Read Dirty Little Lies Online

Authors: Clare James

Dirty Little Lies





Clare James


Copyright © 2014 Clare


All rights
reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded,
distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval
system in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without
express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief
passages for review purposes.

This is a work
of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or
occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created
from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Cover design by
Designs. Cover image used under license from

Chapter 1


Looking around the room makes
me itchy. Excessive, though impressive, female skin adorn the space, while
beautiful male forms scatter throughout the swanky condo like props on a movie
set. Decorated in glass and steel, the place is cold and sterile. Much like the
guests. The men are all some version of a Ken Doll—most likely hung like one
too—donning various cuts of Armani. Normally, I’d say Armani is hot. But here it’s
so common and unoriginal, the men look like they belong in a Dockers

Typical corporate soirée for Chicago’s young and

Personally, I’ve always detested the Ken Doll. I was more
of a James Bond action figure kind of gal. My grandmother found one at a garage
sale when I was ten and I kid you not, he was my first love. Maybe because he
reminded me of Bogie from all the classics Granny and I watched together.

How I’d love to be cuddled up watching those old movies
right now, but I promised Max. Attending work functions is definitely one girlfriend
duty I could do without. Plus, I don’t know why Max would even want me here. I’m
so out of place.  All the women are perfectly posed in their sculpted Pilates
bodies—golden and dewy—draped in tiny, strappy little numbers. I, other the
other hand, am secured in my modern-day girdle and vintage dress. With coiffed
hair, matte face, and pale lips to match. I was going for Ingrid Bergman, but
have a feeling it’s coming off more like the sad librarian who lives with her

I was born in the wrong time. I’m sure of it.

“One hour,” Max says. “I promise.”

“I’m okay,” I tell Max, taking a crab cake from one of the
servers, who gives me an ear-to-ear grin in return. I’m sure I’m his first
female customer all night. The ladies in attendance aren’t really known for

“Go ahead, babe,” I say. “Mingle. Talk business. I’ll
follow along.”

“Come on,” he says, dragging me over to a group of Kens.
“I’ll make it worth your while.”

I raise my brows and he stops, giving me a look that I
haven’t seen for quite some time. A look that shoots right to my lady parts.

“I won’t let you down,” he whispers in my ear.

Could it be? The end to the dry spell?

On the off chance I’m right, I really do it up. I am the
perfect G.F. all night. Laughing at the lame jokes, making small talk, smiling
until my cheeks ache. I am rewarded. There is sizzle between Max and I the
entire evening—genuine sizzle!

I am so getting laid tonight.


One hour and twenty minutes later—

Max has my legs in the air as he pushes into me, and I gasp
for breath.  

Well, this is new.

Oh my stars, he might actually get me there this time.

Please God, please deliver the O ... it’s been
more than a freaking year.

“Max,” I say, without realizing it’s almost a yell.

He stares down at me, and the moonlight shines on his face
with an expression I can’t quite understand. Pain maybe? Worry? Horniness? It’s
been so long, I’m not sure what to make of it. Frankly, I can’t be bothered. My
insides are tingling in anticipation of what he’s going to do next. Max
stretches my arms over my head and locks my wrists in one of his large hands,
taking his time as he rocks into me. I close my eyes at the surprisingly
pleasant feeling of each movement.

It’s a goddamn revelation, and I say a silent prayer of

Each thrust is foreign to me. Hell, Max is foreign to me.
Where has this guy been for the last year? There’s a pulling in my core, one
that says he just might get me there. Yes, something is definitely off with him—in
a completely delicious way.

I stare at his beautiful face: tan, chiseled, adorned with full
lips. He’s a Ken Doll, but edgier—like he’s trying to break free from the mold.
A mass of sandy hair dips close to his big blue eyes. They’re close tightly now,
full of concentration. My gaze travels down his strong, tight body. I keep pace
with each movement, longing for a happy ending.

He is so fantastically deep and grows almost crazed with
his movements. I let him take me and take control, enjoying the friction
between our bodies. He’s really doing it this time. I’m climbing, climbing, legs
trembling with the promise of release. Then he shifts the angle, and I start to
lose it.


My eyes pop open. It’s like an alarm, waking me into the
present, one where I’m never allowed to come. I try to turn off my mind and
focus on the task at hand. Shutting my eyes, I go through all the scenarios
that usually do the trick when I’m alone: a dirty delivery from the scrumptious
UPS guy, being ravaged by the new intern at the design shop, or a gorgeous
commuter taking me in the back of the ‘L’ on the way to work.


I know of about five other ways he could get me off, but
after he freaked out when he first saw my toy box, I know better. No, I’m sure
he wouldn’t take too kindly if I asked him to pass me my vibe right now. So I’m
stuck to mental play only. Sadly, even my mother of all fantasies—yoga
threesome—doesn’t get me there. Max has no trouble, however. He squeezes his
eyes shut, grunts a few times, and rolls off me.

Shit. Fuck, fuck. Shit.

“Maxxxxxx!” His name echoes through the apartment, but it’s
not my voice bouncing off the walls. No, I’m too frustrated to move. It’s Free
Bird, our little cockatoo, making all the racket. Yeah, his name is completely
ridiculous, but Max insisted. And though Max’s bedroom antics leave much to be
desired, his romantic gestures are hard to resist—he brought Free Bird home on
our six-month anniversary to keep me company when he traveled. It was the same
month we moved in together. 

Free Bird understands my pain. Born in captivity, the poor
little guy has never had a proper lay. I haven’t had one since … well, I can’t
even go there. It’s just too sad.

Yeah, my sex life with Max sucks balls. He knows it; I know
it. It’s just the way it is, and we’ve come to accept it because everything
else in our relationship is great. Seriously great. So we deny our pissed-off
libidos and go through the motions.

The first time Max was unable to seal the deal, I told
hey no big deal
It’s all part of being in a
relationship. The second time? I chalked it up to whiskey dick after too much
Jesus juice at a holiday party. Once we got into the double digits, though? I
started looking for an escape route.

But when I told Tia I was going to dump Max after three
months, she thought I was being my typical flighty self. “You lasted longer
than I thought you would.” She grinned with that knowing look covering her

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Let’s just say you don’t have a long attention span when
it comes to men. Or careers, apartments, hair color …”

“Okay, okay.” I waved my white flag. I didn’t want to hear
any more. It was the same thing my parents had been telling me for years.

“It’s okay, Stevie.” Tia wrapped her arm around me. “It’s
just how you are. And I love you for it.”

Of course, she was right. In the past five years I’ve had:
five jobs, four apartments, six hair colors, and countless relationships that
never seemed to go anywhere. It was embarrassing actually, and I didn’t want
her to love me for it. I didn’t want to be that girl.

So I stuck it out with Max.

By the time I realized our sex life was hopeless, I had already
fallen in love with the shmuck. The way he could make hanging in for dinner and
a movie fun; the sweet look in his eyes when I came home from work; how he always
made me feel safe and wanted. No, it wasn’t hot and heavy like I had with some
guys, but it was comfort and love and security. Real grown-up stuff. And
considering I turn thirty this year, I’d say it’s about time.

Max opens his eyes and that painful look is still there. It
kills me. This is usually the part where we slip away from each other. Where we
drum up the courage to pretend there’s nothing wrong. This time, I want to be
close to him—like I was for that brief moment when my orgasm stood at third
base, waving me home. I want to get that connection back.

I snuggle into the crook of his neck, my favorite spot in
the entire world, and run my hand along the peaks and valleys of his chest. I
feel his muscles tighten under my palm. Whether that’s a good sign or not, I
haven’t a clue.

“That was yummy,” I whisper, because it really was. Even
without the happy ending.

Max doesn’t acknowledge my comment with words. He simply
kisses the top of my head and slides off me.

I go into the bathroom to clean up, frustrated beyond
words. Not just because of orgasm denial … again. No, it’s Max’s reaction. The
way he just falls inside himself and doesn’t even try to fight. I’m tired of
it. This time I will not take it lying down. I march back into the bedroom to
take what’s mine. Seize the O. Instead, I’m welcomed back to bed by a virtually
comatose Max, snoring like an elephant in heat.

For fuck’s sake.



Chapter 2


Waking up to an empty bed, I immediately
have an unsettled feeling brewing in my belly. From the kitchen, the dishes
rattle as Max opens and closes the cupboards. The coffee pot gurgles to life as
he prepares our breakfast—just like he always does.

But this scene feels anything but ordinary.

I throw on my ratty old robe before going out to join him.
But when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I’m unexpectedly aware of
how awful I look. Max always says he likes that about me—I don’t dress to
impress or show off for him, and that I am completely comfortable in my own
skin. This is so not the case today. Yikes, maybe this is why he keeps his eyes
closed so much during sex—maybe he has to use his own fantasies to get there.

We eat breakfast in silence and my heart aches. Max leaves
on a business trip this morning so it’s going to be days before we can smooth
things over. He barely glances in my direction, keeping his eyes glued to his
phone. Or his plate.  He pretends to eat, but only moves the scrambled eggs
into a neat pile in the center of the dish.

“Time to shower and pack,” he finally says, abruptly ending
a meal he’s hardly touched.  

I finish my coffee and join him after he’s showered and
dressed. “Can I help?” I ask. Of course I want to talk about what happened last
night. I want to know why he was all dominating and aggressive one minute and
passive and quiet the next. But I know it’s too touchy of a subject, and I
can’t go there. So I zip my lips and play the doting girlfriend.

 “You can get me my toiletry case,” Max says with a weak

I go into the bathroom and gather his toiletries for his
trip, when I hear sneezing outside the door. Poor guy. He’ll need some Claritin
for his allergies. July in Chicago is miserable, and I’m sure when he gets to Cincinnati
it’ll be no different. Maybe that’s what has him looking like a kicked puppy
this morning.

I grab the bottle and open his bag, and that’s when I see


At least a dozen of them all linked together in a pretty

I stare into the bag for a minute, trying to make sense of
what I’m seeing. Trouble is, it doesn’t make sense. We haven’t used condoms
since I went on the pill. And this toiletry bag came with his new luggage set
we bought last month. I let these thoughts and excuses roll in and out of my
brain until his voice pulls me back.

“What’s the holdup, hon?” he asks. “Come on, I’ve got to
get moving.”

When I don’t answer, he joins me in the bathroom. “What’s
taking so—” He stops as his eyes reach the open bag with the row of condoms draping
over the side. “Aw shit, Stevie,” he says like it’s my fault I stumbled onto
his stash.

“Yeah, shit, Max,” I say to him, feeling my cheeks burn.
“Care to explain?”

He shakes his head and releases a labored sigh.

Not a good sign.

“Who is she?” I ask as my stomach turns, forcing me to talk
slowly, deliberately, before I throw up on his newly-polished shoes.

“It’s not what you think, Stevie. Things just haven’t been
working between us. I’m trying to fix us—”

“Is it serious?” I interrupt his explanation to ask the big
question. The question I’m not sure I want to know the answer to. I really don’t
want to know any of this.

“No.” Max runs his hands through his hair.

“Are you in love?” My palms grow damp, and I bite my lip to
keep it from trembling.

 “No, Stevie.” Max takes a deep breath, frustrated. “I’ve
only ever loved you.” He reaches out to me, but I recoil.

The slip of past tense isn’t lost on me, even in this state.
“You have a nice way of showing it,” I spit.

“I’ve been trying—trying so hard, you have no idea.” He
pounds on the bathroom counter, making me jump. “But I’m losing you,” he says
quietly. “I can see it every day. We’re becoming more like roommates and less
like lovers. We have to stop pretending it’s not a big deal.”

“And fucking someone else is helping our predicament?” I
steady my shaking hands so I can pick up the row of condoms. Then I smack him
with it, before launching the entire open bag at his head.

Max doesn’t even try to dodge the flying debris. He just looks
around, for what I can only assume is a shovel to dig himself a deeper hole.

“This isn’t about
person,” he says. “I’m not
having an affair.”

“What are you saying?” The words are rough as they fall out
of my mouth. “This has happened with more than one woman?”  

“You’re not listening to me, Stevie,” Max yells now.  “I
need time to figure this out so I can explain it to you.”

He needs time away from

 “Okay,” I tell him, panic lacing my voice as I watch my
life crumble before my eyes. “Say no more,” I add, even though I want to beg
him to stay. I don’t want him to go, especially knowing there’s someone out
there to take my place. Multiple someones, apparently. But I know this isn’t the
time for begging. Plus, I’m too numb to do anything but listen to the low hum
of the air conditioner that fills the silence. We stand there, not moving, for
what feels like an eternity.

Until his phone rings.

“I have to take this,” Max says, glancing down at his
phone. “It’s the shuttle service.”

I watch as he answers the phone and listen as he tells the
driver he’ll be right down. He seems like a stranger to me. His voice so far
away. His body untouchable. How could that happen so fast? When just a few
hours ago we were the closest two people could be.   

“Stevie, I’m sorry but I have to go. Let’s talk about this
when I get back. Please.”  

“I’ll be gone by the time you get back,” I tell Max without
thinking. And definitely without meaning it. But I had to say something,
anything to break the desperate mood.

I grab a suitcase from the hall closet and haul it onto the
bed, waiting for him to stop me. Hoping that he’ll stop me. He doesn’t. Heat rises
from my chest, up my neck, and soon it becomes difficult to breathe.

“I understand if that’s what you want,” he says, grabbing
his suitcase. “Take some time.”

Oh, I’ll take some time alright.

Never in a million years did I think it would end this way.
Over the past few months, I didn’t think it would end at all. We’ve even looked
at rings. This was the real thing. A grown-up relationship. But I will be
damned if I put up with this shit, grown up or not.

“Maybe a break will help us think through this, and help us
find out what we really want.” Max stops at the front door. “Take your time.
You don’t need to rush out. But text me and let me know when you’re gone so I
can have Tommy come in and feed Free.”

And you’re keeping the bird!

 I force myself not to cry, but my eyes are filling and I
can no longer see. It’s a losing battle. Soon, tears are spilling down my

My head goes foggy and as I watch Max gather his things,
the edges of his tall frame blur. His goodbye is muffled.  As the blood rushes
to my head, the room spins. I hardly hear the door as it slams. I sink down to
the floor and just sit there, staring at the door. I’m not sure how long I stay
that way.

When I notice the room has stopped spinning, and I’m able
to start breathing again, I fall apart. The tears come flooding out and before
I know it, I’m doing the ugly cry, sobbing like a three year old with the
hiccups. And like a toddler, I want my blanky. I roll Free’s cage into the
bedroom and make sure he has food and water.

“Stevie’s pretty,” Free tells me, bringing a new round of
tears. It was the first thing Max taught him to say.

I text Daniel in the office and tell him I’m ill. It’s not
a lie; I throw up on the way to bed. Then I burrow in the covers, listening to
Free’s random chatter before sleeping the day away.

What follows is a blur. Thirty-six hours of eating,
drinking, and sleeping. Yes, I’m counting the hours now. When I finally wake up
in my nest of Bit-O-Honey wrappers and Pop-tart crumbs, I immediately grab my
phone to see if Max has called.

He’s called five times and sent another six texts—all some
version of an apology or a ridiculous rationale for what he did. I get more
furious with each one I read. At this point, I don’t even want to know the

Under their own volition, my fingers begin to move across
the key pad—a familiar pattern I could make in my sleep: Max’s number. That’s
it, I’m going to tell him off. Tell him what I really think of him.

This isn’t about
he said.

My stomach clenches, and I stop mid-dial. What am I
thinking? How can I call him at all after everything he’s done?


And that’s when I start to lose it. In my mind, he’s with a
new mystery woman now. He’s touching her, wanting her, pleasuring her in ways
he never could with me. Maybe I’ve been the issue; maybe I’m cold, or frigid,
or bad in bed. It’s been so long since he’s made me come, and now I wonder if—despite
my Oscar-worthy performances—he’s known all along. Lord knows that can’t be
good for a man’s self-esteem.

I throw the phone back on my bedside table, brush the
crumbs out from under the covers, and try getting back to my sugar-induced
slumber. My mind’s too busy to let it happen. This is fucking pathetic. I’m the
one who has been stuck with a bad lay for over a year, but do you see me going
out to sow my oats? No, I grin and bear it and let my battery-operated
boyfriend pick up the slack in privacy like any self-respecting woman. Well,
that one time I did it in the bathroom after he blew his load
all over my ass.
But after he comes, he sleeps like the dead.
There’s no way he knows.

Still, here I am all alone: a twenty-nine-year-old woman—supposedly
in her prime—in bed at eight o’clock in the evening wearing worn-out Hello
Kitty pjs with chocolate ice cream stains all over the front. My legs are
prickly, my hair needs to be colored and conditioned, my nails are a disaster, and
I swear I’ve somehow grown a muffin top overnight.

Look away, I’m hideous.

A knock rattles in my head, but with all commotion going on
in there it takes me a beat to understand it’s coming from my front door. I
pull my covers up over my head, willing it to stop. Then comes the yelling.

“Stevie,” a girl’s shrill voice booms. Our hallway has
fantastic acoustics.  


“I know you’re in there, I can smell the Pop-tarts out here.
Open up.”

Flipping the covers back, I silently count to ten.

More pounding.

I take a few cleansing yoga breaths, remove the junk food remnants
from my pjs, and meet her at the door because she won’t give up until I do.

“Mother of God,” she says, assessing my pitiful condition.
“What the hell happened to you?”

“I’m not feeling well,” I say.

“You’re not
well,” she retorts. “What’s going

With a raise of an eyebrow, she knows the answer.

“Max trouble?”


Tia pushes her way through the open the door—despite her
waify bod, she’s especially strong—beelines to the kitchen, and takes out a
bottle of vodka and two shot glasses from the freezer.

Leading me to the couch, Tia sets up her make-shift bar on
the coffee table. She fingers the ice cream stain on my pjs and shakes her head.
Her short pixie hair bouncing as she does. Tia could pass for Rihanna’s sister
and tonight she’s even more striking than normal. Her typical minimal look is
gone in place of berry-colored lips and lashes that go on for days. I feel like
an absolute troll next to her.  

 “Oh, hon,” She exhales. “This can’t be good.”

 Tia hands me an ice-cold shot glass. We clink and shoot it
in record time. “Again,” she says and we repeat. This has been our ritual since
college, our pick-me-up for boy trouble, parental issues, bad grades, you name
it. Since college, it’s been the way Tia’s taken my mind off sucky jobs,
fashion disasters, and failing relationships. I haven’t had to reciprocate in
quite some time. Then again, Tia is a grown up. 

“Now, tell Mama what happened,” she says.  

 We get comfortable on my couch and I tell her the whole
story. I try to be tough, but it doesn’t work. The waterworks start up, and I’m
a blubbering mess within minutes.

Tia goes into her planning mode. “You’ll move in with me,”
she says without a second thought. “Come on, let’s pack up and get you the fuck
out of here.”

“Be serious, Tia, you have a houseful already,” I say,
knowing I can’t do that to her. Tia’s roommate has her boyfriend staying with
them in their one-bedroom sublet. There’s no way another person could fit.
Still, her offer warms me.

“But I feel responsible,” she says. “You told me things
weren’t going well months ago, and I blew it off.”

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