It was all a lie.
But then he came.
He came with his dark eyes and his cutting words and his cruel, cruel stare.
Grayson Rothburg. Recluse. Genius. Truth speaker.
My friend, Gray.
My hero in disguise.
He says I should move on. Change. And now he's offered me a diversion, a way to help me re-evaluate what's left of me.
The trouble is, I don't know how real that is either.
And I'm not sure I care.
Release date: June 3, 2020
Print pages: 195
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A Distraction Of Lies: A Dark Romance
Charlotte E Hart
The clouds below seem endless.
I gaze out at them, wondering if this is the last move we’ll have to make. I doubt it, but maybe, with this advancement, it might be. Every two or three years we seem to pick up, pack up, and leave whatever home we’ve made. It isn’t a problem. It’s just an inconvenience. Thank god there aren’t any children in tow yet.
“You okay, babe?” Rick asks, squeezing my hand.
I look back at him, dismissing the clouds and the air underneath us to look at the reason we do this. He smiles and tilts his head in that way that always makes me stare for that bit too long. Not surprising. He’s gorgeous. He was the first time I met him, still is now nearly twelve years on. High school sweethearts is what they call us. Rick and Hannah – the king and queen of Newmore High. He was sweet, loving, and gentle. Still is. Mostly.
He frowns and reaches for my chin, tipping it up towards his lips. “This is the last one. I promise.” I keep staring. I don’t really care if it is or not. I’ll go wherever he leads me without remorse, but sometimes I wish he was in a job that means this didn’t happen just as I start to get settled in. I’d made good friends in Vancouver. Joined clubs. Become part of a group of women that I enjoyed being around. Even his friends were nice this time, if work colleagues can be considered friends. Still, the second his lips meet mine, the very moment I can feel that one thing we have that no one else gets, I melt. I don’t know what it is, but it’s been there since the first time he kissed me. Truth. Honesty. We were never jealous of each other, never wavered from our connection. We just fit. Always have, always will. “I love you, Han.”
“I love you, too.”
“With this promotion, I shouldn’t have to travel as much and we can settle a bit. And I can’t see why they’d give it to me if they’re going to move me on again in the next few years. It’s a big deal. Head of corporate finance for Annox Pharma? Never thought we’d get here. Couldn’t have done it without you, babe.”
“I’m sure you could. I haven’t exactly done much. It’s all been you,” I reply.
“What? You’ve given up everything you dreamed of to do this with me. Maybe when we settle you could see if there’s a job around this time. Not that you need to, but if you wanted to?”
“I don’t know, Rick. It’s been so long since I’ve taught. Can you imagine me now? And there’s probably lots of training I’d have to get back into.” I snuggle in and lean my head on his chest, looking out the window again. “Besides, who’d be there to host all those parties we’re going to have to host? Like you said, this job is a big deal.” His arm snakes around me, pulling me closer. “And think of all the shopping I’ll have to do. New dresses. Shoes. I’ll spend a month organising my New York wardrobe, and yours. All the clothes I have are horrible in comparison to what the other wives will be wearing.” He chuckles, his lips kissing the top of my head.
“Nothing about you, or your clothes is horrible. I don’t know why you worry about this every time. You’re perfect the way you are. And you haven’t even seen the wardrobe yet. Nor the apartment. You might hate it.”
“As long as you’re there I won’t give a damn what it’s like. Peas in a pod, right?”
“Peas in a pod.”
Another kiss to the top of my head and we settle into familiarity, regardless of the world outside us or which part of it we’re in. Peas in a pod. Everything about us. He knows me as well as I know him, which is inside out. It’s been that way for so long that I wouldn’t know what to do without him now. He’s like the other side of me, the part of my soul that felt lost before him. Okay, sometimes I worry that we’ve lost a spark too early, or that because we were so young when we met we’ve done it all too fast, but then, just as I’m worrying too much, he’ll do something that blows all that out of my thoughts. A romantic trip away. Gifts. A sexy night or two on a remote lake somewhere. It’s like he knows what I’m feeling in those occasional moments and immediately does something to correct the problem. He’s perfect. Handsome, strong, willing. And now, just to top off his perfection, we’re wealthier than I ever thought we would be because of his financial acumen.
I sigh and listen to the few people around us in first class, all of them talking on their phones and organising business meetings. Rick hasn’t picked up his phone once since we got on the plane. No one to call now. We’ve moved on from the friends we made. No parents for either of us, nor brothers and sisters. We’re alone and heading off on our next adventure, braving the uncertainty and smiling as we go. Life’s perfect. Nothing to worry about. No problems at all.
I walk into the kitchen and look at the letters left for me on the table, hands reaching for the fridge the moment I get to it. Tired. I should rest. I won’t. I’ll keep working through the night, searching for anomalies, trying to counter them at the same time, and then I’ll retreat to the laboratory and research more. It’s all there is. I take out a bottle of wine, eyes barely focusing on the things around me. It’s all the same as it was, hardly a thing changed in the last ten years. I tip the bottle towards the glass and let the wine flow, watching the slow glugs of Chardonnay until it’s full, and then walk back towards the study.
“Mr Rothburg,” Letti says, walking through the area behind me. “Would you like me to prepare you a late supper?”
I nod and keep walking, barely acknowledging her other than that, as I carry on through the hall to get to my work. Everything’s unnecessary other than that. The wine gets placed on the desk in its usual location, and I start churning through the emails and invitations to meetings I’ll never go to. The information within the emails is used, stored, deleted, or assimilated into whatever structure I’m preparing, and then I suffer the consequence of my own success some more alone. Days and nights pass me by. Afternoons disappear into evenings, mornings into night. Other people walk in parks and observe the life around them. They talk and go to work, leaving their house to do so. I don’t, not unless undeniably necessary. I sit in here for hours with my three screens on display instead, only leaving it to head up to the top floor laboratory or sleep.
That life out there that other people live is not for me.
The meal is prepared by the time I’ve drunk the glass of wine and made my way back to the dining room. Silver service is laid out. A fresh bottle of wine alongside it. I sit and eat silently, not interested in the monotony of ambiguous music to fill the space around me. I like quiet, like my own thoughts and considerations. The only person I’ve let in this place is Letti. She comes in daily, keeps the place clean and looks after the food situation. She’s good at that. Organised. Late forties. Neat. Tidy in appearance. Although, portly. She should use the gym. Maybe I haven’t told her she could if she’d like. I look at the plate of beef and vegetables and pick up the sauce boat, pouring the peppercorn sauce over the meat.
“Anything else I can do for you tonight, Mr Rothburg?” she asks, from behind me.
“No, you can leave,” I murmur, looking at the window. Night time. Is it night? Must be. A small chuckle rattles in my throat, eyes looking back at my food.
“Thank you Sir. Goodnight,” she says.
I nod as she goes, not interested in talking with her any more than that. I’ll eat, leave the plates for her to clear in the morning, and then get back to work. The fact that it is night makes me stare into it as I’m eating, taking in the skyline out there for the first time in a while. It’s clear as far as I can see, no clouds or dismal weather interfering with the view. Attractive. It looks almost sinister, laced with shrouds of nothing but black, occasional lights sparkling. A half smile lifts my lips, and then dissolves from my face. Half smile. Half fucking everything.
My knife and fork clatter the plate after I’ve finished and I pick up the wine to walk to the window, taking it in. New York. Manhattan to be exact. Right under my nose. The once monthly trip away from here takes me out into it for a few minutes, or those business meetings I can’t ignore force me into it. And the opera, of course. Always the opera. That’s it, though. That’s all I’m comfortable with now. It’s all I want. Malachi’s fun can be damned. The distraction was useful for a while, gave me time to process, analyse, think. Or maybe not think. I don’t know anymore. Either way, I have work to do. More research to examine.
The thought turns me away from the view, not interested in looking at it any longer, and I walk back to my study. Why bother looking at it? It’s the same as it’s always been, and I’m the same as I’ve always been. I’m not even sure why I exist anymore, but for the drone of everyday and the necessity to keep searching, keep trying. It’s impossible, even with my talent, but I’m not into giving up. It’s not my way, not what saved the hoards out there from their diseases either. I’m obstinate, focused and persistent.
My hand reaches for a journal I’ve been leafing through, eyes taking in the title – The Genome Sequence. An In-depth Analysis - and I turn to the page I was looking at before dinner. They’re still the same words on the page, the same thoughts. No movement forward, no new mind map sending me off on a differing route, no matter how much I try to separate judgements on words written long ago. It’s not surprising, and no amount of me reading my own work will change the facts. Nothing I do makes the impossible possible, and money doesn’t alter a damn thing other than giving me more time in this space around me.
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