Get a Life, Chloe Brown Page 3

There was a beat of silence as Mrs. Conrad grappled with that information. “Oh,” she whispered. He’d never heard so much dejection in a single word. She blinked rapidly, her thin lips pursing, and Red’s heart lurched as he realized she was trying not to cry. Holy fucking hell. He couldn’t deal with crying women. If she dropped a single tear, he’d be here all night, eating bowls of vegetable casserole with enthusiasm and sparkling compliments.

Please don’t cry. I get off in ten minutes and I really fucking hate broccoli. Please don’t cry. Please don’t—

She turned away just as the first sob wracked her thin shoulders.


“Come on, Mrs. C, don’t be upset.” Awkwardly, he peeled off his gloves and went to the sink to wash his hands. “They’re just kids. Everyone knows kids have as much sense as the average goat.”

Mrs. Conrad let out a little burble of laughter and turned to face him again, dabbing at her eyes with a hankie. Old people always had hankies. They hid them on their bodies like ninjas with throwing stars. “You’re right, of course. It’s just … Well, I thought that casserole was their favorite.” She sniffled and shook her head. “But it doesn’t matter.”

Judging by the wobble in her voice, it really did.

“I bet it’s a damned good casserole,” he said, because he had the biggest fucking mouth on planet earth.

“Do you think so?”

“I know so. You have the look of a woman who knows her way around the kitchen.” He had no idea what that meant, but it sounded good.

And clearly, Mrs. Conrad liked it, because her cheeks flushed and she made a high, tinkling sound that might have been a giggle. “Oh, Red. Do you know, I happen to have some on the go right now.”

Of course she did. “Is that right?”

“Yes! Would you like to try some? After all your hard work, the least I can do is feed you.”

Say no. Say you have Friday-night plans. Say you ate five beefsteaks for lunch. “I’d love to,” he said, and smiled. “Just let me go home and get cleaned up.”

It took him thirty minutes to shower and change in his own flat, down on the ground floor. Came with the job. Since he led a life of daring excitement these days, he swapped his charcoal overalls for—drumroll, please—his navy blue overalls, fresh out the washer. Truth be told, he had no idea what he was supposed to wear for dinner with an old lady, but his usual shit-kicker boots and old leathers didn’t seem quite right.

It was only as he locked his front door that it occurred to Red—this whole situation might not be quite right. Was he supposed to have dinner with tenants? Was that allowed? He didn’t see the harm in it, but he was fairly new to this superintendent lark, and he wasn’t exactly qualified. Just to be sure, he pulled out his phone and fired off a text to Vik, the landlord—and the mate who’d given him this job.

Can I have dinner with the nice old lady in 3E?


Vik’s reply came fast as ever.

Whatever gets you going, mate. I don’t judge.


Red huffed out a laugh, rolling his eyes as he put his phone away. And then, out of nowhere, he heard it.

Or rather, her.

Chloe Brown.

“… see you for brunch, if I can,” she was saying. Her voice was sharp and expensive, like someone had taught a diamond how to speak. The sound scrambled his mind, her crisp accent reminding him of people and places he’d rather forget. Of a different time and a different woman, one who’d clutched her silver spoon in one manicured hand and squeezed his heart tight in the other.

Chloe’s husky timbre and the memories it triggered were the only warnings he received before rounding a corner and coming face-to-face with the woman herself. Or rather, face-to-throat. As in, she was right fucking there, and they collided, and, somehow, her face slammed into his throat.

Which hurt. A lot.

The impact also did something terrible to his airflow. He sucked in a breath, choked on it, and reached for her at the same time. That last part was an automatic reflex: he’d bumped into someone, so now it was his job to hold that someone steady. Except, of course, this wasn’t just anyone. It was Chloe whose waist was soft under his hands. Chloe who smelled like a garden after a spring shower. Chloe who was now shoving him away like he had a communicable disease and spluttering, “Oh, my—what—? Get off!”

Cute as a button, but her tone cut like a knife. He released her before she had an embolism, wincing when his callused hands caught on the pastel wool of her cardigan. She stumbled back as if he might attack at any moment, watching him with flinty suspicion. She always looked at him like that—as if he was thirty seconds away from murdering her and wearing her skin. She’d treated him like some kind of wild animal ever since the day they’d met, when he’d shown her around the flat he never believed she’d lease.

She’d moved in a week later and had been disturbing his peace with her ice-queen routine ever since.

“I—I have no idea how that happened,” she said, as if he’d secretly orchestrated the whole thing just for a chance to grab her.

Gritting his teeth, he tried to assure her that this wasn’t a mugging or a botched kidnapping attempt—that, despite his tats and his accent and all the other things that made classy women like her judge guys like him, he wasn’t actually a dangerous criminal. But all that came out of his mouth was a useless wheezing noise, so he gave up and focused on breathing instead. The pain in his throat faded from a poisonous yellow to a faint, lemon twinge.

He didn’t even notice her sisters until they started talking.

“Oh, Chloe,” said the shortest sister, Eve. “Look what you’ve done! The poor man’s coughing up his garters.”

The other sister—Dani, they called her—rolled her eyes and said, “Do you mean guts, darling?”

“No. Should we do something? Go on, Dani, do something.”

“And what should I do? Do I look like a nurse to you?”

“Well, we can’t let him choke to death,” Eve said reasonably. “What a waste of a gorgeous—”

Chloe’s voice carved through the bickering like a blade. “Oh, be quiet, both of you. Weren’t you just leaving?”

“We can’t leave now. Our favorite superintendent is in crisis.”

See, while Chloe had hated Red from the moment they’d met, her sisters, Dani and Eve, seemed to love him. They shared her cut-glass accent, but not her apparent classism. He thought of Dani as the elegant one, with her shaved head and her floaty, black outfits. She had a smile so pretty it should be illegal, and she flashed it like a lightbulb whenever their paths crossed. Eve, meanwhile, was the fun one, the baby sister with long, pastel-colored braids and an air of frantic energy that crackled around her like lightning. She liked to flirt. She also liked to wear polka-dot outfits and clashing shoes that offended his artistic sensibilities.

If either of them had taken flat 1D five weeks ago, that would’ve been just fine. But no—it had to be Chloe. Had to be the sister who made him feel like a rough, scary monster. Had to be the uptight princess who’d decided he was dangerous simply because of where he came from. Why she even lived here, in a cheerfully middle-class block of flats, was a fucking mystery; she was obviously loaded. After Pippa, he could spot the gloss of a wealthy woman from miles away.

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