Chapter no 39

Never Lie

After we unpack the groceries, I send Luke back to his apartment, feigning a headache. I don’t tell him about the video. If I do, he’ll be furious with me. He didn’t want to do it in the first place, and he warned me there could be other copies floating around.

And I definitely don’t want him to know that EJ wants to meet me tonight. He would want to be there. And even though on some level, I desperately want him to be there, this is my mess. I need to figure it out on my own.

My plan is to offer him money. A lot of money. I have come up with a sum that I believe will be sufficient to get him to leave me alone, and I’m willing to go as high as twice that amount if I must. Or even higher if I can somehow guarantee he will be out of my life for good.

My refrigerator is filled with food, but I have no appetite. Ironically, all I can stomach for dinner is a few of the saltines I ate that first night Luke came to help me set up the security system. And even those churn around in my belly.

It isn’t until past nine that the doorbell rings.

The chimes echo throughout the house. I’ve been sitting on the sectional sofa, chewing off the better part of my fingernails, and at the sound of those chimes, I want to regurgitate all the saltines I ate. Suddenly, I wish I had asked Luke to stay. I don’t want to do this alone.

But I have no choice. EJ isn’t going away. Not until he gets what he wants.

I open the camera app on my door, and I see him standing there. His blond hair is gleaming in the porch

lights, and his hands are shoved into his pockets. I try to read his expression, but the camera angle is wrong. I take a deep breath and force myself to stand up. I walk over to the door, wiping my sweaty hands on my slacks.

I undo the locks slowly. I crack open the door and there he is. Standing on my front porch, a big grin splitting his face. I am seized with the sudden urge to scratch his eyes out until there’s nothing left but two hollow sockets. I ball my right hand into a fist.

“Aren’t you going to ask me to come in, Doc?”

I step aside, allowing the door to swing open. He steps into my house, and my stomach sinks. I thought I’d never have to see him again. I had been counting on it.

“You don’t look so good, Doc,” he says. “You coming down with a cold or something?”

“What do you want from me?” I hiss at him.

He throws back his head and laughs. “You’re acting like you don’t like me very much.”

Like all narcissists, EJ can be incredibly charming when he wants to be. Most people like him when they first meet him, but they all eventually see through his act. I disliked him immediately. I only continued our sessions because his mother begged me. Now I regret it.

“Let’s get this over with.” I fold my arms across my chest, trying not to let on how much I’m shaking. “I’ll write you a check right now. How much do you want?”

“Oh, I’m not concerned about money anymore.” He waves a hand. “I’m not sure if you heard, but my parents were in a terrible car wreck last month. They didn’t survive.” He pulls an exaggerated sad face. “And I’m their only heir, so… you know.”

I hug my chest. It’s exactly what he described to me when he was imagining his parents’ death. My mother is a terrible driver. One of these days, she’ll be driving with my father in the car, and she’ll just drive right into a Mack truck and they’ll both be killed. And now it’s happened.

Even though I never liked EJ, I always thought he was harmless. I am ashamed that even as a psychiatrist, I completely misdiagnosed him, which may have been the most costly mistake I have made in my career. But now I know the truth.

The man is a psychopath.

“What do you want?” I croak.

The smile playing on EJ’s lips makes me want to smack him. “Oh, I’ve been thinking long and hard about that one, Dr. Hale.”

I swallow. “I’ll give you another prescription for oxycodone. One more.”

He snorts. “Sorry, Doc. That’s not going to do it anymore. Not after the shit you pulled.”

“Just tell me what you want.”

“What do I want?” He takes a step toward me, and I back away, still hugging my chest. “I want you, Adrienne.”

I feel dizzy. “You mean more sessions?”

“Call it whatever you want.” He takes another step towards me, that smile still stretching his lips grotesquely. “I want you to strip down naked and let me do anything I want to do to you. Anything.”

My knees wobble. “No. Out of the question.”

“Don’t rule it out so quickly.” He reaches out to touch me and I jerk away. “You might enjoy it—I sure will. I bet you’re getting tired of that nerdy boyfriend of yours. I bet he’s terrible in bed.”

“Get out of my house,” I snarl at him. “Get out or I’m calling the police.”

He arches an eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Yes.” I stick out my chin. “If you feel you have to destroy me with that video, go ahead. I’m not going along with this anymore. I won’t play your games.”

“Oh, Adrienne,” he sighs. “Unfortunately, it’s not just about you anymore.”

He fishes his phone out of his pocket. I stare at him while he jabs at the screen. After a second, he holds out his phone to me. I shake my head.

“Take it.” He thrusts the phone into my chest. “You’re going to want to see this. I promise.”

Oh God. What is going on?

My hands are trembling so much that I almost drop the phone. I stare down at the screen, where a video is playing. But this isn’t a video of me in the parking lot. It’s a different video.

It’s an image of the outside of EJ’s house. After a second, a familiar figure comes into view. It’s Luke. He digs into his pocket, pulls out the keys, and unlocks the front door. The video then cuts to the inside of the house. Luke— searching through the rooms, looking for the laptop computer. Using a letter opener to jimmy open the lock on a desk drawer, then pulling out the laptop. Sitting down at the laptop to start the process of breaking into EJ’s computer.

It’s all there on video.

“This wouldn’t be too good for your boyfriend’s career, would it?”

I’m going to be sick. I lean forward and retch, but there’s not enough in my stomach. EJ watches in amusement, then bursts out laughing. “Boy, you’re really not too excited about hooking up with me, are you?”

“Please don’t do this to him,” I gasp.

“It’s your own fault. You’re the one who dragged him into it.” He shakes his head. “This is what I really wanted all along. From the moment I first walked into your office and saw you in that sexy little dress suit, looking so uptight with your hair pinned back. Acting like you knew it all, more than anyone else—more than me, anyway. And I always had a thing for redheads.” He looks pointedly at the phone still in my hand. “But that first video wasn’t enough. I knew you wouldn’t go for it. Not unless I had something bigger. So… thanks for that.”

“Please,” I whisper. “I’ll give you anything else. Pills, money…”

“I’ve got a guy to get me pills now.” He plucks his phone out of my hand. “All I want is you.”

I just shake my head.

“Tell you what.” He shoves his phone back into his pocket. “Why don’t you think about it for a few days? Think about whether avoiding one night of pleasure with me is worth destroying both of your lives.”

“I won’t change my mind,” I whisper.

He tilts his head. “I’m not so sure about that.”

With those words, he turns on his heel and walks out of my home. The door slams shut behind him, and it’s only then that I sink onto the sofa, my entire body trembling.

What am I going to do?

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