Chapter 15

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She hadn't been prepared when she'd sauntered into her hallway, dropped her keys on the little side table, hung up her jacket.

He came in from the living room and she visibly jumped at his approach.

"I didn't know you'd be back so soon."

"I called. I left a message. Guess you didn't get it."

It was pointed, it was accusatory and yet, resigned.

She fiddled with her Blackberry, "I ran out of battery."

He wouldn't let it go.

"Didn't charge it?"

"No, I-" she'd left the charger plugged into the wall, next to her bed, which she hadn't slept in for the past two nights.

She swallowed and looked away and tried not to think of Cheryl's hands and Justin's mouth and how very different their kisses were.

"Do you want some coffee?" he asked her, taking her unawares, not even waiting for her answer as he slipped past.

She lingered in the hallway for a few seconds more, indecision clouding her ability to move, but a longing for some sort of resolution compelling her to do something.

She followed him into the kitchen and watched while he fussed about with their espresso machine, the cups clinking too noisily, his hands careless with the sugar and the stirring.

It was barely eight o'clock in the morning. She had no idea what time he had gotten back, if he'd been here all night.

She wanted to know, but was afraid he'd then ask where she had been.

He handed her the coffee cup and leaned back against the counter, watching.

"I got back just now," he began.

She nodded.

"You weren't here."

She shook her head. She had lines to follow and barriers to put up, instructions to carry out. Her throat was dry and she couldn't quite focus on what she was meant to be saying. His contained conversation was unnerving her further.

"Early morning or late night?" he asked.

"I..."

"Because you didn't sleep here."

And his eyes narrowed and his tone carried an edge of harshness, an edge of something that might spiral out of control if provoked.

"No."

"So where were you?"

"With Cheryl," she admitted, placing her cup down on the work surface, staring at its overly milky colour, the strength he never managed to get right in all their years together. Not that she ever bothered correcting him.

"Hm," he nodded in acknowledgement, "Isn't she staying in a hotel now?"

"Yeah," she murmured, shuffling her feet against the kitchen tiles, wanting to take her shoes off so she could feel their coolness hard and real against her naked skin.

Still he didn't say anything and when she at last looked up she could see he was waiting expectantly.

She shrugged as nonchalantly as possible, "She wanted some company."

It wasn't a lie.

But he knew about Cheryl and the company she kept. He knew about Kimberley's devotion to her. He could smell her cigarette smoke and see their sequestered union written in Kimberley's nervous eyes, the fluttering eyelashes and tapping fingernails.

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