Authors: Melanie Marchande
THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF US
© 2014 Melanie Marchande
The cover art for this book makes use of licensed stock photography. All photography is for illustrative purposes only and all persons depicted are models.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This book is intended for adult audiences only. All characters are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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There are only two people in the world that I truly hate. One of them is unpacking his toothbrush in my bathroom, and the other one is texting me to find out what color my panties are.
How do I get myself into these situations?
Oh, right. Because I'm a liar.
Don't judge me too fast - you know you do it too. Most lies are harmless. I thought mine was, too. But I'm starting to wonder.
My phone buzzes.
Come on babe. Don't keep me waiting, you know how I feel about that.
With a sigh, I tap out a quick response. I don't even remember what underwear I've got on, and I'm certainly not going to check. My ex-boyfriend is ten feet away, arranging his toiletries. In
I send the message quickly and shove my phone back into my pocket. "Don't get too comfortable in there," I call out to my ex, hurrying over to make sure he's not messing with my stuff.
"Not much risk of that," he says. "With you breathing down my neck as usual."
So, why is my ex moving back in with me? Has he fallen on hard times? Am I that much of a bleeding heart?
No. Well. Not anymore.
He's actually helping
out, but you wouldn't know it.
My phone buzzes again, and I resolutely ignore it. But for a "silent" setting, it's pretty damn far from silent. Dean, my ex, glances at me.
"You're blowing up tonight," he comments. The unspoken part is
who on earth would be texting
"Yeah, it turns out there are some guys who actually answer their messages." I cross my arms, leaning against the doorway. "I hope you brought your own toothpaste. I don't want you rubbing whatever skank-germs you've got in your mouth all over my Crest."
"Oh, so there's a
He shoots me that lopsided grin in the mirror, and I draw my lips a little tighter together. "Just one?"
The jig is up, more or less. I pull my phone out of my pocket and glance over the message, keeping a straight face as best I can, even as a hot blush starts to creep up the back of my neck.
"I didn't say that," I point out. "But yeah, I'm not one to juggle. I know that's hard for you to wrap your head around, but..."
"Right." He chuckles. "I'm the man-whore. Remind me what other sins I've supposedly committed? Sometimes it's hard to keep track."
I stalk into the next room without another word. That's the most infuriating thing about him - after all this time, after all the damning evidence, he still refuses to admit it.
Fumbling my phone back out of my pocket, I glare at the message. Oh, how I wish it didn't make my throat tighten.
You don't even know what this guy looks like.
Yeah, well I know what parts of him look like.
Don't be alarmed. I'm an author; we talk to ourselves all the time. It's totally normal.
I just keep staring at the screen, until the words stop making any kind of sense, until it actually seems like starting this virtual affair was a good idea.
Lace. Perfect. I love the ripping sound it makes between my teeth.
My mystery man has a bit of an oral fixation. At first, I just played along, because I never really understood the appeal. Back in the day, Dean gave it the good ol' college try, but whatever near-spiritual experience most women seem to have under a guy's tongue - it's just not there for me. I don't know, maybe I'm defective. But damned if the way Mystery Man describes it doesn't get my heart racing.
He talks about the way he wants to devour me, slow and then fast and then slow again, how I'll coat his chin with my juices, and all that good stuff. There's something about the words he uses. It's like I can almost
I really hate how much the Mystery Man affects me, almost as much as I hate the man himself. It's just not right. If he's getting off on this, I'm sure it's only because of the power he has over me. It wasn't enough for him to just crush my books, he's got to crush me, too. I'm sure that's what this is leading up to. He wants to string me along and then watch me fall.
Okay, let's back up. Let me try to explain.
Mystery Man is, well, a mystery. Nobody knows his true identity, or if he's even really a he. I have strong reasons to suspect that he is, although I suppose those pictures could've been stolen off of Craigslist or something. But I did a reverse image search on everything he sent me; I'm not stupid. As far as I can tell, he's genuine.
He's also a book reviewer. He calls himself M. As much as I don't want to give him the credit, it's a lot easier to just say M rather than Mystery Man, so let's just make a graceful transition.
I have to admit, M's gimmick is a rather good one. He says he's providing the male point of view on romance novels, and often focuses his rant-reviews on the behavior of the male love interests and how realistic, or not, their behavior is.
The thing is, M is funny. M is
funny. I understand why people gobble up his reviews with a spoon, especially because he doesn't treat authors with kid gloves. Before I hit it big, I used to love snickering over his blog. It's always fun to throw stones, until one day you wake up and
It's his internet-given right to hate my books, and I'd never dream of taking that away from him. But he seems to glory in it. I don't think it's just my natural bias; his review of my last book was absolutely vicious, and oddly personal. When I first saw it, I pretty much laughed it off. I mean, the guy doesn't know me. Imagine the nerve of him, painting me as some impossible harpy based solely on my book. Writing me off as a sexually frustrated, possibly frigid woman just waiting for Prince Charming to come along...I mean, he's not necessarily wrong about the sexually frustrated part, but the rest? Hell. I'm not waiting for Prince Charming. Not anymore. I'd settle for Prince Tolerable.
I make it a policy not to respond to reviews. They're for other readers, not for me. I read them, I learn from them, but I know it's weird and invasive to join a conversation that I'm not meant to be a part of. But M was begging me - literally - to explain myself. I understood it was probably rhetorical, but it was so tempting.
Still. I didn't take the bait.
He started needling me on Twitter. Poking and prodding, and I was determined to ignore him, until one night I had a few too many glasses of wine and made the second biggest mistake of my life.
We'll get to Mistake Number One in a minute.
I actually responded to M. Privately. I knew there was a chance it would end up on his blog anyway, so I was nice enough about it - just told him he could't expect me to engage with him. I wasn't that kind of author. If he wanted drama, he'd have to go elsewhere.
He responded privately, which surprised me.
I'm not into drama, I just have this morbid fascination with what makes you tick.
My heart, for some reason, skipped a few beats.
Okay, so maybe I had a little bit of a weird, twisted crush on this guy. Maybe I've had it for a while. I've always enjoyed a good dose of snark when it's well aimed, which is one reason why I feel like such a hypocrite for the way my stomach roils when he writes about me. But it's only natural. Anyone would feel the same way.
After a few minutes without a response, he messaged me again.
The character limit is killing me. Check your FB.
Against my better judgment, I did. It took a few minutes, but I wasn't disappointed.
M: Look doll, you know it's nothing personal, this is just my job. I can't give people special treatment. You seem like a nice person and a real professional which I appreciate. I don't make friends with authors because it's a conflict of interest, but if you want to do an interview for my blog I bet a lot of people would love to see it. Promise I won't twist your words.
An interview? With M? Yeah, right. It would be great exposure, but at what cost? I told him:
Thanks, but no thanks. Not interested in your Freudian analysis.
I don't know why that popped out. I guess the fact that he correctly pegged me as sexually frustrated was bothering me more than I realized. He replied:
M: Tell me I'm wrong, and I'll apologize.
He knew I couldn't. Gritting my teeth, I shot back:
You're just playing the odds. Most women are sexually frustrated because most men are terrible in bed. Keep gloating all you want, but the odds are not in your favor.
I felt triumphant for all of forty-five seconds before he came back with:
M: Where'd you get those statistics from, sunshine? The Institute of Sour Grapes?
Damn it. He was just as quick in real time as he was on his blog.
See, the dirty secret of most writers is we need a lot of time to seem clever. I always figured he was one of those, but he seemed to be a true wit, which was infuriating. It took me a while to come up with a response.
Don't worry, I'm sure you're very good. Or at the very least, you THINK you are, which is all that really matters, right?
He started typing back almost immediately.
M: I know you expect me to make some kind of crude joke about proving it to you, but I'm not "that guy."
I rolled my eyes.
Sure. You don't need to be. I'm sure you get plenty of action from those desperate groupies.
To say that M has fans is an understatement. He presents himself as a moderately attractive, self-confident man in the romance world, so of course he draws attention. It's easy, like being the only guy in ballet or yoga class. He's got women hanging on to his every word, and it's only made his ego swell bigger.
He finally responded.
M: I don't screw around with fans.
My eyebrows went up.
I didn't expect you to be so principled.
His reply made me chuckle a little.
M: It's not principled. Have you ever fucked someone who worships you? It's not that fun. Hate sex is always better.
It took me a second to realize what he was implying. Unless - no. I was almost positive. M, king of snark, was
hitting on me
What the hell was I going to say?
Finally, I gave up on being clever.
I wouldn't know.
Again, his response came quickly.
M: Oh. That's tragic. There's nothing quite like the turn-on of somebody who hates you, but can't control how much they want you.
I downed the rest of my glass of wine before I answered.
I guess I've never had the opportunity to find out.
Your move, M.
M: Too bad. You have a dirty mind. I bet you're fun in bed if somebody can manage to pry your chastity belt off.
My face was burning. I should've closed the window, should've walked away, but I didn't.
I'm not wearing a chastity belt.
All I could hear was my heart pounding in my ears while I waited for him to answer.
M: So what ARE you wearing?
I swallowed, hard.
You're totally failing at not being "that guy," you know.