I disappeared two months ago. The business world and newspapers lost their minds. I’m back now and have two goals: staying healthy and fulfilling a deathbed promise.
The one standing in my way?
He stepped in to run my father’s company after his death. He knows my secrets and I know his. I’m ready for the war between us but I’m not ready for him to want to be friends… Or something more.
Can I trust him? Can I trust myself?
He isn’t a logical choice. He isn’t even a person and I’m the only one who knows.
***Tangled Wires is a romance with dark and sci-fi elements. Content warning for mental illness and suicide.***
Tangled Wires releases October 21st. It’s Lillian Lark’s debut novel. It does not disappoint. The plot is exciting and the characters are interesting. They’re chemistry is very hot on the page. A definite recommend!
I was given an ARC of this book for a free and honest book review.
Because now… Well, now I’m trapped in Edgar’s house. Like an animal gone to ground with a predator lurking in wait. That preditor being a vicious virus. I’ve debated taking my chances with the virus and soldiers of the National Guard to get away from the duplicitous bastard I’m currently entombed with. Still the directives were clear: seek shelter, do not move locations until told otherwise.
Yup. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.
Edgar’s digs are sparse and unwelcoming, like a window into his soul. Empty and alone.
He probably has the lamest, most insufficient provisions. My thoughts are on the freezer of food I purchased for this possibility going uneaten, the coloring books and puzzles I’d stocked up on; something to do while I binge-watched TV.
I bet all he watches are high brow documentaries and dark shows with unsettling endings. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and a place for such things, but this was not the time. Now was a time for easy escapism.
For entertainment, I currently have my phone. That’s it. Box checked. But with the World Wide Web at my disposal, that should be enough.
Christ! What kind of phone does he have?! What if he doesn’t have the same charger as I do? I snatch my purse off of the table and begin rummaging in it, searching for the lightning cord that I usually have in there but I’m positive I took out to use at Libby’s house. Tell me I remembered to put it back! But I know I didn’t. I forget shit like this all the time. I all but dump the contents of my bag on the table.
I see him out of the corner of my eye watching me out of the corner of his eye.
Also, I don’t doubt that he’ll feed me, but I question how enjoyable the food offered to me might be. Like so many people, eating delicious food is one of my favorite hobbies. I don’t want to go without that for the next couple of weeks. Truthfully, if the roles were reversed, he’d be living on bread-heels and unseasoned vegetables.
Considering what I came here to do… that might be my fate.
“What’s got you in hysterics?”
Hysterics? What is this ol’ England times?
I roll my eyes. Maybe I should try to be nice to him, butter him up, but it doesn’t feel right. I don’t know how to be nice to him. I don’t want to be nice to him.
He sighs. It’s a full-body exhalation. “Billie, what’s wrong?”
I glare at him, making eye contact for the first time since I entered his front door five minutes ago. “Besides the obvious?”
“Obviously.” He crosses his muscular arms over his thick chest. The way he looks is the only good thing about him. If he was a picture of himself, I wouldn’t hate him so much. He shifts his gaze pointedly to the manila folder I’d given him. It’s on the counter next to the fridge.
“I was just doing her a favor.”
His snort is full of his unspoken accusations. He doesn’t believe me. He shouldn’t, doing his ex-wife, Sofia, a favor was the last on my list of my motives.
“What kind of phone do you have?” I ask, letting my purse fall back to the tabletop with a thunk.
Dawning lights his brown eyes before they slide to my hoodie pocket. I’m sure he can see the boxy outline of my phone there. “No charger?” His voice is full of entertainment.
I clench my jaw. My vision darkens at the edges. I hate this, and I have no one to blame but myself. It’s not even asshole Edgar’s fault. I’d love to pretend that it is, but it’s not.
He lifts one thick black eyebrow.
“No,” I bite out.
You wanna know what’s a terrible position to be in? What really makes you feel like your on your knees, hands behind your back smooshed between two hard surfaces? Being in need of hospitality from someone you not only hate but who also hates you.
The shittiest part: I was in my car heading home. The deed was done. I was home free. I thought.
I wasn’t a mile away when I hit a checkpoint—that hadn’t been there when I’d driven to his house an hour before. A very polite woman in uniform, holding a rather large gun instructed me to turn around and head back where I’d come from. The order had come down, and we were not able to pass the checkpoint for any reason. I tried to argue that I’d head directly home, but nope.
So after I had dropped my bomb on Asshole Extraordinaire, I had to turn my car around, park it in his driveway, knock on his door and tell him that he had a new roommate for the next two weeks.
He hadn’t even fought me, just shook his head and said, “Makes sense.” The phone charger debacle was the first conversation we’d had since.
A half-smile pulls on his lips, giving him a menacing look. “Mini USB.”
That makes him laugh, bent over, holding his stomach laughing.
Edgar will allow me to use his computer to check my socials and get my work done—he and I are both junior reporters for competing news organizations—when my phone goes dead. It’s set to battery save mode, but it won’t last forever. The offer came after hours of me doing nothing but fretting and sitting on the edge of his sofa—world’s most uncomfortable piece of furniture—chewing at my fingernails.
I’ve texted my mom to tell her that I’m safe, but I don’t have my charger, and I gave her Edgar’s number to reach me in an emergency. I had to confirm with him that the number I had programmed under “Biggest Bastard on Earth Inc.” is still his number. It wasn’t, so I updated it.
Mom asked me where I was and who I was with. I told her I was with an old work colleague, which is true. Then, to end the conversation, I gave her the excuse that I needed to conserve my battery.
I have been texting Libby ever since. She is, of course, safely in her townhouse. She thinks the whole scenario is hilarious. I might never speak to her again. Twisted sense of humor, that one.
Strange. When he got up to prepare himself something to eat he offered to make me something as well. So civil and polite, it felt like a trick. I followed him into the kitchen; it was the least intrusive way to scope out the goods.
As far as food options go, he’s pretty well stocked. I’d love to say that I’m surprised, but I’m not, he’s always been an efficient planner. The food is sufficient. But not fun. There’s some fresh fruit in the fridge and on the counter, frozen fruit in the freezer. But where’s the chocolate? Or ice cream?
My God. Two weeks with fruit as my sweet? No. I’m not going to make it.
Of course, his body is that of a Greek god. There’s no joy in his food.
“Yogurt and granola?” He held up a tub of organic vanilla greek yogurt.
I nodded. “Thank you.” My polite response was out before I knew it was there. But my parents drilled manners. You don’t have to be friendly, but you must be polite. It was a phrase repeated regularly. Some things stick.
It dawned on me that he was likely raised the same way. He grew up just a few towns away from where I had, and Michiganders take their manners as seriously as we take our meat and potatoes; they are regular sustenance. The realization makes his offer to feed me more understandable.
He hands me the prepared bowl, and I follow him back to the torture device he calls a sofa.
His politeness doesn’t extend to choosing something to watch. Nope. He turns on a foreign film that I have to read subtitles to follow the story. He must notice my lips purse when I realize what is happening. I’m not one of those “I don’t want to read my movies” sort of people, but was this the time? I’m in no position to complain. It’s better than eating my yogurt in silence and just letting my mind run wild.
Unfortunately, the film is gripping and kinda hot. Like… really hot. I think it’s Portuguese. The male lead has tan skin with dark brown hair and eyes, thick brown eyebrows on a sharp bone structure. His lips are soft pink and full and they move in a hypnotizing way. He reminds me of someone, but I’m having a hard time placing it.
The realization hits me during an explicit sex scene. It hit me at such an alarming rate that I gasped. Which is awkward timing.
Edgar turns his head towards me and blinks before saying, “You okay?”
I roll my lips together, sucking them between my teeth. “Mmm-hmm.”
The sex scene is still happening, heavy breathing and the actor’s back flexing beneath his skin. There was a mole just above his right ass cheek.
“Do I need to turn on something else?”
I shake my head. I wish Edgar would stop looking at me. The flames of a hot blush are filling my cheeks.
“Eddie, it’s fine,” I snap back.
I know he hates when I call him Eddie, and I receive a glare in response. His attention lands back on the TV. He shifts a little, pulling at his pant leg with his left hand. Then he crosses his right ankle over his left knee.
Is he hard?
I mean, I get it. The movie had me wanting to shift in my seat too.
Maybe it was just proximity, like how hearing two people have sex through a wall will turn you on, but the idea of him feeling aroused at the other end of the sofa made me feel a little more squirrelly.
I could use a distraction, so I ask, “Are you Portuguese?”
“My mom’s parents were.” His focus prickles like thistles on my skin; sharp and itchy.
The characters on screen had found release and are cuddling, the actor’s hand running from the actress’ waist to hip, over and over.
“You look like him,” I nod toward the actor.
“Is that the actor?”
“Then, yes.” I don’t know if what I’m about to say next makes this more awkward or less, but I’m going to say it anyway, “That’s why I gasped, I was having a hard time figuring out who he reminded me of and then I realized it was you.”
“When he took his clothes off?”
So more awkward. My cheeks burn all over again. “Don’t flatter yourself.”
“You thinking about me naked?”
Kinda. “That’s a leap.”
“I’ll satisfy your curiosity.”
“Jesus Christ! If you take your clothes off, I will chop your dick off with your own knife!”
“Violent. I’m not going to take my clothes off.”
“Calm down. That’s why we’re in this mess, you get worked up and do something without thinking.”
“Don’t talk like you know me.” But yeah, Captain Obvious, obviously.
“I wasn’t going to take my clothes off.”
“Good,” I say again.
“But, I look very good naked.”
I roll my eyes. “Arrogant much?”
“No need for false modesty.”
From Marty Vee:
I’ve included the link to Day 2 below. Thanks for reading! If you are enjoying the story, please share it with a friend.
What’s strange is I remember when Sofia and Edgar were going through their divorce, she told me how he was making such a big deal about getting their sofa. Was this the piece of furniture he couldn’t live without? It didn’t make sense, no one needed this thing in their life.
Luckily there’s plenty of room for yoga in Edgar’s spare bedroom, minus the bed part. It’s pretty much empty, just some weights and a treadmill.
Yesterday he pulled out an air mattress and tried to fill it up but there was a cleanly sliced hole in its side. Likely a box cutter, maybe when the box had been sealed and someone got too hyper. He had bent down to examine the hole, two fingers inside rubbing the plastic with his thumb. His head shook and released a heavy sigh. Something seemed to be on his mind but I didn’t ask.
With the air mattress out of commission, that left his bed—which I haven’t seen because I’m not going in his bedroom—and dun dun duuuun the sofa.
God help me. I’m not gonna make it.
I’m tired and my back hurts. My phone is dead. My attitude is not at its best.
I still can’t believe that I’m in this situation.
Yesterday, Sofia called me sounding very upset. The currier she had hired to deliver the legal documents suing Edgar for unpaid alimony backed out. Her job was not considered “essential” and she needed that money. I was so enraged. I was riding the white horse of justice and thinking of little else. Also, seriously, his income must be similar to mine—and if the pay gap has anything to say, his is better—he doesn’t live extravagantly, so where is his money going? Why isn’t he paying what he is legally obligated to pay?
Sofia was one of the first people to befriend me when I started working at the station a few years back. But she changed jobs before I’d been there a full year. We’d stayed in contact via social media, mostly when one of us wanted to complain about Edgar.
Edgar and I are keeping our distance. He’s in the spare room now, working out; I can hear him grunting with strain.
It’s late morning, I’m lying on my stomach on the floor of the living room trying to read the book he left on the coffee table. It’s not bad. I would normally be into it but I really want to message my mom and see how she and Dad are doing. But Edgar’s laptop is in his room and I’m going to have to wait until he gets it for me. Then there’s Libby, how’s she fairing? She’s my best friend, we became close in college, some people were meant to be in your life and she’s one of them for me. I have other friends too, but those are the three main people that have me distracted and worried.
I need to borrow his phone so I can do a quick video, which I’m going to look real unprofessional for. I don’t know what’s better, fessing up to my boss about this situation or making the video and trying to pass it off as me being just like everyone else. I have some concealer, mascara and lipstick in my bag. I can do a braid for my hair or a high pony. It’s just not ideal.
There’s also my clothes situation. I’m wearing the yoga pants and tank top that I arrived in and slept in. My hoodie is balled up under my chin. I also have a bra and socks on; I’m currently regretting my practice of not wearing underwear with yoga pants; they slip around too much. I have nothing else to wear and I’m going to have to wash what little clothing I have and soon. So that’s on my mind.
The door to the room Edgar is in opens and I reflexively look over my shoulder towards the sound. He’s got sweat beading along his hairline and his tshirt clings to his sweat-soaked torso. The gym shorts he’s wearing stop just above his knee and I can see the V of his muscles there. I swallow, wondering what his leg day might look like, it’s obvious that he doesn’t skip it. He’s got some solid definition in those calves.
Not letting my eyes linger, I look back at the book open on the hardwood floor. He’s walking across the living room to his bedroom. When he passes me, I make a subtle evaluation of his back half.
I haven’t been thinking about his brazen assessment that he looks good naked. But I get it. From what I can tell, yes, I’m sure he looks very good naked. But seriously, congratu-freaking-lations, plenty of people look good naked. I’ve even seen a couple of them. I don’t look half bad naked myself. I’m not going to be posing for any nude shots any time soon but I’ve gotten solid responses. He’s more arrogant about it than I am but I try to focus my self-worth on other aspects; for example, my brain, personality and other things. You know, things that actually matter. So no, I haven’t been wondering just how true his statement is. I haven’t given it any thought at all.
He comes back out of his bedroom, his messy wet hair and in clean clothes. I look up again out of reflex but end up with a bundle of clothing hitting my face.
“The hell?” I push myself into a seated position.
“Change so we can wash your clothes for tomorrow.”
I assess the garments he’s chosen for me: gray sweats and a Hufflepuff tshirt.
“Hufflepuff?” I ask my mouth pulled to one side.
“Everything is just so clear now.”
“Slytherin.” He doesn’t say it as a question, but as an accusation.
“Yes but I don’t need a shirt to proclaim it.”
“Do you need a different shirt?” He’s crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the door jam.
I stand with the clothing pressed against my chest. Turning my back on him, I head towards the guest bathroom.
“What are you doing?” I ask him when I realize he’s following me.
“Making sure you have everything you need.” He grabs a towel out of the linen closet in the hall and sets it on the counter next to the sink. I wait just outside the door as he checks the few items in the shower. “I’ll get you some conditioner.”
“You use conditioner?” I pull my scrunchy from my hair and run my fingers along my scalp, chestnut-colored strands fall around my shoulders.
“Don’t you?” He’s watching my movements.
“Of course.” Conditioner had fallen on my lists of concerns but it wasn’t something I was going to get overly worked up about. My hair isn’t too temperamental and it’s not like I can actually do my hair. “But not all men do.”
“I do.” He left.
I turn on the water. Sitting on the edge of the tub I let it run over my fingers waiting for it to get hot. He came back with a comb and bottle. The comb goes on the counter next to the towel before he stretches over me to place the conditioner on a shelf next to the shampoo in the shower and then left. He was so close for a fraction of a second that I could feel his body heat from his stomach on my shoulder.
My shower doesn’t wash away the memory of it.
There is Nutella in this house! Like a lot. Like an obscene amount for one person; therefore, an almost appropriate amount for two. I will weather this storm with my sweet tooth sated—not satisfied but sated.
We each have our own bowl of Nutella and fruit.
He turns The Office on.
I’m getting tired. I hope he goes to bed soon. We’re currently sitting on my so-called bed or as I like to refer to it as, Damned Sofa of Death.
From Marty Vee:
Thank you for reading! If you are enjoying the story, please share it with a friend. Here’s the link to Day 3 if you’d like to keep going:
I cringe when I think how young I was when I started reading romance novels. A combination of a love of the written word and hormones threw me into the embrace of steamy books full of leading men and dramatic women. It may not be exceptionally unusual that I was around 13 when I picked up my first Nora Roberts book, but looking back it seems too young.
It was Tears of the Moon that I read first. I found it there, nestled on my mom’s bookshelf. The moss green cover beckoning me. Opening the pages, I plunged into a world that was way over my head. And down the rabbit hole I went. At that time I think Roberts had about thirty books published and I feel like I read them all. Some were really exciting with suspenseful plots intertwined with a romantic story. Others were Soap Operas set to words. I would stay awake until three in the morning frantically turning pages.
I discovered Suzanne Brockman through my aunts. She writes about Navy Seals and her stories had me reading with ferocity. The exciting action-packed tales building the romantic intensity. It was very fun reading, I just wish I had been reading other genres as well.
Tami Hoag became another favorite author of mine, but I read far less of her books. She wrote more crime/mystery romances, I think. I have to say, I was not reading for content at this point…
I remember hiding certain books because of their covers. You know which covers. The romance novel exterior is the bane of every romance reader’s existence. Oh, the roguish, ripple chested man clinging to the long haired maiden with her gossamer dress hanging off her shoulder, how you proclaim to the world that within your binding is what some would call smut.
There is a stronger Young Adult romance genre now, but I wonder if I would have picked anything different. I did learn a lot about playing with the senses as a writer and how important it is to get your readers invested in your characters.