As vocal as Sedgwick had been in bed, he was not terribly chatty over breakfast. It seemed to be a replete and satisfied silence, though. He appeared content, and each time our eyes met, he offered that disarming smile.
In fact, it felt so natural and comfortable between us, I was encouraged to ask, “Will you let me have another look at The Christmas Cake?”
Sedgwick’s gaze dropped to the egg-topped muffin he was neatly cutting through. “No.”
“No?” I felt bewildered, not least by the brusqueness of this. “Why?”
He sighed. “After last night I’d hoped you’d let this go.”
What the hell did last night have to do with it? “I was hired to appraise the book. I’m being paid to do that. If I ‘let this go’ I also have to let go of that commission. Which I need.”
He said quietly, “James, I think we’re both realists.”
“You’ve lost me.”
“If you don’t stop now, you’re liable to spoil this, you know.”
“No, I don’t know. Spoil this? How is asking to see the book spoiling anything?” And now I was starting to get annoyed.
Behind the severe glasses, Sedgwick raised his green-gold eyes, gave me a long, direct stare.
“I don’t know what that look is supposed to mean.”
“It means we’re having a very nice time together. Let’s not ruin it by bringing up…unpleasant memories.”
It took me a beat or two to work out what he was referring to. The rush of anger and hurt left me feeling winded. Lack of oxygen made my voice come out flat and compressed. “I thought you didn’t believe the rumors about me.”
He said with all the dispassionate exactitude one could ask of a science teacher, “What I said was, no one accused you of being directly involved in murder or forgery. That is all I said.”
I’m sure my disbelief showed on my face. Hopefully nothing else showed. The laugh that escaped me took us both by surprise. “You’re right. My mistake.”
I got up, my knee knocking the edge of my plate and tipping it over. The waffle landed in a sticky plop face down on the plush carpet. I didn’t give a fuck about that. I didn’t give a fuck about anything at that point. It was all very clear, diamond-edged and razor-bright. He didn’t trust me. He thought I had possibly been involved in murder and forgery, but he liked having sex with me—or possibly with anyone and I happened to be willing—and he didn’t want me to spoil that by bringing up something as awkward as business.
Sedgwick rose too. “James.”
I ignored him, finding my shirt and buttoning it up quickly. I got one of the buttonholes misaligned, so it hung crookedly—appropriately, it seemed—but I didn’t care. Was not going to stay in that room one instant longer than I had to.
I was hunting with fierce attention for my other shoe. I found it under his side of the bed.
“Apparently I’ve offended you. I…didn’t intend to.”
Now that was almost funny. I slipped the shoe on. I was missing my socks, but that really seemed a small price to pay for getting out of there without committing murder for real.
“I’m not sure what I—oft times I put things more bluntly than I intend,” Sedgwick was saying. He sounded a fraction impatient. “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”
I found my jacket and headed for the door. He was right behind me.
“James, I really don’t see—” He put a hand on my shoulder, and I spun around and shoved him back. The arm of the sofa caught him behind his thighs, and he half fell back over it, glasses crooked, blinking up in astonishment at me.
I said, “Enjoy the rest of your stay in L.A., arsehole.”
I managed not to slam the door on my way out.
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