The sound of the front door opening and closing disturbs my silence and solitude. I check the clock on my bedside table. It’s still morning, meaning both Logan and Kristy should be working. Sitting up in bed, I reach for my phone, my heart now pumping hard in my chest at the sudden realisation it could be a someone about to rob us. No, it’s more likely Kristy has come back from the café to check up on me, even though I told her she didn’t need to today because I’m fine.
Okay, so I don’t feel like moving or facing another day. I have no appetite, and I think this world would possibly be a better place without me in it, but other than that…
Kristy walks towards my bedroom door as I put my phone back down on the table beside me. I have to tell her to go back to work. It’s bad enough she stayed home with me yesterday. I don’t need her here today. One of us has already screwed up our life and lost our jobs. Why make that both of us?
I expect my friend to walk straight into my room like she usually does, but the slightly hesitant knock on the door tells me it isn’t my best friend standing on the other side. My heart, which had slowed down, starts beating abnormally fast once more. Are burglars usually polite enough to knock before entering?
I nearly have a heart attack and die when I hear Adam’s voice. A burglar would be preferable to my neighbour.
What is he doing here?
I slide down into the bed and throw the covers over my head. I can’t take his gloating or his comments about how much he despises me. Nor can I endure another lecture on why I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself.
Crossing my fingers, I send up a silent prayer to anyone listening that Adam will walk back out the door if he doesn’t get a response from me. Unfortunately, my silence spurs him to do the opposite, and I hear the door handle to my bedroom turn.
I lay perfectly still. Maybe if he thinks I’m asleep, he’ll leave.
The bed shifts under his weight as he sits down on the bed. Oh God, he isn’t leaving. What if I just stay buried under here?
“For someone who cares about Kristy as much as you do, you’re putting her through hell right now.”
Of course, he knows just how to strike at the heart of me. It’s like he has x-ray vision and can see the softest, most vulnerable part of me he needs to attack to elicit a reaction.
My hands fist the blankets, and I can’t work out whether to throw them off and get this over with or keep myself buried under here, where he can’t see how much his words affect me.
“I’m not going anywhere until you talk to me, so you might as well come out now,” he says, as though he can read my mind. “I never pegged you as a coward.”
“Really?” I say, throwing the blankets off and sitting up. “Because you pretty much pegged me as everything else that’s awful.”
It’s not until I see the smug look on his face that I realise what he was doing – annoying me into facing him. It’s not fair, especially since it worked so well.
“Hey,” he says in greeting.
“Please go away. Please.”
I don’t care that I’m begging. I’ll do anything to make him leave, even get on my hands and knees if I must.
“Sorry, no can do. Your friends are worried about you.”
“Does Kristy know you’re here?”
Even if she’s worried about me, I find it hard to believe Kristy sicked this man on me. She knows how much Adam hates me. And even if I haven’t told her just how much his opinion hurts, she knows his words tear me up inside.
“Kristy doesn’t, but Logan does.”
“Logan did this to me?”
“Did this to you? You sound like a victim.”
“I’m just confirming every belief you have of me, Adam. I’m selfish, and I don’t care about anyone, remember?”
Is it regret I see softening his features right now? No, he isn’t capable of softness or regret when it comes to me. And after everything that is now public knowledge, he likely despises me more than he did before. If that’s even possible.
“We’re supposed to be trying to get along,” he reminds me.
I only wanted to get along with him for Kristy’s sake, until I had time to tell her about everything. Now that she knows – now that all her friends know, and Australia is beginning to find out – I don’t need to get along with this man. We might share friends and live next to each other, but there’s no reason for us to be in the same room except on the rare occasions there are celebrations for Logan and Kristy.
“Trying to get along is a waste of time. You don’t like me, and I don’t like you.”
“I promised Kristy I’d work harder to get along with you. Besides, your friends are worried about you.”
Of course, he’s here because of Kristy. What would it be like to have Adam care about me that much?
I push the question out of my head because I’ll never have an answer, and thoughts like that will only eat me alive if I let them.
“I’ve told Kristy I’m fine. I told her she doesn’t need to worry about me.”
“You’ve been in bed since Saturday, according to Logan. Wouldn’t you be worried if it was Kristy lying in bed, day in, day out?”
Damn it, he has me there. How do I tell him that I have no motivation to move or do anything else? I wouldn’t even know what to do if I did move. The last time I told him I thought my life was over, he said he despised me. Something sharp and jagged rips through me at the memory.
“Fine, I’ll get up,” I say.
I don’t want to get up. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do when I’m not in bed. I keep hoping the answer will come to me, that I’ll suddenly work out how I can fix this. But the answer hasn’t come. Not yet.
“You need a plan, Jess. You need something to do so that Kristy and Logan aren’t worried about you slipping further and further down the rabbit hole.”
“They don’t need to worry about that.”
“Don’t they?” he mocks, letting his gaze drift over me.
Suddenly I’m aware of the fact I haven’t brushed my hair in days; I haven’t showered in days. I must look a mess. I don’t even look in the mirror when I wash my hands after visiting the bathroom. The only thing I have done lately is brushed my teeth every morning and evening, and that’s because the sugar and milk in my tea make it essential. I don’t want to feel like I have fungus growing in my mouth. I cross my arms and cover my breasts. I hadn’t even realised I was sitting here in front of him braless until his gaze latches onto them and stays there a moment too long.
I think I must just cover them before my nipples harden under the soft material. A tug of lust pulls tight in my womb, the reaction to his perusal so out of place and unexpected I feel completely knocked off balance and shaken. I am so emotionally messed up; it’s unreal. That my enemy can provoke that kind of response from me is appalling. The sooner he’s out of here, the better.
Adam’s gaze climbs back to meet mine. I have no guard and no armour against his scrutiny. This is me, laid bare for him to see. And while I hate the feeling, trying to hide from him is pointless. I could have the best make-up artist in the world make me over and wear the most expensive designer clothes, and Adam would still see me as I am right now.
“If I tell you I’ll get up and stop worrying Kristy and Logan, will you please go away?” I ask, sounding more defeated than I’d like.
“No. I said you need a plan and we’re going to work on that now.”
“Adam…please. I can’t.”
Not with you.
“I have a proposal, and I want you to hear me out.”
I would protest, but he’s not leaving until he says whatever he’s come here to say.
“If it means you’ll leave after you’ve said your piece, let’s get it over with.”
He nods. “I want to interview you on my show.”
“What?” I feel faint and a little dizzy at the thought of it. “Absolutely not.”
He’s insane if he thinks I’ll let him tear me apart on radio with everyone listening. Isn’t he satisfied now that his friends know I’m a homewrecker? Does he need the truth about me revealed to everyone else? He must hate me even more than I thought possible.
“You have to face the music. I know this is hard for you, but you can’t hide forever.”
“Don’t pretend you know anything about what I’m going through,” I tell him bitterly.
Sure, he knows I slept with a married man, and he thinks I deserve everything I’m getting, as do I, but he doesn’t know what this is like. He doesn’t know what it’s like to break his moral compass. He didn’t know what it’s like to look in the mirror every day and see someone who caused others pain and wrecked a marriage. He doesn’t know what it’s like to face the thought of life without the career he’s worked so hard for.
So, even if I did bring this on myself, he doesn’t know what it’s like to be me. And I’m certainly not going to go on his show to try and explain it to him. I’ve heard the interviews he and his co-star Dani Jones conduct, and they aren’t as light and fluffy as a lot of commercial radio shows are. No, Adam and Dani take themselves and their interviews seriously. They ask questions designed to reveal everything a person might be hiding.
“You’d be surprised what I know about hanging on by a thread,” he says.
My eyes lock with his, stunned to hear him say anything so personal to me. “I…”
“High school was a rough time for me,” he says. “The worst.”
“Don’t be. It made me stronger. Made me who I am today.”
I’m not sure I like the person he is today, but I’m so surprised he’s sharing something this personal with me that I don’t mention it.
“But there was a time there…” His gaze becomes even more intense. “When I was going to end it all. Only a school guidance counsellor, changing schools, meeting Logan and the guys saved me. If it hadn’t been for them…”
“What? You wouldn’t be here right now?”
Adam chuckles softly. “You’re probably regretting I didn’t end my life right now, aren’t you?”
“As much as I wish you were anywhere else but here right now, no, I don’t wish you were dead, Adam. And that’s a horrible thing to say.”
He nods but doesn’t say anything, stretching the moment between us.
“I might not know exactly what you’re going through, Jess, but I know what it’s like to be pushed to the edge and not see a way out.”
I still want to tell him that he doesn’t know anything about what I’m going through. But the feelings he just expressed about high school sound a lot like the ones I’m experiencing right now.
“And if you don’t do something, you’re heading for a breakdown or something worse.”
“Maybe you’re right,” I admit hesitantly. “But I would be a fool to go on your program and let you interview me. You hate me, despise me.”
He looks set to protest, but then he shakes his head as if to clear it. “If you think of me as the very worst thing you’ll face, doesn’t that make it easier? If I’m the enemy, then all you have to worry about is dealing with is me. Face down your worst fear, Jess, come on my show and get everything out in the open. At the moment, you’re waiting for everything to blow up in your face.”
“So, you want me to detonate the bomb myself?”
“Haven’t you heard? Attack is the best form of defence?”
“I’ve never been one to attack anything.”
I’ve cruised through life, finding it easy because everyone liked me and because people thought me beautiful. I’ve never needed to attack anything.
“That has to change. I won’t lie to you. You’re going to face a wave of public disapproval. But if you handle it the right way, and I mean getting out there, talking about it, and striking pre-emptively, you’ll find it’s over much quicker than ignoring everything and hiding.”
“I wasn’t going to hide forever.”
“No, just until the storm passes. You don’t realise the storm won’t pass until you put yourself into the eye of it and deal with it directly.”
I don’t want to deal with it, I almost say. I haven’t even accepted it’s happening. Not really. I keep hoping I’ll figure out what to do next, and I can move on once I know just how bad this situation is. But I won’t know just how bad everything is until I face what’s coming.
Damn it, Adam is right.
“Even if you do have a point…I could offer anyone I want an interview. Why should I let you interview me?”
“After everything I’ve said to you, I understand why you’re hesitant to give me the interview. But if you think of me as your enemy and as the worst thing you’ll face, it can’t get any worse for you. And…” he pauses and takes a breath. “I’ll prep you for it. I can run you through some questions and possible scenarios that might come up. Make sure you’re confident.”
“And you’d do this out of the kindness of your heart?” I scoff.
“Of course not. This is going to be a big interview for me. The radio station will plug it. Dan and I are up for a promotion, and if the interview goes as well as it might, Dan and I might get the drive-home slot.”
If it goes well for him, or well for me? For him, obviously. It makes sense that the harder I fall in the eyes of the public and the bigger deal my interview is, the more likely it will be that Adam and Dani get their promotion. That’s the way journalism works, isn’t it?
Adam isn’t doing any of this for me, but at least he isn’t lying to me about it. He could have told me he was going to help me nail this interview for my sake – for Kristy and Logan’s sake. But instead, he offered me the truth. He wants to interview me because it will make people tune in, and if what gets said is dramatic enough, his career will receive a boost.
All the while mine shatters around me.
Staying holed up in my room, however, isn’t going to prevent my career from being ruined. Adam was right about that. And my identity already feels as if it has shattered apart. Allowing Adam to interview me might make everything worse, but once everything is out in the open, I’ll know where I stand with my career. I can move on. Pick up the wreckage of my life and face what I’ve done. Lying here, doing nothing is cowardly. Worse still, I’m causing my friends to worry about me. I don’t want that.
And Adam was right about one more thing. He is the enemy. He already thinks the worst of me. Public opinion can’t be much worse than his. If I can face him and his questions, then I can face anyone I don’t know.
“Okay,” I murmur.
Adam blinks as if he’s not sure he heard me correctly. “You’ll do it?”
“I’ll do it.”
“In that case, I’ll stick to my promise and leave you alone.” He stands up. “But I’ll be back tomorrow.”
When I go to protest, he puts his hand up to stop me. “I meant what I said about prepping you. I’ll be back with interview questions tomorrow, and we can go through them.”
I nod. I don’t want to spend time with him, but it makes sense to prepare myself.
After he walks out of the bedroom, I lie down again, but instead of feeling lethargic and miserable, I feel restless. Suddenly, I have energy, even if it does stem from agitation and nervousness over the interview. So, I get up and walk into the bathroom, turn the taps on in the shower, strip, and step under the water for the first time in days.
Logan and Kristy are clearly relieved when they find me up and about that afternoon, confirming everything Adam said about them being worried about me. I never set out to scare them, but I did. Perhaps this is the reason I don’t confront Logan about talking to Adam, or mention to Kristy that Adam paid me a visit this morning. Adam’s presence did what it was designed to do; it got me moving. I can’t be angry with Logan about it. He was right to intervene.
As promised, Adam returns the next morning. When I’m the one who opens the front door, he grins. “You’re up.”
“Showered, too,” I tell him.
If I didn’t know better, it would be easy to convince myself it’s admiration and respect in his eyes as he takes me in, wearing my designer jeans and blouse.
“Are Logan and Kristy home?” he asks.
“Yes, they’re asleep, though. Well, they’re in bed. I don’t know what they’re doing, but I don’t hear any wild sex noises.”
“Wild sex noises? You make it sound like a zoo. Did you tell them about the interview?”
“I haven’t yet. Have you?”
“Nope. Do you want to take a walk while we start going through some of the interview questions?”
Outside is a neutral place to spend time with Adam. I might find it easier to answer his questions if we’re not sitting down face to face. He’s dressed casually, in a black polo shirt and jeans, yet sitting face to face with this man – being on the receiving end of his intense blue gaze – won’t alleviate the nerves plaguing me.
“Let me just put shoes on,” I say.
As soon as I’m ready, I walk outside and meet Adam on the front doorstep.
“So, I thought I’d start with some basic questions, and then run you through some scenarios.”
We start heading in the direction of the park I know nearby. It’s a relief not to be looking at Adam as we walk. As it is, my heart has started picking up its pace, and it’s not because of exercise. It’s ridiculous to be this nervous when no one else is going to hear the answers to these questions. And I’m hardly going to affect Adam’s opinion of me by talking about this topic, but adrenaline rushes through me as if this is a real interview.
I take some deep breaths and try to calm myself. If this is what I’m like now, how am I going to cope when I’m on the air, live?
“The rumour is that you seduced Grant Glendon, that you’d had your eye on him since the very beginning and you went after him.”
“Is there a question in there?” I ask.
“Did you set out to seduce a married man, Jess? Did you set your sights on him and go for it?”
I glance out of him out of the corner of my eye, trying to work out if he’s asking me because he’s preparing me, or if he genuinely wants to know the answer.
“There was no seduction on my part. I certainly didn’t set my sights on him. I knew he was married and I respect the institution of marriage.”
“You’ve never married, though, have you?”
I don’t even pretend I’m not looking at him now. He doesn’t return my gaze, however. He keeps looking straight ahead as we continue walking. Of course, he knows I haven’t been married. I must assume he asked because it could come up in the interview.
“But you respect the institution?”
“Then what was your relationship to the show host?”
“Grant and I were…friends.”
“Friends? Can you elaborate on that?”
“We hung out a lot.”
“And out of it.”
“Even though you knew he was married?”
“Yes, I didn’t know a lot of people in London. Even though I had no romantic interest in Grant, we still had a lot in common.”
“Did you spend time with Grant and his wife? Did you try to make a friend out of Casey?”
I’m glad Adam isn’t looking at me now. If he were, he’d likely see the guilt on my face.
“No, usually it was just Grant and myself, or we’d spend time with a group of people from work, or people he knew. Grant and Casey were having…problems. They didn’t seem to spend much time together at all.”
“Grant and Casey were having marital problems? Could they have been caused by all the time he spent hanging out with you?”
“I believe they were having problems before I took the job in London. And I had no intention making a move on Grant.”
“But you wanted to, didn’t you? You were attracted to Grant Glendon?”
We stop on the corner of the street. Adam is watching me carefully, and I can’t breathe so well. I don’t want to answer this question honestly. It’s condemning. But I can hardly plead the fifth.
“Grant is…attractive. Obviously, I didn’t fail to notice that.”
“And you were attracted to him?”
“Yes,” I offer too meekly. “I was attracted to him. But he was the host of the show that I was working on, and I didn’t want to screw up my job. I liked him, and I was attracted to him, but I wasn’t going to sleep with him. I never meant to sleep with him, Adam. It was honest to God a drunken mistake that I regret every day.”
Too quickly, this practice run has become about convincing my enemy and neighbour I’m not the horrible homewrecker he believes I am. I don’t want him to despise me and hate me more than he already does for something I didn’t mean to happen.
And I hate how much I want him not to hate me.
“But you did sleep with him, didn’t you?” Adam asks.
Disappointment over his reaction is an ache in my chest, and my lungs feel as if they’re shrinking. He’s never going to see me in a positive light, no matter what I say. In his eyes, I’ll always be the woman who slept with a married man and destroyed a marriage. Despite this, I force myself to hold his gaze and not shirk away. I might be ashamed of what I did, but I won’t lie about it.
“Yes, I slept with him. I wish I hadn’t, and I’d do anything to take it back, but I did.”
“You said it was a drunken mistake. Usually, alcohol implies memory lapse. Do you remember any of it?”
I shake my head. “I don’t remember a second of it, or how I even got to the room. But when I woke up, I was in bed with him naked. So, I had to have had sex with him, right?”
“I don’t know, you tell me.”
I don’t understand why he’s watching me, waiting for my final answer. I did just say I woke up beside Grant. Naked. In bed. In a hotel. Why would I have been naked if nothing happened?
And yet, I can’t deny that his question makes me come back to the same thing that has bothered me consistently since that night whenever I let myself dwell on it.
I didn’t feel like I’d had sex when I woke up with him.
“Did you have sex with him, Jess?” he asks again, his expression intense as he watches me.
“Are you asking me because this is going to be one of the questions in the interview or because you want to know?” I can’t help but ask.
Is this personal or part of his coaching for the interview?
“Because I want to know,” he says without any apology.
That’s one thing I can always count on with Adam. He never lies to me. And I don’t know why, but his answer relieves me. Even if he never believes my response, he does want to know what I’m going to say.
“I don’t know,” I tell him, shaking my head. “I honestly don’t know. The next day I didn’t feel…It was as though nothing had happened.” My cheeks heat ever so slightly as we discuss something so incredibly personal, but I try to shake off the embarrassment.
“You didn’t feel like you’d had sex?” he asks.
The question is wat too personal. This whole topic is way too personal. And Adam would never get away with asking that on air, yet I’m compelled to answer it anyway.
“It didn’t feel like it, no.”
I can’t take my eyes off him as I wait for him to tell me he thinks I’m liar – incapable of honesty. A homewrecker and selfish.
Instead, he touches my arm gently, his eyes softer and warmer than I’ve ever seen them before. “Let’s head back. I think that’s enough for today.”
We turn around and start walking back in silence, and I wonder what just happened. We were in the middle of an intense conversation, and then he stopped it. I can’t tell what he thinks as we reach my doorstep.
“I won’t come in. I’ve got some stuff to do. Tell Kristy and Logan I’ll catch them later.”
“Okay, but…are we going to do this again? I mean, the interview preparation.”
“We’ll do this on Monday when Logan and Kristy aren’t around,” he says.
Then he’s gone, leaving me more confused than ever. Everything I told him about that night…does he believe me or not?
And why do I have to care so much whether he does?
A/N: I might be pushing the boundaries of what’s believable here, but thankfully I can do that in my fiction. 😀
Some of you have said you’re ready for some romance in this story. I’ve just reread the next four chapters and romance is definitely beginning to blossom.
Tune in for romance, drama, and some laughter too in the upcoming chapters.
Thanks for reading.
Lots of love,