As soon as I took a sip, I realized it was poison.
My eyes slowly floated from the edge of the table at my end to the opposite side. His diamond eyes were staring into mine, his countenance blank. Slowly, he lifted his own silver cup to his pastel lips and drank.
“Is something wrong?” he said.
I set my cup down gently, my eyes staying locked on his. “Why don’t you tell me?”
A hint of a smirk tugged at the corner of his mouth before he forced it back down into its orderly line. He placed his cup down and lifted the red silk napkin and dabbed away the remnants of his wine from his lips. “I think we both know the situation, don’t we?”
My heart was thundering in my chest, slamming harder and harder into my sternum. Of course we both knew the situation. But neither of us were willing to sacrifice our pride to recount the tale to each other. He had an external reputation to uphold, and I had my innocent to keep.
Dead people can’t ruin reputations. Dead people don’t need innocence.
I balled my hands into fists under the table. “You know, this was an ingenious plan,” I admitted. He played his role perfectly the past three months. Smiling, waving, acting as if I meant something to him. It was all very convincing. “It could even rival one of my own.”
The smirk made itself known, now. “I learned from the best.”
**** his arrogance. **** him in general. He knew just how to put his charm and beauty to good use. Manipulation was second nature to him. For Adrian McClain, it was as easy as breathing. He knew how people worked, how to play their strings. One conversation with you an he’d know how to make you kill for him. He definitely knew how to do that with me, anyway.
Adrian McClain was a very jealous man. Any man who flirted with me was an immediate threat. And one was such a big threat to our relationship, it appeared, that Adrian thought he should be taken care of.
The man in question was a barista at a café down a few blocks from the apartment we shared. We’d pulled over to get coffee right before close, and I’d offered to go in, grab our drinks, and come back out. Adrian didn’t mind and told me what he wanted. I went in, ordered, and noticed the barista being very flirtatious. I laughed and thanked him, flattered, and then left with the drinks.
But, from the parked car on the curb, Adrian had seen it. From the parked car on the curb, it had looked like I’d been flirting back.
“Adrian, this is crazy!” I’d exclaimed. He’d insisted we wait until they closed before leaving. What he really did, however, was wait until the barista came out to his car then followed him home. Adrian confronted him, leaving me in the car, utterly embarrassed. It wasn’t until the altercation became physical that I got out to intercede.
The barista was angry, fuming, even. He’d started the physical aspect of the fight, not Adrian. I got to where they stood in the parking garage of an apartment building I didn’t recognize and threw myself between them. The barista didn’t want to back down, however, and when he came to try and hurt Adrian again, my instinct kicked in and I shoved him as hard as I could. He fell and his head collided with a sickening crack against the bumper of his Jeep.
He didn’t move. He didn’t breathe. He was dead.
I turned and looked to Adrian in shock, but a slow burning fire was set behind his light blue eyes and his lips were curling into a smile.
This was his plan, I’d realized. This is what he’d wanted.
I put that into the back of my mind in that moment. We had a dead body and no witnesses. Adrian and I studied the garage and there were no security cameras. Only signs telling people they couldn’t hold anyone responsible for any damage or theft that occurred to their vehicle.
So, I offered a solution. We picked up his body with a spare throw blanket from Adrian’s trunk so we didn’t leave any prints on the corpse as we tucked it into the trunk of the Jeep. Before that moment I’d found it odd why Adrian had only tried to block the punches, but now I realized if he’d hit the barista, he would have risked leaving evidence behind.
We went to a small bar immediately after for drinks and an alibi. On the way to the apartment, Adrian looked to me almost adoringly and said, “That was genius on the spot. You’re the best.”
We promised not to speak of it again. If word got out, either we’d both go to jail or I would. Adrian hadn’t hit him or pushed him and he could afford a better lawyer than I could. He’d save himself before he’d save me, and I knew it.
There was only one issue with us keeping that secret. There were two of us. And two can keep a secret if one is dead.
He invited me to his father’s estate three months after to celebrate a new business deal. He brought out the fancy china and silverware and brought out our meal and wine. And that was how we ended up here.
“You did learn from the best,” I finally answered, bringing my cup to my lips and finishing off my drink. “But you aren’t the best.”
Adrian glanced down to his own drink and back to me. “Claire,” he said before his throat began to close up. His face went purple and his eyes bulged before his body slumped over onto the table.
I took a deep breath, looking at what I’d done.
Then, I closed my eyes as my own throat began to close.