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Authors: Chloe Cox

Tags: #Romance, #Erotica, #Contemporary

Lie to Me

BOOK: Lie to Me
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LIE TO ME

By

Chloe Cox

Copyright 2013 Chloe Cox

All rights reserved.

 

chapter 1

 

HARLOW

 

So here’s the thing: most people don’t think. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing—far from it. But it’s true. Most people, like the small group of commuters emerging out from under an awning about a block ahead of me, all huddled together in the rain waiting for the B39 bus to roll to a stop; I’d bet not one of them is thinking about how easy it would be for the bus driver’s foot to slip and hit the gas instead of the brake. Jump the curb, skid in the rain, ruin a few lives.

I hate that I even thought it. I’m running as fast as I can to catch the Death Bus, and this is what I think about? No wonder most people don’t live this way.

Because why would you, if you didn’t have to? Why would you think about how fragile you are, about how little connects you to this physical world, and to the people in it that you love? How it can all just shatter in a moment. I mean, this is some emo crap right here, and it annoys even me. It’s just that I’m stuck with it. Believe me, I wouldn’t think like this if life hadn’t interfered and turned me into the kind of person who can’t help it.

I try to be the old me whenever I can.

It’s not usually this bad. Usually I’ve got a handle on it. I mean, I have to: I’ve got my brother, Dill. The little man is almost eleven and does not need my craziness making his life any weirder. He’s already got enough of that going on. So no one needs to know how often I check that the front door is locked, or how I have a living will just in case, or how many times a day I ask myself ‘what if?’—least of all Dill, who is already convinced that his big sister / guardian / general meddler is more than a little embarrassing.

But today? Today, while I’m trying to navigate through the rain on the Lower East Side, looking for a second bartending job just in case Shantha’s place back in Brooklyn really does get swallowed up in the latest real estate development deal, I get a phone call. Already I was kind of stressed because my custody of Dill is always a tenuous thing, and suddenly becoming unemployed would
not
endear me to the family court, and then the universe—that asshole again—is like, nope, you are not stressed out enough, here, let me make your phone ring.

It was my neighbor, Maria. She watches Dill for me. She was just calling to tell me that Mr. Wolfe had come by to see me.

“Mr. Wolfe?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Oh Jesus, Maria, is he still there?”

“Yes!” she said again. “In the living room, with Dill. He’s waiting for you. They’re playing Dill’s game.”

Fantastic. So I found out that Dill is hanging out with Mr. Wolfe, showing him the latest version of the computer game that Dill’s been working on. Like hanging out with Mr. Wolfe is a normal thing. Like that couldn’t possibly end badly.

Strictly speaking, there is nothing about Mr. Wolfe that should be frightening. And there isn’t. Kind of. Except that there are a few things I know about Mr. Wolfe that I am not supposed to know, and the man is one of those old time neighborhood fixtures who has money even though nobody knows exactly what he does for a living, and who, somehow, everybody knows. And who everybody owes.

Including me.

I was already anxious to get home. Now I’m just wishing I had the ability to teleport, rather than have to fight through the rain and the crush of commuters and the sea of yellow cabs rushing together in the tight, old streets of the Lower East Side.

The other thing about Mr. Wolfe is that he makes me think about those things that I know that I’m not supposed to know. And thus he makes me think about the man who told them to me.

Marcus Roma.

When I met Marcus, he was Mr. Wolfe’s godson, and yet he is so much more than that. Thinking about Marcus makes it very, very difficult to be my old, happy self. Because Marcus is the man who made me into that old self, who lifted me up from the worst thing that had ever happened to me—right before he ruined me.

I shake it off, like I’m trying to shake off the rain under my crappy umbrella. The bus is stuck in traffic just shy of the stop now, and if the light turns I’ll make it, no problem at all. There are enough people waiting that there’ll be a line, so I’ll have enough time, even if it means standing out in the rain some more. I’m already soaked anyway. Converse and skinny jeans are not the most waterproof combination in the world.

I weave between the stalled traffic, silently grateful for the delivery truck that just decided to stop in the middle of the street, and jog toward the rapidly forming line to get on the bus. Thirty minutes and I’ll be home. Thirty minutes until I absolutely have to think about Mr. Wolfe and how I’m sure he’s going to demand that I sell my parents’ house to the developers, along with the half of the neighborhood that already has sold out, and how I’m going to have to tell him no, even though I owe Mr. Wolfe everything. Just, everything.

I mean, I owe him Dill.

So screw that misery. I’ve got thirty minutes. I decide to try to be my old self for those thirty minutes. To try to be the best version of me, before I got my heart broken twice over, before I lost everything, twice; it’s the person I want to be for Dill. Happy, silly, joyful.

I look around rather grimly for sources of joy, and this alone makes me laugh, because way to force it, right? Joy through grim determination—sounds legit. The weird thing is that this is a game I invented. I invented it, and I taught it to Marcus Roma, when we first met. And then when I forgot how to find joy in the world after the accident, he taught it back to me all over again. But that is ancient history, and I am trying very hard not to have a brain full of Marcus Roma or Mr. Wolfe right now.

In the end I don’t have to look very far, because right ahead of me in line for the bus is a mom and her little girl. The girl is maybe three, four? Decked out in a pink raincoat with yellow flowers on it and matching pink rain boots, and she is just having a ball. Like, seriously going to town on those puddles while the line for the bus inches ever forward, dancing around and laughing every time the water splashes up on her pink boots. She’s trying to see how much she can get it to splash, and cackling madly every time she gets it a little higher.

I grin like a loon and time it just right, jumping into the big puddle between us just as she lands, giving her an epic splash. She just stands there, frozen, for a second, looking up at me with big eyes, and then she squeals and claps her hands.

Ok, so that is joy. I will take a lesson from a little kid any day of the week.

Now I’m laughing, too, and even her tired looking mom has cracked a smile. The little girl takes me to school again by tilting her head, squinting up at the sky, and sticking her little tongue out to catch some rain drops. Technically this probably isn’t a good idea, what with rainwater actually being kind of gross and all, but whatever. It’s an awesome idea. I decide to join her.

Like a proper grown up (which is kind of laughable, really), I tilt my cheap umbrella to the side and put my head back and my arms out, as if I can catch more rain drops this way. Together we spin a little, slow motion dervishes moving up the line toward the B39 bus, and I can feel that old sense of gratitude flowing through me. Yes, the universe is an asshole, and everything can shatter in a moment, but there’s also kids laughing and catching raindrops on your tongue. Sometimes it evens out. I decide that I’ll take Dill out to play in the rain, if he feels like going, just as soon as we get rid of Mr. Wolfe.

It’s then that a gust of wind catches my umbrella and rips it out of my hand. I snap my head up, worried it could hit the little girl. She’s clear of it and it’s fine, but it’s just instinct to chase after it. That must be what it is. I mean, it’s a cheap umbrella, and when it rains you can find guys selling those same cheap umbrellas for like five dollars on every other corner in Manhattan, and even the busier corners in the outer boroughs. So it’s just stupid instinct, not rational thought, that makes me leave my place in line and chase after it.

Somebody’s already got it.

Somebody’s already picked it up.

A man in a dark raincoat and a hat, a tall man, broad shouldered, a man I feel like I know even before he straightens up and looks at me—through me—with those pale gray and green eyes.

Marcus Roma.

I stop. Just stand there, in the rain, blinking. It can’t be real. It can’t be him. It’s been five years since he dropped out of my life with no warning, no real explanation, five years since he just left. He’s different now, different enough that it can’t be a dream, a hallucination. His black hair is longer, peeking out from under the brim of that hat, the scruff on his jaw darker. Rougher. His skin is the same golden bronze, his eyes still light like beacons. Like a hypnotist’s trick. He seems taller, but I know that doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s the suit. In a million years I never would have put Marcus Roma in a suit. Even with that fighter’s body underneath it.

God, he looks amazing.

“Harlow,” he says. He chokes on my name.

That breaks the spell.

This is real. This is the man who broke me. This is the man who kept me going during the darkest time of my life and then disappeared.

This is the man who made me.

And I hate him.

I force myself to move, to jump back. I can already feel the pull of him on me and I know, I know that I am weak and that if I stay here I will get sucked back in. And inevitably I will be destroyed. And I can’t. I can’t afford to be weak anymore. I can’t afford to indulge in what-ifs, to even take a turn to yell at the man who broke my heart like nothing, like no one else ever could have broken it. Because I have Dill now. It’s not just about me.

Marcus steps forward, says my name again. I turn, see the bus ahead of me, the last person in line stepping up into it, and I just run. I don’t think, I don’t speak, I just sprint.

I was always fast off the block.

I hear him shouting my name and I run away from it as fast as I can, like it’s a deadly siren’s call, like it represents a black pit of emotional fuckery from which I just know I will never emerge. I barely got out five years ago, when he left, and I definitely wasn’t the same afterwards. I can’t do it again.

I just barely make the bus, jumping on and catching a side eye from the bus driver as he pulls the lever to close the doors. The finality of that sound—that distinctive whoosh of a bus door closing behind me—is the most comforting thing I’ve heard in a long time.

I stand there, swaying, digging for my Metrocard as the bus finally begins to pull away from the curb. The light ahead on Delancey Street is green, and beyond that is the long expanse of the Williamsburg Bridge. My heart is thudding against my ribcage, each beat threatening to crack the thin veneer of stability I have erected around me and let it all out: all the tears, the heartbreak, the grief. The loneliness. The lust. I just manage to swipe my Metrocard, catching myself on the handrail as the bus lurches ahead, when I hear it.

Marcus pounding on the bus door.

I don’t know why, but I turn to watch him. Everybody else thinks he’s just a guy who missed the bus in the rain, who knows he can’t catch a cab when the weather’s like this, who’s pissed he’s going to have to wait to get across the bridge.

But I know he’s chasing me.

That Marcus Roma, for once, is the one chasing me.

Now, from inside this bus, from the other side of what might as well be an impenetrable barrier, I can look at him. I can look at him run after me, a look of desperation on his face that I’ve only ever seen once or twice, and only when he didn’t know how to help me. Marcus Roma raw is too much for me to handle right now. Maybe ever again. No one else has ever seen through me like Marcus, no one else has ever stripped me of all pretense. It was always intoxicating. It was always a rush.

It always made me so very, very vulnerable. Once it made me strong, too. Now?

Now it would just make it all that easier to fall.

But would it? And here is where I really start to drive myself crazy, in the seconds when I’m watching Marcus run in the rain, falling farther behind the bus with every step. Because now that I’m not standing in front of him, exposed to those eyes, I’m thinking, Maybe this is actually what I need.

Maybe I need to yell at him. Maybe an explanation would end it. Maybe it would exorcise the ghost of Marcus Roma from my life once and for all and I could move on.

Or maybe this is just my body making rationalizations for what it wants. Which is Marcus.

It’s shocking to me, after everything I’ve been through, to feel this way again, to feel actual physical need. But the sight of Marcus does it. Five years, and I’ve never forgotten the feel of his hands on my body.

My throat tightens up and my mouth goes dry. We’re on the bridge. Marcus is far behind us. The rain slams into the big, broad windshield of the bus as we speed toward Brooklyn, and I’m thinking about how I just ran. I never used to run. That’s not what I do. I’m a fighter.

BOOK: Lie to Me
7.24Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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