand caught the door when she tried to slam it shut forcefully. From the sound of his terse curse, her action had hurt him.

Good. It couldn’t come anywhere near the pain that had sliced through Niall when she saw his dark head bent over Jennifer Atwood’s face as he kissed her.

“Scoot over, Niall.”

“No! This is my cab,” she countered, realizing that she sounded like a petulant child.

“Move . . . over,” Vic demanded through a clenched jaw.

Niall just stared up at him for a few seconds. How dare he act like he was mad at her? For some reason all those nasty verbal duals that Sissy and David engaged in during Alias X rose to her mind. Niall abruptly slid across the seat and stared forward, unseeing.

She was no Sissy or Jennifer. She would not sit here and bicker with and bait Vic like a trashy slut. If that was the kind of thing he got off on, he was going to be sorely disappointed, Niall promised herself.