The Accidental Life of Greg Millar

ALSO BY AIMEE ALEXANDER

Pause to Rewind

All We Have Lost

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

This book was first published by Penguin Ireland as
Love Comes Tumbling
.

Text copyright © 2016 Aimee Alexander

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle

www.apub.com

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of
Amazon.com
,
Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781503934184

ISBN-10: 1503934187

Cover design by Lisa Horton

To the girl who can carry off the name Aimée Serendipity. You make me proud.

1.

A
bird has just flown into my car – a moving car, a moving bird, heading in different directions yet somehow magically intersecting. I thought, at first, that it had simply flown close to my open window, passing by on its way somewhere else, but a manic flapping behind my head proves otherwise.

‘It’s a blackbird,’ says Fint, beside me.

‘I don’t care what it is, just get it out before I crash the bloody car!’ If he hadn’t been smoking, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

I put on my hazard lights and swerve onto the hard shoulder. We hop out, Fint leaving his door wide open. He runs to the back and bangs at the window. The bird flies up front and out. In a blur, it’s free.

‘Now that’s what I call spooky,’ he says.

‘I know. Weird.’

We stand looking at each other.

‘An omen,’ says Fint, eyes wide in an effort to look menacing.

I smile. Fint is about as menacing as a sandwich.

We get back in.

Fint looks over his seat. ‘By the way, he shat on your
upholstery
.’

‘Thanks.’

He smiles, pulls out his laptop and opens it up.

The diversion has made us late for a meeting with our biggest
client
, a publishing company that we design book covers for. When you run your own business, punctuality is something you respect. I’m keeping just below the speed limit in the fast lane when I realise we’ve company. At my bumper is a black Mercedes Sports Convertible. I’m wondering what kind of idiot drives with the top down on a cold March morning when said idiot swerves to overtake me on the inside.

‘Unbelievable,’ I say.

‘What?’ asks Fint, looking up from the laptop.

‘People like that cause accidents.’

‘People like what?’

‘That guy just passed on the inside.’

‘Oh,’ he says and goes back to work.

‘“
Oh?
” He could kill someone the way he’s driving.’

Fint looks at me, eyes suddenly knowing.

‘Stop looking at me like that.’

‘Like what?’

‘Like you think I’m overreacting because of . . . Oh, forget it.’

‘Because of what?’

‘You
know
what.’

There’s a silence.

‘It would have been his birthday today,’ he says.

‘Don’t you think I
know
that?’

He turns to look out of his window.

I loosen my grip on the wheel and inhale deeply. ‘I’m sorry.’

He looks back at me. ‘I miss him too, Luce. But it’s been
eighteen
months. Maybe it’s time to move on.’

‘You are the
only
person I’d let away with a comment like that,’ I say. Ever since we met at art college, we’ve shared everything – friendship, career, secrets . . . And now, it seems, painful truths. Only it’s not the truth. ‘Move on. What does that even mean?’

Up ahead, the lights turn red. I slow to a stop, glance to my left. ‘Didn’t get far, did he, for all his rushing?’

Fint looks across.

‘Here, roll down the window,’ I say.

‘What? Why?’

‘Someone should tell people like him . . .’

‘Lucy, you’re not a vigilante. You don’t
know
him. This is how road rage incidents start.’

I
lower the window. Stretch over. ‘Excuse me?’

He glances across. Good-looking guy, around forty, tight
haircut
. He turns down his radio.

‘Are you planning on killing someone today?’

He smiles. ‘It’s not on my agenda, no.’ He pauses, then adds, ‘Wine gum?’


What?

He holds out a packet of sweets.

‘So it
never
occurred to you that driving like that could cause an accident?’

His smile only widens. ‘I’m touched by your concern.’

‘Continue to drive like you are and you’ll be touched by something with a lot more impact.’

‘Lucy,’ Fint whispers.

‘Has anyone ever told you you look lovely when you’re angry?’ he calls across, as though nothing has ever rocked his world.

I return to the wheel, roll up the window and glance straight ahead. ‘Gobshite.’

‘Cute gobshite.’

‘Fintan, do you
have
to look on every man as a potential
conquest
?’


Potential?
My dear, you underestimate me.’

I smile. The lights go green and I pull away. Fast.

The Merc stays level with us.

‘Ignore him,’ I say. ‘Fintan,
stop
looking over. You’ll just encourage him
.

‘If anyone’s encouraging him, it’s you. Slow down. Jesus.’

The Merc catches us, but has to slow behind a tangerine Nissan Micra doing, I don’t know, thirty?

I slap the steering wheel. ‘Ha! Got him!’

I check the rear-view mirror. He’s passed the Micra and is whipping into the inside lane. I accelerate. As does he. Neck and neck, I peer across. He’s like an ad for tooth whitener. I raise an eyebrow, turn back to the road.

‘You’re taking on a Mercedes, Lucy. Do you think that’s wise?’

Almost by way of an answer, it eases ahead of us.

We round a bend and I smile. He’s stuck behind a slow car in the fast lane. I join the line of traffic on the inside, which is moving faster. I keep my eyes on the road as we overtake him.

‘You absolute hypocrite!’ says Fint.

That’s when reality hits. I slow down and let the traffic go ahead as guilt crushes down on me, worse than ever, guilt that I can go on without Brendan, live, breathe, function . . . even forget how h
e d
ied.

I indicate and turn off for the industrial estate where our client, Copperplate Press, one of Dublin’s leading publishers and wholesalers, is based. A black Mercedes Sports Convertible is parked in front of the building, its top coming up.

Fint closes his laptop and looks up. ‘Hey, isn’t that . . . ?’

‘Don’t. Look. Over. Wait till he goes in.’

Fint hops out.

They meet in front of the Merc, say a few words, then look m
y way.

I pretend I’ve dropped something.

When I finally surface, I see that they’re coming over. Right, well, I’m not staying here. I step out of the car, chin high.

‘Ready, Fintan? Or are you just going to stand around chatting all day?’

‘Hello,’ Racer Boy says with that smile of his.

I nod and walk past them.

He rushes ahead of me and holds the door.

‘Exhilarating,’ he says, following me into the lobby.

I stop and turn. ‘I’m sorry?’

‘The race. Exhilarating!’

I raise an eyebrow. ‘I’d have described it as dangerous.’

‘Why do it, then? If it was so
dangerous
?’

Grinning, Fint passes us, heading for reception.

I walk over to the black leather couch.

Racer Boy follows. He sits at the other end. Unfortunately, it’s a two-seater.

I pick up a newspaper. ‘Better tell them you’re here,’ I say, nodding to the desk.

‘Time enough,’ he replies, not budging. ‘Look, I’m sorry if my driving offended or annoyed you, or whatever the problem is.’

‘There’s no problem,’ I say, without looking up from the paper.

‘It’s just, the way you took off back there; I thought you we
re chal
lenging me. No. To tell you the truth, I thought you were
flirting
.’

I stare at him. ‘Well, you were wrong. I was definitely
not
flirting
.’

‘My mistake. It’s the car; people are always trying to race—’

‘Not me.’

‘You know,’ he says, leaning towards me. ‘You have a remarkable face.’

‘Look. That might work for—’

I’m interrupted by Matt O’Hagan, MD of Copperplate Press, who’s practically sprinting across reception, shouting, ‘Greg! Greg!’ at the top of his already loud voice. Matt: small man with the presence of a low-flying aircraft.

Racer Boy stands. Matt, reaching him, extends a hand. They shake. It strikes me then, as Matt gushes over him, that he didn’t have to announce his presence for Matt to know he’d arrived. If you knew Matt, you’d appreciate how unusual that is.

‘You found us easy enough? We’d have sent a car . . .’ I’ve never known Matt to send a car anywhere for anyone.

‘Actually, I enjoyed the drive.’ This is directed at me. ‘I was just introducing myself to . . .’

Matt finally realises I’m not a mannequin. ‘Oh, Lucy, Lucy, hello, hello.’

‘Hello, Matt.’ I stand, smile, shake his meaty hand. ‘We’re here for a meeting with Orla. There’s Fintan behind you.’

‘I see, I see,’ he says without turning. ‘So, you’ve met Greg
Millar
, then?’

Whoa. Back up. Greg Millar? The writer?
I call to mind the publicity shot on the jacket of his latest bestseller and give it a haircut. It
is
him. Knowing my luck, Copperplate has just signed him.

‘Lucy, here,’ Matt blares, ‘designs our book jackets. Does a bloody good job, too, don’t you, Luce?’

He has never, until now, called me Luce.

I produce a smile from somewhere. ‘Nice to meet you . . .’ I’ve a problem saying his name.

‘Greg.’ He holds out a hand.

‘Greg,’ I confirm, shaking it and trying to ignore the look of amusement that’s spreading across his face.

Fintan, like the cavalry, arrives to let me know that Orla’s ready for us. Best news I’ve had today.

 

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