Standing, I go in search of Lia only to find her asleep once again on the bed. I move her gently, trying to make her more comfortable before pulling the comforter back over her small frame. Just as I lean down to brush a kiss over her lips, I hear the doorbell. Our first day home and my apartment has suddenly turned into Grand Central Station. As I look through the peephole, I’m surprised once again at my unexpected visitor. Swinging the door open, I motion for Max to come in. “What’s up?” I ask without preamble. Silently, I wonder when people stopped calling before just dropping in. Especially knowing Lia has just come home hours before. As I wait for his reply, I notice his disheveled appearance. Max generally looks like an ad for Brooks Brothers. Even though he’s wearing his usual suit, he looks almost as if he slept in it before coming over. “What in the hell happened to you?”
“Rose Madden is what happened to me!” he growls in response. “That woman is fucking nuts.”
I wonder vaguely if I look as confused as I feel at his answer. “Lia’s friend Rose?”
“Oh, yes, one and the same.”
After having to deal with Lee, I’m too burned out for obscure answers. I fight the urge to open the door and push him back out of it. Instead, I rub the bridge of my nose before asking, “What kind of problem could you possibly have with her? You’ve met her, what, once?”
Loosening his already-lopsided tie, he says, “Until last night, yes. Then at one this morning, when Rose called me from the police department as her one phone call.”
“She did what?” I ask, thinking I must have heard him wrong. I just saw her at the hospital the day before Lia was released and she seemed fine.
“You heard me. Apparently, her boyfriend has been cheating on her, and she’s flipped her lid or something. The police said she took a shovel and smashed out all the windows in his car before…”
“No fucking way,” I gasp, unable to comprehend Rose doing something so crazy. And Jake? I’d only been around him at dinner one night, but they seemed like a solid couple.
“It gets better, believe me. She used her .357 Magnum to shoot his tires out. I guess the shovel wasn’t working too well on those.”
“Holy shit,” I mutter, unable to believe what he is saying. Lia’s best friend is a fucking whack job. Seriously, what else today?
“You know when she slapped the guy at the hospital and you asked me to go and see what was going on?” When I nod, he continues. “Well, she said something about smelling perfume on him. I talked to her for a few moments and gave her my card in case he caused her any problems. I never thought I’d hear anything else from her. After she called, I went to the police station as a favor to Lia since it’s her friend and fuck, it was like the Twilight Zone or something. There she sits, in—I kid you not—a white blouse, a pink cardigan, and a black skirt. She was wearing pearls, and she didn’t have a hair out of place. I swear she looked more like a Stepford Wife than the card-carrying, concealed-gun-toting NRA gold member she is.”
My shock gives way to amusement as I start laughing. I knew Rose had some spunk, but I never suspected she had that much. “She’s a member of the NRA, as in National Rifle Association?” Surely, there was another meaning for that.
“Not just a member, a gold member, meaning she’s a big supporter of the cause. She’s no dummy, though; she refused to tell them anything until I got there. I knew a couple of the cops handling her case, and they were so fucking cracked up over the whole thing that they were willing to take a plea from her and just let her off with paying for the damages.”
Shrugging, I say, “Well, that’s good, right? I’m sorry she called you, but thanks for helping her out. I know Lia will be grateful.” When he looks uncomfortable, shifting from one foot to the other, I ask, “That was the end of it, wasn’t it?”
“Not exactly,” he mutters. “I…gave her a lift home and when we got there, she…came on to me.”
“Pardon?” I ask, thinking I must have heard him wrong.
“She climbed into my lap and kissed me while grabbing my…dick.”
I motion him toward the living room and sink down into the chair behind me, wondering how many more crazy things I am going to hear. Rose was now some kind of horny Annie Oakley. “Jesus. Was she on something?”
“Hell yeah,” Max retorted. “My cock.”
Dropping my head back, I can’t contain the laughter at his dry response. It’s so freaking crazy it’s funny. My usually unflappable lawyer looks completely bewildered at what occurred, and I am damn blown away myself. Maybe there was a full moon last night or something. “Please tell me you didn’t fuck her in the car?”
“No!” he snaps, looking indignant. “I mean, it went further than it should have because her hands were just everywhere before I knew it. And damn, she’s kind of scary, but beautiful.”
“She got to you,” I say in disbelief.
“No.” He shakes his head. “No way. It was just a surprise.”
“Come on.” I point to where he is pacing in a circle, clenching his fists. “You wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
He drops down on the couch across from me, releasing a breath. “Yeah, holy Hell, she’s something else. I didn’t know whether to run for my life or propose.”
“Trust me,” I wince, “I know exactly where you’re coming from.” As we both sit there in silence staring off into space, I say, “Lee Jacks just left.”
He expels a loud breath. “This day is just one big fucking mess, isn’t it?” I agree as I get up and walk to the bar in the corner to fix us each a glass of bourbon. He takes a big gulp, grimacing at the sting. “All right, let’s hear it.”
I stride from Lucian Quinn’s building, pausing as my driver opens the back door of the Rolls Royce Phantom idling quietly at the curb. My temples throb as I settle onto the buttery-soft leather interior. “So?” a voice asks.
I turn to face my right-hand man in both business and personal matters. My brother Peter sits waiting for the results of my meeting. “First off, fire Sears, now.” The fact that I was not informed about Lia’s hospitalization as well as her court appearance against her stepfather is inexcusable. I do not tolerate sloppy work; I pay too fucking well to accept something like that. Without asking questions, he calls the office and hands the order down. One of the reasons Peter and I have always worked well together is that we are able to communicate without an overabundance of words. He knows I don’t make decisions lightly, and he doesn’t second-guess any work-related decision I make. Hell, he’s one of the few people in my life who doesn’t seem terrified of me.