Part of me feels like a hundred kinds of idiot for doing this at all. Except that for months now, I’ve had a recurring nightmare about the baby I’d refused to see or hold before my attorney and the social worker transferred him to the adoptive parents. In the dream, I’m holding him and he’s staring up at me. And then he bursts into tears, crying like his heart is breaking, and I wake up buried in a landslide of guilt.
There’s no reason for me to feel guilty – no reason. Why the hell am I dreaming of him crying? And why do I wake up with tears on my face?
I just want closure, finally. Closure, and maybe a photo.
‘I assume he’s fine. Right?’
If she provides that one syllable of reassurance, I can stop here. If he’s fine, I don’t need details. A photo is probably a bad idea, even. I don’t really want to know if he looks more like me or Reid.
‘It would be best for us to meet in person. I’ll just transfer you to my admin to set up an appointment.’ Bethany Shank is all detached and impersonal – typical for her. But her clipped demeanour is more grating – and alarming – than usual. There’s a small thread of something unsaid, and I can’t help but tug at it.
‘Is something wrong?’
There’s an unexpected pause in place of the quick denial I expected, and suddenly I need privacy. Like now. I direct a scowl towards the pedicurist’s head – because how goddamned long does it take to dry a foot for chrissake?
Glancing up as though she feels my eyes bore into her, she blanches.
I slide my fingers over the phone. ‘Could you give me a moment? Thanks.’
Once she shuffles away, I ask Bethany Shank to repeat herself.
‘I’d advise an office meeting for this exchange, Ms Cameron.’ Her keyboard clicks in the background. ‘I believe I have an open spot tomorrow afternoon at three …’
I don’t like this at all. She’s not answering my question, which means there is something wrong. Now my brain is off on a new loop: mental disability … terminal illness … dead?
‘No. Today. And come to my apartment.’
My PI sighs into the phone as though I give a shit that I’ve just disturbed her Very Important Schedule. I wait, silent, until she concedes defeat. ‘I won’t be free until seven this evening –’
‘Seven’s fine. I’ll see you then.’
She’s mid-sigh when I click off. If I wasn’t in the middle of a Beverly Hills spa with the nosiest pedicurist on the planet, I’d have forced her to tell me what the hell she found out right now instead of having to wait three hours.
‘Ready for the oil massage?’ The pedicurist returns, a little cowed.
‘Sure. But I changed my mind about the French tips. French tips are for summer. It’s almost February. I want red. Blood red.’
She nods. ‘Yes, of course, Ms Cameron.’
‘Stay.’ I roll Dori beneath me and pin one wrist above her head, kissing her deeply so she can’t tell me no right away – though I know she will. Which makes how ticked off I feel when she does that exact thing a bit unreasonable.
‘Reid,’ she groans into my mouth, ‘you know I can’t stay.’
I stare into her very dark eyes, the frustration leaping into my throat, ready to do battle. ‘You’re not a child, Dori. You’re almost nineteen. So yes, you can.’
I release her wrist and she raises her hand to my face, pushes her fingers into my hair, curls them against my scalp.
‘I’ll tell them. I will. Don’t you trust me?’
Of course then my temper goes and f**ks everything up.
‘No, actually. I don’t. Because you’re leaving for Berkeley next week. And because the last time I trusted you about your parents and us, you bailed on me.’
Her hand falls away and the faintest crease appears between her brows. ‘This isn’t like last time.’
I roll off her and on to my back, because I want to believe her, but right there in the back of my mind – and none too far back, either – is the fact that I recently spent one of the most miserable months of my life thinking I’d never see her again. I’m not willing to accept that again. ‘Right,’ I say.
And yeah, it does occur to me that being an asshat isn’t the best way to get what I want with her. Realistically, nothing with Dori fits the mould of what usually works for me with the rest of the world – one of the things I love about her – but I can’t think logically when I’m this pissed off.
She slides from the bed and straightens her clothes, which are gratifyingly askew from our interrupted make-out session. Damn my temper to hell, too, because she would stay at least another half-hour, which I’m blowing by acting like a clingy chick. That thought sparks another round of useless anger. I can’t seem to make it stop.
‘It’s late. I’m going to go,’ she says then, standing next to the bed while I stare at the ceiling.
My new more-perceptive alter ego is pleading with me to just let it go already, but the arrogant prick inside is sulking. I’m not wrong. She is. She knows it too – that’s why she sounds like she’s crying when she turns and leaves.
Ten minutes later, I’m calmer and admitting to myself that I’m a self-absorbed dumbass. I call her but she doesn’t pick up, and I hang up when the call goes to voicemail. Fantasizing about confronting her parents and getting this all out in the open – just getting in my car and following her home – I can’t help but chuckle. The way she drives, I’d beat her there, even with her ten-minute head start.