The Rumor(11)

by Elin Hilderbrand

“You wouldn’t have bothered me,” Eddie said. “This is a quiet time of year for me. I could have gotten you this place, and I would have done you better on the rent. Frankly, I’m surprised you decided to use Rachel. After what Calgary did to Hope…”

Madeline thought, Calgary didn’t do anything to Hope except for break up with her a week before the Christmas formal. And, supposedly, he gave the sea-glass pendant necklace—which probably cost all of thirty dollars—to another girl, Kylie Eckers. But hadn’t teenagers been doing this kind of thing since the beginning of time? Why should Rachel be punished?

“What are you doing here, Eddie?” Madeline asked.

“Once I heard you got a ‘writing studio,’” Eddie said, “I had to come see it for myself.”

She didn’t like the way he said writing studio. It made this decision sound fanciful and absurd, like she had bought a unicorn.

“I’m working,” Madeline said, nodding at her blank legal pad.

“Are you?”


“I still haven’t read your last book,” Eddie said. “But everyone else loved it.”

Madeline knew that Eddie had never and would never read any of her work. The last book Eddie had even bothered to crack open was Dune, in the tenth grade.

Eddie gave himself a tour of the apartment, his interest in her writing evaporating like a bad smell. In the kitchen, he opened the cabinets, then the creaky door to the outdated dishwasher. In the bathroom, he turned on the water in the sink. And in the bedroom, he emitted a dissatisfied hmmmpf.

Madeline rolled her eyes. Really, what did Eddie Pancik care about a piddly one-bedroom apartment that rented for two thousand dollars a month? The only rental he handled was the famous fifty-thousand-dollar-a-week house on Low Beach Road, from which he took a whopping weekly commission.

Eddie popped out of the bedroom and readjusted his Panama hat in that way he had, giving Madeline a glimpse of his shaved head. Madeline had known him so long, she remembered his curls.

“What does Trevor think of this place?” he asked.

“He was very supportive,” Madeline said.

“Of course he was,” Eddie said. “You deserve your own time and your own space, Maddie. There’s no reason to feel guilty about it.”

“I don’t feel guilty,” Madeline said.

“Except you’re paying too much,” Eddie said.

“Speaking of money…,” Madeline said. She couldn’t believe she was going to bring this up, but there were so few times when she and Eddie were alone together that she felt compelled to at least ask. “Is there any way Trevor and I might see our investment back from you sooner rather than later? I’m not going to lie to you, Eddie. Taking this apartment was kind of a stretch. And Brick wants a car. I would honestly be okay with not making a dime in profit if you could just return the fifty grand to us.”

“I’m confused,” Eddie said. “Why did you invest with me if you didn’t care about profit?”

Why had she invested? Greed, she supposed, and hubris. Eddie had come to her and Trevor with the opportunity to double their money, and Madeline had been tantalized by the prospect. She and Trevor had been struggling financially for so long—while Grace and Eddie bought a huge house on three acres, bought a brand-new Range Rover and a Porsche Cayenne; while they let the twins shop online at Saks and Neiman Marcus—that Madeline had been determined to invest with Eddie because she finally could.

However, she didn’t want to admit this to Eddie. She had outkicked her coverage.

“Is there any way we could get it back, say, next month?” she asked.

“Next month?” Eddie said. He raised his eyebrows and gave her a devilish smile, one of his facial expressions that Madeline found attractive. “You do understand what I’m in the middle of, right? I’m building spec houses. I’m going to build them and then sell them, and we will all see our profit when I sell them. Right now, I’m just trying to get them finished.”

“Are you close?” Madeline said.

There was a long silence, long enough that Madeline thought perhaps Eddie hadn’t heard her, and she was about to ask again when he said, “No, Maddie, not really. I’m not really close at all.”

“But we’re still thinking June for a return, right?” she said. “June, or at the latest August. That’s what you told us back in January, Eddie.”

“Yes, Maddie, I know that’s what I told you, but things have changed since January. You have to take into account market variations.”

Madeline tried not to panic. Eddie was such a canny businessman that she hadn’t worried about investing with him for one second. Trevor had warned Madeline that financial deals—loans, investments, what have you—were exactly the kind of thing that ruined friendships. But Madeline had insisted.

“Market variations,” she said. She didn’t know what that meant, exactly, but she figured it meant her money was tied up for the time being.

“Yes,” Eddie said.

He was giving her his sensitive expression now, which she also liked. Eddie did have a sweetness to him, although it appeared only rarely, and mostly when he was dealing with his daughters.

“I should go,” he said. “Leave you to work your magic. We’ll see you tomorrow night for dinner. Grace is making shrimp tacos.”

Madeline exhaled. One small blessing, dinner at the Pancik house. Trevor and Brick wouldn’t have to eat pizza again. Grace was a phenomenal cook.

“Don’t tell her about this place,” Madeline said. “I want to surprise her.”

“Will do,” Eddie said. He suddenly looked keen to leave, pronto.

Madeline saw Eddie to the door. “See ya, Eddie,” she said. “Thanks for stopping by.”

After Eddie was gone, she flopped onto the sofa. Market variations? They would get their money back, though, right? There was a signed paper somewhere. But Madeline was worried. If she wanted money, she would have to get to work, write this book, make it something special. The mere thought was overwhelming.

She needed a nap.


Sultan Nash, who had been hired to repaint the outside trim on Black-Eyed Susan’s, watched Madeline King park her car in one of the three spots of the blue Victorian across the street.