I AM THE UNRELIABLE NOVELIST

Plot Poll #11: Decision Time For Tess.

Mad props to Tracey Briones, our Write-In #3 winner! Thank you, old buddy old pal, for putting Tess’s feelings into badass words.

Really, ALL of the texts were amazing. Jean, the threat of not returning the shirt was diabolical. And Ken, the next time I need a ghost writer for my own social media repartee, I’m calling you, Dude.

Thanks to everybody for a great week of novel-writing. If not for you, I would be on my second Bloody Mary by now.

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(Catch up on the plot here. Meet Tess and Neal here.)

She stared at her phone, chasing confusion with booze and coffee.

She was too proud to plead with him. Too mad to be nice. And too invested to let it go.

She hit send before she had time to second-guess herself.

“Brian, I’m gonna need another shot.”

“No problem.” He refilled their glasses, this time from a bottle on the top shelf. “Slainte.”

“Slainte.” Whatever it was, it burned like holy hell.

“I hope I’m not prying or anything, but how did you meet Neal?” Brian asked.

“Um, let’s just say Santa Monica.”

“Huh. And when was that?”

“About three weeks ago.” She registered his surprise. “How long have you known him?”

“Oh, maybe six months. He comes in a lot. Always really nice. I think he works around here.”

His office! She hadn’t thought of it. “But you don’t know where, exactly?”

“No, sorry.”

“Does he come in alone?”

“Nah, he’s usually with these two Russian guys.”

“Anybody else?”

Brian hesitated.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to go all Law and Order on you.” she said, catching herself.

“It’s okay. I totally understand.” He wiped down the bar for the fourth time. Tess sensed an answer she had to know but wasn’t sure she wanted to hear.

“So…anybody else?”

He kept his head down. “There’s a woman. Also Russian, I think. Very tall, bright red hair and…beautiful.” He paused, then added. “Not very nice.”

The room was buzzing now, as if someone had turned up the volume. “When’s the last time they were here?”

He started rearranging glasses. “Maybe Thursday?”

“Oh.” The day before she had arrived. “And are they…together?”

He paused again. “I don’t think he’s into it. She’s doing all the work.”

Tess plied herself with rational thoughts. They’d only been on a few dates. It’s not like they had agreed to be exclusive yet. But the facts didn’t line up with her feelings.

“Thanks Brian. I hope you don’t feel like you sold out your friend.”

“Not at all, actually. After what you’ve been through, he’s lucky you still care.”

“Can I ask you one last favor? If you see Neal, or this woman, or those two Russian dudes, will you text me?” She scribbled her number on a napkin and handed it to him.

“Sure. No problem.”

“And…don’t tell him.”

“Tell him what?” Brian smiled.