Lorelei stares at me, waiting for me to elaborate.
“Doesn’t Kennedy look great in that dress? I’m so happy for her and Griffin,” I muse.
Lorelei narrows her eyes at me and when I bite my lip and try to reach for the champagne bottle, her eyes widen.
“Paige, what did you do?” she demands.
“Give me the champagne.”
She holds it farther from my reach and I cross my arms in front of me, refusing to let her force me to tell her what happened. This is my problem and I’m going to deal with it.
“Tell me you didn’t. Paige, did you compromise the case? Did you tell him what you were hired to do?”
I immediately get defensive. I’m not an idiot. I’m just confused. “No! I didn’t tell him what I was there for!”
At least I’m not lying about that part.
“Okay, so what’s the problem then? Were you unable to get any good photos of him cheating? It’s no big deal if it takes you a few tries,” Lorelei says.
“There’s no problem. I got the photos and everything is fine,” I tell her with a sigh.
Lorelei turns and we see Kennedy and Griffin kiss. They couldn’t care less that they are in a room full of people right now; all they care about is each other.
“Is that what’s wrong? Are you sad that you haven’t found someone like Kennedy has?” Lorelei asks softly as we continue to watch Kennedy and Griffin together.
“Yeah, maybe that’s it,” I admit to her as Kennedy and Griffin say good-bye to everyone and head out on their date.
Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m seriously considering fucking up the opportunity Kennedy gave me by going behind her back and starting a new case of my own.
“Paige, you are a sweet, honest person and a great friend. You’ll be okay,” Lorelei reassures me.
My chest starts to ache as I feel her turn the knife a little deeper into my heart with her words. I thought that by walking away from Matt I would be able to forget about him and his problems. Instead, they followed me home. Even the guilt I feel at Lorelei’s words isn’t enough to make me change my mind about what I’m going to do.
As soon as I kissed him, I knew I would help him. I’m sure if I explain to Kennedy that there isn’t a case here with Matt being a cheater, we could close it and open up a new one for him so there isn’t a conflict of interest. But I know Kennedy won’t believe me. She thinks I’m a softie, and she’ll just assume I’m taking Matt’s side because he’s hot, especially since I convinced her she should trust Griffin because that man is sex on a stick. It doesn’t matter if I was right; I need to be smart about this.
I need to have solid proof that Melanie is the cheater before I bring Kennedy in.
Paige, please. You’re being unreasonable.”
I grit my teeth and try my hardest not to throw the phone against the wall as I sit at my desk and listen to Andy beg. I knew I shouldn’t have answered the phone this morning.
“I’m being unreasonable? Are you kidding me with this right now? I’m not giving you any money, Andy. If memory serves me correct, you already have plenty of my money. That’s why we’re divorced,” I remind myself.
Like clockwork, every week for the past month, Andy has called asking for money. He’s either extremely desperate, or has the biggest set of balls known to man. And since I was married to him for five years, I know for a fact the latter isn’t true.
“I’m not asking for a lot. Just a little bit to tide me over until my bonus from work comes in. I swear I’ll pay you back,” he pleads.
“Right, like you paid me back the six hundred grand you stole? I don’t think so.”
“We were husband and wife. It’s not stealing. Everything is fifty-fifty when you’re married,” he reminds me.
“Wow, my math must be really rusty, because you didn’t take fifty percent, YOU TOOK IT ALL!”
I’m shouting now. I really hate him for making me lose my temper.
“I wouldn’t ask you if it wasn’t important. I owe someone money and this person is going to kill me if I don’t pay off my debt,” Andy explains.
“Yes, I know. You owe me money and I am definitely planning on all the fun ways I’m going to kill you if you don’t stop calling me and asking me for money.”
Andy sighs on the other end, and I glance down at the notepad in front of me and realize I’ve written his name and made so many Xs through it that I’ve ripped the page to shreds.
“Paige, this is serious. I’m in a lot of trouble here. It’s only twenty grand.”
Wow, only twenty grand. Sure, no big deal. Let me just bend over and pull it right out of my ass.
“Andy, even if I did have the money, do you really think I’d give it to you? I’m not modeling anymore. I don’t have that kind of cash,” I remind him.
“I talked to your agent this morning. She said she’s been trying to get hold of you about a spread for InStyle. That will pay a hundred grand, easy.”
The pencil in my hand snaps in half as my anger reaches an all-time high.
“You are such a piece of scum, do you know that? I cannot believe you called Penny. Go to hell, Andy. And stop calling me.”
I slam the phone down just as Lorelei walks into the office. She stops in her tracks when she witnesses me lift the receiver and smack it back down over and over until I’m satisfied that the call has ended.
“Let me guess—Andy?”
She walks over to her desk and sets her briefcase on top. I get up from my chair and go over to her as she takes a seat.
“I really don’t understand why I married him. Guys like him should be required to wear a sign that says ‘I will suck the life out of you,’” I complain.
“How much does he want this time?” Lorelei asks as she pulls a few files out of her briefcase and I perch my hip on the corner of her desk.
“Oh, only twenty thousand dollars. No big deal.”
Lorelei laughs and shakes her head. “If he calls again, pass it over to me. I’ll use a bunch of big, legal words on him and scare him straight.”
I laugh with her and hear the bell ring above the front door, signaling a customer. Craning my head to look over my shoulder, the laughter dies and I let out a gasp. Without even thinking, I dive under Lorelei’s desk.
“What the hell are you—”
I smack her leg to make her shut up as she stares under her desk at me with a confused expression on her face.
“Excuse me, I’d like to talk to someone about hiring a private investigator.”
I watch from under the desk as Lorelei’s head whips up, and I wince as her eyes widen in shock.
“You’re Matt Russo,” Lorelei whispers.
I smack her leg again and this time, she retaliates by kicking me in the shin. I smack my hand over my mouth to keep the yelp of pain from escaping.
“Um, yeah. How do you know my name?” Matt asks from the other side of the desk.
Oh, my God. This is not happening right now! Shit, shit, shit!
“I’m . . . we just . . . I know . . .” Lorelei flounders and quickly glances under her desk at me. I shrug my shoulders at her in an “I don’t know what the fuck is happening right now” gesture. She scoots her chair closer to the desk and I pull my knees up to my chest, making myself as small as possible while holding my breath at the same time.
“I, uh . . . saw a write-up about you in Graphic Design USA a while back. Great article,” Lorelei states.
This is why she’s a big-time attorney and I’m an ex-model, cowering under a desk. She can think on her feet in a crisis.
“Wow! I didn’t think anyone even read that magazine,” Matt says with a good-natured laugh.
“Oh, yes. I like to keep up-to-date on all the current events in . . . design . . . and graphics. And stuff.”
Oh, my God.
“So what can I help you with, Mr. Russo?” Lorelei asks while I listen closely.
“This is so weird. I can’t believe I’m even here asking you this, but I need to hire you guys to investigate someone. I’ve never done anything like this,” he explains.
“It was so nice of you to consider Fool Me Once for your investigating needs,” Lorelei says quickly. “We’re really busy right now, but if you would just leave me your name and number, I’ll have someone contact you as soon as possible to let you know if we’ll be able to squeeze you into our schedule.”
I hear Lorelei slide a piece of paper across the desk and the sounds of Matt scribbling his information and then setting the pen down. “Thanks, I really appreciate it. This is kind of an emergency situation, so I’d like to talk to someone as soon as possible.”
Lorelei thanks him again and a few seconds later I hear the ding of the bell as he exits the office. I let out the breath I’ve been holding and scramble out from under the desk. Lorelei bends over and grabs my arm, hauling me up to my feet.
“What the hell is going on? I thought you said you got the pictures you needed. Why is the man you’ve been following coming in here to hire us?” Lorelei grills me.
“Are those Jimmy Choos? Are they from the spring collection?” I ask, pointing down to her shoes to try to distract her.
“Oh, these?” she asks, looking down at her feet, taking the bait. “Yes, I just got them yesterday at—PAIGE! Stop it! We can’t take him on as a client when we’re currently in the middle of trying to catch him cheating. This is the biggest conflict of interest ever! I don’t even know why I took down his name and number. I completely panicked. Tell me what’s going on, right now!”
Lorelei stomps her foot and I know she means business. I’ve never seen her lose her temper before. She’s as cool and calm as they come, but right now, she looks like she’s ready to throttle me.
“So, um, when I trailed him the other night, he recognized me from O’Casey’s. We got to talking and, well . . .”
I trail off, trying to come up with a way to make this NOT sound as bad as it is. I’ve got nothing. The only thing I can do is just blurt it out and hope she doesn’t punch me. “I don’t think he’s cheating on his wife. She’s cheating on him and trying to take his family’s company because she’s a gold-digging whore and I’ve decided I’m switching teams and I’m going to help him catch her because he seems like a really nice guy and I don’t want to see him get hurt.”
There. It’s done. I take a deep breath after my word vomit and wait for the explosion.
Lorelei is quiet. Too quiet. She just stands here staring at me with her mouth open.
“Say something,” I beg her.
Maybe Lorelei will feel my pain. She’ll see that this is a matter of importance. She’s got a heart buried somewhere in there under all that resentment of her ex-husband.
I look at her imploringly, seeing her face lose its shocked expression.
I knew it! I knew she’d understand.
After a few seconds, Lorelei whispers. “Kennedy is going to kill you.”
Well, so much for that idea.
Lorelei was called back into court because a verdict for the case she’s working on came in earlier than expected. Thank God for that. If I had to listen to one more minute of her explaining to me all the ways Kennedy would remove the limbs from my body, I was going to scream.
I convinced her not to tell Kennedy by promising I wouldn’t do anything stupid until she got back so she could finish raking me over the coals. I wonder if Googling Matt’s ex constitutes stupid? It’s not like I ran out the door as soon as Lorelei left and went straight to Matt. I’m being smart. I’m doing research. Research doesn’t compromise anything.
According to her Facebook page, Melanie Gates-Russo is single. I guess they don’t have “whore” as a relationship status. I look through her photo albums and don’t see any pictures of her with the mystery man from the other night. She also doesn’t have any pictures from her time with Matt. Not that I was looking specifically for pictures of Matt. Like ones of him shirtless. Or sunning himself on a beach. Or lifting weights with sweat dripping down his toned chest.
Research. It’s just research.
Melanie certainly has quite a few Internet pictures of kittens in various poses, however. Twenty-two pictures of kittens in sweaters and eighteen of kittens in hats. Seriously? What is she, five?
Clicking out of her photo albums, I notice a status update that wasn’t there a few minutes ago:
Hangin’ with my grls 2nite at Blu Nightclub. Hit me up!
Are you kidding me with this? He not only married a chick who likes to post kitten pictures, he married one with poor grammar skills. Good God.
Closing out of her Facebook profile, I quickly look up where this Blu Lounge is.
Crap. It’s in Indianapolis. That’s almost three hours from here.
I glance at the time on my computer. There’s no way I can make it there and back before Lorelei gets out of court. She specifically told me to stay put. Taking another few minutes to contemplate what I’m thinking, I shut down my computer and head for the door.
I haven’t taken orders from anyone since I left Andy. Why should I start now?
According to its website, Blu is a trendy nightclub in the heart of Indianapolis. Since I had a long drive ahead of me, I ran home, grabbed an appropriate dress, shoved it into my backseat, and changed at a McDonald’s right before I got here. As I show my ID to the bouncer, he doesn’t even glance at it as he takes in my red, backless halter dress and matching four-inch red peep-toe Steve Madden stilettos before looking at my face. His eyes widen in recognition when he sees who I am, and I smile flirtatiously at him, flustering him a bit so he’ll let me in without drawing unwanted attention to myself. I’m immediately assaulted by the thumping beats of Top 40 dance music courtesy of the DJ on the other side of the club. I stick close to the wall as I take in my surroundings. The dance floor is packed with sweaty, writhing bodies, and all of the VIP lounges around the outer edge of the floor are filled with partiers. I have no idea how I’m ever going to find Melanie in this place, but I have to try.