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Cole, Page 2


  entry. When you approach, if you live here, the door will automatically open, just like this elevator. If Kenneth or myself isn’t here, the system recognizes our residents. You should never be left outside, and if you are, all you need to do is press a button. But we guarantee that will never happen.”

  Besides the elevator, the doorman’s office, and the front door, there was only one other doorway in the lobby, situated to the left of the elevator. Dorian pointed to it. “The front lobby is not extravagant, but that doesn’t mean all the amenities aren’t here. Beyond that door you’ll find the pool, the patio, and places where you can grill and socialize. We have a gym, along with a running track that winds around the building and basement. It’s covered, so it looks like a tunnel when you’re inside. Passersby won’t see you. There’s a garden and a fountain on the way to the pool. The owner spared no expense, and I think you’ll appreciate his efforts, but first…” He held a hand toward the elevator, which had remained open for us the entire time. “I’ll show you the third floor, which is the only floor open right now.”

  Inside the elevator, a B, L, and buttons numbered 2 through 7 were lit up in silver on the right side. Three black buttons sat above those. Dorian pushed number three and stood back as the doors closed. “There’s a sitting room and a theater room on the first floor. Pool, mail, the gym, and the running track are also on the first floor. You’ll meet the other residents in those areas, most likely.” The elevator stopped at the third floor, but the doors didn’t open. Instead, a panel appeared on the left side, and Dorian pushed four letters.

  The doors opened then, straight into the empty living space. There was no hallway, but there was no need. I was spellbound by the beauty before me. As I stepped inside, I heard Dorian saying, as if from a distance, “We have cameras all over the building—the elevators, the lobby, the parking lots, and so forth—except not in your home. You will be given your own unique code for your floor. You can put it in once you get into the elevator, or when you arrive at your floor. It’s up to you. And if others call to be let up to your floor, you can approve them by pushing a button. That will allow the doors to open for your floor because you’re sending the signal from within your own apartment, if that makes sense?”

  I crossed the hardwood floors and went straight to the street side. The views were stunning.

  Dorian spoke from just inside the door. “You can look out, but no one can see in. It’s very private. Your safety is important to us, and believe me, if you live here, you are absolutely secure. The entire building is alarmed. A basement parking lot is available to you if you drive, and you’ll be given a code for the first floor exits and your own door, if you use the stairs. You’ll also get your own code for everything on the main floor. We have onsite security, though you’ll probably never see them. They remain invisible to the residents, but if something were to happen, you’d be protected within seconds.”

  “And how would I alert them?”

  He moved to the island in the kitchen and put his hand beneath the counter. “There’s a panic button here. There’s one in each room.”

  I glanced at Sia, who was frowning, erasing her dreamy look. The heavy security seemed more than I needed, but these people were rich. And I supposed heavy security was always a good thing.

  I drifted back to the view of the street. Everyone was so busy, rushing down the sidewalk or hailing a cab. Cars moved along, as it was close to the end of business hours. They wanted to go home, and I knew in a couple of hours, the street would be very still. A shiver went through me, up my spine, over my arms, down my legs. It was the excited kind, the good kind, and I wanted to make it last.

  It hit me then: I wanted to live here—not just as a fantasy, but for real. I wanted to be tucked away and safe in this building, but still so much in the center of everything. Even with the little I’d seen of the space, I already knew everything was top of the line.

  I scouted around a little more. Hardwood floors that went everywhere. Four bedrooms. A master bathroom with a deep hot tub. Two living rooms, one sunken like something out of a hotel lobby. A white brick fireplace nestled between two couches. Dorian said the fireplace was just for show, but it still looked beautiful. A state-of-the-art kitchen with granite countertops and professional-grade appliances. Three chandeliers accented the spaces. The place came unfurnished, but Dorian said the chandeliers could remain.

  Dorian stepped into the elevator to give us some time to talk, and he told me the code I’d need to call the elevator when we were ready to go.

  As the doors closed behind him, Sia turned to me. “Okay, before you say anything, he said it’s only $25,000 a month. I know you can afford this place. I totally think you should apply.”

  I had been ready to say yes, but suddenly I couldn’t. “Liam loved our home.” I felt him now. He was with me, looking at the place, and I could feel his hurt. I was going to leave his dream home for this?

  Sia rolled her eyes. “I’m not trying to be mean, but he’d want you to move on.”

  It’s only been a year…echoed in my head.

  “I don’t know, Si.”

  “I do.” She stepped close, her voice softening. She touched my arm. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime place. It’s going to be snapped up, and whoever moves in here won’t be moving out. I can tell you love it, and you won’t get this chance again. I guarantee. I know. I’ve been watching this place for two years, and I’ve never heard of an opening here. Get in while you can. Plus, you’ll be so much closer to me! I know you hate the long cab rides, and I know you don’t like riding the train alone. Do it. Take this place.”

  I let out a ragged breath. “That’s if they’ll even accept me. I’m sure they have a ton of people wanting to get in here.”

  “They’d be lucky to have you as a resident.” She squeezed my arm. “Take it. Please? Or, at least try. For me. I’m begging you.”

  “I…” I did want it. I really did, but Liam. I’d be leaving him. “I need to think about it.”

  I could see the disappointment in her eyes, but she didn’t say anything. She gave me a smile and pulled me close, her cheek next to mine. “Okay. You take your time.” She hugged me, and in that moment—with my heart wanting one thing, but loving another—I needed that comfort.

  I went home feeling like I was crazy. How could I leave Liam’s home, my home with him? I walked into the house, hung my coat on the rack beside the door, and went to the kitchen. It was dark and empty.

  There’d been life here before. Liam’s baseball caps. The pile where he’d dumped his gym clothes. It stunk up the entire first floor. He always promised to move them, and he never did. I did, and I was always irritated. He was always clueless how they got back into his drawers.

  So many memories, but half of them were packed away.

  I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of everything. The pictures had stayed up, but not the ones from the wedding. Those I sent to my parents, along with Frankie. After the accident, I ceased eating, bathing, living for a while. I couldn’t take care of myself, much less our dog, so I sent him to run happily around on the farm. Or that was what I told myself. I hoped he was happy. Liam hadn’t been a hunter, but my dad was. Frankie was a bird dog, so maybe everything worked out for the best…for Frankie.

  I gazed over the empty table, the empty counters. Then I opened the refrigerator and found it empty except for a head of lettuce, ranch dressing, and two slices of cheese. And wine. I pulled out an open bottle from the door. It was half gone, but I didn’t remember opening it.

  Sia had been here every day for the first full month after I lost Liam. Then it became every other day in the second month, every third in the next. It was the sixth month when she couldn’t take it anymore. I think it depressed her too much. She never said so, and I never knew if it was the house or just me, but I realized she didn’t want to be here.

  I took pity on her and never asked her to come to the house again. I always went to her now.

p; The neighbors had come over when they heard about the accident. They’d brought casseroles, flowers, and blankets. I don’t know why I got the blankets, but it was fine. They went into a pile in the guest room, and those eventually went to my parents as well. I’m sure my mother washed them, and I’d have my pick to use the next time I visited.

  I let out a sigh. It seemed to echo through the house.

  Liam and I hadn’t gotten to know the neighbors before. We were still in the honeymoon phase, and it was all about us… I wished now that I’d made friends with a few of them so I could run over for a glass of wine, or hell, if I ever bought enough to bake, I could pretend to ask for a cup of sugar. I hadn’t been inclined to make friends after he died.

  “Should I leave?” I asked no one, though I still half-expected a response.

  Was Liam here? I closed my eyes. He was everywhere. He was coming home from work. Frankie was barking, running to the door. He was coming in to kiss my forehead, telling me about his day. Frankie’s paws pitter-pattered on the floor. He barked, darting around Liam, hoping for food. Liam would’ve grabbed a snack and sat at the table across from me. He’d groan, complaining about what Marsha said, or what Amie did. His co-workers drove him nuts. Frankie would whine when it was time to eat. Then Liam would take him for a walk, and I’d have food ready for everyone when they got back.

  A tear fell, sliding down my cheek. I left it there. I knew more would join it.

  I asked again. “Should I leave?”

  No one answered. I was alone…with memories of my dead husband.

  I skipped the salad and finished the bottle. Wine was one thing Liam had loved. He drank it sparingly, but he’d loved collecting his favorite bottles and had accumulated enough to try his hand at a makeshift wine cellar in the basement. I went downstairs, pulled out a few more bottles, placed two of them into the refrigerator, and took one with me back upstairs.

  That bottle kept me company for the rest of the night.

  There was a buzzing in my ear. It was loud, drowning out everything else. The air was hot, and people were running around, but a fog descended over me. I could hear a dog barking in the distance. Someone was screaming. There were sirens. I couldn’t make sense of what I was seeing, but I knew it wasn’t right. None of this was right.

  Liam’s car was upside down, glass everywhere. The other car—a truck—I looked around for it. It was gone. That…that didn’t make sense. The driver left? Drove away? I saw a hand outside Liam’s car. An arm had stretched out and rested on the top of the doorframe. I started forward. I had to get to him.

  Was that Liam?

  My heart was in my throat.

  I didn’t want it to be him. It couldn’t be, but still I came closer—running even though the dog’s barking and the shouting intensified. I shook my head. I didn’t want to hear them, but I couldn’t silence them. The pounding in my heart grew louder, competing with the screams and sirens for my attention. I couldn’t focus on any of that. I had to get closer.

  Then I was there. I knelt down.

  God—it was Liam. I saw his wedding band.

  Tears flowed down my face. The wetness registered, but I also felt pain—and burning. So much burning. It was so incredibly hot, but I had to get to Liam.

  My knees touched the ground, and I heard crunching sounds. None of that mattered. Liam—

  I ducked down so I could see him. He looked right at me. His eyes so alert and clear, almost as if he felt no pain, hadn’t been in a car accident. I knew he had been, and this didn’t make sense, but then he choked out, “Addison.”

  “I’m here.” I reached out my hand, fitting it into his. I wanted to pull him clear.

  “No, Addison.”

  “Why not?”

  There was glass under my hand. I heard the pieces crack under me, but I didn’t think about it. I just needed to get to him. “Liam, please.” I wasn’t sure what I was begging him for. To come to me? To let me near?

  “No, Addison. You have to stay.”


  He lifted his head. A pipe was lodged in the back of his skull, and I scrambled back, choking as I saw it. I tried to tell him to stop, not to move, but he pulled his head clear. The pipe had been thrust up from the back of his seat. It was sticking out of his headrest, and blood poured from back of his head.

  “Liam, please.” I sobbed. I felt the tears. I could hardly see him. My sobs sounded like they were choking me.

  “Why are you here?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I don’t want you here.” His eyes flashed, darkening in anger. “I don’t want you here! Get out.”


  “GET OUT!” he roared.

  I fell back, startled by the sudden change, and I landed on the street. Pain sliced through me. Stabbing, searing pain. My hands were coated with blood. Pieces of glass stuck to them. Pain exploded all over my body. Every muscle ached. My insides were on fire, and I hurried backward, scooting over the street. More pain. More glass. More burning.

  I was halfway to the curb when I heard his laughter. I stopped, my chest heaving.

  Liam was laughing.

  My heart squeezed in a tight grip as he began to move. He was crawling out of the car, coming to me. His eyes pinned me down, and then he was standing. I couldn’t move. I was held immobile.

  I knew I should run. I should yell for him to stop, but I couldn’t do anything.

  He came toward me, saying, “You failed. Why did you fail?”

  I tried to shake my head. I didn’t know what he was talking about. But he kept coming. His eyes were so accusing. Blood had soaked him entirely. It dripped from his face, his hands, his fingertips, even his feet. He left bloody footprints over the glass, and still he came.

  “You failed me, Addison. You betrayed me. Why?”

  “I didn’t—” I was crying too much; no words could come out. My throat closed, and then he was over me. He seemed to grow in size, foreboding and intimidating.

  He grasped my shoulders. His fingers dug in, piercing my skin. “Why, Addison?!” He shook me. “Why did you betray me? WHY—”

  I woke up screaming and jerked upright in bed, my entire body soaked in sweat. My heart pounded, and all I could do was sit as my chest heaved up and down, taking in gaping breaths of air. I had to settle down. It was a nightmare…a nightmare. I closed my eyes, telling myself that over and over again.

  My hands curled around the blanket, forming fists. That was when I heard his laughter.

  I lifted my head. My eyes snapped open, and I heard it again.

  It was the laugh from the nightmare. It had been eerie then, and it sent shivers down my spine now. I gulped. Liam’s laugh was so clear, so vivid; it couldn’t be my imagination, though this laugh lacked all of Liam’s warmth.

  I sat there, afraid to move, and he kept laughing. I lay back down, but my eyes never closed. My hands never uncurled. And Liam never stopped laughing.

  My mind was made up.

  It was time to move.

  “I’m so damn happy you decided to go for this.”

  Sia was unpacking a box in my new kitchen, pulling out pans and plates. I sat in the living room, stacking the books I hadn’t been able to leave behind.

  “What changed your mind?” she asked.

  I paused, holding on to the box between my legs. It’d been a few weeks since that nightmare. Since then, I’d been staying at Sia’s. When I arrived, she hadn’t questioned me, and I was thankful I didn’t have to explain my temporary relocation. I had a few more nightmares, but I heard no more creepy laughing at Sia’s. Thank God.

  The movers brought in the last piece of furniture around nine at night, and it was nearly two hours later when my stomach started growling. I hadn’t eaten all day.

  Sia frowned at one of the pans. She held it up as I approached. “What do you use this for? I just realized I have some of these, but I’ve never used them.”

  I took it from her, placing it beside th
e empty box on the counter. “Step away from the pan and promise me you’ll never use one unless I’m there with you.”

  “So they can be dangerous, huh?”

  “Not normally, but you’d burn your apartment down.”

  Her eyes widened. “I’m not that bad.”

  “Yes, you are.” I patted her hand as my stomach grumbled again. “And speaking of food, is there a restaurant around these parts?”

  Sia checked her phone. “Gianni’s is down the block. I go there for lunch when I’m working. I’ve never been there this time of night, but I know it’s open.”

  “I’m easy. That works for me. You have to show me around the neighborhood anyway. I know where you work and where your apartment is. That’s it. Ken mentioned a grocery store not far from here, too.”

  “Ken?” Sia grabbed her purse and coat.