Thief Page 2

I take inventory of the hallway: a pair of men’s tennis shoes-his, a plant-his, a plaque on the door that says Go Away!-hers. I eye it all warily. I would have to be on my best behavior — no flirting, no touching, no undressing her with my eyes. I’d just have to focus on my date, and that shouldn’t be a problem. I smile to myself as I anticipate Olivia’s reaction. The door opens before I can reach for the bell. A man fills the space. We stare at each other for a good ten seconds, and I have a brief moment of awkwardness. Did she forget to tell him that I was coming? Then he runs a hand through his semi-damp hair, and his face moves into a smile.

“Caleb,” he says.


I give him a once over. He’s a few inches shorter than I am, but he’s stockier — well built. Dark hair, cut short — there is gray at his temples. I peg him at about thirty-five, though I know from the P.I. I hired that he’s thirty-nine. He’s Jewish, if his look didn’t tell me that, the Star of David around his neck would have. He’s a good-looking guy.

“Noah.” He holds out his hand. I grin as I shake it. The irony that both of our hands have touched his wife gives me a bit of a mean edge.

“She sent me out here to get these,” he says, scooping up the tennis shoes.

“Don’t let her know that you saw them. She’s a Nazi about mess.”

I laugh at the fact that her Jewish husband is calling her a Nazi and follow him inside. I blink at the foyer. It’s different from the last time I was here. She’s replaced all the cold white and black with warm colors. It looks like a home — wood floors, rugs, knick-knacks. Jealousy rips through me, and I push it aside as she comes trotting out of the kitchen pulling off an apron.

She tosses it aside and hugs me. For a scat of a second it feels right, her coming toward me with such determination. Then she holds her body stiff, instead of letting it melt into me. I can’t help but feel thwarted. I have to taper my smile, which always spreads hard and fast when she’s near. Noah is watching us, so I hand her the wine.

“Hello, Du-Olivia. I wasn’t sure what was for dinner, so I brought red.”

“Malbec,” she says, grinning at Noah. “Your favorite.” I see genuine affection in her eyes when she looks at him. I wonder if that’s how I looked at Leah, and how Olivia stood it for all those months during the trial.

“We’re having lamb,” she says. “So, it’s just perfect.”

The doorbell rings. I immediately feel more cheerful. Olivia’s head shoots toward me and she looks in my eyes, trying to decide what I’m up to. I allow a slow smile to spread across my face. I’m finally going to get my answer. She either feels what I do, or she doesn’t. Noah retreats a few steps to open it, and we stay with our eyes locked. Her body is frozen, tense, anticipating what I am about to deliver. I hear my date’s voice behind me. Olivia’s eyes skirt past me to where Noah is temporarily blocking her view of my date, then he steps aside, and I see what I was waiting for. Olivia shocked, Olivia disarmed, Olivia angry. The color drains from her face, and her hand shoots up to her collarbone to grab at her necklace — a simple diamond on a chain. Noah arrives at my shoulder, and I turn to smile at Jessica. Jessica Alexander.

“Jess, you remember Olivia,” I say. She nods and genuinely beams at the raven-haired villain that knocked her out of my life like she was a bowling pin. “Hello, stranger,” she says. She lurches forward and embraces Olivia in a surprise hug. “Long time, no see.”

Jessica Alexander found me on Facebook. She messaged me to say she was living in the Miami area again and wanted to get together for drinks. I was drunk when I read the message and responded with my number. We met up the next day at Bar Louie. She looked the same: long hair, long legs, short skirt. My college taste still appealed to me, and so did her personality — which was surprisingly even sweeter than I remembered. I needed a nice, long dose of sweet after the last two vipers I loved. Neither of us brought up the baby, but I did tell her about Estella. What I gathered was that she had no idea about Olivia’s part in our breakup. We saw each other regularly after that. We have yet to share a bed.

I watch Olivia’s face over Jess’s shoulder. She has always had a knack for self-control. And then she does the damnedest thing. She laughs and hugs Jess back, like they’re old friends. I’m in such a state of shock I almost take a step back. Noah is watching everything unfold with mild curiosity. We are all just characters to him, no doubt.

“Come in, come in.” She ushers us into the living room and shoots me a triumphant look. I realize that she’s not a better person, just a better actress.

Touché. There is still fun to be had.

Jess runs off to help Olivia in the kitchen, which leaves Noah and me with a plate of Brie and crackers. We do the small talk thing for about ten minutes. The go-to topic for men is sports — Marlins, Heat, Dolphins … quarterbacks, starters, pitchers — things I don’t f**king care about anymore.

“Are you uncomfortable?”

I look at him in surprise. He knows. Well, shit. But, the honesty sets me at ease at least.

“Wouldn’t you be?” I accept the whiskey he hands me. Single malt, black label — decent.

He sits down across from me and grins. “Sure.”

I don’t bother him, so how much could he really know? Unless … unless he’s so secure in their relationship he feels like there is nothing to worry about. I sit back and eye the situation with new perspective. He’s not the jealous type, obviously.

“If you don’t have a problem with it, I don’t either,” I say.

He throws his ankle across his knee and settles back in his chair. “Did you have me checked out?”

“Background check in three different countries.” I take a sip and curl my tongue around the flavor.

Noah nods like he expected this. “Find anything you didn’t like?”

I shrug. “You married my first love, I already didn’t like you.”

He tucks in one corner of his mouth in a knowing smile and nods slowly.

“You care about her, Caleb. That’s fine with me. You and I won’t have a problem as long as you keep your hands off of my wife.”

The girls come in. We stand. Olivia can sense there has been an exchange. Her ever-cold eyes travel between the two of us.

Choose me.

Her gaze lands on Noah. Their intimacy makes me jealous. Rageful. I grind my teeth until Olivia notices. I stop as soon as her eyes trace my jaw, but it’s too late. She’s seen what I’m feeling.

A perfect eyebrow arches up.

God. I hate it when she does that.

I want to spank her.

The lamb is overcooked and the asparagus is mushy. I am so impressed that her spiteful little hands are now cooking; I clean my plate and have seconds. She drinks three glasses of wine so casually I wonder if it has become a habit or if this dinner is making her nervous. We talk about her clients and she has everyone laughing. Noah is clearly infatuated by her. He watches everything she does with a slight smile on his lips. It reminds me of myself. She asks Jessica questions about what she has been doing with her life. It makes me uncomfortable. I am careful not to speak only to her, not to look at her too much, not to look away when she interacts with Noah, because it bothers me. It’s hard not to study their dynamic. She is genuinely fond of him. I notice that her personality is softer when he’s around. She has not cussed once since I stepped through their door — which is the longest her mouth has ever been clean in the history of Olivia.

Her mouth.

Noah is one of those rare personalities that has a calming effect on a potentially tripe situation. I can’t help but like the guy even though he has my girl. He has the balls to threaten me too.

As we say our goodbyes in their foyer, Olivia refuses to meet my eyes. She looks exhausted, like the night has taken its toll on her emotionally. She stands close to Noah, and I see her reach for his hand. I want to know what she’s feeling. I want to be the one to comfort her.

Jess comes home with me and spends the night. My mother has left four messages asking about my move to London.

I wake up to the smell of bacon. I can hear the clang of pots and water running in the sink. I walk na**d to the kitchen. Jess is making breakfast. I lean over the counter and watch her. I was married to a woman for five years and don’t think I ever saw her crack an egg. She’s wearing one of my t-shirts. Her hair is pulled up in a messy knot. It’s very sexy. I eye her legs; they go on forever. I’m a leg guy. The scene in Pretty Woman where Vivian is telling Richard the exact measurement of her legs is one of the best scenes in the movie. A lot can be forgiven if a woman has a great set of legs.

Jessica’s are unparalleled.

I sit as she hands me a mug of coffee and smiles shyly like we’ve never done this before. I really like her. I loved her once; it would be easy to fall into this woman again. She’s beautiful — more beautiful than Leah, more beautiful than Olivia. Can anyone be more beautiful than Olivia?

“I didn’t want to wake you,” she says. “So I kept myself busy with feeding you.”

“Feeding me,” I repeat. I like that.

“I like doing things for you.” She smiles coyly. “I’ve missed you, Caleb.”

I blink at her. What would have happened if she had told me she was pregnant, instead of going to get an abortion? We’d have a ten-year-old.

I pull her to me and kiss her. She never fights, never acts like she doesn’t want me. I take her to the couch and we let the toast burn.

Later, I’m sitting at the café down the street, drinking espresso. Jess had to go to work. My phone pings, signaling a text message.

O: Well?

I smile to myself and finish my espresso before answering.

Well, what?

There is a long pause. She’s thinking about how to suck the information out of me without sounding like she cares.

O: Don’t play games!

I remember the last time you asked me not to do that. I think we were in an orange grove.

O: Fuck you. What did you think of Noah?


What did you think of Jess?

O: Same stupid slut

I crack up. The other patrons of the café turn to see what I’m laughing at.

I gather up my things to leave. She always did get right to the point. I am almost to my car when my phone pings again.

O: Don’t fall in love with her

I stare at that message for a long time. One minute — three. What does she want from me? I don’t respond. I feel like she’s punched me.

And that’s it. I don’t hear from her for another year.

Chapter Three

The first time I saw her — my God — it was like I’d never seen another woman in all my life. It was the way she walked that caught my eye. She moved like water: fluid, determined. Everything else blended together in a blur and all I saw was her. The only solid in all that color. I smiled when she stopped under this grotesque, twisted-looking tree and gave it the single dirtiest look I had ever seen. I’d never even noticed the tree before, though it was one of those things that when you see it, you wonder how you’d ever missed it. One of my friends punched me on the arm to get my attention. We’d been talking about basketball. The coach put half the team on suspension for smoking pot, and now we had to get through the last few games with our best players benched for the rest of the season. But the conversation had ended for me the minute I saw her. They followed my eyes, gave each other knowing looks. I had somewhat of a reputation in regards to women. They were still calling out remarks when I stepped under the tree. Her back was to me. She had the type of hair you wanted to wrap your hands in — dark and wild, all the way to her tiny waist. My first words to her should have been: Will you marry me? Instead, I went with: “Why are you angry with this tree?”

She spun on me so fast I drew back. She set me on my axis, wobbling and unsure. These were all feelings I was not well acquainted with. The rest of our exchange pockmarked my ego.

“Just a question, Sunshine, don’t attack.” Holy shit, she was hostile.

“Can I help you with something?” she snapped.

“I was interested in finding out why this tree made you frown.” It was lame, but what the hell else was I supposed to say? She’d either had a really bad day, or she was always like this, and either way I was compelled to stand in the shade and talk to her.

Suddenly, she looked tired. “Are you trying to flirt with me?”

Damn. This had turned into one of the strangest female encounters I’d ever had. So, I told her my name.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“My name…” I offered her my hand. I just wanted to touch her. She was ice cold. It was like her personality seeped out of her skin. She pulled her little hand away too quickly.

“Yes, I was trying to flirt with you, until you shot me down, that is.” I don’t think in all the days I’d been alive and breathing, I’d ever shaken hands with a girl I wanted. It was awkward. For her too. Her brow creased, and she looked around the parking lot like she wanted someone to come save her.

“Listen, I’d love to stand around and feed into your ego with chit-chattery, but I have to go.”

Chit-chattery. She just made up a word and used it in a sentence to insult me. God. Who the hell was this woman? And if I could get her to stop being hostile, what would she taste like? She had already started walking away. I had to do something or say something that would at least make her remember me. So, I decided to insult her back.

“If you were born an animal — you’d be a llama,” I called after her. It was true. I happened to really like llamas. They were reserved and they always gave you the stink eye. When you pissed them off, they spat at you. I’d seen it happen to my brother at a petting zoo once. That’s when they became my favorite animal. But, she didn’t know that. She just knew I was comparing her to an animal. And it pissed her off.

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