That Chase was seen as more talented, more capable, and more authoritative. And perhaps worst of all, that at least from the outside, Chase was unfazed by the fact Julian had stolen his fiancée.
Chase strolled toward him, smiling coldly. “Try to tamper with Black & Co.’s management one more time, Julian. I fucking dare you. And you”—he turned to Amber, who stepped back, clutching her diamond necklace with her three-inch nails—“keep him away from me if you don’t want to become a widow.”
With that, he took my hand and stormed down the hallway. I flailed behind him, trying to catch up with his steps.
“Where are we going?”
“Your apart . . . Chase, no.”
He stopped and turned around to me sharply. “Because,” he gritted through his teeth.
“Because?” I raised an eyebrow.
“I can’t sleep.” He spat the words out, annoyed.
“And I can when you are there.” The rest of the words rolled out of his mouth grudgingly. “I don’t know how to explain it, nor do I want to. May I be graced with your presence so I can stock up on some sleeping hours?”
I licked my lips, staring at him.
“I will not try to sleep with you.” He raised a hand. “Scout’s honor.”
“For the last time, you weren’t—”
“I was,” he bit out. “For a year. Horrible time. And to this day, I misuse the knowledge of how to tie shit up.”
I stifled something between a groan and a chuckle. “Okay.”
He took my hand again, resuming his quest for a taxi outside, and I couldn’t remember a time we’d held hands so much since our stupid agreement had started.
The devil didn’t have to drag me down to hell.
I had come with him willingly.
Another four hours of sleep and a shower later, I was feeling more human and less like a bag of bones and anger and untapped come.
After checking for phone calls from Grant, Katie, and Mom and getting an update in text form that Dad was still stable, I slid into one of my black suits (why other colors existed was beyond me. Black was suitable for every occasion. The only exception I made was with gray sweatpants, because those were practically considered lingerie for men) and wandered out of the master bedroom. I descended down the three marble steps to the living room. Black, sleek chandeliers dripped from the ceiling, and upholstered black leather couches and recliners filled the room. The three walls that weren’t floor-to-ceiling windows were bare, raw concrete. Everything about my place was dark, indulgent, and dangerous. An apartment carefully designed in the aesthetic of a modern douchebag.
Inside the gloom and darkness sat a woman wearing an apron-like yellow A-line dress from her last night’s date, with a pattern of dripping ice creams on it, her face scrunched in concentration in front of her sketch pad. Her tongue was peeking out from the side of her mouth—her MO when she was concentrating. I buttoned my shirt and watched her, not making myself known. There was something perversely predatory about watching her without being watched. My mind roamed to places it shouldn’t have gone. Pleasures I hadn’t taken since I’d found out Dad was ill.
Her phone began to ring. “Greek Tragedy” by the Wombats was her ringtone. It was those little quirks about Mad that made her so supremely fuckable. She wasn’t exactly hipster, although I knew she dressed like one and knew her way around an indie playlist. She wasn’t highbrow, but she could hold her own in a conversation with just about anyone in the world, beggar or king. She wasn’t upper class. She wasn’t lower class. She was Maddie class. An entirely unique, sexy species. I had to get her out of my system. I had to fuck her again.
She jumped from the distraction before swiping across the screen and tucking her AirPods into her ears. They obviously weren’t charged, because Ethan’s castrated voice filled my living room.
“Just checking in. Are you back home?” he asked. She looked around her. I might or might not have been standing behind a statue. The Weeping Angel with a cigarette tucked between her fingers, her face propped above a bar counter. An impulsive, tongue-in-cheek purchase after I’d come back from South America to find my ex-fiancée knocked up with my brousin’s baby. The need to shell out a lot of money on something meaningless had been overwhelming back then. As if to say: So fucking what? I can still drop five hundred K on a piece of shit most people won’t agree to wipe their ass with.
“Spent the night at the hospital, then came back to Chase’s apartment this morning,” she said apologetically. “I wanted to make sure he was feeling all right.”
Another thing I didn’t hate about Madison Goldbloom—she didn’t pin the blame on other people. I was the one who’d twisted her arm about coming here. But she didn’t mention that to Ethan.
“Oh,” he said. How eloquent. Seriously, how the heck did she date this guy?
“Ronan is fine, by the way.” She pinched her lips.
“Of course. I was about to ask,” he said. Then paused. No, he hadn’t been. He didn’t care about my father. “Has anything happened between you and Chase?”
“No, of course not.” She sighed.
Silence stretched across the room. These two had the sexual chemistry of a tampon and a ketchup stain together. I couldn’t fathom how she didn’t see it. Madison was fire, and Ethan was . . . what the fuck was he, anyway? Not water. Not earth. He was a shadow. A by-product of something else.
“Do you want to see each other tonight? We were about to—”
Hell to the goddamn no. I stepped out from behind the statue, clearing my throat. “I’m sorry, Ethan. Tonight is not going to work for us.” I rolled my shirtsleeves up my veiny arms, nonchalantly making my way to Mad. I’d promised not to fuck her; I’d never said anything about not preventing anyone else from doing just that tonight. I dropped a chaste kiss to her forehead, which she wiped with a frown, her eyes blazing with horror and annoyance. I held her gaze. “See, Madison will be with me tonight.”
“Chase!” she snapped. “Sorry about that, Ethan. I would love to—”
“Have a relationship in which I am both attracted to and interested in the man I am seeing,” I completed for her, grinning. “I know, Mad. It’d make things so much easier.”