258,727
07.03.2019

Care to guess what happened to all the rats?

They died.

They f**king starved to death.

They never pushed the red button.

Need I say more?

Anyway, here I am. Stuck in my own little cage with no goddamn blue button. But…

Maybe I can have the next best thing. I pause the movie. Then I pick up the phone and dial.

“Hello?” Her voice is sleepy. Husky.

“Hi, Kate.”

“Drew? How…how did you get my home number?”

“I looked in your personnel file.”

Yes, those things are supposed to be confidential, but I called in a favor. I play to win. Never said I play fair.

I lie back on the couch while images of Kate in bed dance in my head.

“So…what are you wearing?”

Click.

That went well.

I dial again.

“Hello.”

“You were thinking about me before I called, weren’t you?”

Click.

I smile. And dial again.

“What?”

“Just in case you’re wondering, I still have them.”

“You still have what?”

“Your underwear. The black lace ones. They’re in my drawer. Sometimes I sleep with them under my pillow.”

Sick? Possibly.

“You keep trophies from all your victims? How very serial killer-ish of you.”

“No, not from all of them. Just you.”

“Am I supposed to be flattered? Nauseated is more like it.”

“I was hoping we could add another one to the collection.”

Click.

Now this is just getting ridiculous.

I dial again.

“What. Do. You. Want?”

You.

And me.

Stranded on a luxurious deserted island for about a week.

“Don’t hang up. I’ll just keep calling back.”

“Then I’ll take the phone off the hook.”

The challenge in her voice brings my semi full throttle. Did I say a week? I meant a month.

At least.

“Then I’ll come over. I’ll plant myself outside your door and talk through it. It won’t make you very popular with the neighbors.”

For a few seconds, she doesn’t speak. It’s after midnight. She’s probably wondering if I’m serious.

I am.

Then she huffs, “Fine. I’ll stay on the phone. Do you actually have a reason for calling, or do you just want to annoy me—more?”

I tell her the bare, honest truth. “I just wanted to hear your voice.”

Not too long ago, I could stop by Kate’s office whenever I wanted. I could talk to her. Look at her. Listen to her.

I miss that. A lot.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

“Working.”

“Me too. Kind of. What are you working on?”

“A proposal for a new client. Jeffrey Davies.”

“The millionaire? Isn’t he…like, crazy?”

“He’s very eccentric, yes.”

I heard he’s a f**king nutcase. Like one of those Trekkie fanatics who know the Klingon language or surgically alter their ears to look like Mr. Spock.

“What’s he interested in?”

“Technology. Life-prolonging scientific research, to be exact.”

Her voice is comfortable now. Normal. Almost friendly.

“I have some contacts in cryogenics. I could hook you up. We should discuss it over dinner on Saturday.”

“Are you trying to bribe me?”

“Would you prefer breakfast? Lunch works for me too.”

At this point, I’d settle for a light midday snack.

She snorts. It’s not a laugh, but it’s close. “Let it go, Drew.”

I smirk even though she can’t see it. “Not going to happen. I can keep this up forever. I have amazing stamina—but then you already know that.”

“Do I have to hang up again?”

I whine, “No. I’ll be good.”

I turn on my side. My apartment is dim and still. It feels…intimate. Like one of those late-night conversations you had in high school under the covers because you weren’t supposed to still be on the phone.

“So what are you doing for Christmas?”

There’s a smile in her voice when she answers. “My mom’s coming to visit. Dee-Dee’s is too, so we’re all going out together for Christmas dinner. And then my lease is up next month, so I plan on doing some apartment hunting while Mom’s here. I’m hoping New York will impress her. Maybe I’ll find a place that will entice her to stay.”

“What about Warren? Is he still staying with Delores?”

Don’t want any sneak attacks, now do we?

The edge is back in her tone as she tells me, “Not that it’s any of your business, but Billy moved to LA three days ago.”

Well, doesn’t that just make me want to stand up and do the happy dance on my dining room table?

“Do you guys still…talk?”

“He’s going to email me once he’s settled. Let me know how things are going.”

“Kate…what happened between you two, that day in your office?”

I should have had the balls to listen to her that day. I should have asked her this question then. At the time I thought it’d be easier to pretend I didn’t care than to hear her say she didn’t.

I was wrong.

She sounds sad when she answers. And weary. “We talked, Drew. I told him that I loved him, that a part of me always would. I said that I knew he loved me too. But that we weren’t…in love anymore. Not the way we were supposed to be…not for a long time. It took a while, but eventually Billy agreed with me. And—” she blows out an annoyed breath “—I don’t even know why I’m telling you any of this.”

We’re both quiet for a moment. And then I just can’t help myself.

“I’m in love with you, Kate.”

She’s silent. She doesn’t respond at all.

And my chest tightens because I know why.

“You don’t believe me, do you?”

“I think you’re an excellent liar when you want to be, Drew.”

Ouch. So this is what it feels like to sleep in the bed you made, huh? It sucks.

But my voice is firm. Determined and un-f**king-wavering. “I’m not lying to you now, Kate. But it’s okay. Do what you need to do. Curse me out, slap me around—get it all out of your system. I can take it. Because the more you push me away, the harder I’m going to fight to prove to you that this is real. That I’m not going anywhere and that what I feel for you isn’t going to change. And then someday—maybe not any time soon, but one day—I’m going to tell you that you, Kate Brooks, are the love of my life, and you won’t have any doubt that it’s true.”

After a minute, Kate clears her throat. “I should go. It’s late. And I have a lot of work to finish.”

“Yeah. Okay. Me too.”

“Good night, Drew.”

I grin. “It could have been. But you’re across town.”

She laughs then. It’s quick and muffled, but it’s genuine. And I’m pretty sure it’s the best sound I’ve ever heard.

“Sweet dreams, Kate. You know, the ones with you and me in them. Naked.”

Click.

Chapter 23

THE MOST IMPORTANT GAME in a rookie pitcher’s career isn’t his debut. It’s his follow-up. The second showing. He has to prove that he’s consistent. Reliable.

Today is my follow-up game. The day I show Kate she’s not getting rid of me and that I’m one hell of a clutch player. I’ve started with something simple. Elegant. Something less in-your-face than the Three Man Band. After all, you don’t always need to drop a nuke to win the war.

I had Kate’s office filled with balloons.

A thousand of them.

Each printed with I’M SORRY.

Too much? I don’t think so either.

Then I had a little something delivered to her office. From Tiffany’s. A small blue box with a note:

You already own mine.

Drew

Inside the box, on a platinum chain, is a flawless two-carat diamond heart.

Sappy? Sure it is. But women love sappy shit like that. At least according to the films I stayed up until three o’clock in the goddamn morning watching they do.

I’m hoping it’ll knock Kate off her feet. Right onto her back—and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how much I like her in that position.

Just kidding.

Kind of.

Besides, I get the feeling Kate isn’t used to getting presents, at least not of that caliber. And she should be. She deserves to be spoiled. To have nice things. Beautiful things. Things her dipshit ex-boyfriend couldn’t afford and probably wouldn’t have thought to give her.

Things I can. And will.

I wanted to be there when she opened it. To see the look on her face. But I have a meeting.

“Andrew Evans. Still as handsome as the devil himself. How are you, m’boy?”

See that woman hugging me in my office? Yes, the auburn-haired, blue-eyed lady who’s still a knockout, even in her fifties? She used to be my sixth grade teacher. Back then, her skin was as smooth and creamy as her Irish brogue. And she had a body that begged for sin. Lots and lots of sin.

She was my first crush. The first woman I ever masturbated about. My first Mrs. Robinson-like, older-woman fantasy.

Sister Mary Beatrice Dugan.

Yep, you heard me right—she’s a nun. But not just any nun, kiddies. Sister Beatrice was a NILF. I don’t need to spell that one out for you, do I?

In those days, she was the youngest nun any of us had ever laid eyes on—unlike the bitter, black-robed hags who looked like they were old enough to have actually been around when Jesus was alive. The fact that she was a woman of the cloth—forbidden—and in a position of power over us naughty Catholic boys just made it all that much more erotic.

She could’ve spanked me with a ruler anytime.

And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Just ask Matthew.

When we were thirteen, Estelle noticed Matthew was wincing when he walked. She dragged him bitching and moaning to the doctor’s, where he was promptly diagnosed with CPS.

Chafed Penis Syndrome.

The doc told Estelle the condition had been caused by leaving wet swim trunks on too long. And she believed him. Even though it was November. Matthew’s dick was raw all right, but it wasn’t because of a f**king bathing suit.

It was because of Sister Beatrice.

“You’re as stunning as ever, Sister B. You decide to leave the order yet?”

I don’t go to church. Not anymore. I’m a lot of things, but a hypocrite really isn’t one of them. If you’re not going to play by the rules, you don’t show up for team meetings. Over the years, however, I’ve kept in touch with Sister Beatrice. She’s the principle at St. Mary’s now, and my family has always donated generously.

She taps my face. “Cheeky boy.”

I wink. “Come on, Sister, be fair. God’s had you for, what? Thirty years? Don’t you think it’s time you gave the rest of us a shot?”

She shakes her head and grins. “Ah, Andrew, yer charms would tempt the virtue of a saint.”

❮❯