Menáge a Cinq

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Three days later, it started with the billboards—or at least, that's when Riley finally noticed them. She'd avoided any movie ad ever since Gareth left her, his face seeming to mock her every time though it was no use, not with his career exploding three years ago—ever since he left her.

But with Ashe, Riley couldn't look away.

And as if the posters that popped up all over the subways and city streets weren't enough, there were Ashe's dark blue eyes staring back at her from Times Square and looking every bit like the hero he was supposed to be in a fitting blue-and-silver spacesuit. Isobel stood behind him, and behind her, with the signature smirk Riley knew so well, was Gareth.

Riley found herself staring at the Clear Channel Spectacolor display as the trio of actors' faces transitioned into a fight sequence between Ashe and Gareth in an airlock. And then there was Isobel. She was yelling at one of the characters to move out of the way before the scene changed again, and this time, it was Ashe, his gaze directed at the camera—only to be replaced by Gareth's face, till Riley just had to roll her eyes and look away.

Just when Riley thought she'd earned a big win by being able to walk away from Gareth's booty call two weeks ago, there he was all over the place again, reminding her of the years they'd spent together, the happy times and the sad times. And then there was the empty apartment he'd left behind after the guys he'd sent were done moving their things out, leaving her with nothing but the mattress they'd shared.

Was it some message? He was, after all, so much into symbolism, she thought, remembering their many deep conversations, because at least talk didn't cost money—not when all they had some days was ramen noodle soup in the cupboard and whatever she brought home from the diner. Was it supposed to mean that the mattress was the only place they'd connected until he found her lacking and moved on? Was that the only place he thought her good enough for? In bed?

Riley hated the times such questions popped up, often when she least expected them. She haven't gotten over him yet, even after three long years. Either that or there was simply too much of him everywhere she looked, and her self-esteem was still tied to that damn mattress even though she'd long since replaced it with a new one when she moved into her apartment. New place, new future, new mattress. Even if no one else had shared that damn bed with her since then—unless one counted the cat.

The next day, Tessa, one of the baristas at the Library Cafe, told her the plot of Ashe's latest movie, Sentience. It was about a trio of space explorers in the distant future who end up having to battle one another when an unknown virus takes over their minds and sets them at odds.

"And they're robots, by the way—or androids, or whatever," Tessa said before yelling out a name that sounded like 'Tipperary,' then handing a medium-sized cup of coffee to a woman with purple hair.

"So this virus infects them—" Riley began before Tessa nodded and continued.

"And they become human-like, with human emotions," Tessa said, wiping the counter before making another cup of espresso, this time, a caramel latte with soy milk. "So, just like regular people, they could have a lot of good in them yet also have some bad traits."

"Is Gareth Roman the bad guy?" Riley asked. She was filling in for Bill, another barista who had called in sick that day, and she had her list of drinks to make. These included a caffè Medici, which was a double-shot espresso poured over chocolate syrup and orange peel. It was one of Riley's signature coffee beverages, one that Paige had blogged about the previous year and still had customers coming into the Library to order.

"Oh, no!" Tessa laughed. "He's the good guy here. It's the other guy, that drop-dead gorgeous one, who turns out to be the bad guy! Ashe something...Ashe Hunter, that's it. I'm not sure, but Sydney saw the advanced screening, and that's what she said. They've switched it so that the good guy becomes the bad guy. It's the twist, but they're not supposed to tell people and spoil it."

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