“You think I want to become CEO to get back at you?” Chase smirked, amused.
“Why else? You didn’t even care for the job when you graduated.”
“Oh, fuck you, Julian.”
“Not if I fuck you first.”
“Well.” Chase let loose a smile so frigid it made my insides twist painfully. “As it happens, the vacancy for CEO is not available just yet, so you’ll have to sit pretty and watch as my so-called fake engagement unfolds.”
Unfolds into what?
I’d told Chase this was a one-off. I wasn’t going to start playing the dutiful fiancée part like this was some sort of Kate Hudson rom-com. He knew full well whisking me off to the Hamptons was already pushing past my boundaries. Setting them on fire, more like.
He also knows you’re Martyr Maddie and will stop at nothing to please others, no matter who they are or how you feel about them.
It took me a few seconds to realize Chase was stalking to the door. I jerked back, before darting to our room, tripping over my own feet. Once inside the room, I knocked a vase down in my haste to close the door. Not wanting to get caught, I left the shattered glass on the floor, dashing into the bathroom. I locked the door behind me and plastered my back to it, panting.
A few seconds later, I heard the door open, then the sound of crunched glass as Chase stepped over the broken vase. There were jasmines inside. Their scent soaked the air now, filling it with thick sweetness that seeped under the crack of the bathroom door. I felt bad for the flowers, squashed under Chase’s shoe. My heart had once suffered a similar experience.
“Madison!” he roared into the silence. His voice pierced the air.
I winced. I didn’t much care what he thought, but I hated that it was common knowledge I was sloppy drunk tonight and that Julian had thrown it in his face.
“I know you’re in there.” His words got closer, darker. My dinner clogged my throat, begging to purge itself. Knowing the door was firmly locked, I hurried to the toilet, threw the seat up, and lurched into the bowl. My whole body convulsed as my stomach pumped up the little I’d eaten tonight.
“Should’ve hired a sorority girl for the job,” he muttered under his breath behind the door, giving the handle a firm shake. “Fun drunk beats sad drunk every day of the fucking week.”
Fun drunk is not an option when a jerk like you is in the vicinity.
I continued throwing up. Tears ran down my clammy cheeks, snaking into my mouth, their saltiness exploding on my tongue. I never got drunk. I must have been more anxious than I’d realized.
We were supposed to be wide awake and ready to go on a family hike tomorrow at ten a.m. I very much doubted I would be in any shape to get out of bed, if I even made it to it and not straight to the ER tonight.
“Leave me alone.” I scrambled up to brush my teeth. I got as far as the sink and tumbled back down. The pressure in my head made it impossible to open my eyes. Julian’s words spun inside it, circling like clothes in a washing machine. A six. I was so painfully average and so royally out of my depth here.
I was on my second attempt to hoist myself over the sink and try to brush my teeth when Chase kicked the door down. Unhinged, it flew to the floor, landing with a thump. Luckily, the Jack-and-Jill bathroom was more spacious than my studio, and the door landed a few feet away from me. I looked up and blinked at him, my mouth slack.
Asshole kicked the door down.
“You . . . you stupid . . .” I squinted, trying to find adequate words. And failing. He strode over to me, picked me up from the floor, and righted me against the sink. He turned on the tap and began to wash my face for me, running his big palm over my nose and mouth. He held me by the waist to keep me from falling.
“Finish that thought, Mad. I’ve a feeling it’s going to be amusing,” he said tonelessly, plucking my toothbrush from the silver container by the sink and applying a generous amount of toothpaste onto it.
“Conceited . . . arrogant . . . egotistical . . .”
“Nah-ah. You don’t get to use synonyms. That’s cheating.”
“Bastard!” I roared.
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” He stuck the toothbrush in my mouth, applying gentle pressure as he brushed my teeth for me. He was a thorough brusher. Of course he was. “What else have you got?”
“Stupid . . .”
“You already said ‘stupid.’”
“Okay, dumb . . .”
“How about we continue this tomorrow?” He cut through my stream of insults. “I promise to be convincingly insulted and cry into my pillow the minute you’re done.” He finished brushing my teeth, rinsed the toothbrush, and filled a glass of water for me to gargle.
I was too disoriented to pretend to care he was taking care of me. In all of the six months we’d been dating, I’d been careful not to expose him to any part of my less glamorous side. I’d brushed my teeth before he’d woken up to avoid morning breath, gone number two while the shower was on so he wouldn’t hear (which had also cornered me into taking frequent showers at his place), and categorically pretended my period hadn’t existed, sparing him any mention of Mother Nature’s visits to my body. Now, here I was, letting him clean traces of my puke straight from my mouth with his ring on my finger. Oh, irony really did have a sick sense of humor.
I gargled the water he helped me sip before spitting into the sink and side-eyeing him. “You’re not the boss of me.”
“Thank fuck for that, you’d be a nightmare to tame.” He didn’t spare me a look, picking up my pink bag of toiletries and plucking two sheets from my makeup-removal wipes. He began to scrub my eyes, probably worried my $5 waterproof mascara would stain his $5,000 linens.
“And you’d be a tyrant to work for,” I slurred. He chuckled, tossing the dirty wipes into the trash can, picking me up honeymoon-style, and carrying me back to the bedroom. I was still trying to come up with creative insults, refusing to cave to temptation and wrap my arms around his neck. The aftertaste of puke still lingered on my breath, but I was oddly unbothered when I spoke directly to his face.
“You’re not even that attractive,” I muttered confrontationally as he put me down on the bed. He removed my shoes, then reached for the hidden zipper in the back of my pencil skirt and rolled it down. He was stripping me bare. It felt too good to get rid of my work clothes to care. Anyway, it wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before. And we weren’t exactly seducing one another. I was half-dead, and he’d basically admitted my mediocrity to Julian by not defending me.