Home > Hidden Seams(2)

Hidden Seams(2)
Author: Alessandra Torre

The world spent five decades learning his name, and in just a handful of seconds, Vince Horace is gone. I close my eyes and try to feel him in the room, his presence one I’ve leaned on as heavily as breath. But there is nothing. I lower myself carefully, my hand still in his, to my knees, my cheek against the rough paper of his palm, and close my eyes, saying a prayer that God will respect his choices, honor his lifestyle, and accept him into his kingdom. I pray, in the dim bedroom six floors above Fifth Avenue, for guidance and peace—both for him and for myself.

I stay on my knees beside my mentor, until the doctors arrive, an ashen-faced houseboy helping me to my feet and to my bedroom, the bed already turned down, my evening wear laid out on heated pads, a glass of ice water chilling beside a sleeping pill on the nightstand. I glance at the curtains, pulled tight, and wonder at the city behind them, the chitter chatter of news services and reporters, blogs, and Twitter. The death of Vince Horace will not be ignored. Tonight, a throne is vacant, and everyone in the fashion world will be elbowing and fighting for a chance at it.

 

* * *

 

I sit on the edge of the bed and work my watch from my wrist, the vintage Cartier dull in the dim light. I pull off the jacket, stepping slowly to the large closet and carefully hanging the piece up, ignoring the line of similar suits, each one a different story, a different factory, trip, or memory.

I am naked by the time I move into the bed, my eyes closing as I lay back on the goose-down bed.

I think of the future, but only feel lost.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

SPRING

AVERY

I take the two bags of Chinese takeout and tip the guy a twenty. Pushing the door shut, I flip all three deadbolts, then arm the alarm.

Jogging up to the kitchen, I withdraw the top carton in each bag and set them on the stove. Ignoring the temptation of the food, I snag a fortune cookie and rip it open.

Wealth and good fortune are coming your way.

Ha. I smile and tack the fortune to the fridge with a penguin magnet, then pop the cookie in my mouth. Crunching through it, I pull on a set of latex gloves and return to the takeout bags.

The first Styrofoam lid pops open, revealing the cash, neatly stacked three rows high and bound in counter strips. I pull the stacks from the Styrofoam and line them up on the counter, counting as I go. Five, ten, twenty …. sixty grand in the first box. I toss the empty carton toward the trash can, pull the second out, and repeat the process until the stretch of granite is filled with neat rows of cash. I count it all a second time. Two hundred and five grand. Perfect.

The cash didn’t always come with beef and broccoli and shrimp fried rice. It used to come from a little old lady, one who birthed a monster and liked to sit in my living room and talk about her medical problems. And she had a lot of medical problems, enough to fill entire evenings. And I couldn’t complain to her employer because no gangster wants to hear that his mother is painfully time-consuming.

That arrangement died when she did. Out of every medical issue I’d listened through … it had been a steep flight of stairs that killed her. She slipped, fell backward, hit the wrong part of her neck, and died instantly.

I don’t know how the Chinese restaurant guys are connected to Ralph, but I’d take a wild guess and say that they owe him money, and are paying it back through my deliveries. It works out well for me. They’re on time, give me all the MSG-ladened food I want, and the delivery guy doesn’t speak a lick of English, so if he’s got a bad hip and ingrown toenails, I’m oblivious to it.

I text confirmation of receipt and move the cash into Ziploc bags, then a duffel bag. Grabbing the food, I move to the living room. Sitting cross-legged on the couch, I pick up the remote and find the last half of a medical drama.

I need a boyfriend. I decide that as I spear a piece of broccoli and watch bored nurses getting frisky in a supply room. As much as I love having full control of the remote, and a steady diet of stir-fried dishes, it’s getting old. It has gotten old.

Maybe I should have been a nurse. As a nurse, I would have met someone by now. Someone who wasn’t a step away from being shot, or arrested. That’s the problem in my business. Any good guys end up dead or behind bars. And the bad guys … I pick up my soda and twist off the top. The bad guys aren’t worth dating. I did that once. Fell into his pretty blue eyes and looked the other way whenever he beat the shit out of someone. I’d like to say I was young and dumb, but I haven’t exactly made strides in a better direction. I’m still here, spending my nights alone, counting someone else’s money, with no plausible relationship options in sight. I could be in scrubs right now, my tired soles being worked over by some gorgeous husband with a five o’clock shadow, a baby girl sound asleep in the crook of his arm.

The show ends, and the news comes on, the top story about some dead rich guy. I turn it off and stand.

I shove the empty takeout containers into the trash, then yank the ties, lifting the Hefty out of the can. I grab the duffel and carry it all down to the garage. The Hefty goes into the garbage can. I roll underneath the Tahoe and bring the duffel bag along.

Or maybe I’ll get a dog. That would probably cure this stupid yearn for a man. I reach into the duffel bag and pull out a couple of bags of cash. Stacking them inside the Tahoe’s front bumper, I think of a possible dog. It’d have to be something big and scary. Maybe one of those military-trained German Shepherds. I’d want a girl, and I could name her something absolutely unscary. Like Ethel. Or Joyce. Maybe, I could get two.

I push the bags into a hidden compartment, one installed there two years ago. I’d put it in after an overzealous badge pulled me over, then felt the need to dig through my trunk, discovering enough cash to start a Mickey D’s franchise. I almost lost that money, the cop confiscating it and refusing to return it until I proved a legitimate source of the cash. That had been an interesting contortion, one I had barely wiggled through.

Now, if anyone pulls me over? They’d need a cash-sniffing dog to get these bad boys found. I place the last bundle of cash in, lock the hidden door into place, and roll out from under the truck. There. Money secured. I push to my feet and head back inside. Pulling the door shut, I reach out and hit the light switch with my palm.

In bed, I scroll through gossip articles, stopping at one image of some sexy playboy who just inherited a billion dollars. I skip the article and focus on the photos of him—standing on the front of a yacht, his abs on display, his gorgeous grin pulling at the ache between my legs. I put down the phone and close my eyes, imagining the sun on my face, ocean waves crashing in the distance, him pulling me down onto a towel and kissing me everywhere.

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