Pretty Little Player

By: J. Kenner

Chapter One

There are times in a man’s life that can be counted among the best ever. First kiss. First fuck. First taste of caviar and fine champagne.

And the first time he meets the woman of his dreams.

When he sees her across a room, her eyes sparkling. When he holds her in his arms on the dance floor, his thumb brushing the bare skin of her back, revealed by her low-cut dress. When he gets lost inside her the first time they make love.

When she says, “I do.”

That should be it, right? The pinnacle of life. The cherry on a sundae.

If you stop the story right there, then it’s all about the happy ending. That’s where the movies always fade to the credits, right? Those sappy engagement ring commercials? The ads for flower delivery? Every syrupy romance novel?

They all end on the high note.

But turn the page, and guess what? That guy who won the girl? He’s not still singing a love song. On the contrary, he’s completely fucked. But not in the literal sense.

Because in the real world, it’s some pretentious grad student who’s screwing his wife. And the guy wearing the ring—the guy sweating his ass off in fatigues in a foreign desert so his woman can sleep safe at night—that guy’s nothing more than a cuckolded fool.

Too bitter?

Maybe. I don’t know. Is there a limit to pain when you have a broken heart?

All I know is that I’m not alone. And the truth is, misery really doesn’t love company.

But those pleasures in life I mentioned? A man’s best moments? One of them is when he catches a cheating woman in the act and completely shuts her down. I ought to know. In my line of work, I’ve helped out a lot of guys with that particular problem. And I’m good at what I do.

Let’s just say I’m highly motivated.

Payback’s a bitch, after all.

Chapter Two

The internet is an amazing thing.

Not even four hours since I took on my case—a cheating fiancée—and I already have a hefty amount of intel on the two-timing little bitch.

Excuse me—the suspected near-adulterer.

I know her name is Gracie Harmon, although to be fair I learned that fact from my client. She’s twenty-nine years old and owns a small house in Travis Heights, although for the past few days, she’s been living in the ultra-classy historic Driskill Hotel on Congress Avenue. Convenient, since my office is just across the street, but a bit odd. Her house is only a few miles away, after all, and as far as I can tell there are no renovations or pest treatments or other maintenance-related activities currently underway.

Suspicious? A bit. But maybe she’s not camping out in a high-end love nest. Maybe the girl just likes to be pampered. Except I also know she hasn’t arranged for the hotel masseuse, and the concierge hasn’t booked her time at an off-site spa.

So that’s one mystery.

But on the plus side, I know the online address for her Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. So, if she posts about the hotel, I’ve got a window. Although she doesn’t seem to post much at all, and what she does stays far away from the personal. A bit odd in the share-everything-right-now world we live in, but not condemning.

I know that she makes a decent living as a model—according to her Instagram profile, she primarily models plus-size lingerie and swimsuits—and I know that she’s stunning, with golden blond hair, hypnotic blue eyes, and the kind of curves a man appreciates. Granted, that’s more a personal preference than a fact, but considering what she does for a living, I also know that my opinion is shared by any number of men.

Maybe that’s why she cheats? The temptation is just too hard to resist when so many men see so much of her online?

To which, of course, my response would be “try harder,” but in my experience, women often don’t. And I have a lot of experience documenting cheating wives for their mostly angry and sometimes baffled husbands.

Usually, I limit myself to cases involving adultery. But once or twice I’ve been retained by a guy wanting to check out his girlfriend before he pops the question. In those cases, I always point out that the fact they’re in my office is a sign that there are some trust issues, and that kneeling at her feet and offering a ring might not be the smartest move under the circumstances.

Most of the time, they take the advice. Occasionally, they insist I poke my nose in where she really doesn’t want it.

Today, I’m working for one of those insistent fellas.

His name is Thomas Peterman, and he’s head-over-heels for our little Gracie. Has been for years, apparently. He told me they dated before, when she lived in Los Angeles, but that it ended when he found out that she’d hooked up with another man. He was heartbroken, but they recently crossed paths again in Austin, and now things are sunshine and roses and the tinkle of wedding bells.

Or he wants them to be.

He has concerns, especially since she left him once before. Now, he’s afraid that not only does she bump up against a lot of men in her professional career, but that she’s also bumping uglies with them. He saw her with another man having a drink at a local bar. Maybe a friend, maybe an innocent after-work thing, but he had a bad feeling. And considering their history, he thought he should trust his gut.