Intoxicated by Alicia Renee Kline (Excerpt)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Chapter Two

There were four missed calls and three voice mails on my cell when I returned to the car after midnight.  I didn’t need to guess who they were from.  I closed my eyes momentarily, attempting to give myself the strength to deal with him.  Knowing resistance was futile, I pressed the speed dial button before listening to any of the messages.

“You didn’t answer your phone,” Eric said in lieu of a greeting.

“I’m sorry.”

The apology slipped out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop it.  More of a trained response, learned from ten years’ experience.  Honestly, I wasn’t sorry.

“Where are you?” he asked, his voice softening.

“Just leaving Gracie’s place.  What hotel are you at?”

“It’s a small place.  Relatively local.  You might say the atmosphere leaves a little to be desired.  Lots of moving boxes at the moment.”

“You’re at my place?”

My anger melted away at the thought of him lounged on my couch, his feet propped on the coffee table.  He rarely came to my place.  Granted, it was tiny and not in the best neighborhood, but it was my home.  He must have been overcome with guilt to make the trek from his downtown high rise.


“I’ll be home in fifteen.”

“See you then.”

I pressed the “end” key and tossed the phone over to the passenger seat.  Traffic was light for a Friday night, and I made good time back to my complex.  Sure enough, Eric’s BMW was parked in my guest spot.  His car seemed to smirk at my very used Honda Accord.

The two certainly didn’t belong together.

Eric had been campaigning for quite some time for me to get something new.  However, I liked not being a slave to a car payment as much as I enjoyed not being strapped for cash due to high rent.  So that explained why I was here, driving what I did.  Who cared about appearances?  My bank account was the one laughing.

Humming, I smiled to myself as I bounded up the stairs, taking them two at a time.  I could hardly contain myself.  Eric was here, in the flesh.  I tried to remember the last time we had been in the same time zone.  Two weeks?

My front door was unlocked.  Eric’s six foot two inch frame was folded over the tiny loveseat like an adult sitting on a toddler’s chair.  He was still dressed for work, his suit jacket slung over the back of the couch.  He grabbed the remote and turned off my small television set as I entered.

“Hey,” I greeted.

He stood, and we met midway.  He wrapped his arms around me, pulling me into his embrace. What was left of my resolve melted into a puddle at his feet.

“I missed you,” I whispered.

He pressed his finger against my lips to silence me and led me to the couch. As we sunk to the cushion, he replaced his finger with his own lips.  Once the hello kiss had been completed, he leaned back against the sofa, his arm wrapped around my shoulders.

“I missed you too.”

“How long have you been here?”  I was hesitant to ask, but curiosity won out.

He drew in a deep breath prior to answering.  “A couple hours.”

Damn.  That meant that while I was pouring my heart out to Gracie about how insensitive he was, he was sitting in my empty apartment waiting for me.  No wonder he had called so many times.  I scolded myself, ashamed that I could be so irresponsible.

“I’m sorry,” I said again.  This time I meant it. “I had no idea that you would be home tonight.”

“My last meeting today got cancelled.  I took an earlier flight.  I wanted to surprise you when you got home from your party.  I didn’t think you would be out so late.”

“Well, you accomplished a surprise.”

“I thought about crashing your party, but I figured that would be rude.”

The truthfulness in that statement was questionable.  I doubted the thought had crossed his mind.

“You could have come.  I’m sure everyone would have been happy to see you.”

Another false sentiment.  After the last couple days, Gracie would have been ready to gouge his eyes out.

I rested my head against him and closed my eyes.  It had been a long, emotional day and everything was finally catching up with me.  I swallowed a yawn, embarrassed.


“A little.  I have to get up in the morning and go look at a room to rent.”

He shifted his weight, causing me to sit up on my own accord.  His eyes traveled across the expanse of my apartment, taking in the moving boxes that lined the walls.  My place had never been worthy of a spread in a decorating magazine, but now it was uncomfortably void of any personality.  With my furnished apartment, there was little preparation that needed to be done in order to move.  In fact, everything that I didn’t immediately need had already been packed away.  When I was ready to go, I really only needed to box up a dresser’s worth of clothing, my bathroom stuff and the few dishes that remained in the cabinet.

“You don’t have to do this,” he breathed.

“Do what?”

“Leave.”  He took my hands in both of his.

I sighed.  “Eric, I kind of do.  I’ve already accepted the job.  They are interviewing people to replace me here.  I can’t just turn around and tell them that I was kidding.  That would be like suicide.  I would never get another opportunity there again.”

“You don’t need that job.  I told you that I would take care of you.”

“I don’t need taken care of.”

He let out a sharp, sarcastic laugh.  “You are doing so well on your own.  I mean, everyone strives to live in a dump and drive a fifteen year old car.  Congratulations.”

I jerked my hands away from him, scooting over as far as I could.  The gesture only separated us by a couple inches.  The look in his eyes had changed, grown cold somehow.  I kept my gaze fixed on his, refusing to blink as I formulated a response.  My lips parted once, twice, but nothing came out.

Eric took that as his cue to continue.  Straight out of his book of tricks, he was using some patented technique to close his sale.  “I could give you everything you ever wanted.  Every little wish you ever had could come true.  And you walk away from me.  For what?  To prove some point?”

“That I don’t need to be in debt up to my eyeballs in order to be happy?”

“I am not.”

“Way to sound like a ten-year-old, Eric.”

I stood up with a flourish, crossing the apartment in a matter of steps.  My frustrated fingers raked through my cropped brunette hair as I paced in front of the window.  Eric also rose to his feet, though he lingered by the couch, allowing me my space.  I walked back and forth, concentrating on my feet, the threadbare carpet, anywhere but him.  I knew I still had the floor.  I needed to choose my next words wisely and make the most of it.

“If you are so willing to give me everything that I want, then you will allow me to do this.  For years I have stood by and let you make decisions for us.  I never argued with your choices.  You wanted to go away to school while I stayed here?  Fine.  You wanted to take a job that makes you travel ninety percent of the time?  Fine.  Are you sensing a pattern here?”

I paused, letting my words absorb.  He offered no rebuttal.

“Why does every major decision you make involve leaving me?”

Now I turned to face him, meeting his stare.  Eric winced.

“It’s not like that, Lauren.”

“It’s exactly like that.  And the one time I ask you for something, the one time I make a decision for myself, you go off the deep end.”

“Lauren,” he repeated, moving closer.

I thrust my palm out, effectively cutting him down.  “No.  If you want to leave me so much, then do it.  Get out.”

He looked as though I had struck him.  We stood for a moment, wordless, stonefaced.  He broke the staring contest first, reaching down to grab his pinstriped jacket.  He slung the garment over his shoulder, then spun on his heel.

For the first time in recent memory, he did what I instructed.

The door slammed behind him, punctuating his retreat.

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Genre – Romance / Chick Lit

Rating – PG13

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Connect with Alicia Renee Kline on Twitter

Website http://aliciareneekline.com/

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