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Authors: Ella James

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Unmaking Marchant

Unmaking marchant

A love inc. novel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ELLA JAMES

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

MARCHANT
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
SATURDAY, MARCH 17, 2007

            
The casket is gold. The color of the sun. The color of Marissa’s long, straight hair. I have the urge to open its lid, but that would be pointless. There’s nothing inside. Because there’s nothing left.
It’s my fault. I know that just as surely as I know my goddamned name, even though I didn’t kill her with my own two hands. I look down at them. They’re bloody hands. Blood is seeping from the broken knuckles.
Wonder how long before the cops catch up with me.
I run a fingertip over the lid of the sunshine casket. The crimson smear gleams in the lamplight like something precious. And all of a sudden, I want to see more of it. So much more of it.
I look around the small mortuary viewing room for something sharp. My hands are shaking with the need for it—the need to end it all right now. I could do it. The funeral director is in his office. I can hear him pecking on a keyboard.
I could do it right now. No one would know.
I’m in the perfect place for death, after all—and I deserve to die. Just ask Marissa.
I turn around slowly and stare at the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves on the left side of the room. So many books, and all the books so pointless. Like the casket, everything is pointless. Has always been pointless. Will always be pointless.
I try to push past the fuzziness inside my mind and think. Maybe I could use the glass on a frame to cut my wrists. I could even find the room where they embalm the bodies and use one of the knives. Whatever the way, I like the thought of dying here.
Right then, as if the gods ordain my thoughts, a letter opener pops out at me from among the books and trinkets. It’s long and brassy, pointed at the tip just like a dagger. It’s resting near the bottom of the bookshelf, right in front of a staunch, burgundy hardback called
RESPECTING LIFE
.
Even in my current state, I can appreciate the irony.
I step across the foot-worn rug and lift the cool brass gently off of its perch. I’m looking down at it, thinking how much duller it looks than the ones they use in movies to stab the villain, when the pecking stops.
The sweaty hair on the back of my neck tingles, like I just did a line of coke.
A second later, the double-doors burst open, and the cops pour in.

 

1

SURI
NAPA, CALIFORNIA
FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2013

            
Dancing.
The last two hours of the Heels for Heaven charity gala are nothing but dancing.
That’s why Adam’s drinking tonight. At least, I guess that’s why. Since dinner ended and the dancing started, I’ve stuck to one side of the ballroom, while Adam has been burning up the other.
It wasn’t like this at galas past. Adam used to be a fabulous date. We would dance for hours, often commemorating our fun night by purchasing one of those cheesy dance floor snapshots: my head against his shoulder, Adam’s round face lit up in a huge grin as he spun me.
And then we would go home. My house. Adam’s condo. Maybe a hotel, if Adam was feeling dramatic and fun.
Where ever we landed, more often than not these last few years, trouble would start. I’d take care of Adam for hours as he lay on the bathroom floor, moaning and sweating. And in between bouts of being sick, he’d turn into someone mean; sometimes even cruel.
So, when he asked me to marry him a month ago, in a beautiful little ice cream shop in SOHO, I said yes—with a single stipulation: no more drinking.
Adam knows the extent of his issue—at least, I thought he did—because he didn’t even bat an eye before agreeing.
I was on cloud nine that night. Adam, my sweetheart since our high school days at Hargrove Day School, told me he was moving back from New York. Opening his own one-man literary agency in San Francisco so I can continue to grow my interior design business. And the ring he gave me…
A three-carat diamond surrounded by itty bitty fire opals. It’s so…
me
. Adam knows that. He knows everything about me.
So why is he on his sixth drink?
“You should just stop counting,” Charlene says.
Charlene is my cousin. Our moms are sisters. We’ve traded secrets since toddlerhood, and we enjoy one of those comfortable relationships where we’re able to pick back up after almost any length of time apart. Since I’ve chosen to keep Adam’s drinking a secret from everyone else I know—I don’t want people in our circle to judge him—I broke down tonight and told Charlene.
She’s a watercolor artist, and she’s jetting off to Sidney tomorrow afternoon for an extended showing, which is probably why I feel like I can confide in her. Unlike with my BFF, Lizzy DeVille—who’s currently in Vegas—or my other BFF, Cross, who’s in rehab after a major motorcycle accident, I won’t have to talk about the situation with Charlene again for months.
“I’m not counting,” I lie. “I was just…glancing over there.”
Charlene scrunches her long, straight nose. “He must know you’re pissed; he hasn’t looked at you once in the last half-hour.”
“Thanks, Char.”
She slaps my back, bared by the low dip of my black, Swarovski-accented Atelier Versace gown. “Just stating the facts, cuz.”
Maybe it
isn’t
six drinks. Maybe it’s only four or five. I tried very hard to not pay attention when he first started, so I could be off.
I glance at Charlene, who’s waving her arm around in front of my face. “What did you just say?”
“I said, when’s the wedding?” She tosses back some pinot grigio while wiggling her pale eyebrows.
“Oh, that. I’m not sure yet. I’ll let you know when we decide.”
“I will be flying home for it, wherever I happen to be,” she says, leaning against the wall behind her.
I wrap my arm around her tall, lean form, hugging lightly. “Thanks, Char. That really means a lot to me.”
She flashes me a thumbs-up, and seconds later, James Renfroe, from Charlene’s class at Hargrove—two years ahead of me—struts over and jerks her into a funky waltz.
He winks at me and says, “You’re next, Dalton,” and then they’re off, crisscrossing the shiny hardwood floor, weaving between more mild-mannered couples.
As I follow them with my eyes, I catch a glimpse of Adam. Regardless of how many drinks he’s had so far, he’s definitely tossing back another one just now.
I lean against the wall and grit my teeth. I don’t get it. I picked him up from his townhouse tonight, and we had a nice time together on the ride here. True, we haven’t seen each other for a week and a half—Adam isn’t moving back to Cali for five weeks—but that seemed to make our time together better. Lots of snuggling and kissing. He seemed into it. I know I was.
Dinner was good, too: chicken breast saltimbocca, served with Anson Mills farro verde, organic bloomsdale spinach, La Quercia prosciutto, artichoke "chips" and a caper jus. We sat with the Davidsons and the Blancs, and it was easy-going and fun. I told a funny story about a San Francisco zoo fundraiser where a baby elephant knocked an aging socialite on her butt, and Adam seemed amused. He rested his hand on my knee under the table and gave me several just-for-Suri smiles.
And then the dancing started. I went to the ladies’ room to adjust my tape-on bra cups, and when I got back, Adam was chatting up one of his college buddies and holding a glass of wine. I stuck around for a few minutes, saying “hi” to his friend, assuming Adam was only holding the drink for appearances. But then two more of Adam’s buddies showed up, and he downed the first drink and a second in the space of five minutes. That was an hour and a half ago. Shortly thereafter, Charlene popped up, and I’ve been on this side of the room ever since.
The next hour passes in a miserable blur as I try to listen attentively to Charlene’s Sidney plans. I dance a few times with various acquaintances and watch as Adam does the same, on the opposite side of the room. I watch him smile and laugh, animated and open, and I wonder what on earth his problem is. Does he plan to ignore me this way all night? People have surely noticed. Even worse, we said no drinking! Not because I’m a buzz-killing fiancé, but because Adam has a
problem
.
I’m on my second wine chute, wishing I could be like Adam and toss back five more in the next five minutes, when I see him gliding through the crowd. He stops to talk a few times, throwing his head back so his fluffy brown hair gleams in the dim globe lights. Smiling that handsome smile that makes him look so affable, so kind.
He strolls past a large, potted palm, smiling at me like nothing whatsoever is wrong, and when he’s close enough so I can smell his cologne, he holds out his hand.
“A dance, my lady?”
I bite my lip, barely succeeding at holding back my tears. “Adam…I want to go.”
“Home?” He bows lavishly at the waist, like an old-fashioned butler. “Then home it is.”
He holds his arm out. I don’t want to make a scene, so I thread my hand through it, and together we walk to the club’s valet room, where we stand in silence until one of the valets tells us the limousine is outside at the curb.
Adam leads me out the side door, down three brick steps to the curb line, and I can smell the alcohol on him.
My fingers burn holes in his worsted wool dinner jacket—one I’ve never seen. One he must have picked up in New York. And it occurs to me, as my body presses into his, that for the first time ever, I feel like I don’t know him.
The club valet, Mark, opens the limousine’s door for us. Adam waves his arm and I climb in, holding my gown so I don’t snag or step on it. I settle on the far side of the limo, near the window, my clutch in my lap and my body language clearly telling him to stay the hell away. Adam hops in behind me, lithe and seemingly sober. But he’s not fooling me. He gives Mark a little wink, and moves to close the door without handing out a tip.
“Hold on,” I tell him. I reach across Adam, holding my arm out as a placeholder, and when Adam pauses, confused, I pull a twenty dollar bill out of my clutch.
“Thank you,” I tell Tom, handing him the cash.
“Have a wonderful evening.” He smiles and gently shuts the door.
I’m opening my mouth to say something to Adam—I’m not sure what, but something—when he leans back his seat, kicks his feet up on the partition, and gives me a silly grin. “Thanks, G.”
I sink back into my seat and roll my eyes at my window.
Really?
“G”?
I feel the lurch of the car as Arnold takes off down the long, winding driveway, and I shut my eyes. I replay our conversation that night at Banana Beau's. Am I insane? Didn’t I tell him no more drinking?
As I wrack my brain, Adam’s clammy hand finds mine. I peek my eyes open, and of course, he can tell I’m irritated.
His thick eyebrows draw together, an exaggerated, drunken expression of concern. “What’s the matter, baby?” His pungent breath wafts over my face.
I’m not even sure where to start. I slide my hand out of his and drop my head into my palms. Maybe he forgot our agreement? Or did he simply start drinking because his old friends were there? Maybe he wanted to look ‘normal’? If he can’t withstand the pressure to drink around two men he rarely ever sees, he’s not going to be able to honor this agreement of ours.

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