Home > City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(9)

City of the Lost (Casey Duncan #1)(9)
Author: Kelley Armstrong

“If you’re okay dealing with my shit, you can come by any time you like.”

He leans into me. I’m sitting on the counter, my legs around him, and he presses closer, murmuring, “No pressure, but … what are my chances for tomorrow?”

“About fifty-fifty. Diana—”

He cuts me off with a kiss, a deep one that makes me temporarily forget what we’re talking about.

“Your friend’s having trouble,” he says. “She comes first. But if you can get away tomorrow, I promise I’ll take your mind off that … and everything else that’s bugging you. I’d like your phone number, though. Again, not pushing, but I should have it in case there’s a problem.”

I never gave him my number? Shit. I hadn’t realized that, and of course he hadn’t asked. I pull out my phone. “Give me yours.”

“Um, pretty sure I did already. Twice.”

He had. The first night I came by, with some guys from work, Kurt left his number on my napkin. I hadn’t kept it. I returned a week later, though, and he gave it to me again after I spent the night. At the time, I still hadn’t been prepared to save it, and then … well …

When I’m slow to answer, he shakes his head and rattles it off. I text him my cell number, work number, and home address. His phone buzzes in his back pocket. When he reads the message, he grins like I’ve handed him the keys to my apartment, my car, and my safe deposit box.

I see that grin, and I feel a prickle of guilt. I tell myself we keep things casual by mutual agreement. We both have busy, complicated lives. If he doesn’t get annoyed when I don’t make contact for a week, that only proves he feels the same way I do. Or that he’s a sweetheart of a guy who’s taking what he can get. What I can give.

“About Diana,” I say as I slide off the counter. “It’s an ex who hasn’t accepted that he’s an ex. He’s been quiet for months, but he made contact again yesterday. That’s why I had to take off last night. She told me while we were here.”

“This guy have a name?” Kurt doesn’t actually flex his biceps—he’d never be so trite—but he shifts, muscles bunching, telling me exactly what he has in mind.

“Tempting …” I murmur.

“Just give me a name. He doesn’t understand it’s over? I can drive home the message.”

“I bet you could. And after dealing with this asshole for years, I’d almost pay to watch.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t have to pay.” A devilish grin. “Not in cash, anyway.”

“You have no idea how much I’d like that. The problem is that it would only piss him off, and he’d take it out on her. I’m working on another resolution.”

“All right. But if you need muscle for the job, you now have my number. Day or night, I’ll be there.”

I’m back at the table. I expect Diana to comment, but she barely seems to have noticed I left. When I deposit her third lemon drop, she reaches for it as if it’s been there all along. After a sip, she says, “Graham called this afternoon. He said he had to fly back early and wouldn’t be able to do dinner. Not that I’d agreed to dinner …”

She stares across the room, her eyes unfocused.

“That’s good, right?” I say tentatively. “That he left?”

She blinks hard before forcing a humourless laugh. “Yes, sorry. Did that sound like regret? Absolutely not. I was just thinking …” She turns to me. “Is it ever going to end, Casey? He only has to call, and I’m in lockdown again. Do you know what I did today? Checked my life insurance. I wanted to be sure it was paid up so you wouldn’t be on the hook if anything happened. Can you believe I even thought that? Me? Miss Happy-Go-Lucky?” Her fingers tighten on the glass. “Not so happy these days. Definitely not so lucky.”

“How about a vacation?” I ask. “God knows, I’ve got a shitload of time banked.”

She nods, absently, and I struggle to think of “fun” things to do, but it’s like asking a pastry chef to fix a broken carburetor. My idea of a holiday is the guy behind the bar.

“I keep thinking about this place,” she blurts. “And don’t laugh, okay? Because I know it sounds crazy, and maybe it just proves how desperate I am. But in my therapy group, there’s this woman I have coffee with, and we talk about our escape plans, what we’d do if things got too bad. She has a place she’d go.”

“A cabin or something?”

“No, a town. For people who need to disappear. A place where no one can find them.”

“Like an underground railway for abuse victims?”

“For anyone in trouble. It’s an entire town of people who’ve disappeared.”

I shake my head. “I’m sorry, Di, but that’s an urban legend. The perfect place, where women can disappear and never have to worry about their abusers again? Think about it logically. An invisible town? In today’s world, you’re never really off the grid. How would a place like that work? The economy, the security …”

“I’m not saying I believe in it. The point is that it proves how far I’ve fallen, Case. I can’t stop thinking about it. Obsessing over it. Telling myself maybe, just maybe, it could be real.”

“It isn’t,” I say. “Now, if you want to talk real strategies and escape plans, we can do that. But no fantasy bullshit. It’s a real problem; it needs a real solution.”

   
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