Authors: Theresa Weir
He’s Come Undone
Copyright © 2014 by Theresa Weir
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. With the exception of quotes used in reviews, no part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Published in the United States by Belfry Press
Come As You Are
He’s Come Undone
(City of Lakes)
~ Ellie ~
I thought about taking a shower, knowing I should take a shower, but I felt this weird reluctance to wash Julian off my skin. And let’s face it. I was still high from our hours together while at the same time trying not to think about never seeing him again. I didn’t want to dwell on that.
The intercom buzzed. I pushed the Talk button. “Yeah?”
Me. Me, being him. Me, being Julian.
My heart began to pound, my mouth went dry, and my brain misfired. I took a few steps away, then I stopped and went back to the intercom on the wall. “Come on up.” I pushed the button that unlocked the entry.
Seconds later I heard footsteps pounding up the metal stairs, then a weird rap on the door, more like someone had kicked it rather than knocked.
I opened it to see Julian standing there with a carryout bag between his teeth, and two coffees, one in each hand.
Stepping inside, he passed one of the coffees to me, then pulled the bag from his mouth and dropped it on the counter. “Breakfast,” he explained.
This was not supposed to happen.
Well, in the original version, in the revenge girls’ version, this was exactly what was supposed to happen. But in my version…no.
“I don’t know how you like your coffee. I have a latte and straight black.”
“Latte,” I said in a baffled voice.
I wasn’t prepared for this. Morning after the hot sex thing. I wasn’t prepared to face him. I wasn’t sure I’d ever be prepared to face him after the stuff we’d done. Maybe Carmen was onto something when she said one-night stand sex was the best kind. Maybe that’s why I’d been so uninhibited.
What was he doing here?
I sipped the latte, but I wasn’t sure my stomach could handle anything else. I was so nervous, and I’d hardly slept—a bad combination.
“I didn’t think you’d come back,” I found myself saying.
His eyes were a little bloodshot, and his hair was a mess, and he needed to shave. His lips…his lips were red, and I wondered if they were as sensitive as mine this morning. After all the kissing…
“Why’d you think that?” he asked, putting his coffee aside, removing his jacket and tossing it on a chair.
I shook my head, my heart still pounding. I’ve always laughed at the ways people described sex and attraction. It always seemed so corny and melodramatic. And then there was the whole physical response. The body that responded without engaging the brain.
I was experiencing that now. And it was kind of funny, but not funny. I actually felt hot all over, and especially hot and even swollen between my legs. Like if a female could have an erection then I was having one.
We were both thinking about sex—that was obvious.
“I have roommates,” I said.
“Are any of them here?”
“No. But they could come home any time.”
“So we should go someplace private.”
“Yeah. We should.”
I put my hand in his and led him to the bedroom, to the rumpled sheets spilling to the floor, a space that still smelled like warm bodies. As soon as the door clicked shut, we reached for each other, now, in the bright light of day. I tugged my T-shirt over my head, and before he could help me I stripped down to nothing, kicking my yoga pants and panties aside. Still dressed, he pushed me back on the bed, his breathing uneven. “God, you’re so beautiful,” he whispered in an awe-filled voice that made me even hotter.
~ Ellie ~
I chained my bike to the rack and entered the coffee shop, tucking my black beret into the pocket of my thrift shop coat as I scanned the room.
The stranger I was meeting knew what I looked like; I’d posted a photo with my Craigslist ad. Along with the photo, I’d also included stuff about the old days, when I was a kid actor. I didn’t want people in Minneapolis to know about my old self, but when you were as broke as I was, when you were being threatened with living on the street—those things you always said you’d never do? You do them.
Sad, since I’d struggled to create a new identity and put distance between the child star I used to be and the person I was now. So outing my old self—it was hard, but being broke was harder. Having to quit school was harder.
Until now, the only people who’d shown interest in my ad were pervs wanting me for sexual role-playing. I guess I asked for it when I said something about being able to be anything or anybody. Apparently that was code for the kind of sex I was honestly too unsexy to even imagine.
I was an actress. An actress! Or so I liked to think. And yeah, I could pretty much do anything. Or I guess I should
to be able to do anything, because I had to admit I was a bit rusty.
Hours earlier when I saw the email from Craigslist, I’d expected another perv, but that didn’t keep me from reading it, and it didn’t keep me from agreeing to meet the potential perv at Espresso Royale, a coffee shop just steps from the University of Minnesota. I picked a very public place so I could shout and scream if the need arose.
At the counter, I leaned toward the barista and asked if they had any suspended coffee. Free coffee. Paid for by other patrons. The barista nodded and I accepted the drink while managing to leave a tip with the bit of change I dug from the bottom of my messenger bag.
I perused the room again, looking for some elderly guy. A few professors, but nobody creepy. Off in the corner, a pretty girl with dark hair was waving to me and motioning me over. She wasn’t alone. Flanking her were two other girls just as lovely. I pegged them for college students, first or second year, on campus for the new fall season.
My booted feet remained nailed to the floor.
The girl who’d waved stood up, gave me a beauty-queen smile, and called my name. “Ellie!”
Of course that wasn’t the name I used when I was on TV. Ellie was part of this new identity in this new life, but little did people know Ellie was actually my
name, not Evangeline, my stage name—or rather TV-land name.
I cautiously approached the table. My ad had said actress for hire. I hated to prejudge people, but these girls didn’t look like art students or acting students or anybody involved in the art scene. They just didn’t. These were sorority girls. Cheerleaders. Trust funders.
The dark-haired girl sat back down and beamed at me. They were all beaming at me. And they all seemed so…
. Young women just unwrapped. Who’d just jumped into the world and found it to be everything they’d expected and more.
“Is this about the Craigslist ad?” I asked, not sitting down in the chair that had obviously been left for me.
“Yes!” They spoke in unison.
“I think there’s been some mix-up,” I told them.
“You’re Ellie, right? And you’re looking for an acting job, right?”
I nodded and adjusted my glasses.
The dark-haired girl glanced at her friends in a way that indicated she was speaking for them all. “We’re looking for an actress.”
“Well, I’m an actress.”
The words sounded strange to my ears. It had been a long time.
I put my coffee cup on the scratched wooden table and sat down, my brain still trying to figure this out. Maybe they need someone for a school project. Yeah, I’ll bet that was it.
“We saw your ad on Craigslist, and you seemed perfect for what we’re looking for,” said a smaller girl with golden hair. She gave me a bashful smile, reached for my hand, seemed to think better of it, and paused. Leaning forward, she whispered, “I used to watch you all the time when I was little.”
She meant the after-school show I was on called
, about this quirky kid (played by me) who just basically said and did outrageous things. Maddy wasn’t angry mad, she was crazy mad. Now, in retrospect, the concept seemed weird for a kids’ show.
“Please don’t tell anybody, okay?” I asked. “I’m trying to keep a low profile.”
I’d been in Minneapolis a year after moving from LA to get a fresh start, but I ended up having to drop out of the University of Minnesota when a nasty strain of mono ripped through campus like a wildfire and knocked me out for three months. Three months in which I couldn’t work or go to class. No job. No money. And now here I was, soliciting myself on Craigslist.
Her eyes got big. “Oh, I get it. After what your mom did. Robbing you like that. And after the trial and all. That was awful. Awful.”
I wanted to believe she wouldn’t tell anybody, but who didn’t love gossip? She might mean she wouldn’t say anything right now, but how about tomorrow? But then again, my glory days were long gone. Who would even care anymore? Nobody, that’s who.
“What’s the job?” I asked. “You didn’t really explain anything in your email.” It had just said something about the gig needing to be kept confidential. And there would be papers to sign, and signatures to notarize.
“We would have rather met you someplace private,” the third girl said. Her hair was blond, and I thought it was handy they had different hair color so I could tell them apart. “But I
get why you wanted our first meeting to be here,” she said. “In public.”
“And really…” The dark-haired girl jumped in. “We weren’t sure you were who you said you were. You could have been some old dude with a van.”
I let out a mental
We were thinking alike. Craigslist did that to a person.
“But you’re real,” the girl who’d watched me on TV said. “You’re Evangeline Barlow.”
The last name was really mine; the studio hadn’t changed that. I’m sure the outcome would have been different if my name had been Ethel Gumm or Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.Something that didn’t translate to stardom.
I nodded, made a big production of taking a sip of coffee, then replaced my cup on the saucer. “So what’s the job? An ad? Something for school?”
All three girls leaned forward. All three girls looked over their shoulder, back at me, then whispered: “We want you to break someone’s heart.”
~ Ellie ~
I used to be a cute kid. The cutest kid. I wasn’t hideous now, but life had dragged me down. And in my desire to blend and become invisible, I’d let myself go. Weird to say someone who was twenty-three let herself go, but once you stop doing all those things that take a person from a five to a seven or eight—the slide doesn’t take long.
The beauties at the table were all tens.
“Any of you would be better at breaking somebody’s heart,” I said. “I’ll bet you’ve all broken a lot of hearts. There are probably guys out there sobbing right now. I mean there’s you"— I pointed at them—"And there’s me.”
I made a sweeping gesture that took in my ratty, shapeless green coat, my torn black tights, my scuffed and practical ankle boots. Topping that off was dark, straight hair that hadn’t been cut or styled in a couple of years, a complexion that was pale and tended to freckle, and eyes that were nondescript behind black glasses. I couldn’t break anybody’s heart if I wanted to.
Ah, somebody was pranking me. That’s what was going on. I cast a glance around, looking for a camera and crew. Didn’t see anything.
“We don’t need beauty,” Dark Hair said. “We need brains and someone who can be whoever she needs to be.”
The blonde reached into a bag. Some designer thing that probably cost a fortune. Not her fault. “There are actually six of us, but the other three were too embarrassed to come.” She pulled out a sheaf of papers. “But all six of us made notes and we’ve compiled everything. We’ve come up with the traits that will make you his perfect woman.”
I stared at the papers in her hand, finally getting it. This was a revenge party.
“So… let me get this straight. All of you dated and were dumped by the same guy, and now you want to get him back.”
“Dumped isn’t really a word we like to use,” the blond girl said. “He didn’t
us. He used us. For sex.”
“I wasn’t looking for a job like this,” I said, considering
my coffee into a to-go cup and getting the hell out of there. “When I said I could do anything, I meant like ads, voiceovers, stage work. Singing a birthday gram. Stuff like that. Not pretending to be someone else in real life. Not trying to trick and fool somebody.”
“You look like you need money,” Dark Hair said.
In a rush, they began to fill in the blanks, telling me about this guy who’d charmed and wooed them, then once he got them into bed they never heard from him again.
“All of us. All six of us, although we suspect there are more.”
“And all of you knew each other?”
“No, we met AJ. After Julian. At first we got together just to try to figure it out. Kind of group therapy. Then, the other night after a few drinks, we started thinking about getting him back. Really bringing him down. Really undoing him.”
“I can’t get mixed up in something like this. And anyway, it wouldn’t work. If anybody could break a guy’s heart… Well, it wouldn’t be me.
“We’ll coach you. We’ll style you. We’ll dress you. We’ll do everything. All you have to do is show up and be the person we create.”
They could see I was intrigued. The whole weird concept appealed to me. But I didn’t think for a second a guy would fall for me. And if he did, I wasn’t comfortable breaking somebody’s heart.
“We’ll pay you well.”
“How much is well?” Because God, it would be nice to be able to catch up on rent, and it would be nice to be able to eat. And maybe go back to school, but that seemed remote right now.
“It depends on how long it takes,” Dark Hair said.
“Something like that could take weeks,” I told them. “Months. Or it could be over right away if it becomes obvious he has no interest in me.”
“How about this,” Dark Hair said. “If he ends up not interested after a week of trying to catch him, we’ll pay you… say five-hundred dollars and you can keep any clothes we give you. But if he becomes interested, we’ll pay you more. And if you can get him to declare his love for you after you have sex—”
“Wait.” I stopped her. “There’s sex?”
The girls shot one another looks, and I got the feeling they’d discussed this part. “That’s how he is. Sex, then he moves on to the next girl. But no sex if you don’t want it. But you’ll want it.”
The other girls nodded, then spoke in unison. “Oh, you’ll want it.”
“This is just too weird.” I couldn’t believe I’d actually thought about it for a few minutes.
“We’ll pay you a bonus,” Dark Hair said. “If you can get him to declare his love
sex we’ll pay you an additional five thousand dollars.”
Holy crap. That was a mind-boggling amount of money. But how could I do it? It was like being a whore, right? Money to go out with a guy. Money to sleep with a guy. A whore.
All of the girls reached into their bags and extracted cell phones. They scrolled. They turned their phones around.
I looked from one screen to the next, all photos of the most gorgeous guy I’d ever seen. Curly brown hair (not boring brown like mine!), blue eyes. Like really, really blue eyes. One of those jaw lines that are kind of movie star, always needing to shave just a bit. Lips, beautiful lips. Smiling into the camera.
I swallowed while continuing to stare at the final photo, this one of the ‘victim’ with his shirt off. I swear my fingers tingled imaging how that skin would feel, how those muscles would feel.
The weird thing about me? I’ve never been in a real relationship, and I’ve never had what people call hot sex. I’ve never even had what people might call good sex. Sometimes I’ve even wondered if I liked guys at all. But this guy…
I’ve never understood how girls could get crushes on actors, people they didn’t even know. And I’ve never understood how girls could drool over a photo of a hot stranger. But looking at this guy… I felt a little slobbery.
“This won’t work,” I said.
He could have anybody.
That was probably his problem. One of those insanely handsome specimens who knew he could have any girl he chose, unable to make up his mind, moving from one beauty to the next.
“Just try it,” Dark Hair said. “Think of it this way. You’ll be doing the females on campus a favor. The guy’s a predator. He needs to be called out on his behavior.”
She had a point.
“You could be like a super hero,” Fan Girl said. “He needs to be taught a lesson. He needs some of his own medicine.”
I gripped my coffee cup with both hands and stared into the dark liquid, then looked up at the girls. “I’ll do it.”
They smiled and quietly clapped their hands.
I pulled out my beret and put it on my head at a jaunty angle as I prepared to leave.
Fan Girl whipped out her phone and held it upright. “A
photo.” She took a picture of me, checked it, nodded, then put her phone away.
“I’ll need some money up front,” I told them. I wasn’t going to go into my living situation, and how I was broke and how I was starving. It was embarrassing. Even more embarrassing with all of them knowing just how far I’d fallen. There was nothing quite so humiliating as failing on a public stage.
“Oh, absolutely.” Dark Hair opened her bag, dug around, and pulled out several bills. I spotted some hundreds in there. She’d come prepared. She slid the cash across the table, and I folded the money and pocketed it. Then she pulled out a contract, and Fan Girl produced a notary stamp.
“My dad’s a lawyer,” she explained. “I’ve been a notary since I was eighteen.”
Wow, had they