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Authors: Jessica Hawkins

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Come Undone

BOOK: Come Undone
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Come Undone

The Cityscape Series: Book One

 

 

Jessica
Hawkins

Copyright © 2013 Jessica Hawkins

www.jessicahawkins.net

 

The Cityscape
Series: Book One, Come Undone

Cover Photo
© iStockphoto.com/VikaValter

All rights
reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of
this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or
by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior
written permission of the author.

This book is
a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products
of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

“What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street,

but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through
the mountains.”
-
Tennessee Williams’
A Streetcar Named Desire

 

 

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

 

OLIVIA COULDN’T QUITE REMEMBER
the first
time she saw Bill, just that one day he was there. They worked in the same
office building, thirty floors apart, and often met in the courtyard by the
fountain; him for a cigarette break (a habit she would soon break him of) and
her for a stolen moment of sunshine.

During
their brief encounters, she would test the waters with a glance here, a touch
there, and found her herself both relieved and disappointed at the lack of art
involved. Over time, her feelings for him grew fonder and she came to look
forward to their frequent meetings. She liked that he didn’t ask too many
questions, and he, well, he was smitten.

One
day, about six months into a developing friendship, Bill asked her out. She
peered at him from behind dark sunglasses and declined. He was undaunted by her
refusal, which she admired, though it also made her uneasy.

That
night she dreamed of him. He kissed her with gentle reverence and made love to
her in the dark, where his touch was as real as if he’d been there in bed next
to her.

When Olivia awoke the next morning, she started as
the dream, which felt more like a memory, flooded over her. She thought of it
all morning until, when they met the next day, she asked him to dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 1

 

 

EVER
SO SLOWLY, I touched the tube to my parted lips and glided on the Ruby Red. I
had always lacked the patience for lipstick and only used it for special
occasions. Next came a translucent lip gloss that left threads of goop as I
smoothed my lips together. I drew back slightly from the mirror to admire my
work.

Perfectly coiffed hair, teased and styled into a
long bob, floated just at my shoulders, every shiny brown lock suspiciously
cooperating. In the trash laid the scattered teeth of yet another broken comb.
I’d wrestled especially long with my tangles tonight, but looked particularly
posed as a result; so much so, that if one thing were to tremble, everything
else would come tumbling down. Or so it seemed. In that moment, I caught Bill’s
gaze in the reflection, his normally mild eyes watching me intently. I quickly
forgot that feeling of unease.

“You look good,” he said, admiring my emerald
green dress.

“Your favorite color,” I mused.

“Because it matches your eyes.” A mascara smear
on the mirror caught my attention, and I picked at it with my fingernail. “Do
we have to go tonight?” he asked.

“What?” I’d successfully chipped off the mark,
but now I was faced with the messy smudge of a fingerprint.

“Tonight. Let’s stay in.”

“Everyone’s going to be there.” I tossed the lip
products back into the drawer and wiped the counter with my palm. “People pay
good money for these tickets, babe.”

“Whose idea was this again?”

“Andrew’s firm got tickets for their clients.
Not everyone could make it, so he invited us.”

“But,” he began; a quick glare in his direction
silenced him. He held up his palms in defeat, and I turned back to my
reflection.

I checked my eyeliner one last time to make sure
it was even. “I talked to my father today. He’s going to be in Chicago for a
night next month and wants to have dinner.”

Bill groaned in response and slumped in the doorway.

“What? You don’t want to go to the ballet, you
don’t want to have dinner with my father . . . . It’s only one night.”

“And you’re so thrilled when my parents drive
in.”

“Touché.” I flipped my hair over my shoulder and
pushed a gold stud through my ear. “Well, you don’t have to come, but I know
he’d like to see you.”

“Sure he would, where else does he get free
legal advice?”

“Oh please, he has plenty of corporate lawyer
friends.”

“Not for work, Olivia. For his divorce from Gina.
Lawyer friends don’t put up with that shit, they charge you for it.”

“Well, get used to it, ‘cause he’s not going
anywhere. I’m sure if you ever need advice on how to win over girls half your
age, he’d be happy to help.”

“Half my age?” he repeated as he sauntered up
and encircled my waist. A lank piece of brown hair fell over his eye, and I
noted that he was overdue for a haircut. “Are you trying to get me locked up?
I’d say I’ve got my hands full married to a twenty seven-year-old.”

“Bill,” I whined, swatting his hands away.
“You’re going to wrinkle my dress, and I’m finally ready.”

“Yes, darling,” he said with a sly smile,
backing away. “I’ll pull the car around.” I followed him out of the bathroom
and then pivoted back quickly, grabbed a hand towel and wiped the smudge away.

~

We
arrived at the performance minutes before curtain. Teetering in my heels, I
clung to Bill’s arm as we scoured the crowd for familiar faces. Sophistication
perfumed the lobby, as if it had been bottled and sold to Chicago’s elite.
Smartly dressed women carefully stepped down scarlet-carpeted steps, passing
beneath elaborate chandeliers that cast shadowy corners.

“There they are,” Bill said. From behind, my two
best friends, registering at just a few inches over 5 feet, could almost be
sisters. Gretchen, in a revealing pink dress and boosted by spiky heels,
gestured wildly to the group around her. Her long platinum hair bounced in
signature curls with each exaggerated movement.

Next to her, Lucy dodged Gretchen’s flailing
limbs, anticipating her every movement. She wore a boat-neck black dress, and
her short brown hair was fashioned into a perfect chignon.

Her boyfriend, Andrew, stood off to the side,
wringing a program. Upon spotting us, he grinned toothily and beckoned us over.
“Sorry, Gretch,” he interrupted. “Everyone, this is Lucy’s other best friend,
Liv Germaine, and her husband Bill Wilson.”

      
“What, now
I’m the
other
best friend?” I joked,
shaking hands with someone whose name I never caught. “I only introduced them,
you know.”

      
“Liv and I
grew up together,” Gretchen explained.

      
“Sorry,” he
said again. “And Lucy and Liv met in college.”

      
Lucy looked
up at me with big brown eyes before hugging me. “Look, we’re the same height
now,” she said, showing off uncharacteristically high shoes.

      
“I don’t
know, shrimp,” Bill said. “Liv’s still got at least a couple inches on you.”

      
“Anyway,”
Gretchen interjected impatiently. “The plane lands, and I rush to the station,
just barely making the train. Since it’s now one in the morning and I’ve been
traveling for fourteen hours, I immediately pass out. When I wake up, the
– what are they called – stewardess? – she says, ‘Welcome to
Chile!’”

      
“Chile!”
one of the women cried.

      
“I’d gotten
on the wrong train, slept through the entire ride and ended up in Santiago.”

      
Everyone
laughed, and I politely joined in, though I’d heard the story twice before.

“To make matters worse, it was fifty-something
degrees outside, and I was wearing shorts and a tank top.” The man next to me
guffawed loudly, and I cast a wary glance in his direction. I noticed he was
the only one who had been introduced without a partner; Gretchen’s lure was
cast.

      
“Oh, I
think it’s time,” Lucy squeaked, just as the lights began to pulse. The group
dispersed as we made our way to our designated seats.

      
The single
man sidled up to Gretchen, looking thoroughly regaled. “So, what do you do that
you can take off to Chile whenever you like?”

      
“Entertainment
PR,” she said, batting her eyelashes at him.

      
“Hook, line
and sinker,” Bill whispered, reading my mind. Gretchen turned and shot us a
dirty look when I giggled. “Uh oh, Windex is mad,” he said with a playful
smile. At that her face softened, and I knew it was because she liked Bill’s
nickname for her. When I’d introduced them, he’d said hers were the bluest eyes
he’d ever seen.

      
Once we
were seated, he leaned over so only I could hear and asked, “Are you familiar
with the tale of Odette and Prince Siegfried?” I arched an eyebrow at him, and
he passed me a program. “
Swan Lake
.
Just another love story gone wrong.”

      
“Oh,” I
said, unable to keep the surprise from my face. In the three years we’d been
married, I’d never heard him mention the ballet.

      
“My parents
took me once as a teenager,” he explained. “They thought since I took ballroom
dancing, I would like it.”

      
The lights
dimmed, and Bill sat back, shifting to get comfortable. His long legs knocked
against the seat in front of us multiple times before its occupant turned to
raise her eyebrows. I suppressed a laugh just as the composer lifted his arms.

      
Before
long, the stage was awhirl with white tulle, hard muscles, prettily pink
slippers. And those pink slippers, which curled and arched and lengthened
unnaturally, seemed perfectly untouched; everything about the ballet appeared smooth
and blemish-free, from the dancers to the patrons. The graceful precision was
one thing, but I was floored by the flawlessness of the performance. I wished
everything in life were so clean. When the curtain fell for intermission, I
clapped gleefully with the crowd.

      
We spilled
into the lobby, excitedly reviewing what we’d just seen as we maneuvered. Bill
and Andrew left to get drinks as Gretchen, Lucy and I broke away from the
others, struggling to keep close through the bustling crowd. The room was
brimming with people, and I hoped that Bill wouldn’t be in line the entire
intermission.

      
“I can’t
believe my mother let me quit ballet when I was seven,” Lucy lamented once we’d
found a semi-open spot. “I could have been a star.”

      
“I don’t
think it’s as easy as that,” I offered.

      
She shook
her head. “Liv, I could have been a professional ballerina.” Gretchen and I
laughed at her sincere expression. “Fine, don’t believe me,” she said with
frustration. “I’m going to the restroom.”

      
“Oh, me
too,” Gretchen chimed. “Livs?”

      
“I don’t
really have to go,” I said. “I can wait here for the guys.”

      
I craned my
neck above the crowd to search for the bar, where I expected Bill would loom
over everyone. My gaze lingered on different people, noting how their stiff,
deliberate movements countered the elegance of the dancers on stage. To me,
they not only seemed like strangers, but like aliens. Or maybe I was the one
who didn’t belong.

As a teenager, the abrupt divorce of my parents had
left me feeling out of place. It had rattled my concepts of home and
familiarity. Since then, I’d never figured out exactly where I was supposed to
be. Large crowds always heightened that insecurity and left me feeling vulnerable.
I had the unfortunate ability of feeling spectacularly alone in a crowd, even
when surrounded by friends and family.

I had the sensation of being watched seconds
before I met a man’s unfamiliar pair of eyes across the room. They were dark
and intense, narrowed in my direction as if he were trying to place me.
Everything slowed around me as my heartbeat whipped into a rapid flutter.

Our gaze held a moment longer than it should
have. My body buzzed, and my pounding heart echoed in my ears. It wasn’t his
immense, tall frame or darkly handsome face that struck me, but a draw so
strong that it didn’t break, even when I blinked away.

      
I jumped at
a hand on my arm. I’d been holding my breath for those stretched seconds, and
it rushed out of me now, disjointed and erratic. I shifted for the passerby and
spotted Bill winding toward me through the crowd. When I looked back, my breath
caught in my throat.

      
He loomed
closer than necessary. Something about the lean in his posture was intimate and
easy, yet the space between us was physically hot, igniting fire under my skin.
I had to remind myself to breathe. My cheeks heated, and I helplessly bit my
rouged bottom lip as I took him in; hair blackest black, short and unruly but
long enough to run my hands through. His suntanned complexion appeared natural
from time spent outdoors. Strong carved-from-marble facial features were
softened by long unblinking lashes. Involuntarily, I drew a sharp breath at the
magnitude of his handsomeness.

      
A woman’s
voice cut into my consciousness and he turned, giving me the opportunity to
regain control. In one swift movement I ducked away, exhaling audibly. Bill and
Andrew were there then, shoving a glass of wine at me as I moved to shield
myself with their bodies.

      
“Where are
the girls?”

      
“You like
Pinot right?”

      
“What do
you think of the show?”

      
I made a
noise, the result of an attempt to speak as the room spun with words and
images.

      
“I’ll take
that!” Gretchen’s voice called suddenly.

      
“The line
for the bathroom isn’t bad if you have to go,” Lucy said. I flinched when she
touched my shoulder. “Liv, are you - ”

      
“I think I
will go,” I said, backing away. I only just saw her puzzled expression as I
turned to struggle through a crowd dense enough to suffocate. Or so it felt in
that moment.

~

I
could not remember what he looked like. Our exchange was a mere moment, but I
had felt the shift. Only the interruption had restored my senses, allowing me
to break away.

      
After, as I
sat in the theater, the velvety red seats that I had not much noticed before
pricked at my exposed skin, causing me to shift uncontrollably. Because each
time I sat still, his heat enveloped me again. As hard as I tried, I could not
remember what he looked like. I could only feel him.

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