I sit on the edge of the bed and watch as he moves closer. He stops in front of me, shoving his hands into his pant pockets. “I need to understand what happened. I need to understand how two opposing things can be true. Did he send you here with a mission to kill me, and you inadvertently fell for me? You like your chances with me better? Or are you playing me in a way I haven’t figured out yet?”
“I told you what happened,” I say calmly. “I told you exactly what happened.”
“But what you told me doesn’t explain the text messages.”
“The text messages are not real,” I state.
His eyebrows jump up at that. “They’re not? Weird, I’ve seen them with my own two eyes. They replay on a fucking loop when I try to sleep at night. They seem pretty real to me.” Not even giving me a chance to respond, he goes on. “Now, could be you were lying to him. That’s possible. I don’t know why, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s possible. Maybe your feelings for me were real, but you continued to lead him on, telling him you were miserable when you weren’t. But that doesn’t make sense either. Do you see where I’m getting stuck here, Meg?”
“I do,” I say, nodding once. “Nothing makes sense. I just don’t know how to help. Who found that phone, and where was it?”
Eyeing me watchfully, he says, “You know where the phone was hidden.”
“I don’t. If you didn’t find that phone yourself, maybe it was never hidden. Who brought it to you?”
I lose a little steam there. I can’t actually accuse Adrian of subterfuge. Maybe he doesn’t claim to be Mateo’s friend, but for someone who supposedly doesn’t care about him, he sure looks out for him.
Similar thoughts probably running through his head, Mateo says, “You think Adrian planted the phone?”
“No.” It didn’t require an answer, given his dubious tone, but I give him one anyway. “No, Adrian wouldn’t betray you.”
The problem is, I don’t think any of us would. I don’t know everyone in the house well, but I haven’t seen anything from anyone that would cast that kind of doubt. They don’t always like him, but everyone under this roof is loyal to Mateo. What would any of them gain from any of this? They’re already elevated in his service—well, all but Vince, but he’s just young. They might be able to maintain power if they sold him out, but why? It doesn’t make sense.
The real problem is, the thing that makes the most sense is what he believes—it just isn’t the truth. If I wasn’t me, I would doubt myself, too.
“Can I see the phone? Can I read the text messages?”
Mateo shakes his head, a tick in his jaw betraying anger. “I destroyed it.”
“That… isn’t what I would have done.”
“Wasn’t intentional,” he bites out.
“You may not have been able to physically fuck him while you’ve been with me, but those text messages make me want to kill you both.”
He takes a step closer, just the memory of them inflaming his temper.
“Well, I don’t know what they said, but I’m very sorry you had to read them.” I’ve never read a lover’s betrayal via text before, but I imagine it’s very painful.
“Excruciating,” he says, stopping when his knees brush my legs. “You called my company excruciating.”
“I do not find your company in the least bit excruciating,” I tell him. “I obviously enjoy your company very much. A little less when you think I’ve cheated on you, but even now I wouldn’t call it that. Regrettable. I think we’ll look back on this as regrettable, but… not excruciating.”
I have a bit of a hard time finishing my thought, because Mateo comes toward me until I crawl back on the bed. Then he just follows me, that angry gleam in his eyes.
I don’t feel his anger though, I feel pain. I’ve hurt him. Well, I haven’t, but apparently some asshole text messaging imposter has, and he can’t believe I’m innocent.
I don’t care. I flatten myself on the bed, welcoming his weight as he comes down on top of me.
“Do you think about him when I fuck you, Meg?”
I don’t answer. I don’t know if it’s a real question or just an insult he wants to inflict, but I absorb it regardless.
He trails the backs of his fingers along my jawline, almost tenderly. “Do you miss him? Does he cross your mind when you’re with me? Did you envision a life with him? Did you spend nights curled up in his arms the way you curl up in mine?”
The level of his jealousy does make me a little nervous, but I ignore it. I’m innocent of these crimes, and eventually he’s going to know that. Somehow.
“You loved him enough to risk your life to do this stupid fucking thing—and apparently you love me enough to turn on him now that you’ve been caught. Do you just love everybody?”