Crazy In Love by Ivy Smoak

Chapter 1


Friday

I gave everything to my husband. My heart. My soul. My bank accounts. And piece by piece he took it all until our lives were so intertwined that there was no escape. It was a great plan. To diminish me to nothing without him. To make me feel like there was no out. There was just one problem with his plan. He had a secret. A secret that was about to tip the scales back in my favor.

The hotel doors slid open as I approached. How many times had I dressed like this on a cold winter night? Thigh-high black boots that did nothing to warm me when my upper thighs were so exposed by my short skirt. Combine that with the plunging neckline of my blouse, and I looked exactly the way my husband wanted. Easy. I’d never usually wear something so revealing, especially when the evening air was so crisp. But my husband loved role-playing. It was something I could get on board with as long as I was allowed to use my actual first name. There was nothing creepier than him looking me in the eyes and calling me another woman’s name when my legs were spread for him. Especially now that I knew the truth.

The high-heels on my boots clicked across the hotel’s entryway as I made my way over to the bar. There were Christmas lights and garland strung around the hotel. It was subtle and tasteful, unlike the local mall that looked like Santa's elves had thrown up Christmas cheer everywhere. God I hated Christmas now. My husband had a way of sucking the joy out of everything. I took a deep breath as I entered the bar. The ghosts of Christmases past didn't need to make an appearance tonight. There was already enough to worry about.

I knew I was early, but I preferred getting a good vantage point and the upper hand. Tonight I’d have to immerse myself into my role a little better. I listened to the chatter around me. Apparently there was a convention going on in the hotel for some team-building exercises. I’d just be one of the many attendees. Sweet, innocent, and oh so very single. And what better team-building exercise than spending the night with a team member? It was perfect.

I slid onto a stool at the bar and ordered sparkling water, ice, and lime in a glass that would usually be reserved for an actual gin and tonic. The bartender didn’t seem to mind my strange request. He just smiled, probably because of my low neckline, and placed the glass down in front of me. Next time I saw him, I’d have all my money back, and I could leave him a generous tip. As it was, my date tonight was the one paying for my drinks. And I had a feeling he’d be leaving a shitty tip.

I nursed my fake drink, knowing that liquid courage would have helped. But I couldn’t let a single thing slip tonight. I had to be on my A-game. Because I was about to take the first step towards getting my life back.

My eyes kept gravitating toward the hotel entrance. He was late. The bar was getting increasingly more crowded by the minute. And the more time that ticked by, the more nervous I got. Maybe this was a bad idea. I finished my second sparkling water and realized that I needed to use the restroom. I silently cursed and slid off the stool. Not actually drinking was endlessly boring, and now I was going to lose the element of surprise. I finished up in the bathroom as quickly as I could and walked back out.

I saw him before he saw me. He was sitting on the other side of the bar with a leather jacket. It was definitely him. Tall, dark, and handsome. He looked just like my husband. How ironic. I smiled at my own joke.

But my smile fell as he leaned in and whispered into the woman’s ear beside him. I felt jealousy surge through me, just like I had the last time my husband had done this in front of me. He thought he could get away with it. As if I wouldn’t confront him? I thought about the wedding and engagement rings sitting on my bedside table back at home. How would he react with me flirting with another man? Would he get as angry as me? I looked down at the counter. Probably not. And even if he still cared, he wouldn’t soon enough. That was the whole point. I ran my fingers down the condensation on my glass.

“Why are you glaring at me?”

I looked up. He’d walked over and was now staring at me rather accusingly. “I wasn’t.” I hadn’t been glaring at him. Had I? I took a sip of my drink.

“You’re shutting down my game.”

I laughed. “What game?” He wasn’t supposed to be flirting with other women tonight. I had worn this ridiculous outfit for him. He was supposed to be flirting with me and only me.

“Wouldn’t you like to know.” He sat down in the stool next to mine. “You really shouldn’t leave your drink unsupervised.”

He was the one that should be worried about that tonight. Not me. “I’m a very trusting person.” I wasn’t. Not anymore.

“I don’t know what kind of places someone like you usually hangs out, but if you’re such a trusting person, trust me…this is not the kind of bar you leave your drink unsupervised in.”

I looked around at all the smiling faces and tasteful Christmas decorations. This bar was upscale. Classy even. What on earth was he talking about? “This place seems nice to me.”

He shrugged and took a pull from his drink.

“I think my company paid good money to have our workshop here.”

“Workshop?”

“Team-building.” I smiled. “Which is ridiculous because I loathe everyone I work with.”

“Is that so?”

“Devastatingly so.” I put my hand out. “I’m Ensley Hill.”