"Whore?" I said. Thinking suddenly about Lauren Teague. A girl I'd known a long time ago, from my quiet job. She'd sold her body, ended up head-shot and dumped in an alley . . .
"I was going to say 'lure.' Despite all we've had togetherthis supposed enlightened relationship we've got, you go about your own business. . . . Alex, basically you've built this whole other life from which I'm excluded. From which I want to be excluded."
She reached for her wineglass, sipped, made a face.
"Fine vintage. I'm sorry, baby, I guess it just comes down to timing. Getting the offer exactly when I was so down." She grabbed my hand, squeezed hard. "You love me, but you left me, Alex. It made me realize how alone I'd been for so long. We both were. The difference is, you enjoy going it aloneyou get high on solitude and danger. So when Trish and I started talking and she told me she'd heard about my workmy reputationand all of a sudden I realized I had a reputation, and here was someone offering me great money and the chance for something of my own, I said yes. Just blurted it out. And then driving home, I panicked, and said, What did you just do? And told myself I'd have to renege and wondered how I'd do it without looking like an idiot. But then I got home and the house was empty and all of a sudden I didn't want to renege. I went out to my studio and cried. I still might've changed my mind. I probably would've. But then you arranged that date with that tramp and . . . it felt completely right. It still does."
She looked out the rain-clouded window. "Such a beautiful city. I never want to see it again."
The weather remained gray and wet and we kept to our room. Being together was agonizing: suppressed tears, edgy silences, too-polite chitchat, listening to the rain tormenting the dormer windows. When Robin suggested we return early to L.A., I told her I'd try to change her ticket but I'd be staying for a while. That hurt her but it also relieved her and the next day when the cab showed up to take her to the airport, I carried her bags, held her elbow as she got into the taxi, paid the driver in advance.
"How long will you be staying?" she said.
"Don't know." My teeth ached.
"Will you be back before I leave?"
"Please be, Alex."
Then: the kiss, the smile, trembling hands concealed.
As the taxi drove away I strained for a look at the back of her heada tremor, a slump, any sign of conflict, regret, grief.
Impossible to tell.
Everything moved too fast.
Excerpted from The Murder Book by Jonathan Kellerman. Copyright 2002 by Jonathan Kellerman. Excerpted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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