Read an Excerpt
When I step inside the restaurant, the first thing I notice is how warm it is, in both temperature and ambience. I pause a moment just inside the doors to take in the notes of gold and the arched ceilings. Everything in this place speaks of elegance and well-mannered sophistication. I wasn’t born for this, but then, neither was the man I’m meeting. That’s okay, though. We both know how to fake it.
“Hi,” I say as I approach the hostess. “I’m meeting someone, perhaps you could tell me if he’s already here? The reservation is under—”
I stop short as someone takes my arm from behind and addresses me in a perfectly distinctive Russian British accent: “Sweet, thank you so much for inviting me to dinner.”
I turn and smile into Micah’s dancing eyes. His bald head reflects the lights above him in an almost comical way. “Of course, Micah.” I glance back at the hostess before lowering my voice a bit. “I was just . . . I needed to talk to you.”
“Oh? What about?”
An elderly couple enters and glances nervously at Micah, noting the tattoos that are peeking out from beneath the collar of his perfectly pressed thousand-dollar dress shirt.
Biting my lip, I lower my gaze to the ground. “I just . . .” I hedge, before blurting out, “I have something to confess.”
“Ah.” He drapes his arm over my shoulders amiably as he turns his attention to the hostess. “Terri, take us to my table and tell the bartender to send over two double martinis immediately. He knows how I like them.” He turns back to me and says in a stage whisper, “Confessions should always be paired with Stoli.”
I laugh as I know I’m supposed to. Micah never takes himself too seriously, not even when he is condemning men to death.
When we reach “his” table, he usurps the hostess by insisting that he pull the chair out for me himself. “This place is exquisite, isn’t it?” he asks as he takes his seat. “Did you see the way the white floral arrangement picked up the gold lighting? Such attention to detail! The place is fit for a motherfucking czar.”
A pretty waitress with bright red hair and a nervous smile comes with two martinis. She hands Micah his first and waits for him to taste it. I suspect that she’s a fairly new hire, but someone has trained her on how Micah likes to be served. He sips it delicately as if he’s tasting champagne, and then flashes our server a satisfied grin. “My compliments to the bartender.”
The waitress’s shoulders visibly relax as she hands me my drink and mumbles a promise to be back soon before beating a fast retreat.
“So!” Micah raises his glass. “To confessions!”
I laugh nervously and clink his glass before bringing mine to my lips.
“So, whatcha do?” he asks as he scans the menu. “Tell Uncle Micah all about it.”
“You know what I did,” I say quietly.
“Yes.” I take another gulp of my drink. “I’ve done everything you thought I was doing. I got the job with Travis because I wanted to destroy him.”
Micah’s eyes leap up from the menu, his face growing serious for the first time. “I hope you heeded my warning, Sweet,” he says in a tone that is as sinister as it is calm. “If you did anything to interfere with Travis’s ability to perform his professional duties at HGVB, you would also be interfering with my business. I don’t take kindly to people who fuck with my business.”
“I didn’t,” I say quickly before lowering my eyes to the table. “But I wanted to. I wanted to make him hurt.”
“And why’s that?”
I hold my tongue. He knows the answer.
“So.” He speaks slowly. “You’re admitting to everything now, are you? You’re telling me you think Travis is behind setting your mum up for offing her lover?”
“I did think that, yes.”
“You did? Past tense?”
“Yes, past tense,” I say, finally meeting his gaze. “I know the truth now. I know the whole story.”
Micah presses his lips together, his eyes never leaving mine. Around us I catch snippets of laughter and the clinking of forks against china. The whole room seems to be buzzing except for our table, where everything is disturbingly still.
“What,” he finally says, “do you think you know?”
“I know who the murderer is, Micah.”
“Do you now?” He reaches for his martini. “And who would that be?”
“Don’t make me say it.”
“Forgive me,” he says, breaking to take another long sip of his drink, “but I must insist that you do.”
Again I bite down on my lip as I crumple the cloth napkin in my hand. “The murderer,” I choke out, “was Julieta Jiménez.”
Micah’s quick inhaled breath serves as an exclamation mark. It’s the reaction I wanted. “I finally get it,” I say, with a little more certainty. “My mother was the one who killed Nick Foley.”
Micah doesn’t say a word. He barely moves. The waitress comes back to the table for our order, but it only takes one glare from Micah to get her to stammer an apology for the interruption and scamper off.
“Last we met,” Micah says, “you told me that your mother was innocent. You insisted on it.”
“I did. I was wrong.”
He raises his eyebrows questioningly. “What’s changed?”
I shift uneasily in my seat. “When my mother was arrested . . . well, she didn’t have much. Almost everything was sold or given to Goodwill, but of course I got to keep a few trinkets. A necklace with a little crystal heart pendant, a pair of leather gloves that were given to her by an employer, and . . . and she had a diary.”
“She did? I would have thought that would have been confiscated by the police for evidence.”
I shrug. “I think they missed it. It didn’t actually look like a diary, more like a notebook. It could have easily been something I was using for school. I did start to read it, but . . . well, I was ten and I was so angry at her. I put it aside before I got more than five pages in. And then later it was just . . . it was just too painful.”
“But you’ve read it now,” Micah says evenly.
“Cover to cover.”
I give Micah a moment to process this. “Are you trying to tell me that your mum confessed to murder in her diary?”
“No, that wouldn’t have been possible. She didn’t have the opportunity to write in it after the arrest, and she was arrested at the scene of the crime.”
“That’s true.” I can hear the confusion in his voice. I’ve never seen Micah show any uncertainty before, but it’s clear that I’ve thrown him for a loop. “If she didn’t confess to the murder, what makes you think—”
“She confessed to wanting to do it. It’s right there in the diary, Micah. She was so hurt, so . . . so angry. She imagined killing him. She actually says she wants to shoot him, that she wants his blood on her hands for breaking her heart. She wrote that, Micah!” I summon up tears that blur my vision and my hands tremble slightly as I lift my martini, making the vodka slosh over the edge of my glass.
I’m a very good actress.
“I didn’t think she was capable of this, but . . . but, Micah, not only was she capable, she followed through with it! She imagined it and then she did it! This doesn’t just mean she’s guilty, it means it was premeditated! She thought this out!” I put my glass down and cover my face with my hands.
After a moment, Micah reaches across the table and pets my hair. “Don’t shed tears over this, Sweet. Nick Foley deserved to die for what he did to her. Somebody disrespects you? You hurt them. Your mum did the right thing.”
I pull back from his touch and wipe impatiently at my tears. “Even if that’s true, did she have to be so stupid about it? She wrote down the fantasy before she lived it! What if someone else had found that diary? She wouldn’t have gotten thirty years, she would have gotten life! Although given that she ended up committing suicide, maybe she didn’t care about that. And that means . . . that means she didn’t care about being with me. She didn’t just kill Nick, she abandoned me.”
“She wasn’t a professional criminal,” Micah reasoned. “She was a wronged woman with a debt to settle. She made some mistakes, maybe she was a little careless in her actions, but in the end, her heart was in the right place.”
“She was a murderer.”
“Murderer, vengeful angel . . .” Micah waves his hand in the air dismissively. “I’ll leave the semantics up to the poets and lawyers. All I know is she was your mum and you shouldn’t hold this against her.”
“Micah, that’s insane.”
“Is it?” he asks as he gestures to our waitress that it’s safe to approach. “Is being angry at her going to get you anywhere?” The waitress comes back with her pen poised, ready to take our order. “You gotta try the salmon,” he advises me. “Tender, seasoned to perfection, and good for the heart. You must always take care of your heart.”
“The salmon, please,” I say weakly as I hand off my menu.
“Make that two,” Micah says jovially. “And get the lady another martini. She’s having a rough time of it today.”
I nod in agreement as our order is taken off to the kitchen.
“Your mum was a good woman in a bad situation,” Micah reasons, returning to the subject at hand. “Don’t you ever forget that.”
I respond with a halfhearted shrug.
“She was,” Micah insists. “I bet there was lots of lovely things in that diary. I bet she talked about how much she loved you, didn’t she?”
“She did,” I say grudgingly.
“And I bet she talked about Nick. I bet she was quite eloquent in her expression of her love for that fucker.”
“She did love him,” I whisper.
“Of course she did! That’s why she was so upset! Tell me, what else did she say about him? Did she talk about how he wooed her? How he made her feel special and trusted? Did she write of the secrets he confided to her?”
I’m very careful not to show my pleasure at his last question. “She wrote a little about how romantic he was. But . . . the secrets he was confiding to her?” I ask. Outside I can hear the muted wail of a siren as it fights its way through New York’s traffic. “Why would Nick tell secrets to some maid he was just sleeping with?”
“To gain her trust of course!” He pauses as my second martini is placed in front of me along with a bread basket for the table. “Some men are clever like that,” he says once we’re alone again. “Tell a woman one secret and she’ll think she’s special. Works every time. It could be about anything. Maybe something about his past, his family, his work . . . anything at all, really. But then, you read the diary,” he says with a laugh that is just a tad bit forced. “You tell me!”
“If he told her any secrets, I didn’t recognize them.” I select a roll, tearing into it slowly. “Anyway, I burned the diary.”
Micah blanches and then leans forward, his forearms on the table. “You burned it? It was one of the only things you had left of your mother.”
“I have a necklace and I have her gloves.” I finish the last vestiges of my first drink and immediately reach for my second. “I’m trying hard to just remember her for who I thought she was when I was little. I don’t want to keep a book around that undermines that.”
Looking at Micah, I can’t tell if he’s relieved or disappointed. “I’m sorry I didn’t initially believe you about Travis and his father,” I add. “I should have known you would never steer me wrong. It’s just . . . he seemed like someone who was capable of doing something like that. But then obviously I’m not quite the judge of character I thought I was.”
“Now, now, it’s understandable. We all get a bit unreasonable when emotions are involved.”
“I suppose. But I swear, Micah . . . the way he treats his wife . . .”
“Domestic relationships are complicated things.” He selects a roll and drops it onto his plate. “People fall in and out of love, blame each other for their own shortcomings. It’s a fucking tangled web we weave,” he says as he reaches for the butter.
“I guess. But . . . I don’t know, Travis takes things pretty far. The other day he was right in her face, screaming at her. He threatened her life, Micah . . . and yes,” I say, quickly pushing on as Micah tries to interject, “I know people say things they don’t mean all the time, but the way he was with her . . . I thought he was actually going to hit her—and he might have if Javier and Edmund hadn’t shown up when they did.”
For a very brief moment, Micah freezes, a piece of bread halfway to his mouth. It’s only for a moment, but I catch it.
“Javier and Edmund? My Javier? The guy who was in the limo with us who offered to pay for a little time with you?”
I feign embarrassment but continue. “Yes, of course. I’m telling you, Micah, if you had heard the things Travis said to Jessica—”
“Why were Javier and Edmund there? How do those two even know each other?”
I shake my head as if bewildered. “I don’t know. They clearly had made plans, because when they showed up, Travis apologized for not being ready for their dinner. I don’t know where they all went . . .”
Micah stares at me for a beat, I see a quick flash of anger cross his features, and then, just as quickly, he regroups, casually tearing off another piece of bread. “Hell, I don’t need to keep up with Javier’s social calendar.”
“So, he doesn’t work for you?”
“For me? No. With me occasionally. I’m the one who introduced him to Travis, and you know what? It’s great if Travis has now introduced him to his dear ol’ dad.” Again he digs into the butter, putting so much of it on his bread that you can barely tell that he’s eating anything but butter. It’s not how Micah normally eats.
I sense stress eating. Good.
“I think I’ll have another martini too,” he continues. “It’s that kind of a night, don’t you think?”
I smile sweetly, nod, and excuse myself to use the ladies’ room. Once I get there I take out my phone and see the text from Lander:
I respond with one word:
And it’s true, our plan is starting off absolutely perfectly.