Fuck my life! I think, rubbing my eyes as I get out of bed to see what's going on. I was dead out when the banging started outside my bedroom window, then in that cloudy territory between sleep and consciousness, I got to enjoy a fleeting moment of peace before reality set in and I remembered how miserable my life had become. As I start to peel back the duct tape that has kept the black garbage bag over my window to block out all traces of the outside world, I hear shouting, and I recognize the voice. It's Lucy.
"I hired you, goddamn it!" she growls as I strip the tape down one side. Brilliant sunlight assaults me, burning my eyes as I shrink away like a vampire. With a hand on my forehead, I slowly adjust, and the source of Lucy's anger comes into view. There's an enormous man holding her to the ground, her arms behind her back, and another giant has a gun trained on her head.
Cain, you fucking dick, I think, furious that he has posted guards outside my house. I throw open the window.
"Let her go!" I demand, my voice cracking and squeaking as I realize I haven't used it in...in...I don't know how long. I don't know what day it is.
"Thank you," Lucy says to me, scowling at them as she brushes the grass off the front of her jacket. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," I say, and she throws a kick into the stomach of the guy who held her down as she walks away.
I open the door for her and sit on the couch in the living room, but it's almost as dark in here as the bedroom. Nicole hasn't come home since I left Cain, or maybe she has and I've slept through it. I don't really know. I turned my phone off when I got home from his apartment that day and haven't turned it on since.
"You look like hell," Lucy says as she sits down beside me.
"I feel like hell."
"That ends today."
"What do you mean?" I ask, already dreading the answer.
"Marcel and his assistants are parked outside, prepared to..."
"No," I flatly refuse.
"You have to."
"It's too soon, Lucy."
"It's been almost two weeks. Surely..."
"That's impossible," I say, thinking she's fucking with me. She pulls out her phone and shows me the date, and I'm shocked! I realize I've spent much of my time in my dark room, either sleeping or watching TV as I waited for my sleeping pills to kick in, only getting up to shower a few times and forage in the kitchen, but two weeks? I had no idea!
"Listen, Evan," Lucy begins in all seriousness. "The reason I'm here, aside from wanting to check on you since you won't answer your phone, is that Cain needs your help. I know he doesn't deserve it, but he doesn't deserve what's happening to him right now either. The police have him in custody in connection with Victoria's murder. They think..."
"Victoria was murdered?" I ask.
"The night you flew back from Vegas," she says, and though I try not to let it show, I feel a sudden, unwelcome spark of hope.
What if Cain found out about the murder Friday night and was so distraught he really did just want to take a break like he said? Then I realize it doesn't matter. The man I believed he was would have included me in his grief, let me help and support him, not push me away...and just the thought of losing him brings tears to my eyes.
"Please don't be upset," Lucy sighs.
"I'm okay," I lie.
"He still loves you," she assures me, "and he has been so miserable since you left, I can barely stand to be around him. He's impatient, agitated, not sleeping again."
"Again?" I ask, my curiosity piqued.
"After the plane crash, he couldn't sleep. He'd stay awake for days at a time until he'd just drop from exhaustion. Even when we moved down here, he'd never sleep more than five hours a night, and if there was a woman in his bed, he might not sleep at all...until he met you." Hearing Lucy's words, that feeling of being singular in Cain's eyes starts to creep in, and for a brief moment, the pain recedes before it comes crashing in on me in a wave of tears.
"Oh, Evan, I'm sorry," Lucy says, scooting closer to me and stroking my hair. "I shouldn't even be here. Cain told me not to ask you to do this, but I didn't know what else to do. You're the only one who can confirm his alibi."
"You were right to come," I say, sucking my emotions back inside as I wipe the water away from my face with the backs of my hands and try to compose myself again. "I have to do this. He doesn't deserve to be in jail...well, at least not for a murder he didn't commit." Lucy giggles at my joke, then springs to her feet.
"Alright! So you get in the shower, and I'll get Marcel set up and ready for you," she says, trying to sound upbeat as she reaches for my hand to pull me up with her, and wishing her enthusiasm were infectious, as I get up and plod toward the bathroom I realize that Marcel - stylist to the So Cal elite - is about to see the inside of my shitty, little rental house. And I don't even have the energy to care.
It takes Marcel over two hours, but he finally manages to eradicate all visible traces of the depression in which I have wallowed since my life came to a screeching halt. My eyes are no longer puffy, and my cheeks, though still feeling raw, look fresh and rosy. He has even managed to work around the new gauntness of my face as I've lived on nothing for two weeks but water and crackers, making the deep red, designer dress Lucy brought a little looser in some areas than it should be, but I still feel like I look good enough to waltz into the police station, free Cain with an alibi, and make him suffer when he sees what is no longer his. Then I'll come home and cry myself back to sleep for a couple more weeks.
At the station, as I walk past cops and criminals, the slack-jawed stares help feed the confidence I'm going to need today, and I let myself enjoy the attention as I wait for Calderón and Vega to see me. When I'm finally called back, Vega leads me down the hallway to Calderon's office, standing beside him as I sit across the desk from them, and it's not until I begin talking that it even crosses my mind that this alibi is pretty much the same as the last one. While [insert name here] was murdered, Cain and I were having sex at [insert out-of-the-ordinary place to have sex here].
Vega's going to enjoy the hell out of this, I think as we begin to discuss the timeline of events the night Cain and I flew back from Las Vegas.
"What time did the plane touch down?" Calderón asks.
"I have no idea, but I know what time Cain and I left the hangar. We went straight home and to bed. He wasn't out of my sight from the time we checked out of the hotel until Saturday morning when I left the apartment."
"According to the pilots," Calderón says, looking through a notepad. "You landed at 9:38 pm, but the cameras from the apartment building show the black Maserati entering the parking garage at 4:02 am Saturday morning."
"That sounds right," I say.
"Where were you for the six hours in between, Miss Lucien?" Vega demands, her expression smug.
"In the airplane in the hangar," I say.
"And what were you doing for six hours in the airplane in the hangar?"
"Fucking," I state bluntly, irritated with her stubborn refusal to accept that Cain is not the killer. "And please don't ask me how it is possible to spend six hours fucking. We've been through this before."
"We have, and I find it just as suspicious this time as I did the last time."
"Then I feel sorry for you, Detective Vega, but it's not all that surprising that we were having sex when the murders happened. Cain and I couldn't get enough of each other."
"Couldn't?" she asks, a satisfied smile curling in the corners of her lips. "Is the honeymoon phase finally over?"
"Cain and I are not together anymore," I confess, feeling a sharp pain in my heart as I say the words aloud.
"And you're still giving him an alibi?"
"I'm not giving him anything. I'm telling you what happened. Just because I would like to kill him myself doesn't mean I want to see him on death row for murders he didn't commit," I explain, but as Vega takes a breath in to fire back at me, Calderón takes charge.
"Thank you for coming in, Miss Lucien," he says, standing and extending his hand to me. I shake it, and as I walk toward the door, Vega instructs me to wait in the lobby as they may have more questions.
I leave the office, and as I sit in the reception area scrolling through my missed phone calls and text messages over the last two weeks, I feel a deep sadness because not one of them was from Cain. Though I have a few from Lucy, most were from Nicole. If I had realized that she had been missing for two weeks, I would have done this sooner, but now that I'm reading her messages, I remember that she told me where she would be. Her little sister, Olivia is graduating this spring from her boarding school for the deaf in West Virginia, and Nicole and their brother had gone there to visit her because she has been flipping out about leaving as the school is all she has known since their parents died. Nicole, however, is flipping out about not hearing from me, but just as I am about to call her, the door to the jail buzzes and swings open.
Cain walks out.
My breath catches as I see Cain standing by the door, so tall and perfect, his white shirt untucked, suit jacket slung over his shoulder, slight stubble on his chin, and his hair a beautiful, blonde mess. If I had known this was why Vega told me to wait, I might have sneaked away because the sight of him burns my eyes more than the sun ever could, and when he sees me and his face melts into a warm smile, I feel the knife in my heart twist. He walks straight for me, and with no escape route, all I can do is hope to rattle him as much as he rattles me. I slowly uncross my legs in the short dress and stand.
"Thank you," Cain says.
"It was the right thing to do," I reply, my tone flat.
"You look beautiful."
"I should. You paid enough for it," I snip, getting the last word, then walking off ahead of him so he can watch my ass and lament that he will never touch it again, even though inside me a little glint of hope still burns.
I get into the back of the limousine and sit as close as possible to the window on the passenger side, leaving the driver's side door open for Cain. I didn't think about it before, but now the smell of the leather seats and the memories of the things we've done in this car overwhelm me with the phantom limb sensation, feeling Cain's absence between my legs. I hate him so much, but I would love to fuck him just one more time, right here on the way home with sunny San Diego right outside, which makes me realize it would be best to make this ride together as short as possible.
"Lucy," I say as soon as Cain closes his door, "please drop Mr. Ballantyne off at his apartment first."
"Disregard that order, Lucy," he says.
"Cain, I really don't want to ride in this car with you all the way to La Mesa."
"You're going to have to because I need the time to apologize to you."
When he says this, I close my eyes so he can't see them light up as my hope grows.
"For what?" I ask.
"Evan, the last thing I ever wanted was to hurt you," he says, "but there's a murderer out there hunting my ex-girlfriends..."
"So you made me an ex-girlfriend? What are you apologizing for? Wanting me dead?"
"Evan," he says impatiently, "a serial killer is going after women with whom I've had long term relationships. You and I had not been together that long. I wanted to make it seem like we were just a fling."
"Mission accomplished," I snipe, and he sighs, irritated.
"I had to keep you safe."
"And I am so much safer in my little house than I would be in your security-monitored building. If you're going to lie to me, don't insult my intelligence."
"After someone stole your riding crop, I don't trust the security of my building, and I've had bodyguards watching you around the clock since you left."
"Finally! Something beyond the capabilities of the indomitable Cain Ballantyne."
"You can't keep me safe so you have to defer to stronger men."
"Child psychology isn't going to work on me."
"You think I want you back?" I snap. "I will never want you back, and if you want this killer to think that there was nothing serious between us, no problem, because there was nothing serious between us."
"Don't say that, Evan," he says, his eyes pleading. "I know you still love me, and I never stopped loving you."
Those words. They have a power over me that I can't fight, and I find myself inching closer to him in the seat, thinking maybe he's saying that it's all in the past and we're going to work this out now.
"If you love me, how could you do this?" I ask.
"I'm so sorry, baby, but..."
"But?" I demand, spending my last bit of hope.
"But we can't be together." And instantly my foolish optimism ignites into a burning fury.
"You're unbelievable!" I shout, scooting away from him.
"Evan, please..." he says, trying to take my hand, but I recoil.
"Don't touch me," I hiss as the car stops at a light. I open the door and jump out.
"Please don't go," he says.
"Why?" I demand. "Because you're not finished torturing me? Fuck off, Master Cain!" I slam the door shut and stomp off, slipping into the doorway of an office building, but as I take out my phone to call a cab, I feel Cain's hands on my shoulders. I flinch and move out of his reach.
"Get back in the car," he commands.
"Leave me alone," I say as I begin to take off down the street.
"I'll walk home from here, but please let Lucy drive you home," he calls after me.
"Fine," I relent, and I make a quick turn to get back in the car, keeping my head down so I don't make eye contact with him. When I get in, even though the windows are tinted, I don't look out to see what he does. I only press the lock so none of the doors can be opened from the outside. It would be safe to cry now, but I don't want to give in to that urge. I want to stay mad at him. It's much easier than dealing with the pain.
I keep my anger stoked until we get to my house, where I see the Jaguar now parked out front. I thank Lucy, and she just nods, giving me an uneventful exit. I know this whole situation is upsetting her, but she always seems to know just what I need...like Cain used to before he lost his fucking mind.
Dejected and furious, I walk up to the house, but when I open the door, I find a surprise waiting for me. Nicole is home with her big brother, Matt. I haven't seen him since he moved to Pittsburgh, PA to be closer to their little sister in West Virginia after their parents died, and wow! He has really changed. At twenty-six with light brown hair and green eyes, he's tall and lean, and though he seemed like a boy the last time I saw him, he's definitely a man now.
"Hey kitten!" he calls out when he sees me, picking me up and swinging me around, and for the first time in two weeks, I don't want to just crawl in bed and die.
Worried when she couldn't get a hold of me, Nicole decided to come back from West Virginia a few days early, and Matt is with her because he's considering moving here with Olivia when she graduates. I think it's a wonderful idea. It will be great for Nicole to have family out here, and I might like having Matt around. He used to have a crush on me, and attention from a hot guy may be just what I need right now.