“And yet, Adrian was sent to take me to get Chinese food and dresses?” I ask, quirking an eyebrow.
“He knew Adrian would keep you safe,” Vince says simply. “You may not have realized yet, it’s a pretty big secret, but Mateo? He’s a paranoid guy.”
“I would be paranoid, too, if people came to kill me left and right,” I state, taking the first turn and dominating with ‘zebra.’ “I hope you like to lose,” I tell Vince, throwing my hands up in victory.
“Yeah, well, it’s not exactly good for relationships, the way he treats people.”
I offer a nod, but don’t comment. I know he’s right, I just happen to think Mateo’s worth a little extra work.
“Not that I have to tell you that,” he adds, staring at his letters. “You’re in a gilded cage for an affair you didn’t even have. And this probably isn’t even the last time you’ll have to deal with this shit. He thinks the worst of people.”
“I just don’t like seeing him suffer,” I say, watching Vince put down the tiles. “It also makes me nervous because this phone? I haven’t read the texts myself, but it doesn’t sound like it could be an accident. It had to have been deliberate, and why? What could anyone gain by framing me this way? Who does this benefit?”
“Castellanos,” Vince says, without hesitation. “It benefits Castellanos. Mateo wanted to kill him, now all he can think about is some other guy fucking you. He’s shut himself off from the world the past few days; he doesn’t come out of his surveillance room, trying to find footage of you with this goddamn phone. Man’s obsessed.”
Frowning, I remark, “That sounds healthy.”
Vince shrugs. “That’s Mateo.”
“This is probably the worst time for that, too. With Adrian leaving? Mateo said transitions are never smooth, even if you’re on top of your game. Clearly he’s not on top of his right now.”
“Well, outside of this house no one should know what he’s doing. He could be plotting, making plans. No one really knows he’s just obsessively looking for proof of some affair, but… it is working out that way.”
I shake my head, sighing. “He needs to stop looking. He’s wasting his time. He’s not gonna find anything. I wish he’d just let it go.”
Vince shrugs one shoulder. “It’s not so easy to purge your brain of images of some other asshole fucking your girlfriend.”
It’s my turn again, so I place down a new word. “I guess. I’ve never been cheated on.”
“I wouldn’t recommend it,” he says, immediately adding his ‘s’ to my word and smirking at me across the board.
“Bastard,” I accuse, jotting down his triple word score and grabbing us both replacement letters. “So, are you and Mia going to the same college?”
Vince shakes his head. “I’m not going, just her.”
“Not for you?”
“There’s just no point. The skill set I need to be successful isn’t taught in a classroom.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s true,” I say, offering a faint smile. “Did Mateo go to college?”
“Really?” I hear how surprised I sound, but I shrug. “He’s so smart, I just figured he did.”
“Street smarts, self-taught. He’s never had a lot of friends. He reads.”
“He reads?” I ask, delighted. “Oh, my god, I love that. Only thing Rodney ever cracked open was a magazine.”
“Adrian got him into it. Adrian was an even stranger kid than Mateo, from what I understand. Always kept to himself, hidden away in the library like a weirdo. Though, I guess if I had his shit to deal with, I probably would, too. He’s really smart. He knows, like, random shit that no one knows because he just read so many books. He used to tutor Cherie before Mateo sent her to public school.”
I’m surprised to hear him refer to them as kids together. “Adrian? How long has he worked for Mateo?”
“Just five years. He used to live here, though, when he was a kid. Grew up here. He hated living with Matt, so that probably helped motivate him to hide away, I guess. Be glad you never played Scrabble with him. Adrian’s never lost a game in his life, not even to Mateo.”
“So I shouldn’t challenge Mateo to Scrabble?”
Smirking, he tosses my own words back at me. “Not unless you like to lose.”
I give up waiting for Mateo and read the girls a bedtime story so I can put them in bed. Technically breaking the boundaries of my prison sentence, but the girls are just down the hall, and Vince follows me to make sure I’m not up to any of my crazy trickery.
Vince stays on guard until Mateo finally comes in. I’m already in bed by that point, but I roll over to watch him enter the room. He thanks Vince, closing the door, and without turning the light on, he begins to undress for bed.