In an even more twisted way, it’s the corruption I enjoy. Taking someone so good, so pristine, and making her mine.
Delphine would disagree. She claims she hates me. Since our third break up, she treats me like the man her father says I am—a violent, dangerous, ruthless thug. I might be all those things, but she continues to give in to me. Followed immediately by regret and self-loathing after our brief encounters.
It’s only a matter of time before she rebuffs me for good. She’ll move on for real and get with a pompous prick that’s old money and has a cushy yet prestigious job. Some lawyer type who yachts for a hobby. A big tech executive who shows her off on his arm at social events. The Chadwicks and Garretts of the world. The men she’sreallysupposed to be with.
For now, I’ll take any piece of Delphine she’s willing to give me. If after-hours hate sex is what she’s willing to offer, then it’s what I’ll take. It works out well for me—I can be the openly obsessed psycho I am and still get to have her.
I can do what I’ve vowed I’d do since I was a teenager: destroy Lucius in every sense of the word.
ThenI can die in peace.
Stitches forces me out of my straying thoughts with the chink of ice plunking into an empty glass. He’s grown bored and begun fixing himself a drink. “Well, I’m sure whatever’s going on with you and Miss ADA will work itself out. You know what they say. Love finds its way, blah, blah, blah.”
I toss the third knife and finally land my bullseye. It vibrates from the force of my throw as it hits the dartboard. Satisfied, I walk over and steal the drink he’s made as my own. “For the last time, this isn’t about love. Love doesn’t exist. This is about obsession.”
Stitches chuckles and raises the second glass he’s poured to his lips. “What’s the difference?”
* * *
Election seasons tend to divide many in the city. You have family members who bicker over their different choices in candidates. You have the officials up for election taking constant cheap shots at each other. There’s the smear campaigns and the massive digital billboards around the city and in the subway stations.
When it’s election season, you can’t escape it. Even if you choose not to vote. It’s everywhere from the candidate bumper stickers to the spam emails clogging up your inbox. The election doesn’t take place until the fall, but that doesn’t matter. Spring and summer are the battlefield months; they lay the foundation for the final rounds leading up to Election Day.
I decide to lean into it—one of my favorite people is running for office after all. And I’m not talking about Delphine. I’m talking about her law-abiding, no nonsense, morally sound, former district attorney father, Ernest Adams. He shocked many in the community, including Delphine, when he unceremoniously announced he was running for city mayor. Rumor has it, the current mayor, Mayor Bernstein, doesn’t appreciate the blindside from a former friend.
I’ve become interested in Daddy Adams’ bid for mayor. So interested I’ve started digging into the details of his campaign. For a long time I’ve suspected, but now I’m certain of one thing: Ernest Adams isn’t as perfect as he seems.
I’ve bought a ticket to his latest campaign event at the Neptune Society Club.
Minutes before it starts, I show up. I’ve even dressed for the occasion, in an expensive suit like the civilized gentlemen DA Adams prefers to associate with.
His team has decorated the ritzy society club with banners and streamers everywhere you look. His campaign commercials play on the flatscreen TVs mounted to the Mahogany wood-paneled walls.
I stand and watch, on the verge of laughter. A petite woman who looks like she’d fit right in with a fairy line up comes scurrying over. She presses an iPad to her chest and clears her throat. I don’t turn around. The commercials are as entertaining as they are corny. They play on a loop, one after another, with Daddy Adams promising a better and more just future if he’s elected.
“Ahem,” she says, clearing her throat. “Sir, may I have your name? This event is exclusive to those who purchased a ticket. If you’d like to attend any of the community events we’ll be hosting, you can—”
“Jonathan,” I answer. “Jonathan Crotone. Now, be useful, and get me a drink. A whiskey highball if your bartender can make a decent one.”
She blinks up at me, so tiny she practically has to crane her neck. “Sir, I’m not a server. I’m the campaign event coordinator.”
“Then you’re of no use to me. You should go now.”
After a glance at her iPad, where she must spot my name, she shoots me a dirty look, and then marches off with her nose in the air.
I rub away the beginnings of a smirk, my hand scrubbing over my bearded jaw. Just wait ’til Ernest sees me and realizes I’ve dropped in on his campaign event.
I spend some more time studying the photographs of past club events on the wall. In one photograph, I even spot Lucius, seated among a table of high-profile bankers and CEOs. That must’ve been before DA Adams made it his business to crack down on the mafia corruption in the city.
The campaign event kicks off with the fairy—whose name is Taryn—taking the stage and explaining the purpose of today’s event. Lunch begins with the clang of forks and knives and trickling of drinks being poured.
I haven’t bothered pretending I’m here for a meal. I’m standing at the back of the dining room of the club, observing Daddy Adams as he shakes hands and mingles with some of his biggest donors. He’s chatting up a visibly distressed Commissioner Flynn when his gaze travels the room and lands on me.
We’re on opposite sides, so I can’t hear a word being spoken, but I canseehis reaction. His face freezes. Whatever words are on his tongue never make it to fruition. He cuts himself off, staring at me from across the room as if I’m the devil incarnate. I might as well be as far as he’s concerned.
I grin and stay where I am, leaning against the back wall, my hands deep in my pockets. He can’t help himself. He’s going to come over.
Ten seconds is all it takes for me to be proven correct. Ernest just can’t resist once he knows I’m in the vicinity. He excuses himself from his conversation with Flynn and charts a direct and furious path toward me. Several people attempt to intercept him, cluelessly jovial and high spirited about today’s event. He ignores every last one. His tunnel vision is too great.