Home > The Kind Worth Killing(8)

The Kind Worth Killing(8)
Peter Swanson

I decided to keep my eyes shut, pretend I was asleep. My heart beat in my chest like a jumping bean, but I kept my breathing regular. In through my nose and out through my mouth.

I listened as Chet took a few steps forward. I knew he was standing right over me. I could hear his own breath, ragged and wet, and I could smell him. The fruity, musty smell, mixed with the smell of cigarettes and alcohol.

“Lily,” he said, in a loud whisper.

I didn’t move.

He leaned in closer. Said my name again, a little quieter this time.

I pretended I was in a deep sleep, and couldn’t hear a thing. I pulled my knees up a little tighter to my body, moving the way I thought a sleeping person would move. I knew what he was doing in my room, and I knew what he wanted. He was going to have sex with me. But as far as I knew that was only something he could do if I was awake, so I planned on staying asleep, no matter what he did.

I heard the creak of his knees and the rustle of his jeans, then smelled the sour, beery smell of his breath. He had crouched down beside me. The song from downstairs—its thumping bass—stopped, and another song, that sounded the same, started up again. I heard the sound of a zipper being slowly unzipped, one tiny, metallic pluck at a time, then a rhythmic sound, like a hand being rubbed rapidly back and forth across a sweater. He was doing it to himself and not to me. My plan was working. The sound got faster and louder, and he said my name a few more times, in low hoarse whispers. I thought he wasn’t going to touch me but I felt the air shift a little in front of my chest, then felt a finger graze along the pajama fabric that stretched across my breasts. It was warm in the room but cold prickles coursed over all my skin. I willed myself to keep my eyes closed. Chet pressed his fingers against my chest, his sharp nails pinching, then made a sound that was halfway between a grunt and an intake of breath, and he pulled his hand away from my nipple. I listened as he zipped his pants back up and quickly backed out of the room. He thudded into the doorframe on the way out, then pulled the door closed behind him, not even trying to keep quiet.

I stayed in my curled-up position for another minute, then got off the bed, took my desk chair and tried to jam it up under the doorknob of my door. It was something Nancy Drew would do. The chair didn’t quite fit—it was a little too short—but it was better than nothing. If Chet came back it would be hard for him to open the door, at least, and the chair would fall over and make a noise.

I didn’t think I would sleep that night, but I did, and when morning came, I lay in bed, thinking about what I should do.

My worst fear was that if I told my mother about what had happened, she would tell me that I should have sex with Chet. Or else she would be mad that I let him come into my room, or that I let him watch me in the pool. I knew that this was something I needed to take care of on my own.

And I knew how I would do it.

CHAPTER 3

TED

At nearly midnight, I stood on the front steps of the bay-fronted brownstone I owned with Miranda, the taxi’s red lights receding down the street, and tried to remember where I’d stowed the house keys when I’d left for London a week earlier.

Just as I was unzipping the outside pocket of my carry-on, the front door swung open. Miranda was in midyawn. She wore a short nightshirt and a pair of wool socks. “How was London?” she asked, after kissing me on the mouth. Her breath was slightly sour and I imagined she’d been asleep in front of the television.

“Damp.”

“Profitable?”

“Yes, damp and profitable.” I shut the door behind me, and dropped my luggage on the hardwood floor. The house smelled of takeout Thai. “I’m surprised to see you here,” I said. “I thought you’d be in Maine.”

“I wanted to see you, Teddy. It’s been a whole week. Are you drunk?”

“The flight was delayed and I drank a few martinis. Do I reek?”

“Yes. Brush your teeth and come to bed. I’m exhausted.”

I watched Miranda climb the steep stairs to our second-floor bedroom, watched the muscles in her slim calves tense and untense, watched the nightshirt sway back and forth with the movement of her hips, then thought of Brad Daggett bending her over the carpentry table, lifting her skirt . . .

I went downstairs to the basement level, where our kitchen and dining room were located. I found a carton of red curry shrimp in the fridge and ate it cold, sitting at our butcher-block island.

My head was starting to ache, and I was thirsty. I realized that without having fallen asleep I was already hungover from all the gin I’d had in the airport lounge, and then on the flight.

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