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Then The doorman didn’t smile at me. That thought plagues me during the entire ride up the elevator to Ethan’s floor. Vincent has been my favorite doorman since Ethan moved into this apartment building. He always smiles and chats with me. But today, he simply held the door open with a stoic expression. Not even a, “Hello, Quinn. How was your trip?” We all have bad days, I guess. I look down at my phone and see that it’s already after seven. Ethan should be home at eight, so I’ll have plenty of time to surprise him with dinner. And myself. I came back a day early but decided not to tell him. We’ve been doing so much planning for our wedding; it’s been weeks since we had an actual home-cooked meal together. Or even sex. When I reach Ethan’s floor, I pause as soon as I step out of the elevator. There’s a guy pacing the hallway directly in front of Ethan’s apartment. He takes three steps, then pauses and looks at the door. He takes another three steps in the other direction and pauses again. I watch him, hoping he’ll leave, but he never does. He just keeps pacing back and forth, looking at Ethan’s door. I don’t think he’s a friend of Ethan’s. I would recognize him if he were. I walk toward Ethan’s apartment and clear my throat. The guy faces me and I motion toward Ethan’s door to let him know I need to get past him. The guy steps aside and makes room for me but I’m careful not to make further eye contact with him. I fish around in my purse for the key. When I find it, he moves beside me, pressing a hand against the door. “Are you about to go in there?”
My heart begins to race at the thought of being alone in a hallway with a strange guy who’s wondering if I’m about to open a door to an empty apartment. Does he know Ethan isn’t home? Does he know I’m alone? I clear my throat and try to hide my fear, even though the guy looks harmless. But I guess evil doesn’t have a telling exterior, so it’s hard to judge. “My fiancé lives here. He’s inside,” I lie. The guy nods vigorously. “Yeah. He’s inside all right.” He clenches his fist and taps the wall next to the door. “Inside my fucking girlfriend.” I took a self-defense class once. The instructor taught us to slide a key between our fingers, poking outward, so if you’re attacked you can stab the attacker in the eye. I do this, prepared for the psycho in front of me to lunge any second now. He blows out a breath and I can’t help but notice the air between us fills with the smell of cinnamon. What a strange thought to have in the moment before I’m attacked. What an odd lineup that would be at the police station. “Oh, I can’t really tell you what my attacker was wearing, but his breath smelled good. Like Big Red.” “You have the wrong apartment,” I tell him, hoping he’ll walk away without an argument. He shakes his head. Tiny little fast shakes that indicate I couldn’t be more wrong and he couldn’t be more right. “I have the right apartment. I’m positive. Does your fiancé drive a blue Volvo?” Okay, so he’s stalking Ethan? My mouth is dry. Water would be nice. “Is he about six foot tall? Black hair, wears a North Face jacket that’s too big for him?” I press a hand against my stomach. Vodka would be nice. “Does your fiancé work for Dr. Van Kemp?” Now I’m the one shaking my head. Not only does Ethan work for Dr. Van Kemp . . . his father is Dr. Van Kemp. How does this guy know so much about Ethan? “My girlfriend works with him,” he says, glancing at the apartment door with disgust. “More than works with him, apparently.” “Ethan wouldn’t . . .”
I hear Ethan’s name being called out in a faint voice. At least it’s faint from this side of the door. Ethan’s bedroom is against the far side of his apartment, which indicates that whoever she is, she isn’t being quiet about it. She’s screaming his name. While he fucks her. I immediately back away from the door. The reality of what is happening inside Ethan’s apartment makes me dizzy. It makes my whole world unstable. My past, my present, my future—all of it is spinning out of control. The guy grips my arm and stabilizes me. “You okay?” He steadies me against the wall. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have blurted it out like that.” I open my mouth, but uncertainty is all that comes out. “Are you . . . are you sure? Maybe those sounds aren’t coming from Ethan’s apartment. Maybe it’s the couple in the apartment next door.” “That’s convenient. Ethan’s neighbor is named Ethan, too?” It’s a sarcastic question, but I immediately see the regret in his eyes after he says it. That’s nice of him—finding it in himself to feel compassion for me when he’s obviously experiencing the same thing. “I followed them,” he says. “They’re in there together. My girlfriend and your . . . boyfriend.” “Fiancé,” I correct. I walk across the hallway and lean against the wall, then eventually slide down to the floor. I probably shouldn’t plop myself on the floor because I’m wearing a skirt. Ethan likes skirts, so I thought I’d be nice and wear one for him, but now I want to take my skirt off and tie it around his neck and choke him with it. I stare at my shoes for so long, I don’t even notice that the guy is sitting on the floor next to me until he says, “Is he expecting you?” I shake my head. “I was here to surprise him. I’ve been out of town with my sister.” Another muffled scream makes its way through the door. The guy next to me cringes and covers his ears. I cover mine, too. We sit like this for a while. Both of us refusing to allow the noises to penetrate our ears until it’s over. It won’t last long. Ethan can’t last more than a few minutes.
from his ears and rests his arms on his knees. I wrap my arms around mine, resting my chin on top of them. “Should we use my key to open the door? Confront them?” “I can’t,” he says. “I need to calm down first.” He seems pretty calm. Most men I know would be breaking down the door right now. I’m not even sure I want to confront Ethan. Part of me wants to walk away and pretend the last few minutes didn’t happen. I could text him and tell him I came home early and he could tell me he’s working late and I could remain blissfully ignorant. Or I could just go home, burn all his things, sell my wedding dress, and block his number. No, my mother would never allow that. Oh, God. My mother. I groan and the guy immediately sits up straight. “Are you about to be sick?” I shake my head. “No. I don’t know.” I pull my head from my arms and lean back against the wall. “It just hit me how pissed my mother is going to be.” He relaxes when he sees I’m not groaning from physical illness, but rather from the dread of my mother’s reaction when she finds out the wedding is off. Because it’s definitely off. I lost count of how many times she’s mentioned how much the deposit was in order to get on the waiting list at the venue. “Do you realize how many people wish they could get married at Douglas Whimberly Plaza? Evelyn Bradbury was married there, Quinn. Evelyn Bradbury!” My mother loves to compare me to Evelyn Bradbury. Her family is one of the few in Greenwich who is more prominent than my stepfather’s. So of course my mother uses Evelyn Bradbury as an example of high-class perfection at every opportunity. I don’t care about Evelyn Bradbury. I have half a mind to text my mother right now and simply say, The wedding is off and I don’t give a fuck about Evelyn Bradbury. “What’s your name?” the guy asks. I look at him and realize it’s the first time I’ve really taken him in. This might be one of the worst moments of his life, but even taking that into consideration,
A strong jaw that’s been constantly twitching with silent rage since I walked out of the elevator. Two full lips that keep being pressed together and thinned out every time he glances at the door. It makes me wonder if his features would appear softer if his girlfriend weren’t in there with Ethan right now. There’s a sadness about him. Not one related to our current situation. Something deeper . . . like it’s embedded in him. I’ve met people who smile with their eyes, but he frowns with his. “You’re better looking than Ethan.” My comment takes him off guard. His expression is swallowed up in confusion because he thinks I’m hitting on him. That’s the last thing I’m doing right now. “That wasn’t a compliment. It was just a realization.” He shrugs like he wouldn’t care either way. “It’s just that if you’re better looking than Ethan, that makes me think your girlfriend is better looking than me. Not that I care. Maybe I do care. I shouldn’t care, but I can’t help but wonder if Ethan is more attracted to her than he is to me. I wonder if that’s why he’s cheating. Probably. I’m sorry. I’m usually not this selfdeprecating but I’m so angry and for some reason I just can’t stop talking.” He stares at me a moment, contemplating my odd train of thought. “Sasha is ugly. You have nothing to worry about.” “Sasha?” I say her name incredulously, then I repeat her name, putting emphasis on the sha. “Sasha. That explains a lot.” He laughs and then I laugh and it’s the strangest thing. Laughing when I should be crying. Why am I not crying? “I’m Graham,” he says, reaching out his hand. “Quinn.” Even his smile is sad. It makes me wonder if his smile would be different under different circumstances. “I would say it’s good to meet you, Quinn, but this is the worst moment of my life.” That is a very miserable truth. “Same,” I say, disappointed. “Although, I’m relieved I’m meeting you now rather than next month, after the wedding. At least I won’t be wasting marriage vows on him now.”
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