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07.03.2019

Delores glares playfully at Kate.

If you want to make an impression on a girl, humor is always a safe bet. It shows a woman you’re clever, smart, confident. If you’ve got balls? Flaunt them.

Which is why I tell Kate’s friend, “Delores is a gorgeous name, for a gorgeous girl. Plus, it rhymes with clitoris . . . and I really know my way around them. Big fan.”

As planned, my line gets an instant reaction. She smiles slowly and runs one finger across her lower lip, suggestively. Any time a woman touches her body in response to something a guy’s said? It’s a good sign.

Then, she breaks our gaze and says to us all, “Anyhoo. I have to jet, gotta get to work. Nice meeting you, boys.” Dee-Dee hugs Kate and winks at me. Also a good sign.

I watch her as she walks out and can’t help but notice the rear view is almost as awesome as the front.

Drew asks Kate, “She’s got to get to work? I thought the strip clubs didn’t open until four.”

I have to agree with him on that one. When you’ve been to as many strip clubs as we have, you start to see a pattern. The clothes the women wear—though minimal—are similar. Like they all shop at the same store. And Dee is definitely rocking the Strippers “R” Us vibe.

Though it may just be wishful thinking on my part. It would be awesome if she were a dancer. Not only are they limber—they party hard. Totally uninhibited. The fact that they generally have a low opinion of the male species is a plus too. Because it means the simplest act of chivalry is returned with extreme gratitude. And a grateful stripper is a blow-job giving stripper.

But Kate dashes my hopes. “Dee’s not a stripper. She just dresses like that to throw people off. So they’re shocked when they find out what she really does.”

“What does she do?” I ask.

“She’s a rocket scientist.”

Jack reads my mind. “You’re f**king with us.”

“Afraid not. Delores is a chemist. One of her clients is NASA. Her lab works on improving the efficiency of the fuel they use on the space shuttles.” She shivers. “Dee-Dee Warren with access to highly explosive substances . . . it’s something I try to not think about.”

And now my curiosity is almost as strong as my lust. I’ve always had a taste for the unusual—the exotic—in women, music, books. And unlike Drew, whose apartment is meticulously decorated, I tend to gravitate toward pieces with a history. Even if they don’t match, nontraditional is always interesting.

“Brooks, you’ve got to hook me up. I’m a nice guy. Let me take your friend out. She won’t regret it.”

Kate thinks about it. Then she says, “Okay. Sure. You seem like Dee’s type.” She hands me a neon-green business card. “But I have to warn you. She’s the love-’em-and-leave-’em-with-bruises type of girl. If you’re looking for a good time for a night or two, then definitely call her. If you’re looking for anything deeper than that, I’d stay away.”

And now I know how Charlie felt when he was handed the last golden ticket to Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.

I stand up from the table and kiss Kate on the cheek. “You . . . are my new best friend.”

I consider hugging her too—just to f**k with my scowling buddy—but I don’t want to risk getting nut-punched. I have plans for my nuts. They need to be in top form.

Kate tells Drew not to pout, and he makes a comment about her boobs, but I’m only half listening. Because I’m too busy thinking about where I’ll be meeting Delores Warren for a drink—or several. And all the fantastically lascivious activities that are sure to follow.

So that’s how it started. It wasn’t supposed to be complicated—no love at first sight, no grand gestures, no hard feelings. A sure thing, a good time, a one-night stand with an option for a second. That’s what Kate told me Dee was into, and that’s all I was looking for. All I thought it would ever be.

Elvis Presley was right. Fools really do rush in. And if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a major f**king fool.

Chapter 2

A lot of people live for their job. Not because they’re forced to financially, but because what they do for a living is who they are—their profession gives them confidence, purpose, maybe even an adrenaline rush. It’s not always a bad thing. The office is a businessman’s playground, a courtroom to a lawyer feels like home. And if I ever need a surgeon? Only a full-blown workaholic is getting near me.

That being said, I’m an investment banker at one of the most respected and prestigious firms in the city. I’m good at my job, the paycheck is nice, I serve my clients well—keep them happy and keep new ones coming in. But I wouldn’t say I love it. It’s not a passion. When I die, I’m not going to go out wishing I had spent more time at the office.

I’m similar to my father in that respect. He’s committed to the firm he, John, and George founded, but he doesn’t let the obligations interfere with his golf game. And he’s an old-fashioned family man—he always was. Growing up, dinner was served at six o’clock sharp. Every night. If my ass wasn’t in that dining room chair, I’d better have been in the Emergency Room, or there was hell to pay. Dinnertime discussion focused heavily on “What did you do today?” and “Nothing” was never an acceptable response. Being an only child, there weren’t any siblings to distract my parents from keeping tabs on me. My old man was well aware of the potential pitfalls of growing up privileged in New York City, so he made damn sure I stayed out of trouble.

Well . . . most of the time¸ anyway.

Every kid deserves to get into a little trouble. It helps them learn to be resourceful, think on their feet. And if a teenager isn’t allowed to have some kind of life¸ they’ll go totally ape-shit when they get to college. Which could end badly.

My father’s three basic rules were: Keep your grades up, keep your criminal record clean, and keep your pants zipped.

Two out of three ain’t bad, right?

Even though my dad knows the importance of family and separating business from pleasure, that doesn’t mean I get a free pass at the firm because I’m his son. Actually, I think he rides my ass a lot harder than the other employees’, just to avoid any claims of favoritism. Impropriety at the office is something he would never tolerate. He’d come down on it like Gallagher’s sledgehammer on a watermelon.

Which is another reason my dad and his partners were able to build such a successful business—because each of them brings their own unique talents to the team. John Evans, Drew and Alexandra’s father, is like Face from the A-Team. He’s the charmer, the convincer—he makes sure the clients are happy and the employees are not only content, but enthusiastic. Then there’s George Reinhart—Steven’s dad. George is the brains of the operation. My dad and John aren’t exactly lacking in that department, but George is like Stephen Hawking without the ALS. He’s the only guy I know who actually enjoys the technical, number-punching aspect of investment banking.

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