The Thousandth Floor

Page 80

Eris looked back and forth between them, totally unnerved by this reminiscing. Her mom smiled softly at the memory, then turned back to Eris, the moment over.

“Anyway,” Caroline said, “that’s when my modeling career took off. I met Everett, and Matt went back home to Illinois for a while. By the time we saw each other again, it was several years later, and I was married …”

And so was Mr. Cole, Eris thought. She remembered that he’d picked things back up with Leda’s mom—his high school sweetheart—when he moved home to take care of his ailing dad, then convinced her to move with him back to New York, to the brand-new Tower. God, Mrs. Cole had probably been pregnant with Jamie when they saw each other again. But neither of them mentioned that particular detail.

“Well, we reconnected, and then …” Caroline looked at Eris. “And then there was you.” She looked away, wringing the napkin in her lap until her knuckles were white.

“Eris,” Leda’s dad—her dad—interrupted, “I had no idea until your mother called me. I never even guessed that you were mine. As you know, Caroline and I haven’t been … involved, for years now.” He cleared his throat in a businesslike way. Of course, Eris thought, he was still shocked himself. “I want to tell you how sorry I am for everything you’re going through,” he went on. “I imagine this is all incredibly hard on you.”

“Yeah. It sucks,” Eris said drily. Caroline squeezed her hand.

“Please,” Mr. Cole said, “whatever I can do to help, let me know.”

Eris looked at her mom. Did he know they were on the 103rd floor? What was he going to tell his family? But as she opened her mouth to ask, Mr. Cole tapped on the center of the table, pulling up the holographic menu. “Should we all get some lunch?” he offered, hesitantly. “The shishito spring rolls here are amazing. If you have time, that is.”

“We’d love to,” Caroline said firmly.

Eris took a long sip of the lemonade she didn’t want, her mind still trying to adjust to this strange new reality. Mr. Cole met her eyes across the table and gave a tentative smile. Eris felt herself soften a little. She thought suddenly of when she’d gone to church with Mariel, the way strangers forged a connection with her through nothing but a touch and a look. And this was her birth father, not a stranger at all, trying in his own way to connect with her.

Whereas the man who’d been her father for the last eighteen years had stopped speaking to her altogether.

Leda’s dad was her dad. It was pretty much the last thing in the world she’d expected. But he was here, and he was trying.

Eris looked up at him and smiled. “Sure,” she said, as cheerfully as she could manage. “Lunch sounds great.”


LEDA SAT BOLT upright, gasping, her silk pajama set drenched in sweat. Her hands wound tightly in her sheets, clutching at them with clawlike fingers.

She was having the dreams again.

The lights came slowly to life as the room comp detected her alertness. Leda sat huddled in the center of her enormous bed, her arms wrapped around herself. She was shaking. Her limbs felt too heavy to move, like she had shrunk to some miniature creature standing at the controls of an enormous, unwieldy body.

She wanted a hit. Desperately. God, she hadn’t wanted one this badly since the early days of rehab. Back then she’d had these dreams every night: of drowning in ink-black water; of fingers reaching for her, still and cold as death. I am my own greatest ally, Leda repeated, trying to center herself, but she couldn’t, it was freezing in here and her brain felt muted and all she wanted was a burst of xenperheidren to bring her back to life.

When she finally felt like she could move, she threw back the covers and twisted her hair up, heading toward the kitchen. She wanted a glass of water. She could’ve asked the room comp for it, of course, but she thought walking around might calm her a little. It felt like someone had scraped out her head from within.

The apartment was eerily silent. Leda moved a little faster, her bare feet skirting around the squares of moonlight on the floor just like she used to do when she and Jamie were little, and pretended that touching the light was bad luck. In the kitchen, she opened the refrigerator door and stood there awhile, letting the cool air kiss her face.

Her eyelids were shut, but behind them, almost without realizing it, Leda had drafted a flicker to her old dealer, Ross. It was costing every ounce of her self-control not to send it. Everything was fine, she kept telling herself—not just fine, it was great. She was going to the benefit with Atlas, no matter that it was costing her friendship with Avery. Well, that was Avery’s fault for acting so weird. She deserved Atlas, Leda reminded herself. She deserved to be happy.

Her jaw tensed, she turned and started back toward her room—only to stumble over something in the entry hall. She cursed under her breath. It was her dad’s briefcase, plopped right where he’d left it when he came home. Leda paused at the sight of a flat orange box peeking from the bag’s side pocket. Apparently her dad had been shopping at Calvadour. Her parents’ anniversary was in a few days; this must be his present for Leda’s mom.

Leda didn’t feel any scruples about lifting up a corner of the box to see what her dad had gotten. It was exquisite, a cream-colored silk scarf with what looked like hand-stitched embroidery on the edge. She gave a quick verbal command to her contacts and they looked it up with ShopMatch. When she saw how much it cost, Leda gasped. Her dad must be feeling really in love these days.

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