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07.03.2019

I could cry. What a f**king sin. Spare the karaoke guy—save the bullet for Kate’s boyfriend.

“How long have you been engaged?”

“About seven years. He asked me the week before I left for college.”

Those two sentences tell me exactly what kind of man shithead Billy happens to be. Insecure, jealous, clingy. He knew his girl was out of his league, that she was going places and would most likely leave him in the dust. So what does he do? He asks her to marry him, pretty much trapping her before she knew any better.

“That’s why the ring is so…you know…small. But it doesn’t matter to me. Billy worked for six months to get me this ring. Bussing tables, mowing lawns, killing himself. This tiny stone means more to me than the biggest rock at Tiffany’s.”

And those few sentences tell me exactly what kind of woman Kate Brooks is too. A lot of Manhattan women are all about flash—the brand of the car, the name on the bag, the size of the ring. Superficial. Empty. I should know; I’ve slept with most of them. But Kate is the real deal. Genuine. She’s all about quality, not quantity.

She reminds me of my sister, actually. Even with all the money we grew up with, Alexandra doesn’t really give a rat’s ass about labels or what other people think. That’s how she ended up with a guy like Steven. He and Alexandra started dating in high school, when he was a sophomore and she was a senior. That maneuver made him a legend at St. Mary’s Prep. To this day, his name is invoked in her hallowed halls with reverence.

What’s that? Yes, I went to Catholic school. You’re surprised? You shouldn’t be. My profanity has a certain religious flavor that can only be learned through a lifetime of Catholic education. Jesus H. Christ…Goddamn it…Jesus, Mary, and Joseph…f**king Christ Almighty…holy f**king shit—and that’s just what we heard from the priests. Don’t get me started on the nuns.

Anyway—where was I? That’s right, Steven and Alexandra.

Steven is not the most handsome guy, nor the most suave. He’s not a player; he never was. Then how did he manage to bag a prize like my sister, you ask?

Confidence.

Steven never doubted himself. Never thought for a second that he wasn’t good enough for The Bitch. He refused to be intimidated. He always exuded that quiet self-assurance that women are attracted to. Because he knew that no one could ever love my sister the way he did. So when Alexandra left for college years before Steven could join her, did he worry? Hell no. He wasn’t afraid to let her go. Because he knew with absolute certainty that one day she would come back. To him.

Obviously Billy Dickhead Warren wasn’t so sure.

Two hours later, Kate and I are certifiably drunk. See us there? Staring at the stage, sipping our beers with those glazed looks on our faces. You can learn a lot about a person when they’re drunk, and I have learned a boatload about Kate. When she drinks—she’s a talker.

Think she’s a screamer too? Never mind; that part comes later.

Kate’s hometown is Greenville, Ohio. Mom still lives there, running the western-themed diner her family owns. It sounds like a real middle-America type of place. The kind where the locals eat breakfast before work and teenagers congregate after a football game. Kate waitressed there during her high school years. She didn’t mention a dad, though, and I didn’t ask. And despite being Valedictorian, Kate used to be quite the wild child. That explains why she holds her liquor so well. Apparently, she and the shithead spent their youth breaking into roller-skating rinks after hours, shoplifting, and singing in a band together.

Oh yeah, that’s what the donkey dick still does for a living. He’s a musician. You know what that means, right?

Yep—unemployed.

Why is Kate still with this loser? That’s the million-dollar question, kids. I’m not a snob. I don’t care if you pump gas or run the register at Mickey-f**king-D’s. If you’re a man, you work—you don’t leech off your girlfriend.

“Karaoke sucks,” I grunt as the blond transvestite at the microphone finishes the song “I Will Survive.”

Kate tilts her head to the side. “She’s…he’s…not so bad.”

“I think my ears are bleeding.” I motion to the other comatose faces around the bar. “And they’re dying a slow death.”

Kate sips her beer. “It’s just the wrong song for this kind of place. The right one would wake them up.”

“You’re nuts.”

She slurs just a little, “Betcha’ I could do it.”

“No way. Not unless you plan on doing a singing striptease.”

And that, boys and girls, is a show I would give my left nut to see.

She takes my cell phone off the table and wags her finger at me. “No pictures. Can’t have any evidence.” Then she gets up and walks on stage. Hear the groans of pain from my bar-mates as the music begins?

But then she starts to sing:

I don’t stand a chance

When you look at me that way

I’ll do anything you want me to

Anything for you

And I’ll shout it for the whole world to know

Oh, honey, that’s what you do to me

And I don’t mind at all

Good freaking God.

Her voice is deep, and perfect, and arousing. Like a phone-sex worker at one of those nine-hundred numbers. It floats around the room and washes over me like…like verbal foreplay. My body reacts instantly to the sound. I’m as hard as a f**king rock.

You know I’m not a girl who cares to see

Or gives a damn what anyone thinks of me

I go down hard, I stand my ground

But whenever you come around

I’m helpless

Baby, I don’t stand a chance

Every time you look at me that way

It brings me to my knees

She starts swaying her h*ps in time to the music, and I imagine how perfect she would look on her knees. I can’t take my eyes off of her. She’s mesmerizing…hypnotic.

And I’m changing, never thought I’d be like this

But you showed me a better way

I’ll do anything for your kiss

In all my days I’ve never seen

A man who means everything to me

I can leave everything else in the dust

But it’s you I just can’t give up

She has the full attention of every man in the place. But her eyes…those stunning onyx eyes…are looking right at me.

And it makes me feel like a god.

I’ve never let anyone get this close to me before

Distance keeps me safe and keeps me sane

But now you’ve got my heart twisted with yours

Better than it’s ever been, there’s a lot to lose

But even so much more to win

Oh, baby…

She tosses her hair back, and I picture her doing just that as she rides me with long and hard strokes. Jesus. I’ve gotten lap dances from some of the best strippers in the city, and I’ve never come in my pants—not once. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do if this song doesn’t end real f**king soon.

I feel so helpless

When you look at me that way

I’ll do anything for you

Only for you

The bar erupts into hoots and whistles and clapping hands as Kate walks off the stage. Sounds like a frigging rodeo. She smiles giddily as she walks toward me. I stand up, and she stops just inches away.

She looks up at me and raises one brow. “Told you I could wake them up.”

I softly say, “That was…you…are amazing.”

I want to kiss her. More than I want to f**king breathe. Images of last night flash in my mind. Of how goddamn good she felt in my arms. I need to kiss her. The smile slowly slides off her face, and I know she needs it too. I push a strand of her hair back behind her ear and lean in…

And the shrill scream of her cell phone comes between us.

Kate blinks like she’s waking up from a trance and picks up her phone. “H—Hello?” She flinches and pulls the phone from her ear to gain some distance from the shouting voice on the other end. “No…Billy, I didn’t forget. I just had a difficult evening. No…yes…I’m at a bar called Howie’s. It’s on…” She stares at her phone a moment, and I’m guessing the dipshit just hung up on her. Her eyes are completely sober now.

“I have to go outside. Billy’s coming to pick me up.”

Won’t this be a treat? I get to meet a walking, talking a**hole. It’ll be like Freak Night at the carnival.

While we wait outside on the sidewalk, Kate turns to me. “What are we going to say to your father?”

And there’s the question I’ve avoided asking myself all night. The old man’s a stand-up guy—chivalrous. Traditional. I’d like to think he’d be proud of my defending Kate’s honor. But he’s also a businessman. And the truth is, I could have defended Kate and still signed Anderson. It’s what I should have done. It’s what I would have done had it been anyone but her on the negotiating table.

“I’ll handle my father.”

“What? No. No, we’re a team, remember? We both lost this client.”

“I’m the one who went off on the guy.”

“And I’m the one who didn’t stop you. Now, I appreciate what you did for me, Drew, really. You were pretty magnificent, actually.”

Maybe it’s just the vodka, but her words make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

“But I don’t need a white knight,” she goes on. “I’m a big girl, and I can certainly handle whatever your father may dish out. We’ll talk to him together on Monday morning. Agreed?”

This clinches it: Kate Brooks is one incredible woman.

“Agreed.”

It’s then that a black Thunderbird roars down the street and stops in front of us. Yes—I said Thunderbird. Can you say Totally Eighties Weekend? A guy with an average build and light brown hair gets out of it.

Is it just me, or does he look like a douchebag to you too? The old-fashioned kind. Your grandma’s vinegar-and-water type of douche.

With a frown, he zeros in on Kate before looking me over. And then he looks even more pissed. Maybe dumbass isn’t as stupid as I thought; he recognizes competition when he sees it.

He comes around and opens the passenger door for Kate. She sighs and gives me a tight smile. Then she takes two steps toward the car and trips on a crack in the sidewalk. I move to catch her, but Needle Dick is closer and beats me to it. He holds her at arm’s length, the anger on his face turning to disgust.

“Are you f**king wasted?”

I don’t really appreciate his tone. Someone needs to teach him some f**king manners.

“Don’t start, Billy. I’ve had a bad night,” Kate tells him.

“A bad night? Really? As in having the biggest gig of your life and your girlfriend not showing up? Was it that bad, Kate?”

Gig? Did he really just say gig? She actually sleeps with this moron? You have got to be kidding me.

She pulls out of his grasp. “You know what…” She starts off strong—and then deflates. “Just…let’s go home.” She gets in the car and Bitch Boy slams it closed behind her. He glares at me as he walks around to the driver’s side.

❮❯