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The page that opens is full of his stats and a more detailed description. And unlike the drawing of Des, these seem to be accurate, down to his sleeve of tattoos. They didn’t, however, mention his pointed ears or his wings.
Don’t know he’s a fairy.
But still, what they do have is damning.
I open the bottom drawer of my desk and pull out the bottle of Johnnie Walker.
Today is one of those days.
Temper comes in five minutes later. When she sees me drinking, she motions for the bottle. Reluctantly, I slide it across the desk.
“What’s going on, chick?” she asks, taking a drink. She knows that when Johnnie comes out, something bad has happened.
I suck on my teeth and shake my head.
She cringes at the burn of whiskey, waiting for me to say more.
I glance down at my bracelet. “My past caught up with me.”
She slides the bottle back my way. “Need me to hurt someone?” she asks, dead serious.
She and I are as close as friends come, and we have been since senior year of high school. And at the core of our friendship is a pact of sorts: nothing’s going to drag her towards the future she doesn’t want, and nothing’s going drag me back into the past I’ve worked to forget.
I huff out a laugh. “Eli’s already beaten you to it.”
“Eli?” she says, raising an eyebrow. “Girl, I’m hurt. Hoes before bros, remember?”
“I didn’t ask him to get involved. I broke up with him, and then he got involve—”
“What!” She grabs the table. “You broke up with him? When were you going to tell me?”
“Today. I was going to tell you today.”
She’s shaking her head. “Bitch, you should’ve called me.”
“I was busy ending a relationship.”
She falls back into her seat. “Shit girl, Eli’s going to stop giving us a discount.”
“That’s what your most upset by?” I say, taking another swig of whiskey.
“No,” she says. “I’m happy you grew a vagina and broke up with him. He deserves better.”
“I’m going to throw this bottle of whiskey at you.”
She holds her hands up to placate me. “I’m kidding. But seriously, are you okay?”
I barely stop myself from looking at my computer screen again.
I exhale. “Honestly? I have no fucking clue.”
I’m taking a healthy swig of wine when my back door opens and the Bargainer walks in.
“Trying to drink your feelings away again, cherub?”
My heart gallops at the sight of him in his black fitted shirt and faded jeans.
I set down my wine glass and the book I was reading. “Again?” I say, raising an eyebrow. “How would you know how I cope?”
“Rumors,” he says blandly.
I narrow my eyes. “Have you been keeping tabs on—?”
My voice cuts off as the Bargainer crosses the room, grabs my glass of wine, and makes his way to the kitchen sink. He dumps its contents down the drain.
“Hey!” I say, “That’s expensive Burgundy.”
“I’m sure your pocketbook is suffering,” he says. There’s not an ounce of remorse in his voice.
I follow him into my kitchen. “You shouldn’t waste good wine on principle.”
He moves away from the sink, and I gasp when I see my bottle of wine levitate off my coffee table and cross the living room and into the kitchen, landing in the Bargainer’s waiting hand.
He turns the bottle on its head, and I hear the sound of precious wine chugging out of it and into the porcelain basin of my sink.
“What are you doing?” I’m too shocked at his audacity to do more than gape as the last of the wine swirls down the drain.
“This is not how you solve your problems,” the Bargainer says, shaking the now-empty wine bottle at me.
The first flare of righteous indignation replaces my shock. “I was drinking a glass of wine, you psycho, not the whole damn bottle.”
He drops the bottle into the sink, and I jump when I hear glass shatter. “You’re in denial.” Des’s eyes are angry. He grabs my wrist roughly, never taking his eyes off of me.
He fingers a bead.
“What are you doing?” The first stirrings of trepidation speed up my heart rate.
“Taking care of you,” he says, staring at me with the same intensity.
I can’t help it, I glance down at his hands because his expression is making me squirm. Beneath his fingers a bead disappears.
I raise my eyebrows. Whatever repayment he just asked for, I know I’m not going to like it.
“Are you going to tell me what that bead just cost me?”
“You’ll figure it out soon enough.”
November, eight years ago
Ever since the Bargainer took me out last week—for coffee and pastries of all things—we’ve spent half of our evenings in my dorm, and the other half inside a bakery on the other side of the Isle of Man.
He’s been careful to keep things platonic, despite the fact that he’s been paying for the coffee and French macaroons I order every time we visit Douglas Café, the Isle of Man’s best bakery. Or that he’s spent most nights over the last month hanging with me.