Free Me (Page 78)

Free Me (The Found Duet #1)(78)
Author: Laurelin Paige

She didn’t seem in the least offended. In fact, she brightened. As if answering the door to a strange woman at four in the morning and being interrogated was completely normal.

“I’m Tamara,” she said. “I’m his wife.”

Chapter Nineteen

The hall tilted. Blood whooshed past my ears, and my toes and fingers instantly went numb. And my chest—it sunk, like an elevator out of control, plummeting to the ground level, ready to crash.

But it was late—or early—and I was tired from traveling and feeling feelings. It was possible I misunderstood or the chick in front of me misunderstood or that somebody somewhere misunderstood.

Then I saw him—behind her, his hair tousled, his chest and feet bare. Somehow seeing him like that, half-dressed and intimate, was worse than simply hearing that the goddamn motherfucker was married. Because, number one—it seemed to prove that he actually was married. Number two—it suggested he’d probably been fucking her earlier that very night while I was rushing to be with him.

And, number three—oh-my-god-I’d-fallen-in-love-with-someone-who-was-fucking-married!

When he realized who I was, his eyes popped open and his face paled. “Gwen!”

I delivered the most scathing glare I could muster and still didn’t begin to scratch the surface of what I wanted him to understand from me. “You’re a fucking asshole.”

Then, since I didn’t know how to actually express any more than that, I spun and headed back toward the elevator, dragging my suitcase behind me.

Fuming. I was fuming and raging and red. I was red. All sorts of red. I wanted to scream and yell and hit and throw things. I hated that I felt so violent. So red.

And somewhere under all of that red, there was blue. But I wanted to get out of there before it showed itself with something as weak as tears or blubbering.

“No, no, no, no!” JC must have pushed past his wife—his goddamn fucking wife—because he was instantly at my side. “That isn’t what it looks like.”

“Yep. That’s what they say.” My words were tight, clipped. Red.

“Hold on. I’ll explain.” He jogged to get ahead of me then walked backward as he begged me to stop. “Please, you have to let me explain. Don’t just leave. I can explain.”

I wanted to keep walking. My internal tracking system had locked on the elevators, had locked on escape. It was survival instinct. But I was a reasonable person, a person who relied on more than instincts. I had to give him a chance to clear things up.

God, please let him clear things up!

I stopped, my face hard. My heart, not-so-hard. “Try.”

“Okay. I. She.” He gave an exasperated tug to a lock of hair at the top of his head. “Jesus, I don’t know where to start.”

I folded my arms over my chest. “Start wherever. Just start.”

He rubbed his palms together. “Okay. Okay.”

His difficulty to summarize the situation killed any lingering hope that the whole thing was a misunderstanding. It was only sick curiosity that made me prompt him. “Who’s the woman? Start there.”

His face scrunched up, as though that question was particularly hard for him to answer. I waited for him to confirm what she’d said. Waited for him to say the words, she’s my wife.

Instead, he said, “I don’t know.”

“Yep. Fucking asshole.” I would listen if he talked. More evasive answers were all I ever got from him, and they were not going to be good enough. Not this time. I started to go around him.

He spread his arms out, blocking my way around him. “I mean it. I woke up right before you got there. That’s when I saw her.” He was squinting, I realized, and as he talked he lifted his hand to shield the light coming from the wall sconce. “I went to the bathroom. And I came out. And there you were. I’m sorry, I’m having a hard time gathering my thoughts.”

Gathering your lies, more likely.

Except, now that I was adjusting to the haze of red surrounding me, I could see that his skin looked really funky. Pale. Almost green. When I leaned forward, I saw his eyes were bloodshot. And he smelled weird. Like toothpaste and sour.

And the way he was blocking the light… “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Nothing.” He shook his head then stopped, seeming to regret it. “I’m. I have a hangover.”

“At four in the fucking morning?” It felt surprisingly amazing to swear while angry. I didn’t have a lot of experience with the emotion. Anger and its blaring red was too much my father’s shade. I avoided it whenever possible, filling my palette with the softer hues of annoyance and irritation.

Today it was not possible. Today was bright red words and bright red volume. “When the fuck did you even start drinking to be hung over at four in the fucking morning?”

“On the plane.” He held up a victorious finger in the air. “That’s what I’m trying to say! Let me go back to then. The airport. I was at the airport and you didn’t come.” He enunciated the last phrase, pointing his finger now at me.

Oh, hell no. “I was dealing with my fucking father! It’s not like you gave me much fucking time in the first place. And I never said I was even coming, so it’s your own damn fault for making fucking assumptions.”

He waved his hand, as if trying to wave away any wrong implication he’d made. “I know, I know. It wasn’t enough time. But it was all I had.”

He laced his hands and put them behind his head. “Look, I’m not blaming you.” He dropped them again to his sides. “I’m telling you what happened. You didn’t come and I got on the plane and I started drinking.”

“But you don’t drink.”

“I was upset. I drink when I’m upset.”

Upset because I hadn’t come. He didn’t come right out and pair the two ideas, but it was understood.

“I was drunk by the time I landed. I remember coming here. Checking in. Then I went to the bar and kept ordering.” He wished he hadn’t. It was all over his face—the regret, the misery.

Regret didn’t fix shit, and frankly, I didn’t give a damn if he felt miserable. “And Tamara?”

“Who?”

“Your. Wife?”

He cringed and I wasn’t sure if it was because I’d spoken too loudly for his sensitive ears or because he didn’t like what I’d said. The door next to us opened long enough for a woman in a bathrobe to glare at us then shut again.