Chapter no 16

The Housemaid's Secret (The Housemaid, Book 2)

Brock and I are having dinner together, but I can’t focus on one word he is saying.

The weather has warmed up, and we got an outdoor table at a cute little Middle Eastern restaurant in the East Village. Brock looks devastatingly handsome in his suit from work, and I put on a new sundress. While we eat our entrees, Brock is telling me all about one of his clients, and usually I feel happy to be spending an afternoon with my amazing boyfriend. I’m always slightly amazed that somebody like Brock would take an interest in somebody like me, and ordinarily, I would be hanging on his every word (even though he’s talking about patent law, which is honestly kind of boring). But today, my head isn’t in the game.

Because I’ve got that prickling feeling in the back of my neck again.

Like somebody is watching me.

I should have told Brock I wanted to eat inside. I don’t feel safe anymore with Xavier out on the streets. I don’t know why he has chosen to target me, but it’s been a week since he attacked me, and I frequently feel those eyes boring into me. I’d like to think it’s my imagination, but I’m not so sure. Even with a broken arm—even in another borough—Xavier could still be trailing me around.

“Don’t you think so, Millie?” Brock says.

I look up at him blankly. I’m holding my fork in my right hand and I’ve stabbed a cube of lamb, but I don’t think I’ve taken a bite in at least ten minutes. “Huh?” I say lamely.

Brock’s eyebrows bunch together and the little patch of skin between them crinkles up in a way I usually find cute, but right now I find it

annoying. “Are you okay?” “Yes,” I lie.

He accepts my answer without question. I’ve noticed that, especially for a lawyer, Brock is very trusting. Anyone else probably would have interrogated me about my past, but he isn’t like that. It’s a relief that I don’t have to tell him everything, but sometimes I wish he would press me. Because I’m tired of keeping all the secrets from him.

Brock and I met during a brief period when I thought I might be interested in some sort of legal career, before I realized that my background would make it difficult, if not impossible. The community college set up an opportunity for me to shadow him, although on the first day, Brock admitted in a sheepish voice, My job isn’t very exciting. I had imagined going to courtrooms, but instead, he mostly just did paperwork. While I watched.

I’m sorry, he told me at the end of our week together. I’m sure you were expecting something different.

That’s okay, I told him. I didn’t want to be a lawyer anyway. Let me make it up to you. I’ll treat you to dinner.

Later, Brock admitted he had been trying to think of a way to ask me out the entire week. The truth is, I almost said no. I was still feeling sorry for myself after Enzo told me he had no intention of coming back to the States, and I didn’t feel like getting my heart broken a second time. But then I imagined the beautiful Italian women hitting on my ex-boyfriend, and I decided, what the hell. Why shouldn’t I get to have a little fun, too?

Brock has been a good boyfriend. With every passing week, I am searching for his fatal flaw, but he remains frustratingly perfect. And when he found out they didn’t charge Xavier with assault, he looked appropriately angry. He offered to come with me to the police station and speak to the officer in charge of the case. An offer I had to decline for obvious reasons.

And then he just let it go. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all week, but Brock has moved on, although he has repeatedly stated the obvious: I need to find another place to live.

“You look a little pale,” Brock notes.

I rub the back of my neck, then I turn around to look behind me. I’m certain that I’m going to come face to face with Xavier, but nobody is there. At least, I don’t see him. But he’s definitely out there.

“Let’s move in together,” I blurt out.

Brock pauses in the middle of a sentence. He’s got a tiny blob of tahini sauce in the corner of his mouth. “What?”

“I think we’re ready,” I say. That’s another lie. I don’t feel ready to move in with Brock, but I also have absolutely no intention of ever going back to my apartment in the South Bronx while Xavier is still living there, and I don’t know if I’m going to feel safer anywhere else in that neighborhood. I’m not even sure I feel safe here, but certainly not in the Bronx.

In any case, it’s the right thing to say. A huge smile lights up my boyfriend’s face. “Okay. Sounds good to me.” He reaches for my hand across the table. “I love you, Millie.”

I open my mouth, knowing that I have reached a critical point where I need to say it back to him. But at that moment, that creeping sensation in the back of my neck becomes unbearable. I whip my head around one more time, certain I’m going to see Xavier standing a few feet away from me, staring at me.

My eyes narrow as I scan the street behind me. Where is that asshole?

But I don’t see Xavier anywhere. Either he ducked behind a mailbox, or he’s not there. Except I do see one person I hadn’t expected.

Douglas Garrick.

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