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Sweet Little Lies ~ Abbi Glines, Page 2

Abbi Glines

  That last part threw me off. “Why?” I asked.

  His left eyebrow lifted slightly. “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”

  Oh. I hadn’t thought of that. I shook my head.

  “Didn’t think so. I’ll text you an address. When you leave, head there.”

  I opened my mouth to ask him more, but he climbed out of the car and walked away. He left just like that. Stone had shown up out of the blue with answers, not lies. He’d reassured me Heidi was okay. He hadn’t let me fall apart. I had felt stronger with him there.

  If I was honest, I didn’t want him to leave. During our brief talk in my car, he’d made me feel secure. When he spoke, I believed his words. He spoke with certainty that you simply couldn’t question.

  My phone dinged, and I pulled it from my back pocket. There was an address just like he had said. I had a place to sleep tonight and time to figure out what we would do next. What would I do?

  I removed the keys from the ignition and got out of the car from where I sat in the passenger side seat. I knew visiting Heidi would help me. Seeing her smile and knowing she was okay was what I needed right now. The last name on her birth certificate meant nothing. Heidi was an Edwards. She always would be.

  The Van Allans had buried her years ago. Their name went with that time and place. The cruelty of their actions was heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but be grateful she’d been given a better life. I knew we loved Heidi the way she deserved.

  “Beulah, we weren’t expecting you!” I forced a smile as Tammy, one of Heidi’s favorite nurses, greeted me with surprise. “Heidi and May are crafting in the activity room right now. They are going to be so excited to see you. Even if you don’t have any cookies or cupcakes.”

  I rarely visited Heidi empty-handed, but then I also always came when she was expecting me. “Hopefully the surprise of seeing me outweighs not having treats,” I replied.

  “Oh, it will!”

  I headed back to the activity room. Heidi had learned to crochet and she loved it. She was making pot holders and dish rags the last time I came to see her. I wondered if that was what they were up to today.

  Just as I was about to reach the crafting room, the door to the office opened and Mrs. Shell, the accounts manager, walked out. I always made payments for Heidi’s care here to her.

  “Beulah, I just got your payment for Heidi. It came through the computer system. That’s wonderful that the Van Allans have decided to pay upfront for the next ten years. I know that takes the monthly concern off your shoulders. You can focus on getting that degree you were talking about instead of always working.” She winked and walked on down the hallway without waiting on my response.

  Heidi’s home was paid for now. I wouldn’t have to worry. But knowing it was paid with Van Allan money bothered me.

  THE BRICK PAVED PATH LED to a three-story apartment building that appeared to have been recently restored. Each floor looked like it held only one apartment. The plaque on the outside of the building said it was built in 1920. Stone had been living at Jasper’s, so I wasn’t sure whose apartment this was.

  There were three cars parked outside. A black Hummer, a white Range Rover, and a red Porsche. Stone’s Black Range Rover wasn’t present.

  I checked the address again. He hadn’t given me an apartment number or a name. Maybe I was at the wrong place. I had enough money to find an inexpensive hotel room for the night. My other option was knocking on the apartment doors to ask the occupants if they were expecting me, which seemed a bit creepy.

  Before I could think it through much longer, a girl with long almost black hair emerged from the front door of the building. She was all legs and incredibly thin. She looked like a runway model. Her shorts were tiny and showed off her legs—they were longer than most people’s bodies. A pair of aviator sunglasses were perched on her head although the sun had already begun to set.

  Her gaze swung to me as she started walking in my direction. I watched until she was almost beside my car before I opened my door to see if she was coming to talk to me. Either she was expecting me, or she was walking over to ask me what I was doing parked at this elite apartment complex. A complex that didn’t seem to have any traffic and no parked cars out front that cost less than one hundred grand.

  Stepping out of the car, I had to tilt my head back to look at her. With the heels she was wearing she was at least six-foot-three. She swung her hair over her shoulder and gave me a tight smile. “I was going to ask if you were Beulah, but now that I see you I know the answer to that question. Figures,” she rolled her eyes and turned to walk back to the building.

  I didn’t move. I wasn’t sure what she meant exactly. She glanced back over her shoulder. “Are you coming or not?” she asked exasperatedly.

  She didn’t seem very happy about this. I wasn’t sure I wanted to intrude on someone who didn’t want me there. “Uh, I don’t think so,” I replied making up my mind before she could snap at me again.

  That stopped her from sauntering away with her heels and long legs. She spun around again looking very much like someone walking the catwalk. Her left hand landed on her hip—or the bone that was covered with skin—and glared at me. “Seriously? Stone went to all this trouble, and you’re just going to leave?”

  What trouble had he gone through? I hadn’t meant for him to have any trouble. I started to ask when his Rover pulled into the exclusive parking lot. I had never been relieved to see Stone. The feeling was new but I was definitely glad he was here.

  He got out and walked over to me shooting a glance toward the girl. “You coming inside?” he asked shifting his gaze back to me.

  I looked nervously at the unknown female who was no longer scowling but was smiling politely. “She is a little apprehensive. Can’t convince her to come inside,” the girl’s tone was sweet and sounded as if she were talking about a small child.

  “You’ve got nowhere else to go, Beulah.” His demeanor turned frustrated just that quickly.

  I wasn’t being stubborn. He hadn’t been here, and it was obvious the girl didn’t want me here. I decided against saying that though since this was her apartment. Or at least I assumed it was her apartment.

  “I know,” I replied. Then it hit me. I had nothing. All my things were at Jasper’s. I’d been so upset over everything else and trying to focus on Heidi while my mind was turning over all the horrors I’d been told today. “I don’t,” I said glancing back inside my car for anything I might have left in there. “have my things,” I finished.

  “They’re inside. I picked them up earlier,” Stone replied as if this made perfect sense.

  “You did?” I asked confused.

  “How else were you going to get them?” He didn’t expect an answer to that question. I couldn’t help answering him anyway.

  “I don’t know.”

  “This is my building. I rent out the other two apartments. Presley lives in mine,” he said as he began to walk toward the building. He expected me to follow him. I closed my car door and looked at the building more closely. Did he own the entire building? I didn’t think he worked, much less that he would own a building. He was always partying and sleeping in Stone’s pool house.

  The girl was walking with more of a swing in her hips now. I was assuming she was Presley. He acted as if I knew who that was. She hadn’t told me her name.

  “You’re taking me to Manhattan soon though. I want to see your new flat there. I’d rather live there with you than here in Savannah,” she said in a flirty voice as she gazed back at him.

  “The top floor is mine. The rooftop is shared. Chantel and Fiona are on the second floor. And Marty and Mack—they’re on the first floor.”

  He had ignored her comment. Although I was listening to him tell me about the building it was hard to miss her body had suddenly tensed. She didn’t like being ignored and I doubted men ignored her often. I was confounded because she was living in his apartment, so what did that make them? I’d seen Stone with a l
ot of women. Jasper had mentioned Stone getting a ring for a Margot once, but that was it. He hadn’t seemed happy about the idea.

  Having a woman live in his apartment that he never stayed at seemed more Stone-like than his sudden hero act. He’d been a jerk since the day I’d met him. But today he’d been there when I thought I had no one. I was confused with my feelings for him.

  “Chantel is in the Caribbean with Dameon. Luke broke up with him last night and he was having a meltdown, so she took him to the islands to get away. Luke is doing my shoot tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll get to hear his side of the story. He’s such a slut though. We all warned Dameon when he started dating him.”

  Presley was telling this story so dramatically I felt like she was explaining the missed episode of a television show. Stone didn’t seem very interested in any of it. He stepped in front of Presley and opened the door. “I wanted to add a keypad for the lock so we wouldn’t need keys to the building but there are rules in the city with any structure considered to be historical. When I bought it to restore, I had to keep several things within the time period it was built. There are specific things you can’t touch to be considered a historical structure—the door for instance. It had to be restored and the original could not be replaced.” He waved his hand for us to come inside.

  Presley went ahead of me quickly and leaned in to kiss Stone lingeringly on the lips. “I missed you,” she whispered.

  He didn’t look pleased with the affection but he didn’t turn her away either. I noticed his hand even rested on her waist for a moment.

  “There is no elevator. Again, had to stick with historical restoration code,” he said as I walked inside.

  “Which is a pain when you have bags to carry upstairs,” Presley whined.

  I’d been so silent I decided I should say something. “I bet carrying the groceries up can be difficult.” I figured that sounded like something she would be annoyed with. This place was beautiful and I couldn’t imagine she had any reason to complain. Telling her that wouldn’t win her over though.

  She laughed. “Why would I carry groceries up the stairs? The delivery service does that when we order.”

  There was a delivery service for groceries? I started to ask that out loud and decided against it. She’d just find that amusing too.

  Stone started up the stairs, and Presley rushed to stay beside him. I followed them up as she whispered and giggled in his ear. He never responded, but he never pushed her away either.

  I didn’t belong here. I suddenly realized that I didn’t belong anywhere and I hadn’t since my mother passed away. I was determined not to feel sorry for myself. I had a bed to sleep in tonight. My situation could be worse.

  STONE HAD SAID THE BUILDING was historical. I hadn’t realized that meant the apartment would look like something from the Great Gatsby era. It was as if I’d walked into the book itself. The outside had been stunning and true to that time period. It was surprising because I’d imagined something more modern inside, and considerably less stunning.

  “This is,” I said turning in circles taking in the entrance of his apartment, “amazing.” Even the furnishings, although most were newer and few were real antiques, fit the architectural style.

  “You like it?” There was pride in his tone.

  “Who wouldn’t?” I asked still looking at all the detail.

  “You won’t be so thrilled about everything when you realize the bathrooms have those old claw-foot tubs instead of a nice big Jacuzzi,” Presley said with a sigh as if this was a real burden for her.

  Stone didn’t respond. I wondered if she paid him rent. If living in this gorgeous apartment was free for her, it was incredibly rude of her to complain. I thought claw-foot tubs sounded cool.

  “When did you do this? I thought you’d been at college in New Hampshire until this summer.” I knew I’d heard Jasper talk about living in New Hampshire with roommates.

  “I like restoring old things. It’s a hobby. I started two years ago and finished it up this past fall. Most of the big items were completed by contractors with lots of phone calls. It was hard to travel here to check on things. Coming here instead of staying in Manhattan was nice though.”

  Presley sighed dramatically. She did that a lot. “I love Manhattan. I hate your mother, but I love the city.”

  Again, Stone ignored her.

  “Your room will be the third door on the left,” Stone said. “There is a bathroom connected to it, and if you can suffer through the antiquated features it’s yours to use,” he said the last bit with obvious disdain. Presley’s earlier comment was not well received.

  “Thank you, Stone. I appreciate this. Really, I do. And I’ll spend tomorrow finding a place to live. I won’t be a hindrance.”

  He frowned. “You’ve got a lot to figure out. The room isn’t being used. It’s yours. Use it. Don’t worry about a place to live right now. Deal with the other shit first.”

  I didn’t look at Presley to see her response. She wouldn’t be as agreeable as him. I’d already figured out she wasn’t crazy about me being here.

  “Clover is coming to visit soon. She’ll need somewhere to sleep,” Presley said quickly. “That’s my sister,” she added as she shot a glare my way.

  “Clover can sleep in your king-size bed with you,” Stone told her. The authority in his voice was subtle but unmistakable. ‘That room is Beulah’s.”

  Presley inhaled sharply. “Are you fucking her? Is that it? Jasper tossed her out because he caught you with her, didn’t he? I can’t believe you’d do this to me! You’ve never thrown one in my face. All your sluts, even Margot—”

  “That will be all, Presley!”

  I jumped, startled by his loud command. Presley immediately broke into tears. “You always hurt me. Always. Your mother doesn’t think I’m good enough. That’s it, isn’t it!” she wailed.

  “Not the fucking drama. Jesus, save it for your friends. I’m not in the mood for it.” Stone’s voice was still louder than normal and angry. Like a parent talking to a child. “Go wail to Fiona. Drink vodka or some shit. But not in here.”

  Presley pointed at me. “And leave you alone with her? To fuck in my house? Your mother would hate her too! She wants you to marry Margot!” The shrill of her voice made me wince as did her accusations.

  “I am not fucking Beulah. However, this is my home. If I want to fuck someone here, I will. My mother has never and will never have a say in who I do or don’t fuck. I don’t owe you anything, Presley. You owe me a lot. Remember that and go cool off. Preferably not in this apartment.” Stone turned to me. “I’m going to have some whiskey now. Presley often drives me to drink in short amounts of time. Can I get you anything, or would you rather go hide out in the sanctuary of your room?”

  ‘That! You say things like that, and it’s mean. Cruel, Stone! Cruel! You act like I mean nothing to you. Just like your father—”

  “For the love of God, would you take that yammering and find a friend to punish with it!” He was loud again. Almost shouting.

  Presley spun around on her heel and ran out the door in tears. After she slammed the door behind her, he sighed and shook his head as he walked to the bar and took a glass down from the rack beside it.

  “Want a drink?” he asked again.

  “No, thank you. I think I’ll just go to the room.”

  “Don’t blame you.”

  I stood there watching him trying to figure out why he was in a relationship with a woman he didn’t seem to care for particularly. He also wasn’t faithful to her and she was aware of that. It wasn’t my business. He’d been nothing but generous to me today. But the hard, cruel man he was flickered there in his eyes while Presley, as annoying and spoiled as she was, had cried.

  “Is she okay? Your girlfriend?” I didn’t want to cause a problem with them. He should have reassured her there was nothing going on with us.

  He glanced back at me then took a drink of his whiskey. “Presley?”

f course, Presley. Who else would I be talking about? I didn’t say that though, I simply nodded.

  “She’ll be fine. She’s dramatic. It’s her nature and always has been. You’ll get used to it.”

  I would get used to her screaming and crying? I doubted it. “She does this a lot?”

  He smirked and took a drink. “There are several reasons I was sleeping in Jasper’s pool house. What you witnessed was one of those reasons.”

  “Then . . . why do you stay together?” I was pushing it. I needed to shut up. This was not my home and he was letting me stay here.

  “That’s a story too convoluted to get into. I’ve not had enough to drink to unload that one. Maybe another time.”

  I deserved a more curt response from him for my nosiness, but he’d been kinder in his response.

  “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked.”

  He didn’t agree or disagree. Instead, he continued to drink and stare at me with his bored expression. He wanted me to go. After that debacle, I imagined he needed peace and quiet, not me asking a million questions.

  “Good night and thank you again,” I said before turning to walk down the hallway toward the room he said was mine.

  “You’ll find your things in the closet,” he called out.

  “Okay, thank you,” I replied. I’d said thank you a lot. But I didn’t know how else to express my gratitude. If this was a regular bachelor pad I’d offer to clean it. It wasn’t though, the place was immaculate. I’d have to find a way to pay him back for all he’d done for me today.

  “And Beulah, Presley is my stepsister.”

  I UNDERSTOOD STEPSIBLINGS WEREN’T RELATED by blood, but pondering Presley and Stone together was still disturbing. Did they grown up together in the same house? Because if that was true, their relationship was . . . well . . . gross. Wasn’t it? I couldn’t decide if I was being judgmental or not. Maybe I should be more open-minded. They were obviously in a relationship of some kind. Her angry outburst when she assumed he was sleeping with me led me to believe she was his girlfriend.