Read The Relatives Online

Authors: Christina Dodd

The Relatives (4 page)

BOOK: The Relatives
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In a level tone, he said, “You’re hysterical.”

He didn’t believe her.

She came to her feet. “Hysterical? Where
you? I’m here all day long with her. All I want is for you to come home—and where were you?”

“Cleaning up the mess Landon made of the job in Poulsbo. The man is an idiot. I can’t even use him as an apprentice. No wonder his electrical firm failed.”

was home hours ago.”

“I sent him home! The homeowner was shouting at him, at me. What did you expect?”

“I expected you to come home, not stop at a bar and have a drink!” Because she could smell the liquor on him.

For the first time, Mario softened and sighed. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. I just … it was a long, hard day.”

“And you don’t like to come home anymore.”

He hesitated one moment too long.

Her voice rose. “It’s unpleasant here. Those people are always here.”

“What’s wrong with Cecily now?”

“She has headaches, asthma, intestinal parasites, degenerative joint problems, and every other dramatic and unprovable ailment known to man.” Gwen put her hand to her head. She had never in her life suffered from a migraine. But she thought she had one now. “I swear she cruises the online medical sites every night looking for more ridiculous ailments to add to her already bulging curriculum vitae.”

“She’s a full-blown hypochondriac.”

“Yes! And you’ve got a hysterical wife.”

are not the problem.” He sounded sincere.

But … “We haven’t made love in four weeks!”

“Landon has been working for me for four weeks. I don’t have you to do the books anymore.” Mario’s voice rose. “I’m overworked!”

Gwen poked her finger at the chest she had admired so much five weeks before. “I would like to point out that you are the one who contacted your cousin Landon. You are the one who was too weak to say no when he announced they were coming to visit. And now they

Mario glared as if he hated her.

That was it. That was the end. She shouted, “And you’re having an affair!”

“What?” He shook his head. “What?”

“Come on. It’s obvious. We haven’t had sex. You’re never home. Someone’s embezzling money.”

He lifted his hands in exasperation and let them drop. “No one is embezzling money. You made a mistake with the accounts.”

“No. I didn’t. And don’t try to turn this on me.
never home.
never have sex!”

His swarthy complexion flushed dark. His brown eyes flashed with fury. “You pretend to be asleep when I come to bed! How dare you? I would never cheat on you! You are my wife. I take my vows seriously. You are insulting me!”

“You stopped at a bar!”

“For a drink!”

They both froze, breathing hard, glaring at each other.

Mario took a breath, a step back, and then he ran his eyes up and down her body. “You’re thinner.”

“I forget to eat.” She couldn’t eat. She was too worried, too sick at heart.

said that, didn’t she? Cecily said it. She said I was cheating on you.”

Gwen turned her head and stared at the package of dried whole-wheat pasta. “She didn’t say it exactly. She never says anything exactly. She saw me watching for you and asked when you usually come home. And after you were late a few times, she gave me advice on how to dress to attract you again. As a gift, she went online and ordered a dress for me. And a padded bra.” Gwen could scarcely speak for distress. “She gives me makeup tips.”

Mario turned toward the door. “I am throwing them out of the house.”

Gwen grabbed his arm. “She’ll sue us. Every day she insinuates—”

Mario turned back to her, and he was angry and anguished. “Better to lose everything we own than to lose each other!”

Gwen stared at him, at his strong, beloved face, and for the first time in weeks, the brittle shell around her shattered.

She gave a sob.

He opened his arms.

She went into his embrace.

He rocked her.

She laughed and cried.

He suggested sex in the pantry would be a good way to make up.

She looked around for a way to make it work. “I’m afraid we’ll knock ourselves out with careening canned goods.”

He kissed her.

When he pulled back, he said, “We could do it in our bed. That would be new and exciting.”

“We can’t.”

He was instantly irritated. “Why not?”

“Because they can hear us.”


“The last time we made love, Cecily teased me about it the next day. She said she was surprised you weren’t bruised from my bony hips.”

Mario flushed hot, burning her through their clothes. “I built this house. Our suite is insulated, soundproofed. Our door is solid. How could she have heard that?”

“I don’t know, but she did. And then when we stopped … making love, she knew that, too. She has the hearing of a vampire bat.”

“It’s true. She is a bloodsucker.” He thought for a minute. “We could save ourselves trouble if we simply murdered them.”

Gwen nodded judiciously. “Good idea. How do you want to do it?”

“We’ll have to make it look like an accident.” He stroked his chin in mocking consideration. “I know! You can give Cecily lots of green vegetables.”

“I already am. I grind them up, hide them in the food. She never knows it.”

“You are very smart.”

“I got tired of listening to her complain about constipation.”

He laughed his booming Mario laugh she had not heard for too many weeks.

“Shhh. She’ll hear us.” But Gwen clung to his shirt and grinned up into his face. “When I run her bath, I could drop in a toaster.”

“I like that. But if Landon was around, he would somehow figure out a way to blow the circuits and she would escape injury.”

Gwen snorted. “How about a bomb? We could wire the bed so when she puts her rapidly expanding behind on it, the mattress blows up.”

“Too complicated. I could wire explosives into her lamp, and when she turns it on, it blasts her out the window.”

“Too fancy. We could just throw her out the window.”

“She would land on those mammoth tits and bounce.”

Gwen giggled.

“And that girdle she wears would explode and the elastic would put someone’s eye out.”

Gwen giggled harder. “It’s a shaper, honey. They call them shapers now.”

Mario waited until Gwen had found a napkin and wiped her damp eyes. Then he said seriously, “Or I could tell Landon to get the hell out.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because after today, he’s afraid of me.”

“Oh.” Mario seldom lost his temper, but when he did, it was powerful and impressive. Apparently, Landon had finally set it off.

“I would tell Landon to get out, go bodily pick up Cecily and fling her over my shoulder—”

“She would be thrilled by that. If she is to be believed, you want her.”

Now he snorted. “She can’t tell a
eye from the

Gwen should not feel so pleased about Mario’s harsh comments.

Mario continued, “I’ll use a fireman’s carry on her, and while I’m bringing her down, you will swiftly pack their belongings. I’ll put her in the car. You will dump their suitcases on the driveway. We will come inside, lock the doors, and go upstairs and make love.”

“We would have to bar the doors and windows.” Gwen’s brief burst of exuberance evaporated. “I don’t doubt that somehow she has managed to make copies of our keys and gain access to our security information.”

Now Mario was paying close attention. “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know. She’s always on the computer.”

“She isn’t smart enough.”

“I think that’s where you’re wrong. I think she’s very smart.” Gwen remembered those wide curious eyes, those clever, cutting comments. “She’s cunning.”

“Smart enough to hack into our accounting system?”

Gwen’s jaw dropped.

He used his finger to shut it. “That’s it. Tomorrow they are going, never to return, and we will deal with the ramifications as we must.”

Gwen nodded. “Yes. You’re right. This ordeal is over.”

*   *   *

Cecily took off her headphones, put the digital spy recorder into her bag, and slipped backward through the dining room down the hall to her room.

“Where have you been?” Landon was in bed in his pajamas. “I thought you were injured. I thought you couldn’t walk by yourself.”

“Don’t be stupid. I need to think. Our futures are at stake.” She sat down at the dressing table and stared at her husband.

He looked back, his small eyes pleading. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Go to sleep. I have to think,” she said again. But she couldn’t contain herself. “Those bastards!”


“Who do you think? Your cousins.” She tapped her nails on the dressing table. She had been going to teach Gwen how to do a manicure tomorrow, but now that was out.

“We could leave.” Landon had been nagging about that, and tonight he had been whining worse than ever.

“Why would we do that?” As if she didn’t know.

“I’m tired of working for Cousin Mario.” Landon’s lip trembled.

“Is he working you too hard, darling?” she crooned. “That’s not nice of him to take advantage of you because you’re his cousin. Maybe you should take tomorrow off. Take a mental health day. Stay here with me.”

His eyes got round. Something about her demeanor must have frightened him. “No. No, that’s okay. We owe him for keeping us here.”

“We don’t owe those people
. I wouldn’t have fallen down their crummy stairs if they hadn’t been negligent.” She fought to regain control of her temper. “So you’ll go to work tomorrow?”


She didn’t know where he was going to go. She didn’t care. But she didn’t want him hanging around, messing up her plans. “You are too good to Cousin Mario.” When she thought about Cousin Mario, how pissed he was at Landon and at the havoc Landon had created with his incompetence, she chuckled deep in her chest.

Landon was such a lousy electrician. By the time she had decided to shut down their business, she knew more about wiring than he did. She knew more about how to earn a living, too, and she wasn’t about to let this jackpot go because Cousin Mario and Cousin Gwen had finally gotten suspicious.

Now Cecily had to make a decision. Should she allow them to throw her out, and Landon, too? She could sue them for her injuries, take everything they had. But she was already taking them for a bundle. To mess with Gwen’s mind and make Mario’s wife incompetent in his eyes, Cecily had been playing in their business accounts. But she had also gained access to their credit cards, their bank account, all their investments. She could transfer money out their bank accounts, and tonight that was what she intended.

But now, after hearing their conversation in the pantry … Cousin Mario had been leading her on, looking at her when he thought she wasn’t paying attention, making her think he was hot for her.

And she had believed it. She was a vibrant woman, years younger than dried-up old Gwen, and Cecily could bring Mario’s peen to attention with one lick of her tongue.

But now he had made fun of her. He had scorned her figure. And Gwen, that bitch Gwen, had laughed.

Cecily was determined.

They were going to be sorry.

They were going to pay.

*   *   *

It took three days for Mario and Gwen to firm up their plans to rid themselves of their unwelcome guests.

First Mario went to the Virtue Falls sheriff, Garik Jacobsen, and confessed the situation in full.

Sheriff Jacobsen was new to the job, but he had law enforcement experience and a calm demeanor. After listening to the story—and shaking his head in disbelief—Garik assured Mario the difficult part was evicting someone who resided in your home. If Mario managed to get them out of the house without physical harm, any attempt on their part to get back in could rightfully be called breaking and entering and the sheriff’s department would respond accordingly.

Meanwhile, Gwen changed her password and examined the accounting, and came to the conclusion
had been moving cash out of the company accounts. All signs pointed toward their longtime employee and receptionist, Rylee Ellinger. But Gwen had been suckered one too many times. She didn’t believe that lie, although she complained worriedly to Cecily.

While assuring Cecily she was a confirmed idiot—and she felt that way—Gwen fetched and carried, served food (although without the greens, because she actively
Cecily to be constipated) and offered sympathy for Cecily’s ongoing illnesses.

She also delivered a series of FedEx overnight packages to Cecily, several every day. Not that Cecily hadn’t always received a lot of packages. The woman obviously had an online shopping addiction. But to order with overnight shipping—that was new. Gwen couldn’t help it; she worried that Cecily had somehow overheard the eviction plans and intended some kind of dangerous mischief.

Then Cecily started opening the boxes in front of Gwen, pulling out dresses and heels, urging Gwen to try them on right now, and generally acting as if Gwen’s failing marriage required emergency measures. That reassured Gwen about Cecily’s intentions, and she didn’t even wince much when Cecily assured her they would “spruce her up and win back her man’s attention.” Sometimes she thought the glint in Cecily’s eyes seemed more malicious than usual. But that was a matter of degree, and Gwen told herself all she wanted was to focus, to survive until she could see Mario pick Cecily up out of bed and dump her on the doorstep.

On day three, at seven a.m., Mario and Gwen finally gave up on trying to sleep. They got out of bed and smiled tensely at each other. They knew what they had to do. They stood ready to do it. But they were kind people. Hospitable people. They tended to see the best in others.

Okay, it hadn’t worked out this time. They weren’t the type who wanted to think that Cecily and Landon were evil. Except in looking back over the last interminable weeks, Gwen could see how she’d been manipulated, brainwashed, taken to the breaking point by exhaustion and a well-planned campaign to undermine her hard-won confidence.

BOOK: The Relatives
11.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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