She pressed play on the iPad resting against the dresser and could hear the Bose speakers begin to vibrate. It was the signal for him to come to the bedroom. A sign saying she was dressed up and ready for him to undress her. The door was open and the perfume spilled out into the hallway and the candles were quivering with their deep glow. All for Bernado. Every single thing for Bernado.

Two champagne glasses rested on the nightstand with one of the candles behind it. This was a special touch for a special night in their apartment. Bernardo wasn’t much of a champagne kind of man. He collected wines and had his favorites, along with his love of scotch and bourbon. The filled flutes with their slender stems would simply make her man smile. They would be a sign of what he could expect when he entered the room.

Allie Laurent stood in the shadows of the walk-in closet, fully dressed and ready for action. Sometimes he would tell her what outfit he was in the mood for. She certainly had plenty to choose from. Expensive lingerie Bernardo had bought for her over the years, sometimes from stores or designers she had never even heard of. It was one of his favorite hobbies picking them out. Then again, anything to do with Allie happened to be put into his “favorite” category.

The half-empty bottle of high-priced champagne didn’t feel too heavy in her hand. She raised it up and took a long sip, nearly finishing it. It would help loosen her up. But she was ready for Bernardo. She’d been ready all day now.

He was taking his time. Probably downstairs enjoying his drink, checking his phone, maybe finishing watching some game. Not that he wasn’t in the mood or didn’t want her but he could take his time. He’d eventually have what he wanted.

The Norah Jones song from years ago began to play and Allie could only smile. It was Bernardo’s playlist. He loved himself some Norah Jones. He’d always told Allie that she looked like Norah, something Allie didn’t see but she allowed him to indulge this nice little fantasy. He liked hearing Norah’s voice when they were making love, regardless of the song playing. It amped up the story he was letting play out in his mind.

“Sono qui, Allie,” Bernardo said loud enough to be heard over Norah’s sensual and sad song.

Ah, the Italian coming out.

Yes, Bernardo, you’re here.

She moved through the darkness toward the open doorway leading to the glimmer of the bedroom.

“Champagne?” he said with the sound of genuine surprise just beyond her glance. “You’re spoiling me.”

“I got you something new,” Allie said. “Something you’ll like.”

“Where are you?”

Norah continued to serenade them.

“Close your eyes,” Allie said in a wistful tone. “For a moment.”

The music was perfect. A sign that this was right, that everything was right, that this was going to be absolutely amazing.

Peering around the doorway to spot the tall, dark and handsome man himself, Allie could see him grinning. Not peeking—no. Sometimes, Bernardo could be a patient man. Like tonight when every single little thing was perfect. He stood there by the bed waiting in his light blue button-down shirt and designer jeans.

Allie breathed in, then turned the corner and rushed over to him and swung the bottle of champagne against his temple as hard as she could. She hoped that it would dig into his skull and his dense head and strike him dead. Or at the very least just knock him out and over and give him a nice bump and scar for the rest of his miserable life.

The blunt sound was followed by a choking gasp and a quick scream as Bernardo went down. He opened his eyes and wobbled his head and looked at her with confusion and alarm. Eyes dazed and widening and then flattening and then widening again.

She struck him again on the side of his head. Harder.

The eyes didn’t open again.

A streak of blood spilled over onto the front of his crisp blue shirt.

Allie looked over him for a moment, staring and waiting. She didn’t see movement and couldn’t tell if he was breathing. It didn’t matter. She dropped the bottle and then moved past him. There was no sudden awakening with a hand grabbing at her ankle. He was either unconscious or dead. If it was the latter, she held enough evidence on him that taking the bottle didn’t really matter.

If the cops had to track her down, Allie wasn’t worried. Not in the slightest. The cops weren’t the thing that terrified her.  

Breathe. Move. Get out.

Allie grabbed her coat waiting in the kitchen. Then she grabbed the suitcase in the coat closet that she’d stuck there. It was always there, but this time the suitcase was packed and ready to go.

She had indeed bought a new outfit for tonight that she was wearing. But these were traveling clothes. Instead of something with lace and strings, these were comfortable winter clothes for a nice little getaway trip with her best friend.

Morgan knew Allie was leaving Bernardo. She just hadn’t told Morgan exactly how she was going to leave him. Or when. The only important thing, the thing both of them knew too well, was the why.

Norah could still be heard singing behind Allie in the bedroom.

“Out on your own now. Do you like the way it feels? Didn’t I come through? You were too far gone.”

Again an aching grin fell over her face. Allie loved the little ironies of life. They were balm for the brutality that came with it.

She was going to need a lot more balm for the road ahead. She knew that. But she was finally stepping on it and getting out.