Perhaps I was not entirely without fault when it came to setting the tone for our extended fling. At some point, I made a strategic error. It made logistical sense Madison would have access to my apartment. Having her at my disposal was convenient, and buzzing her up constantly grated on my nerves. No emotions were involved while making the decision to give Mad a spare key. My housekeeper and PA had one, too, and I was not in danger of proposing to either of them. In fact, I changed PAs as often as I did underwear.
And just for clarification, I was a highly hygienic person.
As for occasionally taking Madison to the movies—I genuinely wanted to watch whatever we went to see. Sue me for being a Guillermo del Toro and Tarantino fan. It wasn’t like we cuddled in the theater or even shared popcorn (she poured a bag of M&M’S into her bucket of popcorn on our first outing to the movies. That should have been my first clue the woman was raised in the wilderness).
It took me five months to find out I was in a relationship. Mad was the person to point it out to me. She did it in a sly, adorable way. Not unlike a Care Bear with a butcher’s knife. Said her father was in town the week after the next and asked if I wanted to meet him.
“Why would I want to meet him?” I asked conversationally. Why, in-fucking-deed. Her answer made my whiskey go down the wrong pipe. The same Scottish single malt I’d been sipping at a friend’s party I’d taken her to, not because we were dating but because it was less hassle than making the journey to her place when I was done.
“Well, because you’re my boyfriend.” She batted her eyelashes, cradling her cosmo cocktail like she was a tourist trying to live her best Carrie Bradshaw life.
(Note to self: She was a tourist. She’d grown up in Pennsylvania. I should have checked if I could deport her back there, although at this stage, it had been way past fourteen business days.)
It was in that come-meet-my-dad moment that I realized I hadn’t screwed anyone else since I’d met Madison, and I didn’t have any desire to do so in the near future (voodoo vagina). And that we spoke regularly on the phone (even when we didn’t, technically, have much to say to each other). And that we had sex all the time (I was attached to a dick; enough said). And that I naturally assumed my weekend plans included her (again—I was attached to a dick).
That, coupled with the fact I brought her over to see my parents at Christmas, was how things started getting serious and not at all fling-like.
More specifically—how they crashed and burned, setting my entire life philosophy on dumpster fire. I was now officially taken and with a girlfriend, two things I’d promised myself would never happen again. So I did what I had to do to remove Madison Goldbloom from my life. Got rid of her Band-Aid-style, once and for all.
I thought we were over.
Done for good.
I wanted to be done with the little, mouthy, sex-on-atrocious-Babette-shoes woman who thought wearing petticoats at twenty-six was adorable, as opposed to deranged.
Then my father had thrown a burning curveball straight into my hands, and here I was, tossing it from side to side, actively spending time with Madison. Doing the very thing I’d vowed not to do.
“You’re here!” Mom pounced on my windshield like a frenzied kangaroo as I parked the Tesla by the Hamptons estate. Madison jolted awake from her slumber beside me. She patted her chin to see if she was drooling—she was—and sat up, rearranging her pearl headband.
Rather than offering her a few seconds to get ready, I did what any other world-class dick would do and shoved my door open and rounded the car to hug my mother.
“How was traffic?” Mom’s french-manicured nails dug into my shoulders. She peppered kisses across my face, thinly concealing her eager peeks into the car. She was quivering with barely restrained excitement.
“I hope Madison didn’t mind the traffic.”
“She loves traffic jams. They’re her favorite hobby.”
Right after trapping innocent men into relationships.
Anyway, since when was Madison above trivial inconveniences such as traffic? That was what happened when you never brought anyone home. The first so-called partner I had, and my parents treated her like the Second Coming of Jesus.
I opened Madison’s door, helping her out of the car but really thrusting her right into reality’s arms. She shimmied her pencil skirt down, trying to make a graceful exit.
Mom tackled Madison like a professional linebacker, plastering her to the car. To her credit, Mad played the part of a happy fiancée semiconvincingly. Meaning she was awkward but not above her usual gracelessness. After they squealed at each other, Mom examined her engagement ring from all angles, oohing and aahing like it was the first time she’d seen a diamond in her life. It was a nice piece from the Black & Co. exclusive line. I’d asked for the most stupidly expensive, generic thing they had. Something that said the fiancé is rich but also and knows nothing about his bride-to-be. Something perfect for the two of us.
“I hope you don’t mind, but it’ll be a smaller event. We haven’t had much time to prepare since Ronan . . .” My mother trailed off, apologizing to Madison.
Madison shook her head almost hysterically. “No, no. I totally get it. The fact that you’re doing anything at all considering the circumstances is . . . ah . . .” She looked around herself. “Amazing, really.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll still be the belle of the ball.” I patted Madison’s shoulder, looking down at her with the warmth of a butter knife. I might or might not have watched several Hallmark movies in order to mimic a loving fiancé. As I’d been jogging on the treadmill. Real talk, the cardio was the only reason I hadn’t fallen asleep during the BS overload.
“You’re too kind.” Madison put her hand over mine on her shoulder, squeezing it in the hopes of breaking a few bones.
I bit back a smirk. “Never too kind for you.”
“Oh, stop it.” She smiled tightly. “Really,” she stressed.
Mom looked between us, basking in whatever she thought she was witnessing and clapping her hands together. “Look at you two!”
Although Madison did not do anything overtly bad to fuck things up, she was far from Oscar-worthy in the loving-fiancée department. She tucked her head down whenever she was asked a question that needed to be answered with a lie. Her cheeks were so beetroot red I thought her head was about to explode. And she regarded me with polite, fake enthusiasm, like I was bad macaroni art made by a particularly distracted child.