“Drph feem brph amerph frmy meh. Eh affreffy mow eh srphed upff” is what Kennedy hears.
Kennedy’s hand slides under my face and she lifts my head up off of the cushion. “You want to try that again? I don’t speak couch cushion.”
I sigh, pushing myself up, and move to the middle, flopping back down on my butt this time. I repeat the part about firing me.
Kennedy stares down at me. “What the hell are you talking about? Why would I fire you?”
Either she has no clue what I’m referring to, or she’s just messing with me. I wouldn’t put it past her. Maybe she wants me to die a slow, painful death of humiliation.
“You know, the whole Matt Russo thing,” I add, fishing for clues that she knows what I’ve done.
Kennedy shakes her head at me in annoyance. “So you haven’t been able to catch the bastard cheating yet. It’s not that big of a deal, Paige. Just give it time.”
Oh, my God. He didn’t call and tell her everything. Wait. Why didn’t he call and tell her everything?
“I know I’m not hip to fashion like you are, but you do know you’re wearing Hello Kitty pants, right?” she asks, staring down at my legs.
“Did you just say ‘hip to fashion’? What are you, ninety?”
“Oh, fuck off. Get your ass up and take a shower. Do you want to . . . go shoe shopping or something?” Kennedy asks, visibly wincing when she says the word “shopping.”
“Awww, it’s so sweet that you would do that just to make me feel better,” I tell her with a smile. “There’s a sale at Nordstrom today and I want to swing by a few salons so we can interview new stylists, since ours became a drug runner. We should also get you some new lingerie to make Griffin happy, and there’s this black dress I want your opinion on at Express.”
I watch the horror come over her face with each and every word I say, and I feel a little less sorry for myself as I tease her.
“Wipe that look off your face. Like I’d really put you through all that torture in one day,” I tell her.
Now that she sees I’m still alive and not planning on forcing her to shop with me all day, Kennedy turns and heads for the door. “Lorelei said you might have gotten a few photos the other night that you think aren’t good enough to nail Matt. Upload them onto my computer when you get to the office tomorrow and I’ll take a look.”
Well, shit. Now I really AM going to cry. Lorelei didn’t rat me out to Kennedy either. Now I just need to think of a way to “lose” those photos and find out who this Vinnie guy is before Kennedy realizes I have completely violated the contract she signed with Melanie. Knowing that gold-digging whore, she’ll come back and sue us too.
“So, I know you didn’t just ask me to lunch because you miss me. What’s the real reason I’m here?” Ted asks me.
Ted was recently promoted to detective with the South Bend Police Department after he assisted Kennedy in bringing down one of the biggest drug rings in Indiana a few weeks ago. He mostly works with the DEA, but I know he’s got the inside scoop on pretty much every criminal in this state.
“Of course I miss you. I feel like we haven’t hung out in ages,” I lie.
“I wasn’t born yesterday, Paige. What are you up to and does Kennedy know about it?” he asks.
I bristle at his comment that Kennedy needs to know everything I’m doing. Once again, people misjudge my ability to get anything done on my own.
“I’m working on my own case and no, Kennedy doesn’t know about it. Not yet. I want to get some more concrete information before I go to her.”
The lies are just flowing right off my tongue these days.
“Don’t you just handle office work and stuff?”
“Contrary to popular belief, I’m not an idiot. I do have a brain, and every once in a while, I like to use it,” I reply cockily.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. I just want to make sure you’re being safe. My sister has a lot of experience taking down bad guys and even she was an idiot with how she handled things a few weeks ago.”
“I’m not taking down any bad guys, I promise. I just need information on one,” I admit.
“You swear you aren’t going to go off half-cocked like she did and go to some nut job’s house alone?” Ted asks.
I raise my right hand. “I swear.”
Ted sighs and shakes his head at me. “Fine. Give me his name.”
I lift up my knife and fork and begin cutting up my salad. “His name is Vinnie and he might be some sort of Mob boss.”
Ted doesn’t answer me and I stop my cutting to look up at him. He’s staring at me with his mouth open. “What?”
“Tell me you aren’t talking about Vinnie DeMarco.”
I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know. Am I talking about Vinnie DeMarco? I only got his first name.”
“Paige, whatever you’re doing—stop. You do not want to go fishing around in Vinnie DeMarco’s life, trust me. He is bad news,” Ted warns me.
“How bad are we talking? The Godfather bad or The Sopranos bad?” I ask.
“Is there a fucking difference? They all do whatever the hell they want and don’t care about who they hurt in the process. We’ve been trying to nail this guy for years, but he’s slippery. He hires people to do everything for him so he never gets his hands dirty. And the people he hires are extremely devoted. They’ll do life in prison before they give him up. And if they even think about ratting him out, no one ever hears from them again.”
I take a minute to process this information. If this is the Vinnie that Melanie is seeing, it’s even worse than I thought. Matt isn’t going to be able to just snap a photo of them and threaten her with it. He’ll get himself killed. I need to be smart about this.
“Have you heard anything about this Vinnie guy having a girlfriend?” I ask next.
“He’s got a hundred different girlfriends all over the US. Who knows who his flavor of the week is nowadays,” Ted informs me, picking up his burger and taking a huge bite.
I should probably tell him that I might know who his latest conquest is. It might help them bring this guy down, but for right now, I’m keeping this information to myself. I need to make sure Melanie isn’t a threat to Matt before I do anything. If she’s called in and questioned, it could just piss her off and make her even more vindictive.
“I’m serious, Paige. You stay as far away from Vinnie DeMarco as possible. And if you hear anything, and I mean anything, you tell me right away,” Ted warns.
I smile brightly at him and dig into my salad. “Cross my heart.”
Shame on me for making a promise on a heart that barely functions anymore.
He was a really great guy. He was nice and pretty and . . . nice . . .” I trail off as I stare into my wineglass.
“You already said ‘nice.’”
I look up at the bartender and scowl. “Aren’t bartenders supposed to be friendly and helpful? Stop judging me and bring me more wine.”
The bartender walks away and I put my elbow on top of the bar, resting my head on my hand. Sliding my phone across the bar closer to myself, I stare at the blank screen. I double-check the 3G icon at the top to make sure my phone is still working. I feel like I’m in high school again, bringing the receiver of our house phone up to my ear every ten minutes to make sure there was still a dial tone.
It’s been five days since I last saw Matt and four days since I sent him a pathetic text apologizing for lying to him.
And four days since he never replied to my stupid text.
The bartender sets another glass of Moscato in front of me and scurries away, probably afraid I’m going to start crying again. I don’t blame him. I’m pitiful. Since when did I become the type of woman who sits around for days on end waiting for a text from a guy and then imbibes way too much wine to make the pain go away?
I’ll tell you when—when Matt Russo walked into my life.
Okay, fine. I did it with Asshole Andy, but I thought I’d learned my lesson since then. I’d been fine all these months being alone. I was perfectly okay with the fact that I was finally becoming the strong, independent woman I wanted to be. Now I’m sitting at a bar alone downing drinks and staring at my phone, willing it to send me a text from him.
I tried to keep myself busy since I sent him that text. I deleted the incriminating photos of the two of us kissing off of Lorelei’s camera when she was in court so Kennedy would never see them. Looking through those pictures and seeing his lips on me, remembering how they felt, just depressed me even more.
I did some Google searches on Vinnie DeMarco and talked to Ted again in the hopes that he would give me more information on the guy aside from “He’s mean and scary and you should stay far away from him.” The only thing he let slip was that there is a current investigation of the guy being handled by the criminal investigations unit. Something about an illegal gambling ring and stolen property reports leading back to the members. Obviously it’s nothing that will help me prove that Melanie is a cheater. I want so bad to be able to do this for Matt, and the fact that I keep striking out has made me depressed.
I hate that he thinks I’m a liar and that nothing about me was true and honest. I had hoped my text to him would make him realize that I was trying to make things right. Obviously I was wrong. He wants nothing to do with me and I don’t blame him.
Picking up my chilled glass of wine, I chug it and clumsily smack the empty glass down on the bar. When it looks like the bar tips sideways like the Titanic going under, I realize sucking down that glass probably wasn’t the best idea.
My cell phone vibrates and bounces up and down on top of the bar. It takes a few tries before I can get my six hands to grab onto it and see on the display that it’s Lorelei calling.
Wait, I don’t have six hands, do I? This vibration feels funny. I should stick it down my pants and pretend it’s Matt.
“Hey, hang up and call me again so I can pretend it’s Matt in my pants,” I answer with a giggle.
“Oh, my God, are you drunk?” Lorelei asks through the line.
I can hear the annoyance in her voice. Lorelei never gets drunk. Lorelei wouldn’t understand my need to get drunk and forget I ever met Matt Russo.
“I’m not drunk, I’m hammered,” I tell her with a snort.
“Where are you? I’m coming to get you.”
“HEY! BARTENDER!” I yell, pulling the phone away from my ear. He stops stacking glasses behind the bar and walks over to me.
“I don’t think you need a refill,” he deadpans.
“Oh, you’re a funny, funny little man. Where are we?”
He stares at me like I’m an idiot. Screw him! I’m not a drunk; I’m just an idiot. Wait, no. I’m not a drunk; I’m an idiot.
Shit! I’m so drunk.
“This is Mulligan’s. It says so on the glass in front of you. And on the napkin underneath it. And hey, even on this giant neon sign right above my head,” he tells me sarcastically, pointing above him.
Smartass. I blow a raspberry at him like the mature adult I am and hear the faint sound of Lorelei yelling through the phone.
“DON’T GO ANYWHERE! I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
“Did you see that? A light just went on!” I tell Lorelei excitedly.
As soon as Lorelei dragged me out of Mulligan’s with an apology to the bartender for my behavior, she shoved me into her sleek black Mercedes with a firm warning not to puke on her leather upholstery. We left my car in the parking lot and Lorelei promised to bring me back the next day to pick it up. Somewhere between the bar and my condo, I convinced her we needed to go to Matt’s house because it was a matter of life or death.
Let it never be said that “ex-models turned private investigators” can’t act. Even with seven glasses of wine in their systems.
“Amazing. He has electricity,” Lorelei answers, her voice void of emotion.
We’re currently parked right out front of Matt’s house. As soon as we pulled up and Lorelei killed the engine, I tried to convince her that we could better assess the situation from a closer vantage point, say in his bushes, but she immediately vetoed my idea. She muttered something about crazy drunk women and how her colleagues would hang their head in shame at her for listening to me, but I tuned her out. All I cared about was getting a glimpse of him. Just one little peek.
I press my nose against the passenger-side window and spot Matt walking through his living room wearing just a pair of pajama bottoms. He scratches his muscled chest as he walks past the window and disappears from sight.
Never before have I ever wanted to be a hand more than I do right now. Who knew he was packing all of that heat underneath his button-down shirts?
“I cannot believe you convinced me to do this,” Lorelei complains for the tenth time since we pulled up. “Remind me again why we’re parked outside Matt Russo’s house in the middle of the night? Because right now, I am not buying your story that you think he’s in danger. Stop drooling on my window.”
I pull my face away from the glass and turn to face her. She’s not happy with me. I sort of don’t blame her. I’m not happy with myself either now that the alcohol buzz has begun to fade. I may or may not have told a little white lie to convince Lorelei to take a detour on the way to my condo. There might have been a mention of someone stalking Matt, and I might have told her it was the Mob and that they all carry guns and his life could be on the line. And since I’m being honest, I might as well admit that I threatened to throw myself out of her car into oncoming traffic if she didn’t bring me here immediately. In my defense, it was the booze that did all of the talking for me.