“I like that about you. I like your internal conflict, your sweetness. I like that you have this insanely wealthy family but I’ve seen you wear the same dress a few times.” He licked his lips and gave me a predatory smile. “Mostly, I like that you’re so clearly good and yet have let me do such bad things to you.”
“Ah, but that’s the point. Most people would think you were mad to meet me at that warehouse. You’re an American heiress and you let some whorish Brit take pictures of you na**d. Take video of you masturbating in my office tonight just for the thrill of knowing I’ll watch it. But it’s what you’ve asked me for.”
He leaned back in his chair, watched me. He looked so serious, almost perplexed. “I’m a f**king bloke; I’m not going to say no to that. But I didn’t think women like you existed. So naïve in all these really obvious ways, yet so f**king sexual that a friendly, gentle little shag on a mattress would never be enough.”
I lifted my glass, took a sip while he watched my mouth. Licking my lips, I smiled at him. “I think you’ll find most women aren’t always satisfied by a friendly, gentle little shag on a mattress.”
“And that’s why the cameras and the women chase you,” I said, looking at him from over the top of my glass. “It’s more than the history with Cecily. If it were just that, they would have lost interest within a few weeks. But you’re the man from the paper with a different woman all the time. The one nobody can seem to catch. The man who obviously knows his way around a pussy.”
Max’s eyes widened a little, pupils dilating like a drop of ink into the dusk sky. “I’m not with a different woman every night lately.”
Ignoring him, I finished my thought. “Women don’t always want to be treated like we’re delicate, or rare, or somehow more precious. We want to be wanted. We want sex to be just as raw as you do. You’re the guy who knows that.”
He leaned forward on his elbows, studying me. “But why do I feel like you’re the one giving me something special? Something you’ve never given anyone before?”
He opened his mouth to say something, but then my phone rang, vibrating where I’d put it on the table. And as both Max and I looked down at it, I knew we saw the name at exactly the same time.
I put Sara in a cab and watched as the taillights disappeared into the darkness.
She’d ignored the call at dinner, glancing at the screen before silencing it to vibrate against the table, but not before I saw who it was, and definitely not before I saw her try to hide her reaction.
I’d never seen anyone shut down like that before; it was like someone flipped a switch and the light slowly drained from her face. She’d begun picking at her food and stopped talking, withdrawing into herself and answering in single-word sentences for the remainder of the meal. I’d tried to lighten the mood, told a few jokes and flirted with her shamelessly, but . . . nothing. After about ten minutes she’d put us both out of our misery, feigning a headache and insisting that she take a cab home. Alone.
I continued to stare off into the empty street as my car pulled up to the curb, idling quietly behind me. I waved off my driver, opening the door myself and climbing inside.
“Let’s head home, Scott,” I said, slumping back into the seat. We pulled away and I watched the city rush by in a blur, my mood darkening with each block we passed.
Things had been going so well. She’d finally started to open up, to let me into that vault of a mind of hers. I was still reeling from her admission that her parents owned one of the largest luxury department store chains in the country, and then “Andy cell.” Fucking Andy cell.
Anger flared in my chest and for a brief moment I wondered how often they spoke. Six years was a long time and meant they had a history that would be hard to simply brush under the rug; I don’t know why I’d assumed he was completely out of her life. It made sense that she didn’t want to be in another relationship, but her forced distance always felt so much larger than that.
Maybe he wanted her back.
I frowned as I let that thought roll around in my head, hating the way it felt.
Of course he wanted her back; how could he not? For the hundredth time I found myself wondering what exactly happened between them and why she was so against telling me.
We drove through midtown and were almost to my building when my mobile vibrated in my pocket.
Well, this night certainly went tits up.
I reread her text and considered calling, knowing it’d be a lost cause. She was so f**king stubborn. I typed out at least ten different replies, deleting each one before sending.
The problem was that I wanted to talk about this and she didn’t. The problem was also that I’d somehow misplaced my balls and my spine.
“You mind driving around a bit, Scott?” I asked, and he shook his head, turning north past the park. I flipped through my contacts and pressed Will’s name. It rang twice before he answered.
“You got a few?” I asked, looking out over the passing streets.
“Sure, give me a second.” There was some shuffling and the sound of a door closing before he was back. “Everything okay?”
I leaned my head back against the seat, not sure where to start. I just knew I had to unload some confusion with someone, and, unfortunately for him right now, that someone in my life was Will. “I have no idea.”
“Well, that was cryptic. I didn’t have an email telling me something is on fire, so I’m assuming this isn’t about work.”
“Okay . . . Hey, didn’t you say something about having plans tonight?”
“That’s sort of why I’m calling, actually.” I scrubbed a hand along my jaw. “Jesus. I can’t believe I’m doing this,” I said. “I think I just need someone to . . . to listen. Like, if I say it out loud it’ll make more sense.”
“Well, this should be good,” he said, chuckling into the phone. “Let me get comfortable.”
“You know the woman I’ve been seeing.”
“Yes, Max. Your amazing shag. The secret sex-only situation with the woman who does not want to be photographed and which will most definitely not go down in flames.”
I sighed. “So, about that,” I mumbled. “I mean . . . this is just between us, yeah?”
“Of course,” he said, sounding a bit offended. “I may be an as**ole but I’m a trustworthy asshole. And shouldn’t you be over here so we can, like, I don’t know, do each other’s nails while we talk about our feelings?”
Silence. Well, that shut him up.
“The very one. It started before I even knew she worked with Ben.”
“Wow. I mean, she’s gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but, she seems really . . . reserved? Who would’ve thought she had it in her. Nice.”
And because it felt so good to just say it, I barreled on. “It started out as just a hookup. I could tell she was using me to play around, explore things.”
I scratched my jaw and winced as I admitted, “She likes to have sex in public.”
“Uh?” he said, laughing. “That doesn’t sound like the Sara Dillon I’ve met.”
“And she lets me take pictures of her.”
“Photographs, sometimes more. Of us.”
The silence stretched for a few moments and I swear I could hear his rapid-fire blinking. He cleared his throat. “Okay, the sex in public is pretty awesome, but every guy I know has taken pictures while he’s f**king a girl.”
“The problem is tonight was the first night I managed to get her to go to a restaurant. I find out her parents own f**king Dillons, Will. The department store? These are things I didn’t even know before yesterday.”
He was quiet for a beat and then laughed quietly. “Yeah.”
“So, like this, we’re actually talking for once, and then her twat of an ex calls.”
“And it’s obvious he did a right number on her but she just shut down and couldn’t get away fast enough after that. She’ll have sex with me until she can barely walk, but she won’t tell me why it took her over a month to agree to actually have a meal with me.”
“So her parents own a store and she grew up in Chicago. That’s it? I know nothing about her, really.”
“Will, are you even listening to me?”
“Of course I’m listening. You know nothing.”
“So . . . have you googled her?” he asked.
I groaned. “I thought we had this conversation after the Cecily debacle. Nothing good comes from personal Google searches.”
“But professionally, if you’re working with someone new, you look them up, right?”
“Well, I googled Sara as soon as I knew she’d be one of my contacts at RMG. It sure was informative.”
My throat grew tight, and I tugged uselessly at my collar. “Tell me what you saw.”
He laughed. “Not a chance. Find some balls and strap them on while your laptop boots. And on that note, this little chat’s been great but I gotta go. Company.”
I directed Scotty back to my building. Once upstairs, I made it all of five minutes before I was at the computer and typing the name “Sara Dillon” into the search engine.
There wasn’t just the odd mention here and there; there were pages and pages of results, possibly more than I’d find on myself. I took a deep breath and went to the images first, scrolling through photos of her that had to span at least the last ten years of her life. She was so young in some of them, her butterscotch hair styled in a sleek pixie in some, a messy shag in others. In all of them, her smile was unguarded and naïve.
And these weren’t just a collection of family snapshots or selfies; they were high-definition paparazzi photos taken with expensive zoom lenses, bought and sold to newspapers and magazines with exclamation-point-heavy titles, even video and archived news footage. There were parties and weddings, charity events and vacations, and almost always with the same man at her side.
He was only a few inches taller than she was, with black hair and sharp, Roman features. His bright, toothy smile looked about as sincere as I imagined it would, which is to say not sincere in the slightest.
So this was Andy. Known to the world as Andrew Morton. Democratic congressman, serving the seventh district of Illinois.
Suddenly, a lot of things were falling into place.
With a resigned sigh, I clicked on what seemed to be a fairly recent picture; her hair was about the same as it was now and there was a Christmas tree in the background. The caption below the photo read:
Sara Dillon and Andrew Morton at the annual Chicago Sun-Times Holiday Bash, where Congressman Morton announced his plans to run for the United States Senate next fall.
I clicked the link and read the entire article, confirming that this story was written only last winter, and that meant the congressman was probably already on the Illinois campaign trail. I routed back to the main image page and scrolled back to the top where, beside several similar shots, there was a picture of Sara running through a tangle of paparazzi, covering her face with her coat. I’d ignored these at first because her face hadn’t been visible. I clicked the link to the story associated with the photo, dated only a few weeks before I met her, and an article from the Chicago Tribune came up.
Democratic congressman Andrew Morton was spotted last night in an intimate tête-à-tête with a woman other than his fiancée, Sara Dillon. The brunette, identified as Melissa Marino, is a junior aide in his Chicago-based offices.
In the middle of the article was the photo in question, of a man—obviously Andy—passionately kissing a woman—obviously not Sara.
Dillon and Morton have been linked since 2007, and the pair, the darlings of the Chicago social scene ever since, were engaged last December shortly after Morton announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate. Sara Dillon, head of finance for the commercial firm Nieman & Shimazawa, is the only child of Roger and Samantha Dillon, founders of the well-known department store chain found across seventeen states and hefty financial backers of the Morton campaign.
The Dillon family spokesperson couldn’t be reached for comment, but a spokesperson for the Morton reelection campaign responded to the Tribune inquiry with only, “Mr. Morton’s private life has never been a subject for public consumption.”