Authors: Erin McCarthy
Tags: #Romance, #dpg pyscho, #New Adult
After I hung up with Cat, I stood on the hard-packed dirt and let the wind pummel me. It smelled like rain was coming and the gusts made me wish I had kept my hair short instead of growing it out of sheer boredom. The strands were repeatedly getting tangled in my eyelashes and sticking to my lips. My fingers were starting to numb from the cold but I didn’t want to go back to the house yet.
I texted Devin back.
K. A is fine with me. Am I allowed to have friends over?
After saving his number as Gold Daddy I started to tuck the phone away, assuming it would be awhile before he got back to me. I was startled when it buzzed immediately in my hand.
Like a boyfriend?
No. My foster sister and her boyfriend. To hang out.
That’s fine. No overnight guests.
So what, he didn’t want me having sex in his house? Like I would ever even contemplate that. If I were having sex with anyone. Which I wasn’t. And never had.
Well, aside from myself.
God. I had to really figure out how to ask if there were cameras in the house. But if I did, he would assume I was intending to do something I wasn’t supposed to.
Make sure you lock up and don’t walk around alone at night.
Was this what it felt like to have a father? The last thing I wanted was for him to go all paternal on me. Not when I was pretty sure I could orgasm just by looking at him. Weird. It was all just weird.
He sent me a face with its eyes rolling in exasperation.
I laughed, all alone on the coast, without another human being in sight.
My phone rang, indicating an actual call. Gold Daddy. The name so didn’t suit him. Not to me anyway.
“Hello?” I said, suddenly nervous.
“Hey, it’s Devin.” There was a rustling as he adjusted his phone.
What, like now he was going to announce himself? “Hi.” I waited for him to explain why he was calling. I could hear voices in the background.
“Yes, the ahi tuna,” he said. “Thank you.”
He was ordering dinner. I kept waiting, suddenly annoyed. I didn’t want to be multi-tasked.
“Tuna is ick,” a female voice said, loudly enough that I could hear the words clearly, register her horror. I wondered if he had me on speaker phone.
“No one said you had to eat it,” Devin said mildly. “Tiffany?”
Right there. Waiting patiently. It’s what I did. “Yes.”
“I just wanted to let you know that you can take Amelia off her leash. She’ll come back to you if you call for her.”
“Okay.” He could have texted that to me.
“Who are you talking to?” the female voice whined. “God, it’s like every two seconds you’re on the phone.”
“It’s business, sweetheart. Daddy has to pay the bills.”
I just about threw up in my mouth. Could he sound more patronizing? Could she sound more bratty and stupid?
“This wind sucks, it ruined my hair. Though I mean, I am lucky I can usually work the windswept look,” unknown woman said.
Nice complain-a-brag. She’d done that like a pro. I had zero problem picturing the woman he was with- tall, blonde, tan.
“Most of us did get the short end of the genetic stick compared to you,” he told her.
How could he foster that arrogance? How could he not be annoyed with her? She was as ick as ahi tuna. I made faces at Amelia, and stabbing gestures towards the phone.
“Now let me talk for a second, Brooke. Stop pouting and show me your pretty smile.”
I couldn’t help it. I gave an involuntary snort. He didn’t even sound like the same man who’d been in the house with me the night before. This guy sounded like the type of dude I had pictured originally. A sunglass-wearing plastic surgery victim with a bevy of inappropriately young chicks on both arms. My lip curled up in disgust.
But Devin heard me. “Is there something you’d like to say, Tiffany?”
I stared back at the house. Its grandeur dominated the coastline. “No.” Then because I couldn’t resist, I added, “You called me.”
“I did. Maybe because in the midst of my ridiculous life I wanted to talk to someone normal. It doesn’t matter.”
Was I normal? His life ridiculous? I supposed both were true.
He definitely had me on speaker. I could hear the woman quite clearly now, like she’d moved in very close to him. “Why did I wear this dress, G Daddy, if you’re not even going to look at me?”
“Then let’s go take it off you,” he said brusquely.
Wow. The shock of his harsh words hit me, my cold fingers slipping on my phone. “I should let you go,” I managed to blurt out. “Is there something specific you wanted? Are you coming back to Richfield?”
There was a pause. “No. I’m not coming back.”
I should have been relieved. Yet I was disappointed. He was a puzzle I couldn’t sort out. The only bit of excitement in an otherwise extremely dull life. “If you change your mind, the doughnuts are here, waiting.”
“You make me feel like a pretentious asshole.” The “s” is asshole slurred.
It finally dawned on me that he was drunk. That would explain the random phone call, the weird comments. “I don’t make you feel anything. You do that to yourself.”
He gave a muffled laugh. “I’m glad I left the dog with you. You look so small on the security camera, walking around outside.”
I swallowed hard. So he could see me, at least on the exterior of the house. “I’m fine.”
“I hope so. I find myself worrying about you.”
“That’s nice of you.” Weird. But nice.
“Sometimes I am nice. And sometimes I’m brutally selfish.”
“That doesn’t make you unique.” Then because it was a conversation that couldn’t really go anywhere but weirder still, I added, “I should let you go. I think your friend wants you to herself.”
“Yeah. What do
I closed my eyes, longing rising in me without warning. I wanted to be loved. Cherished. Cared for. I wanted to matter to someone, anyone. I wanted a guy to look at me and not see what he could get from me, but what he could give to me. Friendship. Companionship. Partnership.
“I want to be alone,” I told him, finally, voice quiet. Firm.
There was truth to it. It just wasn’t the whole truth.
“Then you’re in the right place.”
Opening my eyes again, I watched the wind kick up the waves in the water, big angry bursts of ombre color- black to navy to aqua to white. With the nearest neighbors a half mile down the road, I could fall into the ocean and no one would notice. I could disappear and it would be days before anyone thought to wonder what had happened to me.
Yet for the first time, I was master of my own destiny. No one cared what happened to me, but I did. Here, at Richfield, I could be myself, figure out my future.
“Yeah,” I told him. “You’re right. I am in the right place.”
When I went back inside I decided to give in to my curiosity and explore the house. Ignoring the formal rooms on the first floor I had already glanced in, I went up the stairs, opening bedroom after bedroom door. None were particularly unique or interesting. Just lots of traditional furnishings that matched the New England vibe of the house. The dark wood didn’t look like something that Devin’s ex-wife would choose, but neither did it look like his style. Not that I knew either one of them, but if I had a house, I would think my furniture would reflect my personal style.
Not that I had much style at present, but I’d want a colorful, casual house. Warm. Playful.
In what was most likely the master bedroom, I drew up short in the doorway. There was a doll on the bed. Just sitting there, in the middle of the mountain of pillows. Not an antique doll, but a modern one, styled in a short pink skirt and tight sweater, blonde hair. Amelia had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace so I was exploring alone and after glancing behind me like I might get busted by an invisible person, I took a tentative step forward. Unless Devin had a daughter or a niece I didn’t know about, that doll was creepy as hell.
Picking it up, I brushed the hair back and studied the face. It looked familiar and I figured it had to be some pop culture reference I wasn’t connecting the dots to. I had never owned a doll myself. But then I took a peek at the inside of the sweater and saw the tag was a designer label. Whether real or not, I had no idea. Below that it said, “Special Edition Kadence Doll.”
OMG, it was a fucking doll of his ex-wife. I set it back down, horrified, and whirled around. Movement behind me made me jump until I realized I was just seeing my own reflection in the giant mirror over the dresser.
“Jesus,” I whispered, putting my hand on my chest to steady my breathing. I looked pale, dark eyes huge as they stared back at me. I had pulled my black hair back off my face, but a few wisps had escaped on top, giving me a disheveled look.
And to think for half a second, I’d actually fantasized that maybe Devin Gold found me interesting in an intellectual sort of way.
Maybe some day there would be a guy for me, but it wouldn’t be Rich Dude who dated supermodels and kept a fugly weird-ass doll of his ex-wife on his bed.
For that, I should be grateful.
Yet that didn’t stop me from checking my phone to see if I had missed a call from him or if he had texted.
I hadn’t. He didn’t.
Jamming a toothpick into a cupcake, I bent over the oven in Devin’s kitchen and carefully assessed the results. Clean. Cupcakes done. Satisfied, I pulled them out with oven mitts and set them to cool. Baking was my new thing, especially at night when the darkness pressed in on me.
Actually, a lot of things were my new things. It had been six weeks since I had moved into Richfield and its blissful silence, and quiet luxury. I had filled my days with dusting, cooking, taking ridiculously long showers, and reading dozens of ebooks. I rode to town on my bike and got groceries and checked out tapes on learning French from the local library. As I started cleaning up the mixing bowl and measuring cups, French filled the room from the DVD I had inserted into the laptop that sat on the desk in the kitchen.
Verbs. Etre. Aller. Avoir.
I liked the rhythm of the language. I didn’t think I was actually learning a damn word, but it filled the house with sound. It was the one thing I had expected to love about living alone, the lack of noise. And I did. But it also echoed around me, foreign and profound. So I almost always had music or the TV on.
As for the mental solitude, hell, I was used to that. Gram hadn’t been good company. She had never once asked me how I was or for my opinion. Being away from her just allowed me the ability to indulge in doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It rocked. I was pretty sure that I couldn’t be any happier, ever. I knew I was going to have to stick to my plan to save my money and start nursing school the following year, but for now, I was content to roll through each easy day. This was my version of spring break. A party of privacy.
It wasn’t my house, but considering I was the only person ever in it, I had settled in, and felt comfortable there. I never heard from Devin. The owner, as I forced myself to think of him. Hadn’t since the day I’d woken up to find him gone and he had said that he wouldn’t be back until December. I wasn’t sure what that meant, exactly, if he was planning a big holiday or whatever at Richfield, but it was still two weeks away so I still had time before he interrupted my routine.
I had mixed feelings about that. I wanted to see him, because he intrigued me, but I knew he was going to make me feel ridiculous.
As I went to the pantry for the container of frosting I had bought, my phone chimed with a Google alert.
So, okay, I was stalking Devin online. I couldn’t help it. It was too easy, and I got a sick thrill at the voyeurism of seeing what he was doing in New York while I stayed in his country house. Over the past month, the only mentions had been a new record deal for one of his clients and two pictures of him with a leggy blonde underwear model at fashion week. The kind of woman I would expect him to be with, and while it had made me feel about as attractive as a stubby little garden gnome, I had to begrudgingly admit her appearance was an improvement over his ex-wife. This woman didn’t look quite so fake. Just thin, chic, and gorgeous.
This alert was a pic of them together from a gossip magazine’s website under the header “Fall Beach bodies.” He wasn’t the focus, she was. Brooke. And her amazing bikini body as she splashed Devin in the water.
So the blonde was the whiner who didn’t like ahi tuna and wanted “Daddy’s” full attention.
“On vacay in Turks and Caicos, Brooke shows off her incredible abs,” I read out loud. “Can you believe that, Amelia?” I asked the dog, who didn’t even blink from her curled-up position in her dog bed. It sat next to the island, and the fabric matched the stool cushions. “How does this stuff get published? Who cares?”
The answer was, of course, me. Not about the identity of Brooke’s trainer but about the fact that Devin was in the shot, looking pissed off at her. That was not a man who was frolicking. Though it was a man who himself had a great body below that stormy expression. I eyeballed his chest longer than I should have. “How is it some people are rich
good looking? What’s up with that? Spread it around, God.”
Amelia suddenly raised her head and listened. Not to my pointless babbling, but to a noise at the front of the house. I heard it too, though I wasn’t sure what I heard.
“J’ai, tu as, il a, nous avons, vous avez,” the woman’s voice droned on and I walked over and hit the pause button so I could hear better.
Nothing. The house creaked, the wind blowing, but it was the usual sounds of settling.
I was just starting to relax again when the peal of the doorbell rang through the house. I jumped. “Holy crap.” I’d never even heard the doorbell before. No one had come to the door in six weeks and while it wasn’t super late, it was still eight o’clock and dark out. Richfield wasn’t on the way to anything so it couldn’t be someone lost or broken down.
Moving down the hallway gingerly, the dog trotting beside me, I slid to the side of the front window and peeked out into the dark. There was a delivery truck in the drive, firing up loudly before pulling away. My heart rate settled down. “God, Tiffany, get a grip. It’s a package.”