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Billionaire's Kiss Sloan Storm 2022/8/3 13:48:11

“Maddie,” I began with a firm tone. “You… you shouldn’t expect anything more than what we’ve got between us now. I’ve apologized to you. I know what I did was wrong, but that’s as far as I go. I am not interested in anything permanent between us. I never have been interested in anything like that with a woman in my entire life and I never will be.”

As I finished speaking, the phone went silent on Maddie’s end once again. I pulled it away from my ear to see if I’d lost her and then after seeing I hadn’t, I brought it back.

“Yeah, I’m here,” she whispered. Her voice sounded hollow, distant and unlike anything I’d heard from her before.

Picking up a pen from my desk, I rolled it around between my fingers as the silence between us continued.

“I’m gonna go,” she said, after another moment or two.

One minute earlier, I would have been happy to hear her say that, but now I wasn’t. Not one goddamn bit.

I cleared my throat. “Maddie, listen. Um, let’s…”

And before I could get another word out, she hung up.

“Fuck,” I muttered, as I did the same a few seconds later.

Afterward, I pushed my chair back and stood. Walking around my office, I ran my fingers through my hair as I approached the window which looked out over Chicago’s South Side. Sliding my hands inside my pants pockets, I turned my gaze to the west, towards Maddie, and bit my lip.

“Maddie, honey…” Katy began, as she leaned across from me and touched my leg. “That’s your fifth glass of wine.”

I sat in Katy’s apartment on her couch. We’d spent countless evenings together on it over the years. Happier times to be sure. On a positive note, we’d made up since I came home. I couldn’t stay mad at her. She was my only real friend. And anyway, fucking Grey was behind all of it, pulling strings and manipulating her, all in an effort to keep control of me.

“So what? Five glasses or fifty…” I replied. I placed the empty fingerprint-covered glass back down on the living room table with a decisive clink and continued, “Who cares? I’ll buy more.”

Usually by this time of the evening, the pleasure I received from drinking turned to numbness. Recently anyway. Hell, mouthwash would have sufficed. Katy’s face crinkled with concern. As soon as I let go of the glass, she jumped to her feet and snatched it.

“Hey!” I yelled. “What the fuck?”

“You’ve had enough to drink, Maddie. Jesus. What are you doing?”

I waved her off and attempted to stand. “Fuck you, Katy. I’m going home.”

I stood and ambled towards the kitchen table. Grabbing my purse, I flipped her off without turning back to face her.

“Bye, bitch!” I exclaimed.

I tugged the front door to the apartment and as the cool night air licked against my face, I heard the sound of jingling metal fifteen feet behind me.

“Looking for these? Bitch?” Katy said.

I spun back to face her. My torso rocked to a semi-steady position as I attempted to focus on her hand.

“Give them to me, Katy,” I snarled.

“No, Maddie!” she yelled. “You are drunk and you are my best friend. If you want them, you’ll have to come rip them from my cold, dead hand.”

I thinned my lips and without a word, broke out in a full dash after her.

Katy shrieked and took off running down the hallway. The more sober of the two of us, she took advantage of her coordination and cut a sharp corner with ease as she headed for the bathroom. I wasn’t so lucky and banged into the wall with a hard thump.

“Ahh! Fuck!” I yelled, as I grabbed hold of my shoulder.

Just then I heard her slam the bathroom door. Regaining my focus, I continued down the hall until I reached the door. I banged on it as hard as I could.

“Katy!” I screamed. “Open the door and give me my goddamn keys!”

No sooner had I finished speaking than I heard the toilet flush. A few seconds later, the door flew open and Katy shoved me aside, as she turned and walked down the hallway once again.

“You want ‘em?” she said, with a wave of her right hand. “Go get ‘‘em.”

I looked past her shoulder as she turned and headed down the hallway back towards the living room.

“Uh!” I screamed. “What the fuck, Katy?! How am I supposed to get home?”

Her voice echoed from the living room as she disappeared from sight. “You aren’t. Not unless you take a cab. Now quit acting like an idiot and come talk to me.”

The rage drained from my body with a heavy breath. Exhausted, I headed back down the hall. I plopped down in a heap and we talked. I don’t know whether minutes or hours passed and I really didn’t care. I pinched at the edges of my lips as I finished speaking, my mouth now dry and in need of something besides alcohol.

“Can I have some water?” I began, as I smacked my lips. “I’m thirsty.”

“Of course, honey,” Katy replied.

In less than a minute she returned and handed me a cold glass. I tilted it up and swallowed it down in a handful of large gulps. As I finished, I looked up at her in appreciation.

Katy sat close to me and as she did she tugged a strand of her short, brown hair behind her ear.

“Maddie,” she began. “I’ve never seen you like this. Sweetie, you need to talk to me. If I can’t help you, we need to find someone who can.”

“Pssht!” I exclaimed. “I don’t need any help.”

“Maddie, you do. You’ve got a problem.”

“Goddamn right I do!” I fired back as I waved my arms. “And the mother fucking problem is named Grey Sinclair.”

“Maddie, you aren’t making any sense. What does Grey have to do with…”

“Grey told me he doesn’t want to be with me,” I said, interrupting her.

Katy leaned away in silence. Concern framed her face. “He said that? Grey used those words?”

“Might as well have. Mother fucker,” I grumbled. Slouching back into the couch, I waved my hand in a dismissive manner. “Whatever. You know what? Fuck it all. I don’t know what we have but I do know I don’t want what we have anymore, which is nothing. So, fuck it and fuck him.”

Katy rolled her eyes at my saltiness.

“Well, that’s Grey Sinclair for you. What did you expect?”

“Uh!” I grunted as I shot forward. “Katy you encouraged me to do this!”

“No Maddie, I encouraged you to have fun,” she replied. “That’s it. But now, look at you. Is this fun? You’ve all but abandoned your responsibilities at work, leaving everything to Carmen, again. And what’s this I’ve been hearing? You showing up for random auditions? Used car commercials and an extra on a soap? Hollywood is a small town, Maddie. That shit gets around. Is that what you want? You want Grey to find about all of that?”

Her words ran together in a senseless jumble. She meant well, I had no doubt. But I was tired. All I wanted to do was sleep and never wake up. At least not to my life. A life without Grey in it.

Instead, I shrugged. “I’m sleepy, Katy. Can I stay here tonight?”

Katy moved closed to me. She swallowed me with her arms and pulled my torso close to hers.

“Of course, sweetie,” she said as stroked my hair. She kissed my forehead and continued, “As long as you need to.”

Ever since the phone meltdown, I wasn’t welcome at the apartment. Never mind that I owned the goddamn thing. Even so, Maddie and I had a working relationship together, which superseded my need to snuggle up with her when I was on the coast.

I couldn’t speak for her and I had no interest in trying. So I stayed at the same hotel I always did when we were on the outs and assumed that sooner or later things would blow over or blow up. With Maddie these days, there was no telling.

Still, I missed the sex.

And at the moment I really had no interest in anyone aside from Maddie, so even though we weren’t together, I suppose in a way we were. However, she never asked and I never volunteered that information. At best, you could call it a sexual standoff.

Things had devolved, no question about it.

I was pretty convinced she was depressed and frankly, I did feel responsible, up to a point. But let’s get real. We’re both adults here. I never promised anything other than what we’ve got right now and until the phone call where she made her feelings clear, she never indicated she expected more from me, either.

Yet in a situation like this, a guy like me will always come out looking like the asshole. There’s not much I can do to change it, so I don’t bother trying. And if it was just a romantic relationship, I wouldn’t give two shits. Because if I know one thing about women, it’s that most of them grow up thinking they'd be princesses someday and most are damned disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

So, I’m the bad guy. I get it.

While Maddie continued the disappearing act, I managed to keep things going with Carmen’s help. And let me tell you, she was really coming into her own as a goddamn manager. If nothing else, that aspect of the business looked to be stabilizing in spite of Maddie’s flakiness.

Speaking of that, I heard from Katy that Maddie had been acting strangely — drinking more than usual, behaving erratically, and shirking her duties around the office. In addition, I found out about the auditions she’d been going on through some of the contacts I’d made in the business. Curious, I called in a few favors and got my hands on some of her audition videos. I watched them and damn it all if Maddie wasn’t terrific. I gotta admit, to her credit, she knew the craft.