Maddie sprinted down the street, her cardigan flying in the breeze. She was pissed. When she found out who had led the cops to the place, she was gonna kill them. They set me up! I bet it was one of those junkies, they never know when to keep their mouths shut. Still sprinting, she darted around a corner into an alley and ran down the length of it, shooting out the other end and continuing her sprint down the sidewalk. Everyone taking their evening walks looked at her like she was crazy, but she didn’t care. She had tripped the alarm and escaped amongst the confusion. She was lucky she had noticed it her first time visiting Brayden at his apartment, or she would never have escaped the police.
As she ran, she thought back to the first time she had met Brayden. She had been in a bar downtown, and he sidled up beside her. “What’s a girl like you doing in a place like this,” he murmured into her ear.
She rolled her eyes. “And what’s a guy like you doing with such and unoriginal line?” she snapped back. Then she turned to look at him and immediately forgave his cheesiness. He had tousled, sandy hair, and the physique of an Olympic athlete. His eyes were such a piercing shade of blue that she could have stared at them all not if he hadn’t broken eye contact and called down to the bartender, “A drink for this fine lady here!”
A few drinks later, and he had invited her to his place. It was a very fun night, and she left the next morning never expecting to see him again. However, a couple months later, she found herself taking the elevator up to the fifth floor, hoping she had remembered his room number correctly and hoping that he was home.
Her sigh of relief when he opened the door was likely heard on floor below her, but when he opened the door, his brow furrowed, she could do nothing else.
She was lucky he was a good man. He invited her in, made sure she made it to all her doctor’s appointments, told her she was welcome to stay with him, free of rent. He, however, was unlucky that she was not a good woman. She managed to draw him into her life, and before she was even showing a baby bump, they were throwing weekly parties, to the annoyance of everyone surrounding their apartment.
“Hey Bailey,” he said one day, referring to her by the name she had originally given him and never bothered to correct, even now that she was sort of living with him. She didn’t stay over every night, but she stayed over enough that the neighbors thought she lived there.
“What,” she mumbled, exhausted from a long day of being pregnant.
“Are you ever going to let me go to one of your appointments? It’s my baby too, you know.” Maddie paused as struggled how to tell him no without getting thrown out of the apartment.
“It’s usually a very humiliating procedure, lots of poking and prodding. I know it’s your baby, but you and I don’t have the kind of relationship where I want to feel humiliated in front of you like that.” She hoped he accepted that answer. She didn’t want him demanding to go to an appointment, because, at her appointments, the doctors knew her real name. She was in too deep for him to find out her real name was Maddie now.
She didn’t even call him at work when she went into labor, instead walking the two miles to the hospital herself, and when she had a baby boy, she named it Wyatt without talking to him first. She hadn’t even thought about the name, she just named it the first thing that came to her mind. She didn’t want this child; it was going to mess with her entire life. She left all responsibility on Brayden, who looked like he regretted letting her into his life more every day.
To make up for his growing disdain for her, she threw more parties than ever, occasionally putting far more into Brayden’s drink than he had ever asked for, so that he wouldn’t bring the crying baby out in front of the guests, as he would instead be practically blacked out. She also played the music louder every time she could hear the baby crying; she didn’t want to have to deal with a baby during a party.
Today though… today she had been betrayed by someone she had let into her home. But it was no matter. As long as she could escape the police, she’d be able to hide out at Cooper’s until the coast was clear. She hadn’t seen him since she started showing. She hadn’t wanted him, or any of her other failsafes, to find out she was pregnant.
I wish I had had a girl, she thought. Then I could have taught her to be just like me. She hadn’t lived in her own home since she had left her parents at nineteen. Now, at twenty-four, she was conning men and women, be it for a roof over her head or for food. She hadn’t worked a day in her life, instead pulling the con of a lifetime. Her pregnancy had almost ruined it all, but she was lucky Brayden was such a good generous person.
She finally spotted the building she was looking for and slowed to a walk, not wanting to be obviously running from something when she arrived. She smiled at the move she was about to pull, then strutted into the building, dashing up the stairs to give herself an excuse for why she was so sweaty, and knocked on the door to the room she was looking for.
The blond that answered the door was shorter and less muscular than his estranged brother, but he had the same blue eyes as Brayden did, and he was just as cute, even if it was in a different way than Brayden was. The brothers had gotten into a dispute years ago, and never reconciled. She had pulled the story out of Brayden himself late in her pregnancy. She had known they were brothers the moment she saw Brayden but didn’t know whether to say anything. She was glad she hadn’t, or she now wouldn’t have anywhere nearby to lie low. She had always found it hilarious that the two brothers lived so close to each other and didn’t even know it. She had even seen Cooper with a couple of his friends once, helping them look at an apartment at Summer Creek, down on the second floor. She was lucky he hadn’t noticed her.
“Brinlee? What are you doing here?” Maddie paused, trying to remember if he was using the right name, then said, “I’m sorry I haven’t been around in so long, I felt a calling from the east, so I went on a trip.”
“What, just like that?” Cooper asked. “Without telling me?” He sounded hurt, but Maddie shrugged it off.
“I don’t have anything set up for me to stay now that I’m back, do you think I could stay with you for a while?” She placed a hand on his chest and gently pushed him back into the room so that she was also inside.
“I…I suppose,” he stammered, and then closed the door behind her. He turned away, babbling about if she needed a drink after running up all those stairs, missing the devious look Maddie shot at his back. Even if he had seen it, it was too late. He had sealed his fate the second he let her in the door, and he would never be free again.
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