I hate this day and everything it stands for, but I must do something tonight. I can’t bah humbug today, can I? What will he think of me? It’s bad enough the bartender is staring at me and dissecting me. I have moped around this bar for the last three days, trolling for men and waiting for Valentine’s. Sipping a martini at three in the afternoon in an empty bar in my sweat pants makes him stare all the more.
“Another?” he asks.
The drink isn’t empty, but I guess he can’t think of anything else to say. Why doesn’t he ask for my number for my phone or room? He’s big in the shoulders, and I can imagine him without a shirt. I like that vision. When I glance at him, his eyes contain no mirth, and he doesn’t seem playful.
“Make it a beer,” I blurt out, pushing cigarette butts in circles around an ashtray. I use a match to make a pile of the ashes.
“What kind?” he asks, looking annoyed.
“Does it look like I give a damn?” I reply, crossing my legs and smiling at him. Leaning my chin on a palm to give him a good look at my eyes, I smile coyly. I’ll win him over yet.
Grabbing a bottle from the cooler, he pops the top and puts a Budweiser on a coaster in front of me. When a small bit of foam lands on my arm, I lick it and smile at him again. Still, his face doesn’t show a hint of a smile. Stubborn man. He increases the volume on the television, which is showing some celebrity gossip show. The images of various famous couples and their preparations for Valentine’s remind me of my own plans or lack thereof. I light a cigarette and ponder.
“Are you staying in here for dinner? We don’t serve holiday dinners at the bar. I need to know if you want a table reserved.”
“No, I’m having room service. I’m expecting someone,” I answer, letting the cigarette burn without touching it. “Can I ask why you do that with the cigarettes?”
On the TV screen is a picture of a Las Vegas casino and what appears to be Ray and a woman standing atop the steps of a main entrance, holding hands before cutting a ribbon. I mash the cigarette out with my thumb and feel a tear coming.
“No, you may not.” I stand up. Throwing cash on the bar, I stride out of the room. I don’t want him to see me cry. Walking to the elevator, I wipe the tear away. I don’t have time to cry. I have preparations to make.
I shall wear the green dress since it’s Ray’s favorite color. First, I will lay in the bath for one hour. Routines are important to me. My father taught me about habit before I could shoot a gun. After my bath, I apply lotion all over my body until every inch is smooth. The scent of apricots fills the room as I dress and pull the stockings over my legs.
I have a bit of spare time before room service arrives. Should I write in my journal? Maybe write Ray a last minute letter? Do I have time for that? No, all of that is out of the routine. I need to brush my hair, to make it shine, to look my best. Can’t disappoint Ray, can I?
In a few short months, I shall be in Vegas. The excitement builds up, but I want dinner to go off without a problem. I paid the man extra to make sure everything is perfect, but you never know these days. Service is terrible at best in most cities. Here is to hoping Dallas exceeds my expectations.
I hear a knock at the door, and my heart quickens. The night begins! Slipping on my pumps, I run to the door and look through the peephole. A bell-boy with a cart stands there. Opening the door, I lean against the frame, locking eyes with the boy and motioning with a finger for him to enter. He is small but not slight, and I like his light brown eyes, which keep darting about the room.
“Just you tonight?” the boy asks.
“Set the table as instructed. No questions.” I cross my arms as the boy places the plates on the table.
With a pop, he opens a bottle of champagne and puts it on ice. He lights a candle on both ends of the table before moving a few feet away. I walk up to him. His shoulders tighten when I lean in and give him a kiss on his rosy cheek.
“Anything else?” His voice is scratchy and thin.
“That will be all.” I walk him to the door and lock it behind him. Turning off the lights, I leave the room in candlelight.
I pour a glass of champagne and look over the table. There are two settings, both plates hidden by silver covers. The champagne adds to the drinks already consumed, and I feel heat in my face.
“It’s time,” I say to the room.
I lift the covers to reveal a dinner of seared lamb chops with asparagus and roast potatoes. The meal is perfect. I cut into the lamb and smile. It’s rare, so the meat pulls away from the bone with little effort. My smile fades when the vision of the TV from earlier pops up in my head. I sample the meat but can’t taste it. I feel tears again, and this time, I can’t stop.
“The lamb is perfect, isn’t it, Ray?” I whisper. My voice sounds odd. I’m struggling to swallow the food as tears begin to fall.
“I saw you with her, Ray.” I manage to take a gulp of drink.
I force the meal down with more wine and then I sit as the candles burn.
“Ray, I hope you enjoyed dinner. Wait until you see my present.”
There is no response. The empty room surrounds me, staring at me and putting lonely fingers around my throat. “RAY!” I scream as loud as I can. I snuff out the candles with my fingers and lick the wounded skin before screaming again, “RAY!!!”
GET A SIGNED COPY OF ELLA
Meet Ella Thomas.
A beautiful 20-year-old writer haunted by a traumatic past. Trapped in a small-town where everyone knows her secrets, she flees on a road-trip across America in search of adventure and to find the man that holds the key to understanding the violent days of her childhood.
Two mysterious men stalk Ella on the odyssey from Massachusetts to Las Vegas - an FBI agent named Marcus that suspects her of being a serial killer and an assassin called Mr. Brown with a familiar face she can't quite remember.
At the core of her journey of self-discovery is the search for Ray Holden. Everyone tells her he is dead, but she refuses to believe it and her insistence on finding him sets off a chain of events that culminates in a shocking final turn.
Follow her journey to learn the answers to the burning questions. Who is Ray Holden? And more importantly...
Is the FBI correct? Is Ella Thomas a serial killer?
One reader described Ella as "Dexter meets Lolita". Read this fast-paced thriller to discover the truth about Ella Thomas.