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Billionaire's Kiss Sloan Storm 2022/8/3 13:48:09

“I hate you, Grey,” I said, without a single blink. My exterior was as stone as I spoke, while his mere presence shattered my heart into a thousand pieces. “I want you to leave and never come back.”

He froze in place as the words tumbled from my lips.

“Maddie. It was for your own good.”

Still numbed by the depth of his cruelty, I shook my head back and forth in a deliberate manner and repeated myself.

“I hate you, Grey. I want you to leave and never come back.”

His face softened as my utterances registered in his consciousness. Yet still, he lingered. Grey reached towards me and tried to touch me with his fingertips. I lost it and lifted my hands in horror, recoiling from his touch. Screaming as loud as I could, I repeated myself once more, only this time I walked towards him with my hands in tight fists ready to strike if it came to it.

“I hate you, Grey! I want you to leave and never come back!”

I screamed it again and then a fifth time. With each successive demand, he moved further and further away until his back was to the front door.

Closing my eyes, I shouted one last warning.

“Just fucking get out, Grey! Get out! Get out!!!”

As I finished, he left and as he did, I slammed the door behind him.

Spinning in place, I pressed my back against the door and rested there, listless, until the tears I’d fought back at last began to spill. As they ran down my cheeks, I turned my ear to the door and listened until his footsteps disappeared down the hall and out of my life, forever.

The best thing about vodka is that you can drink it any time of the day or night.

It goes with anything. Especially misery. And orange juice. Oh, and Bloody Mary mix.

“Bartender.” I said, while I rattled the ice in my glass before placing it down lacquered wood surface.

As he approached, he nodded and said, “Same sir?”

I nodded in return as he took the glass and walked away.

Swiveling in my stool, I scanned the periphery of the hotel bar and adjoining lobby. I glanced down at my watch. Three minutes past noon. It had been a few days since Maddie’s meltdown and I hadn’t heard a peep from her.

The problem was, neither had anyone else. She never checked in at the office, which put me in the unenviable position of stepping in for her, while at the same time trying to explain why I, her goddamn partner, had no clue where she was.

To make matters worse, her supposed best friend Katy also hadn’t heard a word. Of course, after a couple of days, we followed all the standard protocols like filing a missing persons report, checking hospitals and morgues and so forth.

Anyway, we’d all come up empty and so here I sat, waiting for Katy.

And even though we were about as unlikely a pair of allies as you’d find, we did have one thing in common — finding Maddie.

“Bloody Mary, sir,” The bartender said, as he placed my third drink in front of me. With any luck it would go down just as smooth as the first two.

I took a pull on it just as Katy appeared in the lobby. A spicy mix of pepper and tabasco warmed my throat as she approached.

“Greyson,” she said, as she walked up. Before she moved to take a seat, she tilted her head at me in suspicion. “This is about Maddie, right? I mean, this is not about our disagreement.”

Although I was less than thrilled by her lack of discretion when it came to talking to Maddie, I really had no choice but to drop it if I expected any help from her. Like it or not, that’s the way things stood.

Instead, I shook my head and replied, “You have nothing to be worried about. I won’t fire you.”

“Well, that’s not what you said on the phone.”

I shrugged. With my drink glass still in my hand, I waved her comment off.

“We all say things, don’t we?”

“Huh?” she said, as she leaned away from me. “Are you drunk?”

I ignored her comment, accurate observation thought it was. A few seconds later, she sat on the stool next to me. As she moved up close to the bar, the stool groaned against the floor.

“What’ll ya have?” the bartender said, as she finished positioning herself.

She glanced my direction. “What are you drinking?”

Katy nodded and turned her attention back to the bartender. “Same. Except make mine a double. And no rail. Top shelf.”

“You realize of course that all vodka is the same?” I began. “It doesn’t matter what the bottle looks like or how many Central European country flags you slap on it, vodka is vodka is vodka.”

Katy winced at me. “Is that true or are you just messing with me?”

Without turning her direction I noticed her shaking her head. I didn’t get enough of a look to see if a smile accompanied it or not. It didn’t matter. While the bartender mixed her overpriced drink, I wasted no time in getting right down to it.

“Where is Maddie, Katy?”

“Greyson, you are really a fucking jerk. Do you know that? How is it that you invite me here to talk about my best friend and, presumably, have me tell you where she is, when your strategy for extracting this information is to insult me and call me a liar?”

I exhaled and placed my half-empty glass back down on the table. The bartender was on me almost right away for another round, but I waved him off. This conversation was too important to conduct with any more liquor in my system than I already had.

I nodded. “I apologize. That wasn’t my intent. Let’s try again.”

Katy folded her hands on the bar in front of her and nodded.

I licked the salted, spicy tomato from my lips and turned my head to the right.

“You don’t trust me, do you?”

She shook her head. “No, that’s where you’re wrong, actually. I do trust you. I just don’t like you very much.”

“Hmm,” I muttered. I gotta admit, her goddamn answer surprised me. Liquor-assisted, I decided to slide further down the rabbit hole with her.

“What makes you think I want to hurt Maddie?”

Again, she shook that little brown bob of hers.

“I’m not saying you want to, Greyson. I just don’t think it’s in your genetic makeup not to hurt women, even if on accident.”

Damn it to hell if she didn’t have another point. It wasn’t hard to see why she and Maddie were friends. Fucking straight shooters, the both of ‘em. I sniffed at her response and took another sip of my drink. One way or the other, the issue wasn’t worth arguing. I’d say she was wrong and she’d point out all the ways my deeds don’t match up with my words.

Except I had the sense that Katy didn’t know much more than I did about Maddie’s whereabouts. She was grandstanding. You know? Deflecting the blame back on me? And why not? I’m the easy target.

But if I were to take a guess, it would be that when she and Maddie finally got back together, she could say with a clean conscience that she didn’t give up any info about Maddie’s whereabouts. In one respect, I understood her position, but as someone with at least an equal share in the outcome of this, I felt like Katy owed me a bit more cooperation than I’d gotten up until now.

“You want money?” I asked, almost as a throwaway comment. It was a simple test. No one would know her answer except us.

“What? Fuck you Greyson.”

I nodded. Okay, good sign.

“What then? More clients? New offices?”

As I spoke, Katy snapped her head back towards me. In a calm, clear voice she replied, “I want my friend back, Greyson. I want my friend. Nothing more.”

I smiled and changed the subject.

“So what’s your story?” I began. “You seeing anybody?”

“Uh!” she said, as she looked at me with disgust. “You cannot be serious, Greyson. Gross!”

“What?” I replied, as I glanced in her direction. “Oh come on, don’t flatter yourself, Katy.”

Feisty one. Without realizing it, I started to enjoy her company more than I expected.

“Call me, Grey,” I said with a wink.

“Okay, fuck you, Grey.”

“Not what I meant,” I replied with a chuckle. “I was only being polite. Give me a little credit would you? I’ve got enough options in this world. I don’t need to poach best friends.”

I glanced in her direction to see a sheepish grin plastered to her face. “I’m sorry.”

I shrugged. “Forget it. Look, we’re both on edge because we want the same thing.”

“Maddie,” she said with a nod, before she took another sip of her drink.

Katy sighed. “Not really, no. She’s never done this before.”

Katy swirled her drink in her hand. “Disappear like this. Sooner or later, I always hear from her. Not this time. Not yet anyway.”

I rubbed my chin as she spoke.

“What about family? I know she’s not close with them or anything, but do you think she might have turned to them out of desperation?”

“Maybe,” Katy said, as she nodded. “That’s as good as anywhere to begin a search, I suppose.”

“Got a name for ‘em? An address?” I asked.